Historic New England Fall 2010

Page 1

Historic N E W E NG L A N D

Fall f all 2 0 1 0

Under one roof

F r o m t h e p r e s i den t

Historic N E W E NG L A N D Fall 2010 Vol. 11, No. 2

The Legacy of William Sumner Appleton 2

Aaron Usher

This centennial year launches our second century but also spurs us to examine the vision of William Sumner Appleton in creating the organization in 1910. I recently was asked to what extent the mission changed over these one hundred years. I responded that it has changed very little. The emphasis might be different, such as increased use of our historic sites and collections for scholarship and education, but the core work of preserving and sharing New England buildings, landscapes, artifacts, documents, images, and stories is consistent from the earliest days to today. This conclusion is apparent throughout the current issue. Appleton envisioned an organization that could both own buildings and work with others to preserve them, so he looked for creative ways to protect structures and landscapes from change. Before most museums considered photographs and ephemera worthy of attention, we began collecting them; the process continues with the Yankee Publishing Collection highlighted here. Recognizing that strength would be found in a network of organizations across New England focused on historic preservation, Appleton built relationships with local historical societies and preservation groups. We continue to do so today in the 100 Years, 100 Communities initiative and by offering Affiliate Membership to other organizations. A century later, our mission remains focused and vital.

Under One Roof 24 1


Honoring Collectors of Works on Paper 100 y ea rs, 100 commu nities

Celebrating Two Centennials 8

life cycles

Previous Incarnations 13

collectio ns

Centennial Acquisitions Maki ng F un o f history




pr ese rvati on

—Carl R. Nold


Protection from the Elements portfo lio


The Yankee Publishing Collection Historic New England 141 Cambridge Street Boston MA 02114-2702 617-227-3956


con vers ati on

Artisanry Considered 23

Pa rtnership

Sharing Our Expertise historic new England magazine is a benefit of membership. To become a member, visit our website, HistoricNewEngland.org, or call 617-994-5910. Comments? Please call Nancy Curtis, editor. ­­­Historic New England is funded in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Executive Editor: Diane Viera Editor: Nancy Curtis Editorial Review Team: Nancy Carlisle, Curator; Lorna Condon, Curator of Library and Archives; Jennifer Pustz, Museum Historian; Sally Zimmerman, Manager of Historic Preservation Services Design: DeFrancis Carbone

Two worlds under one roof at Roseland Cottage in Woodstock, Connecticut: the pantry where servants readied food for serving and the family’s formal dining room. Photography by Aaron Usher.


Land sc ap e


Green Forever

M useum S hop




History Under Glass The Artist’s Studio

Except where noted, all historic photographs and ephemera are from Historic New England’s Library and Archives.


Honoring Collectors of Works on Paper


istoric New England’s founder, William Sumner Appleton, was descended from a long line of New England pack rats, the sort of people who never threw anything away in case it might be useful in some unpredictable fashion in the future. In Appleton’s mind, stuffed attics and cluttered basements were a form of cultural preservation, full of the objects and paper ephemera that reflected how families had lived, worked, and played in the past. But he also realized that such troves of personal information were transient, all too likely to be regarded as an inconvenience and discarded if the family had to move. As a consequence, Appleton decided that his new organization should deliberately collect these ephemeral materials, from family papers, old photographs, and dusty prints to out-ofdate catalogues, travel brochures, and theater programs. The collection he started then has now swollen to over one million items in the Library and Archives, an invaluable resource for anyone studying the human history of New England. To celebrate and help perpetuate Appleton’s “your trash is my treasure” tradition during Historic New England’s centennial year, an annual Prize for Collecting Works on Paper has been initiated to honor a collector or dealer who has assembled or helped to save a significant collection of historical material related to New England

or to the nation as a whole that might otherwise have been lost or left unrecognized. The first two winners, Philip H. Jones and Kenneth W. Rendell, received their awards at the Lyman Estate in Waltham, Massachusetts, on June 8. Mr. Jones, the middle member of a five-generation farming family in Connecticut, became intrigued with old paper as a nine-year-old when a school librarian gave him two Civil War letters. Collecting letters quickly became a lifelong pursuit, but his interests steadily expanded to include rewards of merit, hidden object cards, miniature books, postcards, and valentines, as well as a notable archive of the work of Charles Magnus, a nineteenth-century New York print publisher and stationer. His passion for paper eventually led him to endow research fellowships under the aegis of the Ephemera Society of America so that others might experience the joy of following the trail left by the words and images of earlier times. In similar fashion, Mr. Rendell started to collect letters as a young man from Somerville, Massachusetts. By the 1960s, he had become particularly fascinated with letters, papers, and objects from World War II, material that was being widely neglected at that time. This involvement persuaded him to become a dealer in autographs and

all past forms of written communication. He has become one of the world’s leading authorities on historical documents, and he has assembled the finest collection of World War II artifacts and papers in private hands, now on display in his Museum of World War II in Natick, Massachusetts. He has also amassed an extraordinary collection of Western Americana which he shares through exhibitions and publications. The collecting achievements of these two men exemplify Appleton’s approach to any work on paper, no matter how obscure: find it, preserve it, study it, and make it available to others. —Richard Cheek, Chair, Friends of the Library and Archives

Award winners Kenneth W. Rendell and Philip H. Jones with Historic New England President Carl R. Nold.


The Friends of the Library and Archives at Historic New England support research, conservation, and collecting and enjoy special behind-the-scenes tours and events. For information, please visit HistoricNewEngland.org or call 617-994-5910.

Fall 2010 Historic New England


p e r s p e c t i v e

The Legacy of William Sumner Appleton That the memory of New England and its way of living shall never be lost*


Appleton in 1917. above The Society’s first office, at 20 Beacon Street, Boston, overlooking the State House. It is already crowded with administrative files, books, artifacts, framed historic photographs, desks for Appleton and his assistant, and chairs for visitors. facing page The Swett-Ilsley House, Newbury, Massachusetts, the first house acquired by the Society. top

*These words and the other italicized quotations in this article are drawn from the writings of William Sumner Appleton.


Historic New England Fall 2010

ollowing William Sumner Appleton’s death in November 1947, the board of trustees of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (SPNEA) recognized that it was his vision that the society he founded “would record the development of New England civilization, by preserving actual examples of the mode of life of every age from early times to the time the Society is functioning, be it 1948 or 2048.” In our centennial year, Historic New England has frequently looked to the work and writings of the founder to assess what has been accomplished during the century since he created an organization dedicated to the preservation of New England’s architectural and material culture heritage. Together with seventeen like-minded citizens, Appleton incorporated SPNEA on April 2, 1910. Notable about the founding members was the inclusion of seven women, a diversity not accomplished on many Boston boards until fifty years later. Under Appleton’s leadership, and with the dedicated help of the men and women of the board and membership, SPNEA purchased the Swett-Ilsley House in Newbury, Massachusetts, as its first museum property in 1911. During Appleton’s lifetime the collection grew by gift and purchase to fifty-one properties, with one given away. The Captain Richard Derby House was donated to the federal government as a mortgage-free gift to inaugurate what is today Salem Maritime National Historic Site in Massachusetts.

From 1940 to 1970, Appleton’s successor, Bertram K. Little, followed Appleton’s example, adding another twentyfour properties to the collection, some of significant size in acreage and numbers of buildings. In the 1970s and 1980s, Directors Abbott Lowell Cummings and Nancy R. Coolidge faced the challenges of maintaining too many buildings with too few resources during periods of steep inflation in the economy. Their solution—a careful acquisition policy, combined with thoughtful property deaccession and a stewardship easement program—returned the organization to a sustainable level of property ownership and provided a national model for protecting historic sites without owning them. President Jane C. Nylander worked to improve the quality of care of museum collections and their interpretation, expanding the programs and launching the first website and Historic New England magazine. Along the way, the artifact and archival collections were continually enlarged and refined, and collections were shared through exhibitions, publications, internships and study programs, and loans to other institutions. At the start of the twenty-first century, the trustees committed the organization to being a more public institution, changing its identity to Historic New England while reconfirming a commitment to preservation, collections, research, and interpretation. As Historic New England begins its second century, how do its activities now and those planned for the future align with Appleton’s vision?

