Read the story about this below the images of what is left of this famous house !
If Walls Could Speak: A Mystery in Hitchcock Woods3042021
By Beth Eberhard
Build on, and make thy castles high and fair,
Rising and reaching upward to the skies;
Listen to voices in the upper air,
Nor lose thy simple faith in mysteries.
from The Castle-Builder by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
There’s a mystery in the woods. It’s tucked away, off the beaten path. All my life, all sixty-some years, I’ve been walking the woods and never encountered it. Until just a few years ago.
My daughter told me about it. She had been led there by a friend, who had been led there by his brother, who had been led there by…It was the ruins of a house, tucked away behind vines, fallen trees, and privet gone crazy. All she knew about it was that it was called the Hitchcock House. She told me how to find it and so the next day found me tramping through the underbrush in search of these ruins.
The trees were the first sign that a house had once stood there. Dead eastern cedar lined up on one side. Nature doesn’t plant trees in a row; man does. A huge Deodar cedar loomed over the front corner, so out of place in these piney woods that I could almost feel its embarrassment.
A low brick wall. Curved brick steps led to a terraced area. Dead crape myrtle bushes. Another crumbling wall, another set of steps. Mayan ruins had nothing on this. Vines hung off trees, dragging over the ground ready to trip any who dared intrude. Rotten logs crisscrossed the house’s interior. Good sized trees grew within, giving further evidence that a housekeeper had not graced this residence for many a long year. Nothing but the low brick foundation was left to give any clues about the structure that had once stood atop this hill overlooking the woods.
My curiosity piqued, I returned the following Saturday with a friend. Again we explored, but the ruins gave up none of their secrets. With a tip from a fellow woods-lover, we set off to the library, where we uncovered part of the story, but unearthed an even stranger mystery.
The house, known as Boxwood, was built in 1905 and given as a wedding present to a Mr. and Mrs. Edward Smith, no doubt a couple well connected to the Winter Colony. The house, interestingly enough, was an exact replica of Longfellow’s house.
Longfellow’s House in Cambridge, MassachusettsIn 1925, Eulalie Salley sold the house to Aage and Mabel Ancker, related to Danish royalty, for Mrs. Ancker’s mother, a reclusive German who referred to herself as “the Baroness Adelle von Loesecke.” As it turns out, the Baroness was not actually Mrs. Ancker’s mother, but rather her guardian hired by her parents to teach her the finer arts of decorum. According to Eulalie Salley in an interview she gave in 1973, “Madame Loesecke” was an assumed name; her real name was never known. In fact, Eulalie was likely the only one in all of Aiken to even know that she was there. On retainer, Eulalie did her shopping, paid her bills, and even, on one occasion, bought a Cadillac for her birthday at her daughter’s request. What we know of the Baroness’s background is sketchy.
Aage and Mabel Ancker Von Loesecke was a close friend of the romance novelist Faith Baldwin, who referred to her as “Aunt Adele,” although the exact nature of their relationship never came to light. A letter written by Faith Baldwin to Eulalie Salley indicates that the recluse had been born “Baroness Von Leosecke,” married Baron Von Klein, divorced, and took back her maiden name. She had lived for a time in Brooklyn, where she became good friends with Faith Baldwin’s mother. Faith lived with the Baroness in Germany from 1914-1916, although she would not say what had happened during those years, years that saw the Baroness’s country at war. The Baroness often talked of attending operas of Strauss or Wagner, and Eulalie had reason to believe that she knew Kaiser Wilhelm II and his family well.
The Baroness outfitted Boxwood with fine German furnishings: silver engraved with crests, beautiful linens, and furniture sent from Germany. She staffed Boxwood with a Swedish cook, a French maid, and a German butler named Costal.
One day, the 70-year-old Baroness phoned Eulalie terribly upset, claiming that Costal had locked her in her room and was going to kill her. Eulalie and her husband Julian Salley went immediately to the house, where they found the terrified woman and released her from her room. Although it was never proved that Costal had indeed locked her in, the butler was fired, the Baroness’s things were packed and sent to Germany, and the elderly woman moved to New York. Several months after vacating this house, she was killed by a hit-and-run driver in New York City, dying on December 11, 1930. Faith Baldwin must have had her suspicions, for when Eulalie asked her about Von Loesecke, she said, “I lived with her when I was a little girl but there are two years in her life that I cannot tell you about. About her end, I can say nothing.” Madame Von Loesecke was buried in Patterson, New Jersey.
At some point, the house became known as Pineland House. It was later bought by the Hitchcocks who rented it to Dan Hannah and then to Marshall Field department store chain heir Tommy Leiter who used it as a bachelor hideaway. The Hitchcock heirs had the house demolished “for tax purposes.”
Questions abound: Who built the house, and why was it built as a replica of Longfellow’s house? Who were the Edwards, and did they live there the first 20 years? Why did they sell the house? Why did the Hitchcocks demolish the house “for tax purposes”? When was this done? And the Big Question: Who was the Baroness Von Loesecke, and what was her connection to German politics during World War I and the years between the World Wars? Why was she so reclusive? Was there more to the story of her death? Did the butler really do it? Why?
Some of these questions never will be answered, but that’s okay. Longfellow knew that it’s a good thing to live with mysteries. For with mysteries comes the search, and through the search we learn life.
The Pineland House with a terraced garden in frontSources:
Oral History Interview with Eulalie Salley, September 15, 1973. Interview G-0054. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Cooper, Emily L. Bull. Eulalie. Aiken, SC: Aiken Partnership of the University of South Carolina Educational Foundation, 2005. Print.
Byrd, Wilkins. A Splendid Time: Photographs of Old Aiken. Aiken, SC: Foundation, 2000. Print.
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