Historic New England Summer 2012

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Historic N E W E NG L A N D

S UM M E R 2 0 1 2

The Many Lives of Maine’s Lighthouses

From the CHAIR

This season, Historic New England opens the home of Jacob and Dorothy Stekionis to public view for the first time. For much of the twentieth century, the Stekionises, Lithuanian immigrants, lived in the wooden farmhouse at the Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm in Newbury, Massachusetts, and raised three daughters there. Our historic properties tell the stories of many individuals, including servants, governesses, and tenant farmers as well as owners. These interrelated narratives reveal the many threads that make up the colorful tapestry of American life. In this issue, we share a variety of stories—about the handful of professionally trained women designers who managed to establish careers in the male-dominated field of historic preservation in the early twentieth century, about ceramics depicting American scenes and monuments made in England for the American market, and about ways in which images of the iconic Maine lighthouse have been used to promote everything from religious faith to commerce. The scope of stories told through Historic New England’s holdings is extraordinarily broad. Preserving them and making them accessible to the public is a crucial part of our mission. We are deeply grateful to all our members, whose support for the research, educational programs, exhibitions, and publications makes this possible.

Historic N E W E NG L A N D Summer 2012 Vol. 13, No. 1

Finding a Home in America 18



Welcome Home 2


Women at Work report from the field 6

Three Decades of Caring for Piscataqua Landscapes 8


After the House Museum 10


From Guiding Lights to Beacons for Business 16

Library and Archives

Bridging the Waters 22

A Backward G lance

Tenant Farming Planned G iving 2 4

Planning Ahead

—Roger T. Servison Chair


Making learning fun

Garden Geometry online Ex hibition


New England Blues Historic New England 141 Cambridge Street Boston MA 02114-2702 617-227-3956 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, Senior Curator of Collections; Lorna Condon, Senior Curator of Library and Archives; Jennifer Pustz, Museum Historian; Sally Zimmerman, Manager of Historic Preservation Services Design: DeFrancis Carbone



Managing Woodlands 1 0 0 Years, 1 0 0 Communities


Take Me to the Fair Looking Forward


Laboratory for Learning acquisitions


A Northern New Englander

Keeper’s house, light tower and bell house, Bass Harbor Head Light Station, Bass Harbor, Maine. Photograph by Richard Cheek.


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


Welcome Home


Bombé chest of drawers. Attributed to Thomas Needham, Sr. Boston, c. 1780.


Visit the Quincy House in Quincy, Massachusetts, where you can view the bombé chest along with other fine examples of eighteenth-century furniture owned by the family. The house is open on the first Saturday of the month from June to October. For details, please visit HistoricNewEngland.org.

his magnificent bombé chest, with its luscious figured mahogany, broad overhanging top, and beautifully carved ball-and-claw feet, appears to be the one listed in the 1784 probate inventory of Colonel Josiah Quincy as a “Bureau Table” in the northeast chamber. Alternatively, it may have come from Quincy’s daughter-in-law, Abigail, wife of the patriot Josiah Quincy, Jr. In 1879, Eliza Susan Quincy, chronicler of the family history, recorded her family’s furnishings in a memorandum and mentioned “the mahogany Chest of Drawers [which] came from the Bromfield Phillips house & was given to Mrs. Abigail Quincy, it is supposed on her marriage 1769.” A note written in 1946 and pasted inside the top drawer provides the more recent history of the chest, explaining that Anna Quincy Waterston, Eliza Susan Quincy’s sister, had given it to the writer’s mother about sixty-five years earlier. The chest came on the market in 2009, and through the generosity of a longtime supporter, is now back on view at the Quincy House. Noted furniture scholar and Historic New England Council member Kemble Widmer (see the Fall 2009 issue of Historic New England magazine for his article about another bombé chest in Historic New England’s collection) has identified this chest as one of two made by the same cabinetmaker. Both chests are unusual amalgams of Salem and Boston construction and design. The maker appears to have been Thomas Needham, Sr. (1734–1804), a cabinetmaker who trained in Salem and worked both there and in Boston. As far as we know, the bombé form was made only in Boston, Salem, and Marblehead, Massachusetts. Its construction was a cabinetmaker’s tour de force, requiring an engineer’s capacity to fabricate and join matching curves. And because of those curves, unlike traditional rectangular case pieces, it fulfilled the rococo aesthetic. No more than forty eighteenth-century bombé chests are known today. When they were made, chests like this one, with its complicated construction, expensive mahogany, and large imported brass handles and escutcheons, would have been marks of status, wealth, and taste, perfectly suited for Abigail Phillips Quincy and her new husband. —Nancy Carlisle Senior Curator of Collections Summer 2012 Historic New England




Women at Work Long recognized as keepers of cultural heritage, and especially of the history and traditions of families and home, women in the mid-nineteenth century began playing a more active and public role as saviors of historic properties. Until the late twentieth century, however, women preservationists were volunteers in support of the cause. Female professionals working in preservationrelated fields were rare, but not unknown.


he role of female professionals in historic preservation during the first half of the twentieth century has not generally received much attention. The birth of the preservation movement in America began as a volunteer effort led by Ann Pamela Cunningham, whose Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association secured the preservation of George Washington’s home in 1858. For much of the next century, preservation campaigns continued as voluntary efforts and were often mounted by patriotic organizations like the Daughters and Sons of the American Revolution. At the beginning of the twentieth century, men like Historic New England founder William Sumner Appleton began to professionalize the field, and until after World War II, men held most of the jobs in preservation. Women generally participated as volunteers and did not play major roles as preservation professionals until the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966. And yet in the early years of the last century, some of the nation’s first women professionals in architecture, decorative arts, and interior design—fields closely related to preservation—were nurtured in New England and helped shape the field as it developed. Among those women involved in preservation during the first half of the twentieth century, pioneering architects held the strongest professional credentials. MIT-trained architect Lois Lilley Howe (1864–1964), was the second female member of the American Institute of Architects and the first woman architect recognized as an AIA Fellow. A native of Cambridge, Massachusetts, with an abiding interest in its history, Howe is credited with more than thirty-three commissions in the city. She and partners Mary Almy (1883– 1953) and Eleanor Manning (1884–1973) excelled at Colonial Revival residential design, a focus well documented in a 1913 book of measured drawings titled Details from Old New England Houses that Howe co-authored. With fifty plates of exterior, interior, and decorative architectural furnishings and details, the book exemplified the documentary approach to accurately recording the physical fabric

of an old house that male preservation advocates like Appleton endorsed. Female architects’ work often focused on residential design, and frequently, on modifications to existing houses rather than on new commissions. This typically meant working on historic houses and in the process of refitting them, preserving them. Even Modernist Eleanor Raymond (1887–1989), architect of a 1931 design credited with being the first Modern house in New England and of one of the earliest solar houses in the country, was more widely known in her own day for her careful remodeling of early houses. In her archives “additions, alterations, remodeling, and renovations” far outnumber “single-family dwellings.” The solarium and dining room wing she added in 1951 to an 1836 high-style Greek Revival home, with long, multi-paned casements and classic corner cupboards that relate the addition stylistically to traditional elements in the main house, was typical of this work. Design-related work for women without architectural training was scarce. Nonetheless, growing interest in historic restoration did offer chances to a lucky few. Charleston, South Carolina, native Nonie Davis Tupper (1875–1954), for example, developed a career as an interior designer in private homes in combination with her antiques store, Tupper and Goodridge, in Boston’s Back Bay. Tupper spent most of her career as a single woman. Her preservation work included efforts to save the Tupper family homestead in Sandwich, Massachusetts, and her 1917 renovation of the Lyman Estate in Waltham, Massachusetts, in the Colonial Revival style.

Women working at a drafting table, possibly in the office of Howe and Manning. Right Eleanor Raymond’s flair for Modernism can be seen in the colorful soda fountain she incorporated into an addition to a historic home in Connecticut she designed in 1951.

