BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
A magnificent Regency rosewood library table, 18th century hunting prints, portraits of generations of St. Georges, and even a few scandalous love letters fill a Lake Shore Drive co-op with memories of Tyrone House, one of Ireland’s most magnificent manor houses with its sweeping view of Galway Bay.
Surrounded by some of Chicago’s chicest, Peter Mark recently celebrated the release of Tyrone House and the St. George Family, in part a tribute to his late father, Gordon Mark, who founded the local chapter of the Irish Georgian Society. His late mother, Barbara, was in the first debutante class of the Passavant Cotillion, and his great-grandparents were among Lake Forest’s earliest settlers.
Peter commissioned author Robert O’Byrne, a writer and lecturer specializing in the decorative arts, to tell Tyrone’s story. The author says that at one time it was “the finest house in Ireland in scale and splendor, filled with fine furnishings and surrounded by pleasure gardens.”
Although the mansion, which once sat on 60,000 acres, is now in ruins, legends of the powerful family, including the Norman knight who accompanied William the Conqueror to England for the Battle of Hastings, as well as generations of earls, live on in the well-illustrated book.
Peter gave guests a tour of his collection of Tyrone House treasures and other Irish Georgian pieces, which he seeks out at auctions around the world:
“My father, who died in 2009, felt a powerful affinity for this historic home of his ancestors. He worked in finance for many years, but also devoted himself to saving Ireland’s architectural legacies. Desmond Guinness, founder of the Irish Georgian Society, once commented that Ireland’s treasures had no finer champion than my father.
“At the time (it was built in 1779) people were getting out of cold, dark castles and building grand manor houses in the style owners had observed in Italy. Portraits even portrayed Irish lords dressed as Italian emperors. They got rid of the castle’s dark windows and let in the light. Tyrone House was decorated in the latest fashion of the times.”
Peter included on the informal tour cartoons and love letters from the popular Edwardian artist Sir William Orpen to his long-time mistress, Mrs. Eleanor St. George, daughter of the prosperous American banker George F. Baker. The clever drawings from over 100 years ago show her husband Howard Bligh St. George looming large over the romantic couple.
Tyrone House and the St. George Family may be purchased for $50 by emailing Peter directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. It is also available on Amazon. Author Robert O’Byrne will being coming to Chicago for Royal Oak on March 29 and will speak at The Newberry Library on “English Country Houses.”