Rebekah Harkness became one of the wealthiest women in America after she inherited her husband's vast Standard Oil fortune when he died in 1953. Edith, Rebekah's youngest daughter raided her mother's pills. She also became heavily reliant on pain killers and testosterone, 'as a result of which her bathrooms were splattered with blood and her muscles calcified,' wrote the New York Times. In 1961, Rebekah Harkness decided to sink her excess money into the the Robert Joffrey ballet company that was run by celebrated choreographer Jerome Robbins at the time. Her father, a successful stockbroker, was known to be a 'tyrant' who alternated between terror and complete disregard, while her mother was too preoccupied with her own social calendar to care for her own children. Like Harkness before her, Swift used the house's 700 feet of coastline to throw some headline-making parties. But then again, just last year, Swift told Ellen DeGeneres that her favorite place to go on holiday was still Rhode Island. Skip to content; Skip to primary sidebar; Westerly Life. After her husband’s death, Harkness renovated the home she owned in Watch Hill, Rhode Island. The lyrics of Swift's song nod to her past: "Bill was the heir to the Standard Oil name, and money / And the town said "How did a middle class divorcée do it? After William Harkness' death, Rebekah's spent his fortune living a lavish life on champagne and drugs with houses around the world where she entertained Salvador Dalí, her personal yogi B.K.S. Harkness, fittingly, belonged to … He likes to talk about blowing people away,' reported the New York Times. The comments below have not been moderated. Rebekah attended finishing school at Fermata in South Carolina where her fellow classmates were fixtures in American aristocracy like the Roosevelts and Auchinclosses. Learn the story of Rebekah Harkness, the subject of Taylor Swift's song "The Last Great American Dynasty," who once owned her home in Rhode Island. The two purchased a mansion in Watch Hill, Rhode Island, which they nicknamed Holiday House. A few of the highlights? The tragic footnote to Harkness' life was Edith's suicide two months later. DeGeneres kind of shrugged. Rebekah Harkness became one of the wealthiest women in America after she inherited her husband's vast Standard Oil fortune when he died in 1953. Additional Details: In the lower right located on the high hill which was once an Indian lookout post, lies the elegant "Holiday House," summer cottage of Mrs. William Hale Harkness. Oprah Magazine participates in various affiliate marketing programs, which means we may get paid commissions on editorially chosen products purchased through our links to retailer sites. Watch Hill. The $17.75 million High Watch (once called Holiday House) is the most expensive private home in Rhode Island. Iyengar and her pet raccoon, Harkness is most well known for the chaotic legacy she left behind. Our editors handpick the products that we feature. The Harknesses shared a HUGE Watch Hill, Rhode Island mansion, called the … "Gradually, Holiday House, as the Watch Hill estate was called, began to acquire the character of Rebekah's private salon. But her ashes didn't completely fit in the delicate vase. Rebekah married William Hale Harkness, the heir to the Standard Oil fortune. Harkness poached the Joffrey Balley Company's best dancers and unapologetically said 'You see, money can buy anything', Rebekah Harkness, composer, sculptor, dance patron, and philanthropist sits in the sumptuous office of her Harkness Ballet Comapny that was headquartered in an East 75th Street town house. 'Is there a chic way to go?'". She employed nine people in … The two women have something in common – Swift now lives in what was once Rebekah's home, "Holiday House" in Rhode Island. ', Her son Allen said that she surrounded herself with 'all the fairies flying off the floor, the blackmailing lawyers, the weirdos, the people in the trances. The woman is Rebekah West Harkness, a famously wild heiress from St. Louis who once owned the Rhode Island coastal mansion that Swift purchased in 2013 for … Taylor Swift Is Summering in Rhode Island. The early years Rebekah West was born in … She was born Rebekah Semple West in 1915 to a wealthy family in St. Louis, Missouri. She cleaned her pool with Dom Perignon, dyed chocolate mousse blue and made enemies when she dyed her neighbor's cat lime-green in revenge, Swift purchased 'Holiday House' for $17 million in 2013. That 'town' is Watch Hill, Rhode Island - an affluent coastal village where Swift purchased a cliff side mansion in 2013 that was once owned by Rebekah and her husband William Harkness, a Standard Oil heir who was one of the wealthiest men in America. Harkness was the second daughter of three children, born in 1915 to a socially prominent St. Louis family. The Harkness's Rhode Island home, Holiday House, became a hub for the social set in the town, as the couple threw raucous parties most weekends. 'How should she do it?' Press the question mark key to get the keyboard shortcuts for changing dates. She also spiked the punch at her sister's debutante ball with mineral oil. On any given morning when she and I had something to talk about, Rebekah would come down in her pink and blue leotards and literally stand on her head, and we would have the conversation with her standing on her head. The newlywed couple purchased the 40-room mansion in 1947 and called it 'Holiday House' where Rebekah entertained Salvador Dalí, her personal yogi B.K.S. Not just going to performances, but sponsoring entire ballet companies, buying up real estate for them and sending them on world tours. Rebekah West Harkness (April 17, 1915 – June 17, 1982) also known as Betty Harkness, was an American composer, sculptor, dance patron, and philanthropist who founded the Harkness Ballet. Taylor Swift Sings about Her Rhode Island Mansion in New Album Drop Her song, "the Last Great American Dynasty," revolves around former Holiday House owner, Rebekah … Locals Just Shake It Off. We weren't kidding when we said she was eccentric. Unlike Harkness, though, Swift never tried to install a dome in her backyard as a practice space for ballet dancers. Together, the pair resided in Rhode Island, in a home called "Holiday House" that Swift now owns. ", After a first marriage to photographer W. Dickson Pierce, she married William Hale Harkness—heir to the Standard Oil fortune—in 1947. She turned a local firehouse into the Holiday House Art Center, offering cultural activities. '/ The wedding was charming, if a little gauche / There's only so far new money goes / They picked out a home and called it 'Holiday House.''. So then Rebekah married big-shot oil tycoon William Hale Harkness. Inclined to more eccentric behavior, Jane Remer, assistant director of the company recalled how 'Rebekah would come down in her pink and blue leotards and literally stand on her head and we would have the conversation with her standing on her head. By the time the company folded in 1975, Harkness had poured the equivalent of $86 million (in today's money) trying to make it a success, Rebekah Harkness supervises her star dancers George Skibine and Marjorie Tallchief before the ballet company's opening night in Cannes, 1965. ", Rebekah rode up on the afternoon train, it was sunnyHer saltbox house on the coast took her mind off St. LouisBill was the heir to the Standard Oil name, and moneyAnd the town said "How did a middle class divorcée do it? Certainly, Harkness lived a full life. He was jailed for ten years in a Florida prison and unable to attend his  mother's funeral in 1982. She had birthed another daughter, Edith Hale Harkness who spent her whole life in and out of mental institutions. This is hardly the first time Swift has written from the perspective of an American socialite. Together, the pair resided in Rhode Island, in a home called "Holiday House" that Swift now owns. The Last Great American Dynasty: The Untold Story of Rebekah Harkness. It was also, infuriatingly to the neighbors, a place for the Harkness Ballet dancers to practice on the lawn. She cleaned her pool with Dom Perignon, dyed chocolate mousse blue and made enemies when she dyed her neighbor's cat lime-green in revenge. 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