David Bohl

Facing PAge

Summer 2012 Historic New England


Nonie Davis Tupper’s 1913 sketch of the Tupper homestead, which burned down in 1921. below Tupper’s sketch for the dining room fireplace mantel at the Lyman Estate, Waltham, Massachusetts, which was installed during her renovations in 1917. Left

The career of Susan Higginson Nash (1893–1971) yields vivid evidence of both the challenges faced by early female preservationists and the breadth of their impact on the field. Nash’s life and career as the first decorator and furnishing director for the Colonial Williamsburg restoration have been extensively studied, but her contributions to the art and science of paint analysis are obscure to all but specialists in architectural conservation. Nash enjoyed a relatively conventional upbringing among the elite of turn-of-the-century Boston. Her father was a stockbroker, while her mother, an early graduate of MIT, established a household where art and artists like John LaFarge and William Morris Hunt were welcomed. Married in 1913 to a broker in her father’s firm, she trained as a fine artist at the Child-Walker School and with artists Charles Hopkinson and Dodge McKnight. When her marriage failed in the 1920s, she had great difficulty both in finding suitable work and in fitting it into the social expectations of Boston society. “I felt sometimes quite a difference in some of my friends and acquaintances, partly because I was never able to do anything when they asked me and partly because they had never worked,” she said. “If one had to make a living, … they considered it advisable to go back and live with your mother and father, or with some other well-to-do relative.” Having been rejected for any work in a museum in Boston for her lack of college training, Nash thought to “try to work in an architect’s office.” Through informal interior decoration work for friends, her art training, and a knowledge and love of antique furniture, she finally found work at Perry, Shaw and Hepburn just as the small Boston architectural firm took on the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg.


Historic New England Summer 2012

Responsible for the paints, furniture, and furnishings at Williamsburg, Nash wrote in a 1935 summary of the restoration about seeking “an effect of continued life, and of settled repose” in the interpretation of the museum’s interior color and texture. She stated, “It is impossible to place too great emphasis on the importance of the proper handling of this color and texture in the effort to produce effects that are essential to authenticity.” She “tried to adapt [her] experience with colors to the usages of Colonial times and to learn from documents and actual examples as much as may be gleaned from them.” In her observations, all based on the earliest color layers exposed by scraping down to bare wood, Nash recognized that the study of paint layers in situ was critical to understanding historic color usage. Her color formulas, as well as her methodology for cataloguing and maintaining color accuracy in the museum interiors, established the standard used at Williamsburg through the 1950s, until new methods of scientific analysis achieved a more accurate understanding of historic colors. Perhaps the most enduring legacy of her work was the Williamsburg paint color palette, first marketed to the public in 1936–37, which paint historian Frank

Welsh states “is still in the minds of many the official source of ‘authentic’ colonial colors.” Nash’s later career, which included consulting for numerous institutions and historical organizations (Historic New England among them), extended into the era when working women in preservation outnumbered “lady volunteers.” But as historian Barbara Howe has noted, “Few people who have studied the role of women in preservation would disagree . . . that ‘this country would be in big trouble if not for the women.’ They are…‘the backbone of the movement.’” —Sally Zimmerman Manager of Historic Preservation Services

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Ms. Zimmerman thanks architectural historian Pauline Metcalf, who graciously shared her research on Susan Higginson Nash.

Susan Higginson Nash, wearing a dark hat, on the top step at Mount Airy plantation, Warsaw, Virginia. Below The original Colonial Williamsburg historic color paint card, produced in 1936–37 by the John Masury Paint Company.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation


Summer 2012 Historic New England


R ep o r t

fr o m

t h e

F ield

Three Decades of Caring for Piscataqua Landscapes


racking and groaning with the tide, the frozen Salmon Falls River below Hamilton House is audible, if invisible, in the dark of a nighttime nor’easter. I shovel to the door by the beam of the truck, then return to the warm cab, where hot coffee and Bach cello suites will keep me company as I drive from South Berwick, Maine, over to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. There, as the sun comes up, I plow driveways at Jackson, Langdon, and Rundlet-May houses before the tenants head to work. When I return to my office in South Berwick, there’s a mes-


Historic New England Summer 2012

sage presaging the arrival of spring—the mowers are ready to be picked up after winter servicing. Less than a month until the first cutting of grass! Soon after, the full planting moon will announce the time to set out the annual flowers. I still have to finish winter arbor care, prepare seasonal contracts, and trim shrubs and fruit trees while they’re dormant. As I work, I watch happy snowshoers enjoying a warming day at Hamilton House and keep my eye out for the seal that likes to rest on an ice floe as the river breaks up. In 1981, when I became Historic

New England’s landscape manager for the Piscataqua region, I had yet to learn the cadences of horticultural life in seacoast Maine and New Hampshire. Dates for first and last frost, when and where washouts would occur and vehicles become mired, the week the cloud of shadbush bloom would be reflected in the river, and the June morning on which the lovely 1840 Coupe d’Hébé rose would unfurl were things I had to find out from Gary Wetzel gives one of his popular landscape tours of the garden at Hamilton House, South Berwick, Maine.


experience. I lived as resident overseer at Jackson House, New Hampshire’s oldest house, and my duties included care of the orchard and giving tours of the house. Having previously given tours at the 1678 Coffin House, in Newbury, Massachusetts, guiding at Jackson was easy. The orchard was another matter. Richard Jackson’s fifty-acre king’s grant was now a two-acre plot where the remaining Baldwins and Rhode Island Greenings were being overrun by sumac, multiflora roses, and volunteer ash trees. In the orchard at Rundlet-May House, a similar siege was underway. At Langdon House, a dead American elm needed to be taken down. An even bigger task was the installation of a perennial flower border needed to match the Colonial Revival arbor and rose collection. The scope of work was challenging, but the physical settings and layers of landscape history were grand and inspiring. Historic New England preserves historic landscapes for public enjoyment, providing places for contemplation and renewal. If you would like to spend your lunch break resting in a gazebo after strolling through a rose arbor, visit Langdon House.

Need an escape from the traffic hubbub in South Berwick? Enjoy a seat among the heirloom plants in the Sarah Orne Jewett garden. Perhaps you’ve seen the bald eagle while enjoying the splash of the fountain at Hamilton House. That handsome tree by the porch at Sayward-Wheeler House in York Harbor, Maine, labeled Acer pseudoplatanus, is a sycamore maple given to Elizabeth and Mary Barrell

by their cousin, Harvard professor of agriculture George Barrell Emerson, prior to 1871. Part of my job is to ensure the health of that tree. I budget for its inspection, cabling, and pruning. Across the Piscataqua region, the details range from weeding to brushhogging, searching photo archives to giving garden tours, trapping a skunk in a live animal trap to removing a dead mouse that has clogged the water line from the well. Any of our quartet of landscape workers—Mimi Demers, Kathy Gray, Nancy Wetzel, and I—will be happy to stop deadheading the daylilies and answer your garden questions. We might even look up and see the heron fly by. —Gary Wetzel Piscataqua Region Landscape Manager

above In the fall, Mimi Demers, Gary Wetzel, and Kathy Gray lift perennials and add shellfish compost to the beds. left As the Homestead elms begin to turn gold, Gary Wetzel makes the last mow of the season.

