For a brief moment I stood transfixed. This place with its well-worn footprint, its sprawling lawns, and walled-in exterior, had, at one point, long ago, been home to a young woman who had had a profound impact on the life and work of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Imagining Ginevra King, here, in the town where I live, I had so many questions. I wondered about the events that led to her settling here for a time and of course, I wondered about her insistence that Fitzgerald be the first to know about her impending nuptials.
As cavalier as Fitzgerald may have come across in his congratulatory letter to Ginevra King, his personal scrapbook tells another story. Fitzgerald pasted both the newspaper clipping about her marriage to William Mitchell – the wealthy son of a business associate of her father’s – and her photograph into his book, along with her handkerchief and these affecting words…
For Ginevra, one story may have been ending but a new one was just beginning. In 1918, the new bride settled into this rambling, seven bedroom, Lake Forest, Illinois country estate, and went on to have three children.
Eventually though, the curtain came down on her marriage to Mitchell. After almost 20 years of playing the role of his wife, she left him and her children behind for wealthy Chicago businessman John T. Pirie. Fitzgerald meantime, was working in Hollywood and reportedly trying to stay on the wagon. It is unlikely that he envisioned himself ever meeting up with Ginevra King again, especially given the powerful words he wrote about King in a letter to his daughter. In it he said, “She was the first girl I ever loved and I have faithfully avoided seeing her up to this moment to keep the illusion alive.” Despite those sentiments the two did meet again in a West Coast bar. Their fateful 1937 reunion reportedly did not go well. Fitzgerald, was drinking again, perhaps in anticipation of seeing his illusion come to life after so many years. It would be the last time the two would ever see one another again. The end of a once poignant love story, indeed.
Architect Arthur Heun built this home in 1914 in the English country style. It was sold last year and has been undergoing a magnificent renovation.