Historic NEW ENGLAND
FA L L 2 0 0 9
DRAWING TOWARD HOME
FROM THE CHAIR
The purpose of this magazine has always been to share our vast resources and expertise with our membership. In this issue, we are honored to include articles written by outside writers as well as staff. Noted architectural historian and author James O’Gorman contributed an insightful essay on our forthcoming exhibition, Drawing Toward Home, and conservator Debora Mayer describes the process of treating these fragile drawings so they may safely go on tour. Beverly K. Brandt, professor at Arizona State University, writes about the role of Boston’s Society of Arts and Crafts in furthering aesthetic reform at the turn of the twentieth century. Artist and teacher Ati Gropius Johansen explains adapting Bauhaus educational methods for young audiences. Caroline Craig reminisces about her years cooking for Bertram K. and Nina Fletcher Little. And American furniture expert Kemble Widmer explains how, through physical examination and documentary research, he and fellow connoisseurs were able to pinpoint the origin and history of a much admired but hitherto unidentified eighteenth-century chest. In 2010, Historic New England celebrates its one hundredth year with numerous special public-oriented programs, including being featured at New York’s Winter Antiques Show in January. We will keep you informed on the many ways you can take part in celebrating the region’s rich cultural heritage.
Historic NEW ENGLAND Fall 2009 Vol. 10, No. 2
Reforming Interior Design 2
Drawing Toward Home 12 S P OT L I G H T
Antiques Showcase 9
C R E AT I V E L E A R N I N G
An Awakened Eye M A K I N G F U N O F H I S TO RY
Gropius and Modern Design 18
K I T C H E N S TO R I E S
Cooking for the Littles
Gifts Inspired by History P R E S E RVAT I O N Historic New England 141 Cambridge Street Boston MA 02114-2702 (617) 227-3956 HISTORIC NEW ENGLAND magazine is a benefit of membership. To join Historic New England, please visit our website, HistoricNew England.org or call (617) 227-3956. Comments? Please call Nancy Curtis, editor. Historic New England is presented by the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities. It is funded in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Executive Editor Diane Viera
Editor Nancy Curtis
Design DeFrancis Carbone
Elevation of an unidentified residence, c. 1855. Alexander Esty, architect. COVER
Sleeper’s Outdoor Rooms OPEN HOUSE
Sleuthing a Masterwork BEHIND THE SCENES
Fit for Travel AC Q U I S I T I O N S
Coming Home Except where noted, all historic photographs and ephemera are from Historic New England’s Library and Archives.
The award-winning Historic New England magazine is a benefit of membership.To join, please visit www.HistoricNewEngland.org
S P O T L I G H T
Showcase Peter Harholdt
High Chest. Boston, Massachusetts, 1735–45. Gift of Edmund Quincy.
or fifty-six years, the windswept steps of the National Historic Landmark Park Avenue Armory in New York City have been the January destination for antiques collectors from across America, leading to what has become America’s most prestigious venue for fine and decorative arts, the Winter Antiques Show. Founded in 1954 to benefit the East Side House Settlement, a social service organization supporting families and community development, the Winter Antiques Show (www.winterantiquesshow.com) has long set the standard for antiques shows nationwide. It sparked the creation of “Americana Week” in New York, where exhibits, auctions, and events celebrate collecting. Attracting top American and international dealers and celebrity crowds, the 56th Winter Antiques Show will be held from January 22 to 31, 2010, in New York City, with the celebrated opening night party on Thursday, January 21. Each year the show presents a loan exhibition, sponsored by Chubb Personal Insurance, as the centerpiece of the installation in the impressive armory drill hall, with strong competition among institutions for this coveted opportunity for high visibility among collectors and colleagues. Recent exhibitors have included Mount Vernon, the Winterthur Museum, and Colonial Williamsburg. In celebration of our centennial, the 2010 exhibition will be Colonial to Modern: A Century of Collecting at Historic New England. In keeping with the antiques and works of art showcased at the show, where each object is authenticated by a committee of 160 experts and range in date from antiquity to 1969, Historic New England will present a survey exhibit showing some of the finest objects from our collection of nearly four hundred years of New England heritage. Our focus will be great objects with great stories— such as the Quincy family’s Boston-made Japanned high chest, a tour de force of furniture, which comes from one of New England’s most influential families and has survived two fires. Historic New England has long been active at the Winter Antiques Show, working with dealers who support our collecting efforts, and hosting an annual reception for Appleton Circle members at a different private home or collection each year. For 2010, the organization’s involvement will be expanded with participation at the opening night party and through a series of lectures about our properties, collections and work, which will be offered for the public in the historic Veterans Room, designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany and fellow members of Associated Artists. — Carl R. Nold, President and CEO
Fall 2009 Historic New England
Reforming Interior Design
uring the second half of the nineteenth century, two movements profoundly affected interior
design in Boston: the Aesthetic and the Arts and Crafts. Boston was the center in the United States for the Aesthetic movement during the period from 1875 to 1890, and the American branch of the Arts and Crafts movement originated in Boston with the founding of The Society of Arts and Crafts (SACB) in 1897— the oldest, continuously operating organization of its type in the country. Both movements focused upon design reform, though each interpreted this impulse differently. Boston’s cultural climate—with its emphasis upon art, architecture, education, and publishing—provided an ideal setting for the quest for beauty and usefulness that each movement promoted. The Aesthetic movement emphasized living beautifully among beautiful things in reaction to the gritty realities of the Industrial Age, while the Arts and Crafts movement focused
upon the interior’s potential to mold the inhabitant’s character. Additionally, it sought to unify exterior and interior holistically, as a way of imposing order upon the hodgepodge atmosphere of the late Victorian period. Both incorporated the unique, handmade, or antique to counteract the crass commercialism of mass production. Period photographs, book illustrations, trade cards, and advertisements provide vivid testimony to the impact of these two movements and demonstrate the sophistication of the late nineteenth-century Boston interior. In 1877, American critic, editor, and author Clarence Cook wrote his seminal book, The House Beautiful. Its frontispiece, “My Lady’s Chamber,” by the English artist and theorist Walter Crane, features a charming domestic scene
FACING PAGE Walter Crane, frontispiece for Clarence Cook’s The House Beautiful, 1877. ABOVE LEFT Morning room,T. Quincy Browne house, Boston, c. 1882. ABOVE RIGHT Illustration in a Barstow Stove Company catalogue, c. 1886.
