Money, Religion, and Politics

A Closer Look at Longue Vue

When visiting a historic estate, you might expect to see elegant architecture, fine furnishings, refined rooms echoing with polite conversation. At a glance, Longue Vue fulfills these expectations. Look deeper, however, and you’ll find much more: A “smart house” of uncommon innovation. A masterpiece of 20th-century design. A family home whose community purpose is expressed in the very landscape. Most essentially: an embrace of progressive—sometimes radical—ideals.

Find out how the Sterns welcomed guests who were unwelcome elsewhere. How they leveraged wealth and standing for the greater good. And how they were unafraid to fill these rooms with topics well outside “polite conversation.”

Curator's Note

When people visit Longue Vue they come to enjoy our gardens, marvel at the technology built into the home, and to step back for a moment. They have an interest in history and seek out sites to delve a bit deeper, but rarely do visitors expect such a plethora of avenues to explore when it comes to Edith and Edgar Stern. Their work in education, the arts, voting rights, housing, health care, and recreation is felt throughout our small city, though it is not confined here.

The questions most often asked – who were they?, why did they do this?, and how did they accomplish it? can all be summed up in three simple words but very complex ideas of Money, Religion, and Politics. They worked hard and made money, being in the right place at the right time. Through their religious background they choose to use that money to help improve the communities around them. And to improve community you often must participate in politics to make the largest impact.

Though located in the geographical south of the country, New Orleans is not always quite like its neighboring cities and states, being a little more cosmopolitan. Some think we are the northernmost post of the Caribbean and we do share features in our architecture and attitudes, especially in the heat of the summer. We are a mix of the two with a little bit of our own added for good taste. But all these parts are welcoming, opening our arms to friends and strangers alike to entertain them with food and polite conversation. It is the polite conversation that would have kept people from asking such questions about money, religion, and politics in the past. Now a century after the Stern’s started their life together it is time to explore those ideas a little more, in a time when being polite is not always the highest priority but understanding motives might be, come and learn about how Longue Vue was a family home but also a place where money, religion, and politics were polite topics to discuss in hopes of understanding our neighbor and making this city, this community, a place to enjoy, marvel, and reflect for everyone.

Lenora Costa

Money

Edith and Edgar Stern’s wealth was enormous, seemingly unlimited. At a time when many were scaling back, they rebuilt their house even grander. They gave still more to others: generously, enthusiastically, not to every cause, but to a great many and in large sums.

Just as earnestly, they encouraged their peers to give. They approached philanthropy in ways that were both transformative and innovative, continuing traditions associated with Julius Rosenwald but practiced by both of their families. Their wealth bought them access to worlds that may otherwise have been closed to them due to their Jewish heritage. It bought them attention they did not always seek, and even greater attention to the needs of the community around them.

I have always regarded wealth as a trust to be invested judiciously in humanity.

– Edith Stern

Transformative Giving

Edith and Edgar made financial gifts of a size that could change the game for an organization or project. But they never gave everything required for a given effort, nor in perpetuity. Likely inspired by Edith’s father Julius Rosenwald, the couple regarded their gifts as investments, without expectation of any return other than a thriving and creative society. They also hoped their giving would inspire others; sometimes they explicitly challenged those around them to step up for a cause.

In hindsight, the causes the Sterns supported seem like no-brainers. In their day, however, some of their most passionate work was in areas that few others would touch, and which many openly disdained.

Dillard University

James O’Brien, president of Straight University, reached out to Edgar Stern in 1928 seeking a donation for building repairs. Straight was a historically Black college, established in New Orleans in 1868, more recently fallen on tough times. O’Brien’s timing was impeccable: Edith and Edgar had just been appointed to the board of the Rosenwald Fund, where racial equity in education and healthcare were top priorities.

Across town, another institution was going through its own fiscal crisis. New Orleans University, also a Black college, was founded in 1869 but on the brink of closure in 1928.