Summer 2012 Historic New England


S t ewards h ip

After the House Museum


here are an estimated fifteen thousand historic house museums in the United States, six thousand of which have opened since 1960. Yet since the 1980s, many small museums have struggled with growing competition from other types of public entertainment, shrinking public interest, and dwindling visitation. Ever-mounting building maintenance and operating costs add additional financial strain. Historic New England, which currently owns and operates thirty-six historic sites, has faced many of these issues. In 1975, it owned more than sixty-five historic houses. Operating costs were rising across the board, and many of the individual proper-


Historic New England Summer 2012

ties suffered from inadequate endowments that failed to cover expenses. Several houses that were architecturally significant lacked the complementary collections or narratives that would make them dynamic and compelling museums for the public. These factors, along with the development of a legal tool, the preservation easement, led to a radical decision. In 1980, after a careful assessment of all its properties, Historic New England sold four of its historic houses back into private ownership and protected them with preservation easements binding on all future owners. So began Historic New England’s Stewardship Program, one of the earli-

est and most comprehensive easement programs in the country. From a preservation perspective, selling a historic house museum may seem counterintuitive. However, responsibly deaccessioning a historic property can have benefits. A private owner often has more resources to devote to upkeep and maintenance, and by providing an onsite presence, can head off problems like a failed furnace, frozen pipes, roof leaks, or a broken window. Further, when a historic property reenters the tax rolls, the entire town benefits from the revenue. Most importantly, the preservation easement will protect the important and character-defining architectural features of a historic house in perpetuity.

Private ownership of a historic house for use as a single-family residence is not the only option. Many creative solutions exist. Among properties currently in Historic New England’s Stewardship Program are inns, bed and breakfasts, commercial offices (lawyer, dentist, realtor), an art gallery, and condominiums. Owners of Stewardship properties benefit from annual visits by Historic New England staff, to monitor conditions and provide advice on how to care for these important buildings. In 2006, the Salisbury Association, a nonprofit historical society and land trust in Salisbury, Connecticut, approached Historic New England about the c. 1768 Holley-Williams house in the village of Lakeville, which it had acquired through bequest in 1971. The association had operated the house as a historic house museum but was struggling with growing operating costs. They also owned another historic property, the Old Court House, or Academy Building, which they used as their headquarters.

Operating the Holley-Williams house took resources away from this building and their advocacy efforts. Working with Historic New England, the group opted to sell the Holley-Williams house with a preservation easement that protects the significant exterior and interior architectural elements of the house as well as several outbuildings and landscape features. In difficult economic times, small nonprofit organizations may struggle to maintain and operate a successful house museum. In some cases, such a use may no longer be viable. A preservation easement is one way to ensure ongoing preservation of important historic houses as they return to private ownership. For more information on Historic New England’s Stewardship Program, please visit our website, HistoricNewEngland.org/preservation, or call us at 617-994-6642. —Caitlin Corkins Stewardship Manager

Another alternative to trying to operate a house museum with insufficient resources is to transfer ownership, with protective easements, to another organization. In 1982, Historic New England sold the 1692 Rebecca Nurse Homestead in Danvers, Massachusetts, to the nonprofit Danvers List Alarm Company (DLAC), which for many years had leased the property and successfully managed its day-today operations. The group’s experience and dedication made them the ideal group to own the site, and they continue to operate it as a museum today. As Historic New England founder William Sumner Appleton observed, “… so long as the desired result is obtained, and a house worth preserving passes to this or some other society able and willing to look after it permanently, our object is achieved.”


The HathawayCushing-Millay house, Camden, Maine, currently houses a law office. Far LEFT The Sanford-Covell house, Newport, Rhode Island, is now a bed and breakfast. The easement protects interior features as well as the exterior. Left The Holley-Williams house in Lakeville, Connecticut, where an easement protects architectural features but allows sensitive upgrades for modern living. Facing Page

Summer 2012 Historic New England


perspec t ives

M ai ne

Li gh th o

us e M us eu


Three images demonstrate the moral, aesthetic, or commercial character of lighthouses.

A Victorian card with the message, “Do Good.” center Postcard of Portland Head Light, c. 1909. right A 1920s trade card for Lighthouse Cleanser. far left

From Guiding Lights to Beacons for Business


facing page A beam of s soon as you drive into Maine, you begin to light flashes out to guide encounter lighthouses well before you get near the a storm-tossed ship on sea. One tower may stand tall next to the entrance of the cover of a 1927 book a seafood restaurant, another may serve as a folly in on lighthouse history for a miniature golf course, and a dwarf version may pop up as a lampolder children by Lewis E. post in someone’s front yard. The ubiquity of these beacons might Theiss. suggest to you that Maine has a fixation with lighthouses, and you would be correct in that conclusion. When you do reach the coast, you start to see the real thing: a tapered shaft with a lantern on top at the point of a headland or on a nearby island. Given the irregular nature of the shoreline, you might think that Maine has more lighthouses than any other state. With sixty-six towers at sixty-three light stations, Maine’s Office of Tourism would like you to believe that, but only Michigan, with more than 170 lighthouses, can claim that distinction. In any case, the lighthouse has become Maine’s most dominant motif, supplanting the pine tree, moose, and fish. It ought to be the symbol on the state’s license plates, but lobster enthusiasts made sure that didn’t happen. Initially erected as aids to navigation, warning mariners to stay away from hidden shoals and treacherous shores, Maine’s lighthouses have come to serve many other roles beyond


Historic New England Summer 2012

Summer 2012 Historic New England


A delicate staircase of cast-iron filigree at Baker Island Light. Rendering by Alexander Parris of Matinicus Light, 1848. below Keeper Robert Thayer Sterling with his dog, Chang, at Portland Head Light. Several Maine lighthouse dogs gained fame for saving lives by barking when they sensed danger. left

National Archives and Records Administration

Lighthouse Digest archives

Richard Cheek

Bottom Left

the one intended, such as art subjects, religious emblems, tourist attractions, and advertising symbols. The multiple transformations of the lights are revealed in From Guiding Lights to Beacons for Business: The Many Lives of Maine’s Lighthouses, the latest volume in Historic New England’s visual history series. The influence of the lighthouses derives not just from the structures themselves but from the myriad forms of representation and reproduction they have inspired, ranging from paintings, photographs, and ads to tabletop models and all sorts of bric-a-brac. Let’s begin with the obvious question of why the lighthouses had to be built. You probably assume that because there were so many wrecks caused by the state’s rugged, uneven coastline, lighthouses had to be erected in the most hazardous locations to lessen such losses, but you’d be wrong about that. In fact, of all the Maine-built sailing vessels that were eventually wrecked, few were lost along the state’s shores, thanks to the many coves along the jagged coastline 12

Historic New England Summer 2012

that offer shelter during storms. Lights were needed to mark the most dangerous locations, of course, but there were other factors that influenced their placement, such as the preference of coastal steamboat captains in the late nineteenth century to pilot their long, narrow, shallow-bottomed ships in calmer waters close to land, with two lights always in sight to make it easier for them to do so. Because of commercial as well as navigational considerations, an overlapping system of lighthouses from Boston to the Canadian border was completed shortly after 1900. In comparison to Europe and the other countries bordering the Mediterranean, the United States was a late entrant in the field of lighthouse design, so the first towers in Maine were built by local craftsmen using existing methods and local materials. As the nineteenth century progressed, continued experimentation with new materials and construction techniques and frequent exchange of engineering and lighting information with France and Britain led to increasingly sophisticated solutions for erecting storm-proof towers that could project powerful beams of light for the optimum distance. The ultimate solution was the introduction of an automatic lighting system, beginning in 1934, when six Maine stations were converted to acetylene gas or electric operation, and ending in 1990, when Goat Island was the last light to be switched to solar power. Until automation could be accomplished, every lighthouse had to have a keeper or keepers to make sure the light was burning under any and all circumstances and to maintain the other buildings necessary for the station to function

The terrors of shipwreck were often used to deter young boys from running away to sea, as in this English chapbook. right Later, such scenes were used to thrill older boys, as in this illustration from F. E. Raynal’s Wrecked on a Reef, 1874. ABove

Many believed it was the light of God that saved lives at sea. Below Left A girl stands on a bible to keep the lamp burning in The Watchers on the Longships, 1878. Below right In the 1920s, Rev. Edwin S. Ufford preaches salvation from a ship’s prow pulpit in Rockland, Maine. Note the lighthouse on the wall behind him.

