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HISTORIC NEW ENGLAND

PRESENTED BY THE SOCIETY FOR T H E P R E S E RVAT I O N O F NEW ENGLAND ANTIQUITIES SUMMER 2008

LANDMARKS OF THE COUNTRYSIDE


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FROM THE CHAIR

Historic NEW ENGLAND

Dana Salvo

Summer 2008 Vol. 9, No.1

The Future of the Historic House Museum

Thomas Visser

I urge you to read Carl Nold’s thoughtprovoking essay on the challenges faced by historic house museums in the twenty-first century. House museums need to find ways to be relevant, exciting, and able to compete for the public’s attention in a fractured and media-hyped marketplace. Now that Carl is serving as chair of the American Association of Museums, he will be actively involved in developing solutions to these problems nationwide. Historic New England is indeed fortunate to have at its helm a leader with his vision and experience. Also in this issue, Richard Nylander examines the silhouette of the Appleton family and finds in its details a remarkable trove of evidence—from works of art on display to the textiles and furniture types— that tell us about taste among Boston’s well-to-do in the 1840s. The article reflects the profound understanding of New England material culture that Richard developed during his more than forty years at Historic New England. Although he retired in March, we are ever grateful for his service and hope he will continue to share his insights with us for years to come. Let me remind our members to visit the historic house museums this season and enjoy the numerous events being offered all over the region for everyone interested in experiencing history in ways that are both enjoyable and authentic.

Landmarks of the Countryside 13

OPEN HOUSE

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The Old Homestead 2

COLLECTIONS

“In the Best Style” M A K I N G F U N O F H I S TO RY

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Life on the Farm

—Bill Hicks

LANDSCAPE

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Lost Gardens of New England O B J E C T S T U DY 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) 227-3957, ext.273. Comments? Please call Nancy Curtis, editor, at (617) 227-3957, ext.235. Historic New England is funded in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Executive Editor Diane Viera

Editor Nancy Curtis

Design DeFrancis Carbone

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In Mr. Appleton’s Parlor N E W S : N E W E N G L A N D & B E YO N D AC Q U I S I T I O N S

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Sacred and Profane

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

The timber-framed barn at Cogswell’s Grant, Essex, Massachusetts. David Bohl.

COVER

V I S I T U S O N L I N E AT

w w w. H i s t o r i c N ew E n g l a n d . o r g

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H O U S E

The Old Homestead Marrett House, Standish, Maine, as it appeared during its centennial celebration in August 1889. Each guest received a handpainted parchment souvenir with a quotation about the love of home printed inside. BELOW The sitting ABOVE

room, decorated with greenery. The wallpaper, still on the walls today, may have been installed to coincide with the celebration.

Marrett House open hours for 2008

June 1 – October 15, 11 am – 4 pm first and third Saturdays of the month

n 1796, upon being ordained minister of the Congregational meetinghouse in Standish, Maine, Daniel Marrett and his bride, Mary, purchased a house that would become home to three generations of their family. The handsome Georgian house in the town center reflected Marrett’s status as a leading citizen in the community. The couple had six children before Mary died in 1810; two years later, Marrett married Dorcas Hastings, who gave birth to eight children. While most members of the family’s sizeable second generation left Standish when they grew up, fond memories of the family home lingered in their minds. As Lorenzo Marrett wrote in 1842 to his younger sister Helen, still living at home, “though I may now be settled on a spot which I trust will bye and bye become a home indeed to me, yet my thoughts will wander back to the old mansion house as long as you and mother shall dwell there.” Clearly, the Marretts had a deep attachment to their family home long before 1889, when Daniel’s son Avery and his wife Elizabeth invited family members to return on August 15th to commemorate the old homestead’s centennial. Their celebration took place in the wake of America’s Centennial festivities, which had unleashed a wave of interest in Colonial arts, architecture, and family history. The Marretts’ Colonial lineage was likely a source of pride for family members, who came to the celebration from as close as Portland and as far as Seattle. In the front yard stood an evergreen arch bearing the dates 1789–1889. Inside, the rooms were festooned with pine branches, and some were redecorated for the occasion. Frances, Avery and Elizabeth’s youngest daughter, recited her poem: Come hither, oh friends of the past and present! Come, and your early acquaintance renew. The old house stands eagerly waiting to greet you With a welcome warm and true. The party continued with music and an elaborate luncheon. Today, with rooms that have scarcely changed since the home’s centennial, Marrett House is a time capsule that reflects the family’s reverence for their history.

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— Jennifer Pustz Museum Historian Summer 2008 Historic New England

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C O L L E C T I O N S

“In the best style” A recent acquisition sheds new light on elegance in Boston in the 1820s.

I David Ca rm ack

n his later years, Richard Codman (1842–1928) penned some recollections of his childhood home in Boston. Although only ten when he had to leave it after his father’s death in 1852, Codman remembered the layout of the rooms and some of the furnishings with remarkable clarity. He tells us that the drawing room was on the second floor, and although “the room was not much used the door was always left open.” He describes the white marble mantel with caryatids and the gilt clock and pair of Sèvres vases on top of it; notes the statues on pedestals; and relates that one window had been plastered over so the whole wall could be hung with the paintings collected by his father. “The furniture was of the Empire period and covered with crimson and gold satin, like the curtains. The carpet was an Aubusson rug and there was a round marble top table in

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the center of the room.” Richard’s father, Charles Russell Codman (1784–1852), had purchased the house at 29 Chestnut Street in 1817, and according to his account book, set about immediately to replace the mantelpieces, paint and paper the walls, carpet the floors, and order a new fence to enclose the yard. After this initial flurry of activity, Codman waited seven years to order the furniture and lavish drapery that would complete the decoration of his drawing room. In March of 1824 he wrote to Samuel Welles: “My dear Sir, In the right of an old friend I take the liberty to beg of you to execute a commission for me in Paris by which I hope to profit, not only by your own but of the taste of Mrs. Welles.” Welles was a Boston merchant living in Paris, who in 1811 had sent trend-setting furnishings to his cousin John, thereby creating a


