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Photographer: Kelbert McFarland Photography

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Oldway Mansion & Singer Island

Today in history Isaac Singer patented the sewing machine in 1851. He actually was not the first to patent one but the difference was that his really worked. Singer was born in the Hudson Valley (where I will be this time next week visiting my in-laws!) and ran away from a broken home as a teen but died a billionaire by today's standards. His name, Singer, was an Americanized version of the German Reisinger. His documented lineage does not trace very far back but his grandfather was probably from a family of soldiers in Germany or maybe from Reisingen, Bavaria. After Singer's business success, he moved his family into a mansion on Fifth Avenue. When he was older and had sold many shares of Singer, he moved to Devon, England. The house he built was called Oldway Mansion and one of his many sons rebuilt it to resemble Versailles. The photo below shows the formal gardens.

The Singer family sold the house to the town in the mid-century time period at a reduced price and it would be used for courthouse weddings for many years.

Above is the marble and bronze staircase and main hall of the house. The ceiling is full of French reproduction paintings. The house is on the old Fernham Estate but was a newly built house by Singer. Everything was built in the French style. The house had a theater which was not particularly common for the time. Below is a photo of the ballroom, reminiscent of Versailles.

The son who took over the house was Paris Singer, whom Singer Island was named after. My husband grew up going to his grandparents' place on Singer Island and I went for the first time for his mom's birthday this summer. The island was once part of Palm Beach but was disconnected by an inlet. Paris acted as a developer of the island and made it the beautiful beach resort town it is today.