Emily Winthrop Miles

June 18, 2009 at 12:44 pm Leave a comment

An Exhibit at The Sharon Historical Society

Emily Lindall Winthrop was born in New York City to Grenville Lindall Winthrop and Mary Talmadge Trevor Winthrop on March 10, 1893. Grenville Winthrop was a tenth generation direct descendant of Governor John Winthrop founder of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and a ninth generation descendant of John Winthrop The Younger who brought iron production to the Massachusetts Bay and Connecticut colonies and served as the Connecticut Colonial Governor for eighteen years.

Emily Winthrop grew up in New York and at the family estate, Groton Place, in Lenox, Massachusetts. She was educated in the arts and became a superb artist as a sculptor, painter and portraitist. She studied sculpting under famous sculptor Daniel Chester French and also with Abastenia St. Leger Elberle, Brenda Putnam and Harriet W. Frishmuth.

In September 1924, Emily Winthrop eloped with the estate chauffeur Corey Lucian Miles (1891-1960), along with sister Kate who eloped with Darwin Morse, (formerly the Groton Place poulterer). The four were married in the Interlaken section of Stockbridge Massachusetts. Over the next two years the foursome resided in Santa Barbara, California. On the return to the East Emily and Corey searched for property, finally settling on Neverland, along the Sharon/West Cornwall Road. The central property was purchased in 1925 from the Stickles family, formerly owned by collier and mill operators Moses Handlin, and later by Dwight Handlin. When the Miles were in need of assistance to develop their farm and estate, they called on good friend Edward J. (E.J.) Kirby (1898-1945) from Lenox, who operated the estate and farm for the rest of his life.

Corey Miles took over the North Canaan Airport in 1929 and ran it successfully until 1947. In 1930 he and barnstormer Roscoe Britton flew Mrs. Miles and Kathleen Kirby (1898-1994, E. J. Kirby’s wife) from Canaan to East Boston Field (now Logan Airport) and back, the first flight of its kind from northwestern Connecticut.

Mrs. Miles was frequently impressed with the face or bearing of individuals and she would use them as models for her statuary. THE CARPENTER was a worker from West Cornwall, and THE ATHLETE was modelled from middleweight boxer Tiger Flowers Johnson. Her several large scale sculptures received wide acclaim, including the 7.5 foot tall aluminum casting of a dancer (Diana) which was exhibited in the American Pavilion at the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair. Both Diana and The Huntress are on permanent outdoor exhibit at The Southern Vermont Art Center. Two bronze castings of her larger-than-life works stand in the garden at the Miles Sanctuary in Sharon, along with an aluminum cast bas–relief north of the garden pool.

Mrs. Miles was also a designer of furniture and jewelry, a published poet and photographer, a collector of Wedgwood, 19th century glass, 18th century glass and drawings and paintings by J. Gould, Rodin, Calder and J. J. Audubon and his son. Today her work and collections are housed in numerous museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Brooklyn Museum, Middlebury College, Shelburne Museum in Vermont, Museum of the Fine Arts in Springfield, Massachusetts, Montclair Art Museum in New Jersey, Syracuse University, Cooper Union, Berkshire Museum and several others.

Emily Winthrop Miles was truly a Renaissance woman. A fascinating character with a marvelous sense of humor she was more than a bit of a rebel as shown by her elopement and frequent disdain for the formalities of the Winthrop family. Upon her death on Christmas 1962, Neverland was ceded to the National Audubon Society and now serves as the Emily Winthrop Miles’ Wild Life Sanctuary.

~Edward M. Kirby

 

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