SI Vault
Robert Coughlan
December 25, 1961
Granted that Mary Endicott Peabody Tree is an authentic Great Beauty, and that anyone who marries such a woman accepts the risk of becoming a consort. Granted that it was news when President Kennedy last February made the rich, fashionable, emancipated, delicately scented and tinted Mrs. Tree the U.S. delegate to the U.N. Human Rights Commission. Still, it doesn't seem right or sporting that in all the words written about her hardly anyone has had more than a cursory line or so for her husband. On the day of her appointment The New York Times , printing All the News That's Fit to Print, noted only that, "Mrs. Tree is married to Ronald Tree, a real estate broker." The implications of such brevity are not flattering. Surely, one would suppose, there must be more that can be said about Ronald Tree.
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December 25, 1961

Tory Prince Of A Balmy Isle

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And that is how Sandy Lane was born. With a syndicate of wealthy friends who supplied the large amount of ready capital needed, he formed a development company, West Coast Limited, and broke ground in mid-1958. The hotel, delayed by rains and construction problems, opened its doors last February—still only three-fourths ready, a whole wing unfinished, gardeners and workmen trooping through the grounds. Ronald Tree suffered acute nervous anxieties and, a few nights before the opening, personally helped re-lay a slab of marble floor that had gone slightly off-true in the lobby. Nicky Behard drilled the green staff in a doomed attempt to instill Claridge standards and steeled himself to face the dining room disasters that all too clearly stood ahead. But neither mud nor closet doors that jammed nor the explosive sound of trays of dishes crashing to the floor could, it transpired, stay the influx of guests from the swift completion of their social rounds. The grapevine had spread the word that Ronnie Tree—"dear Ronnie"—was opening his place at last. In the first weeks Baron and Baroness Guy de Rothschild arrived, and Lord and Lady Linlithgow, and Lord Bruntisfield, and Colonel Sir Michael Adeane, and Sir Edmund and Lady Bacon, and Sir Edward and Lady Pode, and Lord Buckhurst, and the Merrill Griswolds, and Jock Whitney, and for literary flavor, John Steinbeck and John Gunther—enough right there for a workable house party, besides Lord and Lady Rothschild, Michael Tree and Lady Anne, the Right Honorable Vincent Massey (the former Governor-General of Canada), all staying with Ronnie over at Heron Bay. By March, 40 of the land tracts had been spoken for and houses were being built for such puissant names as Linlithgow and Rothschild, Lord Astor ( London Observer), Budd Rieger (Canadian industry), Sidney Bernstein (television), Henry Breck ( New York finance) and Lord Kindersley ( Rolls-Royce).

Sandy Lane is opening its second season now; the flowers have rooted and grown, the carpenters have left and the milk-and-honey-colored limestone walls already are acquiring a warm and mellow 18th century look. For potential guests, there is perhaps only one more thing to know: the rates are late 20th century. The right to enjoy a life of perfect privilege is conditional on an ability to pay $48 a day per couple, plus 10% service charge, for two meals and room, with such blessings as cocktails and wine counted as extras; only the air is free.

But some things can't be measured by money: one has to remember what Sandy Lane is. After all, as Ronald Tree said, as he surveyed the lovely and elegant scene he has created, you are on rather a good wicket.

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