Buildings and Landscapes The Society will be glad to accept gifts of appropriate land or buildings, or to act as trustee of properties the preservation of which their owners may wish to safeguard. As in Appleton’s time, a principal focus of Historic New England is the preservation of buildings and landscapes representing a wide geographic spread, a range of styles, and periods from early settlement to contemporary. Today, thirty-six museum properties are open to the public, and one additional property will become a museum upon the death of the donor who continues to occupy it. With two cemeteries and the 1912 Lang Building, which houses the Collections and Conservation Center, the museum properties total 1,212 acres and 145 structures, located in five states and ranging in date from 1664 to 1938. The properties owned by Historic New England are complemented by seventy-seven historic properties that are privately owned but protected through the stewardship easement program. The 136 buildings and 737 acres of land in the easement program include properties from the seventeenth century through the mid-twentieth. Together, Historic New England’s sites and the easement properties constitute an expansive and well-documented collection of New England residential buildings. Most importantly, Historic New England continues to welcome gifts of historic buildings or of easements, with

Fall 2010 Historic New England


This late nineteenth-century photograph of the Josiah Quincy House, Quincy, Massachusetts, documents the property’s bucolic setting before much of its land was sold shortly thereafter. Below Photograph of the Hancock Tower, Boston, part of a promised gift to the Library and Archives of 20,000 images by noted architectural photographer Steve Rosenthal.


adequate endowment, to add to the property collection. Twenty museum properties are located in Massachusetts, six in Maine, five in New Hampshire, four in Rhode Island, and one in Connecticut. Acquisition of one or more Vermont properties is a high priority. Special emphasis is currently placed on seeking twentieth-century properties and those representing a range of economic levels, such as working class homes, so that the scope of the collection represents the widest possible range of New England periods and styles.

image collections is the extent to which they relate to the historic site and artifact holdings. In 1912, Librarian Ernest L. Gay recorded the diversity of photos, postcards, views, books, and pamphlets acquired, commenting that “much that may seem to others of no value becomes well worth keeping in its proper place in our collection.” The collection is renowned today for making possible an understanding of the stories that accompany buildings and artifacts, thus constituting one of the great documentary collections of American daily life.

Appleton consistently recognized that images and documents would provide a record of New England communities even when preserving the buildings proved unfeasible. Gifts of four hundred images were received in the first year. By 1913, the collecting policy changed to include “contemporary views of all kinds relating to New England.” Over time, the policy continued to expand to incorporate measured and original architectural drawings, ephemera, manuscripts, and other items reflecting the region’s material culture and social history. Today the image, book, and document collections number 1.2 million items. Hardly a week goes by without significant additions, whether by donation of an individual photograph or of extensive collections, such as the 2003 gift of the 26,000 images by magazine photographer Verner Reed or the 2010 promised gift of the 20,000 image archive of architectural photographer Steve Rosenthal. A remarkable aspect of the archival and 4

Historic New England Fall 2010

Steve Rosenthal

Photographic and Archival Collections The Society wishes to form a complete collection of views and accounts of all the notable old buildings and sites in New England. To accomplish this it must depend largely on gifts of photographs, drawings, engravings, picture postal cards and books.

home, from furniture and clothing to cooking and heating equipment, and from works of art to toys and sporting goods. In addition to objects noted for spectacular design or aesthetics, there are everyday items and ephemera reflecting the mundane aspects of daily life that rarely survive in use or in other collections. Exhibition Programs …a museum room in which to exhibit…For the lack of any accommodation whatsoever the entire collection is now carefully packed away…

Collections on display in the Otis House, Boston, 1926. Artifacts of daily life: novelty candles, c. 1940, donated in 2009; door hinge, 1675–1725, donated in 1911. above


Steve Rosenthal

Museum Collections It is hoped soon to establish a museum in which to keep the smaller antiquities, such as household objects, relics, models, etc., the aim being to supplement local collections without competing with them. At the first annual meeting of the Society in March 1911, it was noted that “the Society’s Museum has as yet hardly come into existence,” but the appointment of Henry Davis Sleeper as director of the planned museum provided encouragement. One year later, Sleeper reported that the Society had begun to collect, thanks to contributions of architectural fragments, hardware and utensils, buttons worn at a ball for George Washington, and “forty pieces of old wall papers.” Special committees were proposed to pursue gifts of textiles, silver, wallpaper, and clothing. Today, the 110,000 item museum collections are some of the most extensive and best documented collections of everyday life anywhere. Dating from the mid-seventeenth century to the twentyfirst, the collections include the whole range of material goods needed for the

The provision of adequate exhibition galleries for the collections remains elusive to this day, but exhibitions and educational programs are presented across the region and beyond. Establishing in 1913 a partnership with the New England Historic Genealogical Society, Appleton shared their offices at 9 Ashburton Place, Boston. Two loan exhibitions were shown in that space, one of needlework with the cooperation of the Colonial Dames, and another the presentation of A Colonial Parlor as the “humblest kind of a beginning of a museum exhibit” and the first effort to share the collections with interested members and the public. In 1914, an account of public speaking to historical societies and patriotic groups first appeared in the Bulletin. In 1915, the Society sent an exhibition of photos of its houses to San Francisco for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, and in the following year created three exhibitions of wallpapers and photographs with the suggestion “of traveling exhibits to be sent on a New England circuit for the benefit of our scattered membership.” Such programs remain at the heart of Historic New England’s work today. For the centennial alone, exhibitions include America’s Kitchens, Drawing Toward Home, The Preservation Movement Then and Now, and Colonial to Modern: 100 Years of Collecting at Historic New England. Membership and Sustainability In order that the Society may succeed, a very large membership is essential. During its first year, the Society attracted three hundred members, scattered through twenty states, the District of Columbia, and Canada. Today we have 6,600 households, estimated to include 16,500 individuals. Members come from forty-four states and the District of Columbia, plus six foreign countries. Over the years, the members have generously supported the organization and worked with the trustees and staff to fulfill its mission, build its collections, and ensure its future. The annual report of Museum Director Fall 2010 Historic New England


Vignettes in the traveling exhibition America’s Kitchens depict kitchens at Castle Tucker, Wiscasset, Maine, and the Gropius House, Lincoln, Massachusetts.


Dwight M. Prouty in March 1913 established a priority that continues in 2010, “The greatest need of the museum continues to be first, last and all the time, endowment.” In issue after issue of the Bulletin, and subsequently in the Society’s journal Old-Time New England, the call for endowment to support preservation, the museum, the library, and programs is unceasingly repeated. This early emphasis on membership, gifts, and support, combined with frugal practices and outstanding investment management, yielded one of the strongest tools needed for Historic New England’s second century—a healthy endowment fund that provides about forty-nine percent of the annual operating cost of the historic sites and programs. A Continuing Vision What we set out to do in founding this society was an ambitious program but one well worthy of being carried out. We must not fail at this point, but must constantly strive to achieve the ends we originally set before us, that the memory of New England and its way of living shall never be lost.

on its second century, there are many other characteristics of the organization that trace their roots to the very beginning. Early reports note efforts to oppose the construction of marble wings on the Charles Bulfinch-designed Massachusetts State House and to encourage historical societies all over New England to likewise take up the cause of preservation for important local buildings. Appleton worked in partnership with the Boston Society of Architects and with international organizations such as the British National Trust and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. Although the society he founded was based in Boston, Appleton believed that its “activities must cover the entire New England field,” a focus we continue through programming and partnerships today. One hundred years on, Historic New England remains true to Appleton’s vision, even as it works to serve New Englanders of the twenty-first century. —Carl R. Nold President and CEO Students sketch the garden at Hamilton House, South Berwick, Maine, in one of Historic New England’s education programs, which serve more than 36,000 children each year. above right

Written in his last report before his death, those words summarize Appleton’s vision. As Historic New England embarks 6

Historic New England Fall 2010

y ea r s ,

1 0 0

c o m m u n i t i e s

Courtesy, Green Mountain Club

1 0 0

left right

Hikers pause at a trail marker, c. 1940. Exhibition panel.