Maine Historic Preservation Commission

properly. Many keepers and their families had to lead a solitary existence in isolated locations. Both peaceful and tragic incidents in their stories demonstrate the great devotion and self-sufficiency required to endure the tedium of repetitive tasks and the terror of storms that threatened to destroy a station’s structures and extinguish the light. When these factual accounts are combined with legends, ghost stories, and both real and idealized images of the keepers, it becomes easy to romanticize a profession dedicated to protecting lives at sea. Children who grew up at a lighthouse were often envied by their contemporaries because they seemed to live in a special world. The relative scarcity of the first lights, their remoteness at a time when travel was difficult, and their odd shape and special purpose excited curiosity and sparked the imagination. Hence, it is not surprising that lighthouses began to play a role in American children’s literature, perhaps as early as the 1830s. When lighthouses first appeared in children’s books, they were represented as religious symbols, shining with God’s light, and were accompanied by text that frequently warned little boys who wanted to go to sea that they would be shipwrecked and drowned if they didn’t obey their parents and truly believe in the Lord above. Gradually, these unfriendly lessons about life at sea were replaced by exciting maritime adventure tales, so that by the 1880s, children of all ages were absorbed by the drama and heroics involved in keeping the light burning in the midst of a hurricane or in rescuing the victims of a wreck that couldn’t be prevented. Just as young people learned to imagine lighthouses as settings where maturity could be achieved by battling nature on one’s own in order to save the lives of others, so adults came to value them as significant symbols of national identity, religious belief, and domestic well-being. A broad range of books, magazines, posters, and other forms of ephemera

Summer 2012 Historic New England


Lighthouses in wartime. right Poster from the Think America series published by Kelly-Read and Co., 1940. below Marsden Hartley, The Lighthouse, 1940–41. Collection of J.R. and Barbara Hyde.

show how American lighthouses became symbols of democracy, naval might, patriotic devotion, and the country’s natural beauty. For religious revivalists during the nineteenth century, lighthouses became revered as beacons of faith, the guiding lights that would lead men safely to their final port of call, heaven itself. For social reformers struggling to improve conditions for the many unmarried, homeless seamen wandering the streets of every seaport, the lighthouse lantern represented the ideal of the happy home, where a light in the window signaled the sailor that his family was waiting to welcome him. Lighthouses’ distinctive shapes and their dramatic or idyllic settings have long fascinated painters and photographers. Maine lights inspired many of America’s most distinguished painters, including Fitz Henry Lane, Edward Hopper, and Andrew and Jamie Wyeth. Beginning with the first photograph of a Maine light station taken in 1858, successive generations of photographers visiting or living in Maine have left a rich legacy of lighthouse images. The appeal of the subject shows no sign of lessening today, as a visit to any art gallery in Maine will demonstrate. Attractive paintings and photographs of the lighthouses have played an essential part in the successful campaign to promote the lights as Maine’s number one travel destination, but the perspective has changed with time. Initially, lighthouses were mostly viewed at a distance by visitors aboard ship, since travel by sea was the swiftest mode of transportation. As a system of railroads was built along the coast, the tourist’s point of view shifted from sea to land,


Historic New England Summer 2012

which provided a more dramatic prospect, with the lights silhouetted against ocean and horizon. But it was the arrival of the automobile that made the lighthouses into irresistible magnets, allowing visitors to get “up close and personal” with every mainland light station. If you could sell lighthouses to the public as the best places to visit, you could sell visitors a lot else while they were there. Local entrepreneurs use lighthouses as beacons for business in three main ways: as the signature image for printed advertisements or company trademarks, as landlocked replicas to attract attention to roadside services, and as gifts and collectibles. Some of these displays and products may seem a bit tacky, but many of the signs and faux towers exhibit a lot of imagination, and a noticeable number of the collectibles are handsomely conceived and executed. In any case, the services and consumable goods that have been spun off the lighthouses, especially during the 1990s, have contributed to greater public appreciation of the lighthouses at a crucial point in their history when so many of them were being vacated because of automation. For lighthouse preservation societies and museums, sales of collectibles have been a good source of revenue, so that when you’re in Maine and read a slogan like, “Saving Lighthouses, One Gift at a

Time,” you have to take it seriously. In the last three decades, combined private and governmental efforts have had great success in protecting Maine’s light stations from neglect or demolition following automation. After a great deal of planning and negotiation, and with the aid at crucial points of Senators George Mitchell and Olympia J. Snowe, Congress was persuaded to pass legislation in 1996 and again in 2000 authorizing the transfer of over thirty light stations in the state to nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, towns and cities, governmental agencies, and private companies and individuals. These new stewards are restoring the buildings and adapting them for different uses, thereby creating many new lives for Maine’s lighthouses. If you’re planning to travel this summer, we suggest that you go Down East to visit the lighthouses in all their splendor and variety, along the road or by the sea. You, too, may develop a mania for them, once you’ve finally seen the lights.

A German-made beer stein depicts Portland Head Light. A lighthouse replica, painted for an art project sponsored by Hannaford markets, now entices drivers to park in a lot in Boothbay Harbor. left

below left

now on sale

—Richard Cheek Photographer, author, and ephemera collector, Richard Cheek is editor of Historic New England’s visual history series and chair of the Friends of the Library and Archives.

Richard Cheek

The third volume in Historic New England’s publication series is a colorful and highly entertaining visual history of Maine lighthouses, surveying the many roles they have served, from navigational aids and art subjects to tourist attractions and advertising symbols. Richly illustrated with photographs, paintings, posters, magazine covers, trade cards, and lighthouse ephemera, it features an introduction by Senator Olympia J. Snowe and essays by W. H. Bunting, maritime historian; Richard Cheek, editor, Historic New England’s visual history series; Thomas Denenberg, director of the Shelburne Museum; Timothy Harrison, editor of Lighthouse Digest magazine; Kirk F. Mohney, assistant director of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission; David Richards, interim director of the Margaret Chase Smith Library; and Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr., director of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission and Maine state historian. Deluxe paperback, 8 ¼" x 11" 240 pages, 490 images $31.46 members, $34.95 nonmembers To order, visit HistoricNewEngland. org or call 617-227-3956.

Summer 2012 Historic New England


L i b rar y


A rc h ives

Bridging the Waters


his impressive watercolor, more than five feet long, depicts a design for a bridge by the Moseley Iron Building Works. The founder of the company was Kentucky-born Thomas W. H. Moseley (1813–1880), who began working with iron as a young man at the Union Furnace Company in Irontown, Ohio. He became interested in civil engineering, particularly bridges, developed a life-long respect for iron, and was the holder of numerous patents for iron bridges and other devices. In 1863, he wrote, “It may be confidently asserted that, except the Gospel, Iron has been the most potent of all agents in the civilization of mankind.” In 1858, after receiving a patent for a riveted wrought iron tubular tied arch bridge, Moseley founded the Moseley Iron Bridge Company in Cincinnati, Ohio, and went on to build many bridges throughout that region. In 1861, he relocated his company to Boston, where the business prospered despite wartime shortages. A company prospectus dated


Historic New England Summer 2012

1870 credited the company with the construction of more than two hundred bridges in New England since the move, including three in Lawrence, Massachusetts. This drawing was made in 1869, only two years before Moseley sold his business to the New England Iron Company. Signed: “M. S. G. Wilde, Del. [delineator], Boston, Dec. 1, 1869,” it represents the work of Maximilian Samuel Gottfried Wilde (c. 1823–1912), an engineer and draftsman who emigrated to the United States from Germany in 1847 and later entered Moseley’s employ. When Wilde drew this rendering, he was working in an office at 33 School Street in Boston. Other occupants in the building included the civil engineers and surveyors William H. Jackson and G. B. N. Tower and architect and artist Hammatt Billings. Tower, a former chief engineer of the United States Navy, would go on to write Instructions on Modern American Bridge Building, which was published in Boston in 1874. Wilde would later

When Historic New England’s Collections Committee and Council member Andrew Spindler called to say he wished to donate a drawing of a bridge, we were pleased. For although Historic New England’s collection of architectural renderings includes thousands of designs for houses, factories, schools, religious structures, commercial buildings, and even a design for a bridge tender’s dwelling, it boasts few renderings related to transportation and engineering. Needless to say, when Mr. Spindler arrived and we were able to see the work, we were thrilled to discover its scale, aesthetic appeal, and historic significance. It makes an important addition to the collection. —Lorna Condon Senior Curator of Library and Archives

The drawing illustrates the bridge and details including overhead bracing and paired pedestrian walkways. The sidewalks suggest an urban setting. below The bridge at the Upper Pacific Mills, Lawrence, Massachusetts, 1891. Above

For a photograph of Thomas W. H. Moseley, a list of publications about Moseley and his bridges by Francis E. Griggs, Jr., and a link to information about Moseley and the Upper Pacific Mills Bridge prepared by the Historic American Engineering Record, visit HistoricNewEngland. org/bridge.

