Naulakha (Kipling House)
National Register Nomination Information:
Naulakha, the home built for Rudyard Kipling in Dummerston, Vermont, is one of the finer examples of the Shingle style in the state. Located on eleven acres off a town road, at the edge of a meadow with a hillside behind, the estate is ideally situated in its naturalistic setting, with its view of mountains and valleys which spread before it to the east. Kipling often referred to the view of the Wantastiquet mountain range and Mount Monadnock peaking through the clouds and rising "like a giant thumb-nail pointing heavenward" (#3, p. 148). To Kipling, Naulakha came to symbolize all the positive qualities of rural Vermont, with its peacefulness and solitude, which have attracted writers and artists to the state for years.
The Kipling estate is entered at the northern end of the property. After passing through the stone gate posts, which support iron gates, the road winds westerly through pines and birches. The site is oriented north and south, with the eastern portion being generally flat. It rises sharply to the west, creating a wooded backdrop to the buildings and structures. Located at the southerly turn of the gravel drive is a large carriage barn (#5). This is an "L" shaped building with a gabled and jerkinhead roof sheathed in slate. The barn is 1-1/2 stories, wood frame, sheathed in shingles and surmounted by a large cupola. The building was constructed ca. 1915 for the subsequent owners (the Holbrooks) when Kipling's original carriage barn (#7) was converted to a coachman's house. To the northeast of the carriage barn is a long narrow greenhouse, also ca. 1915, (#6) with a high brick foundation and an ornate entrance on the southern gable end. A wood frame, shingled, gable roofed heating plant for the greenhouse is connected to the north end.
Continuing southerly, the original coachman's carriage house (#7) is located on the westerly side of the drive. This building was constructed for Kipling as both a carriage and coachman's house; it was converted by the Holbrooks to servant quarters. It is a 2-1/2-story, wood frame, shingled building with a high stone foundation; it has a hipped roof pierced by dormers and chimneys. Just to the south of this coachman's house is a small well house (#8).
The landscaped grounds of the estate contain a sunken formal garden off the broad veranda of the main house. Above the garden, on an upper terrace, is a swimming pool surrounded by a dry-laid stone wall. The pool is fed from a large spring house (#l), which is located higher on the hillside to the west and is clad in wood shingles and capped by a hipped roof protecting a 2-story round wooden cistern. To the north of the spring house is a l-story, shed roofed bath house (#2) divided for men and women. Leading to the south, off the formal garden, is what was known by Kipling as the "long walk." The walk, now overgrown by a luxuriant growth of rhododendron, leads to a "summer house" (#3) which is located on the Dummerston-Brattleboro town line. Constructed on a polygonal fieldstone terrace, the summer house has a pergola of six concrete Doric columns connecting to end pavilions constructed of fieldstone with round arched openings supporting clipped gabled roofs which are clad in wood shingles. Above, and to the northwest of the summer house, is a small field stone terrace with a brick fireplace for informal outdoor cookouts. Below the summer house, to the east, is a tennis court with a wood frame observation gazebo (#4) capped by a conical roof and sheathed in wood shingles.
The elliptical walled entrance of the main house (#9) is approached by the drive on the west side of the house. Kipling referred to his house as a ship; he said it rode the hillside like a boat on a wave with its propeller, or the furnace and kitchen, at the stern, and Kipling's study at the bow (#5, p 366)
It is a Shingle Style house fashioned after an Indian bungalow and was originally 70 feet long by 22 feet wide. Circa 1915 the original architect, Henry Rutgers Marshall of New York (see vita: Dictionary of American Biography), made additions and slight alterations to the house for the Holbrook family. The house rises 2-1/2 stories from a rough stone foundation, is clad in shingles, and is capped by a hipped roof sheathed in dark slate and punctuated by dormers
The main entrance to the house is on the west facade and is protected by a gabled porte-cochere. Cut granite serves as steps and as the carriage stepping stone. This side of the house was the must altered by the Holbrooks; gabled, cantilevered, additions were made at the north and south ends to provide rooms at the second floor hall level.
The south end of the house has a 2-story shingled piazza which is off Kipling's first floor study and his second floor bedroom. This piazza leads to the sunken formal garden, planned by the Kiplings, and the "long walk."
The east side of Naulakha is the main facade. Although the main entrance to the house is on the west side, the door enters a corridor which runs the length of the west side and from which rooms open off. All rooms in the house face east towards the Connecticut River valley, New Hampshire, Wantastiquet and the mysterious Mount Monadnock which "shuttles" in and out of the clouds as it did Kipling's imagination (#5, p. 36). A 2-story bay window projects from the southern end of this side to provide light and scenic views from Kipling's study and bedroom. The room directly north of Rudyard Kipling's study was his wife's study and was known locally as the "dragon's den." Mr. Kipling jealously guarded his privacy and disliked unnecessary invasion while he worked. Mrs. Kipling's study had to be entered before her husband's which made her the brunt of the unexpected callers' criticism. North of Mrs. Kiplingšs study was a recessed loggia with a small projecting porch. The Holbrooks enclosed this loggia, flush with the surface of the house, removed the partition between it and Mrs. Kipling's study and created a large, inviting living room. Continuing north of the former loggia is the dining room lighted by a large plate glass window with a slag glass transom. North of this is a recessed and angled porch which opens off the dining room and former kitchen. The north end room was originally a kitchen, however, ca. 1915 the Holbrooks converted it into a breakfast room and added an end porch of the same style as that on the south end. The kitchen was relocated in the basement and food raised to the first floor on a dumb waiter. The original butler's pantry remains behind the dining room to the west.
