Historic New England Summer 2013

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Historic N E W E NG L A N D





N E W E NG L A N D Summer 2013 Vol. 14, No. 1

Beth Oram

How can an organization that preserves historic houses be meaningful in the twenty-first century? Our answer is that we contribute to creating and sustaining quality of life by making our communities desirable places to live. We offer benefits that nearly everyone values by maintaining historic landscapes and gardens, preserving personal stories, community records and images, and sharing our heritage knowledge and expertise. In this issue, we illustrate the many ways that Historic New England contributes to the communities in which our historic properties are located. Along with farmland preservation in a historically agricultural area of Rhode Island, we also host a farmers’ market that supports other farmers. In Wilmington, Massachusetts, we protect an eighteenth-century house with an interesting twentieth-century history while keeping it in private ownership. In York Harbor, Maine, we preserve a rare survival—a house and its contents that remained in one family for seven generations. In addition to maintaining open space, buildings, and objects, we document everything from sleeping porches, to ephemera. We bring history to life through tours, educational programs, lectures, activities, and one-on-one services. Historic New England is committed to making heritage preservation meaningful for all of us.

A Tale of Two Farms 2

Sayward-Wheeler House 18 S P OT L I G H T




Hidden Gem

Silent Orchards 8


A Commitment to Preserve MAKING LEARNING FUN


H O U S E S TO R Y — PA R T 1


H O U S E S TO R Y — PA R T 2


Time Travel

A Preservation Case Study

—Carl R. Nold President and CEO

The Legacy of Farmer Brown 16


Recollections of Roseland Historic New England 141 Cambridge Street Boston MA 02114-2702 617-227-3956





Refortifying a Structure Treasures on View in Newport E V E R YO N E ’ S H I S TO R Y

H I S T O R I C N E W E N G L A N D 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, Senior Preservation Services Manager Design: DeFrancis Carbone


Remembering Home LIFEST YLE


Sleeping Porches A CQ U I S I T I O N S


An Object at Home

COVER Sayward-Wheeler House, c. 1718, York Harbor, Maine. The waterside site was convenient for Jonathan Sayward’s wharves and warehouses. Except where noted, all historic photographs and ephemera are from Historic New England’s Library and Archives.

Photography by W. Morgan


The inevitable has happened. Modernist architecture has at last invaded the Rhode Island home building field…One of those fantastic dwellings championed by such radicals as Wright, Lescaze and Le Corbusier has sprung up in a neighborhood of highly conservative homes. —Providence Sunday Journal December 8, 1935

ABOVE LEFT Searching for appropriate period furnishings has become the owners’ avocation. ABOVE RIGHT Except for the egret on the front door, the so-called Lescaze house has no ornamentation whatsoever.

Hidden Gem


hus was born a myth about an undiscovered house by a Modern master in a streetcar suburb of Providence—the bayside community of Edgewood in the city of Cranston, Rhode Island. I had heard of a house by the noted Swiss designer William Lescaze, and so when I moved to Rhode Island a few years ago, I wandered Edgewood in search of it. Brown University architectural historian William Jordy quoted the newspaper line in his Buildings of Rhode Island, published in 2004, which further reinforced the idea of a hidden Modern treasure. The property shown here is not by Wright, Lescaze, or Le Corbusier, but its story is a good one and indicative of the tentative steps toward Modernism first taken in 1930s New England. The house in question was actually designed by local architect Carl Hyman for attorney Arthur J. Levy. Comfortable “Stockbroker Tudor” seems to have comprised the bulk of Hyman's domestic practice. Legend holds that Levy saw a Modern house during a Florida vacation and wanted it recreated on the shores of Narragansett Bay. Just as likely, the client may have seen model houses by younger avant-garde architects illustrated in mass-circulation magazines of the day, such as House Beautiful, Woman’s Home Companion, and Collier’s, and brought them to Hyman's attention. Constructed in 1934 of cast-concrete blocks, the Levy house, remarkably, has not been painted or stuccoed. Many of its original features—metal casement windows, Vitrolite glass walls, Bakelite hardware, and built-in African walnut cabinets—have been lovingly cared for by the current owners. Twenty-five years ago, Art Deco mavens Ed Lemire and Deb Day went to a yard sale here and ended up buying the house. Since then, they have been ideal stewards for what may be the state’s first truly Modern house. —William Morgan William Morgan is an architectural writer based in Providence. Summer 2013 Historic New England




Beth Oram Photography


A Tale of Two Farms


ew England has relied on farming as a way of life since the first settlers arrived. In Rhode Island, which was settled in 1636 by dissident religious groups from Massachusetts, families planted crops, raised livestock, and began to prosper. By the eighteenth century, farmer merchants began to capitalize on Narragansett Bay’s favorable agricultural conditions, developed big landholdings, and conducted extensive trade in food and wool along the eastern seaboard and as far away as Europe. While farming has drastically diminished in Rhode Island today, as elsewhere in New England, Historic New England owns and operates two historic farms in the state, which continue to serve local needs as well as preserve the land through good farming practices. Watson Farm, located in Jamestown on Conanicut Island, is home to a cattle and sheep operation on


Historic New England Summer 2013

260 acres of pasture, woodland, and hay fields. Directly across Narragansett Bay, Casey Farm in Saunderstown, produces vegetables and eggs. The bounty of both farms, as well as the public programs they offer, serve the population of southern Rhode Island. Embraced by their communities, both farms draw thousands of visitors each year to enjoy the programs and explore the open land and views of the bay. Watson Farm came to Historic New England in 1979, and shortly thereafter, Don and Heather Minto were hired to manage it as a working farm open to the public. When they arrived, the Mintos found land that had suffered years of neglect. Recognizing that Conanicut Island had a long history of grazing livestock, the Mintos launched a business of raising grass-fed beef, lamb, and wool. To conserve the farm’s natural resources and increase the land’s fertility, they planted crops to restore nutrients in the soil and rotated the pastures used for grazing. After decades of planning and hard work, the land is healthy again. Now a model of responsible land management and sustainability, Watson Farm attracts visitors from across the region. Farmers and agricultural students come to learn about the heritage Red Devon cattle and the mix of Romney

and Texel sheep. Others take self-guided tours of the property and read about the history of the land from the time when the Narragansett Indian tribe farmed there to the period when woods were allowed to take over the fields. Tours usually end with a visit to the animals and occasionally include a demonstration of sheep herding by the farm’s border collies. Watson Farm hosts several public programs each year, the most popular being Sheep Shearing Day in May, when expert shearers work their way through the herd of fifty sheep, and spinners and weavers demonstrate their skills. Other public programs include history hikes and outdoor painting workshops. Our visitors relish the chance to spend time on a two-hundred-year-old farm that preserves traditional methods of farming and keeps the land open for public enjoyment.