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new standard among Boston’s elite. Codman enclosed a plan of the bowed end of his drawing room and gave exact dimensions of its two large windows, which measured five feet wide by ten feet three inches high each, “including the architrave.” He wanted the valance to continue across the top of the mirror, like the drapery treatment depicted in the Appleton family silhouette on page 22 of this issue. Codman’s final request was that Welles have the articles “made for me in the best style—rich but not gaudy.” Although he was relying on the judgment of a friend, Codman had quite specific ideas about the colors for the curtains and their trimmings, as well as for the matching fabric with medallions for the seats and backs of six chairs and two sofas. “The colors of my carpet are Rose color and yellow and it is not very important which of these colors you select; I think however that I should prefer the former. If the Curtains and Chairs are Rose color the fringes and lace and medallions for the

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chairs and sofas should be of yellow and visa versa.” Welles apparently could not find anything that matched Codman’s preference for a yellow pattern on a rose colored background, so Codman received just the opposite. The dominant color in his drawing room would be yellow, not the pink that was his first choice. It is not clear how long it took the Paris workrooms to complete the commission or when the goods were shipped to Boston. One wonders if the room was finished by the time of Charles Russell’s marriage to Anne Macmaster on October 19, 1825. We do know, however, that it wasn’t until April 1827 that Codman paid the Welles firm’s bill of $2257.91. Remarkably, this figure is almost three times the amount Codman had spent at Boston auctions for seventeen Old Master paintings and only about a third less than the purchase

price of the house itself. After Codman’s death, the contents of his house were dispersed. Six curtain panels descended in the family and were reused by Ogden Codman, Jr., who treasured anything that had belonged to his grandfather. Ogden had them remade and hung them in several of his residences, where they became quite faded and dirty. Recently, ten additional pieces of the valance were discovered and acquired by Historic New England. The remarkably pristine condition of these examples reveals the true elegance and brilliance of Charles Russell Codman’s purchase of almost two centuries ago. —Richard C. Nylander Curator Emeritus

Charles Russell Codman’s Boston house. Southworth & Hawes photograph, c. 1850. LEFT

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The Future of the

David Carmack

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Bob Stegmaier

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Historic New England explores ways to stay competitive

in a changing world…

T

he evidence is mounting and clear: for more than thirty years, most history museums have experienced

a steady decline in attendance and public interest. Museum professionals point to a wide array of factors as the cause, ranging from pure demographics (fewer people in generations since the Baby Boomers) to increased travel by families to exotic and distant destinations rather than station wagon visits to nearby attractions. Some suggest that replacing traditional history with social studies in the grade school curriculum has reduced overall knowledge and appreciation of the subject. Others point to an overall shift from collective social activities such as bridge clubs, bowling or fraternal organizations, to individual amusements like playing video games, listening to iPods, or surfing the Web. These new activities, done alone, divert people from museum visits. Further,

museum going is most often a social experience, done in pairs or larger groups, less frequently a solitary pastime. Another factor is the changing availability of time for personal and leisure activities in the lives of American families. Increasingly, both parents work outside the home; shopping is now available on previously blue-law-protected Sundays; and parents feel the need for childhood-enhancing soccer games or ballet lessons, not to mention the time required for transporting children to them—all are identified as contributors to a reduction in time previously devoted to museum visits.

To compete in the marketplace, tours must be lively and engaging. Here, visitors learn about Federal-era entertaining at the Otis House Museum, Boston. ABOVE LEFT Participants in Historic New England’s Program in New England Studies tour the collections storage facility and learn connoisseurship from experts like Winterthur’s Prof. Brock Jobe. ABOVE RIGHT A group enjoys a close-up look at selections from the extensive holdings in the Library and Archives. FACING PAGE

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The economic decline that followed the 9/11 tragedy brought to a turning point a crisis that was already brewing among history museums and historic sites. In a confluence of circumstances, tourism came to an abrupt halt and museum attendance plummeted, endowments that provided operating funds shrank in a stock market downfall; foundations and individuals who supported museum activities were equally forced to curtail contributions; and help from grants was reduced as the economic decline lowered tax receipts at all levels of government. Museums already operating on the financial edge were severely impacted, and New England was not spared. Response to such a crisis has required reexamination of long-held assumptions. Across America museum trustees and funders began to ask if historic house museums have a future. Is the very idea of a building and contents frozen in time an outdated nineteenth-century phenomenon dating back to post-Civil War efforts to reinforce national values by preserving the homes of Washington, Jefferson, and other great men? Does virtual access to images and information via the Internet render actual visits to special places obsolete? Do the increased emphasis on math and science education and the need to succeed in standardized tests reduce opportunities to take children to historic places for enrichment activities? Does the nineteenth-century model of an hour-long guided tour through a historic house have a place in twenty-first century life? At Historic New England, these questions go to the heart of what we do. We work to tell the stories of New England heritage through the homes and possessions of those who lived here. Although our Library and Archives and our historic preservation efforts involve wider themes, our core collections of buildings, landscapes, and artifacts focus on domestic life—the homes of New Englanders. The challenge we face is to find ways to engage people’s interest in these resources and make them meaningful in contemporary life. An essential purpose of a preservation organization is purely that, preservation. A look at changing tastes over time quickly shows that buildings and collections once unpopular or deemed without merit can subsequently become the focus of study and be valued and preserved. In the early years of the twentieth century, photography was not considered sufficiently important for museums to collect. Many today still 6

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remember when Victorian furniture was thought to be of little interest. Constantly changing tastes bring paintings, colors, and design styles in and out of popular favor. We cannot with any accuracy predict today what will in fifty years be essential to understanding our culture; we can only work to preserve representative examples of significant trends and let the future determine their use and value. Historic New England’s collecting has followed this approach from the beginning, looking at the popular and unpopular, acquiring the Gothic Revival Roseland Cottage before its interest was fully recognized, and welcoming the gift of the 1938 Modernist Gropius House, when some questioned whether anyone would care about it. Today, Roseland Cottage and Gropius House consistently stand in the top ranks of attendance and interest among our thirty-six museums. Our duty to preserve extends not just to the popular but has a goal of being broadly representative of New England landscapes, buildings, and collections over the long sweep of regional history. While the preservation goal should not depend on current popular interest, the ability to care for and use buildings and collections requires that we find ways for the public to benefit from their protected status. Museums are no longer viewed simply as repositories of the past; they must fulfill a public purpose by adding value in the communities they serve. For historic house museums, the potential value differs widely by community and by site. Some historic houses serve as national or international travel destinations, serving scholars, tourists and the general public, and bringing prestige and dollars to a location. Other historic sites are significant for local stories and, while important to those nearby, will never attract tourism or much outside interest. Recognizing the different needs of different communities, and that there is no single way in which museums add value, is a key to open thinking about how to use historic sites today. In Dorchester, Massachusetts, Historic New England’s Pierce House, built in 1683, is one of the region’s earliest surviving buildings. Its stories range across three hundred twentyfive years and are well documented by family archives. The house is located in a densely populated area, but the needs of the community—which struggles economically and has limited educational resources—do not support traditional museum programs of hourly tours and promotion to tourists. Interest D av i d B o h l