The roof is punctuated by dormers which light a large billiard room and storage rooms. These storage rooms were probably added by the Holbrooks for originally there would have been no dormers to light them. The west side of Naulakha has two hipped roof dormers with clipped corners flanking a centrally located gabled dormer with a Palladian window. The south end of the house has a triangular shaped dormer, added by the Holbrooks, which is right (east) of center; it reproduces in style the two original dormers on the front (east) roof. The dormers on the east were relocated and increased in number by the Holbrooks. Originally two small triangular dormers, similar to that now on the south end, were to the right and left of center and lighted the billiard room. The Holbrooks had these dormers moved more towards the ends of the building and added two hipped roof dormers with clipped corners, similar to the two on the west side. The north end slope has a dormer, left of center, with a hipped roof and, although of the period, is unlike the other dormers.
An additional change made by the Holbrooks was the addition of a canvas covered deck along the east side of Naulakha. The deck has a rustic railing of cedar logs and is supported on stone piers.
The shingled house is stained a gray color and originally had olive green louvered shutters. A flared course of shingles is at the first floor window head level and saw tooth bands of shingles is at the second floor window sill level and at the meeting rail level of the second floor windows. These horizontal bands, besides giving Naulakha architectural detailing, accent the horizontal massing of the structure.
Many of the original Kipling furnishings remain, although the more personal items were removed before 1903 when the house was sold to their friend, Miss Mary Cabot of Brattleboro. Remaining are the plaster statuettes of Bagherra and Grey Brother which were presented to Kipling by William Chandler Harris, the author of the Uncle Remus stories; Kipling's golf clubs; bedroom, dining room and study furniture including the desk at which Kipling wrote the Jungle Books; and an interesting handcarved teakwood sideboard from India. Among the more interesting interior architectural features are a teakwood carved valance in Kipling's study and the plaster relief work by his father, John Lockwood Kipling, a professor in the British School of Art in India and director of the Lahore Museum. The elder Kipling made an interesting leaf detail in the plaster around the call bell in Mrs. Kipling's study and a bird and animal plaster relief in Rudyard Kipling's bedroom. The most noted however, is the applied script on the brick of the fireplace in Kipling's study: "The night cometh when no man can work" (St. John: IX, 4).
The Holbrook family have added possessions of their own, both from their travels in the Orient and historic family pieces. Frederick Holbrook II, who purchased Naulakha from his sister-in-law (who had purchased the estate from Kipling for them) was the grandson of Vermont Governor Frederick Holbrook (1813-1909) and many of the Governor's possessions are here. The Holbrook items are mingled with the original Kipling possessions and furnishings and, for the most part, are undistinguishable from them.
Naulakha, its furnishings, the related buildings, and the landscaped grounds create an image of an upper class rural estate from the turn of the Century. Vermont had many private estates during this period; Naulakha is one of the few remaining and one of the best preserved from this pre-Colonial Revival period.
The eleven-acre site being nominated is the same tract purchased by Kipling at the time he was planning Naulakha. The entire parcel retains its significance in architecture and literature, as the grounds are substantially as originally designed and conveys the same feeling as when Kipling was living and working here.
Rudyard Kipling, the author of British imperialism and the story teller of British India, lived in Vermont during the years 1892-1896. Naulakha, his estate in Dummerston, Vermont, is the only house ever built by Kipling and remains today much as it was when he left it. As a relatively small but intact late 19th century estate, the property would be significant for its architecture alone, even without the literary association. Kipling, however, as an architect's client, added his personal style to the design, based on his experiences in India. It is thus a dramatic cross-cultural expression, spanning two continents stylistically.
Rudyard Kipling was born in 1865, the son of English parents living in Bombay, India. His father, John Lockwood Kipling, was a professor at the British School of Art at Lahore. Rudyard was sent to England for schooling and it was there he met Wolcott Balestier, an American publisher and writer. Jointly they wrote Naulahka, A Novel of East and West, the story of a priceless Indian jewel. Wolcott died (1891) shortly before the completion of the book and Kipling, "a captive of the Balestier charm," (#7, p. 3) soon married Caroline Balestier, the sister of his friend and literary collaborator. The couple began their wedding journey by visiting her widowed mother, grandmother, and younger brother Beatty at their home in Brattleboro, Vermont. The Kiplings spent three days in the area and Rudyard, like his in-laws, enjoyed the solitude. The Kiplings decided to purchase some acreage in Dummerston from Beatty, and then continued on their wedding journey around the world. Before the journey was completed, however, their bank failed and [the] Kiplings were forced to return to America. They rented a small cottage, "The Bliss Cottage," near the site of their 11 acres and began to plan for the future.