Edgar took an immediate and avid interest in the plight of these two schools. He joined—and eventually led—a movement to steer challenge toward opportunity. The two schools would ultimately merge, combining resources and moving to a new, custom-designed campus. Edgar lent his business and civic connections in New Orleans, his national network through the Rosenwald Fund, and his personal wealth to the project, ensuring its success.

New Orleans University was already affiliated with the Sarah Goodridge Hospital & Nurse Training School and the Flint Medical College; soon, Flint-Goodridge Hospital would reopen as the teaching hospital of Dillard University. The importance of this hospital to the city’s overall healthcare landscape cannot be overstated: In the midst of segregation, Flint-Goodridge meant a professional pathway for Black doctors and access to trained healthcare for Black residents.

Community discussions around plans for Dillard and Flint-Goodridge were themselves segregated, speaking to a divide in goals and concerns. Edgar Stern attended both sets of meetings, and he listened strategically. With each new objection or concern raised by white residents, Edgar offered a new deflection or creative solution. He also personally gave or raised most of the $2,000,000 needed to build the new hospital building.

With funds raised, objections quieted, and designs completed, construction finally began. True to Rosenwald and Stern family traditions, and influenced by Edgar’s own college experience at Harvard, a thoughtful and cohesive design was a top priority, and Dillard University would be the first HBCU in the nation to be built according to a holistic site plan—lawns, trees, and views included. The 55-acre campus remains to this day one of the most beautiful spaces in New Orleans.

Opening its doors in 1935, Dillard University had a bi-racial board of trustees, of which Edgar was appointed president. One year later, he had closed his family business, increasing his availability for Dillard. Edgar would serve as president of the Dillard board until his death in 1959, presiding over a critical period as the new university became established.

Flint-Goodridge Hospital opening ceremonies January 1932. Located on Louisiana Avenue at LaSalle Street, currently a retirement community and apartments.

Edgar remarked of his work with Dillard: “As I look back over my efforts in various directions for the past many years, I can think of none which gives me greater satisfaction than my association with this enterprise.”

Photo of the well-baby waiting room at Flint-Goodridge, 1950s

The need for healthcare facilities was so great in segregated New Orleans that Flint-Goodridge was the first Dillard structure to be built. The 100-bed hospital opened for business on February 1, 1932, and served 30,000 patients in its first year.

Newcomb Nursery and Country Day

Edith’s commitment to education was equal to Edgar’s and deeply influenced by the work of her parents. Following the birth of Edgar Jr. in 1922, she discovered there was not a Montessori-style school in town, so she worked with Newcomb College and a group of like-minded parents to start the Newcomb Nursery School in 1926. This was the first nursery school in New Orleans, where college students could train in an actual school setting while studying teaching, nursing, and child psychology in the classroom.

With the success of Newcomb Nursery, Edith was inspired to invest in Montessori-influenced education for older children. In 1929, Edith’s parent group founded Metairie Park Country Day School, an elementary and high school. The three Stern children all attended both Newcomb Nursery and Country Day.

Newcomb Nursery School, views of the building and play yard with Edgar, Jr. second from the right, pulling a wagon.

Metairie Park Country Day School’s main building is very similar in appearance to the Stern’s first house at Longue Vue; both were designed by architect Moise Goldstein. Second photo shows Audrey and Philip in class.

Inspiring Others

Edith and Edgar were mindful of the power their wealth could wield over the fortunes of a given effort, and they exercised this power both carefully and courageously. When they believed in a cause, they were not afraid to ruffle feathers, risk hurt feelings, even threaten long-standing friendships.

The Sterns’ blend of generosity and advocacy may have led to some awkward luncheons and nail-biting pledges, but it also meant that their philanthropic practices inspired others to learn about and support the many dimensions of a thriving community and society.

