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Utah Centennial Studies

 


What a Woman...The Silver Queen Packet A

 

SUSANNA: THE SILVER QUEEN
Reading adapted from Brigham Street, by Margaret D. Lester, published by the Utah State Historical Society

Susanna BransfordThe Silver Queen lived during an exciting time. Utah was changing from a mormon based farming community to one of greater diversity. Commerce and mining became an important part of Utah life. Great riches were brought into the valley through silver mining. Susanna came to Utah to visit relatives and stayed to lead a legendary life.

Susanna Bransford came to Park City to visit relatives in 1884. She met and married Albion Emery and then moved to Salt Lake City. Emery had holdings in Park City mines and when he died he left Susanna a rich widow. She next met a wealthy widower named Col. Edwin F. Holmes. They were married and went on a two year honeymoon to Europe. When they returned to Salt Lake City, Colonel Holmes purchased the most magnificent home in the valley. The house was called the Gardo House and was built on South Temple, Salt Lake's most prestigious street. This ornate home was built for one of Brigham Young's wives. The home became a social center for the rich and famous while Susanna owned it. The interior was decorated by the best designers from around the world. The walls were covered by elaborate brocades and the furnishings were ornately designed. One room was set aside as an art gallery displaying works by international and Utah artists. Suzie, as her friends called her, entertained like a princess. She spent much of her time partying with friends in Washington D.C until her husband threatened to sell the house if she didn't return to Utah. She came back and for a time settled into life as an admired socialite. Later she moved with her husband to California. The beautiful Gardo house was sold back to the LDS church and then later torn down to be replaced by a bank. Edwin Holmes died in 1927 and Susanna then married a Serbian doctor. When the marriage didn't work out, she sent him on a cruise explaining that she would handle the divorce proceedings. He left in despair and then he hung himself on board the ship. A year later she married Prince Nicholas Engalitcheff from Russia. He also died while on a cruise with Susanna. Not wanting to disturb her vacation, Susanna ordered that his body be removed so she could pick it up on the return trip.

Susanna had a daughter but did not retain a close relationship with her. Her daughter proceeded her in death. Susanna died at the age of eighty three having used most of her tremendous fortune. Many of her dresses can be seen at the Utah Daughters of the Pioneers Museum.

 

Susanna Egeria Bransford Emery of Park City fell heir to the stock her late husband, Albion B. Emery, held in his name. From that time on Susanna was on her way to fame and fortune that would spread her name throughout the world.

Born in Richmond, Missouri, and reared in California gold country, Susanna Bransford came to Park City to visit relatives in the year 1884. There she met and married Albion B. Emery, who by a trick of fate would become responsible for Susanna's future as Utah's Silver Queen. As baggageman and secretary to several infant mining companies, Emery had been asked by R. C. Chambers, superintendent of Ontario Mine, to front for some mining stock where Chambers could not invest openly. When Emery died suddenly in 1894, an aghast Chambers was forced to stand by while investments grew that would a few years later put a reported price tag on Emery's attractive young widow of one hundred million dollars. Whether by good business sense or intuition she had held on to Emery's stock and watched for opportunities to buy an interest in most of the major Park City mines, including the Silver King.

In 1895 Susanna accepted an invitation from Thomas Kearns to meet a wealthy Chicago lumberman who had mining interests in Idaho and Utah. That the man was worth about seven million dollars, and that he was a widower, surely piqued her interest. For his part, after the first meeting, Col. Edwin F. Holmes was so enamored of the lovely brunette that he prolonged his visit to court her and then invited her to visit him in New York City. Dinner at Delmonico's with a group of Utah friends saw a surprised Susie hearing her own engagement announced by the colonel. He had proposed several times previously and several times had been turned down. But upon hearing the announcement, Susie decided that marriage was not a bad idea at all. They were promptly married in the Astor Parlors of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and left for a two-year honeymoon in Europe.

The Gardo House

Colonel Holmes lost no time upon his return to Salt Lake City in securing the grandest home in the valley for a permanent residence. The Gardo House, which by this time had gained the name of the Amelia Palace, was purchased from the LDS church. It took its popular name from one of Brigham Young's wives, but Susanna Holmes was the one who enhanced the Palace and placed it on the society map of the world. The distinctive Second Empire architecture became a showplace for nearly twenty years except when the hosts were on their world tours. William J. Sinclair of Marshall Field & Company was in charge of the interior design and made repeated trips between Chicago and Salt Lake City as he planned sumptuous settings for the many pieces of furniture, some having belonged to royalty, acquired by the Holmeses on their tours. The wall coverings for the Louis XVI salon, or drawing room, was of old rose satin brocade, and the ceiling was elaborately frescoed. Midway between the drawing room and dining room was a Tiffany electric fountain; on dining occasions the tables could be arranged so as to use the fountain as a centerpiece.

The dining room was a rich combination of goldleaf wall treatment, silver, cut glass, delicate lace, and embroideries. The beautifully handcarved chairs had belonged to Brigham Young. The upholsteries in the dining room and elsewhere in the Palace were the finest Europe could produce, comparable to those in royal palaces. The breakfast room had a carpet of rich red and draperies also of red with appliques of cloth of gold. The interior wood of the Palace was of Belgian oak; the grand stairway swept from the first to the third story, and all the way up niches filled with statuary and bronze figures holding electroliers presented a scene of enchantment when lighted. In the tower with its books one could recline on a divan to read, or just sit to enjoy the view.