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Daniel Nystedt

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Steve Clicque

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A French-style bergère, c. 1869, from Codman Estate, Lincoln, Massachusetts. ABOVE LEFT Gropius House, 1938, Lincoln, Massachusetts. The Victorian chair and the Modernist house both FACING PAGE

in the house dwindled to the point that fewer than ten people per year visited it in the late 1990s. In the last four years Historic New England transformed the role of Pierce House and its value to the community by taking a completely new approach to its use. While preserving the original character of the site and retaining period rooms that show what life was like, the active use of the house now revolves around school-age children. Children are asked to compare their own stories to those of the Pierce family, to learn about their family’s roots, and describe their current situations and experiences. They study the experiences of the Pierce family, whose lives are documented in materials that range from a letter by George Washington to electric bills from the 1960s. The house serves as the base for programs that go into the schools, and for expanding afterschool programs. Family members accompany children for some of the activities, which expands the reach of the museum beyond the newly-found young audience. Nearly 5,000 students are now served from the house each year. Historic New England is now applying the same program model to houses in Quincy, Massachusetts, and Lincoln, Rhode Island. At Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm in Newbury, Massachusetts, a partnership was established in 2005 with the

represent styles that at one time were considered not worth preserving. ABOVE RIGHT Schoolchildren at Pierce House, Dorchester, Massachusetts, the site of numerous educational activities.

Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. MSPCA had insufficient space at its own farm to house rescued animals. Historic New England welcomed the opportunity to return animals to our 317-year old farm, not only to enhance its agricultural character but also to bring new family and young audiences to experience one of our most significant sites. Attendance has steadily increased since the animals were installed. In Saunderstown, Rhode Island, Casey Farm hosts a Community Supported Agriculture program. The CSA enrolls 215 local member families, all of whom purchase a membership and contribute volunteer time in return for a weekly share of the farm’s organically raised vegetables and flowers. Community sentiment in support of the farm is very strong, recognizing not only the personal stake of the member families but also the role the farm plays in continuing the centuries-old agricultural tradition in a community surrounded by rapid development. Historic New England has increased emphasis on collecting and interpreting the twentieth century, and young adult audiences are responding with increased interest. It appears easier for twenty- and thirty-year-olds to connect to a past that included dial telephones and black-and-white televisions than to one that focused on open hearth cooking. Summer 2008 Historic New England

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Historic farms, like Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm, Newbury, Massachusetts, and Casey Farm, Saunderstown, Rhode Island (illustrated on table of contents page), are important comABOVE LEFT

Because the majority our sites have been preserved to depict history as a continuum, interpretation can be presented with more accessible stories from more recent times. Doing so suggests a way to engage younger audiences through experiences closer to their personal experiences, and then from that foundation, to build toward an increased interest in the more distant past. Historic New England’s Modernist Weekend and visits for the Young Friends to private homes of the midtwentieth century illustrate this approach. A side effect of the so-called “bowling alone” syndrome, in which individuals are increasingly replacing social engagement with solitary activities, is a heightened demand for satisfaction of specific, rather than general, interests and control of personal time. The need to wait even ten or fifteen minutes for an hourly tour is objectionable to many today, as is the fear of being trapped should a tour not prove satisfactory. While some find the tour with a knowledgeable guide to be the very best experience one can have in a historic site, there is much evidence that contemporary audiences want something different. Visitors no longer wish to have a passive role, they want to experience a place hands-on, contribute their own knowledge and insights, and have opportunities that go beyond the usual. Many Historic New England sites now 8

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David Carmach

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munity resources. ABOVE RIGHT Items from the recent past, like this typewriter at the 1728 farmhouse, Cogswell’s Grant, Essex, Massachusetts, can provide visitors with an entry point into more

offer cellar-to-attic tours that take guests to places previously off limits. Overnight programs at the farms involve family groups in doing farm chores and tending livestock. Travel programs offer interaction with curators and with historic homeowners in other parts of the world. Evening and winter events open the museums at times that are more suitable to when visitors are seeking things to do. Such simple ideas appeal to audience groups that are unlikely to attend a standard guided tour. We are on the verge of the retirement of the Baby Boomer generation, those born between 1946 and 1964. While there has been much effort to attract the young to historic sites to build audiences for the future, museums are beginning to recognize that there is a large potential audience emerging in the Boomer retiree group. That generation is better educated, healthier, and more affluent than any prior generation. Their life expectancy will allow for many years of productive activity. Their interest in history, beginning with their own stories but expanding to larger themes, is growing with age. Some suggest that the group offers a base of interest and support that can be tapped for a new golden age for historic house museums. What the retirees are likely to look for is social interaction with people like themselves with shared


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remote time periods. ABOVE Historic New England organizes trips for collectors and other specialized groups to choice locations here and abroad, with behind-the-scenes tours and visits to

interests and experiences. Museums, always a source of social activities, have the opportunity to open their doors to such groups. In doing so, historic sites can also benefit from the expertise, personal connections, and willingness to help that are characteristic of such groups. The museums must allow good access to facilities, collections, and staff resources, and offer experiences that are meaningful and enjoyable. Historic New England’s Appleton Circle already offers this kind of interaction among like-minded collectors and cultural travelers. Over the last three years, with dedicated efforts to reconsider how we add value in the communities we serve, Historic New England has countered the trend of declining attendance and support for history museums and achieved steady increases in membership and attendance. Our experience suggests that it is not the nineteenth-century model of preserving a historic place and its contents that is outmoded. Historic sites continue to offer wonderful opportunities for learning, enjoyment, social interaction, and community benefit. They tell very personal stories that draw strong interest, and when done well, they also illustrate larger themes of national and regional history. What appears to be outmoded is the way we have standardized the historic site experience,

private collections. This group enjoys a private tour of Philip Johnson’s Glass House, New Canaan, Connecticut.

