Social Register Observer – Summer 2015


The Colonial Dames of America is celebrating its 125th Anniversary in 2015. Founded in New York in May 1890 by Mrs. John King Van Rensselaer, the CDA (or “Society”) is the oldest women’s lineage society focusing on the Colonial period.

A new website,, was launched in January 2015 to mark the anniversary year. The domain name ties in with the International Newsletter of The Colonial Dames of America, CDA1890, which was introduced in 2013.The new site opens with the fascinating history of the CDA, and outlines many historic preservation projects its chapters have supported over the past 125 years—from the Non-Catholic Cemetery in Rome, to the Hampton National Historic Site in Towson, MD, to the Camron-Stanford House in Oakland, CA.

CDA was delighted to receive permission from Ambassador J. William Middendorf II and his daughter, Frances Middendorf (Chapter X – Rome, Italy) to include on its site the important Thomas Sully portrait of the Alexander family (1851), ancestors of the Middendorfs. Frances and her father, both visual artists, have an annual show together. In winter 2015 their work was exhibited at The Barn @ Downing Yudain LLC in historic Long Ridge Village in North Stamford, CT.

Events observing the 125th Anniversary in 2015 include the Annual Meeting in New York in May and commemorations by chapters in the United States and Europe. During the 2015 Heritage Week in Washington, DC, the CDA will host an invitational National Tea at an elegant private club. Charlotte Christian, member of the CDA Board of Managers and Chapter XXIV—Atlanta, is chair of this event.

In honor of its founder and 125th Anniversary, the Society has initiated three new designations for service and donor generosity. With approval of the Society’s Board of Managers, any chapter may designate one member per year to receive The Maria K. Van Rensselaer Award for Distinguished Service in recognition for service to her chapter, to the Society and to her community. The 1890 Society will recognize any contribution of at least $1890 in any given fiscal year to the CDA and/or the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden, which is owned and operated by the CDA. The Chapter Honor Roll will recognize contributions to the museum by the chapters.

Fall Benefit for the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden

The CDA held a Fall Benefit for the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden, marking the 75th Anniversary of the opening of the museum to the public, at the CDA’s Abigail Adams Smith Auditorium in New York City. The Benefit, entitled “The Havemeyer Legacy,” featured the notable contributions of the Havemeyer family to the arts. Family member and Honorary Chair Eugenie A. Havemeyer, a longtime member of the Parent Chapter of the Society, was joined by her husband Harry and many other family members on this social occasion.

The highlight of the evening was a fascinating lecture by Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen, curator of American Decorative Arts at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and a member of the Havemeyer family. Ms. Frelinghuysen, who curated a special exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on the Havemeyer art treasures and authored the accompanying book, brought her projected images to life for an enthusiastic audience. Both Mrs. Havemeyer and Ms. Frelinghuysen were given distinctive hand-painted bowls from Deruta, Italy.

President General Sharon Vaino hosted an afternoon tea at a private club for the event’s most generous benefactors. Supporters of the fundraiser also included Past President General Helen Evans (Parent Chapter) and Jacqueline Ober (Chapter I—Baltimore, MD), who co-chair the Development Committee; Mrs. Evans also chairs the Museum Committee. Museum Director Terri Daly and CDA Executive Director Allison Coliskey and their staff s were also key to the Benefit’s success.

Continuing the practice of participation by New York City officials in the Benefit, dynamic City Council Member Ben Kallos attended and honored the Society with a proclamation which he presented to President General Sharon Vaino. An exciting auction conducted by Charity Auctioneer C. K. Swett included alluring journeys to Italy, to Chicago, and to Newport, with proceeds benefiting the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden.

Preview of L’Hermione in Bordeaux, France

A special preview of L’Hermione, the re-creation of the frigate on which the Marquis de Lafayette sailed when he joined the American Revolution, was organized in Bordeaux, France by CDA Chapter IV – Paris, which has generously supported L’Hermione. Chapter IV President Mary Sargent (didi) Ladd d’Anglejan and her tireless committee organized this Fall weekend preview, which allowed Chapter members and their guests to attend a private breakfast and tour on board this perfect replica of the original ship. Dames from Paris, Washington, DC, and Rome were among the group, which also enjoyed a wine dinner at Cheval Blanc in St. Emilion. L’Hermione sails to the United States in 2015.

Holiday Tea Dance Held at the Abigail Adams Smith Auditorium in early December

The annual Holiday Tea Dance was held at the Abigail Adams Smith Auditorium to launch the festive season. Kathleen Elizabeth Springhorn (Parent Chapter), Chair of the Events, Calendar and Hospitality Committee, contributed her impeccable elegance and style to this always anticipated event.

Written by Sharri Whiting De Masi and Sharon Worthing Vaino.


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