Page 38 - The Hunt - Summer 2019
P. 38

                LEAVING
ARDROSSAN
A REVEALING LOOK AT AN ICONIC FAMILY By MElIssA JAcoBs
Helen Hope Montgomery Scott would not have approved of her granddaughter’s outfit. Rest assured if she’d published a memoir, the socialite
heiress who purportedly
inspired Katharine Hepburn’s character in The Philadelphia Story would’ve
worn something fabulous to her book- release event. Janny Scott, however, wore
a long-sleeved black sweater, dark slacks, sensible loafers and not a trace of makeup.
For decades, Janny’s grandmother,
and her husband, Edgar, presided over Ardrossan, an 800-acre Villanova estate established by the Montgomery family in 1912. It was the Main Line’s Downton Abbey, a 50-room manor laden with art and antiques—a place where glamorous people lived glamorous lives. Hope died in 1995, but if she were alive today,
her stunning wardrobe, globetrotting adventures and famous friends would earn her millions of Instagram followers.
Ardrossan was once again the attraction on a Monday night this
past April, with Janny on stage at the Free Library of Philadelphia talking about her new memoir, The Beneficiary: Fortune, Misfortune, and the Story of My Father (Riverhead Books, 288 pages). Her version of the 100-year history of the
Montgomery Scott family delves into
the mixed legacies of Hope and Edgar Scott and their son, Robert Montgomery Scott (RMS)—Janny’s father. Not surprisingly, much of the publicity for
the book has focused on the wealth and influence of the Montgomery Scotts and the grand opulence of Ardrossan. Reviews have cited darker aspects like RMS’s alcoholism and extramarital affairs as evidence that a privileged life is never a perfect life.
None of that was news to those gathered in the Free Library’s (fittingly named) Montgomery Auditorium. The space was filled to near capacity with Main Liners and leading members of the city’s philanthropic, arts and cultural organizations. They know all about Ardrossan, Hope and Edgar. Many
of them knew RMS, and no one even blinked as Janny described the extent
of her father’s drinking. His alcoholism was well known among the executive staff at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, of which RMS was president for
14 years. It was likely the same situation at the Academy of Music, where RMS also served as president, and at the law firm Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads, where he was a partner.
Wealth and privilege can’t inoculate
anyone from addiction or mental illness, nor is adultery scandalous or even unique. Many families in all walks of life grapple with these issues. On stage, Janny was careful not to focus solely on her father’s foibles, also stressing his intelligence,
wit, charm and other attributes. She is, after all, a former Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the New York Times, so she knows how to write a balanced story.
To become a success story in her own right—to forge a life independent of her family’s various overwhelming legacies— Janny did something her parents and their parents would not and could not do: She lNeft Ardrossan.
o one ever asked 14-year-old Janny Scott if she wanted to attend an all-girls boarding school in the English countryside. That’s what happens when your father is appointed special assistant for
the American ambassador to England. In 1969, Robert Montgomery Scott transplanted his family to London so he could work with communications billionaire and fellow Main Liner Walter Annenberg, the newly appointed ambassador to the Court of St. James.
Though RMS returned to Ardrossan
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