Fall 2009 Historic New England
ABOVE Sitting room, 348 Beacon Street, Boston, 1880s. Allen & Kenway, architects. Soule Art Company photograph.
epitomizing everything that an attractive home should be according to the tenets of the Aesthetic movement. The impact in Boston of The House Beautiful may be attributed to Cook’s references to local shops and New England antiques, and to Crane’s popularity. In 1891, Crane came to town to display watercolors at the Museum of Fine Arts and to lecture on art, ornament, and interior décor at a meeting of the Boston Society of Architects. For decades following the book’s publication, Bostonians adhered to Cook’s advice in furnishing their homes. In “My Lady’s Chamber,” a young woman pours tea before a fireplace in an elegant drawing room. At her feet, a cat lapping from a saucer reinforces the mood of domestic harmony and comfortable coziness. “Sweetness and light” were two qualities that aesthetes prized in contrast to the darkness and overcrowding of the typical late-Victorian interior. For inspiration, they turned to the pre-industrial era, collecting antiques from the 1690s to 1820s that reminded them of quieter and more gracious days. Crane’s illustration shows a mantelpiece with classical fluting and dentil molding, a convex mirror—popular during the English Regency and American Federal eras—and cabinets with delicate glazing bars and segmental pediments, typical of the works of the 4
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Englishmen George Hepplewhite and Thomas Sheraton. The chair to the lady’s back has the square-cut, tapered legs of the Classical Revival, and even the cloth-covered “spider” tea table represents the lightness of scale popular in furnishings from the late eighteenth century. Touches specifically associated with the Aesthetic movement include blue-and-white ceramics: tiles—possibly Dutch delft—embellish the fireplace surround, while vases and plates crowd both the mantel ledge and the hanging cupboard. The covered temple jars—at either end of the mantel—may be Chinese. The fans reflect a newer craze, brought about by the opening of trade with Japan in the 1850s, which increased the availability of inexpensive imports. Related is the chair in the right foreground, whose light scale, svelte lines, pseudo-bamboo turnings, and ebonized finish characterize the Anglo-Japanese style, a hybrid product of designers striving to blend vernacular (or folk) with Asian. Finally, the bellows hanging from the dado features a repoussé heart motif. It conveys a sentiment—espoused by design reformers as varied as English architect C.F.A. Voysey and American architect Frank Lloyd Wright—that the hearth was the heart of the home. The only elements conspicuous by their absence are aesthetes’ favorite flowers, either the lily
Cover of sample brochure for the Strathmore Paper Company, c. 1910. ABOVE RIGHT Foyer or sunroom, c. 1925.William T. Clark photograph. ABOVE LEFT
(synonymous with innocence or “sweetness”) or the sunflower (symbolic of “light”). Note the latter in a trade card for art potter Abram French & Co., (contents page). “My Lady’s Chamber” reveals the complexity of the Aesthetic interior as representative of design reform. Drawing in turn from the pre-industrial era, the Far East (and Middle East, in the form of oriental rugs), the vernacular, and nature, it emphasized delicacy and sophistication, a love of the rare, exquisite, and handmade, a quietude and nostalgia bordering upon escapism. My Lady might feel instantly at home in the morning room of the Quincy Browne house at 98 Beacon Street. Altered by architect Herbert Browne for his father c. 1882, the room incorporates recycled architectural antiques, including an elegant neo-classical mantel edged with (possibly blue-and-white) ceramic tile. The Hepplewhite-type armchair closely parallels the one in Crane’s illustration. And the delicate, painted fancy chairs that ring the tea tables are skeletal in the manner of Crane’s Anglo-Japanese example. The cornice, which spans the built-in cabinetry, mantel ledge, and corner cupboard, features an encrustation of ceramics— many Asian—indicative of the porcelain mania from which many aesthetes suffered.
Boston’s manufacturers recognized the appeal of reformed Aesthetic interiors. An advertisement from a Barstow Stove Company trade catalogue shows a young mother pouring tea who might feel equally comfortable in “My Lady’s Chamber.” At her feet, a little child warms its hands near a pierced metal grille connected to a basementlevel furnace. The spindly Amero-Oriental tea table (a spinoff of the Anglo-Japanese style) contrasts markedly with the Turkish-influenced couch, on which a guest perches daintily. Aesthetic bric-a-brac abounds here, a counterpoint to the functional simplicity of the furnace on the level below. The fur rug in the Barstow advertisement is not dissimilar from the tiger pelt evident at 348 Beacon Street. Associated with the architectural firm Allen & Kenway— Francis R. Allen would become a member of the SACB—this room (captured in a Soule Art Company photograph) exudes the spirit of aestheticism. Note the overmantel with convex mirror, the porcelain mania, objets d’art, musical instruments, and contrast between overstuffed seating furniture and delicate side tables. This tasteful mélange offers something for the eye from every angle. Yet, the dominant feature is the exotic wall covering embellished with a Japanese flying
Fall 2009 Historic New England
Antiques Room at the Jordan Marsh Company, Boston, c. 1926. ABOVE RIGHT Catalogue cover for Daniel Low & Co., Salem, Massachusetts, c. 1927.