Celebrating Two Centennials


n March 11, 1910, a group of twenty-three individuals gathered in Burlington, Vermont, to form the Green Mountain Club with the purpose of building “a path in the wilderness.” Thus began the process of developing what is now known as the Long Trail, the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the United States. From 1910 to 1930, the Green Mountain Club built the 272-mile trail, which follows the main ridgeline of the Green Mountains from the Massachusetts line to the Canadian border. The idea for the trail was conceived by James P. Taylor, the headmaster of the Vermont Academy, a private school in southeastern Vermont, and an avid outdoorsman, whose experience hiking from hut to hut in the Swiss Alps inspired him to establish a similar trail with permanent shelters along the

length of his state. Taylor’s goal was to create a continuous footpath through the Green Mountains that would “make Vermont’s mountains play a larger part in the life of the people.” The Green Mountain Club shares with Historic New England both its centennial anniversary year and an interest in stewardship of the region’s landscape. Recognition of our shared longevity has brought Historic New England and the Green Mountain Club together to work on an exhibition about the club and its stewardship of the Long Trail. The show is designed to publicize the work of the Green Mountain Club and inspire viewers to ask themselves again the question James P. Taylor first posed in 1910: “What part do the Vermont mountains play in my life?” Partially funded by the Harris and Frances Block Foundation, the exhibi-

tion is part of Historic New England’s 100 Years, 100 Communities initiative. Our staff is working with communities throughout the region on projects that capture twentieth-century stories and share them with the public. This colorful panel show will travel to public libraries around Vermont to build awareness and develop an appreciation for the club’s stewardship of the state’s mountains and hiking trails. —Lauren Kosky-Stamm Community Engagement Specialist

The collaboration with the Green Mountain Club is one of several community partnerships undertaken by Historic New England as part of the 100 Years, 100 Communities initiative. For more information, please visit http://centennial. historicnewengland.org/100-communities.

Fall 2010 Historic New England





Old houses can have many “lives” as they experience different owners and fluctuating economic cycles. Here are stories of the prior uses of three of Historic New England’s historic sites.


Location, location, location

On a misty night in October, warmly-dressed men and women made their way up the lantern-lined path to the door of the c. 1670 Swett-Ilsley House in Newbury, Massachusetts. Inside, they were welcomed with music and ale, tall tales, and a hearty meal. Though this scene took place at a Historic New England program in 2009, it was not much different from countless evenings in the seventeenth century, when Stephen Swett welcomed guests to his tavern or “ordinary.” Strategically sited at the meeting of two major roads in Old Newbury, the tavern stood across the street from the most important building in the community, the meeting house. This location on the busiest street in town made the Swett house an ideal commercial space. By 1756, it had been enlarged to an impressive sixty feet in length. Newbury’s savvy entrepreneurs were quick to take advantage of its potential, and by the end of the eighteenth century it had sheltered an inn, a chocolate mill, a tallow chandlery, a tobacconist shop, a printing press, and a “house of public entertainment,” which 8

Historic New England Fall 2010

we would recognize as a pub. In addition, a blacksmith and scythe maker had lived and worked there, along with a cordwainer (shoemaker) and a joiner. In the nineteenth century, the house served as a home for the Ilsley family, and in 1911, it became the first property to be acquired by the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (now Historic New England). William Sumner Appleton, who had founded the organization the previous year, believed the house to be one of the oldest in the region. After three years of stripping away later accretions, including plaster walls and newer fireplaces, Appleton found one of the largest early fireplaces known in New England. “[This] bids fair, when opened up…and [the house] could probably be let for a tea room and gift shop,” he wrote in his report. Two years later, in 1916, the house was leased to three unmarried women, two to “conduct a tea room, and Miss Clement to display antique furniture for sale.” After the second year, only Miss Clement stayed on, operating both

endeavors under the name Blue Elephant. In 1922, Appleton noted that the Blue Elephant “has become one of the best known stopping places on the coast road…with an enviable reputation.” During the Depression, all business ceased for several years. It reopened briefly in 1932 as the Blue Anchor Inn. In 1939, it came into the capable hands of Miss Lillian Franklin, who brought it to life once again as a tea room called Four High Road. Appleton wrote in 1941 that this endeavor was “so successful that it is well to telephone in advance for a reservation (Newburyport 1540). The service is excellent, the food beyond praise, the prices reasonable. Members may safely recommend it to their friends.” Wary of the expense of owning real estate, Appleton envisaged the business as a means of ensuring the building’s preservation by providing funds for its maintenance while ensuring public access. Miss Franklin continued to operate the tea room at Four High Road until 1965. Today, the Swett-Ilsley House is one of Historic New England’s thirteen study properties, preserved for the educational value of their significant architectural and structural characteristics.

The Swett-Ilsley House today. Note the bracket for the tea room sign between the fourth and fifth windows on the second floor. below right

Aaron Usher

The Swett-Ilsley House in the 1920s, when it housed the Blue Elephant tea room, patronized by both local residents and motorists exploring the North Shore.

Aaron Usher


Fall 2010 Historic New England


Boarders and young ladies

From the outside, the Phillips House at 34 Chestnut Street, in Salem, Massachusetts, is one of the grandest houses on one of the most beautiful streets in America, yet few passers-by today are familiar with its history as a boarding house and school. In the nineteenth century, genteel boarding houses met a growing need to provide affordable, temporary housing for a variety of individuals. They offered shelter, meals, and even a sense of family for their residents. Young men recently graduated from college typically did not return to the family home and required a place to live until they could afford to marry and support a family. Managers employed in the tanneries and cotton mills that sprang up on the waterfront after the decline of maritime trade needed respectable housing as well. With Salem serving as the Essex County seat, it is likely that judges and lawyers traveling to attend to business in town also needed a place to stay. Beginning in 1836, Malvina Tabitha Ward leased Number 34 from its original owners, the West family. Ward made a variety of improvements to the property, including installing brick sidewalks and adding an ell at the rear of the house to be used as a dining room. She finally purchased Number 34 in 1863 and owned it until 1875. According to census records and city directories, Malvina and her relative, Eliza, operated the house sporadically both as a boarding house and a school throughout their occupancy. Sophia L. Jackson, Malvina’s granddaughter, described the boarders and young ladies who were part of the fabric of Number 34 during the Ward years, noting “that [Grandma] always made an entry of

their coming and leaving.” The names she listed represented north of Boston’s well-to-do families, including Ornes, Swetts, Boardmans, Choates, Derbys, Dodges, Silsbees, Peirces, Saltonstalls, and numerous relatives of the Phillips family. In the nineteenth century, publishers found a successful enterprise in issuing city directories listing businesses and the names and addresses of local residents, often also including their occupations. The Number 34 location frequently appears in Salem directories in the private school category, with Eliza Ward named as the teacher. A young lady’s education in the period of the Ward school would often consist of foreign language instruction, namely French, studies of literature and works of art, writing and composition, history, and geography. Some of these schools may have acted as finishing schools as well, teaching deportment and manners. The service provided by the Wards was not unique in Salem. City directories list boarders at homes in all neighborhoods. Approximately one-third of Salem’s students attended private schools or were taught by private teachers while the school at Number 34 was in operation. What was unique about the Wards’ use of the Phillips House is the occasional concurrent operation of the house both as a boarding house for respectable gentlemen and as a school for the daughters of Salem’s best families. No trace of the boarders and students remains at 34 Chestnut Street today. The Phillips family acquired the house in 1911 and remained there until 1955. Today, the property is a house museum portraying daily life in an upper-class household in the early years of the twentieth century.

A stereo view of Number 34, c. 1870, when it served as a boarding house and school. below The Phillips House today reflects the gracious lifestyle of the Colonial Revival era.

