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[84] Three of the Famous Homes of Canton

The following article was written by Robert Elliott in 1988 and was printed in the Canton Area Historical Society Newsletter Number 20 in November 1988.

It was in the Victorian era, during the reign of Queen Victoria from 1837 to 1901, that three of the well known houses were built in Canton. It was also during this time period that Minnequa was in its glory and many theatrical people came here in the summer.

Three who came and eventually established homes in Canton, making these homes well-known were E. L. Davenport, Frank Mayo and Fanny Davenport, world renown actors and actress of the theatrical stage.

The first of these homes to be built was to become known as "Davenport Villa" purchased by E. L. Davenport in 1872 while he was staying at Minnequa Springs. The home was built by my grandfather and grandmother Francis and Elizabeth Davis Elliott for a family home.  He was the builder and she was the architect of all these homes.

The Canton Independent Sentinel
90 Years Ago – 1919
Mrs. Elizabeth Elliot, of this place, was 95 years old on March 12. The greater part of her life has been spent in Canton. She has been a successful architect, her skill in that line being shown by Davenport Villa, Crockett Lodge and Hillside, all of which were designed by her. She also drew the plans for the home where she now lives.

The brick for the home was made from clay taken from his land near the railroad track.  The bricks were made on a hand press and fired in the brick kiln in the field.  (I remember the press very well as it stood on the land until it disintegrated.)  The home had 14 rooms.  The kitchen had a built-in range and oven.  The water supply was from a spring piped into the house to a pump in the kitchen.  From the kitchen the water was pumped by hand to a holding tank in the attic for use throughout the household.  The circular fountain in the yard was also fed from a spring.

Originally there was a barn across the road a little to the south of the house but after the Davenports bought the home, with 12 acres of land they built a barn northwest of the house for the horses and equipment. Later Mr. Davenport had a gas generator put i the basement and installed gas lights throughout the house.  He also had a stone pavement laid in front of the house and landscaped the grounds.

After the death of her parents their daughter Blanche lived in the house for several years.  She was an accomplished opera singer in Europe under the name of Bianca La Blanche.  She was a student of the famous Dell Sieder.  In Milan, a theater was built and named for her.  As accomplished a career she had in Europe she never sang in America.  She finally moved to New York City where she died.

Edgar Davenport lived in the house one summer, then Harry Davenport became the owner.  Upon the death of Harry it was willed to his son Edward from whom Joe and Julia Rickard bought it in April 1950.

Julia and Joe lived in the home several years and then sold it to Jim and Janice Bird in 1983 and they are still the present owners.

Some added information on the Davenport family:

Edwin Loomis Davenport was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1816 and died September 6, 1877.  He started his stage career at an early age.  During and English tour he opened in a theater in Manchester, England on December 7, 1847 as Claude Melnotte to Mrs. Mowatts' Pauline.  In several of his plays he had an English actress by the name of Fanny Lily Vining as his leading lady.  Having been divorced from Mrs. Charles Gill, Edwin and Fanny were married in London on January 8, 1849.

They returned to the U.S. in 1854 where at one time he managed the Chestnut St. Theater in Philadelphia.  Mrs. Davenport died July 20, 189?

Of this marriage there were seven children who were all very talented.

1.  Fanny Lily Gipsy - born April 19, 1850 in London, died in Duxbury, Massachusetts on September 26, 1898.  She had two husbands, the first Edward Price whom she divorced; second, Milbourne McDowell who survived her. There were no children of these two unions.  Fanny was a noted stage actress, with first appearance in "Metamora."

2.  Florence - married C. Harold Tiers.  They had a daughter, Florence "Pinky" Davenport Tiers, who married Alexander Thorton Leftwich of Baltimore, Maryland on August 15, 1905.

3.  Blanche - never married, died approximately 1927 in New York City.  She was a famous virtuoso.  Her career in Europe ended prior to 1895 when she came home to take care of her ailing mother.

4.  Lily Vining - was born in Glasgow, Scotland and died in 1880.  She married Frost Thorn who died four years after their marriage.  They had two children - a daughter, Marcetie, and a son, Frost Thorn, Jr.