Watson Farm, 1796, Jamestown, Rhode Island. FACING PAGE BOTTOM Farm manager Don Minto with visitors at the shore. THIS PAGE, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP A young visitor cuddles one of the farm’s border collie puppies. An expert shearer carefully removes the fleece from a ewe, who appears accustomed to the process. Red Devon cattle were chosen for their temperament, ability to sustain themselves on grass alone, and long history as a heritage breed. Sheep, formerly a staple of the economy, were reintroduced to the island by the farm managers. FACING PAGE TOP

Summer 2013 Historic New England


Casey Farm, which retains three hundred acres of fields and woodlands, is one of a few surviving large farms that were once common in Rhode Island’s South County. The c. 1750 mansion house exemplifies the imposing architectural style favored by Newport traders. Standing 135 feet above sea level and 1,320 feet from the shore, it served as a prominent landmark for sailors along Narragansett Bay. Over the centuries, farming practices varied from a commercial operation to a cherished family retreat managed by a tenant farmer. Generations of Caseys owned the farm until 1955, when the family donated it to Historic New England. Casey Farm today plays a central role in its surrounding community; tens of thousands of visitors come each year to participate in its educational programs and buy its produce. In the 1980s, Historic New England, recognizing that overgrazing used in previous farm operations at Casey Farm had depleted the soil, decided to switch to sustainable methods, which 4

Historic New England Summer 2013

THIS PAGE, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP The education garden at Casey Farm is tended by students in the farm’s school programs and children in the summer camps. Visitors shop for locally grown produce at the Coastal Growers’ Market held on Saturdays in the season. The mobile chicken coop at Casey Farm houses a flock of Dominique and Rhode Island Red chickens. Even the youngest visitors find something to engage them at Casey Farm.

in addition to improving the health of the land were better suited to our preservation ethic. After allowing time for the fields to recover, we established a Community Supported Agriculture program, or CSA, through which local residents may purchase shares of a season’s worth of the farm’s produce. Shareholders get a weekly supply of organic vegetables and contribute a few hours of labor. Many of them find deep satisfaction in tending crops or doing chores side by side with their neighbors. Healthy food and farm work have turned the farm into a community center. Every Saturday from May through October, Casey Farm hosts the Coastal Growers’ Market, where dozens of farmers come to sell their vegetables, meat, cheeses, and other foods. The season culminates in late August with a day of tasting called Height of the Harvest, when local growers offer samples of heirloom tomatoes, peppers, beans, and other summer vegetables. More than two thousand people attend the event to celebrate the delicious tastes of summertime. With education at the core of our institutional mission, the farm offers programs for schoolchildren and runs a summer day camp. As part of the science curriculum, Historic New England teachers bring incubators and fertilized eggs from heritage chickens to one hundred schools in our popular program, Project c.h.i.c.k. The children watch the chicks

hatch in their classrooms; later, they come to Casey Farm to visit the chicks after they have joined the flock. In summertime, scores of children experience farm life in a day camp, where they feed the chickens, help plant and harvest, and look for creatures living at the water’s edge. They discover that no supermarket can match the taste of a tomato still warm from the sun or a carrot just pulled from the earth. Young or old, people who come to the farms are always delighted. Families stroll along the paths looking for the farm cats and then set out to find the sheep and the pigs. Whether they come for a family outing, to purchase heirloom vegetables, or to take a long walk through the fields, visitors find an aspect of Rhode Island history that is very much alive and a vibrant part of the southern Rhode Island community. —Peter Gittleman Team Leader, Visitor Experience

BELOW Framed by high stone walls, the c.1750 house at Casey Farm has dramatic views of Narragansett Bay.

Summer 2013 Historic New England



Silent Orchards


ou see them occasionally as you drive Vermont’s roads—former apple orchards consumed by weeds and saplings, their trees dying and their straight rows giving way to less orderly natural processes. The time it takes to pass by such places is infinitesimal compared to the decades it took to create them, and beyond a brief sense of nostalgia or melancholy, most of us are not likely to give them much thought. But an abandoned orchard, like any landscape, has stories to tell to those who pause to look. Landscapes are historical artifacts that raise questions and offer insights about those who create them. They


Historic New England Summer 2013

do this through what is present in the physical scene—vegetation, buildings, roads—and also through what is absent—items and activities no longer readily visible. Of course, we cannot know merely by looking at a given landscape all that has been removed or altered, but a bit of thought can suggest more about absence than we might expect. Gone from Vermont’s abandoned orchards, for instance, are people and animals and machines, the ordered nature of straight rows and well-kept trees, the colors of fruit against leaf. Less obvious, but equally significant, is the absence of the work—the physical labor, the seasonal toil—that any

orchard demands. Originally, apple growing in Vermont took place as a sideline to other agricultural work. Most farms had a handful of trees for domestic use or for the production of hard cider. By the turn of the twentieth century, however, commercial apple production was developing rapidly. Orchard owners in Vermont and elsewhere in New England planted trees on open ground, built packing houses, and hired workers to grow and harvest the fruit. Some orchards expanded to tremendous size, while others stayed small. Cornwall Orchards in the Champlain Valley began in 1910 with a hundred trees, and by 1927 had grown to 4,500 trees

on forty-five acres. The Ford Orchard in Ludlow, by contrast, grew to only four hundred trees on five acres. Regardless of size, all of Vermont’s orchards required sustained dedication to seasonal patterns of work. Annual pruning took place primarily in the winter, when trees went dormant and other work demands were slow. Spring and summer were reserved for replanting, fertilizing, chemical spraying, and mowing. Late summer and fall were the seasons for harvesting, packing, and marketing. By mid-century, this seasonal regime had produced an agricultural landscape in Vermont that was literally rooted in place. This rootedness is a defining characteristic of orchards, and one that makes us ponder the idea of absence within the agricultural landscape. Unlike annual crops such as corn or hay, which can be rotated from field to field, apple trees are not easily moved, nor is their health easily revived once they are abandoned. Derelict farm fields can be reclaimed

with comparative ease, but to plant and maintain an orchard, let alone reclaim one that has been abandoned, take years of effort and expense. Apple trees require specific types of work to be performed repeatedly within a specific place. In the absence of that work, an orchard’s historical imprint on the landscape is lost to sumac, wild grapevine, and white pine. Vermont had nearly two hundred commercial orchards at the start of the century. That number decreased to fifty by the 1970s, and today it stands at roughly thirty-five. Some orchards were consolidated into larger operations, some bulldozed, and others left to decay. Age, expense, and relentless annual toil depleted the ranks of orchardists, all of whom at some level regretted having to give up their trees. Each tree stood as a signifier in the landscape—a reflection of years of hard work. Each tree was an anchor in the soil. Each branch pruned reflected care for the health and productivity of the tree. Those who planted and main-

tained Vermont’s commercial orchards appreciated this, no matter how or why their work came to an end. Vermont’s twentieth-century commercial orchards required a commitment to place defined by a visceral, work-based engagement with the land—a promise to work for the future rather than immediate gain alone. And though that dedication has faded in the abandoned orchard, we see its physical legacy in the dying trees that linger for years. Those trees embody the hope and purposeful work performed by past generations, and perhaps if we pause for a moment by the roadside, they can remind us to consider our own commitment to place and the legacies that our work will leave in the landscapes we inhabit. — Blake Harrison Blake Harrison holds a PhD in geography and has written and edited a number of books and articles on the New England landscape. He is an orchardist in Middlebury, Vermont.

Orchard workers in Cornwall, Vermont, c. 1900. FACING PAGE RIGHT Unpruned, overgrown tree in an abandoned orchard. LEFT Seen from the air in 1939, the Loomis orchard in Addison, Vermont, was a typical example of a large commercial orchard. Historic photographs courtesy of Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History, Middlebury, Vermont. FACING PAGE LEFT

Summer 2013 Historic New England




Eric Roth

LEFT Steve Parson in one of The Vale’s historic greenhouses, a complex that is one of the oldest in the country. BELOW The 1793 Lyman Estate, The Vale, in Waltham, Massachusetts.

