In Mrs. Davis’s New York bedroom is a Portrait of Caroline Phelan Beale, dated December 1941. She was our first Regent and her efforts established the furnishings collections of the First White House here in Montgomery.
She was the daughter of John Dennis Phelan, a Supreme Court Justice of Alabama. She married Jesse Beale of Montgomery and spent her last years in New York City, where her son, Phelan Beale was a prominent attorney.
Phelan was married to Edith Bouvier of New Yourk and was a partner in the firm of Bouvier and Beale, located at 149 Broadway. He was the uncle by marriage of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. His divorced wife Edith Bouvier Beale and their daughter Edith Beale, were the subject of a noted film called Grey Gardens, set in their home at Southampton, Long Island.
In more recent years it has been made into a Broadway musical, and in 2009 an all-star new version was released as a dramatic feature film for which Ken Howard won a Golden Globe for his performance as Phelan Beale and Jessica Lange a GG for her performance as “Big Edie” Beale.
The members of this family have become American 20th Century cultural icons! I will look at the portrait of Mrs. Beale with much more interest in the future!