5.  Edgar L. - He worked for the Edison Phonograph Company making elocution records.  He came to Canton about 1912 or 1913 to live in the old home.

6.  Harry L. - born in Philadelphia, Pa. January 19, 1866 and died in Hollywood, California on April 11, 1949.  He was buried in Kinsico, New York.  He made his debut at 5 years old at the Chestnut St. Theater, Philadelphia, in "Damon and Pythias" in April 1871.  Harry married Phyllis Rankin who died in the Williamsport Hospital (Williamsport, Pa.) in 1935.  Stepchildren - Arthur Rankin, Dorothy Rankin  Reid, Kate and Ann. Harry and Phyllis had two children:  daughter, Fanny, and son, Edward L. "Ned or Boo" born 1910.  Edward was the seventh generation of the stage family.  He made his stage debut in October 1933 with his father in "Move on Sister."

7.  May - married William Seymour.  They had a daughter, May, who died October 5, 1967.  She was know as "Baby May."  "Baby May" retired from the stage in 1908 when she married William Stanley Eckert.  They had two children:  daughter, Ann Seymour, an actress, and a son William Eckert, of who was at one time an advertising executive in Chicago, Illinois.

After my grandfather sold the home to E. L. Davenport, needing a place to live, he began to build the house that was to become known as "Crockett Lodge."  Before he had this house completed he sold it to Frank Mayo in 1873 and finished it according to Mr. Mayo's plans.  It was Victorian style architecture with lots of finials, gables and scrollwork.  Much of the materials used to build the homes were purchased from the area.

The number of bedrooms I am not certain but I do know that it had a large living room, dining room, kitchen, and a large billiard room.  This home was piped with gas and gas lights installed.  The water source was from springs.  The servants' quarters were south and back of the house and accommodated six people.  The laundry was also in this building.  A large barn was built west of the house to house their horses and carriages.

After the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, the Swiss Chalet, on exhibit at the Exposition, was bought by Mr. Mayo and had it moved to his property in Canton.  The workmen who built the Chalet originally were hired to disassemble the Chalet and bring it to Canton and reassemble it in its original form.  It was held together with wooden pegs.  Mr. Mayo used this as his studio for writing plays and solitude.  At one time the grounds and walks were lined with rare flowers and shrubs from all parts of the world.

The Mayos had three children:  Frank, Jr., Eleanor Nellie, and Deronda.  After Mrs. Mayo's death Nellie, who was married to Col. Jim Elverson, editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer and a colonel in the Civil War, returned to the property and used it as a summer home.  She had a retinue of servants including cooks, waitresses, housekeepers, horsemen and footmen.  Nellie was a lavish entertain and part of the entertainment was a big display of fireworks on the 4th of July.

She had four Bay Cobbs matched horses.  The Tally-Ho had a lattice body and was outfitted with a front seat and back seat for her driver and footmen.  A lattice holder on each side held the golf clubs.  It was complete with lamps.  The Tally-Ho was pulled by a three horse team (1 ahead of 2) outfitted in silver trimmed harnesses.  The driver and footmen were dressed in white tight pants, red coats, black patent leather boots and high silk hats.  Nellie, herself, drove a fancy enclosed buggy with two-horse tandem.  When Nellie decided to leave the area she sold two of her horses to L. T. McFadden.

Crockett Lodge
Mr. Mayo is standing on the step, Mrs. Mayo is on the porch in the light dress, seated in the center.  Bolly Meech and his sister Laura are on the upper porch.  The boy sitting on the grass holding the cup and spoon is Harry Davenport.
Frank Mayo's guests playing croquet at Crockett Lodge. This photograph was taken from a stereoscopic view by B. L. Wright, Photographer in 1880.
Two more views of Crockett Lodge showing guests on the lawn

The photo on the left shows Henry Flannigan in the foreground holding the horses.  Wm. Laurens, a friend of Mr. Mayo is sitting behind the gate post.  Mrs. Lauren is in white at the extreme left.  Mr. Mayo in black is standing behind her.  The large party in white on the porch is Bridget Flannigan, Henry's wife.  The others are servants working at the lodge.

The photo on the right shows Mr. Mayo in the carriage with Henry Flannigan at the gate.  The others are not identified.