While at "Bliss Cottage" their first child, Josephine, was born and Rudyard began to write the first Jungle Book.
Royalties from past publications began to come in and the Kiplings hired Henry Rutgers Marshall (1852-1927) to design a house. Marshall, a friend of the Balestier family had designed many large suburban residences in New England and New York as well as the library at Rutgers College. The Kiplings worked closely with Marshall on the plans of their new house and the result resembles an Indian bungalow. Marshall's plans for the house appeared in the Catalogue of the 8th Annual Exhibition of the Architect's League of New York, January 2-25, 1893.
In the fall of 1893 the Kipling family moved into Naulakha It should be noted that the title of the Kipling-Balestier novel has always been spelled "Naulahka" while the house in Vermont is spelled "Naulakha." The novel's title was misspelled from the beginning and never corrected by Kipling, perhaps out of memory of his good friend.
While at Naulakha the Kiplings' second child was born and Rudyard wrote five of his better known books: the two Jungle Books, Captains Courageous, The Seven Seas, and The Day's Work as well as numerous poems and short stories. Before final editing he read many of his Jungle Book stories to neighborhood children to obtain their reactions.
Unfortunately Kipling is known in Vermont for his ironic family feud which led to a widely publicized lawsuit and shattered his cherished privacy.
When the Kiplings decided to build on their 11 acres in Dummerston, Beatty Balestier, Caroline Kipling's brother, was hired as supervisor of the construction, Beatty was locally known as a spendthrift, always in debt, party-going, and a heavy drinker. Although the Balestiers (originally "Vermont summer-people") and the Kiplings were "resident outsiders", the neighbors liked Beatty; he was entertaining -- one remarked, "No matter what scrap he was in, he was real amusin' 'bout it." (#1, p. 109). The Kiplings, on the other hand, were not popular; they would not mingle, were sometimes uncivil, and were resented because of Mrs. Kipling's affectations.
At first Beatty and his brother-in-law got along well, but Mrs. Kipling couldn't tolerate her younger brother and in time influenced Rudyard and in 1896 the bitterness became open war.
A disagreement over the use of the pasture in front of Naulakha, where Caroline waned to plant a formal garden, was the catalyst. Disparaging remarks made by Kipling in public about Beatty became widely dispersed, and the inevitable confrontation resulted. Beatty, in an informal manner, went to see his brother-in-law about the stories going around, and Kipling told him to speak with his lawyers. Beatty immediately replied, "By Jesus, this is no case for lawyers. You've got to retract the Goddamned lies you've been telling about me. You've got to retract them in a week or by Christ I'll punch the Goddamned soul out of you." (#1, p. 118)
Kipling, under pressure from his wife, visited his lawyer the next morning and two days later Beatty was arrested. Kipling soon realized his mistake but it was too late; Beatty had contacted all the newspapers which Kipling had spurned. The trial, held in the Brattleboro Opera House, was blown out of proportion, shattered Kipling's privacy, and made a spectacle for the reporters, the metropolitan newspapers, and readers. Although Kipling won the trial, on a personal level he had lost. Kipling and his family fled Vermont and returned to a grateful England.
In 1903, after having personal items removed, the Kipling family ended their connection with Vermont and sold Naulakha to a friend, Miss Mary Cabot of Brattleboro, who purchased the estate for her sister Mrs. Frederick Holbrook. The Holbrooks hired the original architect, Henry Rutgers Marshall, to make slight changes to the house and grounds.
In Kipling's conversations with friends he spoke fondly of India and Naulakha; India he had to leave because of his health and Vermont because of ill will. He told callers, "There are only two places in the world where I want to live - Bombay and Brattleboro. And I can't live at either." (#1 p. 123) The house and grounds at Naulakha have changed slightly over the years, but still evokes the feeling and image of Kipling in setting, furnishings, and architecture.
1. Chittenden, Elizabeth F. "The Outsider" in Yankee, May 1973, Vol 37, #5, pp. 88-93, 109-123.
2. Craig, David W. "Two Steps and One Step Beyond" in Yankee, Feb. 1973, Vol. 37, #2, pp. 76-82, 110-117.
3. Kipling, Rudyard, "In Sight of Mount Monadnock" in The Vermonter, April 1899, Vol. 4, #9, pp. 145-150.
4. Rice, Howard C. "Kipling's Winters in Vermont" in Up Country, Feb. 1974, Vol. 2, #2, pp. 8-9, 14-15, 26.
5. Rice, Howard C. "Rudyard Kipling's House in Vermont" in Vermont Life, Spring 1952, Vol. 6, #3, pp. 34-39.
6. Rice, Howard C. "Rudyard Kipling in New England" in The New England Quarterly, Sept. 1936, Vol. 9, #3, pp. 363-377.
7. Stefansson, Vilhjalmur. Kipling and Vermont, reprinted from Vermont History, Oct. 1954 by the Vermont Historical Society.
8. Van de Water, Frederic. Rudyard Kipling's Vermont Feud. (Weston, Vermont: the Countryman's Press, 1937.)
DATE ENTERED: April 11, 1979.
