Historic New England Summer 2016

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Historic N E W E NG L A N D

Courtesy of Daniel Titus

Summer 2016 Vol. 17, No. 1

What Museum Storage Should Be


A Deep Dive into American Design Why Care If Not to Share?

Introducing the Henry Sheldon Museum

Discovering an Early “Modern” Architect




Cape Cod’s Modern Masters


Rural, Refined, Revolutionary

Expanding the Story of the Arts and Crafts Movement Tour Guides Q&A



Success and Sustainability in History Education

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Revisiting the Kearsarge–Alabama Celebration Made in the Green Mountain State





There is an ongoing national conversation about the alleged decline of interest in history, but in some ways I find it to be like the idea that all politicians are bums, except the one I support! History today is personal and local first. There is great interest in the piece of history that is “mine.” Genealogy research flourishes. Use of historical and collections information online is soaring. Tours of museums and historic sites that offer unique personal experiences sell out quickly. Historic New England achieved record attendance and membership in 2015, and served more people in school programs and more users online than ever before. These successes are thanks in part to access and engaging people through their personal stories, stories that Americans love

to share. In this issue we look at the many ways Historic New England shares heritage stories: through online collections access, through new artifact storage that welcomes special tours, through our annual Book Prize, and through themed itineraries to help our guests find their own special place in New England’s stories. It’s all about sharing!

—Carl R. Nold, President and CEO

HISTORIC NEW ENGLAND magazine is a benefit of membership. To become a member, visit HistoricNewEngland.org or call 617-994-5910. Comments? Email info@HistoricNewEngland.org. Historic ­­­ New England is funded in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Executive Editor: Diane Viera Editor: Kris Bierfelt 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

Portraits of the Wainwright family, painted c. 1840 by Benjamin Franklin Mason, hang in the parlor at the Henry Sheldon Museum. ABOVE LEFT Baskets and boxes in our storage facility. ABOVE RIGHT The Reefs in Newport, Rhode Island, was designed in 1853 by Joseph C. Wells and altered c. 1903 by Ogden Codman Jr.

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


© 2016 Historic New England. Except where noted, all historic photographs and ephemera are from Historic New England’s Library and Archives.

A Deep Dive into American Design


he most extensive online archive of an American furniture manufacturer is now live, thanks to Historic New England’s efforts to catalogue and digitize thousands of items from the Irving and Casson–A. H. Davenport Company. For almost a century, the company was one of the most influential furniture makers in the country, providing furnishings and interior decoration for thousands of clients. The White House, the Biltmore Estate, and the United Nations Headquarters were among the firm’s numerous projects. Reaction to the launch of the online collection was swift and continues to be enthusiastic. “Three hours after I started looking at your Irving and Casson–A. H. Davenport collection online,” wrote one person, “I found myself saying, ‘I’ll look at just one more.’” Another commenter wrote, “What a resource! I couldn’t pull myself away from the computer.” Completed in November 2015, the digitization project provides unprecedented public access to more than 8,000 images of original design drawings, photographs of furniture, and items of ephemera and approximately 3,000 catalogue records. Here are just a few of the fascinating facts you’ll discover: • The company designed and manufactured furnishings for churches across the country, including St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York and several churches in California. Project Archivist Lynne Paschetag identified more than four hundred churches in the archive. • The firm’s output was remarkable and wide ranging and included the Nebraska and Washington state capitols, yacht

interiors, automobile showrooms, domestic interiors, libraries, and hotels. • More than 7,000 clients ranging from the middle class to the very wealthy used the firm’s products and services. • Historic New England’s furniture collection includes more than a dozen pieces made by the firm. • Interior designer Henry Davis Sleeper, creator of Beauport, the Sleeper-McCann House, in Gloucester, Massachusetts, purchased several items from the company, including some that he may have designed. • The firm hired photographer Nathaniel L. Stebbins (1847– 1922), whose archive is part of the collection of the Library and Archives, to photograph some of its work. The archive is an invaluable resource for furniture historians, social historians, curators, owners of Irving and Casson–A. H. Davenport Company furniture, and everyone curious about the history of American design. Find out for yourself just how engrossing the collection can be at HistoricNewEngland.org/davenport. —Lorna Condon Senior Curator of Library and Archives

An 1899 photograph of the interior of Boston Theatre owner Eugene Tompkins’s yacht Idalia. A watercolor design for a mahogany china cabinet. The private chapel for Nicholas Brady, chairman of the New York Edison Company, and his wife, Genevieve, Roslyn, New York. ABOVE LEFT TO RIGHT

Summer 2016 Historic New England


What Museum Storage Should Be Celebrating the Completion of the Collections Care Project After two years of moving, cleaning, cataloguing, photographing, and renovating, our Collections Care Project is complete. Introducing our newly upgraded home for the country’s most comprehensive collection of New England decorative arts and household furnishings.