Honoring Artistry

Head cook Emma Brown asked Edgar one day as he wandered through the kitchen if he would like to buy some tickets for a concert at her church. “Who’s singing?” was the reply. When it was determined it was none other than Marian Anderson, a recent Rosenwald Fellow in town for a visit, the answer was a resounding yes. The Sterns and their guests were the only white audience members in the small Baptist church. They were astonished by Marian’s voice and asked if she would consider a private concert at Longue Vue the following day. Edith quickly arranged a dinner honoring Marian, inviting socialites from across New Orleans to hear her. Integrated meals were technically illegal at the time, and a formal dinner at Longue Vue honoring a young Black singer would be a shock to many. “We could lose friends, you know,” Edgar cautioned his wife. “I guess we’ll find out who our friends really are,” returned Edith. In the end, Marian declined to join them at the table, demurring that she never ate before performing.

Children and Community

New Orleans businessman Sidney Pulitzer tells an anecdote about a memorable encounter that his father, Sam Pulitzer, had with Edith Stern. Sam was a young businessman when he received a surprise invitation: Would he please attend an upcoming luncheon at Edith’s home? He arrived to find the lunch table filled with local Jewish business leaders. Following a genteel meal and while enjoying dessert, Edith made an announcement: She was going to start them off with a pledge of $250,000 for the “poor Jewish children” at the children’s home connected with Newman School, and she wanted to know what each of those present would give. Sam and his brothers had grown up in the home.

“Dad’s entire business was worth $30,000 at that time. He pledged $15,000, and went home wondering how he could possibly pay that. When a big Atlanta textile business heard what he had done, they backed the pledge and started an ongoing partnership that ensured the Wembley Tie Company’s success.”

Investing in Culture

When the Isaac Delgado Museum of Art (now New Orleans Museum of Art) learned that “Portrait of Estelle Musson,” painted by French impressionist Edgar Degas during his time in New Orleans, was available for purchase, a full citywide campaign was begun. The 1964 asking price was $190,000. Between coin canisters in schools and a public telethon, only a fraction had been raised before Edith stepped in. Edith, one of the museum’s trustees at the time, hosted a simple sandwich luncheon at the museum for selected civic leaders and organizations. After explaining the importance of keeping such a work in town, she told each person they now needed to pay for their po-boy with a check for $5,000. Many checks were written and still more pledged on that day, and the newspapers show that all made good on their promises. The acquisition of the painting was catalytic in improving the museum’s collection and its growth as an institution.

In celebration of the successful effort, Edith hosted a $100 per plate dinner at the Roosevelt Hotel, complete with guarded transport of the now-secured Degas painting from the museum, to and from the hotel. Door prizes for the night included a case of champagne and airfare for two to Paris.

Legacy

As early as 1941, Edith had a plan: Longue Vue would one day be fully open to the public, as a museum. After a plan to incorporate Longue Vue to the New Orleans Museum of Art fell through, Edith explored a number of options before finally setting up a family governing board, an independent operating board, and a reserves fund to help the Longue Vue Center for the Decorative Arts get started. She moved out of Longue Vue in 1978 and personally supervised the conversion of the house and property into a public museum.

Longue Vue itself was only one example of many ways in which Edith and Edgar considered long-term impact in their giving practices and planning. In addition to her acquisition efforts on behalf of the New Orleans Museum of Art, Edith gave 95 pieces of her own to NOMA. Edgar, upon turning 50, set up the Edgar B. Stern Family Fund (later the Stern Family Fund) with a starting principle of $225,400. When, as planned, the Fund closed 50 years later, it had distributed $25,000,000 to causes across New Orleans and beyond (reflecting an 11,000% increase in total assets). Transformational gifts were made to Tulane University, the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra, and many other causes.

The Stern Family Fund was also the vehicle for an important aspect of Edith and Edgar’s legacy: The passing of their philanthropic values to future generations. As each of their grandchildren (they would have 12 grandchildren in all) turned 18, they joined the Fund board. Bill Hess, their eldest grandchild, has a vivid memory of the bi-annual meetings and Edith’s gradual but definite, year-by-year retreat from the center of the conversation to the sidelines. Finally, as he remembered, she would be tucked in a corner of the room, focused on her needlepointing, letting her grandchildren review and debate the merits of the many important community projects presented to them.