A Commitment to Preserve


teve Parson beams when he describes his childhood visits to his grandparents, Arthur and Susan Lyman, at the Lyman Estate, which the family always called The Vale. As he walks through the house that the family donated to Historic New England in 1951, he points out the pantry where he sneaked cookies and describes Thanksgivings overflowing with cousins, aunts, and uncles. His warm attachment to the house and its stories is unmistakable. Seeing a need for a book to tell the story of the Lyman Estate and his family’s long history there, Steve took on a labor of love. Over the course of eight years, he painstakingly researched his family and their home and studied


Historic New England Summer 2013

records in Historic New England’s Library and Archives. After publishing An American Family: The Lymans and The Vale, he donated the book’s proceeds to help support the continuing care of the estate. And then he took his commitment a step further by including long-term care of The Vale in his estate planning to continue his family’s dedication to this beloved property. Steve describes feeling a deep obligation to helping maintain this special place, where four generations of his family lived. “I am so happy to set up a charitable remainder trust for my children, who will receive income quarterly for life. Then the capital goes to The Vale. The charitable remainder trust is a great

instrument for all concerned and a nice payback to The Vale.” Those family ties continue. Steve recently became licensed as a justice of the peace in order to officiate at the wedding of his granddaughter, Alex, which took place in the ballroom at the Lyman Estate. Our planned giving staff is happy to provide information on ways to make legacy gifts, large or small, that can have an important impact on Historic New England far into the future, while providing benefits to donors and their heirs. Please contact us at 617-994-5929 or PlannedGiving@ HistoricNewEngland.org.




LEFT Students take a fresh look at the grand mansions on Wiscasset’s High Street. The eleven houses lining the street comprise a rich collection of Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, and Queen Anne styles. BELOW The 1807 Nickels-Sortwell House is an elegant example of Federalera architecture.

Time Travel


n the early nineteenth century, the mid-coast Maine town of Wiscasset was the busiest port north of Boston. Merchants and sea captains were building grand mansions with fortunes made from the sea. But prosperity did not last: first the Jefferson Embargo, and later the War of 1812, the Civil War, waterfront fires, and a failed railroad scheme brought hard times. The mansions survived in part because there was no money to tear them down to make way for the new and modern. The Colonial Revival era and the arrival of the railroad at the end of the nineteenth century brought preservationists and tourism, which helped save Wiscasset’s architecture and rejuvenate its economy. The place called the “prettiest village in Maine” has a timeless quality, almost as if trapped in amber. In the fifth grade, Wiscasset students study local history. Over the past three years, Historic New England’s school program, A Tale of Two Houses: Mid-coast Maine in the 1800s, has become a centerpiece of the social studies unit. Historic New England museum teachers go to the classroom

and begin by working with the students to construct a time line that identifies the national, regional, and local events that impacted the town during the nineteenth century. Several weeks later, the teachers return to lead the students on a field trip to explore their hometown. We visit both Castle Tucker and Nickels-Sortwell House and then walk around Wiscasset to look at the architecture. The students’ eyes grow wide as they realize how the buildings they see every day are actually evidence of the town’s economic history. The big houses along High and Main streets become portals to a past when the waterfront was crowded—not with tourists waiting for a lobster roll but with ships’ captains, sailors, merchants, longshoremen, and their families. By the end of the day, the students have begun to appreciate their town and its heritage in a new way. As one of them exclaimed, “It’s like we went back in time!” —Carolin Collins Education Program Manager Summer 2013 Historic New England






A Preservation Case Study


istoric New England frequently receives calls from individuals or groups who want to donate a historic house so it can become a museum. If the property lacks the public appeal and financial backing to make it viable as a museum, Historic New England can still help by providing a constructive alternative, working with the owners to preserve the house and its history for posterity. The c. 1745 Boutell-Hathorn farm in Wilmington, Massachusetts, which came to Historic New England via a bequest from the Richardson family in early 2011, provides a model example. The property, a defining landmark in the town, consists of a Georgian farmhouse with a c. 1870 Italianate barn and nearly six acres of land, located within twenty miles of Boston. The bequest included all the property’s contents, namely a quantity of archival materials and objects that document the Richardsons’ lives over their long ownership.


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The farm’s history during the past seventy years reflects the area’s transition from agricultural to suburban life. Because it lacked the operating endowment required to sustain it, the property was not a realistic candidate for conversion into a museum. Fortunately, Historic New England’s long track record of preserving properties like this one through its Stewardship Easement Program provided a responsible alternative. Easements allow historic properties to remain in private ownership while critical historic features are protected in perpetuity. Currently, Historic New England oversees the preservation of more than eighty historic properties through this program. An easement protects the historic character of a property by granting Historic New England a permanent interest that prevents future owners from making insensitive alterations. To guarantee compliance, Historic New England staff visit each protected property at least annually and provide guidance to owners whenever repairs or work are being

Photography by David Bohl

Despite being within commuting distance of Boston, the c. 1745 Boutell-Hathorn farm in Wilmington, Massachusetts, still retains its agricultural character. ABOVE

c. 1770 Harnden Tavern. The photographs, letters, and other archival materials were added to Historic New England’s Library and Archives. In this manner, a comprehensive range of items was preserved both locally and regionally to safeguard the family’s history and legacy. Once Historic New England’s easement on the property was prepared, the farm was put up for sale. In August 2012, a young couple who understand and value the historic character of the house and view the easement as an asset purchased the property. As they restore the property over time, they will be able to draw upon Historic New England’s expertise to guide their work with sensitivity toward its historic features. They also own horses and are excited to be able to stable them in the barn and use the associated acreage for paddock space. Within a period of a little over a year, Historic New England brought together an interdisciplinary team to carry out comprehensive research into the history of the BoutellHathorn property, analyze, preserve, and interpret its archival and collections materials, draft a preservation easement to secure the property’s long-term protection, and then market and sell the farm to sympathetic owners. The funds from the sale provide an endowment for the easement and also support Historic New England’s overall mission. What could have been a problem property, because it lacked sufficient support to become a museum, has turned out to be a preservation success story. Historic New England is truly honored to have been entrusted with the care of this property and looks forward to an ongoing role in preserving and protecting the legacy of the Richardson family. —Jess Phelps, Team Leader, Preservation Services

performed. At the Boutell-Hathorn farm, Historic New England’s easement protects the exteriors and important interior features of the farmhouse and barn and secures the farm fields and forest, which critically define the property’s setting, against subdivision or development. Beyond protecting the Boutell-Hathorn property, Historic New England also sought to preserve the family’s legacy and oversee the disposition of the various items in the house and outbuildings. A team of Historic New England curators, historians, and archivists began by reviewing the contents and documents in the house and interviewing neighbors and other individuals who had known the Richardson family. Through these efforts, a fuller understanding of the family’s place at home and in the community came into focus. After completing the background research, staff assessed the contents of the home and accessioned a number of objects to our collection. The remaining objects were offered to the Wilmington Historical Commission for its town museum, the


The living room filled with family possessions.