Reflecting the eclectic background of its original owner and builder, the celebrated British author Rudyard Kipling, Naulakha is an unusual example of the Shingle Style. The house exhibits elements of Indian bungalow in the broad eaves, Kashmiri houseboat with an elaborate carved screen, and Mississippi riverboat in the overall shape. Described, indeed, as a ship by Kipling, Naulakha continues to "sail" across a Dummerston, Vermont hillside and command spectacular easterly views over a sloping meadow to the Connecticut River valley and the mountains of New Hampshire, including Mount Monadnock. The 2-1/2-story house, as built in 1892-93, was a wood shingled, slab-sided, hip roofed building set on a prominent fieldstone foundation with a 2-story porch projecting from the south end. It was only one room deep with corridors and the only entrance along the uphill side, thus denying any prying eyes access to a room interior. Additions made by the subsequent owners on the northern and western elevations, and largely hidden from public view, had only a minor impact on the Kipling spaces within. Original architectural plans with some specifications and numerous historical photographs will enable the current owner to accurately restore Naulakha to its Kipling form and plan during 1992-93. Significant Kipling landscape features such as the tree-lined driveway and tennis court are clearly evident. The Kipling summerhouse, barn, ice house, and carriage house are also still present although only the latter has been in continuous usage since the estate was basically abandoned in 1942.
A Dummerston dirt road (now called Kipling Road) parallels the eastern boundary of the Naulakha estate. The grounds are entered near their northeastern corner through a pair of fieldstone pillars with iron gates that are decorated with fleur de lis. (Kipling spent an entire day watching workmen build this gate.(1)) The graveled driveway sweeps between rows of white pines planted by Kipling to the original northern boundary at which point it curves back to the southwest. Along the way, it passes, in order, a greenhouse built by the Holbrook family in 1909, the Kipling barn with a 1908 Holbrook addition for an automobile (identified as "garage˛ on the survey plan), the original carriage house (identified as "cottage" on the survey plan), and the original ice house (identified as "shed" on the survey plan) before finally terminating at the west side of the main house.
Naulakha itself is a long 2-1/2-story house oriented north/south across a hillside with the principal elevation facing due east. Rising from a fieldstone foundation which is pierced by "arrow slit" windows on the east, the house is shingled and features a molded belt course between first and second floors and two courses of sawtooth shingles at the window sill and meeting rail levels, respectively, of the second story. The hipped roof is broken by several dormers, two plain brick chimneys, and, on the west side, by two jerkinheaded narrow additions. The roof, originally wood-shingled, is now slate-covered.
Perhaps the most noteworthy feature of Rudyard Kipling's Naulakha is the plainness of the design. Only three features project from the box-like simplicity of the walls: 1) on the south end of the east elevation is a 2-story oriel window which is supported on two large, plain, granite corbels which extend from near the top of the foundation; 2) counter-balancing this window on the north end of the east elevation is a partially recessed, angled, small porch which is also supported by a pair of granite corbels; and 3) in the center west elevation is a porte cochere. A riverboat, too, has a boxy simplicity, and it was surely a riverboat that Kipling was thinking of when he referred to Naulakha as a ship; "The propeller, that is, the material provision of the furnace and kitchen, at the stern, and his own study, opening up on the roomy piazza looking to the south and east, at the bow."(2)
Naulakha was designed to blend into the hillside and, thus, in addition to the natural fieldstone foundation, it had a natural paint scheme of forest green and brown.
Kipling himself described Naulakha thus:
Ninety feet was the length of it and thirty the width, on a high foundation of solid mortared rocks which gave us an airy and a skunk-proof basement. The rest was wood, shingled, roof and sides, with dull green hand-split shingles, and the windows were lavish and wide.... (3)
The Kiplings' almost obsessive desire for privacy led them to place the only house entrance on the west, out of the view from any spot on the public road. The porte cochere protects the central entrance which still features the Kiplings' Dutch door with a large top-light. The most significant Holbrook changes are visible on this side: on the north and south ends of this west elevation, narrow full-height additions, cantilevered for more space at the second and attic stories, and carrying jerkinhead roofs, were put on in 1912 and 1915 respectively. Added onto the north elevation in 1912 was a 2-story porch which matches the original porch on the south end of the house.
A further Holbrook addition was a rustic deck on the east which was butted up to the main house and which was poorly maintained. In autumn of 1992, it was removed for safety and aesthetic reasons.
The Holbrook additions to the west and north elevations, though minor in their impact on Kipling interior spaces, altered the boxy simplicity of the original house and, hence, its ship-like feel. It is the intention of the current owner to remove these additions.
The wood-shingled roof of the Kipling Naulakha was also a distinctive feature with its broad shady eaves reminiscent of an Indian bungalow. A recessed gutter further distinguished the roof. When the original wood shingles were replaced by slate in 1912, this gutter was simply slated over. At the same time, the two original narrow and canted dormers on the east were moved further north and south respectively; their original locations were then filled with larger dormers similar to the original, outer dormers on the west. Single dormers, similar to the two original eastern dormers, were added to the north and south elevations at this time as well. The west side still has its three, original dormers: the central dormer with a Palladian inspired window is gabled; the outer dormers are hip roofed with a large, central, 1/1 sash window flanked by smaller, single-pane windows on canted sides.