Aaron Usher



Historic New England Fall 2010

A roller-coaster economy

Aaron Usher

In 1807, Captain William Nickels erected a magnificent mansion in Wiscasset, Maine. But Jefferson’s Embargo, enacted later that year, soon devastated the coastal economy, and when Nickels died in 1815, the house had to be sold to pay his debts. No longer affordable as a private residence, the mansion was turned into a hotel. During the next eighty-four years, it passed through the hands of fourteen owners, managing to survive hard times, fires, and benign neglect. The house’s first incarnation as a hotel was called the Mansion House, operated by six successive members of the Turner family. Beginning in 1827, thanks to the building’s ideal situation in the village center, it became a stop for stagecoaches connecting Wiscasset with the rest of Maine. By 1858, the Turners had lost the stage business to a rival establishment next door, the Hilton House Hotel. At that time, Captain Richard H. Tucker, Sr., a friend and neighbor of the Nickels family wrote to Captain Nickels’s son, recounting the recent history of the property, “The house generally looks well but from age & absence of means is not in first rate order…It has for years been a hotel & boarding house, barely paying expenses…with the exception of a few

above This c. 1900 photograph shows the Hilton House Hotel, at left, and the Nickels-Sortwell House, which the Sortwell family had recently acquired, at right. The house has been painted white, but the 1886 veranda is still in place. The Hilton House burned down in December 1903. ABOVE right Advertisement in the Seaside Oracle, October 15, 1870.

boarders the Turner House has little or no patronage except Court Week & Convention days.” On April 1, 1870, the Seaside Oracle announced, “An important transfer of real estate has just been made. The old ‘Mansion House’ on Main Street, the dilapidated condition of which has long been a source of regret to the community, has been sold to Capt. Wm. E. Wilcockson, who proposes to thoroughly repair and refit it, and open it as a first class hotel…It will be a great improvement to the town and…summer visitors, many of whom were unable to obtain board in Wiscasset last season.” On June 1, the new proprietor proudly advertised the opening of the Belle Haven Hotel, “newly refurnished throughout, convenient in its arrangements and a most desirable boarding place for summer visitors.” Nickels had spent too much building the mansion, and evidently Wilcockson spent too much refurbishing it. On October 15, 1870, a notice appeared in the Seaside Oracle announcing that the Belle Haven Hotel was for sale, saying the owner was “about to remove from Wiscasset.” Between 1870 and 1899, eight successive owners ran the hotel. On May 7, 1877, fire struck. The Lincoln County News reported “…fire occurred on Monday noon in the Belle Haven Hotel. It caught in the attic of the ell, in some straw matting and other rubbish. Cause unknown. The prompt action of the fire department prevented a serious conflagration.” There were apparently two fires in a short period of time, both of which were considered “incendiary”; although an inquest was held, no charges were filed.

Fall 2010 Historic New England


David Bohl

Nickels house which has never been changed in its general appearance except as to color—and not improved by that.” In 1899, Mr and Mrs. Alvin Sortwell purchased the house for use as their summer home. Mrs. Sortwell and their daughter, Frances, both active in the preservation movement, refurbished the interior in the Colonial Revival manner and restored the exterior of Wiscasset’s architectural queen to its original dazzling white. The economic upheavals that the house survived are not visible to visitors today, but were nonetheless significant episodes in the property’s two-hundred-year history.

The Belle Haven Hotel was the setting for social functions, at least one funeral, and some unusual entertainment. One visitor remembered seeing “…the tightrope walkers. A wire rope was stretched between the Belle Haven & Captain Rundlett’s house, and a man in tights & spangles, balancing a pole would walk across, followed by a woman in a short spangled skirted dress who carried a small parasol. Crowds always gathered and after the act, the hat was passed.” At some point during the hotel years, one of the owners updated the exterior color scheme to a fashionable beige with brown trim, which apparently was not to everyone’s taste. A former resident of Wiscasset wrote in 1895 of “Mr. William 12

Historic New England Fall 2010

—Bethany Groff, Regional Site Manager, North Shore; Julie Arrison, Phillips House Site Manager; Peggy Konitzky, Wiscasset Site Manager The Nickels-Sortwell House as the Belle Haven Hotel, 1899. Very likely, this was a commemorative photograph taken during the hotel’s last days, with the staff and townspeople gathered on the veranda and balcony. LEFT The Nickels-Sortwell House today.


Understanding the previous incarnations of these old houses will enrich your experience when you visit the properties and see how they are interpreted today—two as house museums and one as an architectural study property. The Phillips House is open year round; for hours, please call 978-744-0440 or visit HistoricNewEngland.org. The Nickels-Sortwell House is open Fridays through Sundays, June 1 to October 15. The Swett-Ilsley House is open first Saturdays of the month, June 1 to October 15.


Centennial Acquisitions


mong the many initiatives during our centennial has been a special effort to acquire significant items for Historic New England’s collections. Notable among the new objects are seven portraits associated with the Langdon family of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and ten pieces of Jewett family furnishings that have now “come back home” to the Sarah Orne Jewett House, South Berwick, Maine. Gifts and purchases are still being made as this issue goes to press. We illustrate below some samples of this year’s acquisitions, with comments on why they make important additions to our collections.

clockwise from top right This c. 1770 mahogany pole screen, probably made in Boston, has a history of coming from the Hancock House in Boston and may well have been purchased by patriot John Hancock. It joins several other objects and documents in our collection associated with the Hancock House, which was demolished in 1863 amid widespread protests. Pole screens were used to protect people’s faces from the heat of a fire. Gift of Ron Bourgeault

In 1762, Nathaniel Barrell commissioned this dazzling coat of arms of the Sayward family from the Herald’s Office, Royal College of Arms in London, as a present for his fatherin-law, Colonel Jonathan Sayward, owner of Historic New England’s Sayward-Wheeler House, York Harbor, Maine. The lavish gift must have pleased Sayward, who was deeply loyal to the Crown. Sadly, Barrell’s ties to the Sandemanians, a Protestant sect, subse-

quently caused a long-lasting rift in the family. Gift of Paul Blaisdell This handsome presentation rendering, c. 1950, of a house that once stood at the water’s edge in Madison, Connecticut, depicts a low but capacious structure, angled to take advantage of the site. The architecture conforms to mid-twentieth-century taste, with a bow window and a large garage. A cupola resembling a lighthouse lantern adds a nautical touch. The house was designed by John Willard Huntington for Mr. and Mrs. Arthur M. Stoner, who enjoyed off-shore fishing and owned a 65-foot yacht.

Fall 2010 Historic New England


m a k i ng

f u n

o f

h i s t o r y

About a hundred years ago, young Stevie Phillips of Salem, Massachusetts, collected mechanical banks. These banks, often featuring comic figures or animals, were usually made of cast iron. You would put a coin into the slot, and a spring or lever would deposit it in the bank. Mechanical banks were fun for children, and parents liked them because they encouraged the habit of saving money. Today they are valuable collector’s items.

Collecting 1860s




First baseball cards printed

Prizes included in boxes of Cracker Jack

Invention of bottle cap (known as a crown cork)

Founding of Timely Publications (now Marvel Comics)

1886 Founding of American Philatelic [stamp collecting] Society


what is it? u


Can you tell what these are? They are bird eggs. Starting in 1870, when he was twelve, and continuing for the next ten years, Dick Tucker of Wiscasset, Maine, collected bird eggs. Children like Dick were encouraged to collect things they found in nature— eggs, feathers, and leaves, among other things—as a way to learn about science.

uu 14

Historic New England Fall 2010

u u

keeping their treasures Children in the past found different ways to store and show off their collections. Stevie Phillips kept his banks on a shelf in his bedroom. Dick Tucker nestled his eggs in wool and displayed them in a specially made box with a glass top. Antoinette Pierce of Dorchester, Massachusetts, pasted pictures and paper souvenirs into big scrapbooks.





Matchbox cars take off

Magnavox introduces first home video game console

Star Wars action figures appear

Transformer toys introduced

1959 Barbie makes her debut

1978 Cabbage Patch Kids craze starts

1993 Beanie Babies born

do you know Do you save birthday cards, movie tickets, or anything else printed on paper? If you do, you are collecting what are known as ephemera. Ephemera are things printed on paper that are meant to be used and then thrown away. In the late 1800s, Antoinette Pierce saved ephemera like theater programs, clippings about famous people, and images from fashion magazines. —Kathleen Simone Education Program Coordinator

Fall 2010 Historic New England


p r e s e r v a t i o n

Protection from the Elements The phrase “a roof over one’s head” refers to a basic human need—for shelter. In practical terms, a roof shelters the structure beneath it, but it is essentially a sacrificial layer—it will eventually wear out and need to be replaced.


he early European colonists in New England relied primarily on the plentiful supply of wood for their roofs; thus, wood shingles were the material most widely used. By the mid-nineteenth century, improved transportation and industrial technology facilitated the use of other materials. Slate and metal (most often copper or terne-plated steel) offered fireproof, durable alternatives to wood shin16

Historic New England Fall 2010

gles. Less expensive materials such as asphalt and asbestos-cement shingles appeared in the early twentieth century and almost immediately displaced the historic wood shingle. Composition or tar-and-gravel roofing was used on flat-roofed structures, including threedeckers and many Modern houses. The roofs on the many structures at Historic New England’s properties represent almost every kind of covering used in New England over the past

