Purple Diary

[October 24 2011]


Helen Hooper Brown was an east coast heiress. Orphaned at 15, she inherited $10,000,000. In 1911, Helen married Lathrop Brown, a close friend Delano Roosevelt.The young rich and influential couple were drown to this rugged and remote place. In 1924, they purchased the land in front of the Waterfall and constructed a beautiful stone house. It was a sumptuous two-story residence with Dufy, Miro and Delaunay paintings. Their granddaughter, Pam Grossman, recalls a black marble staircase, eight feet wide at the top and 16 feet wide at the bottom, and huge plate-glass windows with incredible views up and down the coast. Inlaid in the entryway were an ornamental brass fish, an octopus, and a compass rose. Terraced gardens climbed from the rear of the house toward a caretaker’s cottage, which was linked to the house by a mining-car line affectionately dubbed the “Big Sur & Pacific.” Life in Big Sur required a high level of self-sufficiency then, as it does even today. The Browns spent most of their time traveling, and visited the Waterfall House infrequently. The couple finaly left for Florida.They befriended Julia Pfeiffer-Burns, a local resident, and dedicated the property to her memory in their 1961 bequest to the State of California. The house was torn down as the Browns requested in their will, Big Sur, California.

Photo Olivier Zahm

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