Baldwin Coolidge

serve as the chief draughtsman and designer for the American Waltham Watch Company. At present, the location of the bridge shown in the rendering is unknown, but we do know that if built it would have been approximately 260 feet long. Another Moseley bridge survives today, though not in its original location. It is the oldest surviving iron bridge in Massachusetts and one of the oldest riveted wrought iron bridges in the country. The ninety-fourfoot-long Upper Pacific Mills Bridge, which spanned the North Canal in Lawrence, Massachusetts, was constructed in 1864. Scheduled for demolition in 1989, it was saved through the efforts of Francis E. Griggs, Jr., Professor of Engineering at Merrimack College, rehabilitated by students, and reconstructed on the college campus in North Andover, Massachusetts.

Summer 2012 Historic New England


F amil y

Finding a Home in

America “He would be all grimy and sweaty and covered with mosquitoes, and at the end of the long summer days, he would start singing…”


his is the story of how the Stekionis family came to the Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm in Newbury, Massachusetts, and stayed for eight decades. In 1913, Edward Francis Little, known as Ed Francis, hired Jacob Stekionis, a farmer from Lithuania who had recently arrived in Boston, for twenty-five dollars a month plus room and board. Jacob thought, “My God, is big money.” Jacob rode up from Boston on the train with Ed Francis. The two men may have seemed very different—the stocky, deep-voiced, twenty-two-year-old Lithuanian and the sixtyyear-old New Englander whose family had lived in Newbury since 1635—but they shared a love of horses and farming, and Jacob quickly became Ed Francis’s most valuable farm worker. He was loyal, strong, and trustworthy, working long days milking cattle and fixing fences, plowing fields and training work horses before delivering them to lifesaving sta-


Historic New England Summer 2012

tions as far away as York, Maine. “He was not afraid of any animal,” his daughter Mary recalled. By 1920, he was the only farm worker left at Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm, and the only resident of the attached farmhouse. Though he did well on the farm and had a good relationship with the Littles, Jacob missed Lithuania and chafed at not being able to own a farm of his own. In 1923, he took most of the money he had saved and returned to Prudelis, where he had grown up. What he found there, in the wake of war, was devastating—houses burned, roofs caved in, barns destroyed. He spent some time repairing his family’s farm buildings, and soon this handsome bachelor flush with cash, with a job and a house waiting for him in America, found himself eagerly pursued by young women. As he described it, “All these girls, they smile and they invite you to come down [after church]…I have a nice time here and there. I was a good, nice, straight young man.” He bought a beauti-

ful horse and rode around “like a king.” He began courting Dorothy Januševic, ´ who lived in the neighboring town of Seminiskai. Her brother was courting Jacob’s sister. Jacob and Dorothy made a deposit on land in a nearby village, and in 1924, were married in a double ceremony with the other couple. The wedding was celebrated with a roasted bull, thirty barrels of beer, and arches of pine bough lining the way. In their oral histories, Jacob and Dorothy disagree about who made the decision to make the final move back to Newbury. Dorothy was worried about the political situation in Lithuania. “There [were] wars all the time, those Germans and Russians, all the time. [They] mix up too much,” she said. Jacob was eager to get back to work. The couple stayed for another month and then made their way across the Atlantic. They spent a night at the Parker House Hotel in Boston, and then Jacob sent Dorothy to a department store, where a personal shopper helped her choose a new ward-

David Bohl

facing page Jacob and Dorothy Stekionis and their daughter Olga, born in 1925. right Ed Francis Little. below The wooden farmhouse, where the Stekionis family lived for eighty years, is connected to the kitchen of the main house by a breezeway.

left Jacob grew a variety of market vegetables. Dorothy often cooked dishes with root vegetables, like these beets, which stored well and were available for most of the year. She also grew flowers

in the vegetable garden. center The Stekionises celebrating Dorothy’s birthday with cake and pie. right Jacob with Roger, a Percheron cross. The horse had been consigned

robe. In the afternoon they took a train and then a streetcar to Newbury, where they were warmly welcomed by the Little family. Dorothy was impressed with the meat and white bread served to her for dinner, and found the Little women, Margaret, then thirty-six, Amelia, thirty-two, and Agnes, twenty-eight, “just enchanted and happy and welcoming.” The house that Dorothy found was less enchanting. The kitchen was “poor too, very poor…everything piled up.” Dorothy had expected something else, a finer house in a village. She grew homesick, and the language barrier proved terribly isolating. “I never [knew] English. Russian and Lithuanian, German, a little bit, but not English, and I just looked through the window all the time and wished I could go back,” she recalled. She had gone from a family that hired help during the busy farming season to being that help on someone else’s farm. It was a difficult transition. Dorothy got to work patching plaster, scrubbing furniture, and learning English, which she never felt she quite mastered, and Jacob got back to work with Ed Francis, now in his seventies and increasingly handing over responsibility for the farm. Olga, the Stekionises’ first child, born in 1925, soon became a favorite of Ed Francis. Jacob described the old man as “crazy about that little girl.” Olga was followed

by Nancy in 1929 and Mary in 1939. Though Dorothy helped the Little women in the house from time to time, her life increasingly centered on her family. “When I raise three girls, I have got things to do,” she said. “They have to go to school, and [I must] fix their dresses or make new ones.” In 1935, after Ed Francis died at eighty-two, leaving his sister Eliza and the three younger women in the main house, the Littles offered Jacob the use of the farm on condition that he buy the thirty cows and bull and continue to provide milk, firewood, vegetables, and eggs. Jacob kept a rigorous routine—up at four in the morning for chores and milking, a hearty breakfast at seven, a full day of work, then supper, followed by a nightly visit from the Littles. Mary recalled, “There wasn’t a day in my life when one of them didn’t come in to get that paper to my dad before he had to go to bed. He always went to bed early. They always made it a point to read it first, then… trudge downstairs, through that cold entry, and leave the newspaper and say a few words,” placing an empty pitcher on the table for Jacob to fill with the morning’s milk. In 1941, with war preparations in full gear, the Littles leased a large field to the Suffolk Packing Company to grow spinach. Mary remembered the farm suddenly abuzz with


Historic New England Summer 2012

to a slaughter auction because of a growth on his lip. Jacob thought he looked strong and sound and bought him. After the growth was removed, Roger thrived under Jacob’s care.

