Dalzell, Lee Baldwin
Dalzell, Lee Baldwin
Married Robert F. Dalzell, Jr. (an educator and historian).
Writer. Williams College, Williams College Libraries, Williamstown, MA, reference librarian, 1973-2003, head of reference department at Sawyer Library, 1989-2003.
Lee Baldwin Dalzell is the author, with her husband, the historian Robert F. Dalzell, Jr., of George Washington's Mount Vernon: At Home in Revolutionary America, and The House the Rockefellers Built: A Tale of Money, Taste, and Power in Twentieth-Century America. In their first book, George Washington's Mount Vernon, the authors "argue that Mount Vernon carries greater historical significance than generally understood," according to ForeWord Magazine contributor John Flesher.
The Dalzells explore in detail Washington's forty-five-year campaign to build and perfect Mount Vernon and, in the process, profile the Revolutionary War general and first U.S. president as a man who not only was a planter and patriot but also a lover of building and architecture. According to the Dalzells, Mount Vernon reflects the inner man, maintaining that the house's evolution during the building process reflects Washington's own inner evolution in terms of his beliefs and politics. Showing how Washington's home blends the orthodox and innovative in surprising ways, the authors note that these elements also reflected the new American nation's efforts to do the same in its government. They also delve into the process of building the home, including an examination of the people who worked on the project, both free tradesmen and slaves. The book includes more than eighty photographs, maps, and engravings.
Noting in a review in Booklist that George Washington's Mount Vernon "is part family history, part biography, and part travelogue," Jay Freeman called the authors "skillful writers." Writing in the Library Journal, Charles K. Piehl commented on the authors' use of the building of Mount Vernon as a metaphor for Washington's life and beliefs, adding that their "approach … provides significant insight."
The House the Rockefellers Built was referred to as "an interesting and informative book" by Washington Post Book World contributor Jonathan Yardley. The book tells the story of Kykuit, a house built by John D. Rockefeller, the enormously wealthy industrialist and founder of the Standard Oil Company, and subsequent generations of his family. The Dalzells recount how the house, which is built on a hill overlooking the Hudson River, went from Rockefeller's original vision of being a simple country villa to a much larger and grander house more in the wishes of Rockefeller's children. In Rockefeller's mind, the house was to be kept relatively modest partly due to his reputation as a ruthless businessman who had created a monopolistic trust with his oil company. His goal was to have a beautiful home that portrayed both him and his family as civic-minded people who would do good with their wealth, much as he was doing as he began the modern era of philanthropy in the United States. However, other family members had different ideas, including John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who ultimately got more of his wishes fulfilled in the building of the house, which went from an estimated cost of a little less than a quarter of million dollars to nearly three million dollars, an exorbitant sum in the early twentieth-century. In their book, the Dalzells chronicle the building and rebuilding of Kykuit by five generations of the Rockefellers. They also detail the memorabilia and art that decorated the house and how the house hosted numerous notable personages over the century.
A Kirkus Reviews contributor referred to The House the Rockefellers Built as "a stately study of the best-endowed historical property in America." New York Times Book Review contributor Dominique Browning noted that the house is not really architecturally significant and also wrote: "What was truly mind-blowing was the number of mistakes made through the designing and building of the place, and the sheer waste of money spent to overhaul problems that could easily have been avoided in the first place."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, December, 1999, John Michael Vlach, review of George Washington's Mount Vernon: At Home in Revolutionary America, p. 1662.
Booklist, August, 1998, Jay Freeman, review of George Washington's Mount Vernon, p. 1954; August, 2007, Jay Freeman, review of The House the Rockefellers Built: A Tale of Money, Taste, and Power in Twentieth-Century America, p. 27.
Choice, March, 1999, J.L. Cooper, review of George Washington's Mount Vernon, p. 1321.
ForeWord Magazine, September-October, 1998, John Flesher, review of George Washington's Mount Vernon.
Journal of American History, September, 2000, Robert Blair St. George, review of George Washington's Mount Vernon, p. 647.
Journal of the Early Republic, summer, 1999, Andrew Burstein, review of George Washington's Mount Vernon, p. 307.
Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2007, review of The House the Rockefellers Built.
Library Journal, July, 1998, Charles K. Piehl, review of George Washington's Mount Vernon, p. 108.
New York Observer, August 27, 2007, Adelle Waldman, "A Fiefdom Grows in Westchester: Those Rockefellers Sure Think Big."
New York Times Book Review, August 19, 2007, Dominique Browning, "Total Manor Makeover," review of The House the Rockefellers Built, p. 7.
Public Historian, summer, 2001, William Seale, review of George Washington's Mount Vernon, p. 90.
Publishers Weekly, June 4, 2007, review of The House the Rockefellers Built, p. 45.
Reviews in American History, September, 1999, Robert J. Allison, review of George Washington's Mount Vernon, p. 349.
US Newswire, December 14, 2007, "The House the Rockefellers Built Reveals the Clan's Human Face."
Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, spring, 2000, Kevin R. Hardwick, review of George Washington's Mount Vernon, p. 184.
Washington Post Book World, August 12, 2007, Jonathan Yardley, "To One American Clan, a ‘Modest and Unpretentious’ House Required a Staff of 200," review of The House the Rockefellers Built, p. BW15.
William and Mary Quarterly, July, 2000, Jack McLaughlin, review of George Washington's Mount Vernon, p. 706.