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Leonard Walter Jerome (November 3, 1817March 3, 1891) was a Brooklyn, New Yorkmarker financier and grandfather of Winston Churchill.

Early life and background

Leonard Jerome was the son of Aurora Murray and Isaac Jerome. Isaac was a distant descendant of Timothy Jerome, a Huguenot immigrant, who arrived in America in 1717. Leonard was born on a farm in upstate Pompey, New Yorkmarker. He studied law, graduated from Union Collegemarker, and set up practice in Rochester, New Yorkmarker. He later moved to New York Citymarker where he became a stock speculator and promoter.

New York city career

Jerome was a flamboyant and successful stock speculator. He made and lost several fortunes, and was known as "The King of Wall Streetmarker". He held interests in several railroad companies. He was a patron of the arts, and was the founder of Manhattanmarker's Academy of Music.

He was never majority shareholder in the New York Times newspaper, though this is sometimes erroneously claimed.

The Jerome mansion, on the corner of Madison Avenue and 26th Street, had a full theatre and lovely view of Madison Square Parkmarker. It was later sold and housed a series of private clubs. The mansion was torn down in 1967.

Sporting activities

Jerome was an avid sportsman. He enjoyed yachting with his friend, William K. Vanderbilt. They shared a special passion for thoroughbred horse racing and helped found the American Jockey Club.

In 1866, Jerome bought the estate and mansion of James Bathgate near Old Fordham Village in what was then rural Westchester Countymarker, but is now The Bronxmarker. Jerome and financier August Belmont, Sr. built Jerome Park Racetrack on the Bathgate land; the first Belmont Stakes was held there in 1867. The racetrack was acquired and demolished by the city in 1894, to make way for Jerome Park Reservoirmarker.

The Bathgate mansion served as a summer home for the Jerome family. In the early 1900's, the mansion was razed and replaced by the Kingsbridge Armorymarker

Jerome became a resident of Brooklyn. He, Vanderbilt, and other investors founded the Coney Island Jockey Club which in 1884 built the Sheepshead Bay Race Track.

Marriage and family

In 1849, he married Clara Hall (1825-1895) with whom he had four daughters. One daughter, Camille, died at age eight. The other three (Jennie, Clara, and Leonie) became known, in some quarters, as 'the Good, the Witty and the Beautiful.'

Leonard Jerome was rumored to be the father of the American opera singer Minnie Hauk. He also had an affair in the 1860s with Mrs. Pierre Lorillard Ronalds, then separated from her husband. Mrs. Ronalds later lived in London, where she remained a friend of Jerome's daughter Jennie.

Leonard Jerome's wealth afforded his daughters the opportunity to spend much time in Europe where they associated with the aristocratic elite of the day. All three married British husbands.

Jennie Jerome married Lord Randolph Churchill (1849–1895), younger son of the Duke of Marlborough, and was mother to Winston Churchill and another son.

Clarita Jerome, known as Clara, married Moreton Frewen (1853-1924), fifth son of Thomas Frewen MP, a charming spendthrift who ran up huge debts trying to operate a ranch in Wyomingmarker, and through gambling, sports, and women. They had two daughters.

Leonie Jerome married Sir John Leslie (1857-1944), an Irishmarker Baronet, whose family estates covered 70,000 acres. They had four sons.

Leonard Jerome died at the age of 73 in Brighton, Englandmarker. He is buried in the Green-Wood Cemeterymarker in Brooklyn.

Heritage

Jerome Avenue in Brooklyn, Jerome Avenue in the Bronx, and Jerome Park Reservoirmarker are all named for Leonard Jerome.

References

  • McNamara, John "History in Asphalt: The Origin of Bronx Street and Place Names" (1993) Bronx County Historical Society ISBN 978-0941980166


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