350 years. This wide representation in roofing materials has provided us with the opportunity to craft our own set of best practices and guidelines for dealing with inevitable repairs and replacement projects. The Preservation Maintenance Fund, part of Historic New England’s ongoing efforts to ensure sustainability at our properties, will help us replace roofs at several locations over the next two years. The 1774 Sarah Orne Jewett House in South Berwick, Maine, will get a new wood shingle roof, while the 1728 Cogswell’s Grant in Essex, Massachusetts, will receive a new asphalt shingle roof. Historic New England’s preservation philosophy, tied to the overall interpretation of a property, guides the selection of the type of roof appropriate for a particular building. For

example, the Sarah Orne Jewett House is presented to portray its appearance around 1909. Photographs from that period clearly show a wood shingle roof. At Cogswell’s Grant, on the other hand, the interpretation dates to the 1980s, when Bertram K. and Nina Fletcher Little used the property as their summer home. The asphalt roof being replaced there was put on during the Littles’ ownership. It is not unusual for an old house to be covered by a more recent roofing material, due to the need for periodic replacement and considerations of cost and fire resistance. At the 1683 Pierce House in Dorchester, Massachusetts, Historic New England has the opportunity to be both historically appropriate and environmentally sensitive. There, we will replace an existing asphalt roof with a slightly different type. Although the house, one of the oldest surviving in Boston, was built when wood roofs were prevalent, our interpretation dates to the early 1930s, when the

Roger Pierce family was living there. Photographs from that era clearly show the existence of an asphalt shingled roof. The current black asphalt shingles will be replaced by light gray ones to match those shown in historic photographs. This modification, appropriate from a “replacement in kind” perspective, also contributes to the environment by absorbing less heat. Through the combined effort of a Community Preservation Act grant from the Cape Cod town of Yarmouth and the Preservation Maintenance Fund, Historic New England will be able to replace the wood shingled roofs on both the c. 1780 Winslow Crocker House and the c. 1680 Thacher House in Yarmouth Port. This important preservation task will ensure the community’s continued enjoyment of the historic property and Mary Thacher’s extensive collection of early American antiques.

Historic New England received a $3 million challenge grant to establish the Preservation Maintenance Fund for the long-term care of our historic properties and to make them self sustaining and energy efficient. We are sharing our expertise with our peer organizations and the public through a series of white papers available on our website, HistoricNewEngland.org. Historic New England must raise $1.2 million in new gifts, which will be matched one-to-one. Please help secure this grant by contributing to the Preservation Maintenance Fund on our website or by calling 617-994-5951.

—Colleen Chapin Preservation Manager

facing page, Dark patches on the roof at the Codman Estate, Lincoln, Massachusetts, show where the asphalt has deteriorated. The roof has since been replaced. left Complex pattern of wooden shingles and cedar ridge boards over a dormer at the Winslow Crocker House, Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts. The roof was replaced this summer. above New soldered copper flat roof at Roseland Cottage, Woodstock, Connecticut.

Fall 2010 Historic New England


p o r t f o l i o

right Alton H. Blackington: Alice Valerio, East Falmouth, Massachusetts, 1930 In the 1930s, Falmouth was one of the largest producers of strawberries in the country. Approximately five hundred growers, organized in a loose cooperative, farmed plots of little more than an acre apiece. When the fruit was ripe, entire families and their friends turned out to pick. Blackington made this portrait of eight-year-old Alice enjoying the succulent fruit after working in her father’s field.

The Yankee Publishing Collection


mong Historic New England’s holdings of more than five hundred thousand photographs is a collection of approximately two thousand negatives dating from the 1890s through the 1930s donated by Yankee Publishing, Inc. The images, all taken by professional photographers or skilled amateurs, depict a range of subjects—from town views to famous men and women, from fires, floods, and hurricanes to landscapes and scenes of daily life. Many of the photographs are attributed to Alton Hall “Blackie” Blackington (1893–1963), who worked as a staff photographer for the Boston Herald and as a freelancer. A colorful character with a special talent for human interest stories, he became a radio personality and had a nationally broadcast show,“Yankee Yarns.” Blackington also operated a photo service offering illustrated lectures and stock images by other photographers.


Historic New England Fall 2010

Another talented photographer included in the Yankee Collection is Martha Hale Harvey (1862–1949), who for thirty years portrayed the people and daily life of Cape Ann, Massachusetts, in images remarkable for their sensitivity and detail. In the 1960s, Yankee magazine publisher Robb Sagendorph and others assembled the collection and used the images in the magazine and in a series of picture books. Decades later, Yankee Publishing decided to give the negatives to Historic New England’s Library and Archives, where they are now accessible to the public. —Lorna Condon Curator, Library and Archives; Interns Megan R. Willett and Christina Tedesco contributed to this article.

this page Alton H. Blackington: Charles A. Lindbergh at the Concord, New Hampshire, airport, July 25, 1927 Shortly after returning from his triumphant trans-Atlantic flight, Lindbergh embarked on a national tour in the Spirit of St. Louis to promote commercial aviation. Adulation greeted him everywhere. In Concord, the band played “Hail to the Chief”

as he stood on the platform with other dignitaries. Mayor Frederick Marden described him as “the flying hero of the world, before whom kings and queens, princes and potentates feel honored to bow.” Blackington’s image of the aviator standing before an awestruck crowd is an almost iconic portrait of fame.

Fall 2010 Historic New England


left Alton H. Blackington: Hunger march on Boston Common, May 2, 1932 In the early years of the Depression, with millions of people out of work, hunger marches and other demonstrations took place in numerous cities across the country. Boston Herald photographer Blackington covered this march of five hundred demonstrators demanding, among other things, unemployment relief, a public works program (but not for building jails and poor houses), and legislation to prevent the eviction of unemployed workers. Eleven demonstrators were admitted to the State House to meet with Governor Joseph B. Ely, while outside the crowd sang “hymns lauding solidarity, communism, and other radical ideas of government. There was no disorder, and no arrests were made, but the police were on hand with a complete and efficient display of patrol wagons, clubs, firearms and tear gas bombs.” The Herald stated, “Communism received the brief but courteous hospitality of Massachusetts yesterday,” but none of the marchers’ demands was met.


Historic New England Fall 2010

Alton H. Blackington: Amasa E. Lincoln chairing a Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) meeting, Kingston, Massachusetts, 1927 By 1927, the GAR post in Kingston had been reduced to one member, Amasa E. Lincoln. In order to keep the spirit of his deceased comrades alive and to retain the post’s charter, Lincoln continued to hold annual meetings at which he elected himself to every office. Lincoln was in his eighty-first year when Blackington shot this image at one of the post’s last meetings. Founded in 1866, the GAR grew into the largest veterans’ organization in the country, organizing encampments, charities for veterans and their dependents, sponsoring monuments and the preservation of Civil War sites, and exerting considerable political influence.


Martha Hale Harvey: Flake yards, East Gloucester, Massachusetts, 1890s In the 1890s, hundreds of schooners sailed out of Gloucester to fish for codfish. After being salted, the fish were laid out on platforms, called flakes, to dry in the sun and air. Long strips of cloth suspended above the fish allowed air circulation and prevented excessive exposure to the sun. Harvey’s large glass plate negative captures the scene with incredible detail. The serenity of the image—glassy waters, puffs of smoke, with no people visible—belies the intensive labor involved in the salt-cod industry.

facing page, bottom

Photographer unknown: Parade Marshalls, Jewett City, Connecticut, July 4, 1925 Five citizens of Jewett City memorialized their appearance in the town parade by going to a studio to have their photograph taken in front of a painted backdrop. The men have donned colonial garb, including three-cornered hats, wigs, velvets, and brocades, to portray themselves as patriots of the Revolutionary era.

top right

bottom right Photographer unknown: Hurricane damage, New London, Connecticut, 1938 The Great Hurricane of 1938 was the worst natural disaster in the history of Connecticut. High winds and tidal waves battered the coast, widespread flooding rendered roads impassable, and across New England more than six hundred people lost their lives. In New London, the lighthouse tender steamboat Tulip was driven onto the train tracks.

