Monday, June 22, 2020

The Livingston Lions

They are one of the most identifiable and iconic images of Clermont. Thousands of school children have posed with them, and maybe heard the legend of how they take turns guarding the house. Hundreds of couples have had engagement or wedding photos taken with them looming in the back ground.

I am of course talking about the lions mounted on the front porch of Clermont.

They have become so identified with the house its tough to imagine the site without them and yet most people would be shocked to find out that they are among the last decorations added to the house. Not only do they not date back to the building of the house but the last man of the house, John Henry Livingston never saw them in place on the house.

One of the lions in Italy 
From 1921-1926 John Henry and his wife Alice took their daughters to Italy for a European education.The lions were originally part of the decor at a house the family rented in Florence. the girls, Janet and Honoria really liked the lions as did John Henry's grandchildren from his first daughter Katharine so John Henry and Alice did the only thing they could do. They bought the lions and had them shipped back to America.

Th family returned to America in 1927 and unfortunately John Henry died at the family's South Carolina house before he returned to Clermont.

When Alice and the girls returned to Clermont later that year, Alice had the west side of the house relandscaped, and the porch and patio installed so that the lions could be mounted in their new homes.

The lions on their perches in 1936

So as iconic as the lions have become they have only been guarding over Clermont since the last three residents of the house lived here.