“all this young life” as hired hands from Boston and beyond came to the farm to work. One of these workers was Dick Walsh, who subsequently farmed with Jacob until the end of Jacob’s life. Though Dorothy’s loneliness abated as she became involved in raising her children, she still missed her family in Lithuania but was never able to go back or see any of them again. The Stekionis family did receive Lithuanian language newspapers and were friendly with the two Lithuanian families in Newburyport. Dorothy cooked familiar foods like potato pancakes and beet soup and made lunches of salted cucumbers in vinegar and sandwiches with lamb, tomatoes, onions, and mayonnaise. Jacob sang folk songs while he worked outside and around the house. In later years, Dorothy began making cards based on traditional designs of stylized trees and flowers. Olga learned to speak Lithuanian, but as Mary recalled, the other daughters “brought…English into the house more, and it slipped away.” The Stekionis daughters remember their relationship with the Littles with great fondness, even as they understood that the relationship was more complicated for their mother. While their parents were tied to the farm, both by habit and by the demands of farm and household, the girls had more

freedom. The Littles took them to Christmas concerts, gave them books, helped them with homework, and taught them Scrabble. Mary remembered that at Christmas “you had to get my father to put down his newspaper to give him a present,” while the Littles always gave the girls “lovely little things.” The Littles would give Jacob a bottle of Caldwell’s Rum, which he used as hair dressing, believing that it kept his scalp healthy. Until 1940, when a tub was installed in the house, the Stekionis family took their baths in the main house. The girls would sometimes don aprons and help serve at large gatherings in the main house. “It was more of a lark,” recalled Mary. “You got to put on this little apron and meet some very interesting people…” When Olga was encouraged by a teacher to apply to Wellesley College, the Littles introduced her to their influential friends, who wrote her letters of recommendation. When she was accepted, they convinced a reluctant Jacob to let her go (and foot the bill). If Jacob’s life in America began with a train ride, it ended with a car ride. In 1984, Mary was driving him to deliver a load of squash to a local restaurant. At the end of Little’s Lane, he put his head down and died. Dorothy lived in the farmhouse for another nine years. Jacob and Dorothy were undemonstrative in public, but privately they shared a lifelong affection. When Dorothy went to California to visit Olga, Jacob wrote her, “Come home… I’m like a wagon with three wheels.” She changed her flight and came back. —Bethany Groff Regional Site Manager, North Shore

The farmhouse at Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm, where the Stekionis family lived, opens to the public for the first time on June 2. For information, visit HistoricNewEngland.org.

Summer 2012 Historic New England



Bac k ward

G lance

Tenant Farming


he English practice of tenant farming became established in New England in the seventeenth century, when owners of large tracts of land leased acreage to others to work. The arrangement freed owners to live elsewhere and pursue other business interests, while offering the potential to tenants of sustaining their families while saving money to acquire land of their own. At the c. 1750 Casey Farm, in Saunderstown, Rhode Island, tenant farmers worked the land for much of the eighteenth century. Between 1787 and 1813, Silas Casey lived on site and oversaw its operation. His farm book documents the presence of numerous


Historic New England Summer 2012

tenants and other laborers, including many African Americans, and records the planting and harvesting of apples, corn, flax, and dairy products. Later generations of the Casey family continued the tradition of cultivating the land but were largely physically absent. An 1812 lease agreement between Silas Casey and George Watson specified that Watson had leased “the whole of the Farm,” with exceptions made for periodic access by the Casey family. Watson was to keep a cow and a horse for Casey’s use on his visits, and since Casey paid for tarring the apple trees, he was to have half the fruit and cider. Casey specified the locations where Watson was to plow and improve the

land by spreading ribbon weed, eel grass, and manure. The rent was set at $500 per annum, and if Casey used any farm produce, its cost would be deducted from the rent. In 1873, Silas’s great grandson, Thomas Lincoln Casey, drew up an agreement with Thomas Gould for the lease of the farm, its buildings, and equipment. The southwest chamber in the house was to be reserved for the use of the Casey family. The lease indicates that “no more is to be ploughed in any one season than what would be judged proper and right by disinterested persons acquainted with farming so that the farm shall not be injured by ploughing too much especially the

meadows.” Gould was also charged with manuring the fields and growing grass on them for two seasons before ploughing. These conditions reflect soil conservation practices that were part of the nineteenth-century agricultural revolution. Although Gould was permitted to clear brush and small undergrowth for his family’s use, other fuel from the farm was off limits, because “the spirit and intent of this agreement is to preserve intact such wood and lumber as may grow, or as may now be growing upon the land.” Gould also agreed “to preserve carefully the orchards that are upon the farm and to do such things as may be reasonable for the proper preservation of the fruit and shade trees that are or may be planted upon the prem-

ises.” He also agreed “to keep up and cultivate the cranberry yard now made and planted upon the farm and to do such things as may be reasonable for the care increase and fruitfulness of the vines thereupon.” The lease also required the tenant to preserve the stone walls and the Casey family burying ground. During the summer and autumn months, Gould was to provide “proper and suitable board with a separate table” for the Casey family, for which Gould will be compensated five dollars per week. This is the only instance in which produce from the farm is to be transferred from the tenant to his landlord. It appears that the emphasis was on the proper management and preservation of the property rather than on generating profit for the Casey family. In the early nineteenth century, the 1690 SpencerPeirce-Little Farm in Newbury, Massachusetts, was used primarily as a rental property and country house by prominent Newbury families, with tenant farmers working the land.

In 1851, the owners entered into an agreement with Edward Henry Little, whose family was among Newbury’s first settlers, to rent the farm. Over the next ten years, Little paid property taxes and made a number of improvements, including raising several outbuildings, actions that suggest that he aspired to ownership. By October 1861, he had made enough money to be able to purchase the property. Both as tenant and owner, Little focused on increasing dairy production and growing fruits, vegetables, and hay. The farm turned out to be a profitable enterprise for the Little family, and in 1935, they turned management of the farm over to another tenant, Jacob Stekionis, who farmed there until the end of his life (see pages 18–21). —Jennifer Pustz Museum Historian

Under Historic New England’s management, farming continues today at both properties. Casey Farm hosts a popular Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA) supplying organic produce to more than one hundred subscribing families and a weekly farmers’ market on weekends. At Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm, a local farmer rents the fields to raise market produce, and farm animals are again in residence, thanks to a cooperative arrangement with the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. For more information, visit HistoricNewEngland.org.

Facing page The Gould family, shown here relaxing on the porch, worked Casey Farm as tenant farmers during the 1870s. Photograph by Harry Weir Casey. left above Edward Henry Little’s receipt for the purchase of Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm and his account book. left below The frame building at Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm housed a series of servants and tenant farmers. Edward Henry Little purchased the farm in 1861 after a decade of successful management as a tenant.

Summer 2012 Historic New England


Eric Roth


Planning Ahead


ore than twenty years ago, Clo Tepper joined Historic New England as a young law student, and the rest, as they say, is history. His eclectic interests in American and English architectural history and decorative arts make Historic New England’s buildings and collections a natural fit for him. He cites the Barrell family looking glass, on view at the Langdon House in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, as exemplifying what he particularly admires about Historic New England, saying, “The mirror is amazing, with its intricate carving, surprising stone-colored finish, and the matching sconces that have remained with it for almost 250 years. There could have been few


Historic New England Summer 2012

more fashionable looking glasses anywhere in the colonies.” Over the years, Clo, who lives in Boston and Provincetown, has “served on more Historic New England committees than you can shake a stick at,” including work as treasurer during his six years on the board of trustees. When Historic New England launched its annual Program in New England Studies in 2003, Clo was one of the first students to enroll. He continued his studies in architecture and decorative arts in Britain at the Attingham Summer School and now serves as president of the board of its U.S. affiliate, the American Friends of Attingham. As an attorney specializing in estate planning and trust administra-


There are many ways to include Historic New England in your estate plan, and our staff is happy to help you explore options. For more information, please contact the development team at 617-994-5929 or PlannedGiving@ HistoricNewEngland.org.

tion, part of Clo’s work is to advise families about strategies for including charitable giving in their estate plans. So who better to consider his own charitable legacy at an early stage of his life? “It’s quite possible that people my age aren’t thinking of these things, but if something did happen to me, I’d like to think that I could do some good,” says Clo of his decision to include Historic New England in his estate plan. “Making a planned gift to Historic New England is as simple as a one-sentence codicil to a will or a change of beneficiary on a life insurance policy or retirement account. It is great to be able to benefit Historic New England and to know that what I do now can help to sustain its mission in the future.” Clo Tepper. above right Looking glass made by Samuel Walker, London, 1763.

above left

M a k ing



t This page features a topic selected from our popular school programs, which serve more than 42,000 students a year.