These prints were taken from a glass negative.

The Mayo house stood unattended for several years except for the lawns which were kept groomed by Henry Flanagan.  Later Mrs. Harry Davenport and daughter, after doing extensive repairs, and had me wire it for electricity, opened a tea room in the house.  The tea room was unsuccessful.  Finally after having been neglected for some years it was sold to Lazelle Thomas in 1942 for taxes.  He renovated the Swiss Chalet with material from the original house and made it his residence.  He then finished dismantling the original house.  It remained in Mr. and Mrs. Thomas’s possession until her death in December 1965.

After the Mayo house was built, my grandfather and family, still needing a place to live, built the house later known as “Hillside,” the home of Fanny Davenport.  A contract was drawn up in 1874.  After Fanny bought the house she built on a billiard room, servant quarters and a game room on the third floor, making it an 18 room house.  She renovated the interior putting in parquet floors, gas lights, bathroom with copper tub enclosed in tongue and grooved wood, toilet with a high oak water tank and bath complete with pedestal lavatory.  The kitchen had a built in range and oven.  She added gas lights.  The gasoline tank was on the outside; gasoline ran in to a converter in the basement then up to the light fixtures in the house.

On the exterior she built on a porte-co-chere, north porch, put bay windows in the front, added some stained-glass windows, put wrought iron trimmings on roof and gables.

She built a big barn, at the rear of the house, with three stalls, box stall with hayloft and pigeon cote on the second floor.  The area was landscaped with imported flowers and trees.

Fanny had a drive along the road for entrance and exit, plus a circular drive around the house.  At the front of the circular drive were arbors, with built in seats, covered with ivy.  At the rear of the circular drive was a large arbor with grape vines.

She built a walk from the house north to her line.  Midway it branched off and led up the hill with steps at different intervals to a picnic area on top of the hill.  At the end of the walk, on the left side, it was terraced and set out to grape vines.  Midway in the branch, to the hill, she had a large gazebo covered with vines and furnished with rustic furniture.  The walk was lined with pine trees on each side, double row mismatched.  The trees were shipped from England.

After leaving one summer she died before she was able to return to her beloved “Hillside.”

“Hillside” stood idle for a few years, then Lewis Buddy II from Erie, Pa. bought it for a summer house.  He came here because his wife had inflammatory rheumatism and he heard of the medical values of the water at Minnequa.  She drank the water and bathed in it daily and finally recovered from the disease.

Lewis Buddy III then lived in the home.  He was married to the daughter of Captain Charles Vernon Gridley who was captain of the flagship “Olympia” of Admiral George Dewey’s fleet in the battle of Manilla Bay May 1, 1898.  he was the one Admiral Dewey gave the command “you may fire when you are ready, Gridley.”

Mr. buddy had a print shop in the old billiard room where he ran his printing business.  He printed a set of books “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms” for each one of the Roy Crofters under the supervision of Elbert Hubbard, the great orator.  These books were printed on vellum paper, sewn by hand, with a very fine cover with gold edging.  The Roy Crofters was a society of which Elbert Hubbard was one of the main members.

After the Buddys left “Hillside” it remained empty for several years.  In 1911 Casper and Mab Weiss, midget fame, bought the property and made it their home until it burned October 1951.

The article “Canton’s Famous Midget Couple” appeared in the Historical Society Newsletter November 1984 issue.  This property is now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Kleese.

Note:  This article was written by Robert F. Elliott, grandson of Francis S. and Elizabeth Davis Elliott, builders and architect of these homes.

This information was related to me by my grandmother, my mother and father, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Elliott and records I have in my possession.

The Elliott family were very close to the Davenport family.  My mother made many of Fanny Davenport’s stage costumes.  Blanche had many of her meals with my family and we became very close friends.  Edgar and Harry were also friends.

[92] Crockett Lodge, Old Mayo Home, Is Interesting Place

Just a short distance out from Canton stands Crockett Lodge, the home of the famous Mayo family, now closed most of the year and in charge of the Flanagans, who live close by.  This home now belongs to Mrs. Eleanor Elverson, the wife of the owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer.  The Elversons motor up to Canton sometimes and spend some time in the house, although they have other estates that are closer to their winter home and are more convenient for all than Crockett Lodge.