The interior of Naulakha is described by Kipling himself in a letter of January 29-February 1, 1893:
Josephine [the first Kipling child] will spend her summer to come I hope in a hammock in the covered verandah at the south end of the house. You will see from the picture that her nursery--the bay window in the second story and running back the whole depth of the house--gives onto a second piazza where she can nearly always get out. My work room is the room below; next on the right is Carrie's. Next (the big open window thing) is a loggia which can be entirely opened: next is the dining room, and then a little overhung verandah to play in.
As with the exterior of the house, the predominant characteristic of the interior is simplicity. With the exception of the chestnut-paneled entry hall, the yellow pine dado in the northern, servants' end, and walls of built-in bookcases in Rudyard Kipling's study, the walls are plastered and painted with earth tones. Lockwood Kipling added a decorative plaster leaf near the door leading to Rudyard Kipling's study, and a decorative plaster animal scene in the nursery on the second floor. All the principal rooms have brick fireplaces, although the house does still contain the original coal-fired "octopus" furnace (which will be left in place but not be used). The most decorative feature in the house is found in the oriel window in Rudyard's study: an ornately carved screen of shisham wood either from or based on a Kashmiri houseboat.
The most striking feature of the interior is the spectacular easterly view from all the rooms. The two central first floor rooms have large picture windows with the unique characteristic that they lift up entirely into the walls to let in the outdoors. All the other windows have large paned, 1/1 sash windows which Kipling described as "lavish and wide."(5)
The most significant alterations to Kipling space made by the Holbrooks were the removal of the central loggia and the conversion of the Kipling kitchen into a study with the switch of the kitchen to the basement. Other than these changes, the Holbrook additions were primarily outside the Kipling space, that is, they were joined onto the original hallways which ran along the west side of the house. When changes were made, the Holbrooks used parts of the original structure in the additions as much as possible. Thus windows, for example, were re-used.
The loggia was a special room for the Kiplings. As Rudyard Kipling said: "The joy of the house is the loggia with the ten foot window that slides up bodily and lets all the woods and mountains in upon you in a flood."(6) The window still remains, and the pocket doors and panels which were in storage will be reinstalled in their Kipling-period configuration.
A singular feature of the original Naulakha was the approach to Rudyard Kipling's study. Visitors were forced to go through Carrie Kipling's study to reach the great man. So effective was she in protecting Rudyard's privacy that her room became known as the dragon's lair. With the removal of the loggia walls, Carrie Kipling's study became part of a large central entertainment area.
The desire for privacy was not just reflected in the broad setback from the road, or the high foundation, or the single entrance of Naulakha, but through interior design features such as the dragon's lair as well. As mentioned, hallways ran along the uphill side of the house, and thus offered little to view to any trespassers on the hillside to the west. As Kipling's study was at the end of the house, no hallway offered such protection. The solution was to build bookcases just over head height in front of the windows on the west wall and to glaze the top with Tiffany-stained glass. These bookcases and the stained glass have been removed, but fragments of the stained glass are still extant.
Rudyard Kipling's study in the prow of his "ship" contained other distinctive features. The carved shisham screen in the east oriel window was described above. In applied script to the brickwork over the fireplace, Lockwood Kipling, Rudyard Kipling's father who ran an arts and crafts school in India, wrote the following words from the Gospel of John: "The night cometh when no man can work." The only change to the room today is at the west where the room was extended approximately four feet in 1915; the original windows and central bookcase were retained.
The Kiplings are known to have taken to England their books, carpets, and certain framed pictures. However, virtually all of the Kipling furniture for the study, loggia, dining room, master bedroom, guest bedroom, and the attic remains in the house. Only two pieces remain in Carrie's study. The furniture in the servants' quarters may well have been purchased by the Kiplings, as it is of the period, but records for this have not been discovered. Oil lamps, pictures, plumbing fixtures, vases, tea trolley, etc. are all identifiable from Kipling photographs or other records. Plaster casts by Lockwood Kipling, and two casts which were gifts of Joel Chandler Harris, still decorate the house.
Following are the descriptions of the other buildings and significant landscape features on the estate which are numbered and keyed to the attached survey plan. [See Figure #1] As can be seen on the attached survey map, four buildings which are part of the estate as purchased by The Landmark Trust (current owner) are not on the original Kipling acreage. These buildings are lettered and described for informational purposes only and are not part of the nominated property. Unless otherwise noted, the numbered properties were constructed during the Kipling's tenure. The buildings and landscape features are described in order from the entrance of the estate.
A) The long, low greenhouse was built by the Holbrook family in 1909. It has a high brick foundation and is oriented north and south. It is entered through a bracketed doorway in the south gable of the glass house; at the north end is a 1-story, shingled, gable-roofed shed which contains a boiler in the cellar and tool closets above.
