The Illustrious, Elusive Louise N. Grace

Not much is known to us about Louise N. Grace, the third owner of DORIS (1920 – 1933), however what we do know paints her as a fascinating, and distinctive, independent woman, artist, and entrepreneur of the early 1900s. 

One of eleven children, Louise was the 9th child born to William Russell Grace and Lillius Gilchrist Grace on Dec 23, 1878 (historical records vary on her birthdate but several cross-referenced census and passenger manifests agree on this date). Lousie’s childhood must have been one of tempered privilege, growing up with an Irish-born, political father in New York City.  William, a self-made, wealthy man who’s business interests rested heavily in Peruvian trade, organized the shipping firm W.R. Grace & Co in New York in 1868.  When his native Ireland experienced the potato feminine of 1879, Grace was heavily involved in the relief effort, donating a quarter of the aid himself, a philanthropic act that is attributed to his successful 1880 Mayoral bid. Additionally he went on to win another term in 1884 and was on duty to formally accept a small gift from France known as the Statue of Liberty. Founding the Grace Institute, a training school for economically challenged and mostly immigrant women with his brother Michael, suggests that William was a staunch supporter of women’s welfare and independence, which may account for the independent and progressive Louise.

Louise Grace

Louise Grace

Louise is an enigmatic figure.  Spending much time running across various continents in the circles of high society, she was the only American presented to Queen Victoria at the Court of St. James in March of 1898, an occasion that produced the only photograph we have and due to corresponding dates and attire consistent with Court regulations, we believe shows our Louise Grace. But contrary to her delicate lady-of-leisure appearance, she owned and operated Llangollen Farm in Great Neck LI, which was renowned for animal husbandry, producing many blue-ribbon winning birds, deer and sheep. Her Red Brook Kennels, located on the same property and owned in partnership with her longtime companion Lucille Alger (niece of Russel A. Alger Secretary of War to President McKinley), produced what were considered the finest Curly-haired Poodles in the country. Their dog “Juggler” was awarded Best in Show by the Ladies Kennel Association at Mineola NY in 1912. 

Cursory information regarding her ownership and use of DORIS can be found as small, casual mentions in the Yard Notes and Society Columns of the contemporary newspapers.  While we don’t have travel reports for DORIS, passenger manifests show Louise and Lucille traveled frequently aboard the ocean liner RSS Aquatina in the years prior to DORIS, and then in years when DORIS was under-going work. This suggests that DORIS was used primarily as a pleasure cruiser, perhaps sailing to their frequented destinations of England and France, and a source of transportation for her and Lucille from their home in Great Neck to Louise’s custom built grand estate in Islesboro ME (currently up for sale for a meager 10 million dollars).   In fact rumors have surfaced that DORIS may have spent most of her days around Dark Harbor, being ported somewhere in the Penobscot Bay, but as of yet this remains unsubstantiated.

In addition to DORIS, Louise kept two motor launches; the F.J.B, which later may have been taken over as the Island’s mail carrier renamed MAID-OF-ALL-WORK, and SUBITO,Subito Banfield Skiff a Banfield Sea Skiff featured as part of an 1925 ad campaign in “Motor Boating”. We also know that Louise had alterations and changes made to DORIS at Lawley’s in Neponset (Boston Daily Globe, Feb 3, 1929), we suspect her rig was altered, however have yet to find definitive, detailed information. Louise sold DORIS to Lawrence L. Reeve in 1933, and the last mention of her as “sloop DORIS” was in the April 29 1934 Boston Daily Globe reporting that work has begun on her under the direction of Concordia.  From that point forward, the papers referred to her as a “ketch”, additionally she won’t be known again as DORIS until 1984.  

Louise, post DORIS, goes onto focus on her work as an artist, studying water-color and oil under Tony (Antonia) Nell. “Eleven Arches” built in 1937 was a summer residence on 225 acres in Tucson designed by architect Joseph Joesler with murals painted by Louise.  These eleven murals, featuring the animals and plant-life of the desert, were exhibited at Rockefeller Center in 1937 and early 1938 (see below insert from “Book of Successful Houses” Arts & Decoration Magazine 1940).  Louise suffered several strokes before passing away in 1954 at the age of 78, leaving Eleven Arches to artist friend Cleve Gray.  


For being such an interesting and well-known figure in her day, Louise Grace left little biographical information behind.  A request has been placed with the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian to view the Cleve Gray collection, containing correspondence and photographs of her work, and this website will be updated should anything new be discovered. Additionally we’re hoping that relatives may come forward offering photographs and information. Regardless of whether we find any additional information, we at the DORIS Project believe Louise Grace to be one of the most fascinating owners to date.  We love that our girl DORIS was owned and sailed for 13 years by a woman that matches her in fabulousness and joie de vivre. Where information is lacking, we’re allowing our imaginations to fill the gaps with speculations of the antics aboard – creative freedom, luxury, and free-spirited adventure with the 1920’s independent woman Louise Grace and a gorgeous, 78-foot yacht …oh the fun that must have been had! 


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