The infamous history of Holiday Home in Rhode Island recently emerged from dusty tomes to remind us of the rich pasts of decades-old homes. American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift penned ‘The Last American Dynasty’ in her Grammy Award-winning album of the year, folklore (2020).
As people discover the eccentric house, or rather the previous house owner, people’s interest renews itself all the more as the beacon house for sailors becomes a reverential part of pop culture.
Rebekah Harkness was always a figure shrouded in various perspectives of people surrounding her. A woman years ahead of her time, Rebekah was a proud gambler. Of course, Rebekah was more than a punter - she was a legend, a ‘mad’ woman who did as she pleased.
Let us look at the previous owner of the Holiday Hone and its impact on modern society.
Rebekah Harkness - The Maddest Woman the Town Had Ever Seen
Swift’s ‘The Last American Dynasty’ pretty much graphs Rebekah’s poorly received entrance into high society, the installation of her legendary status, and her descent into the grips of madness. Born in 1915, Rebekah was married twice before she met William Hale ‘Bill’ Harkness, the heir to Standard Oil.
What Is the Juicy Story Behind?
After their marriage, the happy couple picked out a home and called it a ‘Holiday House.’ The house was built for Pearl Pinkerton McClelland Snowden by her husband in the mid-1910s. Measuring up to an astounding 11,000 square feet (1,000 m2), the seafront house sat on 5 acres (2.0 ha) of Rhode Island.
The Watch Hill neighbourhood of Westerly, cradled the home against sea storms while affording a gorgeous view of the ocean, secluded from the neighbours.
Soon after, however, the couple faced a tragic loss - Bill suffered a heart attack and died. Although Old Bill passed away, Rebekah’s spirit was too strong to be broken. She continued to honour her husband by throwing the lavish parties the couple used to host for Bill’s affluent friends and neighbours. She formed a clique with her old friends and made a colourful riot at her old home.
Here’s where the story begins to sound like a myth - Harkness filled her swimming pool with champagne, invited renowned ballerinas and incorporated them into her company. She used to play cards and lose magnificently to her friends, which included the famous artist Salvador Dali.
Of course, that was the positive side of her exploits. The people living around her did not approve of her actions. Harkness became a recluse in her later years, even dying a neighbour’s cat lime green after an altercation.
The figure of Rebekah Harkness, seen occasionally pacing the rocks adjacent to her home, became more fiction than the truth. She was nearly lost in the annals of time, slowly withering away, until ‘The Last American Dynasty’ revived her and the house.
The Legacy of the Harkness Holiday House
Holiday House is an icon that has housed two of the most famous women ever - Rebekah and Taylor Swift herself. The legacy of Holiday House will forever remain an exciting emblem of female figures that contemporary culture disapproved of, but these women did what they wanted anyway. They truly had a marvellous time, as Swift says, ruining the double standards of a judgemental society.