It was my pleasure while in Canton in company with Mrs. Flanagan to go through this home and the time spent roaming through the house and lawns was enjoyable for many reasons.  The beauty of the surroundings adds to the general attractiveness.  The house stands on a public road a short distance in the country and in a large grove of trees.  Around the estate runs a large wall covered with vines.  Just inside is a large hedge, the leaves of which are used in making pillows, and which are greatly prized.  Two large beds of fern stand at the side of the walk, and in the center are two swans, which form fountain.  On all sides are flower beds and green trees.  The trees are large and make ideal homes for the birds.  In fact birds and squirrels are found in great quantities about the estate.  To the right is a small bird house situated in a bed of myrtle and this of course always contains, a “family.”  The lawns are kept perfectly.  Everything about the place shows the care of the Flanagans.

Before going into the house we wandered out to the barn.  Long grape arbors are found at the back of the house while to the left we saw a fine chicken park.  The barn is large and has many stalls for horses.  Mr. Flanagan keeps but one horse in this barn, and it looked rather lonely.  I enjoyed looking in the carriage house.  Here we found many vehicles.  There was the large “carryall,” which the friends of the Mayos enjoyed when visiting them.  One can imagine the good times enjoyed when fifteen people were packed in this large wagon and were off for a ride.  The high red two seated vehicle was of interest to us, and this Mrs. Flanagan said Mrs. Mayo used in driving to the station to meet her husband.  Then there was a two seated carriage, a runabout and a carriage encased in glass with large lights attached.  This could have been used with a single horse or a team and was good looking.

With a large brass key the front door was unlocked, and we were inside the famous old homestead.  Mrs. Flanagan said that much of the better furniture had been removed by Mrs. Elverson, although in each room there remained some that indicated what the place looked like in its palmy days.  The hall is wide and had a number of beautiful paintings on the walls, in fact, one of the things I first noticed was the type of pictures in the house.  We first entered the large parlor.  Here we found a piano that was said to cost a thousand dollars when it was new.  It was one of the old-time Chickerings, a piano that music men claim today has never been excelled in the sweetness of tone.  In every room fireplaces were seen and at the side of the fireplace in the parlor, two bronze figures stood.  From these lights were given in other days.  In one corner a cozy corner had been arranged.  This was hung with exquisite draperies and looked as if it would be an ideal place to lounge.  It was as wide as a bed, very different from the ordinary cozy corners of today.  I think that we were most interested in the curio case in the den which held many souvenirs of Frank Mayo.  A faded newspaper, the Daily Missouri Democrat of ’67, was first discovered and although we tried to read it, we found it difficult owing to the faintness of the letters.  A large crown of brass studded with gems, one of the crowns Frank Mayo wore in some of his plays, was found inside this case.  I held this so long that I was accused of trying to run off with it.  A program of Fanny Davenport in “Bi Tosca,” had been preserved.  This play took place in the New Baldwin theatre in San Francisco.  A pair of wooden cups were shown us and we were informed that the water which was taken from this cup had a peculiar bitter taste.  Many of the things found in this case had been presented to Mr. Mayo during his career on the stage.  On top of the case rested a large owl and the lower shelf was filled with shells.  A very handsome chair, the back, sides and rungs of which were made of buffalo horns, attracted my attention.  There were also many pieces of statuary in this room, in fact all over the house.  The choice piece of furniture in the hall was an old fashioned clock.  This occupied a corner and looked quite lonely standing there silent.  The large living room contained a but of Mr. Mayo’s father, some beautiful chairs and wonderful old tables, long mirrors and beautiful pictures, most of them in oil.  I was loath to leave the den, for here found the old desk used by the men of the Mayo family.  It contained some photographs of famous actors and actresses.  A large painting of a child attracted my attention, and Mrs. Flanagan told me that this was a picture of Frank Mayo’s little sister, who died when quite young.