boxed it into a rigid tour, excluded the public from direct involvement with the collections, and tried to impose a single model on what are really very diverse places and constituencies. With continuing dedication to preservation and to the scholarship that helps us understand the past, historic site museums must experiment with new ways to attract and serve audiences. Historic New England is committed to this approach, and recent results are very encouraging. —Carl R. Nold President and CEO Carl R. Nold has more than twenty years’ experience in the history museum field. Formerly director of Mackinac State Historic Parks in Michigan, one of the most-visited systems of history museums in the nation, he currently serves as chairman of the American Association of Museums.

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M A K I N G

F U N

O F

H I S T O R Y

During Colonial times, farming was one of the most common occupations in the region, and entire families worked hard to produce food and other goods for themselves and their neighbors. Children helped their parents by gathering eggs, milking cows, and harvesting crops.

Do you think you’d like to work on a farm ?

Life on the Farm Life on a farm follows a familiar cycle based on the seasons. Here is a year of farm work as recorded in the journal of Colonel Samuel Pierce of Dorchester, Massachusetts, in the eighteenth century.

January

April

May

Put shoes on oxen

Broke up ground for planting Sowed cabbages and barley

Planted corn and beans Drove cows to pasture Sheared sheep Weeded corn

March Calves and lambs born

do you know





this strange-looking co ntraption? What is

This is a tedder, or hay bob. As it moves, the wheels make the gears go around, and the gears turn long arms with forks on the ends. The forks pick up cut hay in the field, turn it over, and spread it out to dry. The hay has to be thoroughly dry before the farmer can make it into bales, which he then stores in the barn. Hay is an important crop on farms with cows and horses, because that’s what they eat in winter when there’s no grass in the fields. Before the horse-drawn mechanical tedder, farm workers turned the hay by hand with pitchforks or rakes. Today, most farms have tractors to pull the tedder. 10

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farmer’s field puzzle



Can you solve this puzzle? It comes from a ma gazine for farm families published over one hundred years ago!

25 Acres

A farmer had four sons and one hundred acres of land. He reserved one quarter, or 25 acres, in one corner for his own use, as shown in this diagram. The father then told his sons that he would give them the remaining 75 acres of land if they would divide it into four equal lots of the same shape.

75 Acres

How were the lines drawn so that the 75 acres were divided into four equal and similar lots? The sons satisfied the request of their father, and received their land, 181/2 acres each. Can you determine how they divided the land? Answer found on page 12. (Adapted from The American Agriculturalist, April 1881)

June

July

September

Barn-raising Gathered string beans

Sowed turnip seeds

Harvested corn

November Slaughtered hogs

October August Gathered hay and barley

word scramble Since Colonial times, farms have been an important resource for New Englanders, providing many goods that we need for daily life. See if you can unscramble this list of things produced on farms. Answers can be found on page 12.

Picked apples and made cider Harvested cabbages and turnips

EEBF LOWO GSGE ABCBESAG IDERC EEEHSC AFLX UBTRET TYKUER SDHEIRSA Summer 2008 Historic New England

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M A K I N G

F U N

O F

H I S T O R Y

Directions 1. Put a layer of gravel at the bottom of each pot, and then fill with potting soil. For seeds, make small indentations in the soil. Plant seeds according to the depth and spacing recommended on the packets. For plants, gently transplant the herbs into the new pots and fill in the remaining space with potting soil. 2. Write the names of the herbs on popsicle sticks and insert them into the pots.

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av D

Supplies small ceramic pots potting soil gravel trowel or large spoon herb seeds or small herb plants from a local nursery— basil, chives, cilantro, mint, oregano, rosemary, or sage watering can popsicle sticks permanent marker

id

C

ar

m

ac

k

grow an herb garden for a windowsill

3. Water the pots and place them in a sunny window. Remember to follow the watering instructions on packets or plant labels. As your plants grow larger, you can snip the herbs and use them in your favorite recipes. Some herbs can be dried for later use. To do so, hang small bunches in a dark, dry place for one to three weeks. Store dried herbs in airtight glass jars. —Amy Peters Clark Education Program Manager 25 Acres

Answers to questions on page 11. beef, wool, eggs, cabbages, cider, cheese, flax, butter, turkey, radishes

75 Acres


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P R E S E R V A T I O N

David Bohl

David Bohl

Landmarks of the Countryside

The large English barn at the Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm, Newbury, Massachusetts. Farmers often added bays to their English barns, sometimes doubling them in size to accommodate growing herds and new farming ventures. BELOW A sliding barn door in Sutton, Massachusetts. ABOVE

All over New England, barns are disappearing from the landscape, slowly sliding into disrepair and decay or being heedlessly demolished to make way for new development. Wherever a barn is not being used or maintained, it is in danger of loss. No one really knows how many barns are lost each year in New England, but Vermont preservationists estimate that one hundred of the state’s approximately twelve thousand barns are razed annually. In parts of New England where agricultural uses are less viable, the losses are predictably higher. Summer 2008 Historic New England

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David Bohl

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Gable-front barn in Sutton, Massachusetts, probably built after 1827, with its original hinged doors. It is larger than the ear-

ABOVE

Building a barn during the Colonial era in New England involved a major investment for the owner, because of the need for skilled craftsmen and for timber. The farmer would employ a master builder to design the barn and oversee construction; portions of the project, like the foundation and finished carpentry, might have to be further subcontracted. Specialized artisans from England built the first barns, and consequently these early barns followed English traditions, modified for New England’s climate and available material. Colonial barns were timber framed, built from hardwoods that were felled locally, hewn square with felling axe and broad axe, and then joined together with pegged mortise-and-tenon joints. Custom-scribing, by which the mortise was cut first and then the tenon was cut to match it, meant that every joint was unique. The English barn form endured for nearly two centuries. Often measuring thirty feet by forty feet, these barns typically featured a simple gable roof with a large door on both eave sides to permit a wagon to drive in one side and out the other. The interior was typically divided into three bays: a stable for the animals, a threshing floor to process grain in the center, and a hayloft for hay storage. Overhead, a scaffold of simple planks or saplings acted as a hayloft for additional hay stor14