crane motif. Comfortable, cultivated, and quirky, this interior is the essence of Boston sophistication. Around 1900, a new influence began transforming Boston’s interiors—the Craftsman, which grew out of the Arts and Crafts movement and replaced dainty fussiness with greater strength and restraint. A paper brochure, titled “The Craftsman Look,” features an interior that is both similar to but distinct from “My Lady’s Chamber,” epitomizing this shift. A young woman in a flowing gown arranges flowers in a large vase supported by a sturdy trestle table. In the foreground stands an armchair framed of heavy square-cut posts and wide seat rails, its only ornament a slight shaping to the crest rail and two large ball finials. Its straight back and crisp right angles provide a character-building seat for the pragmatic user. The room presents a place for everything—sturdy bookcase and window seat—and everything seems to be in its place. A key distinction between the Aesthetic versus the Craftsman interior is the emphasis that the latter places on the interior architecture: heavy beams call attention to the skeleton of the structure. A picture molding creates a restful horizontal line along the walls and a practical means for arranging art. The room is devoid of ornamental motifs and 6
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decorative patterns; to paraphrase Frank Lloyd Wright, it successfully “eliminates the inessential.” The severity of this Craftsman interior shows the radical progression of design reform from the 1880s to the early 1900s. A period photograph by William T. Clark illustrates a foyer (or possibly a sunroom) from the 1920s that continues in this vein. Both bench and center table show the trestle-end construction seen in the Strathmore advertisement. A chair in the back right corner exhibits the same solid sturdiness of the “Craftsman Look” armchair. Wickerwork and rush seats provide handcrafted texture and an alternative to thick cushions. The floor runner—combining a Greek key motif with Islamic strapwork—resembles rugs purveyed by Gustav Stickley, whose magazine, The Craftsman, marketed the Arts and Crafts movement and design reform to middle-class Americans nationwide. One exotic touch—a glass hanging lantern with enameled floral decoration—provides a vestige of aestheticism. Throughout this room, the interior architecture asserts itself in a forthright fashion. Strong geometry— the grid of the window mullions, tiled floor, angular furniture, trellis that outlines the shallow arch of the ceiling— imposes unity.
Smoking room display at the Jordan Marsh Company, Boston, c. 1906. ABOVE LEFT, BELOW Studio in the T. Quincy Browne house, 98 Beacon Street, Boston, designed by Herbert ABOVE LEFT, TOP
Consumers interested in design reform incorporated Aesthetic or Craftsman touches within their homes and relied upon local manufacturers and merchants to supply appropriate products. One that catered to myriad tastes in home furnishings was Boston’s Jordan Marsh Company, which featured an Antiques Room replete with furniture in the Queen Anne, Chippendale, and Pillar-and-Scroll styles. (English styles predominate, although the chair in the front right shows strong influence of seventeenth-century France.) These sorts of pieces would have delighted aesthetes or accommodated those interested in the Colonial Revival. Similarly, the cover of the catalogue for Daniel Low & Co., in Salem, Massachusetts, c. 1927, caters to a taste for antiquarianism that continued well into the twentieth century. Striking is the similarity of this image to that of “My Lady’s Chamber” from fifty years earlier—right down to the fireplace bellows. Only the gender of the occupant varies. In an effort to keep up with the latest trends, Jordan Marsh also catered to those with a taste for the “Craftsman Look.” One advertisement features a smoking room from a suite in which Gustav Stickley might have felt at home: simple geometric forms, practical upholstery, and elegant electric luminaries create a sense of order. A decorative frieze above
Browne, c. 1882. ABOVE RIGHT Music room in Arthur Little’s house, 2 Raleigh Street, Boston.
a prominent horizontal molding allows art and interior architecture to blend seamlessly. Repetition of straight lines and right angles establishes unity. Stiff chair backs reinforce the character-building practicality of this clean-lined room, which neatly blends usefulness with beauty. Tastes for aestheticism or the Arts and Crafts were not mutually exclusive. Sometimes an interior would blend elements of both, as evident in the Beacon Street studio Herbert Browne designed for his father c. 1882. Such touches as the floral and foliate pokerwork panel to the left of the fireplace—note the almost Japanese quality of these motifs— combined with the wicker armchair and surfaces strewn with tasteful bric-a-brac are evidence of the Aesthetic movement. By contrast, the sturdy fireplace with built-in settle bench, and sgraffito plasterwork that enlivens the tall chimneystack are typical Arts and Crafts elements. Built-in furnishings were one means of organizing interior space and linking furniture with structure. The incised line work in the plaster chimney coating introduces a touch of the hand. Presumably, Herbert Browne became aware of such English Arts and Crafts traits from traveling abroad or perusing architectural publications. That he and his partner, Arthur Little, never joined the SACB—despite their obvious affinity for design Fall 2009 Historic New England
ABOVE Studio of Henry Hobson Richardson, Brookline, Massachusetts, c 1885.
reform—remains one mystery surrounding the story of the Arts and Crafts movement in Boston. A room from Arthur Little’s own house at 2 Raleigh Street illustrates a presence from the classical past—namely, the Winged Victory of Samothrace—that was ubiquitous in Boston interiors regardless of their style, so much so that it invited comment by the English author H.G. Wells in his 1906 book, The Future of America. “It is incredible how many people in Boston have selected her for their aesthetic symbol and expression. Always that lady was in evidence about me, unobtrusively persistent.” Her lithe dynamic form, symbolic of triumph and evocative of female beauty, must have appealed to cultured Boston households. Even Henry Hobson Richardson, mentor to many of Boston’s key Arts and Crafts architects whom he trained in his Brookline, Massachusetts, studio, included a photograph of the Winged Victory in his book-lined office. Considered by many to be father of the Arts and Crafts movement in Boston, Richardson blended Morris & Co. textiles with Asian imports, antiques, and objets d’art. The resulting artistic mélange established a precedent in interior décor that many of Richardson’s protégés followed in their own work.
