This newsletter’s Profile will focus on Mr. John W. Smith, better known as Jack, who oversees all of Classical American Homes Preservation Trust’s properties as Director of Operations, and also sits on CAHPT’s Board of Directors. Jack has been with CAHPT since its inception in 1993, also having worked the previous 18 years for Richard Jenrette as a property manager. Jack has been directly involved in the restoration of all CAHPT and Richard Jenrette’s portfolio of properties for nearly 40 years.
While working as a contractor in upstate New York, Jack was first introduced to Mr. Jenrette in the fall of 1975 by a local decorator. Mr. Jenrette hired Jack to complete a large painting job at Edgewater on the Hudson River, which had been purchased from Gore Vidal in 1969. Two years later, upon the completion of his work at Edgewater, Jack was hired full-time by Mr. Jenrette to manage his properties.
Over the next fifteen years, Jack participated in restoring and decorating Mr. Jenrette’s residences as they were acquired. Next was 37 Charlton Street in New York (property later sold), where a complete two-year restoration was completed. In 1985 Mr. Jenrette acquired both Ayr Mount in Hillsborough, North Carolina, and Cane Garden in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. Each of these projects entailed extensive work. Between 1987-89, Jack oversaw a cosmetic restoration of the George F. Baker Houses. The project began when Mr. Jenrette purchased 67 East 93rd Street in New York (sold a year later), and continued upon his purchase of 69 East 93rd Street, which is now CAHPT’s headquarters. Jack also restored 67 East 93rd Street a second time in 1996 when Mr. Jenrette re-purchased the property. Additionally, when Mr. Jenrette acquired Millford Plantation in Pinewood, South Carolina in 1992, Jack oversaw a massive restoration of the Mansion and the seven individual outbuildings on the plantation grounds. In each of these instances, Jack says that he has loved to see the houses transform back to their original, classical beauty.
As Director of Operations, Jack’s role now is to maintain the houses and grounds in “tip-top” shape and ensure that they are physically prepared to withstand the test of time. This is no easy task, as these old houses consistently present an array of challenges, from structural maintenance like leaky roofs and peeling paint, to accessibility and security issues. CAHPT strives to keep the properties in pristine condition, and Jack credits the individual site managers and their teams for their tireless contributions. He applauds the teams led by Ernie Townsend at Roper House, Bill Crowther at Ayr Mount, David Crowther at Cane Garden and Louis Hall at Millford, plus his own crew at Edgewater and the Baker Houses, for their hard work, deep knowledge of the properties, and dedication to the cause of preservation.
Jack is also an original member of the Classical American Homes Preservation Trust Board of Directors. The Board of Directors oversees all of CAHPT’s activities and ensures that these six houses and grounds are being delivered to the next generation of preservationists in the best condition possible. He also envisions building a passionate, interested constituency of supporters as being crucial to the organization’s ongoing vitality.
It is difficult to sum up Jack’s impact on Classical American Homes Preservation Trust, as his innumerable contributions have ranged from strategic planning, antique and art acquisitions, restoration, and decoration, to electrical work and plumbing, and landscape design. Regardless of the task, Jack’s sunny disposition and trademark laugh are always present. He lives in Barrytown, New York (just steps from Edgewater) with his wife of 38 years, Diane, who works at nearby Bard College. Their son, Christopher, serves as CAHPT’s Counsel and Corporate Secretary, and their daughter, Julie, a recent Bard graduate and lover of old houses, has recently joined the CAHPT staff. Next year (2015) will mark Jack’s 40th year in the CAHPT “family”, and we congratulate Jack on all he has accomplished!