Tag: Heron Bay

A Rich Life: In Barbados

     Ronnie Tree in the Tropics




By Megan McKinney



Heron Bay was Ronnie Tree’s Palladian villa in Barbados

In his May 2018 article in Town & Country, contributor David Netto asked, “Is Heron Bay in Barbados the Most Exquisite House in the World?” Ronnie and Marietta Tree shared a history in Barbados, a romantic history. Although they had known each other in New York and been immensely mutually attracted, it was not until January 1946 in Barbados that they could be alone together. It was then that both decided to end their current marriages.


The entrance front of Heron Bay

As a British citizen, a house in Barbados was a natural desire for Ronnie. The stunning Palladian villa, built in 1947, was designed by Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe, who in reality was a landscape architect and did not visit the site until construction was complete. Heron Bay, therefore, was truly the work of Ronnie Tree, a student of Palladian architecture. The house is on the western side of Barbados, the romantic, dreamy Caribbean side, far away in temperament from the frenetic twentysomething, surfboarding side with the frothing waves of the Atlantic Ocean crashing on rock and/or sand beaches.

Atlantic Ocean waves on the eastern side of Barbados

The delicious, sensual villa Heron Bay was constructed of coral stone in six months during 1947. Although Mereworth, possibly the greatest Palladian house in England, belonged for a time to Ronnie’s half-brother Peter Beatty, who left it to Ronnie’s son Michael, the coral stone of Heron Bay’s construction, combined with its Palladian style, makes this house special and David Netto’s Town & Country question is definitely valid.


Ronnie and Marietta’s daughter Penelope described Heron Bay as being, “like a submerged house, as though, if a tidal wave were to cover it, it would be at rest again. It is a house out of Atlantis.”

Ronnie’s fondness for Barbados and his determination to assure that the exquisite island-nation have a fine Five Star resort led him to purchase the Sandy Lane sugar plantation on western beachfront acreage. After putting together a syndicate of investors, he opened the Sandy Lane resort in 1961.

Under Ronnie’s direction, Sandy Lane attracted many of the world’s great visible figures and assembled a collection of celebrity stories, including the time “Aristotle Onassis was rowed ashore from his yacht while Maria Callas breast stroked alongside, a pet marmoset on her back. David Niven dreamed up cocktails at the bar, and Elton John once adhered to the New Year’s Eve black-tie rule by wearing a bow tie as a garter.” In 1998, Sandy Lane was sold and, following a three-year, $450 million restoration, re-emerged more delightful than ever.

The Sandy Lane Country Club is a favorite with its lunching golfers.

For many years another legendary Barbados house along the western beach was the beloved island residence of the late film star Claudette Colbert. This is the entrance to her property.

A favorite area in Claudette Colbert’s Barbados was her indoor/outdoor dining room.


Join Classic Chicago Publisher Megan McKinney’s Great Chicago Fortunes next for a  segment about Ronnie Tree’s first wife, Nancy Lancaster, and her continued association with some the most stunning houses in the English-speaking world.


Edited by Amanda K. O’Brien

Author Photo: Robert F. Carl






A Rich Life: The Lambert Trees




By Megan McKinney



Ditchley Park, Oxfordshire, England

Chicago’s Tree family lived well, so well that it will take the next eight or so weeks for us to adequately view their enviable dwellings and remarkable lives. It started off relatively modestly in the 19th century, but, as their story progresses, you will explore with us, for example, the house about which the May 2018 issue of Town & Country magazine asked, Is Heron Bay in Barbados the Most Exquisite House in the World?

Credit: Architecture & Design in Barbados

Before Heron Bay, Ronnie Tree’s mid-20th century Palladian house in Barbados, there would be many other glorious Tree dwellings throughout the English-speaking world.

We will have such residences as the Ogden Codman French Renaissance Revival style town house on New York’s Upper East Side.

As well as this grand entry carved into an antebellum Virginia plantation house and such English estates as Ditchley Park in Oxfordshire, below, with Nancy Lancaster’s sumptuous interiors.

An Alexandre Serebriakoff watercolor of The Blue Drawing Room, Ditchley Park

During the early years of World War II. when the “moon was high,” Winston Churchill’s country retreat, Chequers, became visible to enemy aircraft. On these weekends, the Prime Minister would stay as guest of third generation Trees at Ditchley Park, smoking his cigars late at night in the room above. But we will come to that in a later issue.

The family patriarch was Judge Lambert Tree, a Washington D.C. native with a law degree from the University of Virginia. After moving out to Chicago, he married, in 1859, Anna Josephine Magie, daughter of Chicago pioneer H. H. Magie.

A distinguished Chicago citizen, Judge Tree’s great wealth came from real estate and his name continues to be known through the Tree Studio complex on Chicago’s Near North Side.

The Lambert Trees and their only child, Arthur, lived in the mansion above at 94 Cass Street, now Wabash. Among their neighbors were the Joseph Medills, Edward T. Blairs and Cyrus Hall McCormicks. Arthur Tree would marry a Chicago contemporary but not a North Side neighbor.

Growing up in elegance at another fashionable Chicago address,1905 South Prairie Avenue, was Ethel Field, daughter of department store tycoon Marshall Field.

Although the Field parents were at war with each other, they indulged Ethel and her brother, Marshall Jr. In 1886, when the Fields hosted the Mikado Ball for 17-year-old Marshall Jr. and 14-year-old Ethel, it was the most elaborate private event Chicago had seen. The party was catered by Sherry’s of New York and required two private railroad cars to bring in linen, silver and gourmet food at a cost of $75,000. More than 400 guests attended the ball and received party favors designed by the painter James McNeill Whistler.

Albertine Huck

Marshall Jr. married Chicagoan Albertine Huck in 1890 and they settled in an English country estate, spending only a few months a year in their Chicago house at 1919 Prairie Avenue.

On January 1, 1891, Marshall Field Jr’s 17-year-old sister Ethel married Arthur Tree in an opulent ceremony held at the Fields’ Prairie Avenue house. Although Ethel and Arthur were both Chicagoans, they had met during a foxhunt in England. Both preferred that country to their own and, after their marriage, they commissioned English architect Edward Goldie to design Ashorne Hill, a Warwickshire estate neighboring that of Marshall Jr. and Albertine.

Ashorne Hill  

The Arthur Trees’ first two children, Gladys and Lambert, died in infancy, leaving only Ronald Arthur Lambert Field Tree, known throughout his life as Ronnie.


Ronnie Tree is the central figure in Megan McKinney’s Classic Chicago series, A Rich  Life: The Trees . He will lead us into the coming segment, sub-titled Marshall Field’s Unruly Daughter.


Edited by Amanda K. O’Brien

Author Photo: Robert F. Carl