The dining room also attracted me.  There were so many interesting things to see that I was loath to leave this.  The old dining room furniture, especially the china closets, were wonderful.  These were low and wide, very different from our present day china closets.  Then I found in these china closets, as well as in the butler’s pantry, some of the most wonderful old china that one could imagine.  Many of the pieces belonged to Mr. Mayo’s father and mother.  Some were decorated with flowers of many colors, others in fruits and some in small animals.  The glassware was different from what we see today.  The dishes were odd in shape and very beautiful.

The billiard room contained a long and handsome table, large, wide davenports, chairs and many pictures.  In one corner were a number of large shields used by Mr. Mayo in his work.  The windows in this room were of colored glass, while many relics of bygone days were found in different parts of the room.

The butler’s pantry and the kitchen were inspected.  Then we went upstairs and found a number of rooms all fitted with old-fashioned furniture.  On the bedsteads and bureaus flowers were painted.  The toilet sets were elaborate and the draperies at the windows beautiful.  The room that Mrs. Elverson uses was a delight to behold, the furniture in this is white with gold trimming.  A little alcove holds a desk, and one could imagine the joy of sitting here to write with the trees overshadowing the alcove and the birds signing in the trees.

Before leaving the place we viewed the Swiss cottage, which stands near the house.  Mrs. Flanagan said that this was purchased by Mr. Mayo at the time of the Philadelphia Centennial.  The large room contains a desk, a couch, some chairs and a bookcase.  In this we found his writing paper and his scrap book, the latter contained his picture on the front page, and was filled with newspaper clippings.  The clipping which gave a report of his death was interesting.  I could have spent the morning in this place reading and looking over the things which belonged to the famous and well beloved man.

[Photo sent in by Don Stanton]

To the rear of the Swiss cottage is the laundry.  Over this are the servant’s quarters, while the front room on the first floor was used by the servants as a parlor.  We wandered through the yards, listened to the birds singing and to Mrs. Flanagan as she told us tales of the days when the house was filled with people.  It was a happy place, she said.  Of Mr. Mayo and his goodness she could not say enough.  We saw many pictures of Mr. Mayo in the house, also some of Miss Fanny Davenport, an old friend.  The morning was delightful to me, and I greatly appreciated the fact that Mrs. Flanagan could escort us through the house, as she showed us many things we otherwise could not have seen or learned about.

Saturday, July 29, 1916

Dorothy Deane

This was copied from a newspaper article written by Dorothy Deane on Saturday, July 29, 1916, but the name of the paper is unknown.

[95] Crockett Lodge Sold for Taxes
1936 Closed Era of Frank Mayo Estate

On May 22, 1936 Canton will witness the striking down of a famous property to the highest bidder.  Crockett Lodge will be sold for unpaid borough taxes.  At present the property is titled in the name of Lorimer Mayo of Hollywood, known to the movies as “Frank Mayo.”  Mr. May gained title to the property through the death of his aunt, Mrs. James Elverson of Philadelphia, formerly editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer.  These deaths occurred several years ago and since that time taxes have been unpaid and borough officials have no choice but to sell the mansion, cottages and stables on the estate to recover the assessed taxes.

In years past this famous estate was the pride of the theatrical profession and one of the show pieces on northern Pennsylvania.  The estate contains about twelve acres and is located on upper Troy St., just inside the borough limits.  On the estate are the original “Crockett Lodge,” palatial home of Frank Mayo, the elder and creator of the stage role of “Davy Crockett,” a Swiss cottage which was brought here from Switzerland and constructed without the use of nails or screws, a large summer house for guests and extensive stables together with several other lesser buildings.

These grounds were the storage place of the costumes of many famous stage productions of the past, rare pieces of furniture from strange lands, extensive wine cellars and even now a large “station wagon” with a seating capacity for four persons and a driver may be seen in the stables.  The wagon is entirely enclosed in plate glass.

The tax sale, on May 22, will witness the final passing from Canton of the interests and effects of a famous family.  Frank Mayo the elder gained fame and fortune as “Davy Crockett,” the younger rose to fame in Mark Twain’s “Puddin’ Head Wilson,” Eleanor Mayo, the late Mrs. Elverson, was known to the world for her performances in many stage productions.

Canton Sentinel
April 30, 1936

[96] Harry Davenport Was Stage, Screen Veteran

The recent filmland rise of Harry Davenport, 74 year old actor is the topic of the hour at Canton, Pa., where the long well-known veteran of the theater and screen spent his boyhood.