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lier English barns but smaller than later five-bay gable-front bank barns. CENTER Balloon framing in a gambrel-roofed barn in South

age. English barns could be enlarged by bays at the gable ends or by lean-to additions. A variant type, known as the side-hill English barn, was built on a sloping site to provide a cellar beneath the stables to store manure. Three sides of this cellar could be built of dry-laid fieldstone, with the downhill side being open to the elements. Sometimes an existing English barn would be moved to a slope and placed on such a foundation. By the 1830s, a new form—the gable-front barn, or New England barn—began to appear, paralleling the new taste for the Greek Revival style in domestic architecture. Easier to expand than the English barn by simply adding bays to one end, the gable-front barn had the further advantage of shedding snow and rain at the eaves rather than the entrance. Early gable-front barns offset the main door and drive floor to allow for a large haymow, because hand-threshing to separate grain from husks and stalks required large areas for hay storage. After the horse-powered mechanical thresher arrived in New England and thereby reduced the amount of space needed for hay, gable-end barns began to have central doors. Around the middle of the nineteenth century, various changes, including technological improvements emerging out of the Industrial Revolution, began to affect barn construc-


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Burlington,Vermont. Compare the studs (“light as a balloon”) with the heavy timber framing in the Cogswell’s Grant barn illustrated

tion. The availability of mill-sawn lumber allowed the standardization of wood lengths. Square-rule carpentry, which used a framing square to cut joints to pre-determined dimensions, made joints interchangeable. These developments permitted quicker construction by craftsmen with less specialized skills. Meanwhile, hardwoods were becoming more scarce, so builders increasingly used softwoods like spruce, pine, and hemlock. In the second half of the nineteenth century, balloon framing spread from the Midwest to New England. Balloon framing used long, continuous framing members, or studs, which ran from the sill up to the eave line, and nails as a fastening system. The process further reduced the level of skill needed to construct a barn. During the same period, barns tended to be placed closer to the main dwelling, often at a right angle, to create a protected yard. The simpler, lighter construction methods of the midnineteenth century resulted in a greater variety of barn types, adapted to local tastes and terrain. Gable-front bank barns, like side-hill English barns, were also built into sloping sites. The farmer could drop manure through a trap door to the cellar below, then distribute it to the fields with a manure spreader. The sliding barn door, a technological improvement

John Porter

Thomas Visser

John Porter

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on the cover of this issue. FAR RIGHT, ABOVE A gable-front barn in New Hampshire, with an impressive cupola. FAR RIGHT, BELOW A twentieth-century gambrel-roofed barn.

that was safer in high winds and easier to open in the presence of heavy snow accumulations, debuted in new barns of the mid-nineteenth century. Exterior cosmetic detailing began to appear on new barns, particularly in the pediments and eaves. Such details unified the barn with the style of the farmhouse and other outbuildings and gave the farmstead an appearance of modernization, which was synonymous with excellence. By the 1860s and ‘70s, the most fashionable barns featured Gothic, Italianate, and Second Empire styling. A decade later, gambrel roofs became popular, because they afforded a greater volume of space for the hay loft without an increase in wall height. High-drive bank barns—three, four, or even five stories in height—like the earlier bank barns, took even greater advantage of gravity to make farm labor more efficient. These barns featured an earthen ramp leading to the barn’s loft level. Instead of hoisting the hay into the loft with a hayfork, the farmer could drive up the ramp and offload hay and grain with ease, shifting it into the haymow or to livestock below. High-drive bank barns were wide enough to permit the wagon to turn around at one end of the barn and exit through the same door.

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Courtesy Maine Historic Preservation Commission

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Farmers in the coldest climates appreciated their connected barns, like this connected gable-front bank barn in New Gloucester, Maine. BELOW This unusual high-drive barn features a

ABOVE

John Porter

Less common barn types in New England included round barns, monitor-roofed barns, and connected barns. Round barns, pioneered by the Massachusetts Shakers in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, became more common in the early twentieth century and are particularly associated with dairy production. They utilized multiple levels in a manner similar to high-drive barns. Monitor roofed barns, appearing in the late nineteenth century, allowed more air

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covered ramp at the gable end and an additional earthen ramp to the second story at the eave side.

and light to circulate through the barn and included wooden air shafts rising from the stable level to the monitor. Connected barns, which permitted the farmer to walk from his house to barn and woodshed without going out of doors, are a regional variation seen primarily in New Hampshire and southwestern Maine. Conceived as an effort to modernize that added convenience for the farmer in areas of extreme cold and snow, connected barns faded from popularity due to the risk of fire spreading amongst the linked structures. The twentieth century brought new building techniques and materials, such as roof trusses, concrete, and corrugated steel. But the rapid changes brought by the modern era made the New England family farm less competitive, and the barn’s original function as a tool for agricultural production waned. Today, the owners of historic barns appreciate their structural beauty and practicality as they adapt them to the needs of a twenty-first century lifestyle. —Daniel Aulenti Stewardship Manager


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y

Courtesy Vermont Division for Historic Preservation

Help for Old

An early bank barn, c.1850, in Peacham, Vermont, which is part of the Josiah and Lydia Shedd Farmstead and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2007, the current owners were awarded a $10,000 Barn Grant towards stabilizing and repairing the structure.

ortunately, owners and preservation groups are working hard to ensure that historic barns don’t disappear from the rural landscape. In every New England state, efforts are under way to identify, document, stabilize, and preserve historic barns. Statewide barn preservation initiatives sponsor conferences, underwrite grant programs, and advocate for the preservation and protection of these icons of the region’s agricultural heritage. Despite best efforts, however, statewide barn preservation programs can assist only a fraction of New England’s stock of historic barns. Thankfully, barns are sturdy and generally forgiving structures, and even minimal interventions can keep a historic barn from the brink of collapse. Just as in all buildings, particular attention to the condition of the barn roof and founda-

