Bondo Wyszpolski

Spirit of the Peninsula

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Author Vicki Mack. Photo by Bondo Wyszpolski

Spirit of the Peninsula

Peninsula founder Frank Vanderlip has seemingly lived in Vicki Mack’s downstairs office, and very likely he’s still there

by Bondo Wyszpolski

Bank president Frank Vanderlip

Vicki Mack has put so much heart and soul into her book about Frank Arthur Vanderlip that her husband even thought that she was going to leave him for her, despite the fact that Vanderlip, the patriarch of the Peninsula, died in 1937.

Vicki is a noted author and photographer (her resume includes photo shoots with six U.S. presidents, among countless celebrities) who lives in Palos Verdes Estates. She had never intended to write about the elder Vanderlip, but one day at a luncheon she met Don Christy, who’d been the stepson of Vanderlip’s son, John, and had lived in The Cottage (built in 1916, although rebuilt a couple of years back), which was originally part of the vast Vanderlip estate and is just a few yards away from Villa Narcissa.

At this luncheon, which took place at The Cottage and had as its agenda the Palos Verdes Historical Homes Tour, she overheard someone say to Don that he should write a book since he knew so much local history. He replied, “I always wanted to, but I don’t know how.” Perhaps emboldened by her second glass of wine, Vicki interjected, “Well, you know, I could help you with that.” The result was a book they co-authored called “Up Around the Bend.”

Frank and Narcissa Vanderlip in Palos Verdes, 1931

Later, Don said, “Vicki, you need to write a book on Frank Vanderlip.” (In 1913, Frank Vanderlip, a New York banker at the time, had purchased the entire Palos Verdes Peninsula, 16,000 acres, and naturally had big plans for it, although very few of them were ever realized on account of the 1929 financial crisis)

Vicki replied that writing a book about Frank Vanderlip was the family’s job, not hers, but Don told her that no one was doing it. “So that’s when he gave me his copy of the autobiography,” Vicki says. “As I read his book, I started getting a sense of who he was.” She knew about his owning the Peninsula, but she hadn’t known that he’d also helped found the Federal Reserve and had consorted with prominent public figures in New York and Washington, D.C.

She accepted the task. Narcissa Vanderlip, Frank Vanderlip’s granddaughter, asked Vicki how long she thought the writing would take. “I said, Oh, probably three months. And she goes, Vicki, there’s no way you can write a book on Frank in three months.”

Narcissa was right. “Nine months later I finished the first round, and Kelvin (the elder Vanderlip’s grandson) said, You know, Vicki, this is only your first edition. And I said, Naaaah, this is it. And he said, No, you’re going to learn so much more after it gets published.”

Kelvin was right. The book, “Frank A. Vanderlip: The Banker Who Changed America,” was published in 2013, but Vicki has indeed discovered new material since, and she’s seriously thinking of another edition. “What I’d like to do this time is a little more scholarly because I have so much more information now, particularly on the founding of the Federal Reserve. I think I’ve put some things together in ways that other people haven’t because of the background knowledge I have on Frank.” This would include financing related to World War I and Japanese immigration in the 1920s. “He was quite strong on the fact that he didn’t like the way the Japanese people were being treated.”

The front cover of Vicki Mack’s biography of Peninsula founder Frank A. Vanderlip

Vicki Mack can entertain you for hours about Frank Vanderlip, whom she affectionately began calling simply “Frank” because Vanderlip had complained that no one ever used his first name but always addressed him as “Mr. Vanderlip” or “Mr. Van.” This led to an amusing incident at home one day.

Each morning at 9 a.m. Vicki would head downstairs to her office to work on the manuscript. Her husband, David, would ask her where she was going that day. “And I’d reply, Well, we’re off to the Spanish American War, or, We’re dealing with his time in Washington, or whatever.”

So one day, as she’d picked up her coffee cup and was headed to her office, he asked and she replied, “I’m off to bury Frank. And he said, I knew it! I knew it was going to happen! And I said, Well, you know I’ve come to the end; it’s going to happen sometime.

“He thought what I’d said was, ‘I’m off to marry Frank.’”

She then adds, “To me he’s just Frank, and I joked that he lives in my office. He died in 1937 but he’s really alive and well in my office.

“So that’s kind of how it all came to be.”

Now, in the works is a documentary about Frank Vanderlip that was first shown at the Norris Theatre in Rolling Hills Estates in 2015 but is being re-edited. “We need to do some different things to get it sold for TV,” she adds, but Vicki Mack is adamant about my stressing that “none of this would have happened if it weren’t for Don Christy.” Husband David was supportive throughout the process, but Don pushed her until it was completed. That’s no small thing.

Frank A. Vanderlip: The Banker Who Changed America, by Vicki A. Mack, is available from Pinale Press, P.O. Box 293, Palos Verdes Estates, CA 90274. More information is at vickimack.com. PEN

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