Certain Brief Conclusions

Jul 8, 2014 | 5 comments

Elizabeth Lambert Wood House

Elizabeth Lambert Wood House

I’ve always had a special fondness for the Elizabeth Lambert Wood house in north Long Beach and, by extension, for Elizabeth Lambert Wood herself. The house was built for her in 1898 – a wedding present from her father according to some accounts or perhaps, according to others, from her bridegroom. It was a “summer cottage” and Elizabeth (or ‘Bessie’ as her friends called her) lived there, on and off, until her death in 1962 at age 91.

On the third floor was her writing studio and above it a widow’s walk from which she could look over the vast Pacific, only a stone’s throw away when the house was first built. The house was known for three unique characteristics: it had the highest view point along the beach, it was closest to the ocean, and it was the farthest north – all features that have changed in the ensuing years.

I have been told that I attended a tea party in that house when I was three. Not that I was one of the invited guests, exactly. My mother and grandmother had been asked to come and for some reason (probably no one available to watch me) I was taken along. I often heard the story of how I discovered the cookies on the dining room table and busied myself eating them much to my mother’s embarrassment. I think it was Mrs. Wood who said, “Just let her be. It will be easier that way.”

Christmas Card

Christmas Card

Mrs. Wood was not only a successful author, but was also a tireless community benefactress. According to Frank Glenn III who, with his wife Candy, purchased the house in 1972, “She did a lot for Long Beach. She gave many, many books from her personal collection of children’s books to the Long Beach School Library. She also donated considerable acreage to the Lone Fir Cemetery and gave the land and the construction costs for the original Presbyterian Church in Long Beach – the building that is just south of the Long Beach School. For years, also, she conducted very well-attended Bible study classes in her living room and in later life she donated that wonderful stained glass window to the Episcopal Church.”

She endured a great deal of tragedy in her personal life, beginning with the death of her beloved son Lambert in 1918 – a lieutenant in France, killed in action during World War I. That was followed by her husband’s untimely death in 1923 and the apparent suicide of her daughter Helen in 1925. Mrs. Wood went on to raise Helen’s son, even changing his name to Lambert Alexander Wood II in honor of her own son. Ironically, this grandson Lambert also died young and in the service at the beginning of World War II.

"Certain Brief Conclusions"

“Certain Brief Conclusions”

So, yesterday when I was dusting the books in our library, I wasn’t sure at first which of the Lambert Wood’s letters were the basis for a book I ran across: Certain Brief Conclusions, From Selected Letters of Lambert Wood. It was published by Binfords & Mort, Portland, Oregon in 1939 and had a handwritten note on the frontispiece: With the compliments of the soldier-author’s mother, Elizabeth Lambert Wood. Tucked inside the book was a bright orange (yet formal-looking) card: “With Christmas Greetings from Elizabeth Lambert wood and Lambert Wood, Christmas, 1939.”

The contents of the book proved to be a collection of love letters written by Lambert (the elder) to an unnamed woman. The first was written February 23, 1917 in Williamstown, Massachusetts. There follow letters from “Sometime, 1917, at Sea on Transport” and then several dozen from France. The last is dated July 13, 1918, just six days before his death. I haven’t read them yet. Even though nearly a century has gone by since they were written, they seem too personal.

Yet I am curious about the title. Mrs. Wood must have felt it important to publish those letters. She gives no explanation – not of how she acquired the letters or of her decision to present them to the world. Or of why she chose to give the book as a Christmas gift from herself and her grandson.

So far, I have drawn no conclusions… brief or otherwise.

5 Comments

  1. Linda

    One of the things that I love about the peninsula is that so many of the old homes and buildings still remain. It seems that this wonderful house was a bed and breakfast at one time , but it must be operating under a different name now (the article I read was dated 2005) or has converted back to a private residence. Do you know the current status of this grand old lady? I was attempting to find the exact location for an up close and personal view (unless, of course, it is not visible any longer from public access). Thanks!

    Reply
    • sydney

      I don’t believe the house has ever been a Bed and Breakfast. The Glenns have owned it since the seventies and family members still live there. Are you sure you have the right house in mind?

      Reply
  2. Stephanie Frieze

    I was in the Elizabeth Lambert Wood House in the 1980s. Other than some horrifying green shag carpeting and some equally horrifying green bathroom appointments, I believe it looked much as it might have when you were a child. We even got to see the studio and widow’s walk.

    Reply
    • sydney

      I have no memory of my visit at age three but have been there since (and relatively recently) as friends own it now. I imagine, like you, that it is much the same.

      Reply
  3. Greg

    Could you send me an image of the house? I cannot save the image off this page…..which is good, actually

    Reply

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