Playwright Edward Albee’s Larchmont Upbringing

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Detail from the architect's sketch for the Albee Court development project, illustrating plans for the Albee Court Apartments, the Larchmont National Bank, and the Larchmont Public Library. Larchmonter Times, June 20, 1922

Larchmonter Times 1922

Detail from the architect’s sketch for the Albee Court development project, illustrating plans for the Albee Court Apartments, the Larchmont National Bank, and the Larchmont Public Library. Larchmonter Times, June 20, 1922

 

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Edward Albee, who died last week at age 88, grew up in Larchmont in the 1930’s and 40’s. He became one of the greatest American playwrights of his generation.

His adoptive father, Reed Albee, was a very wealthy business man and heir to the Keith-Albee chain of vaudeville houses, which later became RKO movie theaters. His mother, Frances Cotter Albee, was a distant and domineering figure who threw out his first play written when he was 14, according to his biographer Mel Gussow.

Albee in 1962

Albee in 1962

The Albee family first lived in a large house on Bay Avenue in Larchmont, then moved to their grandfather’s large mansion (later demolished ) on Hommocks Road. Albee was a rich kid with a nanny and servants. He attended Rye Country Day School, and several other prep schools farther away.

The Albee Court Apartments at the corner of Larchmont Avenue and the Post Road were named for Edward Franklin Albee, Mr. Reed Albee’s grandfather, after whom the playwright also was named. A 1922 article in the Larchmont Gazette notes that the playwright’s father planned the development to include not only the apartments but a new library:

“The principal feature of the scheme will be “Albee Court,” a fireproof modern apartment house which will have the entrances to the apartments of the building through an inviting and ornamental iron gateway…” Edward F. Albee proposes a grand development across the street from the site of the new Municipal Hall, including an Apartment Building, a Bank, and a site for Larchmont’s new Library. Read about Edward Albee’s plans for this prominent corner of the Village…

The young Albee left ( or may have been thrown out of) his adoptive parents’ house when he was around 18, possibly because of late night drinking and his homosexuality. He was later quoted in a New York Times review saying,  “I had to get out of that stultifying, suffocating environment.”

He moved to Greenwich Village and didn’t see his Larchmont family for many years. His father died in 1961 and a few years later, his mother had a heart attack.  Albee started to see her again while she was living with her sister at the Westchester Country Club in Harrison. But their relationship remained difficult.

She passed away in 1989 and only then, while going through her personal papers, did Albee find out who his biological parents were and how he came to be adopted.  After his mother’s death, he wrote his most autobiographical play, Three Tall Women, modeling the main character after his adoptive mother.

Photo of Albee courtesy achievment.org

 

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