Aug 04 2012

Southampton’s James L. Breese and the Vanderbilt Cup Races

James Lawrence Breese (1854-1934) was a wealthy stockbroker and renowned amateur photographer with a spectacular country home in Southampton.  Supported by a fortune made in finance at his firm Breese & Smith,  his real passions were photography, art, automobiles, racing and architecture. As seen here, he participated in the Ormond-Daytona Automobile Races and was a commissioner on the first two Vanderbilt Cup Race Commissions.


Howard Kroplick

James Breese's Southampton's house called "The Orchard" was one of the most prominent estates in the Hamptons and the United States. Built from 1895 to 1906, it was designed by McKim, Mead & White with Mount Vernon as the model for the main section. In 1916 Country Life listed it as one of "The Best Twelve Country Houses in America".

James Breese, William K. Vanderbilt, Jr., and other participants of the 1904 Daytona-Ormond Beach Automobile Races.

The Program Guide for the 1904 Vanderbilt Cup Race profiled Breese, a member of the Race Commission, and noted; "There is no better known Automobilist."

Breese (left) in front of the Press Box/Officials' Stand on Jericho Turnpike in Westbury. Referee William.K. Vanderbilt Jr. was standing behind him.

In the film of the 1904 Vanderbilt Cup Race, James Breese can be seen in the last seconds of the clip walking on the Jericho Turnpike Course

To Breese's right, driver Albert Clement Jr. was making his case to Vanderbilt that he had won the race. His protest failed and Clement finished second.

James Breese and his wife or daughter at the 1905 Daytona-Ormond Automobile Races.

James Breese participating in the 1904 Eagle Rock Hill Climb held in Edison, New Jersey.

For the 1905 Vanderbilt Cup Race, Breese returned as a commissioner on the Vanderbilt Cup Race Commission. He can be seen here (right) at the starting line next to referee William K. Vanderbilt Jr.

In the December 25, 1934 obituary, the New York Times noted; " n the sporting world, Mr. Breese constructed and operated racing cars which he entered in the popular races...He introduced the hobby of amateur color photography to this country."

Breese' Southampton home was included in 1980 on the National Register of National Places. It stands today at 151 Hill Street as a condominium and townhouse complex.

Additional Resources

James L. Breese and the Carbon Studio NYC- From Breeses's great-grandson Mark Breese Sink on

1915 Country Life "The Home of James L. Breese" "The Orchard"

The glass plates of James L. Breese

Library of Congress photos of "The Orchard"


Aug 05 2012 earl gandel 11:39 PM

Is this the same Breese who built the very small race car, pictures of which the Bridgehampton Historical Society has on file?  From about 1920, I think.  That car showed up at the Bridgehampton Rally about 5 years ago; don’t know who owns it.
Cheers,  Earl

Aug 07 2012 Howard Kroplick 1:56 PM

Earl, I believe that was James’ brother Sidney who was part of the BLM (Breese-Lawrence- Moulton) car:

Aug 07 2012 Howard Kroplick 1:57 PM

From Jeff B:

“Thank you for this.  Living in Southampton and not too far from this house, it was quite interesting to read the history of its owner.”

Aug 07 2012 Harry Bell 8:55 PM

Hi All

When I saw the name Breese the first thing I thought about were the Breese Carburetors of some years back. Maybe James or Sidney had something to do with the development of these carburetors. Any comments?

Aug 07 2012 Howard Kroplick 9:57 PM

From Mark Sink (Great-grandson of James Breese):

“Thank you Howard .. a few years ago it was very very exciting to come across this film and see him walking along the road there. It was like seeing a ghost.
Thank you for thinking of me.



Aug 08 2012 Jean-Yves Lassaux 7:10 AM


About James’ children:
- Sidney will be the “B” of B.L.M. Motor Car Co. (Charles Lawrance and Andrew Moulton).
- James Jr will be the chief engineer of the Curtiss NC4, the first plane to cross the Atlantic Ocean with stopovers in 1919.
- Robert will be in 1911 the builder of the roadster ” Breese Paris “, realized in France with a french engine Ballot.
- and a daughter Frances. (and I think this is her on the picture at Ormond, not her mother)

James always raced on Mercedes (18 hp, 35 hp, and 40 hp). He also owned a 60 hp which he lent to Henri Dolbeau, driver of the B.L.M. engaged in the Elimination Trial of the 1906 Vanderbilt Cup. On September 10th, Dolbeau destroys the Mercedes during recognitions of the Long Island course… And what happened then to the B.L.M. in this race is well known…

Best regards

Aug 08 2012 Howard Kroplick 3:34 PM

From Joshua Stoff (Curator, Cradle of Aviation):

“FYI, James Breese’s brother Sydney, produced basic training aircraft for the Air Service during World War One (also in Southampton0. we have the only surviving example in our collection. best, josh”

Aug 24 2014 kate 4:51 PM

I just found an old photograph in my grandmothers basement with James L. Breese’s signature It is a black and white with four horses pulling a wagon with it looks like some well to do folks on going past a bilding or outdoor seating area with several tall open archways There is also a stamp on botton left that says copyrighted by Breese studio with 1898 in the middle. I know my grandfather Bruno Beck had once designed a car that did not make it into production . Just wondering if they could be related somehow or if the photogragh could be worth something it is under glass in its original frame but has some slight mold damage
thank you
Catherine Beck

From Howard Kroplick

Catherine, James Breese was also a prominent photographer of his era as documented by one of his relatives Mark Breese Sink. Check out this link:

I would suggest contacting Mark about your discovery at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) .

Good luck!

Dec 26 2014 Mark Sink 7:19 PM

Hello Howard… i dropped in to see there is some recent comments .. my email has updated .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  ..  best Mark

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