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tion is critical: leaky ventilators and cupolas, missing shingles, poor drainage, and vegetation around the foundation will damage the underlying structure and hasten failure. It is wise to clean out the barn to reveal its structural condition and clarify treatment options. Spreading sidewalls, a common problem, can be managed by installing steel cables at major framing points to prevent further bowing and forestall collapse. Once you have evaluated the barn’s condition, phase repairs to focus on the most pressing threats, stopping water infiltration and stabilizing the structure, so as to keep the barn standing to await future work. One award-winning organization, the Mount Holly, Vermont, Barn Preservation Association, has demonstrated what can be accomplished by a small, dedicated group of volunteers. In one year, the MHBPA mapped and

Barns photographed all 52 historic barns in the tiny town, going on to document the status of 38 of those barns, and then assisting in the stabilization of the five barns identified as most in need of immediate attention. Historic New England protects and preserves about 170 barns and other outbuildings— 110 in direct ownership at its historic properties and another 60 through preservation restrictions administered by the Stewardship Program. Many of these structures stand in protected landscape settings, reminders of our agrarian past. —Sally Zimmerman Preservation Specialist

If you are the owner of a historic barn, there are many sources for assistance and tips on maintaining and preserving these important and evocative structures. More information and links to barn preservation organizations are available online at www.HistoricNewEngland.org/Barns. State-based programs: • Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation Historic Barns of Connecticut Project (www.connecticutbarns.org) • Maine Historic Preservation Commission Historic Barn Preservation Grants (www.mainepreservation.org/barn1.htm) • Preservation Massachusetts Barn Task Force (www.preservemassbarns.org) • New Hampshire Preservation Alliance Barn Assessment Grant Program (www.nhpreservation.org/html/barns.htm) • Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission (www.rihphc.state.ri.us/) • Preservation Trust of Vermont Save Vermont Barns (www.savevermontbarns.org) • Vermont Division for Historic Preservation Barn Grant Program (www.historicvermont.org/financial/barn.html)

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L A N D S C A P E

Lost Gardens of New England ew England has a rich heritage of garden design, the most impermanent of the design arts. While much of this legacy has been lost, images of some of the vanished landscapes survive in Historic New England’s Library and Archives. This selection of watercolors, plans, and historic photographs illustrates major themes of the region’s landscape history. New England gardens of the Colonial period and the Federal era were influenced primarily by English design. The years following the American Revolution were affluent times in the region, and the merchant and professional elite devoted considerable financial resources to fostering experimental agriculture and horticulture. Their country estates echoed the naturalistic concepts of English designers Lancelot “Capability” Brown and Humphry Repton. The writings of John Claudius Loudon encouraged a return to formality in smaller, more urban gardens. By the middle of the nineteenth century, a distinctive American style emerged. It embraced the native picturesque landscape while seeking, through design, to tame and refine the national character. Landscape gardener Andrew Jackson Downing (1815–52) emerged as one of the most influential voices in American taste through his popular books on land-

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THIS PAGE The Lilacs, Thompson Kidder’s country seat in Medford, Massachusetts, was one of many estates, large and small, developed in towns near Boston after the Revolution. These watercolor drawings provide a detailed picture of the unity of ornament and productivity in landscape design around 1808. The main approach to the house features a curved drive and a circular garden, defined by regularly-spaced flowers and shrubs. Simple wooden trellises flank the front entry, and vines twine around the pair of columns to complete the symmetrical composition. The rear tract of land was intensely cultivated with fruit trees and a vegetable garden. Kidder also developed a series of terraces with curvilinear beds in order to maximize the planting area on the steep site. The practical design was balanced with aesthetic touches, such as winding paths and a lattice summer house.


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scape gardening and domestic architecture, which promoted the interdependence of beauty and usefulness. He described two major types of landscape, the “beautiful”— with serpentine lines, soft grasslands, and groupings of deciduous trees— and the “picturesque”— with irregular lines, rough ground, and pointed evergreens. Downing’s innovative ideals of rural life were superseded as the century progressed. Designers like Frederick Law Olmsted, also influenced by the English landscape tradition, found new ways to integrate nature with decorative elements. Other designers looked to the past for inspiration. Publications such as Alice Morse Earle’s Old-Time Gardens, 1901, and Edith Wharton’s Italian Villas and Their Gardens, 1904, provided models that spawned a rich and eclectic chapter in American garden history.

THIS PAGE During the early years of the New Republic, New England’s prospering port towns and cities saw the construction of many high-style residences. Typically, the building lots were narrow but had considerable depth. In contrast to the naturalistic park-like designs found on rural estates, these urban gardens tended to be symmetrical and enclosed. ABOVE This 1812 plan of the garden at the Rundlet-May House in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, depicts the grid design laid out by James Rundlet in 1807. The house was situated on a terraced site, with two acres of gardens, including plant beds, gravel walks, and an orchard. A long shed and stable separated the service yard from the gardens. Rundlet kept detailed records of expenses at his property. Plant purchases made between 1807 and 1809 included pear and peach trees, grapevines, and rose bushes. Subsequent records document the cultivation of asparagus and potatoes. The landscape’s formal arrangement was in keeping with the ordered context of city life. LEFT Two photographs taken c. 1899 depict the Brockway garden in Newburyport, Massachusetts, which dates to the Federal era and shares many similarities with the garden at the Rundlet-May House. Both houses were elevated on grass terraces with fences enclosing the front yards and had deep rear gardens. Each was organized into geometric-shaped beds, but the Brockway garden was of a more complex design than the simple rectilinear forms of James Rundlet’s garden.

