Madame Sherri1878 - 1965
An eccentric Chesterfield resident and Manhattan costume designer.
Around 1878, Antoinette “Madame Sherri” Bramare was born in Paris, France. Little is known about her early life, including her family and education. And yet, “Madame Sherri” would become one of the most notorious party girls in the Roaring 20s. In her early years, Bramare danced in some of the trendiest clubs in France and sang in the Cabaret. Around 1909, she met her husband Anthony Macaluso, an American on the run from authorities and using the pseudonym “Andre Relia.”
By 1911, the couple had moved to New York City. Sherri worked as a costume designer on Broadway and Andre worked as a dancer. They eventually married in Puerto Rico, and by 1916, had opened the Andre-Sherri costume design shop in New York City. Madame Sherri’s costumes became very successful. It is rumored, that she designed costumes for the Ziegfeld Follies girls and Queen Mary.
In 1917, Madame Sherri’s husband Andre was hit by a car in a snowstorm, damaging his eyesight. His health continued to deteriorate over the years until his death in 1924. In her grief, Madame Sherri traveled to Chesterfield, NH, to visit actor friend, Jack Henderson. She quickly fell in love with the area, purchasing 588 acres of land with a farmhouse by Gulf Road in West Chesterfield around 1929.
In 1931, Madame Sherri started building her famed “castle” across the street from her farmhouse. Contractor after contractor found her difficult to work with as Madame Sherri continued to micro-manage and change the building plans. Some say that she designed the house like it was a dress, placing sticks in the ground and moving things around to form various parts that all came together.
The house had three floors designed for hosting parties. On the main floor, there was a bar, framed with the trunks of living trees that poked through the ceiling, and the basement was filled with tables draped in red tablecloths. The floors were covered in furs while portraits of famous people lined the walls and mirrors lined the bathrooms. Outside, a long stone staircase led to the third floor, which functioned as Madame Sherri’s private quarters. Madame Sherri was known for her dramatic entrances and extravagant costumes. She is rumored to have sat in a cobra-backed throne during parties, which she called “The Queen’s Throne.”
During prohibition, house parties at Madam Sherri’s castle were common. That era came to an end with the passage of the 21st Amendment, making alcohol manufacture and consumption legal once again. Many people went back to drinking in bars and Madame Sherri’s parties became less and less frequent. Still, Sherri spent her summers in Chesterfield and hosted guests.
Madame Sherri’s lavish lifestyle was funded primarily by her friend and former protege, Charles LeMaire. Around 1957, he stopped sending checks, and Madame Sherri became broke. Her health declined. In 1959, Sherri’s “castle” was vandalized, destroying furnishings. Heartbroken, Madame Sherri vowed not to return. Three years later, the house burned down completely, leaving only the stonework behind.
Sherri’s property was foreclosed on and purchased by Charles LeMaire. In 1965 he sold it to Ann Stokes, a Vermont artist. Stokes visited Sherr in her nursing home to tell her that she would take care of her land. The day after the property was officially sold, Madame Sherri died. Eventually, the land was donated to the Forest Society and was renamed Madame Sherri Forest. To this day, visitors walk the woods and see what’s left of her “castle”, including the striking stone staircase that used to lead to Madame Sherri’s quarters.
Bio by Grace Phippard
[for a longer version of this bio, contact the Historical Society of Cheshire County at email@example.com]