1) The wood framed, shingled barn with slate roof is comprised of two blocks; the original, north block is 1-1/2 stories with a ventilating octagonal cupola and a full cellar with a grade entrance on the north end. To the south is a gabled addition of 1908. The original portion still retains its horse stalls and tack room.
2) The carriage barn is a 1-1/2-story, wood shingled, slated and hip-roofed building with dormers. Although originally constructed as a barn with living quarters for the coachman upstairs, this building was converted entirely to servants' quarters and somewhat enlarged by the Holbrooks.
3) The wood-shingled, gable-roofed shed, which is now used for tool storage, was constructed originally as the icehouse for the Kiplings. It is built into the bank beside the drive.
B) The gable-roofed, wood-shingled single car garage was built to serve the former carriage barn when it was converted to living quarters.
The grounds immediate to Naulakha, though largely untended for 50 years, still provide numerous clues to the original layout. The large meadow to the east of the house is still grassland bounded on the east, along the road, by maturing trees planted by the Kiplings as a screen for privacy.
4) Immediately south of the house, the paths of the small formal garden are clearly visible, and the two concrete planters of the Kiplings' still decorate the start of the long garden path. This path stretches to the "summer house" at the southern property boundary (which is also the Brattleboro/Dummerston boundary). It was once an open path bordered by shrubs, but is now more of a tunnel through rhododendron bushes planted nearly a century ago.
5) Above the garden to the southwest is the Holbrook swimming pool (non-contributing) which was fed from a water tank housed in a square, shingled building ("D" on the map) located just uphill. The top of this tank house is an open porch with simple posts supporting a wood-shingled hip roof. Due north is the shed-roofed, wood shingled, dual bath house ("C" on the map) with changing rooms for both men and women. (Neither the tank house nor the bath house are located within the proposed NHL boundary.) The in-ground, concrete swimming pool is protected on the west by a slate wall with a central granite water spout; the north and south ends are protected by curved slate walls while the east is open to the majestic views.
6) On the original site of the Kipling's so-called summer house, the Holbrooks constructed a pergola (non-contributing). Constructed on a polygonal, flagstoned terrace, the pergola is comprised of six, concrete-rendered Doric columns aligned in a curve facing the northeast, supporting a rustic arbor, and joining a pair of end pavilions which are themselves constructed of slate with round-arched openings supporting wood-shingled jerkinhead roofs. Nestled behind the arbor, and protected by stone walls to the south and west, are a marble table and bench.
7) The Kipling "summer house" is, in fact, a small (only eight feet in diameter), octagonal gazebo-like structure with shingled half walls and bracketed posts supporting a wood-shingled roof. It is now located near the Kiplings' clay tennis court to the east of the pergola.
8) The clay tennis court has returned to grass but still retains its net posts and the tall posts for the screen around the court; in storage are the original net and boundary tapes.
9) Northwest of the pergola is a stone terrace with the remains of a brick and iron oven for summer picnics; it is uncertain whether this is a Kipling or Holbrook landscape feature.
Many of the hillsides visible from Naulakha in the days of the Kiplings were open meadow but are now grown to forest again. The hillside behind the house is now totally forested also. Only a scattering of houses are visible even today. The Naulakha estate, despite some changes over nearly a century, is still predominantly and clearly the former home of Rudyard Kipling. As stated in the National Register nomination of 1978:
To Kipling, Naulakha came to symbolize all the positive qualities of rural Vermont, with its peacefulness and solitude, which have attracted writers and artists to the state for years.(7)
It is because so much of Rudyard Kipling's Naulakha remains intact that the decision to remove the Holbrook additions has been made. On the first floor these additions consist of an approximately four foot extension westward of the verandah and Rudyard Kipling's study and a similar extension to the former Kipling kitchen. Additionally, a tiny half bath was added to the west of the rear entrance hall to Kipling's study. The original windows, cabinet work, and paneling were to a large extent reused by the Holbrooks and will be used again in the restoration.
On the second floor, the cantilevered Holbrook additions include a tiny bedroom and full bath off of the south end of the Kipling hallway and a bedroom off of the north end. In the attic, the Holbrook modifications created additional storage space and a bathroom. The Holbrook north porch is a superfluous addition to an east facing house in Vermont where only a very few days of the year would justify its use.
The original Kipling dormers were designed to provide light to a central attic play area which included a pool table. The Holbrook dormers basically added light to what were dead storage spaces for the Kiplings.
By late 1993, Naulakha will again be the singular ship of Rudyard Kipling. The removal of the additions on the north and west, and the dormers on the north, south, and east, will have surprisingly little impact on the interior layout. The principal rooms of Naulakha remain overwhelmingly Kipling: layout, walls, and ceilings. Based on the original architectural drawings and numerous historical photographs, the restoration will be accurate and complete.
The remaining buildings and structures on the Naulakha estate will receive differing treatments. Dummerston zoning laws require the demolition of the Holbrook greenhouse. The Holbrook cross-gabled addition at the south end of the Kipling barn required only a minor modification to the original barn roof; the ground floor of the original barn remains complete. This Holbrook addition was poorly designed and suffers severe water penetration through the south and west walls; this has also caused damage to the southwest corner of the original barn. This incentive to remove the Holbrook addition becomes overwhelming when coupled with the fact that the original horse stalls for Nip and Tuck (the Kipling horses) and the tack room remain, and the barn still houses the Kipling sleigh.