Planning the Gift of Longue Vue

The plan to fully share Longue Vue with the community goes back to wills that Edith and Edgar wrote in 1936, as they prepared to take an extended family vacation in Europe. In the event that the family should not return from this trip, the land was to “revert to public use.” No other description or guidance was offered at that time.

By 1941, with construction of Longue Vue II underway, Edith began to think more practically of Longue Vue as a future museum. By 1968 she had opened her gardens to the public (while still living in the house—Edgar had died in 1959 and the children long since moved away), with tours run by two local garden clubs, the Garden Study Club and New Orleans Town Gardeners. Guests lucky enough to encounter her on the grounds could ask Edith personally about the house and gardens.

Religion

In 1942, the house you are now standing in was nearing completion and the world at large was in the grip of World War II. Ripples of antisemitism spread across the globe—not sparing New Orleans, where established power structures based on color, creed, and gender added an ugly layer.

For Edith and Edgar, this collection of prejudices created a complex position. As two of the city’s wealthiest and most prominent citizens, they had broad access across social lines and into elite homes. Yet as individuals of Jewish background, they were vulnerable to exclusion and ostracism. They navigated the times and their Jewish identity with clear eyes and courage, declining to enter some battles while clinging steadfastly to the values of their faith and heritage.

During the days when Henry Ford was on an anti-Semitic rampage he published a scathing article in the Saturday Evening Post on my father, Julius Rosenwald. Nothing was too base even unto claiming Father made part of his wealth in white slave traffic. The outraged family was phoning from all parts of the country urging that Father sue Henry Ford or do anything to refute the filthy lie. He with his usual foresight and wisdom shrugged off the whole incident by saying, “Another Saturday Evening Post comes out next week.” He refused to dignify it with an answer.

– Edith Stern

Rooted in Values

When Julius Rosenwald, then director of Sears, Roebuck, took the company public and became an overnight multimillionaire, his first instinct was to ask his rabbi for advice.

“Start giving it away,” Rabbi Hirsch told him—and he did.

The Jewish principle of tzedakah (Hebrew for righteousness or justice) holds that philanthropy serves the giver as well as the receiver, a concept that proved true in Julius’s case: The more he gave, the more he grew personally. He met leaders of social justice movements. He awakened to social inequities and human needs surrounding him. Julius came to see a clear connection between European persecution of Jews and domestic discrimination against African Americans, sparking shifts in both his thinking and his giving.

Edgar’s parents, too, lived the values of Reform Judaism. His mother Hanna volunteered time and donated money—with special emphasis on the Jewish community, local children, and the arts. Temple Sinai was the home and headquarters for many community-focused Jewish residents of New Orleans, Hanna and Maurice Stern included.

Edith and Edgar embraced this heritage wholeheartedly. They served their communities, addressed social inequities, and experienced personal growth through service to others.

Reform Judaism developed out of the period of Enlightenment in Germany in the 18th century. The driving concept of Reform Judaism is that the expression of Judaism should adapt to fit the time and culture of the region where it is practiced.

– Rabbi David Gerber

Like Edgar’s parents, Edith and Edgar were members of Temple Sinai, though they attended services only occasionally—such as when a particular topic or visiting rabbi sparked their interest.

Temple Sinai is the oldest Reform congregation in New Orleans. The building pictured here was completed in 1872, located on Carondelet Street between Howard Avenue and Calliope Street, just steps from the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience today. The congregation moved uptown in 1928 and remains there today, and the original building was torn down in 1977.

The Mezuzah

The one permanent trace of Edith and Edgar’s Jewish heritage that is built into Longue Vue is their mezuzah. A mezuzah is a tiny scroll of parchment, containing a phrase from the Bible (or Torah in Hebrew), protected within a case, and affixed to a door frame. It can be placed in any door frame (or even all door frames throughout a home) but is most commonly found at the main entrance to a house, as Longue Vue’s is.