Fall 2010 Historic New England


C o n v e r s a t i o n

Norm Abram, familiar to millions of TV viewers as the host of PBS’s New Yankee Workshop and the Master Carpenter on This Old House, often used originals he has studied in museums as models for furniture he built on camera. During a visit to Historic New England’s Collections and Conservation Center, he chatted

Artisanry Considered Childs: Here’s an interesting high chest where you can see how the maker added braces, using two different techniques, in order to solve the problem of supporting the upper case. Abram: I love the fact that you can see the nails. My critics complain, “He’s using nails,” but this is the way country artisans worked. They weren’t aiming for high style, they just wanted a piece that would function and hold together. When I’m building a simple pine piece, I’m not trying to hide that fact. However, the old pine was better quality than what you can get now. Carlisle: One of our most spectacular high chests is a painted country piece at Cogswell’s Grant in Essex, Massachusetts. If you look at the dovetails, which don’t really work and are reinforced with nails, you can tell that the maker was not a cabinetmaker—probably a housewright. 22

Historic New England Fall 2010

with Curator Nancy Carlisle and Conservator John Childs about craftsmanship and what he has learned from the artisans of the past. Here are a few excerpts from their conversation.

Abram: I appreciate the challenges faced by those artisans. I began as a carpenter and am really self-taught as a woodworker. I’ve learned from mistakes just as they did. For the Workshop, we wanted to inspire home woodworkers with interesting projects, but we didn’t expect them to necessarily make an exact version of the object we were building, although we hoped they would. I tried to choose items that would demonstrate traditional, timetested methods of joinery—mortiseand-tenon, dovetails—but I’m not averse to experimenting with modern techniques. Some people make a fetish of hand tools. I’m happy to use power tools when they’ll do the job. Childs: Let’s look at this odd-looking desk-and-bookcase—the base is Chippendale and the top is Federal. It’s not a “married” piece assembled by a dealer by adding a bookcase to an existing desk so it would sell for more money.

The top was added, probably by the original maker, twenty years later because the owner wanted the piece updated to look more fashionable. Abram: I’m surprised the craftsman agreed to do that. Carlisle: He probably didn’t worry about it. The whole concept of period style is a more modern construct. And I think that ownership of a design was probably not an issue either. Abram: Well, I can relate to that. Those craftsmen usually didn’t sign their work, and for the most part, I don’t either. I take inspiration from many sources, but the anonymous craftsman is my greatest resource. I guess I’ve absorbed a respect for anonymity.


below right

Proper storage of a historic textile. Demonstration of sash repair.

David Carmack

Sharing Our Expertise


here is no average year for non-profit organizations preserving historic sites and collections and sharing them with the public. For example, Historic New England projects in 2010 ranged from pumping out flooded basements during the “once in a century” storms to opening a film and exhibition based on local oral histories. We launched a new website, systematically identified the top preservation priorities at our thirty-six historic sites, and revised our membership categories, all while celebrating our one hundredth anniversary. What we’ve learned over the years about protecting buildings from natural disasters, documenting local history, improving communications, conducting building assessments, growing membership, and marking milestones could help other organizations facing similar issues. Accordingly, we are offering a new membership category,

Historic New England Affiliate, to share knowledge and best practices with historical societies, small museums, and other non-profit organizations whose missions align with ours. Starting at $100 a year, this membership is affordable even for smaller organizations. Higher level memberships starting at $250, include two great benefits for twenty-five or more of the Affiliate’s members: Historic New England magazine and free admission to Historic New England’s historic properties. The premier membership at $350 also includes the choice of a staff consultation, a discount on select exhibition rentals, or a staff speaker presentation. All Affiliate members receive access to best practices for preservation of collections, landscapes, and properties and two passes to a half day of Affiliate training, scheduled for February 2, 2011. In addition, Affiliate members may consult with Historic New England

Historic New England Affiliate Membership

staff members at an affordable hourly rate of $50. Consultations may be made in any of our program areas: historic properties, collections, archives and publications, educational programs, museum administration, and preservation services. Above all, the Affiliate program seeks to be mutually beneficial, with a common goal of bringing together people who care about New England heritage, preservation, and historic sites. —Kirsten Alexander Senior Membership Manager

Are you involved with a historical society? Please share the news about the Historic New England Affiliate program. Call 617-994-5910 or explore the membership section of our website to learn more and to see the list of our current Historic New England Affiliate members.

Fall 2010 Historic New England



Historic New England Fall 2010

Aaron Usher

Under One Roof

Aaron Usher

Families and their servants living together—

lives intertwined but separate


or most of New England’s history, households often consisted not only of family members but also

of domestic workers who lived under the same roof. Understanding the contributions of these servants to the households in which they labored enriches and augments the stories told at Historic New England’s museum properties. In the pre-industrial era, young, American-born, white female domestic workers, known as the help, assisted housewives with the many chores required to run a household. Sometimes the help lived nearby or were relatives who came to work on a casual, usually temporary, basis. Frequently, they ate at the family table and enjoyed other privileges. For these young women, domestic work provided an opportunity to learn skills they would use once married, when presumably they would hire their own help.

The Industrial Revolution dramatically changed this pattern of domestic life and work. Native-born women began taking jobs in textile mills and factories, leaving immigrants and African Americans to fill most servant positions. The role of the housewife shifted from sharing the housework to supervising it, altering the relative status of employer and worker as well. Domestics were more likely to be strangers in the family’s home and to bring different languages, customs, religions, or skin color into the household. House design

View from the butler’s pantry through the servants’ hall and the dining room to the parlor at the Codman Estate, Lincoln, Massachusetts. ABOVE LEFT One of Mollie Tucker’s helpers at Castle Tucker, Wiscasset, Maine, probably the reliable Annie Donnell, c. 1890. ABOVE RIGHT The bedroom of nurse Marie Reine Lucas at the Codman Estate was located in the main block of the house, close to her charges. Nurses were more likely than other servants to live in physical proximity to their employers. facing page

Fall 2010 Historic New England


Many servants changed employers regularly, much to the frustration of American housewives, while those who found good situations could have very long tenures. Jane Stewart worked


began separating servants from family by defining distinct eating, working, and sleeping quarters so that servants were “in the household but not of it.” A servant’s experience in a household varied according to the financial status of her employers. Middle-class families typically hired only one maid-of-all-work, a general housework girl responsible for everything from cooking and cleaning to personal service. Her hours were long, her mistress often unreasonably demanding, and her social opportunities extremely limited. Not surprisingly, she was the most difficult to retain. Among all households employing servants, estates with large staffs were the least common. Upper-class families paid higher wages, offered more skilled positions and better amenities, and consequently experienced less turnover. For the mistress, finding a servant who fit one’s needs and temperament was difficult. Many women lamented the lack of American girls in service and complained about the poor quality of immigrant girls’ work. Some employers were just extraordinarily particular. In 1904, Frances Kellor, a pioneering sociologist and labor reformer, wrote that one prospective employer told her, “I want a waitress—just an ordinary one,” but who is also “honest, neat, strong, quick, capable, earnest, willing, trained, good-tempered, nice-looking, not 26

Historic New England Fall 2010

for the Bowen family for at least fifty years. RIGHT Reine, the Codmans’ French nurse, photographed with Dorothy Codman, had a similarly long relationship with her employers.

impertinent, sober, willing to resign all the attentions of men, religious, and willing to wear a cap.” On their part, servants reported isolation and loss of status. One explained, “Ladies wonder how their girls can complain of loneliness in a house full of people, but oh! it is the worst kind of loneliness—their share is but the work of the house, they do not share in the pleasures and delights of a home.” Servants typically remained on call even when not engaged in specific tasks. One study conducted in Boston in 1900 documented workdays ranging from seven-and-a-half to fifteen-and-a-half hours. Despite hardships, servants who found suitable situations experienced advantages. Those who lived in had few expenses because room and board were part of their compensation. Many saved their earnings to start new lives outside of service; others sent money to family members. When asked what they liked about domestic work, they cited food and lodging better than that available to factory and shop girls, the ability to learn how to do housework, and the protection of working in someone’s home. According to one servant, “I came to a strange city and chose housework, because it afforded me a home.” Servants working in wealthy homes were often proud of their positions and ability to run elaborate households.

Historic New England’s house museums reflect the diversity of households in which servants lived and worked, from maids-of-all-work to skilled specialists. Three well-documented examples present a range of experiences with domestic service. Roseland Cottage was built in 1846 in Woodstock, Connecticut, as a summer home for Henry and Lucy Bowen and their family. The 1850 census recorded four servants living at Roseland Cottage, all women, most of them young, and all but one Irish, as was typical for the time and region. Ten years later, the census documented a much larger staff in the family’s city household in Brooklyn, New York—seven women between the ages of twenty-five and fifty, once again, mostly Irish immigrants. The Bowens clearly required a more extensive staff in Brooklyn to support both a larger home and a more demanding social life. It is not known how many servants traveled with the family seasonally, although it is likely that some did, especially those who served as the children’s nursemaids. Some may have stayed in Brooklyn as caretakers, and local Woodstock people may have joined the staff for the summer. The Bowens also had servants who did not live in, such as John Malbone, an African American coachman who maintained his own household in Woodstock.

