The first time I visited Philmont Scout Ranch was in 1984 when I attended Scoutmaster Fundamentals Training. The training center had been built near the Villa Philmonte, Waite Phillips home. It was a wonderful example of a southern home, complete with a courtyard and swimming pool. When I brought five Boy Scouts to Philmont for a ten day trek in 1986, I made sure the boys had the opportunity to tour the home of the man who gifted the land to the Boy Scouts of America. Here is an excerpt of the journal I kept of that trip:
That afternoon we took a tour of Waite Phillip’s home, the Villa Philmonte. We had walked around the grounds of the villa the day before. The outside only hinted at what the inside held in store we us to see. The first room we entered was the living room, and what a room it was. The room itself was nearly as big as some homes I have designed for people in Melrose. The room was fitted in luxury. Before the massive fireplace laid a bear skin rug, one of Mr. Phillip’s trophies. Placed along the west wall was an elegantly carved wooden chest depicting scenes of soldiers fighting a magnificent battle. A finely detailed model of a sailing vessel was shored on top the table and looked as if it was ready to head out to sea.
Then there was the piano. The do not remember the name of it but I do remember that it was only one of four to exist in the world. Our tour guide offered one scout in the group (not one from Troop 68) a chance to sit down and play a tune, but he declined the offered, muttering something about not being very good. I would not have thrown a chance like that away.
From the living room we marched up the grand staircase and toured the library, master bedroom and bath. Everyone seemed surprised to find two single beds in the master bedroom. Both beds had faces painted on the headboards. One face was smiling, while the other wore a frown. The story goes that Mrs. Phillips would chose which bed in which to sleep depending on her mood that evening.
The staircase leading to the lower level was almost as elaborate as the main staircase but was finished in a completely different decor. Mr. Phillips had this level designed and furnished to his own tastes. It was on this level the the trophy room and the “time with the boys” room was found. The trophy room was the only room in the house where the tour groups were allowed to touch anything, namely the stuffed animals and furs. The adults were allowed to sit in the chairs placed around the room.
A large painted portrait of Waite Phillips and his wife still hangs at the villa. The portrait used to hang above the fireplace in the living room until Mr. Phillips paid a visit to the ranch one time and saw it there. He asked the staff to remove it and hide it in a closet somewhere. He felt that by having it viewed above the fireplace people may feel as if they should be worshiping him. The staff respected his wish and moved it to a large closet on the lower level next to the trophy room, but it is still shown to all who take the tour of the villa.
The complete journal can be read at our troop’s website by clicking HERE.