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This overview of reformed Boston interiors only begins to suggest their richness as a subject for historians. They serve as testimony to two important movements that sought to influence consumers’ surroundings as well as their lifestyles. Boston’s architects created these captivating rooms in consultation with talented artists, skilled craft workers, and cultured clients. Fortunately, the city’s art photographers preserved them for posterity in vivid portraits. Graphic artists also captured their essence in stylized renderings that reveal details and atmosphere that photographs cannot. Taken together, these images document an important aspect of life during Boston’s Gilded Age, when interiors expressed an alternative approach to usefulness and beauty. —Beverly K. Brandt, Professor in the Department of Interior Design at Arizona State University, is the author of the recently published The Craftsman and the Critic: Defining Usefulness and Beauty in Arts and Crafts-Era Boston (University of Massachusetts Press).
C R E A T I V E
L E A R N I N G
Mrs. Johansen, daughter of Walter and Ise Gropius, is an artist and teacher. She moved with her parents into the Gropius home in Lincoln, Massachusetts, after its completion in 1938.
An Awakened Eye n the 1940s, I attended Black Mountain College, a small liberal arts school in North Carolina known for its excellent art department. I remember well the hot sunny morning when I arrived at the college gates for the summer session. There, on the dirt road ahead of me, was a group of students with shovels, hoes, and rakes, working away and raising a fine cloud of dust. A man in white overalls was earnestly instructing them. I wondered if I had come to the wrong place. As it turned out, I was watching a group of art students and their instructor, the well-known painter Josef Albers, in their art class, grading a road. Albers taught outside the studio quite as much as within, forcing his students to learn new ways of seeing. Solving the problem of shaping the contour of a road for proper drainage is a matter of observation and good design.
Albers brought our attention to every visual thing we encountered and made us alert to its unique qualities. To see something fresh—as if for the first time—is not easy, whether an object, a problem, or another person. It needs to be learned. It needs effort. It needs “an awakened eye.” This approach had been taught at the Bauhaus, starting in 1919, in the “foundation course,” which all students took upon entering the school. The course explored the basic elements of all design and asked students on their first day to leave their preconceptions at the door. For years, I have taught a workshop for adults that challenges them to transform a piece of white paper with just a few folds into a threedimensional sculpture. I ask them not to visualize but to start right in experimenting and let the sculpture “happen.” They have to explore the paper’s
qualities and potentials, take risks, and learn from discovery. I am now working with Historic New England’s education staff and public school teachers to develop a program for elementary school students based on the Bauhaus foundation course. The children will be asked to build structures out of paper cups or marshmallows and toothpicks and to transform a flat sheet of paper into a sculpture. When they come to the Gropius House, students will see the innovative solutions my parents arrived at in 1937 as they designed a new kind of New England house to suit their needs. We hope the students will see that new ideas are all around them and become confident in their ability to “think outside the box,” a life skill that lies at the core of all problem solving. —Ati Gropius Johansen
Ati Johansen, at right, teaching a paper workshop. BELOW Walter Gropius and Josef Albers, 1946. ABOVE
Fall 2009 Historic New England
M A K I N G
F U N
H I S T O R Y
The new house that Walter Gropius built in 1938 for his family in Lincoln, Massachusetts, looked very different from other houses. Gropius was the founder of the Bauhaus school in Germany, which encouraged artists and designers to use modern materials and think in new and creative ways.
the impact the Letâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s learn about Bauh aus had on our modern world.
Gropius and Modern Design 1883
Walter Gropius is born in Berlin, Germany.
Gropius designs the revolutionary glasswalled Fagus Factory.
Gropius founds the Bauhaus school in Weimar, Germany.
Gropius designs an influential glass-and-concrete building for the Bauhaus School.
do you know
Is it a stool or a table?
Here are several pieces of furniture made with tubular steel designed by Marcel Breuer. A Bauhaus teacher, Breuer went on to become a famous architect and furniture designer. He was inspired to use chromed metal tubes in furniture while riding his bicycle, which was made of the same material. He designed a variety of popular tables and chairs that combined tubular steel with leather, wicker, and wood. The Gropius family found these lightweight pieces very practical and used them as both side tables and stools.
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, rials e t a al m n o i t i nd trad a w e n h t o b ed g his house, Walter Gropius us lu n i n g i s Some of these inc ded: e . s y d a w l a u n s I mixing them in creative and unu
If you could design your own dream house, what materials would you use? Draw a picture of your house and email it to CaseyTheClock@ HistoricNewEngland.org. Huge plate glass windows overlooking the garden
A glass block wall separating two rooms
Clapboards used on an inside wall and placed vertically
The Nazi regime shuts the Bauhaus down.
Gropius moves to the United States to teach modern design at Harvard University.
Gropius designs and builds a house for his family in Lincoln, Massachusetts.
Gropius and seven other architects open an architectural firm, The Architectsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Collaborative.
Gropius dies at the age of 86.
a room for a child While designing the familyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s new home in Lincoln, Walter Gropius asked his twelve-year-old daughter, Ati, what she wanted her room to be like. Ati answered that she wanted a glass roof and a sand floor. Although those details did not make it into the final design, Gropius designed some features that would give her the feeling of being connected to the out-of-doors: a deck off her bedroom, where she could sleep under the stars, and her own spiral staircase so that she and her friends could climb up to her room from the ground outside. Ati also chose the warm color palette in her room and had lots of space where she could make and hang her own artwork. Fall 2009 Historic New England
C O L L E C T I O N S
Perspective of a house at Northeast Harbor, Maine, unbuilt, c. 1928â&#x20AC;&#x201C;30. Bigelow, Wadsworth, Hubbard and Smith, architects.