Jewish law prescribes that a mezuzah be placed on the right side of a doorway as you enter a space, in the upper third of the door, with the top tilting inwards. Compared to this norm, Longue Vue’s appears to be inverted: on the left as you enter the house, with the top tilting outwards. This “wrong” placement has inspired an animated debate among visitors and Longue Vue staff alike: Why did they install it in this unconventional manner, and should we “correct” the placement?

If the Sterns put it up, it means that they recited the blessings and hammered in the nail. That is a legacy that is worth preserving.

There is also a nice homiletical reason the mezuzah is where it is. The top of the mezuzah conventionally points inward because it is symbolic of hope that people who enter are aware of the Jewish law, customs, and traditions of the people who live there. The fact that Edith and Edgar’s mezuzah is pointed outside could indicate how much the Sterns valued the gardens. The preservation of nature and the beautification of the world are high Jewish values, and are possibly indicated by the mezuzah placement.

-Rabbi David Gerber

Longue Vue’s silver mezuzah case is inscribed with the initials of Maurice and Hanna Stern—suggesting it came from Edgar’s childhood home.

Discrimination in New Orleans Society

A Jewish couple building a home, a family, and a civic presence in World War II-era New Orleans faced contradictions and challenges. Residents of Jewish descent had been immersed in the city’s social and business sectors since the mid-19th century (the first “Rex,” or king of Carnival—still a major honor—was Jewish). Yet in the years following World War I, and especially with the rise of the Nazi party in the 1930s, antisemitism began to shift the social landscape.

The Stern family absorbed this shift in direct ways that we know of, and likely in more subtle ways left unspoken: Somewhat uncharacteristically, they left no written record of how they felt about the exclusion of Jews from Mardi Gras traditions and other social practices. Perhaps, like Edith’s father in the face of antisemitic attacks from Henry Ford, they preferred to let the public discrimination of others speak for itself. At any rate, nobody had the power to exclude them from the most coveted dinner table in the city: their own.

Edgar was once invited to join the Boston Club, a prestigious local men’s club connected with the Rex carnival krewe (organization). Edgar asked if his childhood friend Monte Lemann could join as well, and Boston Club leadership demurred, perhaps considering one Jewish member to be concession enough. Edgar declined the invitation.

When Edgar first introduced his fiancée, Edith Rosenwald, to New Orleans, it was at the New Orleans Country Club, where he was a member. A decade later, Edgar could not have joined, due to his Jewish identity.

The Sterns’ renowned New Year’s Eve Party was a sought-after invitation. Just a few days later, the family would recede into the background of the city’s social scene each year and remain there for several weeks: Carnival begins on January 6, or Twelfth Night, and continues through the moveable feast of Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday.

Threats in Europe

Even as Edith and Edgar navigated the troubled waters between their Jewish values and the discriminatory society they lived in, they and their families—especially Edith’s brother, William—also dealt with still more serious circumstances facing relatives abroad.

Beginning in 1935, William Rosenwald reached out to his siblings about the situation in Eastern Europe and the impending war. The five siblings and their spouses began the work of finding and supporting extended family interested in emigrating to the United States. At that time U.S. residents could sponsor families as distant as second cousins and their minor children.

Edith’s younger brother William Rosenwald when he was the American Joint Distribution Committee leader in Princeton, NJ with Albert Einstein, and refugee children, 1949.

A New Community in Israel

Edith’s brother William was at the forefront of another topic that drew the interest of the Stern-Rosenwald clan: the founding and development of Israel. William was co-founder in 1939 of the United Jewish Appeal, which raised money in support of Jews in both Europe and Palestine. When the nation of Israel was founded in 1949, he personally supported the immigration of thousands of new Israeli residents.

In this instance, family member views were not always aligned: Older brother Lessing actually opposed the creation of the country of Israel, fearing it would split allegiances within the American Jewish community. Edith herself was pro-Israel: She donated both large sums of money and—notably, given her personal values in the places she herself called home—trees.