Summer 2013 Historic New England


The Legacy of Farmer Brown


Historic New England Summer 2013






fter seven decades as the busy center of Richardson family life, the old colonial farmhouse fell silent: Winifred Richardson, the last member of the family, had died. One day, staff from Historic New England arrived to shepherd the home through the process of donation to Historic New England and eventual sale with easement protections. Staff began photographing each room, carefully examining closets and cupboards, family bibles, and old letters to assess the contents and understand the house’s history. Slowly, the house opened up to reveal the story of a resilient Massachusetts farm family facing the pressures of the twentieth century. The first clue to the Richardson family story, found at the bottom of a desk drawer among scratch pads, twine, and old receipts, was a neatly clipped classified ad from 1941: One of the old houses that has “Colonial Appeal” 7 rms, 4 fireplaces, original paneling, large barn, poultry house; 84 acres of fields and woodlands; within commuting distance of Boston. Reduced to $5500, terms. Charles W. Howard & Son, 32 Summer St., Malden.

At the other end of the house, a box yielded two photographs stamped with Charles Howard’s address and phone number, showing the house and barn as they looked in 1941—remarkably similar to their appearance today. The advertisement brought the Richardson family to Wilmington, to the farm they would tend for the rest of their lives. Alvin W. Richardson was born in 1886 to a farm family in Boxborough, Massachusetts. As a younger son with no inheritance, he put off marriage until he was thirty. His bride, Maude C. Kathan, was from a prominent Lynn, Massachusetts, family and four years his elder. Her grandfather, a Harvard graduate, had died young, leaving the family destitute. Her father was a commercial traveler, a salesman, but her parents sent her through Somerville Latin High School and college. She taught physical education in Athens, Georgia, and then at the Pennsylvania College for Women FACING PAGE Alvin Richardson, known as Farmer Brown, with his market truck in Wilmington, Massachusetts. ABOVE LEFT The Richardson poultry yard in the 1930s, since replaced by Interstate 93. ABOVE RIGHT Willard, Winifred, and Elinor Richardson in Waltham, Massachusetts.

Summer 2013 Historic New England


in Pittsburgh, before returning to the family home in nearby Hudson, Massachusetts. Opportunities for work in Boxborough were limited, and soon the Richardsons had three young daughters to feed. In 1924, Alvin found work as caretaker for the country estate of Howard Josselyn, a Boston businessman, and the family moved to Waltham, Massachusetts. The estate, now part of Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall School, was located just down the road from Historic New England’s Lyman Estate. All three girls graduated from Chapel Hill School. A former neighbor and family friend recalled that she first knew Alvin Richardson as Farmer Brown, the man who regularly delivered eggs and vegetables from his gardens to the neighboring estates and townspeople of Waltham. His nickname derived from the popular character in the children’s stories and radio tales of Thornton W. Burgess, a naturalist from 14

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Sandwich, Massachusetts. Mrs. Richardson led the local Girl Scouts and taught when she could, including home economics at the Boston YWCA and camping at Camp Aloha in Fairlee, Vermont. Their daughters—Maude Willard (called Willard), Winifred Hermione, and Elinor Calvert—learned canning and camping skills and how to stage pageants and plays. The farm’s Wilmington attic still held trunks packed with costumes and two top hats in an 1830s hatbox. Even during the hard times of the Depression, the Richardsons managed to save money; in 1941, after Howard Josselyn died and the last of the daughters had graduated from Chapel Hill School, the family bought the old BoutellHathorn farm in Wilmington. While the advertisement had emphasized the property’s “Colonial Appeal,” presumably to attract a gentleman farmer, it landed instead a real New England farmer. Farmer Brown and Mrs. Richardson carried their expertise in market gardening—and his nickname— along with them to Wilmington. The farm fronted on Woburn Street, where an old stagecoach path forked off to North Reading. The Richardsons grew vegetables and fruit for sale in Wilmington and Boston, including asparagus, blueberries, Concord and other varieties of grapes, quince, squash, strawberries, and sweet corn.

They grew hay for their horse and three milk cows, Belinda, Bessie, and Buttercup. On the second and third floors of the barn, they kept chickens. A neighbor fondly remembered climbing through the Wilmington barn when she was a girl, collecting eggs and playing with kittens. Mrs. Richardson described a typical week’s work in a letter to her daughters in August 1949: Sunday we did corn. 21 qt. boxes…Yesterday the hens upstairs (3rd floor) went so none left now but 2nd. They have started cleaning downstairs. I packed eggs—took most of day. Rain didn’t help cleanliness of eggs. Sent 3 cases to Boston yesterday but man taking chickens wants to buy them next week. Farm industries extended into the house, which held big iceboxes and a separator for making cream and butter. The Richardsons canned raspberries for jam and juice and froze blueberries, peas, and other vegetables. In her sewing room, Mrs. Richardson raised white mice to sell to scientific researchers in Boston. At the end of the long days, the family would gather around the large table in the dining room for supper, although no one was allowed to talk while Mr. Richardson listened to Lowell Thomas on the radio. In 1949, the girls took a summer off and drove to Alaska on the new Alaska Highway, which had opened the year before. Filling the family station wagon with canned goods and camping gear, the trio headed west. Mrs. Richardson followed their itinerary on a map and sent letters ahead, addressed to post offices in Champaign, Illinois; Seattle, and Fairbanks. In a letter posted to them in the Badlands at Kadoka, South Dakota, she wrote, “Am going to try making succotash this afternoon. The garden is scant and what there is will taste better than canned things, particularly to you girls where you have lived on canned food all summer. Daddy thinks now the rain saved the sweet corn in lower field—so if frost keeps away you may have some.” In 1958, most of the Richardson fields were taken by eminent domain to make way for Interstate 93. Alvin, by then in his seventies, gave up commercial farming. The Richardsons bought a lot overlooking Pautuckaway Lake in Nottingham, New Hampshire, and built a vacation cottage there, using wood they hauled from Wilmington. Alvin set up a portable sawmill to saw into boards the trees doomed by the Interstate. Following their mother’s lead, the girls all went to college and built careers. Willard, the eldest, served as dietician at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. A diligent student of covered bridges, she traveled across New England and the Midwest, photographing bridges and recording their dimensions in scrapbooks. Winifred earned a bachelor of science in education degree from Boston University and

taught kindergarten in nearby Winchester, Massachusetts, for thirty-six years. Her desk contained photographs of each class. Elinor graduated with a bachelor of science in education degree from Tufts University and eventually became the head occupational therapist at Worcester State Hospital. A box in the attic yielded her bright abstract watercolors. After their parents died in the 1970s, the three Richardson sisters stayed on at the farm in Wilmington and continued to raise fruits and vegetables for their own use. The farm buildings with “Colonial Appeal” survive to provide insights into centuries of New England farm life, culminating in the market gardening career of Alvin Richardson. The Richardson family papers, now in Historic New England’s Library and Archives, shed light on a second narrative—two generations of professionally trained, independent women who did not conform to old stereotypes of farm women. Winifred Richardson’s gift to Historic New England preserves the memory of three sisters, their parents, and the farm the family loved. —Timothy T. Orwig Tim Orwig, an architectural and social historian, worked with the Historic New England team studying the Richardson farm.

