British and European portraits and tapestries at the Chateau Chavaniac—a retreat built by Allan P. Kirby ’15 in the 1930s and given to the College in mid-1980s. The “Chateau,” inspired by the birthplace of the Marquis de Lafayette, is located about a mile from campus. The Chateau and its contents was given to the College in 1985.
Research on the artwork is an ongoing project.
Chateau Chavaniac was endowed and given to the College in 1983 by the children of Allan P. Kirby ’15, who comprise the directors of the F. M. Kirby Foundation, Inc. of Morristown, New Jersey.
Designed by Donald Innes, of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in the Norman French style and named for the birthplace of the Marquis de Lafayette near Clermont-Ferrance, France, the Chateau was built by the late Allan P. Kirby in 1932 after a trip to France. Construction took eight months to complete. From then until 1967, he used the Chateau as his residence in Easton when the Lafayette football team played at home, when the Board of Trustees was in session, for business conferences, but primarily for reunions with classmates, family and friends.
Chateau Chavaniac perches almost at the top of Paxinosa Ridge, formerly known as Mount Weygadt. From its terrace, one looks down on the Lafayette campus, scarcely a mile by line of sight, and on the City of Easton beyond.
A most spectacular feature of the Chateau is its Great Hall, 50 feet long, 30 feet wide, and some 23 feet high at the peak of the roof supported by hand-hewn, mortised beams. Also included are a smaller sitting room, 3 bedrooms, and 4 bathrooms on the main floor; a large open room, most recently used as a conference room, and bathroom on the second floor; and a dining room, a caretaker’s apartment and service areas on the lower floor.
In the dining room is a weight-driven rotisserie. However, the weight must be cranked up every two or three minutes and so it is not a particularly convenient way to cook a large roast. The origin of the fireplace is unknown.
There is an imposing combination wood-coal stove with warming ovens, manufactured by Pittston Stove Works in Pittston, Pa., in the kitchen which was reportedly used regularly in the 30’s and 40’s.
Mr. Kirby’s interest in history, art—especially portraiture, General Lafayette, and Lafayette College are evident throughout the Chateau. The paintings were assembled with the assistance of Emanuel. J. Rousack, who owner of Scott & Fowles, and later vice president of Wildenstein and Company, both art galleries in New York City. Rousack also assisted in assembling the “Kirby Collection of Historical Paintings,” many of which hang in Kirby Hall of Civil Rights. Unlike the Kirby Collection, which consists of American portraits and history paintings, the paintings at the Chateau are of American, British, and European subjects.