The hundreds of trees Edith underwrote for Israel were not missed by the new nation’s residents: In 1974, Israel planted a ceremonial cypress—the wood thought to have created Noah’s Ark—in Longue Vue’s lower Yellow Garden, in honor of the 25th anniversary of Israel’s founding.

Politics

Their philanthropic methods, their Jewish background, their outspoken resistance to family and social norms—Edith and Edgar Stern knew how to raise eyebrows in many spheres of their lives. To enact real change and real social progress, however, meant engaging in still more volatile territory: politics.

Unlike the other “impolite” topics they tackled, politics could have challenged the very core of Edith and Edgar’s relationship: She was an avid Democrat, he a Republican, and they often differed in the politicians they supported. Instead, this difference seems to have formed an even deeper bond, a sense of respect, and the potential for personal growth in each of them.

Edith’s View:

Being a Democrat to the marrow of my bones, my second great hate was Spiro Agnew.…Each time he came to New Orleans the city had to cover the cost of security to the tune of some $30,000. On one of these visits someone called to say the Vice President wanted some tennis. Would it be alright if he played on my court? I heard myself yelling into the phone, “Good God, No!” and I meant it.

“He’s your vice president, Mrs. S.”

“I never asked him to be. I never voted for him.”

To me our method of choosing a veep is one of our great weaknesses and in this evil year of 1973 maybe it will be reviewed by Congress.

When it came to politics, Edith and Edgar sometimes supported—or contested—individual candidates. Their more lasting work, however, was on behalf of the democratic process writ large. Edgar worked to promote public engagement in politics by advocating for thoughtful, reflective, transparent processes. Edith’s work was more targeted, focused on voter registration and women’s rights. Both also worked to get specific candidates elected when they felt the stakes were especially high.

Even if they did not always agree politically, Edith and Edgar respected one another’s views and shared the goal of a transparent, equitable, functional democracy. They pursued many projects independently, but they also worked as partners when their stature as a couple could help summon attention to needed dialogues. Over the course of their relationship, their specific views began to align, and by the 1950s Edgar supported Democrats as often as Republicans.

Impolite Dinner Conversations

One notorious location for their advocacy work was the dinner table: The Sterns were known to invite opposing members of city and state government to dinner, then raise complex or controversial topics. Often the method worked, when adversaries came to better understandings under the gaze of their gracious hosts and the influence of shared food and wine. At other times, guests departed in icy silence, or worse: We have more than a few chipped wine glasses in our collection, perhaps the trace of fists banged on the table, or even the occasional food fight, as legend has it.

Sadly, Longue Vue never had a formal guest book, so we rely upon letters, diary entries, and oral histories as records of these notorious gatherings.

Civic Affairs League

For Edgar, politics meant public engagement, rooted in accountable policy. This conviction was behind his work to rally a group of local business leaders around a new Civic Affairs League in 1932. The organization was inspired by the political machine of Huey P. Long, whose tactics Edgar and others saw as a direct threat to democracy. Today the agency he helped found remains active, as the Bureau of Governmental Research, still committed to engaging the public in government and supporting policy research.

Voting Rights

For Edith, political progress depended first and foremost upon voting rights. She spent countless hours personally reviewing voting rolls, evaluating and contesting the voting registration process, and reviewing the best opportunities for access to the ballot. She founded the Voters’ Registration League as an organizational home for this work, with Longue Vue as a de facto headquarters. Ultimately, Edith would be responsible for upgrading polling equipment across the entire state of Louisiana.

The Voters' Registration League

The formation of the League was one of Edith’s finest hours, as she noted in a 1973 Life Magazine article. Begun in 1949, League members discovered more than 9,000 improperly registered voters—persons incorrectly listed as disabled or illiterate allowing for them to have ‘assistance’ when voting. This discovery led to investigations by the New Orleans District Attorney in 1950 and the State Board of Registration in 1951. Prior to the state investigation, the League asked for a recall of improperly registered persons. The Registrar was forced to require those listed as disabled or illiterate to appear in person at the Registrar’s office, with the result that the number of illiterate and disabled voters dropped from 9,369 to 4,075.