Maude and Alvin Richardson with their Shelties. Winifred on horseback. ABOVE Winifred and Elinor harvest their garden under the watchful eye of a Sheltie. FACING PAGE TOP


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his year marks the twohundredth anniversary of the birth of Henry Chandler Bowen (1813–96)—businessman, publisher, philanthropist, and advocate of many causes. Roseland Cottage, the pink Gothic Revival country home he built for his family in Woodstock, Connecticut, is one of Historic New England’s most notable properties, reflecting summertime life for a prosperous family household in the mid-nineteenth century. Bowen’s great-great-grandson, Professor F. Warren McFarlan of the Harvard Business School, who serves on our Board of Trustees, recently found time to sit down with us and record his 16

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Recollections of Roseland

memories of the house. Here are a few excerpts from the interview:

Q: How would you describe your great-great-grandfather? A: Henry Chandler Bowen was a very effective man of business. I deal with a lot of CEOs and people who do really high-impact things. He had a flair for making things happen. In his early years, he was a strong and articulate abolitionist. He also owned a weekly newspaper in Brooklyn. Bowen was extremely well-connected and really had impact in both New York and on the national stage. His children and grandchildren did not have that level of impact, so he was

sort of a shadow that’s hung over the family. Many of his grandchildren— though not my grandmother—assured me he was a willful horrible old tyrant. Looking back at him from the distance of four generations, I am struck by the incredible scope and complexity of what he was able to do. He was somebody who made a difference in the times he lived. I’ve often said, “Of all my ancestors, he is probably the one that I most relate to. I’m sure he was an effective S.O.B.”

ABOVE AND FACING PAGE BOTTOM A postcard from Constance Holt to Ethel Bowen White, grandmother of F. Warren McFarlan, 1950.

Q: Constance Holt, your grandmother’s first cousin and your godmother, was the last family member to live at Roseland Cottage. Please tell us about your visits. A: In my early teenage years, I was invited by Constance Holt on three occasions to spend nights at Roseland Cottage. She was, from my perspective at twelve to fourteen years old, a very august person. But she was extremely solicitous of her godson, and I always had a good time. Prior to my visits, I was instructed by my grandmother on how to behave. Since I was a devout Boston Red Sox fan, my grandmother made it clear that I was not to share my views about the New York Yankees. I feel slightly badly that the black-andwhite TV set, which was so important to Constance for watching Yankees games, is gone. The house has, of course, been restored to how it was in the 1880s, but there were some modern conveniences there in the early 1950s. I certainly recall looking in the kitchen, and the word “modern” did

not come to my mind. I can remember thinking, “My God! Did kitchens actually look that way?” The bathroom upstairs had sort of an antique flavor. The living room was filled with a clutter of things, which I think are quite reflective of what is there now. It was a very unusual living room, because it didn’t have anything to do with either my grandmother’s living room or my parents’ living room—it was Victorian Plus! Of course, there was also the formality of sitting there and being served by the butler and the cook. I was picked up by a chauffeur at the Putnam train station on my first visit. This was not like life in the McFarlan family household—Roseland Cottage was clearly of a different generation. My memories are very warm, and I remember the flower gardens and hedges as being quite spectacular.

I would say Roseland Cottage was probably the most unusual of the homes that Historic New England has. It will remain high impact because of its remarkable Victorian cottage architecture and the historic associations of presidential visits. But basically, it depicts pre-Gilded Age country living and is a wonderful record of a world that is gone. — Interview by Brooke Steinhauser, South Berwick Site Manager

Discover the delights of Roseland Cottage, open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm, from June 1 through October 15. For details, visit HistoricNewEngland.org.

Q: How do you view Roseland Cottage today, as part of Historic New England’s holdings? A: Until the Eustis Estate was acquired,

Young Warren and his sister Ethel at Roseland Cottage. ABOVE


Twelve-year-old Warren playing golf at Roseland Park.

Summer 2013 Historic New England


The view from the entrance hall into the sitting room in the oldest part of the house shows the tall case clock Jonathan Sayward purchased around 1770. To make the clock fit into the low-ceilinged room, Sayward removed the central finial and stored it in a nearby drawer.

Sayward-Wheeler House Photography by Geoffrey Gross

18th-century jewel on the York River


combination of factors has resulted in the survival of the 1718 Sayward-Wheeler House

in York Harbor, Maine, making it a virtual time capsule and undoubtedly one of Historic New England’s greatest treasures. Home to seven generations of a single family, this is a place where much has happened but little has changed. Indeed, one historian describes Sayward-Wheeler House as “perhaps the best preserved household of the colonial era in America.” Around 1720, millwright Joseph Sayward purchased the four-room house, two rooms below and two chambers above, on the York River, with a suitable site for a sawmill. Though he was respected in the community, Sayward was never able to make the mill successful. In 1732, the town voted to pay off his debts, and in 1735, his son Jonathan provided more cash by purchasing the house. Jonathan likely lived at the house with his parents and, after marrying in 1736, with his wife, Sarah, and their only child, Sally, born in 1738. Jonathan Sayward’s beginnings as the son of a debt-ridden millwright were inauspicious. A mariner and occasional shipyard laborer, he eventually became a successful trader, accumulating wealth in landholdings, ships, and goods. In the 1740s and ’50s, he was active as a ship’s captain, traveling mostly to Boston and Philadelphia. In 1745, he won townwide prestige by transporting troops to the successful expedi-

tion and siege of the French fort at Louisbourg. Subsequently, he was elected as justice of the peace and representative to the Massachusetts General Court. With his fortunes rising in the 1760s and perhaps to celebrate his new status, Sayward set about improving his house and adding suitable furnishings to fill it. In 1761, he paid a local carpenter to add paneling to the parlor, sitting room, and parlor chamber, and in 1767, he added a kitchen and firstfloor bedchamber to the rear of the house. As representative to the General Court, Sayward was a member of the colonial elite, numbering Thomas Hutchinson, Ebenezer Storer, John Hancock, and Theodore Lyman among his friends in Boston. But unlike his more stylish friends, Sayward’s taste in housing and furnishings, like his politics, was conservative. Despite Sayward’s improvements, the house remained old in style and layABOVE LEFT Jonathan Sayward, c. 1760, artist unknown. ABOVE RIGHT Parlor. Compare this to the c. 1890 image on the contents page. RIGHT A c. 1700 wineglass and behind it, a plate brought back from the Siege of Louisbourg in 1745.

Summer 2013 Historic New England


Bedchamber next to the sitting room, added to the Sayward house in 1767. CENTER LEFT Portrait of the SayABOVE


out, having more in common with seventeenth-century center chimney dwellings than fashionable Georgian-style homes with a central hall and a clearly defined façade. When most well-to-do people no longer followed the older tradition of sleeping on the ground floor, Sayward added a groundlevel chamber, an awkward two steps above the sitting room because of ledge running beneath. The new furniture purchased around this time was well made and sturdy rather than elaborate. Sayward commissioned three sets of six chairs, two mahogany sets in the Chippendale style for the parlor and a walnut set in the less fashionable Queen Anne style for the sitting room. At a time when the only public meeting spaces were in churches or taverns, many prosperous homeowners routinely held large gatherings, which required plenty of seating furniture. At this time, too, Sayward had portraits of himself and his wife painted by an artist whose name is unknown today. When it came to capturing a likeness of his daughter, however, he turned to London-trained Joseph Blackburn for a truly fashionable portrayal. Sally at that time was living with her parents and her young daughter while her husband, Nathaniel Barrell, was away in London. She wrote to a friend of her isolation: “I regret much the seventy miles distance 20

Historic New England Summer 2013

wards’ daughter, Sally, painted by Joseph Blackburn in 1761. CENTER RIGHT This watercolor of the Sayward house, painted by

that separates me from those agreeable acquaintances I left in Boston…Books as you know are my principle entertainment in the country as there are no Balls, no Assemblies, no Concerts of Musick etc.” Sally passed her love of books on to her daughter, Sarah Barrell Keating Wood, who would become the first published fiction writer in Maine. Though the 1760s were prosperous years for Sayward, increasing political unrest in the region presaged troubled times. In 1765, his friend Lieutenant Governor Thomas Hutchinson barely escaped when a Boston mob, enraged by the Stamp Act, ransacked his mansion. Sayward, a conservative Old Light Puritan, believed in a divine order; he greatly feared the turmoil and threats of ensuing chaos that he witnessed in Boston. In 1768, when Hutchinson ordered members of the General Court to rescind a letter circulated to the other colonies asking them to unite in opposition to England, ninetytwo members refused; Sayward was one of seventeen who voted to rescind. Soon after the vote, Paul Revere printed a broadside that celebrated “the glorious ninety-two” as heroes and showed the rescinders at the gaping jaws of hell, describing them as “miscreants, villains, and scoundrels.” Sayward wrote in his diary, “we are treated with all contempt.”