Aaron Usher

Aaron Usher

Many families installed communication devices, like this bell pull and buzzer in the upstairs hall of Roseland Cottage in Woodstock, Connecticut, to summon servants when needed.


Larger houses like Roseland Cottage typically had two staircases, with the rear one connecting the kitchen with the servants’ bedrooms, shielding the workings of the house from public view.


One long-term employee, Jane Stewart, listed as a seamstress, had by 1900 been working for the Bowens for at least fifty years, having emigrated from Ireland in 1848. Her long tenure suggests a stable relationship with her employers and one that was likely closer than most. After leaving the Bowens’ employ, she boarded in Woodstock and remained in contact with the family. The family’s governess, New Hampshire-born Edna Dean Proctor, was a Woodstock Academy teacher and published poet when the Bowens hired her in 1854. Henry Bowen outlined a more familial relationship to Miss Proctor in his offer of employment: “Mrs. Bowen and myself both wish to have you feel if you come into our family that you are one of us. We wish to treat you as a companion and friend.” Miss Proctor continued with the family into the early 1860s. Governesses in wealthy families occupied a complicated position: their status as paid employees, despite the fact that they were educated and respectable, was ambiguous. They were not really servants, but they were not quite family. Few references to servants have been found in the Bowens’ personal papers, but evidence suggests that the family thought well of their staff. At Christmas dinner in 1887, “Harry remembered the silent members of the family, Jane Fall 2010 Historic New England


Codman family servants, c. 1900: Ellen, Nelly, Mary, Reine, and Watson, the chauffeur, with the dog, Rover.

Stuart [sic], Mary McKenna, Mrs. Fogarty, Ann and Rose et al., in a thoughtful way, and the Christmas dinner of ’87 was finished.” Henry Bowen left legacies to servants of long tenure; three who worked for him for more than ten years received $200 after his death. The Codman Estate in Lincoln, Massachusetts, is a good example of an upper-class Victorian household; the lives of the servants there probably come closest to popular conceptions of what it was like to be a servant. The sizeable servants’ wing, which was expanded and updated in the 1880s, features the typical appointments of a family of high status—a servants’ hall where staff dined and could entertain callers, a well-equipped kitchen, pantries, and a laundry. The wing could be closed off, allowing servants to work unobtrusively, while a back staircase led to their bedrooms. The family surely saw this arrangement as beneficial, as it kept noise and work out of public view, while the servants themselves doubtless appreciated the privacy. The Codmans generally employed between five and seven servants, including a coachman, parlormaid, chambermaid, nurse, cook, and general servants. In 1870, at least seven live-in domestics served the five family members. Cooks and nurses received the highest pay, followed by chambermaids, parlormaids, and general servants. The Codman account books indicate regular staff turnover. The family seems to have had particular difficulty keeping a cook, although the records are silent about whether the cooks left on their own accord or were dismissed. The regularity with which cooks came and went demonstrates this was a difficult position to fill to the family’s satisfaction. Other staff, however, had long tenures. Marie Reine Lucas, or Reine, as the family knew her, was a particularly loyal employee. Hired in 1884, while the Codmans were living in France, she worked for them until at least 1930. At Castle Tucker in Wiscasset, Maine, the family papers document the challenges a housewife faced in working closely with minimal domestic help. In 1858, when the Tuckers purchased the mansion, they were fairly prosperous, but as losses mounted in Captain Tucker’s shipping business and other ventures, their finances experienced a slow decline. Even at its most comfortable, however, their household was far simpler than either the Codmans’ or the Bowens’. The Tuckers rarely employed more than one servant, occasionally adding a hired man for outdoor work. Thus, their experience closely reflects that of the majority of those Americans who employed domestics. The first references to servants at Castle Tucker appear in Richard and Mollie 28

Historic New England Fall 2010

Tucker’s correspondence shortly before they moved in to their new home. By November 1858, their first child had arrived, Richard had purchased and shipped a houseful of furniture to Wiscasset from Boston, and Mollie, at the tender age of seventeen, was preparing to “go to housekeeping.” She wrote to Richard, “I have got good news! Joan’s sister (the girl that washes here) is going with us. She is now living over at Auburn at a nice place where she gets $1.50 per week & she has relations all here but I told her I would give her $1.75 to go with us & she said, Yes. I then saw Mrs. Straw who has her two weeks with her & who says she is a real good cook & washer & ironer very neat, etc. in fact that she had only the faults of a very long tongue & she would rule if she could, not very bad faults are they?” Richard replied, “I am glad you have got a good girl. Any one that lives with us will be comfortably situated.” This was probably the first time Mollie had supervised a domestic of her own, and a sense of giddiness and naiveté underlies the description of her find. This “girl,” as most servants were called, regardless of their age, was probably Mollie’s age or slightly younger. By 1860, Mollie apparently had parted company with her first “girl”; that year’s census documents the presence of a different live-in servant, a seventeen-year-old named Sarah. John Comrie, a forty-six-year-old hired man from Scotland, is also listed as a “domestic,” but his work clearly took place outside, as Mollie reported to Richard that “John has been haying” and “the garden looks splendid.” By December 1860, Mollie started thinking about hiring someone new as she wrote to her husband, “I miss so many things—the last my silver fruit knife which Dick had been playing with that morning you left before she swept the sitting room.” Suspicions about theft and dishonesty, regardless of whether they were justified, were common among employers. Bringing outsiders, even those from local families, into the privacy of one’s home created an opportunity for mistrust. By the 1890s, the Tuckers began taking in summer boarders to supplement their income. While paying a domestic or two added to overhead, help was essential to ensure the

Aaron Usher


Aaron Usher

Mistresses sometimes required their domestics to don aprons and caps. These accessories protected their clothes and hair, but more often served an ornamental purpose for the household.


comfort of paying guests. In July 1890, Mollie lamented to one of her daughters, “I have sent to Will [her youngest son] to try and get me a girl in Boston but it is late in the season for me (a decent one) now, I am hopeless, almost, I did not dare to engage expensive help on the frail chances offered this season for a full house of good paying boarders otherwise I should have had two girls come from Boston early in the season.” Unlike many middle- and upper-class women whose servants relieved them of housework, Mollie worked alongside her help, much as housewives had done nearly a century earlier. She was often critical of them, however, and their relationships seem to have been strained as she employed a number of women, many just for short periods. Unlike the Codmans and the Bowens, Mollie Tucker could not offer high wages and amenities. There was no servants’ wing, just a room over the kitchen or in the second floor of the attached shed. Her hired girls lacked the companionship of other servants, the work was drudgery, and the hours long. We have only Mollie’s words to help us understand what it was like for young girls and women working at Castle Tucker, but based on the frustrations she reported and the high turnover, the experience was difficult for both mistress and employee. The challenge of managing relationships, mak-

RIGHT Comunication devices in the Codman Estate kitchen: an inter-room phone system and an annunciator.

ing sure that work was done properly, and trying to operate a business within their home, must have been overwhelming for women on both sides of Castle Tucker’s back stairs. These three households provide a glimpse of the complex and shifting roles of servants in Historic New England’s house museums. The lives and stories of the individuals and families who built and owned these homes dominate our experience as museum-goers. But knowing about the servants who labored in almost all these properties adds an important measure of authenticity to our appreciation of their place in New England’s heritage. —Jennifer Pustz Museum Historian

Jennifer Pustz’s 2010 book, Voices from the Back Stairs, Interpreting Servants’ Lives at Historic House Museums, is available from the Museum Shop at HistoricNewEngland.org. Castle Tucker and Roseland Cottage are open Wednesday through Sunday, June 1 to October 15. The Codman Estate is open on the second and fourth Saturdays, June 1 to October 15.