It was only a few weeks ago that the audiences saw the silver haired veteran play the role of Dr. Meade in the much heralded masterpiece, “Gone With the Wind.”

Then Mr. Davenport had important character parts in the new sound version of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”  “The Magic Bullet” and “Granny Get Your Gun,” with May Robson.  And right now Mr. Davenport has been working on location with Warner Brothers’ “All This and Heaven Too.”

The screen rise of Mr. Davenport, a new era in an amazing career extends over 69 years, began in June, four years ago, when Mr. Davenport went to Hollywood to spend a few weeks with his children, Fanny, Kate, Ned and Arthur Rankin Davenport-all, incidentally, full fledged actors and actresses, carrying on the tradition of generations.

Mr. Davenport had been in Hollywood only two days when a film producer learned he was in town, called him up and put him to work.  The veteran hasn’t had an idle day since, being on location with one picture after another, with several other roles booked in advance.

It was in 1871 that a fair haired, blue eyed boy of five years old made his first appearance on the stage.  This part, 69 years ago, was the son of Damon in “Damon and Pythias” played with his father, the late E. L. Davenport, at the Chestnut St. Theater in Philadelphia.

These 69 years as an actor have dealt kindly with Harry Davenport and Canton people aware of the hardy stock which were his ancestors, expect to see the veteran playing many more years on the silver screen.

For instance there was his great-great-grandfather, Jack Johnson, one of the most famous of the old Irish comedians, on the stage most of his life and not choosing to retire until death claimed him at 99.  Johnson’s parents, in turn, were of the theater, so Harry Davenport can trace his stage ancestry through 10 generations to 1680.

The best information in Canton relates that his father, E. L. Davenport, settled early in Boston, Mass., after coming to this country from England.

Names, most of them famous, crop up everywhere in the life story of Harry Davenport.  All of his six brothers and sisters, now deceased, were on the stage.

Of these, Fanny Davenport was the most famous, Blanche, another sister, was an opera star best known in Italy.  At her death, she was residing in New York City, retired from Professional life.  Another sister, Mae, married William Seymour, and their two children are now on the stage.  Another sister, Florence, had a relatively short but successful career in light opera, but retired on her marriage and lived in Philadelphia.  Others of the family were Lillie and Edgar Davenport, both of the dramatic stage.

There family pride in this viewpoint, with his four children carrying on the traditions of Harry Davenport.

While in Hollywood, Mr. Davenport resides with his son Ned in a rambling, sun lit bungalow at Las Palmas and Franklin Sts. In Hollywood, where the merry sounds of Hollywood Blvd., just a few blocks away, can be hear at night.

“In that Chestnut St. theater, in Philadelphia, many years ago,” relates Davenport, “when I spoke my first lines,”  “I want to be a soldier like Phythias,” what I really wanted to say was, “I want to be an actor, like my daddy.”

One of the more than 200 roles that Davenport played in his long career was in “The Belle of New York.”  Phyllis Rankin, a musical comedy star, and his childhood friend, was also in the play.

“We had know each other since childhood,” related Mr. Davenport, “but it was when we sang together, ‘When We Are Married’ that the idea of falling in love came to us.  We sang the song for a season and then decided to make it real.  We had a wonderful life together.”

With his marriage to Miss Rankin, Mr. Davenport acquired Sidney Drew and Lionel Barrymore as brothers-in-law.  After their marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Davenport played many engagements together.

Mr. Davenport’s present screen success is not his first.  In 1917, in the days of the old silent screen, he directed Marie Dressler in that early comedy classic, “Tillie’s Night Out,” and Lionel Barrymore in a picture called “Millionaire’s Double.”  In that year he also directed a series of 14 one-reelers called “The Jarr Family” and also doubled as an actor in one of them.

The Davenport dip into screen directing was just one of those things that happen.  The producer of the picture had hired him as an actor. The director assigned to the production was taken ill the day it started and the producer handed Davenport, as the man with the most experience, the assignment.  Davenport took it all in stride and recalls that he did a fairly creditable piece of work with the then new (to him) medium.

