The Byrne House

The Coe family first fell in love with Planting Fields when they leased the property from James and Helen Byrne in the summer of 1911. Two years later, they purchased the house and land from the Byrnes. The Byrne House (1906) was designed by Grosvenor Atterbury in a style that has been described as “modern picturesque”. Atterbury was best known for designing Forest Hills Gardens (1909) in Queens along with John Charles Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.

Interior view from the living room toward the entrance hall, with chapel to the right. Image from Planting Fields Foundation Archives.

Helen Byrne decorated the interiors and the Coe’s purchased many of the furnishings and decorations from her. For instance, W.R. wanted the rugs on the stairs pictured here because they blended in with the living room rug. He adamantly negotiated the price of the rugs, which were valued at $150 ($4,749 in 2024), which he believed was too high a price.

A view from the second floor of the Byrne house toward the Circular Pool designed by James Greenleaf. Remnants of the pergola and garden wall exist today. Image from Planting Fields Foundation Archives.

On March 27, 1918, the house succumbed to fire. There were many conflicting reports as to how the fire began. However, the common thread was that it was related to the enclosure of an outdoor porch, and it was caused by a blowtorch being used in the process. Artist Robert Winthrop Chanler designed painted glass windows for the new enclosed space—that unfortunately perished, along with the exact story of what happened.   


From Marie Penny, Michael D. Coe Archivist

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