The original carriage barn is recognizable but altered in function. It will be restored at some point in the future, but it is at present occupied.
The Holbrook bathhouse and water tank house will be retained but not repaired. The swimming pool may be retained as an emergency supply of water in case of fire as town water supplies are non-existent. The Holbrook pergola and Kipling summerhouse will be repaired. The garden layout of the Kiplings will be restored.(8)
Though altered early this century and largely abandoned since 1942, Rudyard Kipling's Naulakha estate remains as a powerful statement of the man. From its simple entrance gate, along the landscaped drive, to the main house and gardens, Naulakha still reveals the Vermont that Kipling loved and the design that was his own.
Naulakha is nationally--even internationally--significant as the former home of Rudyard Kipling from 1893-1896, the first author in the English language to win the Nobel Prize for literature and one of the most renowned authors of the last one hundred years. It is the only property built by him and was the site of some of his most celebrated writing including The Jungle Books, Captains Courageous, A Day's Work, and The Seven Seas. Kim and The Just So Stories were also spawned in Vermont but completed in England. Henry Rutgers Marshall was the architect for Naulakha, but it is clear that Kipling had a large hand in the design, for building the house and laying out the estate gave him "a life-long taste for playing with timber, stone, concrete and such delightful things."(1) The house is in the American Shingle Style, but carries elements based on Kipling's years in India, thus making it a unique cross-cultural statement. The importance of the house is augmented by the continued presence of much of Kipling's furniture and possessions from his American days including the "Red Phaeton" sleigh, his golf clubs and tennis equipment, much furniture, and even some family photographs. His father, John Lockwood Kipling, who directed an arts and crafts school and the Museum in Lahore, India (now Pakistan), also made a contribution to the house during an 1893 visit; he enriched the house with decorative plaster work, the curtain design, and even the bookplate that Rudyard used throughout his life. The estate also contains the Kipling barn, carriage barn, summerhouse, icehouse, and tennis court; the Kipling garden plan can also be easily deciphered in the undergrowth. Despite some alterations by the subsequent owners, Naulakha remains clearly Rudyard Kipling's creation.
Rudyard Kipling was born in India in 1865, to English parents living in Bombay. He received his education at an English boarding school before returning to India to work as a reporter. After a trip across America in 1889, Kipling returned to England where he met Wolcott Balestier, an American writer and publishing agent. The two became fast friends and co-authored The Naulahka, A Story of West and East (Note the incorrect spelling of Naulakha in the title, an error made by Wolcott and retained by Kipling for the book after his friend's death.). After Wolcott's sudden death in December of 1891, Rudyard married his friend's sister, Caroline Starr Balestier.
While on their honeymoon trip, in the winter of 1892, the Kiplings visited Caroline's family in Brattleboro, Vermont. Rudyard was so deeply impressed with the countryside, "beautiful beyond expression"(2), that he and Carrie acquired just over 11 acres from Beatty Balestier, Carrie's other brother. After a brief visit, the Kiplings resumed their honeymoon voyage and got as far as Japan when their bank collapsed. They thereupon returned to Vermont and arrived by midsummer.
The Kiplings rented a small house known as Bliss Cottage (after the owner Mrs. Lyman G. Bliss) which was a short distance south of their own property. They hired as architect of their house-to-be a friend of the Balestier family, Henry Rutgers Marshall. In addition to his work on Naulakha, H.R. Marshall was chiefly known for his designs for the library at Rutgers University in New Jersey, the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, buildings at the Brierly School in New York City, and numerous residences in New York and New England.
By autumn, excavations for the foundation of Naulakha were underway. An article in "The Critic" in January 1893, referred to Mr. Kipling's house as "The Crow's Nest"; only later did the house receive the appellation "Naulakha", after the fabulous Indian jewel described in Kipling's and Wolcott Balestier's novel.
The months spent at Bliss Cottage were very happy ones for the Kiplings. Here their first child, Josephine, was born, and here Rudyard began the first Jungle Book. According to Charles Carrington, the official family biographer, however, "Rudyard did not produce much written work in his honeymoon year. . .Mostly, he was occupied with making a home for Carrie and the baby. . . "(3) Bliss Cottage, though still extant, has been relocated across the road from its original location and extensively remodeled.
In August of 1893, Naulakha was ready for the Kiplings. In a letter of August 27, 1893, Rudyard exclaimed to his cousin Margaret Mackail: Sweet lady--ho! ho! You mustn't expect me to be rational just now because we've but a week since moved into our new house and it is as a toy and a delight... You can't imagine the bliss of getting into a place where you can turn round, unless you've spent a twelvemonth in a shanty [note that this is a reference to Bliss Cottage] one atop of the other....Then there is the delight of real doors that shut and cupboards where you want 'em; and built in bookcases and the like that make us very happy. So far we have found no mistake in our new dwelling and that is good because we made it for ourselves.(4)
The Kiplings were very happy at Naulakha. Rudyard was very prolific and completed, wrote, and/or started many of his best loved works. The second Kipling daughter, Elsie, was born here.