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C O L L E C T I O N S
Exhibition preview: One hundred drawings of domestic buildings from Historic New England’s collection
major component of the American pursuit of economic crisis may be sought in the failure to properly happiness has long been a home of one’s own finance the dream.) (the automobile is a distant second: the one a The meaning of the American home ranges from refuge castle, the other a chariot). Early on it might to showplace. Frank Lloyd Wright designed hearth-centered have been a four-square neo-classical box or a cozy Gothic houses with sheltering roofs and inconspicuous entry ways, cottage. Of late, for the middle class, it has taken the form of following age-old symbols of domestic security. His a detached single-family dwelling set on a weed-free lawn in Zimmerman House of the 1950s in Manchester, New suburbia, preferably with a two- or three-car garage, Hampshire, is a canonical example. Silas Lapham, in William although town houses, apartments, condos, and seaside or Dean Howells’s 1885 novel, The Rise of Silas Lapham, saw country trophy houses may also qualify. It might be a ranch the dream house rising for his family’s use in Boston’s new house, a Cape, a Colonial, or a McMansion. It might have Back Bay district as proof of his upward mobility. As the cenbeen designed by a “name” architect or a faceless drafter ter of self expression, the home is perhaps the most characworking for a developer. In any case the center of the nuclear teristic building type in a capitalist democratic society. Its family looms large in the popular American psyche. central position in American life makes it an architectural “American Dream Homes,” “American Dream Realty,” design problem worthy of attention. The drawings selected “American Dream Builders,” “American Dream Mortgages”— the Internet abounds with commercial enterprises seeking to help us, at a profit to ABOVE Elevation and plan of the fence and gates for the Henry Clay Frick themselves, to achieve the perfect framework for our Estate, Prides Crossing, Beverly, Massachusetts, 1905 (detail). Little and birthright: domestic bliss. (The origins of the recent Browne, architects. Gift of Herbert W. C. Browne.
Fall 2009 Historic New England
Side elevation of a house for W. S. Appleton, Newton, Massachusetts, 1875. Peabody and Stearns, architects. Gift of William Sumner Appleton. ABOVE Sketches of a cottage at Great Diamond Island, Casco Bay, Maine, 1888. John Calvin Stevens, architect. Gift of Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr. TOP
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for Drawing Toward Home exemplify that fact. They are all for domestic buildings in New England in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. Although specific to life in the Northeast, they parallel the history of architecture, and hence architectural graphics, at the national level. A house, like any building, is the result of a two-stage process: conception and execution. The design drawing is the mediator between the mind of the architect and the material forms of the building. It makes graphically manifest the translation of the clientâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s wishes, expressed as the building program, into their physical embodiment. Before a new house is a home, it is commonly a desire, a dream, an air castle that may be made concrete by the repetitive product of a speculative developer or a custom home designed by a registered architect. The developerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s clients take more or less what is offered; an architect trades on personalized work. The domestic architectural commission comes from people who describe what they want in a house, where it will be located, the size of the family as well as the budget, the number of pets, and other matters affecting the final product, including
the personalities of the owners and the image they want to project to the world. The designer translates this verbal information into preliminary graphic images that he or she hopes will satisfy the client’s needs and wants, and eventually produces the working or contract drawings that will, with a set of written specifications, form a legal contract and direct the builder in the construction of the house. Domestic architecture, like any other type of building, varies over time in technology and style, as do the drawings created to explain a proposed building to client and builder. Whether hand crafted or computer generated, whether of a Gothic Revival cottage or an International Style house, the drawings are of various standard types. There are the preliminary sketches of a project that eventually evolve into a series of definitive graphics. The latter include the fundamental plans, or horizontal slices through a proposed dwelling, that are the diagrams of the clients’ intended pattern of living. They show the shapes of and relationships among the rooms. Sections, or vertical slices through the house, illustrate the relationship of superimposed spaces, the structure, and the interior elevations of the rooms. Exterior elevations reflect the expression of those interior arrangements on the out-
Elevation of a house for Mr. and Mrs. Everett A. Black, Lincoln, Massachusetts, 1968. Henry B. Hoover, architect. Gift of the family of Henry B. Hoover. RIGHT Martin
house, detail of a drawing, 1860. Luther Briggs, Jr., architect. Gift of Elizabeth Huebener. BELOW Plan and elevation of a house for P.D. Wallis, Boston, 1858. Luther Briggs, Jr., architect. Gift of Elizabeth Huebener.
side of the home through the placement and shape of windows, doors, wings, roofs, porches, and so on. There are also details, drawings at a larger (sometimes full) scale that explain typical or important aspects of construction or design. Architects also prepare drawings for ancillary elements of a domestic complex, such as landscaping, outbuildings, and gateways to estates. This exhibition even includes the elevation of a two-story martin house designed by Luther Briggs, complete with cupola, to provide upscale nesting quarters for the client’s avian neighbors. All of the above are flat graphics that are not intended to suggest the three-dimensional reality of the finished design. Mere diagrams that show undistorted, measurable relationships between the parts of a house, they are useful for instructing the builder, or, as colored elevations, for impressing the client. In either case they are two-dimensional. Not until well into the nineteenth century did the majority of American architects, especially in New England, begin frequently to intrude upon the domain of the artist, to project three-dimensional views, or anticipatory presentation perFall 2009 Historic New England
Perspective of the cottage of Rev. John Cotton Brooks, Marion, Massachusetts, 1882. John M. Allen, architect. Gift of Christopher Monkhouse.