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LEFT A. J. Downing’s theory of the ideal environment—one slightly removed from the urban center—influenced the landscape of the American suburb. In 1856, Boston architect Luther Briggs, Jr., designed a house and grounds in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, for grocer Ephraim Merriam. Briggs probably took his inspiration for the Italianate house from one of Downing’s architectural pattern books— either Cottage Residences (1842) or The Architecture of Country Houses (1850). Briggs’s plan for the landscape surrounding the house also reflects Downing’s recommendations in the use of ornamental plantings, fruit trees, and a grape trellis. BELOW Benjamin Rand, a Cambridge, Massachusetts, carriage builder, constructed his Italianate house on a large plot of land in 1855. The extensive grounds, enjoyed by the Rand family for almost one hundred years, included ornamental plantings, a neat vegetable garden, a cutting garden for flowers, and a small orchard. A greenhouse was located in the more utilitarian section, while gravel paths connected the wisteria-covered summer house with other recreational areas. The Rand family’s suburban oasis, photographed c.1890, is now the Porter Square Shopping Center.

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Beginning in the late nineteenth century, New Englanders increasingly sought the help of professional designers to plan their gardens. Elaborate greenhouses were often included as part of a large professional design. This greenhouse was proposed for the estate of publisher Edwin Ginn of Winchester, Massachusetts. The greenhouse was probably designed by the Irvington, New York, firm of Lord & Burnham.

LEFT

BELOW AND RIGHT “All our roads seem to lead us toward the Hamilton House,” wrote Emily Tyson to her friend, author Sarah Orne Jewett. Located on a high bluff overlooking the Salmon Falls River in South Berwick, Maine, the Georgian house was built about 1788 by prosperous West Indies merchant Jonathan Hamilton. Captivated by the beauty of the house and its evocative setting, Emily Tyson and her step-daughter, Elise, purchased the property and the surrounding one hundred and ten acres in 1898. The Tysons created a series of gardens compatible with the house’s Colonial character, including an elaborate sunken garden surrounded by a vine-covered pergola, a cutting garden enclosed by an arborvitae hedge, and a cottage garden. One of the many garden writers who visited Hamilton House noted, “In isolation, simplicity, and ripeness the atmosphere of the whole place breathes of olden days, and might well be taken as a model for a perfect American garden.” Unfortunately, the pergola and other architectural elements were destroyed by a hurricane in the 1950s. The elms that were planted around the house and along the river bank succumbed to Dutch Elm disease. The cutting garden evolved into a shade garden as the arborvitae hedge grew to be thirty feet tall. Historic photographs, like these taken by George Brayton, c.1923, guide Historic New England as it works to retore this splendid Colonial Revival garden.

This article is based on the exhibition Lost Gardens of New England, which reproduces numerous images from the Library and Archives, along with original garden ornaments from the collection. The exhibition will be on view from June 29 to October 31 at the Heritage Museums & Gardens, 67 Grove Street, Sandwich, Massachusetts, www.heritagemuseumsandgardens.org. The text of this article is adapted from the exhibition text by Lorna Condon, Elizabeth Igleheart, and Richard Nylander.

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O B J E C T

S T U D Y

This group silhouette of the Appleton family is signed at lower right, “Aug te Edouart. Fecit 1842./Boston. U.S.[A.]”

LEFT

In Mr. Appleton’s Parlor he details are intriguing. Four figures appear in silhouette against a backdrop, executed in pencil and wash, of an elegantly furnished room. One woman is shown in the act of cutting a silhouette of a gentleman seated in a rocking chair. Pencil lines enhance the silhouettes, delineating the gentleman’s eyeglasses, the scrolled arms of the rocking chair, lace on the cap of the older woman, and the elaborate hairstyles of the younger women. The composition was created by Auguste Edouart (1789–1861), a prolific French silhouette artist who visited the United States between 1839 and 1845 and cut 3,800 “likenesses in profile.” Edouart skillfully cut his “shades,” as they were also called, with embroidery scissors; according to one sitter in Baltimore, he had “the most remarkably accurate eye I have

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ever seen.” Edouart summered in Saratoga, New York, and traveled the rest of the year to cities like New York, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Washington. During his stay in Boston between November 1841 and June 1842, he created likenesses of many prominent inhabitants, including twelve members of the extended Appleton family. The figures represented here are Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Appleton with a niece and a friend. A native of New Ipswich, New Hampshire, Samuel Appleton came to Boston to seek his fortune in 1794, at the age of twenty-eight. He became a successful merchant and helped his two brothers, Nathan and Eban, and his first cousin, William, become successful as well. Retiring in 1810, he invested in several other business ventures, and was extremely generous in his philanthropy. In 1819, when he was fifty-

three, he married Mary Lekain Gore, the much younger widow of a former business partner, and commenced building a new house at 37 Beacon Street. Edouart’s depiction of the Appletons’ parlor is replete with details that document Boston’s taste in furniture and decoration during the first half of the nineteenth century. The room exemplifies the effect described by Nathan Appleton when he ordered objects for his own house, desiring them to be “stylish” and “elegant” but not “showy.” There are fluted pilasters in the corners and beside the arch reflected in the chimney glass. A mantel, composed of two varieties of marble, provides the room’s focal point. It may have been provided by a relative, Thomas Appleton, who imported chimney pieces in Boston at the time. A simple plaster cornice and a


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large rosette in the center of the ceiling, from which hangs an Argand chandelier, complete the restrained decoration. The principle furnishings include a pier table between the windows, a center table, a pair of sofas—all in the classical style—and two large looking glasses with simple, matching frames. The sofas copy a design published in Ackermann’s Repository of the Arts in 1821, which was favored by several Boston cabinetmakers. The plant stand in the window is a more ephemeral piece of furniture, a type that does not often survive. The unusual placement of the sofas—one against the wall and one perpendicular to the fireplace— may have been more common than we might suspect. Edouart depicted a similar grouping in his silhouette of the Daniel Parker family of 40 Beacon Street, also executed in 1842. Textiles play a major role in the decoration and would have provided both pattern and color. The carpet was a major source of pattern. (According the Appletons’ niece, Fanny

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Longfellow, there were also frescoes on the ceilings.) The elaborate two-toned drapery treatment is crowned with a fringed valance, while a decorative band trims the bottom edges of the curtain panels. The sofa upholstery was probably a woven silk or a cut and voided velvet, both commonly used by Boston upholsterers at the time. The paintings on the rear wall illustrate types of art favored by Bostonians—family portraits and Old Master paintings. The artist has rendered them so carefully that we can identify one as Gilbert Stuart Newton’s 1818 portrait of Appleton and the other as a copy of Titian’s Woman with a Mirror. Interestingly, the small fulllength silhouette beneath the portrait depicts another “shade” of Appleton by Edouart. Auguste Edouart was renowned for the fidelity of his likenesses of people. In the Appleton family group, he has also given us a faithful image of their Boston parlor. But what adds a special charm to this work is that

it depicts one of its personages— Mr. Appleton—four times. Was Mrs. Appleton really cutting a silhouette of her husband, or did the artist add that detail as a flattering and witty gesture towards his patron? —Richard C. Nylander Curator Emeritus