Fall 2010 Historic New England


land s c a p e

Green Forever


he landscape of an old farm combines elements of the natural topography—woodlands, fields, bodies of water—with man-made elements—buildings, fences, and stone walls. Together, these features tell a story of how people lived, worked, and sustained themselves over time. This historic landscape story is revealed in several of the farm properties Historic New England protects by means of preservation easements. These are private agreements between a property owner and an easement holding organization, such as Historic New England, which preserve specified historic features in perpetuity. Preservation easements require an owner to seek approval from the organization before making changes to specified historic features. They can prevent subdivision of a property and protect not only a


Historic New England Fall 2010

house but also its outbuildings, fields, woodlands, vegetation, garden layout and design, stone walls, and fences. Easements are recorded with the property’s deed and are binding upon all future owners. The easement-protected farm properties in Historic New England’s Stewardship Program illustrate many of the ways New England’s landscape has evolved over time. When European settlers first arrived in New England, they encountered an ecosystem of forests with hardwood tree canopies over soft grasses and bushes, which the native population managed by periodic burning. Within two generations, the colonists transformed this landscape, following European concepts of land ownership and fixed, rather than mobile, agricultural land use. The pre-colonial forests were largely stripped to make use of their

wood resources and to clear the way for pasture and agriculture. For the first time, fences, initially constructed from split wooden poles in a zigzag pattern, enclosed the landscape and kept animals confined to a pasture and away from crops. By the early nineteenth century, stone walls replaced split-rail fences, with the bulk of stone wall construction in New England occurring between 1810 and 1840. Farming in New England began to wane by the mid-nineteenth century due to the short and unpredictable growing season, rocky soils, competition from sea trading and manufacturing, and the westward migration of the population. The decline occurred so rapidly that cleared pastureland throughout the region was largely abandoned, to be reclaimed by forest. This process is primarily responsible for the composition of today’s wood-

Zigzag fences like this one at the seventeenth-century Rebecca Nurse Homestead in Danvers, Massachusetts, once enclosed the New England landscape. They were replaced by stone walls. left A lone tree crowns the hillside pasture at Marble Farm, Sutton, Massachusetts. below At Griffin Farm, Caribou, Maine, potato fields stretch toward the horizon. facing page

For more information about preservation easements administered by Historic New England’s Stewardship Program, visit Historic New England.org or call 617-994-6642.

Fall 2010 Historic New England


land. Virtually no old-growth forest survives in New England, and much of the forest we see today has grown over abandoned pastureland. Clues to this abandonment can be found in stone walls running through the woods and isolated and overgrown family burial grounds. The early nineteenth-century Southwick-Daniels Farm in Blackstone, Massachusetts, is a rare surviving example in the Blackstone Valley of an intact farmstead, within what is today a rapidly developing suburban environment. As early as 1793, the land was utilized as a farm by the Southwick and Daniels families; it continued to be a working farm until 1993. The farm’s open space retains its rural and agrarian characteristics and provides not only scenic enjoyment but also a habitat for natural plant life and wildlife. This landscape evolved as a bird and wildlife habitat and abuts the 388-acre Quisset Wildlife Management Area, which increases the ecological viability of both properties. The farm buildings include a farmhouse, barn, carriage shed, cider mill, corn crib, and hen house. The easement also protects the ponds or water courses from alteration, except as necessary for permitted purposes. The woodlands must be preserved, and the fields must not be allowed to lapse to forest. Stone walls and other granite structures, including posts, steps, a drinking trough,


Historic New England Fall 2010

and underground cisterns, must also be preserved by keeping them free of vegetation and regularly resetting dislodged stones. The landscape surrounding Marble Farm, c. 1763–1770, in Sutton, Massachusetts, consists of fifty-three acres of land, open fields, stone walls, a stone arched bridge, and a cemetery. In this case, the easement protects not only the house and outbuildings but also the property’s rural character, requiring stone walls to be maintained and fields to be kept open by mowing, planting, or pasturing. Selective harvesting of timber is permitted in accordance with a forest management plan. Finally, the graveyard must be left undisturbed and maintained in its present condition. Griffin Farm in Caribou, Maine, where the Griffin family cultivated potatoes from 1868 until 1989, is associated historically with the Aroostook County potato industry. Today, the farm buildings comprise a main block and rear ell and a late nineteenth-century wing known as the Pickers’ Shack. The

landscape consists of expansive hilltop fields, forest, and gardens. Through preservation easements, Historic New England ensures that the general landscape configuration, in addition to the buildings, will be preserved, including retaining the existing field-to-woodland ratio. Future owners are required to maintain existing open fields by mowing at least once a year to prevent the growth of trees and shrubs. Allowable uses of the fields include hay production, pasture, and the planting of crops or orchards, managed so as to promote long-term sustainable yields and to protect the land from soil erosion and waste. —Daniel Aulenti Stewardship Manager The isolated burial ground at Parson Smith House in South Windham, Maine, is located within 125 protected acres. The property includes a mid-eighteenth-century Georgian house, barn, and outhouse. Easements protect the property from subdivision, building, and road paving. above The farmhouse, corn crib, hen house, and barn of the Southwick-Daniels Farm, Blackstone, Massachusetts. left






m s



History Under Glass


Reproduction Giftware


David Bohl

ne of the loveliest rooms in Beauport, SleeperMcCann House, in Gloucester, Massachusetts, is the Belfry Chamber, a bedroom nestled under the eaves, whose angled walls are covered in Décor Chinois wallpaper. Featuring twining branches, flowers, and birds against a celadon background, the paper transforms the room into a green bower. The pattern was first created in 1832 by the French firm Zuber and is hand printed using multiple blocks. Now, through Historic New England’s licensing program, decorative accessories inspired by the Décor Chinois paper are available for purchase. Licensee Neptune 1 Studios of Marblehead, Massachusetts, has devel-

oped a series of decorative glass plates using details from this timeless pattern. “Our tour of Beauport, looking for decorative motifs to use in our line, was amazing,” remarked designer Susan Newberg, co-owner with Phyllis Tracy of Neptune 1 Studios. “As we walked through the house, we were surrounded by so many beautiful things that it was difficult to stay focused on images that would be suitable for the plates we had in mind. When we saw the Belfry Chamber, we knew immediately that the wallpaper would excite the consumer and everyone involved in the process.” Neptune 1 Studios’ plates are made using a modern variant of decoupage—an old technique that traditionally involves gluing designs onto a surface and then applying varnish. Neptune 1 uses high-resolution digital images adhered to the underside of

glass plates and then sealed with layers of paint and clear coat. Neptune 1 Studios is proud to work with Historic New England to make these treasured designs available to the public at reasonable cost. The Décor Chinois plates may be purchased at Beauport, online at HistoricNewEngland.org, or by calling the Museum Shop at 617-994-5925, as well as at several gift shops in the region. —Carol Bruce Retail Operations Manager

Fall 2010 Historic New England


141 Cambridge Street Boston MA 02114-2702

Non-Profit Organization U.S. Postage PAID Boston, Massachusetts Permit No. 58621

aC q u i s i t i o n s

The Artist’s Studio


rtist Gertrude Beals Bourne must have loved this picturesque studio, which her architect husband, Frank Bourne, created for her, because she painted it a number of times over many decades. The room was located on the top floor of a Queen Anne-style house at 130 Mount Vernon Street on the flat of Boston’s Beacon Hill that had been designed by Clarence S. Luce and dubbed Sunflower Castle by Oliver Wendell Holmes. The studio’s exposed beams, comfortable furnishings, and open hearth reflect the couple’s Arts and Crafts aesthetic. Gertrude moved into the house as a new bride and spent the rest of her long life there, making a commitment to the neighborhood. The Bournes were antiquarians and preservationists. In 1920, when Charles Street was being widened, Frank helped save Asher Benjamin’s Charles Street Meeting House, which stood almost across the street from Sunflower Castle. Just as Frank designed buildings in the Colonial Revival

style (one example is Boston’s Charles River Square), Gertrude preserved Colonial and Federal architectural styles in her paintings of old houses. Frank helped found the Beacon Hill Association in 1922 and spearheaded the drive for Boston to pass zoning regulations, which the city enacted in 1924. Gertrude singlehandedly organized and founded the Beacon Hill Garden Club in 1928. Her gardens at Sunflower Castle were her love and a special feature of Beacon Hill during her lifetime.

below Gertrude Beals Bourne (1868– 1962), The Artist’s Studio—Sunflower Castle, c. 1910.

—D. Roger Howlett Mr. Howlett, Senior Research Fellow at Childs Gallery, Boston, is the author of Gertrude Beals Bourne: Artist in Brahmin Boston.

The award-winning Historic New England magazine is a benefit of membership. To join, please visit HistoricNewEngland.org

Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.