spectives, that became a standard part of their graphic repertory. Furthering their new stature as artists, architects used perspective views as visual aids to their sales pitches. As Benjamin Linfoot put it in 1884, the “architect… must keep his client’s enthusiasm alive and active by sending or submitting bright, jaunty little perspectives of his contemplated work.” Some architects were gifted enough to do their own presentations, which were of course useless as instructions to the builder but useful to persuade the client to build, or—published in the new professional journals—to show off their skills to their peers, but early on there appeared men called “perspectivists” or “renderers,” who specialized in such eyecatching drawings. These renderers existed either in-house, on the staff of one architect, or were itinerant, traveling from office to office, even city to city, to rent their pencils or brushes to any who wanted them. By late in the nineteenth century such views of intended or realized buildings came to exist independently of the construction process. This gave priority to their artistic rather than their utilitarian value. They were exhibited at galleries, museums, and clubs, and published in journals and books, with the drafter’s intention of reaching beyond a specific client to a wider audience. The first formal exhibition of drawings by the Boston Society of Architects took place at the Art Club in February 1886. The show included more than two hundred works, some sent over by English architects, in pen, pencil, and watercolor. A residential design by Maine’s John Calvin Stevens drew particular attention. But the most important 16
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early show of architectural drawings was held in October 1890 at Boston’s fashionable St. Botolph Club, a select social gathering founded in 1880 by a group of men including painters, sculptors, architects, and amateurs interested in the arts. Since the club hoped to attract an audience from beyond the architectural drafting room or the clients’ conference table, the exhibition committee said it wanted to have “largely perspectives, and, in general, such drawings as would interest not only the profession, but the outside public generally.” The large number of presentation perspectives in this exhibition distorts the graphic production of architectural offices. Many of these views are beautiful objects in their own right, suitable to hang on living room walls, and they can often be found in dealers’ shops and, as we have just seen, in museum or gallery exhibitions. Their attractiveness helps to preserve them. But the basic plans and sections, the essential working drawings that make up the bulk of the architect’s office time, often lack sufficient eye appeal for the general public, and as often do not survive. Unlike the
Perspective and plans of a house for Charles F. Harding, c. 1880. Henry M. Francis, architect.
RIGHT Perspective of an unidentified suburban residence, 1930s. David J. Abrahams, architect. Gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf.
preparatory sketches of artists that are recognized as collectable works of art, architectural drawings created as means to an end are not always valued for themselves, especially if the architect is not famous. They get manhandled or are discarded altogether; they are not considered precious objects. Architects retain them only as they find them useful in the production of the finished product. At the terminus of the construction cycle, or the demise of the architect, they become obsolete; their sheer volume overwhelms, people lose interest in them. An archive such as that at Historic New England is necessarily selective, but it is nonetheless an essential tool in explaining our cultural heritage. The preservation of these historic documents—however incomplete—ensures that our understanding of the history of domestic design in the Northeast will be formed as fully as possible. Design for the New England human habitat in all its variety is celebrated in this exhibition. The drawings stem from the six northeastern states and from the offices of architects unknown as well as famous. They represent domesticity from a broad spectrum of the social hierarchy, from suburban and coastal estates to Boston three-deckers. They span the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries, from the origins of architectural draftsmanship in this country to the dawn of Computer-Aided Design (or CAD) programs. Historic New England collects these architectural drawings as part of its mission to preserve and interpret regional material and social history. Its many house museums are not the only portals to the past that help it fulfill that aim. The full story of architecture and society in the Northeast cannot
be told from surviving buildings alone. Some drawings do prescribe what was built and still stands, but some preserve the design of houses now lost, and others record the stages in a design process that ultimately resulted in something different or unexecuted. The student needs both buildings and drawings. The collection of architectural graphics owned by Historic New England represents a major resource for the study of the region’s history and culture and adds a significant dimension to our understanding of the evolution of the domestic environment in New England, and by extension, of the entire United States. What is shown in this exhibition is the mere tip of the iceberg, a small sampling of an extraordinarily rich and indispensable resource for the fulfillment of the organization’s mission. —James F. O’Gorman, architectural historian and author, is Professor Emeritus at Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts.
Drawing Toward Home: Designs for Domestic Architecture from Historic New England features one hundred original drawings. It opens at the Boston University Stone Gallery on November 18, 2009, and will then travel to the National Building Museum, Washington, D.C. in 2010. James F. O’Gorman served as chief curator with Lorna Condon, Christopher Monkhouse, Roger Reed, and Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr.
Fall 2009 Historic New England
K I T C H E N
S T O R I E S
Caroline Craig reminisces about cooking at Cogswell’s Grant in Essex, Massachusetts, summer home of Bertram K. and Nina Fletcher Little, during the twenty years that she and her husband, Al, worked there as resident caretakers.