An 1848 copy of Gilbert Stuart Newton’s portrait of Appleton. LEFT This silver ewer is ornamented with a small bust portrait of Appleton under the spout, as well as engraved images of his Boston residence on one side and his New Hampshire birthplace on the other. ABOVE The green silk triangles near the center of this patchwork are identified in the label as “Mrs. Samuel Appleton’s Curtains.” TOP

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News

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New England & Beyond

A Gala Evening

Photography by Michael Dwyer

Over 280 influential people gathered at the Four Seasons Ballroom in Boston on January 4 for a Gala evening that raised $245,000 in net proceeds towards support of the education and public outreach programs offered by Historic New England.

Lead Corporate Sponsor William Vareika with President and CEO Carl R. Nold. ABOVE

Leigh and Leslie Keno respond to lively bidding on the trip to Argentina. ABOVE

Gala Co-chairs Susan Sloan and Anne Kilguss with President and CEO Carl R. Nold.

ABOVE

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Trustee Joan Berndt, Board Chair William Hicks, and Ernst Berndt.

ABOVE


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Study property open dates. MASSACHUSETTS

Daniel Nystedt

Rocky Hill Meeting House, Amesbury Sunday, May 18 Saturday, June 28

ABOVE

Boardman House, c.1687, Saugus, Mass.

Cooper-Frost-Austin House, Cambridge Sunday, May 18 Sunday, August 10 Pierce House, Dorchester Saturday, May 10 Saturday, Oct. 25

Off the beaten path For an unusual experience, visit Historic New England’s study properties, which are open specific days this season. Ten of the properties are rare building types dating from the First Period of European settlement; most have escaped significant alteration and are left unfurnished in order to showcase their construction methods. The framing and masonry reflect the regional origins of the early settlers, who brought with them building practices they learned in England and adapted to the materials available to them in the New World. In addition to the First Period buildings, other study properties include the Georgian-style Rocky Hill Meeting House in Amesbury, Massachusetts, which remains in pristine condition; the Quincy House in Quincy, Massachusetts, a country house that preserves the history of a prominent Boston family; and the Merwin House in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, a Federal-style house that was updated during the Colonial Revival era as a summer residence. Admission is free to members; please consult your Guide to Historic New England or visit www.HistoricNewEngland.org for details.

Dole-Little House, Newbury Sunday, May 18 Saturday, June 7 Saturday, Oct. 4 Swett-Ilsley House, Newbury Saturday, June 7 Saturday, July 5 Saturday, August 2 Saturday, Sept. 6 Saturday, Oct. 4 Quincy House, Quincy Saturday, July 12 Saturday, August 16 Gedney House, Salem Saturday, June 7 Saturday, July 5 Saturday, August 2 Saturday, Sept. 6 Saturday, Oct. 4

Browne House,Watertown Saturday, June 7 Saturday, Sept. 27 NEW HAMPSHIRE

Gilman Garrison House, Exeter Saturday, June 7 Saturday, July 19 Saturday, August 23 RHODE ISLAND

Arnold House, Lincoln Saturday, June 7 Saturday, July 12 Sunday, August 17 Saturday, Sept. 20 Sunday, Oct. 5 Sunday, Oct. 12

Bring family and friends We urge you to check the events listing in the “What’s Happening” newsletter and visit the website to find the many enjoyable programs offered at our historic sites all over the region. There are crafts fairs, farmers’ markets, walking tours, plant sales, antique car meets, lectures, and hands-on activities to interest everyone. Make an excursion to a property you haven’t visited yet, bring a picnic, enjoy the landscape. Our site staff can tell you about other things to do in the vicinity to help you plan your day. Bob Stegmaier

DamianosPhotography.com

Merwin House, Stockbridge Saturday, June 7 Saturday, Dec. 6

Clemence-Irons House, Johnston Saturday, May 3 Sunday, Oct. 12

Nold assumes chair of AAM Historic New England President and CEO Carl R. Nold has been elected chair of the American Association of Museums for the term 2008–2010. The AAM represents more than 15,000 museums of all types and devotes itself to gathering and sharing knowledge on issues of concern to the profession, developing standards and best practices, and advocacy. Nold has been active in the AAM for many years, most recently serving as vice chair.

Boardman House, Saugus Saturday, June 7 Saturday, July 5 Saturday, August 2 Saturday, Sept. 6 Saturday, Oct. 4

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A C Q U I S I T I O N S

Sacred and Profane Parlor organ, c. 1875. Prescott Organ Co., Concord, New Hampshire. Gift of Susan Foster Vogt.

David Carmack

LEFT

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he beautiful but simple decoration on this organ suggests the Gothic style of church architecture. Indeed, all organs have what one historian calls a “persistent ecclesiastical association,” and those purchased for private

homes were often used to play hymns. This particular example was a present from a Civil War veteran to his wife for their home in Pittsfield, New Hampshire. Built by the Prescott Organ Company, Concord, New Hampshire, a family run company that had been making musical instruments since 1809, the instrument passed to female

141 Cambridge Street Boston MA 02114-2702

descendants and finally to a family in Haverhill, Massachusetts, who recently donated it to Historic New England. During the second half of the nineteenth century, the parlor organ was nearly as popular in America, at least for a time, as the piano. Few middleclass homes were without one or the other. A parlor organ cost less than half of the price of a piano and took up less space, while satisfying many of the same needs and providing a formidable symbol of culture and refinement. Before Edison’s invention of the phonograph in the late 1870s, the only way to bring music into the home was to perform it. —Nancy Carlisle Curator Visit www.HistoricNewEngland.org to hear a recording of the donor’s mother and sister playing the organ.

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

Historic New England Summer 2008  
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