If this grand estate looks familiar to you, it is because it still stands on Eden Road, where it is now known as the Rocky Shores Manor. At the time of this photo, which was around 1910, the estate was called Widcombe-by-the-Sea and was the summer home of Francis Smith of San Antonio, Texas. Note the view of the Twin Lights in the background.
Smith bought the property — some 80,000 square feet of land — in 1909 from Arthur Lyman. The sale was reported in the Boston Evening Transcript on Oct. 2, 1909, where the item noted, “It is believed that Mr. Smith will erect a dwelling house on the property.” Some dwelling house!
Four years later, on June 30, 1913, the Boston Evening Transcript had this item:
Mrs. Francis Smith Routledge of San Antonio, Tex., is spending the summer at Rockport, Cape Ann, where Mr. and Mrs. Francis Smith, also of San Antonio, are at their summer cottage, “Widcombe-by-the-Sea,” for the season.
As for where Francis Smith got the money to build such a grand home, it appears he had been the head of a San Antonio investment firm. I found this reference which says that, in 1883, Smith and a partner founded the investment firm Francis Smith, Caldwell and Company. The firm acted “as a financial liaison between Texas farmers and ranchers seeking money to expand their land and agriculture operations, and British and Scottish financiers who had money to lend and were looking for greater returns on their investments than European markets could.” Later, Smith and his lawyer, Henry Patrick Drought, bought out his first partner’s interest in the firm and renamed it Francis Smith and Co. In 1900, Smith retired and the company was renamed H.P. Drought and Company.
This appears to be a real-photo postcard, suggesting Smith himself had it made.