See Harry Davenport Photos and Obituary

[97] Miss Blanche Davenport Famous Virtuoso
Loved and Admired in France and Italy

Among the famous artists of the Davenport family probably none achieved the virtuosity of Blanche.  Certainly Harry and Fanny both had careers and achieved fame in the movies and stage, but none of them ever received the acclaim, histrionically, artistically and musically that Blanche Davenport had in Europe.  She sang all over Europe but chiefly in Paris and Italy under the name of Bianca La Blanche.  In Italy she was adored and loved as only Italian fans could express themselves.  In Milan, a theater was built and named fro her.  An opera was written for her.  Gounod was one of her friends and admirers as attested by his picture affectionately inscribed to her, which she always kept upon her piano.

She sang Marguarite in Faust 1600 times, Mignon and Carmen were two of her favorite roles as can be seen by her bound copies of those operas, much thumbed, marked and worn-now in the possession of the writer.  In her press notices she was usually compared to Bernhardt because of her exceptional dramatic ability.  This led people to assume that they were rivals, but they were actually not rivals for Bernhardt never took singing roles and Bianca La Blanche never took anything else.

Her career in Europe had ended prior to 1895.  At that time her mother’s health was failing and dutiful, loving daughter that she was, she came home to care for Mrs. Davenport until she died.

Her first teachers having ruined her signing when she was young, Blanche had sought out the then famous Dell Sieder.  From him she learned correct and beautiful singing, at first being allowed to sing but five minutes a day.  So because of her proficiency in languages and her familiarity with the terms used in singing she was called upon to translate the Dell Seider method books into three languages.  These were published by Schirmer.

Only a few Cantonians who studies with her came to know her.  Few heard her sing.  Frank Mayo declared that nobody in America knew as much about singing as Blanche Davenport.  She never sang in America for any career she might have had here would have been an anti-climax after Europe.  According to a letter she wrote one of her friends here she longed to have her own Opera Company and take opera all over America.  Dell Siegers advised her not to attempts this unless she had ample capital to weather the rough spots and provide for accidents, etc.

She spent her last days teaching in Greenwich Village, New York.  Those who knew her loved her for she was kind, democratic and sympathetic, a woman of taste and temperament; she had the highest principles and was devoutly religious.  But perhaps we could say she was born too soon.  Someone with her exceptional dramatic ability could go far in movies, radio or television.

[98] Old Interview of Fanny Davenport
Scrapbook Contain Actress’ View of Here

Talks to a western correspondent about the quaint, crude and untraveled people of Canton.  From the Los Angeles Times.

To see Fanny Davenport, the celebrity, the star, the central figure of an inspiring scene, the American queen of tragedy, with the glamour of rich robes, dazzling jewels, realistic illusions, and the witchery of her winsome art, developed, polished, perfected, is a rare privilege; but to meet her face to face, in the serene atmosphere of seclusion, appareled in peerless simplicity, and surrounded with such accessories as serve for the setting to common clay, is rarer, more enduringly delightful to a susceptible soul.  “I object to interviews,” she said, in her deep, delicious voice that proceeded from the precincts of a portiered alcove at the Nadeau, during her recent engagement, “but when one of your sex is the seeker, I cannot refuse, as I am a friend to women and have great faith in their ability.  How glad I am to get back to Southern California, more especially to Los Angeles.  A single whiff of its exhilarating air is magical, after the stifling heat I have been compelled to endure in eastern latitudes.  Already I feel like a being with a new lease on life.  There is elixir in the air, joy in the sunshine, strength in the cool nights, and how radiant they are now!  They remind me of Venice, without her gondolas, domes, cloisters, palaces and her Bridge of sighs.”

“California is honored by your ardor and reciprocal of your admiration, as you well know.”

“I should, indeed, be impenetrable and altogether ungrateful not to appreciate the expressions of kindness I receive.  Piles of letters come to me from people I have never seen – to my knowledge – all replete with sweetest sentiment.  Here is one from a lady, 18 pages, thanking me for the pleasure experienced at a performance.  Why they even bring their babies to the theater!  I hope they are entertained; but it does seem a trifle immature.  Babies at Tosca!  Fancy!”

