Beach Town in a Forest

Beach Town in a Forest
Beach Town in a Forest, Pine Knoll Shores located in Carteret County on North Carolina's Crysal Coast. Photo compliments of Bill Flexman and Dave Prutzman

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

From Paris to Bogue Banks

Part II: Les Années Folles

Part II of Alice Green Hoffman in France begins after World War I and ends with the outbreak of World War II in Europe. The world had changed dramatically since our Alice was last in France, but she had already grown accustomed to change, living as she did in such very different places—New York City, Bogue Banks and Paris.

In 1918, victorious Allied Armies marched through the Arc de Triomphe down the Champs- Élysees.

Archive Holdings Inc./Getty Images [i]

Alice Hoffman tried getting a passport in 1917 to go to Paris to join her niece Eleanor Butler Roosevelt, who was living in her Aunt Alice's home at 29 Avenue du Bois de Boulogne and working with the YMCA, setting up canteens for soldiers in France.  However, there is no evidence Alice made that trip. She did return after the Armistice and remained in France a good deal of the time until the beginning of World War II. It was upon this return to France that she bought an estate on several acres of land on Route de Suresnes in the Bois de Boulogne. In this timeframe, the address listed for her on deeds for land purchases she made in Carteret County, North Carolina, was Chateau des Landes, Suresnes, France. It is amazing how active Alice was in making these purchases in and across Bogue Banks at the time she was maintaining a sizeable estate in Paris.

In the 1920s, Suresnes would have still been considered a Parisian region though today it would be Île de France or Hauts-de-Seine, the location of some of the most expensive real estate in the western “crown” of Paris. Even though Chateau des Landes had been destroyed in the War of 1870 and the remaining house was small, the land was certainly valuable.

While Alice lived in Suresnes, she continued to travel. She returned to her properties in New York City and North Carolina periodically and made other trips, such as to China in 1925 and Puerto Rico in 1930. Also, in summers during the 20s and 30s, Alice was roughing it in Canada with friends. She was clearly someone who could negotiate very different worlds. Just the contrast in the 1920s between Bogue Banks and Paris is startling.

Wanting to return her “small” residence in Suresnes to its former grandeur as Chateau des Landes and to convert her lowly Bogue Banks cottage into a rambling estate, she began to add rooms to her houses in both locations. She may have needed the space for the entourage of people she was accustomed to having stay with her, but Alice’s style of life was changing.

The Paris she returned to in 1919 was very different from the Paris of the previous decade. After the brutal bloodshed of the First World War and the devastating influenza of 1918, Paris became the center of what the French called Les Années Folles or the mad years. Americans referred to the period as The Roaring 20s. Short skirts and bobbed hair shocked the older Belle Époque set as did the new music and dances—jazz and the Charleston.

Ball of July 14 in Front of the Pantheon, Paris. Maurice Berger/Roger Viollet. [ii]
Also called LaTour Eiffel a l’heure des Années Folles – The Eiffel Tower at the time of the Mad Years. (Women dancing together suggest the shortage of men after the war.)

Poster for Les Chansons Folles des “Twenties” – The Mad Songs of the 20s.  [iii]

The above photos demonstrate the cultural collision between La Belle Époque and Les Années Folles. We might imagine 58-year-old Alice among the dancers in the first photo, but see her looking askance at the second.

Referring to these mad years in Paris, poet and grand dame of the arts in Paris Gertrude Stein coined the term the “Lost Generation.” Hundreds of thousands had lost their lives, and those who survived were figuratively lost in a world that had forever changed, but the 1920s generation also exhibited great exuberance and creativity.

In the visual arts, impressionism gave way to expressionism and cubism. Movie houses were opening, featuring silent films. Art deco inspired a new architectural style.

Avoiding Prohibition in the United States, many Americans enjoyed lives as ex-patriots in Paris. Among them were writers such as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, who spent much of their time in cafes on the increasingly bohemian Left Bank of the Seine in Paris.

Terrasse de Café/La Gare de Montparnasse. Café Terrace/Montparnasse Station.
Maurice Branger/Roger Viollet [iv]

Alice Green Hoffman was a fashionable Right-Bank resident. Still, the revolution in style and mores would have touched her and must have appealed to her independent spirit. After all, this more egalitarian society was bringing with it a greater equality between the sexes.

As a result of the increased equality, Madeleine Ginsburg, author of Paris Fashions: The Art Deco Style of the 1920s, states that by the “mid decade, in fashion terms the ideal new woman was a tomboy, a garçonne, young, slim, athletic, short-haired and short-skirted, almost androgynous in appearance; a friend and an equal rather than a passive dependent.”

1920s Jazz-Age Fashion from The Art Deco Style of the 1920s [v]

The style of dress was more than a fashion statement. An independent woman like Alice Hoffman, who dared to make her own financial decisions, fit right into the emerging modern world.

What affected Alice Hoffman’s life in Paris even more dramatically than the madness and liberation of the 20s would be the stock-market crash of 1929. Although she had financial problems earlier, the crash intensified those problems dramatically.

But, before 1929, an indication of her post-war social life is suggested in letters she wrote about “social meetings with General John J. Pershing.” Pershing led the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I and was promoted to the highest rank in the United States Army—General of the Armies. Her connection with President Theodore Roosevelt’s family may have made this relationship possible.

General Pershing.Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia [vi]

Among Alice Hoffman’s papers at East Carolina Joyner Library are letters concerning her meetings with General Pershing and her business “affairs in France,” primarily legal battles. A synopsis of these papers indicates that her French correspondence from 1919 to 1940 focuses on “a controversy between Mrs. Hoffman and the French government concerning her property. She returned to France repeatedly to handle court cases involving her residences (1920-1940) and to stop seizure of part of her property to widen a boulevard (1926-1934).”

Two of her arguments for retaining the Paris property were that “Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., used her home for the World War I effort,” and “The property was also intended as an inheritance for the Roosevelt children and a memorial to Quentin Roosevelt.” Alice was clearly not shy about using the Roosevelt name to sway her case.

The synopsis goes on to say that the property in question “…would later revert to the French government. Mrs. Hoffman appealed to U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull through Senator Josiah Bailey for intervention in the French ‘injustice.’” [vii] She did not prevail. If she had, she may have been in Paris to see its fall to Germany in June 14, 1940.

Alice never owned property in France again. Her life changed dramatically, and she began to spend a good deal of her time at her home "Shore House" on Bogue Banks.

 Post Author: Phyllis Makuck, revised 3/24/14
To contact the author or the History Committee

I would like to give credit for many of the dates and some of the general information in this feature about Alice in France to Kathleen McMillan Guthrie’s Alice Green Hoffman: The Queen of Bogue Banks: A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of the Department of History, East Carolina University, May 1994.

Part I of “Alice in France” covered Alice Green Hoffman’s life in Paris during La Belle Époque.

Other credits below:

i Paris Armistice Parade. This image is reproduced by several sources. This one came from; another appears at
ii Alice Green Hoffman Papers (#127), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
iii www.parisenimages   Parisienne de Photographie. La Avenue de Champs-Élysess, RogerVioliet. Site gives permission to use images for non-profit purposes.
iv No restrictions.
vi‎. Site gives common-use permission.
vii Alice Green Hoffman Papers (#127), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.

For postcards of Suresnes including one of Alice’s garden at Chateau de Landes.