Cooking for the Littles
hen the Littles interviewed my husband, Al, and me about working for them, they talked mostly about Al’s duties on the farm. I asked whether maintaining the flower beds would be an important part of my job. I said, “There’s not much gardener in my soul, that’s just not my thing.” Mr. Little looked at me very intently and said “Can you cook?” And I said, “Yes, sir, I can cook.” He said, “To heck with the flowers!” Even so, there was always a row of cutting flowers— zinnias, bachelor buttons, marigolds— in the vegetable garden, and Mr. Little would go out with a basket and cut the flowers himself and do arrangements for the house. We would make hundreds of jars of jams and jellies—raspberry, strawberry, peach, and marmalade. For fun I
Historic New England Fall 2009
might sometimes make a strawberryrhubarb or blueberry jam, but it never became a part of the regular rotation. Mrs. Little loved turnovers, and blueberry jam makes a great turnover. We made grape jelly from the Concord grapes and mint jelly for lamb. They ate raspberry jelly the way other people might eat cranberry sauce. Probably raspberry was the all-time favorite, it was more coveted. For a large gathering the strawberry jam came out; it was good, but it was, shall we say, less treasured. Raspberry was more rare. We also made raspberry jam. There were two rows of raspberry bushes up behind the grapevines, so there were only so many raspberries. It takes eight times more raspberries to make a batch of jelly, because you have to cook it down and strain it. And jelly was a must. A family favorite for Saturday supper was jelly omelets. Supper was a
different meal than dinner, more relaxed, and they always had supper on Saturdays. We preserved all the other vegetables and fruit grown on the farm. Vegetables—corn, squash, peas and lima beans—were usually frozen rather than canned. Mrs. Little especially loved lima beans, peas, and asparagus. In the spring we would mail fresh asparagus to their Brookline house by the shoebox full, at least twice a week. We stored the food in the cellar or in the freezer at Cogswell’s Grant, and then every six to eight weeks we’d make a trip to the Littles’ house in Brookline. When the Littles had guests, it was very important to be able to say that everything on the table came from the farm. They took pride in that. And Al and I did too. —Caroline Craig
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Fall 2009 Historic New England
P R E S E R V A T I O N
Sleeper’s Outdoor Rooms
enry Davis Sleeper spent between 1907 and the early 1930s sculpting Beauport into a masterpiece of interior and exterior design. The care he took in designing the inside of the house extended into the landscape, as he connected the interior to the harbor view through a series of enclosed spaces conceived as outdoor rooms. One could stroll toward the water’s edge, first to a brick terrace and then down to a second terrace and walled gardens at lower levels. Unfortunately, later alterations eliminated several key features in the landscape, thereby blurring Sleeper’s original concept. Consequently, with funds secured from the Winfield Foundation, Historic New England has undertaken a multi-year project to restore the landscape to the period of late 1920s
Historic New England Fall 2009
through the 1930s. This period reflects Sleeper’s fully developed spatial relationships and structure in the landscape but also integrates the early years of ownership by the McCann family. In 2008, we began to restore two sections of masonry that had been lost over time—one section of a half-wall separating the walled garden and the lower terrace, and the stairway connecting the brick terrace to the lower terrace. The half-wall plays a critical role in clearly defining two exterior spaces. The stairway, which had been covered over in the 1940s to expand the usable space on the brick terrace, was an important part of the circulation pattern. Rebuilding the half-wall was the first step and the more straightforward part of the project. Not only was this wall illustrated in many historic dia-
grams and site plans, but a remaining section could serve as a model. The stairway was more puzzling. We had some historic images and site plans, but the records were incomplete. We hoped, based on evidence discovered during work at the site twenty years ago, that a remnant of the stairway might still be extant under the terrace. So, with breath held, we excavated. Our excitement grew as we cleared away and at last found the original stairway largely intact. Now, instead of restoring a lost feature, we could preserve the actual stairway. Over the course of the summer new plantings were added to the garden and the restoration of the water side of the house was completed through window conservation and painting as part of the Save America’s Treasures grant. Extensive work on
both garden and house will continue over the next several years thanks to this generous funding. Please visit Beauport to see the exciting results of our efforts, and be sure to check out the latest information on the project at http://beauportblog.wordpress.com. â&#x20AC;&#x201D;Ben Haavik Team Leader, Historic Preservation
FACING PAGE The newly restored garden. THIS PAGE, TOP The terrace before and after restoration, showing how the space has been transformed with new plantings and the reopened staircase, which now offers inviting access to the lower level. BELOW Careful dismantling of the terrace revealed Sleeper's original stairway. Finding the stair meant that Historic New England could preserve it instead of creating a new one based on conjecture.
Fall 2009 Historic New England
O P E N
arly in 2007 Joyce King, a fellow furniture scholar, and I were retained by the antiques firm C.L. Prickett to research an important desk and bookcase. Joyce and I had always believed that the desk and bookcase belonged to a particular group of furniture made by Nathaniel Gould, a little known Salem, Massachusetts, cabinetmaker, but we had no conclusive proof. Numerous trips to the Massachusetts Archives and other sources yielded little useful information. One evening Joyce googled Gould’s name and found that three of his ledgers were at the Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS), in the papers of his lawyer, Nathan Dane. The ledgers had been at MHS since 1834. Fortunately for us, MHS had just placed summaries of the Dane collection online a few weeks previously. When Joyce and I examined the Gould ledgers, we found an entry that enabled us to firmly identify another Gould piece that is one of the most significant items in Historic New England’s collection—a four-drawer chest in the bombé form. Nathaniel Gould was born near Salem, in what is now Peabody. Orphaned when he was only twelve, he was assigned to the guardianship of his uncle, a house joiner, but in all probability was placed in an apprenticeship with a Charlestown joiner, Thomas Wood. Within
Sleuthing a Masterwork
Historic New England Fall 2009
H O U S E
Entry for Andrew Cabot in Nathaniel Gould’s wastebook, 1767–81. Original manuscript from Nathan Dane Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society. BELOW Stereo view of Andrew Cabot’s 1781 house in Beverly, Massachusetts, now Beverly Town Hall. 1860s.