Garden Geometry

In the late nineteenth century, wealthy people owned country homes where they could escape the heat and bustle of the city in the summer. These houses often featured formal gardens designed with strict geometry. Usually square or rectangular and enclosed by a wall, fence, hedge, or trellis, they were private spaces where family and friends could while away a summer’s day. These “outdoor rooms” typically featured flower beds arranged in geometric patterns and straight paths leading toward a central point, like a fountain or a sundial. Depending on size, they could be furnished with arbors or little summerhouses called gazebos, along with flower-filled urns, birdbaths, benches, or statuary. Many public parks were laid out using these same principles. Some of the grand private gardens of the past, including Historic New England’s Hamilton House in South Berwick, Maine, are now open to the public and welcome visitors for relaxation and quiet contemplation.

Mary H. Northend

Alice Augusta Rogerson Brown


u u

Above left Garden, Milton, Massachusetts, C. 1900. Above Right Italianate rose garden, Beverly, Massachusetts, c. 1920. Above center Hamilton House, South Berwick, Maine.


—Carolin Collins Education Program Manager


Summer 2012 Historic New England


o nline

E x h i b i t i o n

this page Plate by Joseph Stubbs depicting the Nahant Hotel, top, and the image source, below, an engraving by J. R. Penniman in Caleb H. Snow’s 1825 A History of Boston. facing page, top Bowl by Enoch Wood & Sons with a view of Niagara Falls based on a watercolor by Russian artist Pavel Petrovich Svinin. facing page, bottom Basin and pitcher by John Rogers & Son, who specialized in views of the Massachusetts State House, Boston.

Visit AmericanHistoricalStaffordshire.com to see more of these views in a new online exhibition, Patriotic America. Jointly organized by the Transferware Collector’s Club, Winterthur Museum, and Historic New England, the exhibition offers visitors a chance to explore in detail the potters, their inspirations, histories, and products.

New England Blues


n 1834, when Boston’s most prominent printers and engravers created the American Magazine of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge, they were riding a patriotic wave begun nearly fifteen years earlier. As the War of 1812 ended and the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence approached, Americans were ready to honor their new nation. War heroes like Lafayette toured the country. Guidebooks, histories, and newspapers offered readers articles and images of the growing republic. The American Magazine was one of many that celebrated scenes, places, and persons “found in our own fine and native country.” One editor argued that views of New Hampshire’s White Mountains should be as inspiring as European lands, stating “there is not in the world, a country more fertile in subjects for the…pencil of the artist, than the United States.” British potters in Staffordshire, recovering from the interruption of trade during the War of 1812, started to produce merchandise highlighting American victories. Blue-


Historic New England Summer 2012

printed wares had long been a favorite in the American market; for these new designs, potters chose a dark, rich, cobalt blue. Consumer demand, American patriotism, and British production combined to create a particular set of domestic goods: ceramics printed with images celebrating America’s accomplishments and natural beauty. Potters drew on a host of published material for their American views. New England subjects ranged from Boston-area sites like the Massachusetts State House, the Athenaeum, and the Massachusetts General Hospital to the Wadsworth Tower outside Hartford and the Connecticut State House. Boston importer Otis Norcross advertised “Ewers and Basons, Chambers, Pitchers &c of the Verdant and State House patterns” for sale in his warehouse. While the idea of dining off plates depicting government buildings and insane asylums may seem odd today, for people of that time, these images were celebrating an ascendant America. Many of the views used by different potteries are so similar that the engravers of the transfer prints may have been working from the same published source or been copying one another. The border designs, on the other hand, were unique to each pottery, which makes it possible to identify particular manufactories among the several who were producing these wares. American pottery importers and retailers worked closely with Staffordshire manufactories to get their wares to American consumers. Sales books, advertisements, and importers’ marks on the pots themselves point to at least twelve prominent potteries working with eleven importers in New England and the mid-Atlantic to bring wares with American views to their intended customers. Some potters, such as William Adams & Sons of Stoke-upon-Trent and John and William Ridgway of Shelton, even traveled to America or sent representatives to promote their wares. How popular these views were with American consumers remains unclear. Only a few pieces appear in archaeological excavations and in museum collections with evidence they were bought in the 1820s and 1830s. Perhaps American views became little-used heirlooms, which might account for their comparative absence in the archaeological record. A wash basin and pitcher set depicting the Massachusetts State House, donated by the original owner’s daughter, is one of those rare survivals. The set was likely acquired at the time of the mother’s marriage in 1829, when popularity of these goods was already waning. The same year, Harvard President Josiah Quincy bought views of his college for use in the student Commons, but he favored the newest medium blue rather than deep cobalt. By the 1830s, English potters were no longer making American views in dark blue.

The nation’s 150th birthday, coupled with an obsession with America’s colonial past, restored interest in these cobalt views. One of the most important American scholars and collectors of American decorative arts, Nina Fletcher Little, fell in love with blue-printed earthenware reproduced in N. Hudson Moore’s 1903 Old China Book. In 1927, she bought her first Staffordshire piece, a deep bowl with a Niagara Falls scene. She soon filled her Brookline, Massachusetts, home with tureens, plates, and pitchers decorated with American scenes. Little was one of many to collect blue pottery with American views in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, seeking out these wares from antique dealers and decorating their walls, sideboards, and cupboards with these patriotic assemblages. —Laura Johnson Associate Curator

Summer 2012 Historic New England


L andscape

At Barrett House, New Ipswich, New Hampshire, new growth has immediately taken hold in the managed zone, and views of the surrounding countryside have opened up. facing page, top Trees and fallen branches threaten the stone walls that line the old fields. facing page, bottom Fallen branches and trees are part of the managed harvest. left

Managing Woodlands


esponsible stewardship of a historic property extends beyond grooming the landscape immediately around the museum building to caring for surrounding fields, wetlands, and forests. Because managing the museum core is demanding, maintaining any adjacent woodland is often neglected, but the potential benefits of proper management are many—environmental, cultural, and even financial. To develop a thoughtful plan for forest management, the first step is to collaborate with a certified forester who can identify the benefits and assess the potential for long-term gain. Recent work at Barrett House in New Ipswich, New Hampshire, demonstrates how a historic site can gain through careful management of its


Historic New England Summer 2012

forest land. Of the property’s ninety acres, only a small portion surrounds the museum core, with the remainder consisting largely of woodland. In 2008, an ice storm wreaked havoc through much of New England, and Barrett House was hit with extensive tree damage, both around the museum and in the forest. We quickly cleared away the damage near the museum, but the question remained of what to do about the tangle of shattered limbs and broken trees in the woodland. Our immediate concern was for the safety of visitors who use the woodland for walking. Turning the dire situation into an opportunity, we developed a comprehensive plan for the property to realize its natural and cultural potential, as well as any possible income that the wood lot could provide.