Lucretia Peabody Hale in the late nineteenth century, evokes the romanticism of the Colonial Revival. FAR RIGHT Sayward’s

In 1769, Sayward was soundly defeated in his run for a fourth term in the General Court. Still respected for his role at Louisbourg, he continued to serve in local positions, but in 1775, he was stripped of all political office and confined to the limits of the town of York. In September that same year, his wife died. One of his ships foundered; another was captured. Reflecting at the end of the year, Sayward wrote, “It has been a year of extraordinary trials.” In the next few years, Sayward was threatened by mobs and brought before the Committee of Safety to explain his ongoing correspondence with the now-exiled Hutchinson. “I Heard the Clock every Hour Last night,” Sayward wrote in 1777. Mobs were harassing Tories in nearby Portsmouth, and in August, with naval battles nearby, he “heard cannon all this morning at sea.” Sayward recorded a dream he was told that perfectly expressed his view of the war: T. M. Esqr. of this town told me he dreamed he was in a beautiful Green Pasture and very Flourishing—in which was feeding a fine young bull Large and beautiful in this and he by and by saw a large old bull come down a sort of Lane or Passage to get into the young bull in the Green Pasture which

high chest, c, 1760, ornamented with striking veneers, was a local carpenter’s interpretation of high-style furniture.

seemed to be bard without, like a strong Gate, however at Last the old bull got in, and Presently there began a furious fight between the old bull and the young. The fight was long and terrible all the Ground round about was torn up and bloody. Sometimes one would have the advantage and then the other, but at length the old bull Conquered but by the loss of Blood and wounds was so weakened and debilitated as the owner of him held a Consultation whether it was not best to kill him also. It is easy in hindsight to dismiss Sayward’s views as those of a conservative old man, but when no one knew what the outcome of the war would be, many must have felt as he did, that whichever side won, both would be mortally weakened, and communities would be destroyed. Over the next few years, Sayward slowly reclaimed his position in town. He remarried in 1779, to Elizabeth Plummer, and in 1782, he was named a church elder. That same year, he wrote about the fatigue in England and America for “such a mad distracted war.” Finally, on April 29, 1783, he was able to describe the joyous celebrations that marked the end of the Revolution. Summer 2013 Historic New England


Mary and Elizabeth Barrell, seen here in 1880, preserved their great-grandfather’s legacy by leaving his home’s ABOVE LEFT

Sayward spent the remainder of his years serving in various town offices and continuing his shipping and lumber business. He and his wife entertained a stream of visitors. Some who came to stay were business associates; others were young people paying their respects and seeking advice. At Mrs. Sayward’s frequent afternoon teas, Sayward was often the only man in attendance. In the evenings, he dined regularly with a close circle of elderly and philanthropic male friends. He wrote in 1794, “The remainder of this month has been so filled up with abundance of company which is rather disagreeable to an old man who should live in silence and contemplation waiting for the silent grave.” He died in his eightyfourth year in 1797. His will provided for his widow and left his home, surrounding land, and his interest in the adjacent mills to his eldest grandson, Jonathan Sayward Barrell. The long period of prosperity for the family and the region was about to end. The early years of the nineteenth century brought Jefferson’s crippling embargo in 1807, and in 1812, the beginning of an equally crippling war with England. Sayward Barrell faced bankruptcy. Eventually, like his great-grandfather, he turned to his family to raise cash, selling the furnishings to his daughters, Elizabeth and Mary, in 1822, and the house itself to their brother in 1841. 22

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furnishings intact. CENTER The sitting room shows the layering of furnishings of seven generations of the Sayward family. ABOVE RIGHT

For decades, Elizabeth and Mary Barrell lived at the house in genteel poverty until their deaths in 1883 and 1889. With no children and little money, the sisters made few changes to the house. In part because the family’s recent past was marked by penury, they looked back with pride on their great-grandfather’s success. They honored his legacy by turning their parlor into a relic room, displaying items he brought back from Louisbourg in the corner cabinet and hanging his commission near the family portraits. As early as the 1860s, the beautiful old architecture and nearby seaside beaches of York began to attract summer visitors. The seeds of the Colonial Revival were found in Sayward-Wheeler House and others like it. People often stopped by to see the relics and curiosities of the old house on Barrell Lane. A published account of one such visit in 1869 recorded the author’s impressions of the parlor and described the large portraits at the end of the room as well as the coat of arms nearby and the “elegant set of India China and other curiosities of the last century.” An anonymous family member captured that period of the home’s history in verse: In this old house through joy and pain, Have lived, now live, two sisters rare,

The Wheelers added a few decorative items to the household furnishings including this wonderful arts and crafts table runner.

Upon whom showers of blessings rain From those, who prosper by their care. Here live they from the world apart, With simple hopes and simpler ways, Surrounded by the works of art, The monuments of bye-gone days. Following Mary Barrell’s death in 1889, her nephew George inherited the house. When he died in 1901, his cousin Ellen Cheever Wheeler, who had visited often as a child, and her husband, Dr. Leonard Wheeler, negotiated to buy the house and its contents. Fully embracing the tenets of the Colonial Revival, they planned from the beginning “to preserve the house and all of its contents intact exactly as they were…as an ancestral place.” They hired a Boston architectural firm to update the house with bathrooms and make room for children’s bedrooms in the attic. They kept as much original architectural detail as possible, decorating with wallpapers, adding straw matting on the floors, and painting woodwork white but otherwise leaving the house as it was, even keeping furniture in the same rooms.

The sitting room best exemplifies the layering of later family belongings on top of the eighteenth-century furnishings. The gateleg table, one of the earliest pieces in the house, may have belonged to Joseph Sayward. The mirror between the windows and the clock in the corner are fixed to the walls in the same locations as they were when Jonathan Sayward installed them in the 1760s. His walnut side chairs are arranged around the room. A Federal sideboard at one end of the room is one of the few pieces added by Sayward Barrell after he inherited in the house 1797, while a mid-nineteenthcentury sofa provided comfortable seating for the elderly Barrell sisters. The rug and wallpaper and a few small decorative accessories were added by the Wheelers, the last family members to live there. In 1977, in keeping with Dr. and Mrs. Wheeler’s intent to ensure the house would remain intact, their children donated the property to Historic New England. — Nancy Carlisle, Senior Curator of Collections

Sayward-Wheeler House is open on second and fourth Saturdays, June 1–October 15.

