The Cartwright homestead was not large enough to meet the needs of the Smith family nor Frank’s expectations of a worthy estate, so he commissioned local builder Elias Havens Payne to build a house which they attached to the old homestead with a breezeway. Frank’s biographer, George H. Hildebrand in Borax Pioneer, described the house: “...the shingle style was used, ...they were painted white while the windows were given shutters painted dark green. The placement of the four great columns along the porch of the main front, which faced south, gave Presdeleau a colonial appearance, although there was no strict rigidity of style imposed upon the building. For instance, the Cartwright section also had four columns, smaller in size, and topped by a classical Greek pediment, while the new section had its large columns terminating in support of a plate beam, above which were the hip roof and dormer windows of the third floor. At its eastern end, the porch of the house was formed into a large and graceful semi-circle. Inside, the first floor contained a living room and a dining room just behind the columns, paneled in solid oak, while the semi-circular end contained similar rooms, screened in and capable of closure for winter. On the north side, a kitchen and pantry wing, with servants quarters above, was provided. Many years later, a new section was added to the second floor of the new part of the house including an outer screened porch over the semi-circular wing and two new bedrooms. At this time, the third floor already had five bedrooms, while its semi-circular section became a large open deck porch.
“At its peak, Presdeleau consisted of 35 rooms and had cost approximately $250,000 to build. Many years later, in 1924, the old Cartwright wing was torn down, leaving the new house with linear dimensions of 50 by 150 feet. As always when F M. Smith did any building, he used the finest of materials throughout. However, the glory of Presdeleau lay less in the splendor of the house and its furnishings than in the magnificence of its setting, particularly after the changes Borax Smith had made in the early years of his ownership.
“At the water’s edge of his property, there was a tidal creek leading in from the cove. ‘We ought to plant something there. What would go good in that location?’ Smith asked Ollie Wells, one of his caretakers. The laconic reply was typical of the New England style of speech of the old inhabitants: ‘Well, why not salt water, then you could grow clams.’ After enjoying a laugh, Smith immediately saw the practicality of the idea. He then had tidal gates installed and some dredging done, and soon he had a permanent supply of clams, oysters, crabs, and eels. His next move was to order some punts of the Cambridge style, from England, for use in this inlet. Then he turned to Ernest Ransome [the architect] ... to construct a Japanese-style arch bridge in concrete to cross the inlet at its outer end.
“Piece by piece, more comforts were added—a cabin on Cedar Island for clambakes, bath houses along the shore, a landing dock for the captain’s gig from the steam yacht, a float for swimmers, and a large second dock for landing coal and supplies. Smith also had a lengthy and massive sea wall built behind the margin of the beach, to check erosion by winter storms. Trees were planted all around the property. Along the Presdeleau section of the South Ferry Road, he had a neat row of poplars set along the entire length of the property... A 12-foot wire mesh fence was built to enclose the deer park, and shipped in from California were deer whose descendants still roam the wilder parts of the island. Along the east side of the main road, Smith had a handsome, white criss-cross fence installed, adding further to the neatness and beauty of the estate.”
Hildebrand also tells of two tenants who occupied small houses on the land he purchased. Esther Sarah Havens, a retired school teacher lived in a small house which Frank improved and presented it to her for her lifetime. Frank made the same arrangement with “Old Man” Crook; when he died, the house was moved nearer to the main house and turned into a guest house.
Gertrude Tuthill Robinson, a local resident, in 1962, remembered that when the first telephone office was established in Prince’s Store in 1897 (later the Remington Haven store next to Dawson’s Market on Grand Avenue), the first eight phones included the Smith household.
The Family Routine