Kipling loved the Vermont countryside and often hiked the hills. In the winter he used his snowshoes or the skis given to him by Arthur Conan Doyle. His golf games around Naulakha are nearly legend with a partner writing of two mile shots down snow-crusted hills! Yet all was not perfect in Vermont.
Beatty Balestier lived just opposite the Naulakha drive. As Howard Rice said in Rudyard Kipling in New England, " [Beatty] was charming, gallant, hail fellow well met, but also quick-tempered, intemperate, and improvident, so that there had been frequent clashes between the two households."(5)
In May of 1896, the feud erupted when Beatty confronted Rudyard on the road and threatened physical violence. Kipling responded by filing charges. The resultant hearing became a public circus as reporters, long denied access to Kipling, saw a chance to get even. According to The Vermont Phoenix of May 15, 1896:
This has been fame's little week for Brattleboro, all because of a family row that was aired in court, and one of the persons involved happened to be Rudyard Kipling, the eminent novelist. Thither have come newspaper writers who concocted descriptions that did not describe, and who drew illustrations that did not illustrate. The writers and the "artists" were here to get a sensation, and the material was worked for all it was worth.(6)Despite this exceedingly unpleasant situation and the brutal invasion of their treasured privacy, the Kiplings apparently had no intention of leaving Vermont at this time. In fact, Rudyard wrote to William Dean Howells in June of 1896, "I don't think quite of quitting the land permanently. It is hard to go from where one has raised one's kids, and builded a wall and digged a well and planted a tree."(7)
This feeling had obviously tempered by August, and rather than face a grand jury in September and the hordes of reporters who would be sure to cover it, Kipling left with his family for England--never to return to Naulakha as it turned out (Caroline Kipling returned once more to Naulakha in 1899).
Both Rudyard and Carrie wrote to friends of their longings for Vermont and Naulakha. Their coachman, Matthew Howard, was kept on as caretaker for the estate and all was maintained for the Kiplings possible return. The attempt to return in 1899 was met with disaster when the family came down with pneumonia after a rough sea crossing. Rudyard was expected to die, but he recovered only to be told that Josephine, his favorite child, had died. Again the Kiplings departed America and they never returned.
Naulakha was finally sold in 1903 to a friend of the Kiplings, Mary Cabot, although it was her sister Grace and brother-in-law Frederick Holbrook who lived at Naulakha. Ownership passed to the son of Grace and Frederick, and it stayed in the Holbrook family until 1992 when it was sold to The Landmark Trust (U.S.A.).
Much of Rudyard Kipling is evoked at Naulakha. Despite additions put on by the Holbrooks, Naulakha remains the only house built by one of the pre-eminent authors in the English language. As such, it tells much about him: his playfulness, his love of the natural world, his near obsession with privacy, and his multi-cultural background. That the majority of the Kipling furnishings remain with the house allows a rare opportunity to understand the man.
It was with the literary output of his Vermont years that Rudyard Kipling secured his fame and eminent position in English literature. The Jungle Books, Captains Courageous, Kim, and The Just So Stories rank among the most popular books of the most popular English author of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. According to the Boston Post of January 18, 1936, in an obituary entitled "Kipling Giant of Literature":
"Nearly 200,000 copies of his books are sold yearly in England, and 100,000 in the United States--a best-seller record year after year that shames all but the most sensational of the newly published books.The Nobel Prize attested to the literary merit of Kipling's works. People such as Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Henry James attested to his genius. After Shakespeare, Rudyard Kipling is one of the most quoted of English authors as a glance at any book of quotations will show. Upon Kipling's death, the Times of London said of him:
"Posterity, whatever it may have to say of his opinions, can never fail to laud that achievement in self-expression as one of the most singular in English literature and English thought."(9)FOOTNOTES:
(1) Rudyard Kipling, Something of Myself, London, England: Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1937, p. 116.
(2) Howard C. Rice, Rudyard Kipling in New England, Brattleboro: The Book Cellar, 1951. p. 13.
(3) Charles Carrington, Rudyard Kipling--His Life and Work, London, England: Macmillan London Ltd., 1955; Penguin Books, 1986, p. 255.
(4) Thomas Pinney, ed., The Letters of Rudyard Kipling, Volume 2: 1890-1899, Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1990. pp. 105-106.
(5) Rice, Rudyard Kipling in New England, p. 39.
(6) "A Family Row That Was Heard Around The World," The Vermont Phoenix, May 15, 1896, p. 4.
(7) Pinney, ed., The Letters of Rudyard Kipling, Volume 2: 1890-1899, pp. 243-244.
(8) "Kipling Giant of Literature," Boston Post, January 18, 1936.
(9) Times of London quoted in "World Mourns Kipling Death, Many Tributes," Boston Evening Transcript, January 18, 1936, part 1, obit.
A Family Row That Was Heard Around The World." The Vermont Phoenix, 15 May 1896.
DATE ENTERED: November 4, 1993.
BACK TO NATIONAL REGISTER PROPERTIES