Summer 2013 Historic New England



Refortifying a Structure


he 1709 Gilman Garrison House in Exeter, New Hampshire, is one of the most unusual of Historic New England’s many buildings because it was originally built as both a house and a fortified garrison. The Gilman family required a home like a fortress because of the ongoing threat of Indian raids. Exeter residents had been killed during raids in 1690, 1695, and 1706. In 1709, the year the house was under construction, five Exeter residents perished in a skirmish. Nearby towns like Durham and Dover, New Hampshire, and Haverhill, Massachusetts, were repeatedly raided in this period as well. Anyone who could afford to built a 24

Historic New England Summer 2013

fortified building. The Gilmans likely cut the lumber for the house in their own sawmill. They built the walls out of massive sawn hemlock logs, roughly 18" to 24" high by 6" to 7 1/2" thick in cross section. On the first floor, the logs were laid horizontally and set into oak corner posts; on the second, they were dovetailed together. The second floor overhung the first, a stylistic feature brought over from England. Window openings were small, as was typical in houses of this period, because glass was expensive and windows let in cold air. Even so, the Gilmans’ windows were unusually small. In the event of an attack, the

front door could be protected by a strong door or portcullis lowered via a pulley (still visible in a beam on the second floor). The house even has a safe room—a small room on the second floor with a substantially built floor in which the family could hide in case attackers penetrated inside the building. In time, however, relationships between the English and the French and Indian populations improved. In the mid-eighteenth century, Peter Gilman, a descendant of the original builder, added a wing of elegantly paneled rooms to one end of the house and made several alterations to the log portion of the building to modernize

the exterior and give it a more up-todate and refined appearance. He replaced the small window openings with larger, more stylish windows typical of the era. He also added a false wall to the front façade to conceal the second-floor overhang. A new roof now had to cover a slightly wider span created by the false wall, so new rafters were added to the existing structural system and at a slightly different angle. Over time, this change in pitch has altered the way the structure carries the weight of the roof, which has caused the front and rear dovetailed log walls on the second story to bulge outward. Additionally, the introduction of larger windows has undermined the walls’ structural integrity. With money donated to the Preservation Maintenance Fund, Historic New England is currently monitoring the building to determine the rate of movement in the walls. In a sense, we are “refortifying” the building to protect it against the stresses of

time. Once the building is stabilized, Historic New England will replace the roof over the garrison portion of the house and repair any interior plaster damaged as the structure settled.

Gaps in the log construction are indicators of structural movement. BELOW TOP The house was updated by the addition of a new wing, c. 1770. BELOW BOTTOM Conjectural drawing of the garrison’s original appearance. FACING PAGE

— Craig Tuminaro, Regional Site Manager, Maine and New Hampshire

Summer 2013 Historic New England






on View in Newport French ormolu and marble clock, c. 1795–1820, set against scenic wallpaper in the dining room at Barrett House, New Ipswich, New Hampshire.


istoric New England is honored to be selected as the featured loan exhibition at the Newport Antiques Show, to be held at St. George’s School, Middletown, Rhode Island, from July 26 to 28. The display, entitled Windows on the Past: Four Centuries of Historic New England, highlights the range of collections in

our thirty-six properties, museum holdings, and Library and Archives, including furniture, paintings, ceramics, glass, and jewelry. Every year, at least 2,500 antique enthusiasts and collectors attend the show to see fine antiques and artworks offered by forty of the country’s top dealers. Anne Hamilton is the 2013 Show Chair; Honorary Chairs include Mrs. Samuel M.V. Hamilton, Mrs. Robert H. Charles, and Mrs. John R. Donnell.


Historic New England Summer 2013

David Bohl

Admission to the show is $15. Historic New England members receive a $3 discount on each ticket by showing their membership cards.

Silver and enamel brooch made by London jewelers Child & Child between 1892 and 1915, bequest of Susan B. Norton. Child & LEFT

Child, known for exquisite enamel work, had a clientele that included royalty as well as the artist Sir Edward BurneJones. This delicate butterfly was owned by a granddaughter of Harvard professor Charles Eliot Norton. Norton, a friend of Burne-Jones, was intimately connected to the Arts and Crafts movement. His daughter, Sara, may have purchased this brooch in 1897 while visiting family friends in England.

ABOVE Great Storm at Providence, possibly by James Kidder (1793–1837) in Boston, Massachusetts, or Providence, Rhode Island, after 1815. Oil on canvas, museum purchase. On

September 24, 1815, an unusually high tide, combined with a powerful hurricane, created a horrific scene in Providence, Rhode Island. The painting mirrors eyewitness accounts of storm-tossed water, with ships, buildings, and people swept helplessly along. Amazingly, only three lives were lost. In September 1938, Providence was again hit by a powerful hurricane at the time of an exceptional high tide, with a flood level in Market Square exceeding that of the 1815 storm by nearly two feet.

Chest of drawers in mahogany, eastern white pine, and birch veneer, made in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, between 1805 and 1815. Rundlet-May House, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, gift of Ralph May. At the beginning of the nineABOVE

teenth century, Portsmouth cabinetmakers were producing some of the most ambitious furniture in the region. Many of these pieces were characterized by boldly contrasting and highly figured veneers, like the birch veneer used here. The rounded shape of the front of this chest, referred to today as a bow front, and in period records as a round front, was part of the newly popular neo-classical style that began to be adopted in New England in the late eighteenth century.

ABOVE Creamware punch pot, possibly Leeds, England, between 1760 and 1780. Beauport, the Sleeper-McCann House, Gloucester, Massachusetts, gift of Constance McCann Betts, Helena Woolworth Guest, and Frasier W. McCann. Although

the form of this piece mimics a teapot, its large size and the lack of a strainer at the base of the spout make it a punch pot, used for serving an alcoholic beverage made from spirits, fruit, sugar, spices, and water. This pot with a wonderful entwined handle is typical of wares made in Leeds, England. Summer 2013 Historic New England


E V E R Y O N E ’ S

Remembering Home THIS PAGE AND FACING PAGE The workshop uses ephemera from Historic New England’s Library and Archives—like this World War II poster, brochure from a paint company, and product catalogues—to evoke memories of childhood. In this creative writing project, everyone has a story to tell.

Historic New England offers this program to communities across New England. If you are interested in hosting a workshop at your community center or senior residence facility, contact Ken Turino, manager of exhibitions and community engagement, KTurino@HistoricNewEngland.org or call him at 617-994-5958.


