Early in the morning, early in the century, it happened: Solterra caught fire. Built by charter member Frederick Baker in 1890, the house was an emblem of the nineteenth century: proper, discrete, upright. The old century seemed to be going up in smoke.
Many of the house servants and club employees were summoned to assist Mrs. Baker remove what furniture and personal affects they could before the whole building was engulfed in flames.
Apparently it was a faulty flue that caused the fire. Without all of the fire equipment needed for such a blaze, there was nothing left of the house except for a chimney that stood tall above the ashes.
Merchant of Manhattan
City of ships! (O the black ships! O the fierce ships!
O the beautiful sharp-bow'd steam-ships and sail-ships!)
City of the world! (for all races are here,
All the lands of the earth make contributions here;)
City of the sea! City of hurried and glittering tides!
City of Wharves and shores - city of tall facades of marble and iron!
Proud and Passionate city - mettlesome, mad, extravagant city!
Ah, what can ever be more stately and admirable to me
than mast-hemm'd Manhattan?
River and sunset and scallop-edg'd wave of flood-tide?
—Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass,1892
Amidst the traders, sailors, residents, and immigrants was Frederic Baker. His company, Baker and Williams, a company of warehouses, started in the late 1860's on Water Street. Soon it grew and included warehouses on West, South, Front, and Laigh Streets, the Manhattan trading center that is now known simply as "Wall Street." Baker was strictly a businessman until his fifties when he finally wed Frances Emma Steers Lake. Joining the Jekyll Island Club in 1888, they were part of the first group of cottage owners.
A new century, a new cottage
After the fire Mrs. Baker was determined to rebuild. However, her enthusiasm waned and she eventually decided against rebuilding, selling the lot to Richard Teller Crane Jr. His cottage created quite a stir when proposed. It was the largest, most expensive cottage within the club compound. Crane Cottage was outfitted with numerous bathrooms, of course: Mr. Crane was the president of the Crane Company, which specialized in valves and plumbing fixtures.