She had a marvelous time, ruining everything. Who was Rebekah Harkness and how is she connected to Taylor Swift?
Taylor Swift's song "The Last Great American Dynasty" from Folklore tells the story of a woman named Rebekah and all the adventures she has in her coastal home named Holiday House. But what is Taylor's connection to the story? And is it real?
When I first heard the song, I was immediately transported to a different place and time (I guess Blondie sort of has a knack for that kind of thing) and I wondered if it was something Taylor had thought up in her head or if it was based on a true story. It turns out that the connection is even more amazing than I initially thought.
Let's discuss the woman behind "The Last Great American Dynasty" - Rebekah Harkness.
The Last Great American Dynasty is a song by Taylor Swift from her album Folklore. It talks about a woman named Rebekah marrying an oil heir and buying a house on the coast. In the house they have parties and the people of the town start to believe that Rebekah "ruined everything" with all of her eccentricities.
The song is about Rebekah Harkness, a real socialite who lived from 1915-1982.
In the song, Taylor explains that Rebekah and her new husband "picked out a home and called it 'Holiday House'". Holiday House is a real mansion on the Rhode Island coast of Watch Hill. In the song, Taylor explains that Holiday House was the site of many flamboyant parties, even mentioning that Rebekah "filled the pool with champagne".
The house has also been referred to as the Harkness House and High Watch.
Taylor Swift wrote a song about Rebekah and Holiday House because she purchased the home for $17.5 million in 2013. There are many parallels between Rebekah's high profile life and Taylor's. Both women were subject to media scrutiny and disapproval from neighbors.
Undoubtedly, Taylor found the history of the property to be fitting for her as Rebekah seemed to experience similar life struggles.
Originally built in 1930, Taylor uses the historic mansion as a summer getaway. Although she owns many real estate properties, Holiday House is one of Taylor's favorite places to get away from the city.
Taylor used to host large 4th of July parties at Holiday House with many a celebrity present. It's been a few years since she's publicly hosted bashes, but she's still the owner of the estate.
Allegedly, Taylor has received her fair share of scrutiny from the residents of Watch Hill, many of them complaining about her high-profile presence causing traffic and delays for the small town. Holiday House includes its own private beach and some residents were dissatisfied with Taylor's intentions to enforce that privacy on beachgoers.
Rebekah Harkness was a wealthy socialite who owned Holiday House with her husband Bill. The song mentions that "Bill was the heir to the Standard Oil name, had money. And the town said, 'How did a middle class divorcé do it?'" She was married 4 times in her life, but inherited a large sum of wealth when she married her second husband Bill.
Bill passed away in 1954, 7 years after they married. Taylor's song implies that the town believed (most likely wrongfully) that Rebekah's partying and antics may have contributed to Bill's declining health.
Rebekah was a dancer and formed a group of women called "The Bitch Pack" that enjoyed avoiding society events and having fun independently.
In Taylor's song, she mentions that "[Rebecca's] saltbox house on the coast took her mind off St. Louis." When she married Bill, they picked out a home in Rhode Island and called it "Holiday House".
Rebekah Harkness married William "Bill" Hale Harkness in 1947. He was her second husband and they were married until his death in 1954.
Rebekah was married 4 times. She had 3 children.
In "The Last Great American Dynasty", Taylor sings, "And in a feud with her neighbor, she stole his dog and dyed it a key lime green." There are few differing accounts of this, as some remember her dying a dog and others remember her dying a cat key lime green.
It was widely known that Rebekah's eccentricity was not fully accepted in Rhode Island society at the time.
Rebekah Harkness died on June 17, 1982 of stomach cancer. She was 67 years old.
It was reported that Rebekah would entertain a variety of famous guests, one of which was Salvador Dalí, whom she would frequently gamble with. He designed her urn when she passed away.
Taylor never met Rebekah as she passed away in 1982, 7 years before Taylor was born. But since Taylor lives in her old home, I'm sure she feels her presence from time to time!
Did you know that "The Last Great American Dynasty" was based on a real person? It's actually one of my favorite songs from Folklore and it makes it even better that it's about the previous owner of Taylor's House, Rebecca Harkness.