The Voters’ Registration League joined with the League of Women Voters (Edith served a term as president), the Independent Women’s Organization, and the New Orleans Civic Council to enact legislation to reform political corruption at the polls. By 1952, the Permanent Registration Bill was passed, and by 1954, all Louisiana voters cast their votes on modern voting machines rather than in boxes.

Chep Morrison

The Sterns played an active role in the 1946 election of de Lesseps S. “Chep” Morrison as Mayor of New Orleans. Morrison was part of the reform-oriented administration of Governor Sam Jones, whose election marked the defeat of the Long political machine. Edgar was an opponent of Earl Long and worked to elect Jones. Soon, he and Edith were busy working to elect Morrison, a young military veteran with a reform message.

from left: Edgar Stern, Emperor Haile Selassie, Alfred Dent (president of Dillard), and Mayor Chep Morrison at Dillard University, New Orleans, June 24th, 1954.

The Broom Brigade, 1946

Edith helped to organize Morrison’s female supporters into “Broom Brigades” who marched on City Hall with brooms bearing the motto, “A Clean Sweep.” They swept Morrison to victory in 1946. During the Morrison administration, Edgar served as Chairman of the Mayor’s Advisory Council, while Edith served on the Park and Parkways Commission and New Orleans Housing Projects.

Adlai Stevenson

Edith and Edgar also saw eye-to-eye about Adlai Stevenson, whom they supported publicly as the 1952 democratic candidate for president.

That year, the Sterns hosted a cocktail party in honor of Stevenson during the Democratic National Convention, which they had successfully worked to host in New Orleans. The Stern children came to town to assist Edith and Edgar with the busloads of guests, as the entire DNC descended upon Longue Vue. During a hospitality crisis that evening, the garden-oriented design of the home took center stage: The Sterns’ son-in-law Tom Hess broke a traffic jam by escorting delegates ‘trapped’ in the Drawing Room outside via the porch and into the Portico Garden.

Introducing John F. Kennedy

One candidate the Sterns may not have agreed upon was John F. Kennedy. Kennedy first came to Longue Vue as a young senator, during Adlai Stevenson’s stay here. Edith was an early fan and a lifelong advocate; she attended the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles in 1960 (the year after Edgar’s death) to celebrate his nomination for the presidency.

Stevenson himself stayed in the Whim House during his visit. This photo from the Longue Vue archives is accompanied by a handwritten note: “For the staff of 11 Garden Lane / who made me so comfortable / and happy! Adelai Stevenson / 1954

The Sterns’ support of Stevenson was well-known, as is demonstrated in this cartoon from 1955 by Francis Soyka. Edgar is seen sitting atop a pole with the words “Adlai Slept Here.”

A Who's Who of House Guests

Mr. and Mrs. Stern have the most beautiful gardens surrounding their house. Only last week they had just been entertaining the Garden Club of America, so everything looked to me at its height—tall, standard roses in full bloom and almost every other variety of flower.

– Eleanor Roosevelt, April 2, 1953

Longue Vue was a priority stop for luminaries visiting New Orleans, politicians among them. One regular guest was Eleanor Roosevelt, whose diary captured one trip in 1953. During a whirlwind visit, Eleanor spoke at Dillard University (“the Dillard University campus is lovely, with broad lawns and simple white buildings that are all very harmonious”), interviewed at WDSU, took in the French Quarter, and returned to Longue Vue for an evening with family and friends. Eventually she would retreat for the night to a customized corner suite: Edith had redecorated son Philip’s former room with motifs of Eleanor’s favorite flower, Lily of the Valley, in her honor.


Eleanor Roosevelt with Albert Dent at Dillard University, April 1, 1953.

The first record of a connection between Edith Stern and Eleanor Roosevelt dates from 1941, when Edith and her sister Adele spent a night at the White House as guests of Eleanor and President Franklin Roosevelt. Adele was close with the First Lady: The two of them (with younger sister Marian) were founding members of the Citizens’ Committee on Children in New York.

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