An Independent Woman: The Life of Lou Henry Hoover

By Anne Beiser Allen; Jon L. Wakelyn | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
The Consulting Engineer's Wife

The flat in Hyde Park Gate had by now become too small for the Hoover family. When they returned to London shortly before Christmas 1907, they moved into a house on Hornton Street in the Campden Hill region of London's Kensington district. The Red House -- so called because of its large red door -- was "a delightful old but small house with a garden,"1 in Bert's words. Built in the 1830s, it was one of four houses on what had been a large estate before Kensington was swallowed up by the growing metropolis. (The original lease was so old that it required the lessees to prevent their cows from wandering on the High Street, and not to hang their laundry where the neighbors might see it.)2 It rented for $2,000 a year -- a significant sum for the time.

The house was a rambling, two-story structure with steam heating, one large bathroom, and an oak-paneled library with a fireplace and leaded glass bookcases. The walnut-paneled dining room had a raised dais at one end, where theatrical performances could be given. The big garden, with its century-old mulberry tree, was one of the house's chief attractions, providing the boys with a safe playground. Bert frequently joined them, romping with Rags, the family's Irish terrier, or showing the boys how to pan for gold in the fish pond. In addition to the usual Sunday evening dinners, house guests often came to stay for varying lengths of time. A full complement of servants -- maids, butler, cook, and nanny -- assisted Lou in running the house.

In her memoir, Theodore's daughter Hulda Hoover McLean recalls the fragrance of damp ferns from the indoor goldfish fountain at the Red House, and the strong scent of her Uncle Bert's cigars. She, Herbert Jr., and her sister Mindy would

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