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society
nance through genealogy. Just before he retired, Historic New England’s Chief Curator Richard Nylander supplied the line of inheritance that linked this chest to a sale in the ledger. Longtime Historic New England member Martha Batchelder had left the chest to the organization in her will. Her late husband was a great-great grandson of Andrew Cabot (1750–91) of Salem and Beverly, and the chest had descended to him through four generations of the family. Cabot had probably purchased the chest, along with a secretary also made by Gould, for the new mansion house he had built for himself in Beverly when he moved there in 1781. The chest is constructed in a form that at the time was called “swelled,” known today as “bombé.” This shape was one of the most difficult and expensive forms to produce, because fabricating drawers with curved sides that conform to the curvature of the case sides requires a level of skill far beyond that of the average cabinetmaker. Following the outbreak of the Revolution, all businesses for craftsmen along the Massachusetts coast suffered significant declines. Raw materials were difficult to procure due to British seizure of ships and banned trade with the colonies. With the economy disrupted by war, few families had funds
two years of completing his indenture, however, he had returned to Salem and started his own shop. His career would span the next twenty-four years until his death. In terms of design and woods used, the output from his shop— which included desks, secretaries, chairs, tables of all descriptions, beds, and chests of drawers—was the finest furniture produced in Salem during the mid-eighteenth century. Gould’s ledgers document over two thousand furniture sales to Salem residents, predominantly to the town’s elite merchant and shipping families like the Ornes, Derbys, Crowninshields, Pickmans, Allens, Lees, and Debloises. His most important and frequent clients were the Cabots, two generations of whom were regular customers. Because Gould’s ledgers list items sold, dates, and purchasers, it is possible to connect pieces with known proveFall 2009 Historic New England
available for discretionary purchases above basic subsistence. The decline is readily apparent in analyzing Gould’s ledgers, as his business was reduced by eighty percent from the level of the late 1760s. Thanks to profits from privateering, the Cabot family was one of the few that could afford to maintain their lifestyle, as evidenced by Andrew’s purchase of the chest. One clue remains as a testimony to the economic difficulties of the time: a flaw—actually an indentation—that mars the left front of the third drawer. After examining the piece, John Childs, Historic New England furniture conservator, and furniture scholar and author Luke Beckerdite, concluded that the indentation was not caused by damage to the piece subsequent to its sale, but was actually a tear-out that occurred when the board was shaped. Gould probably could not
Detail of third drawer showing damage, known as a tear-out, which occurred when the drawer front was being planed.The blade caught some irregular wood fibers and tore them out. Normally, Gould could easily have removed the marks by further planing with a finer plane, but the drawer’s swelled bombé shape did not allow it.
obtain sufficient wood to fashion a new drawer front that would match the grain pattern of the other three drawers. Allowing the chest to leave the shop in this condition, particularly in a sale to such an important client, simply would not have been acceptable a few years earlier. Historic New England’s bombé chest stands as an icon in its own right as the product of Salem’s best cabinetmaker of the period from 1760 to 1780. Furthermore, it is unusual in that we know the maker, date, and purchaser—which is rare for American furniture of this period. The chest is also of extreme importance to furniture scholars as the missing link to a large group of furniture purchased by a select group of customers. —Kemble Widmer II Furniture scholar
Historic New England Fall 2009
This article is based on an essay by Kemble Widmer II and Joyce King in American Furniture, edited by Luke Beckerdite and published by the Chipstone Foundation in 2008.
B E H I N D
T H E
S C E N E S
Room model by A. H. Davenport and Company, Boston and East Cambridge, Massachusetts, early twentieth century, after treatment. BELOW Drawing of the James A. Noyes house, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1893–94. Longfellow, Alden, and Harlow, architects. Shown before and after treatment.
Fit for Travel
onservation planning for Drawing Toward Home began in 2005 when Lorna Condon, curator of Library and Archives, asked me to evaluate the condition and treatment needs of the drawings planned for exhibition. Surveying the one hundred items selected, I found a diverse array— drawings done in graphite, pen and ink, or watercolor. The supports were equally varied — tracing paper, starchcoated fabric, and watercolor paper. Some of the works had suffered damage from poor storage and handling before Historic New England acquired them, including tears and losses, creases and cockles, surface soil, and discoloration from poor quality mountings. My conservation goals were to clean and stabilize the drawings. Each object needed to be exhibitable and strong enough to withstand the rigors of travel.
ensured that these fragile works are now safe to be placed on display and enjoyed by a large audience. Not only do the drawings now look their best, they have been stabilized and will remain in good condition for years to come. —Debora Mayer, Helen Glaser Senior Paper Conservator for Special Collections, Harvard College Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Some unusual or especially fragile items required custom matting and framing. Generally, I cleaned the surfaces of the drawings with special dry cleaning squares. In all cases, so as to preserve historical evidence, I took extreme care to avoid removing any notations or markings. If there were tears, I reinforced them with narrow strips of Japanese paper and wheat starch paste applied to the reverse of the drawing. For tears or losses on tracing papers, I used extremely thin mending paper to hide evidence of the repairs that otherwise might be visible through the transparent paper. I treated creases with humidification, followed by placing the paper between absorbent blotters to dry. Acidic mats I removed with a scalpel, sometimes with the aid of moisture or solvents to soften the adhesive. I am proud to have worked on this important exhibition and to have Fall 2009 Historic New England
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A C Q U I S I T I O N S
Coming Home every view of the outward, material world… Sarah spent part of her childhood in her grandfather’s house in the center of South Berwick, Maine, which was filled with the stuff of history—maritime equipment in the barn’s loft; gleaming old mahogany furniture in the living room, library, and dining room. Much later, in 1887, when she, her sister, and her mother took over the house, they retained most of the furnishings and upgraded the finishes with Arts and Crafts wallpapers and William Morris carpets. William Dean
Howells visited Jewett there and described her home as “the fittest possible setting for literature such as yours.” When Jewett’s nephew left the house to Historic New England in 1931, he left many of the contents to relatives. Recently the heirs decided to sell a number of pieces, and Historic New England was fortunate to purchase them. In September, this sideboard, along with other items, returns to Jewett’s house as fitting tribute to the storyteller who lived there. —Nancy Carlisle, Curator
Courtesy Skinner, Inc.
uthor Sarah Orne Jewett understood better than most how a home reflects and sustains those who live inside. In her 1879 story “Lady Ferry,” she wrote, One often hears of the influence of climate upon character; there is a strong influence of place; and the inanimate things which surround us indoors and out make us follow out in our lives their own silent characteristics. We unconsciously catch the tone of every house in which we live, and of
LEFT Sideboard, c.1820. ABOVE Marcia Oakes Woodbury depicted the author’s dining room and the sideboard in one of her illustrations for Jewett’s Deephaven.