New Orleans Sears Heiress

                    Edith Rosenwald Stern


Longue Vue, Edith Stern’s Metairie estate.





By Megan McKinney


Edith Rosenwald Stern.


The children and grandchildren of Julius Rosenwald inherited his strong personality and fanned out to make deep imprints everywhere they settled. One daughter, the petite, red-haired Edith went south as wife of cotton broker Edgar Stern.


Edith and Edgar Stern.


After moving to New Orleans, Edith established herself as one of Crescent City’s grande dames before World War I and continued to dominate local Society for decades after.


Edgar and Edith.


She and Edgar built Longue Vue, a Greek revival house set in eight acres of formal gardens in suburban Metairie. There they lived in splendor and entertained with generosity and gusto. However, the house didn’t end with the handsome public rooms; it also included such amenities as a gift wrap room, a flower arranging room and, best of all, Edith’s amazing closet. According to a distant relative Susan Stevens, “Edith’s closet . . . was round with a setup like a dry cleaner–the hanger bar was circular and included a shelf above and below so she could have a dress, hat and shoes all rotating together.”  


Another view of Longue Vue.


However, the urgency of leaving the notorious New Orleans humidity in the summer led the Sterns to establish two warm weather retreats.


Teahouse at White Pine Camp.


Addison Mizner had been an architect for one of the Sterns’ summer headquarters, White Pine Camp in the Adirondacks. The 35-acre, 20-building estate served as President Calvin Coolidge’s Summer White House in 1926.


A New York Times report on White Pine Camp as Calvin Coolidge’s Summer White House.


Silent Cal” and Mrs. Coolidge, followed by their son John and preceded by their white collie, Rob Roy, on the White Pine Camp footbridge.


Austerity Castle, Edith and Edgar Stern’s second summer place, was outside Lenox, Massachusetts and scarcely austere, but entirely furnished from the Sears catalog, as its mistress enjoyed reporting to friends.


Metairie Park Country Day School.


When the Sterns’ three children, Edgar Jr., Audrey and Philip, approached school age, Edith was appalled by the quality of New Orleans schools and established her own. The first, a preschool, which she founded with five other mothers, was to become the Newcomb Nursery School, and, after that, she similarly founded Metairie Park Country Day School; both continue decades later as entrenched, highly respected educational institutions.


A 1984 biography of Edith.


While building these schools, Edith encountered graft, bribery and corrupt election procedures that prompted her to direct her energies to political reform.


More of Longue Vue and its grounds.


She left Longue Vue, with its gardens and a $5 million endowment for maintenance, to the city of New Orleans to be turned into a museum, which happily survived Hurricane Katrina.


Megan McKinney’s Classic Chicago series on The Rosenwalds will continue next week with Hollywood Sears Heir.

Author Photo:

Robert F. Carl