“That is done for a purpose on the part of the doting parents.  In the coming years, when those tender buds shall have bloomed into wise men and women, they can say with truthful pride, “I saw the great Davenport when I was an infant.”  Thus do those lisping ones contribute their mite to your immortality, Madame.”

“Ever hereafter shall the babies of my audience be welcome.  Bless them, they are the best part of the human world.  In my home at Canton, Pa., where I keep my collection, curios, I have a cherub in every niche, a cupid in every alcove; some of them done in Parisian marble by famous sculptors.  I have them because they are productions of the highest type of purity.”

“Our people may never have heard of that home.  Do you mind telling me about it?”

“No indeed.  However, it contains nothing of interest to the dear public, I imagine.  You may judge of its seclusion by the manner in which an English acquaintance posted a package.  It was addressed “Miss Fanny Davenport, Canton, Pekin.”  That it ever reached me at all is nothing short of a miracle.  One finds such places as Canton only in the heart of an agricultural region.  The people are quaint, crude, untraveled, but not uninteresting to a student of the species.  They regard my home with unbounded wonder, and spend hours looking up at its gables, chimneys and towers, for it is a rambling old place, with wide corridors, roomy recesses, stately chambers, and an air of departed distinction about it.  At the close of the theatrical season it has heretofore been my custom to go there for rest and relaxation.  Its solitude is always acceptable; its associations are inspiring.  All my books are there, except those I am constantly collecting, music, statuary, paintings and relics accumulated on trips abroad and at home.  I have life-size portraits of nearly all great actors.”

“Do you return soon to that ideal retreat?” I ventured to inquire?

“No.  My dates will not admit of that indulgence, as they are fixed and unalterable.  On the 7th of November, we open in Rochester, N.Y., which is the beginning of a forty-week season, when we shall play La Tosca in the Eastern, Southern and Western States, east to Augusta, Me., west to Kansas City.  I shall take possession of my cottage at Santa Monica, purchased with a view to retirement when not playing, and when I am too old and ugly and infirm to entertain the public, I cherish the hope of awaiting within its sea-sprayed walls and sheltered shades, the final fall of the invisible curtain.

Eugenia K. Holmes

(This article was taken from the scrapbook of the late Mrs. Ella Griffin Sechrist as presented to us by Laura Sechrist-Editors)

The preceding articles on the Davenport family were published in the Canton Independent-Sentinel Anniversary Issue in 1950.

Page 301a
A Son of the Hills

“A Son of the Hills”:  A modern Drama in Six Parts.  By Harriet T. Comstock.  This is the title of the picture drama that has been staged in Canton during the last two weeks.

The director of the production is Harry Davenport, who is known, at least by reputation, to nearly every reader of the Sentinel.  Mr. Davenport is the youngest son of the late E. L. Davenport, an actor of world-wide fame, who came to Canton in the early seventies, purchased what was then known as “the Elliott place,” just north of town, remodeled the old brick mansion, laid out extensive grounds, and until the end of his days spent much of his time there.  This old mansion, now known as “the Davenport place” was the early home of such world-wide celebrities in the theatrical line, as Fanny Davenport, who made the role of Fedora famous, of Blanche Davenport, at one time prominent in grand opera both in Europe and America, of Edgar L. Davenport, who has appeared in most of the leading roles of the Shakespearean drama, and of Harry Davenport, the youngest son, who can truly claim Canton as his childhood home.  As a boy Harry roamed the hills, fished in the creeks, attended district school, worked at odd jobs, and conducted himself just as any country boy, full of health and good spirits would do.

Away from the old home for many years, making a name for himself on two sides of the ocean, Harry finally came back and purchased the old mansion, that had fallen into decay, and is at present engaged in restoring it to its former rural glory.  Commissioned to direct the production of this new picture drama there was no place in the world that appealed to him as strongly as the hills where he spent the happiest and most care free days, and accordingly, it was to Canton he brought his troup of “movie actors,” to stage and produce “A Son of the Hills.”

Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA

Published On Tri-Counties Site On 31 JAN 2008
By Joyce M. Tice
Email: Joyce M. Tice

The History Center on Main Street, 83 N. Main Street, Mansfield PA 16933