Historic New England Summer 2013



istoric New England staff has recently been visiting community centers and residence facilities for older adults to present workshops on mem-ory and creative writing. We bring with us a box containing a collection of old objects and advertising images dating from the twentieth century. As participants pass the items around, they begin to share their memories of home, housework, favorite foods, radio programs, and movies. For one man, a meat grinder brought back the smells in the kitchen when his mother cooked hamburgers. For another, a pair of ice tongs called up summer days when the ice man doled out ice chips to the neighborhood kids. At the end of the workshop, many participants preserve their memories by writing “I Am From” poems. Based on a creative writing exercise, the poems are often highly personal and full of vivid imagery. —Brooke Steinhauser South Berwick Site Manager

I Am From I am from an icebox in 1922, From a radio and a telephone. I am from a Chelsea, Massachusetts, row house, And no electricity or heat— From making beds with many, many pillows. I am from meat and potatoes, and apple strudel during holidays, From chicken soup or roast chicken on Friday nights, From a large meal at noon with vegetables, And a mother who made “knaidlach”—dumplings. I am from Libmans and Verners, And from “do not mix meat with dairy”—per Jewish laws, From new clothes and shoes on Passover, And the High Holidays. I am from parents who left Russia And came to Chelsea, Massachusetts. I am from a father who drove us to Revere Beach in a new Durant And took us to Broadway Restaurant on Sundays, And from my mother always telling me to “Look for your husband!” I am from my superstitious grandfather, twirling a live chicken over his head on Yom Kippur when I was five. I am from grandchildren who are writers, Writing for the “Ellen Show.” These are what my grandchildren call the olden times, Now that I reminisce of our old ways, They don’t seem so bad at all, Ann Isacoff was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, in 1917. Now living at Langdon Place, Dover, New Hampshire, As I remember the “Good Old Days.” she writes and directs theatrical performances starring her fellow residents.

Ann Isacoff

Summer 2013 Historic New England


David Bohl


Sleeping Porches Leon H. Abdalian, courtesy Boston Public Library



Historic New England Summer 2013

ifestyle trends always reveal themselves in architectural design, whether in indoor plumbing, a four-car garage, or a gourmet kitchen. In the early twentieth century, one of the most desirable features of a new home was the sleeping porch. To novelist Sinclair Lewis’s quintessential “booster” businessman, George Babbitt, the most significant “token of financial and social success” in his Dutch Colonial house in the Floral Heights neighborhood of Zenith was “a sleeping-porch with a sun-parlor below.” The sleeping porch found its way into the early twentieth-century American home via the tuberculosis sanatorium, where, from the 1850s until streptomycin was introduced in the 1940s, the standard treatment for the disease was good nutrition and abundant fresh air, preferably at high altitude. Of course, sun and fresh air were long considered healthful elements to recovery from a range of illnesses, and for that reason, the planners of many early hospitals sought out elevated sites and included open porches in the design. In the first decade of the twentieth century, however, the use of porches for open air sleeping began to be a common adjunct of specialized hospital

States, where open-air schools first appeared just after 1900, instruction took place year round in screened rooms that were either unheated or heated only in severe weather. Pupils wore warm hooded “Eskimo” suits similar to today’s snuggies. The initial impetus was reform-minded, to provide underprivileged children living in substandard housing with a healthier environment that would support improved learning, forestall pulmonary disease, and lift them from lives of poverty. The first “outdoor” schoolroom in Boston was set up in 1909 on the roof of the refectory in Franklin Park. In the 1890s, open-air sleeping for all first began to be suggested as a possible way of preventing disease, not just treating it, and also as a pleasant alternative to indoor sleeping. By the first decade of the twentieth century, sleeping porches began to appear as features of single-family homes, and by the end of the 1920s, the first-floor sun parlor, topped by a sleeping porch on the second floor, was a ubiquitous feature even on modest homes. Kits to create a sleeping porch on top of an existing porch or sun parlor were available from the Southern Cypress Manufacturer’s Association and others. Do-it-yourself magazine articles demonstrated how to create a tent-like sleeping porch using screens and awnings.

The sleeping porch in this c. 1903 lakeside cabin in New Hampshire is more rustic than most but conveys the ideal of sleeping in the fresh air among the treetops. FACING PAGE LEFT A 1930 photo of the Nathan Babcock House (1753) on Adams Street in Milton, Massachusetts, shows the frame for a sleeping porch above the side porch on the left. Such frames, fitted onto existing houses, would be covered with canvas to create a tented enclosure. LEFT The sleeping porch on this unidentified house of c. 1919 tops a ground floor sun room and features a particularly festive striped awning roof treatment. FACING

Mary H. Northend

design for the treatment of advanced cases of tuberculosis, with architectural guides showing treatment wards with rows of beds lined up outside on open porches. This development paralleled a similar movement in education for open-air schools. Air circulation and the exhausting of “vitiated” air in school design had been a concern from the mid-nineteenth century, when poor air quality in buildings heated with coal or wood and lit with kerosene or gas was a recognized cause of diminished health and inattention to studies. In Germany, Britain, and the United



Summer 2013 Historic New England


We may now think of the sleeping porch simply as a way to sleep comfortably through a hot summer’s night in a time before air conditioning, but use of the sleeping porch year-round, or nearly year-round, was, in many cases, the true intent of this feature. Period magazines of the 1920s, for example, noted the advisability of pre-warming the sleeping porch bed with hot water bottles or electric heaters. Lewis’s Babbitt proudly slept outdoors, except “on the coldest nights,” when he “luxuriously gave up the duty of being manly and retreated to the bed inside, to curl his toes in the warmth and laugh at the January gale.” Owners of some homes of this period may wonder at the small size of the bedrooms, but reducing bedroom size in favor of the sleeping porch was preferred by some. In 1938, Life magazine reported on a custom-designed, upper-middleclass suburban Philadelphia home, where, for a family who loved their sleeping porch, the four family bedrooms were reduced to the size of what the architect called “comfortable dressing rooms,” just large enough for a bed when “extreme cold drives the family indoors.” It’s hard to imagine the prosperous suburban family of 32

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today opting for outdoor sleeping or “reduced size” bedrooms, but the presence of the sleeping porch, either as an original design element, or one added to an older house, demonstrates the popularity this feature had in its day, when an architect commented in 1914, “a sleeping porch is one thing every house, little or big, should have.”

—Sally Zimmerman Senior Preservation Services Manager

ABOVE Shades that could be lowered to keep out the morning sun added to the comforts of the well-appointed sleeping porch, which also served as an informal outdoor room for reading or relaxation.

Stop infestations before they spread Historic New England can eradicate insect infestations safely with controlled atmospheric treatment. This museum-standard service is available to both museum and private clients at our collections and conservation facility in Haverhill, Massachusetts.

Historic New England members receive a 10% discount on treatments. For more information, visit HistoricNewEngland.org/Bubble or contact our collections technician at 617-994-6637 or Collections@HistoricNewEngland.org.

141 Cambridge Street Boston MA 02114-2702

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


An Object at Home


istoric New England’s collections are known not only for their wide range but also for their extensive documentation. On its own, this mantel mirror is an interesting example of mid-Victorian taste; the fact that it is documented by a photograph showing it in a Boston home in 1869 adds to its allure. The image shows the mirror as part of the decorative scheme in a room filled with pattern, ornately carved furniture, and decorative objects. The mirror features two elongated birds with drops in their beaks supporting a cloisonné frame. An eclectic blend of Asian styles,

the object was probably made in France or England between 1850 and 1869 and reflects a taste for the exotic in midcentury decoration. The mirror was recently donated to Historic New England along with four chairs and ten photographs taken in 1869 showing rooms in the home of Mr. and Mrs. George Henry Tinkham at 79 Montgomery Street in Boston’s newly developed South End. The images depict both public spaces—parlor and dining room—and private ones like bedrooms and nursery. The mirror and accompanying photographs of a middle-class urban home are welcome additions to Historic New England’s collections of furnishings and depictions of domestic interiors and further enrich our understanding of Victorian Boston. —Nicole Chalfant Collections Manager

LEFT Albumen photograph shows a bedroom with the mirror on the mantelpiece. ABOVE Mantel mirror.

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