Both the consulting forester and the county forester recommended a management approach of regenerative growth harvest. New England forests are vigorous and bounce back extremely well when large swaths are cleared. The pattern of regrowth follows several stages, all of which benefit local flora and fauna. A dense forest offers few food sources for wildlife, whereas clearing the land provides first a meadow, then shrubbery, and then new saplings, with each phase providing advantages for local fauna. There is currently a dearth of meadowland in New Hampshire, so this habitat is urgently needed. In fact, working with the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), we secured funding to maintain some of

our newly cleared fields as meadows to ensure a diversity of habitat on the property. Additionally, some of the harvested material is targeted for local consumption as either firewood or wood chips for burning as bio mass. This renewable resource helps decrease dependence on heating oil and other non-renewable fuel sources. The forester and the work crews were all locally hired—a further benefit to the community. The history of the Barrett land was primarily agricultural. After the Civil War, farming diminished, and fields gave way to second-growth forest. Throughout the property we see stone walls demarcating former fields. Our activities will help clear the fields once more and allow us to care for the walls. Thanks to our partnership with the NRCS, we can clear and maintain old fields and reap both cultural and ecological benefits. Roads and trails created for management purposes can be used for recreation, opening up previously inaccessible sections of the property and revealing views of the surrounding countryside formerly

obscured by tree growth. Developing and then implementing a forest management plan does take time and money. The financial yield from forest products will, of course, depend on the overall quality of the wood, its uses, and the market. At Barrett House, the projected income exceeded expenses, allowing us to redirect money to the overall care of the

property­—in this case maintaining its extensive stone wall system. A forest management plan is a valuable tool for any organization with extensive property in its care. As a renewable resource, a properly managed wood lot can provide natural, cultural, and financial benefits for generations to come. —Ben Haavik Team Leader, Property Care

After work on the forest was completed, the final tally of wood products was: •

84,000 board feet of red oak sawtimber

27,000 board feet of white pine sawtimber

5,000 board feet of white ash sawtimber

671 cords of firewood

121 tons of hemlock pulp

Summer 2012 Historic New England


Years ,

1 0 0

C o mmuni t ies

Photography by Markham Starr

1 0 0

Take Me to the Fair


ugust in Addison County, Vermont, can mean only one thing: it’s time for the Addison County Fair and Field Days, Vermont’s largest agricultural fair. For two hundred years, fairs have been a regular feature across New England every summer. The first agricultural fair in this country was held in 1811 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts; like fairs today, it celebrated local agricultural and domestic goods. In 1843, the Vermont Legislature authorized the formation of agricultural societies “to encourage and promote agriculture, domestic manufactures and the mechanic arts.” The first fair in Addison County was held the following year. This summer and fall, the exhibition Take Me to the Fair: An Addison County Tradition is on view at the Henry Sheldon Museum in Middlebury, Vermont. It features approximately forty photographs of the fair by Markham Starr. Starr’s keen but unobtrusive gaze reveals a world of agricultural, entertainment, and culinary activities with startling immediacy. You can almost hear the noise of the tractor pull and the demolition derby, shouts in the midway, and the sounds of animals in the show rings and barns. You may find yourself hungering for a taste of fair food—maple cotton candy or a Dusty Chuck 4-H hamburger. While taking the photographs, Starr also collected oral histories from the people he met. Excerpts from a number of these interviews appear beside


Historic New England Summer 2012

the images on the gallery walls and draw you into conversation. One father sums up what farming means to his family: “I think 4-H has given my son a good basis for learning the life skill of responsibility. Our kids don’t sit in front of the TV playing games; they would just as soon be at the barn at four o’clock in the afternoon working with their animals, because when they go in the show ring, they’re not thinking about taking second place. They want to be first place, and they know what it takes to have that animal work properly.” Complementing the photographs and oral histories is a colorful display of nineteenth- and early twentiethcentury fair posters, ribbons, historic photographs, and other fair ephemera from the Henry Sheldon Museum’s collection. A 1901 poster describes a crowd-pleasing attraction: “Prof. Arthur C. Holden in high, fancy and trick diving, makes a 75-foot high

dive into five feet of water. The most thrilling, sensational and awe-inspiring attraction ever seen in the state.” Initially, the fair moved from one county town to another, but since 1968 it has been held at its permanent home on a sixty-seven-acre site in New Haven, where it is a major tourist attraction, drawing audiences from all over the county, the state, and beyond. The exhibition is a collaborative project among the Henry Sheldon Museum, Markham Starr, and Historic New England’s ongoing 100 Years, 100 Communities initiative to document and share twentieth-century history. As the 1901 fair poster says, “Don’t miss it. You will miss it if you do.” —Mary Manley and Eva Garcelon-Hart Ms. Manley is acting director and Ms. Garcelon-Hart is archivist of the Henry Sheldon Museum in Middlebury, Vermont.

Facing Page, top Dreamland, one of the highlights of the Addison County Fair. Facing Page, Bottom Anne, a Youth Gardener, holds her vegetables and her younger sister, Helen. above Darlene with her charges. left Fair ephemera.

The exhibition is on view at the Henry Sheldon Museum, Middlebury, Vermont, from May 11 to November 10. Please visit HenrySheldonMuseum.org or call 802-388-2117 for hours and directions. For more on Historic New England’s 100 Years, 100 Communities initiative, please visit HistoricNewEngland.org.

Summer 2012 Historic New England


L o o k ing

F o rward

Students from the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College catalogue books at Gropius House, Lincoln, Massachusetts. above Ati Gropius Johansen.

Erin Britt


Laboratory for Learning


uring the past three years, Historic New England has worked with the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS) at Simmons College in Boston to create a curriculum on the management of cultural heritage materials. Because of its wide-ranging collections, Historic New England was a perfect candidate to collaborate on the project. Students would learn not only to catalogue and digitize a variety of materials but also to understand them in relation to the larger narrative told at a historic site. Funded through a $456,000 grant to Simmons College from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the project entitled “Curriculum, Collaboration, Convergence, Capacity: Four C’s for the Development of Cultural Heritage Institutions” supported the development of courses and internships to train a new type of infor-


Historic New England Summer 2012

mation expert—the cultural heritage professional. Historic New England’s role has been to provide field experience that allowed students to interact with staff and a variety of collection types. We decided that a case study of one property would provide the most focused experience, choosing the Gropius House in Lincoln, Massachusetts, with its artifacts, archival documents, books, landscape, and the house itself, as the laboratory. The GSLIS students embraced the project with enthusiasm. They catalogued books in the Gropius family library, researched art objects, and developed a design for an interactive website about the house. They delighted in the family’s personal items around the home—gifts from artist friends, binoculars for bird watching, seashells, a leather-wrapped beach stone for a paper weight. They found interesting inscriptions in several of the

books they catalogued. They examined how the family lived at the house and had the privilege of conducting an oral history with the daughter of the house, Ati Gropius Johansen. Both the GSLIS students and Historic New England benefited from the collaboration. The students learned about a unified approach to managing diverse collections. Historic New England gained new insights into developing a more holistic approach to interpreting the house to the public. As President Carl R. Nold observed, this collaboration “aligns well with our vision of bringing regional institutions into closer cooperation and making collection data more accessible to the public.” —Lorna Condon Senior Curator of Library and Archives

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A Northern New Englander


his richly detailed watercolor depicts a man as he steps onto the shore from his bark canoe. The man’s clothing and the shape of his canoe indicate he is a Mi’kmaw—as does the penciled inscription by the artist, Isaac Sprague. The Mi’kmaq people (Mi’kmaw in the singular) live in northeast North America from New England up to Nova Scotia. Sprague, born in 1811, was the son of a Hingham, Massachusetts, cooper. Apprenticed at the age of fourteen to his uncle, a carriage painter, he clearly had a talent for rendering the natural world in minute detail. His gift attracted the attention of America’s premier illustrator, John James Audubon, who invited him to join an expedition in 1843. After that journey, Sprague traveled through northern New England working on a series of paintings for William Oakes’s Scenery of the White Mountains, published in 1848, which is when he may have executed this image. Sprague became one of America’s most respected nineteenth-century illustrators. Mi’kmaq artists produced colorful porcupine quilldecorated boxes and many other goods for their own use and for sale to non-Native customers. This acquisition complements numerous Mi’kmaq boxes and baskets in Historic New England’s collection and will help illustrate the diversity of the region’s cultural heritage. —Laura Johnson Associate Curator

above Watercolor of a Mi'kmaw man by Isaac Sprague, an artist best known for his illustrations of flora and fauna for Asa Gray, John James Audubon, and others.

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