Inside the Gardo Home

Although Susanna declared she was bored following Holmes from art gallery to art gallery while on their travels, a building was planned west of the Palace to house the many acquired treasures. The gallery contained works of the great artists as well as contemporary Utah artists, all in great gold frames; sculpture and ornate cabinets holding smaller art objects completed the collection. A grand opening was staged on February 21, 1904, to which four hundred guests were invited. Colored electric lights illuminated the outside. An orchestra played from a small platform or stage that was partially screened off from the dancers by a profuse display of flowers. Peter T. Huddart decorated for entertainments at the Palace, every room being resplendent with blossoms. Perhaps no other private home equaled the elegance of the Amelia Palace in the several years it was occupied by Susanna and Colonel Holmes.

Susanna epitomized an era of quick fortunes and expansive living from the gay nineties to the early nineteen hundreds. "Susie" to her friends, but "Utah's Silver Queen" to society writers, she was lauded by Washington newspapers as entertaining like a princess. Her exquisite gowns, rare jewels, and her $10,000 circular charm of platinum and diamonds were of paramount interest. She spent a great deal of time in Washington, much to the delight of that city's socialites who considered her vivacious, witty, sparkling, charming, and "much to behold." The Philadelphia North American called her by far the most interesting woman in Washington and reminded a gossip-loving American public that she had fifty million dollars in mining properties. Colonel Holmes stayed at home and took care of his more meaningful civic duties. At various times he was commissioner of water supply, president of the Commercial Club, a member of the Utah legislature, and prominent in the Masonic Order. Susanna's long visits in Washington were not to his liking. Increasingly annoyed by his butterfly toasting her wings so far away, he finally ordered her to return home upon threat of selling the Palace at once. She came home.

Susanna's parties were both lavish and unique. She often invited friends for a preview of a coming attraction at the Salt Lake Theatre by hiring the featured artist to entertain. At one time the world-renowned pianist Alberto Jonas from South America, who was to appear at the theatre, entertained a special group of friends at the Palace. Local talent included the Deseret Mandolin Orchestra, chamber music groups, popular vocalists such as Karl Scheid and Mrs. Mont Ferry, and a famous fortune-teller who delighted the guests with her gift of clairvoyance. Sometimes there was a dinner for one hundred with dancing to follow; sometimes there were small dinner groups of eight or ten with cards to follow; and her "at homes" where she would receive from two to three hundred callers were a weekly event whenever she was in town. Always there was that touch of something special.

The Holmeses invested in real estate. The apartment building on the northeast corner of State and South Temple streets has been known at various times as the Emery-Holmes, the Bransford, and in later years as the Eagle Gate Apartments. On First Avenue at State Street they built another apartment building bearing the name of Grace Louise Emery in stained glass over the three entries. Grace Louise was the only child born to the Silver Queen. She died at the age of thirty-one.

In 1910 the Holmeses moved to El Roble, their home in Pasadena, California. The Palace was then rented until 1926 when the property was sold to the LDS church who resold it to the United States government for the construction of a federal reserve bank.

Edwin F. Holmes died in 1927, and roving Susanna, who said it was best his first family bury him, continued on her travels, not returning for the funeral. Three years later she married Radovan Nedelkov Delitch, a Serbian doctor. After two years she became impatient with his jealousy; and since they could not reconcile their differences, Susanna suggested an ocean voyage for him, promising that all legal matters on the divorce would be complete upon his return. While lunching with her niece at a prominent Los Angeles hotel Susanna received a telegram that she quietly folded and placed in her handbag. It said that Delitch was dead-had hanged himself on shipboard-and was to be buried at sea. In an unconcerned manner she continued with her lunch and conversation.

A year later she married Prince Nicholas Engalitcheff of ancient Russian lineage. Two years later the two were on shipboard when the prince was suddenly taken ill and died. Susanna ordered that his body be removed at the next port, planning to collect it when she returned from her trip, but when Russian nationals received word of his death they ordered a royal burial at sea.

Travel-weary after thirty-five years of luxurious globe-trotting, the silver-haired princess in 1937 signed into the Hotel Utah as Her Royal Highness Princess Engalitcheff, accompanied by her young business manager, Culver Sherrill. She declared that Florida was too cold for the season, New York too hot, California much too sad, Newport banal, and Maine too monotonous, so she had come home to check on her six silver mines. She was described as a striking blend of grand dame, business woman, cosmopolite, and breezy westerner.

Susanna was to return "home" only once more. On August 4, 1942, she died in Norwalk, Connecticut, en route to Virginia from her home in Massachusetts.

At eighty-three years of age the sands of her colorful and exciting life had run out. She was buried in Salt Lake City's Mount Olivet Cemetery beside her first husband, Albion Emery.

SILVER QUEEN
70 East South Temple Built 1873-81 Architects: Joseph Ridges and William H. Folsom Owners: Brigham Young, LDS church, Edwin F. Holmes (1898) Demolished 1926
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