The decorative arts storage space before construction. BOTTOM New high density mobile units showcase our Parian ware collection. TOP


Historic New England Summer 2016


An Abenaki birch bark wastebasket (1990.159.2). NEAR LEFT

Collections Care Specialist JT Buzanga opens the storage units to show decorative glass.


ne of my favorite parts of my job is spending time with collections in storage. I love being there on my own when it is quiet and still and it is just the objects and me. There are so many things to take in and discover. You don’t need to know about the objects themselves— how they were made, when they were made, or by whom. You don’t even need to know who owned them or how they came to Historic New England to appreciate the abundance of pattern, texture, and color. Clustered by form or function, on shelves or in drawers, they can take on new meanings and interest. I am always rediscovering objects and seeing some for the first time. I am always intrigued by the way they are juxtaposed against one another. We hear again and again from researchers, students, interns, and members who are as fascinated by storage and the behind-the-scenes museum activities as I am. This is one of the reasons we are so excited about the completion of the Collections Care Project, our most recent and comprehensive endeavor to improve collections storage at our Haverhill, Massachusetts, facility. For more than two years staff, interns, volunteers, contractors, vendors, and consultants have worked to transform our decorative arts storage unit into fresh, compact, and efficient storage with fully integrated climate-control systems. Highdensity, mobile storage units allow us to house more collections in a smaller footprint. The new storage improves conditions, is easy to maintain, and is flexible for the building and the collections. And we were able achieve this in our 104-year-old building without making significant changes to its exterior look and feel. We designed our project to be a prototype for improving storage in buildings not purpose-built to house collections or to sustain ideal climate control. Beginning in the summer of 2014, we inventoried and examined more than 24,000 decorative art objects as we moved them to temporary storage. We checked and double-checked their accession numbers, reviewed and edited their object files and database records, and created new records for many previously uncatalogued objects. We cleaned and photographed thousands of objects, all of which are now accessible via our online Collections Access database.

Three mid-twentieth-century women’s hats (1993.49, 1992.65, 1993.51). Glass bottle stoppers stored upright in a new polyethylene foam tray. ABOVE

Summer 2016 Historic New England



Twentiethcentury jewelry stored in new custom trays. FAR RIGHT Rows of eighteenth-, nineteenth-, and twentieth-century shoes. BELOW Textile storage includes a photo tag identifying the quilt rolled inside.

Collections Close-Up Tours June 23–25 Join us for behind-the-scenes tours of our newly renovated collections storage facility. Find dates and times and sign up online at HistoricNewEngland.org. Register soon; space is limited and tours fill up quickly.


Historic New England Summer 2016

After collections were relocated to temporary storage in early 2015, the work to transform the space began. We built a new pod—a room within a room—its walls set two feet away from the exterior building envelope. This created a service corridor to house ductwork for the HVAC system and a buffer zone around the pod to improve system efficiency. Next we installed mobile shelving units using both new and existing cabinets. More than half of the shelving was donated, which not only saved us a significant amount of money, but also supports our institutional environmental sustainability efforts by repurposing existing materials rather than purchasing new ones. We moved all ceramics, glass, and silver back into the space and also added jewelry, rolled textiles, shoes, hats, and other accessories. Creative solutions for housing unusual objects such as glass bottle stoppers and custom-made mounts and supports for fragile objects like necklaces improve conditions for those objects. They are also now easier for staff and researchers to access, opening up more opportunities for scholarship and discovery. The last phase of the project, repairing the windows and patching the spalling concrete facade, will be completed this summer. The response from donors, colleagues, and researchers who have seen the work in progress has been overwhelmingly positive. “Clean, accessible, well organized, and respectful of the objects—this is what museum storage should be,” said Gerald W. R. Ward, Katharine Lane Weems Senior Curator of American Decorative Arts and Sculpture Emeritus at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Now we are ready to invite you to visit and see what we have been up to for these many months. Please join us for behind-the-scenes tours on June 23–25. We are eager to share our love of the collections that we put so much effort into preserving for future generations. And we hope that you too will see why spending time in collections storage is such a special way to experience these fascinating objects. —Julie Solz Team Leader, Collection Services

See G7a by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy through September 7 in Moholy-Nagy: Future Present at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. TOP RIGHT This maple Chippendale chair will be at the Yale University Art Gallery in Early American Elegance: Rhode Island Furniture, 1650–1830 from August 2016 through January 2017. BOTTOM RIGHT Crispus Attucks’s teapot continues to tell the former slave’s story in We Are One: Mapping the Road to American Independence, on view through January 2017 at Colonial Williamsburg. FAR LEFT

Why care if not to share?


hen our Cherished Possessions exhibition toured the country more than a decade ago, people from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Waterville, Maine, discovered the depth and breadth of Historic New England’s collections. From a Parisian ensemble worn by a wealthy New England suffragette to what Senior Curator of Collections Nancy Carlisle described as a “gnarly old teapot” owned by the first man killed in the Boston Massacre, each item helped tell the diverse and often unexpected stories of the region. There are more than 110,000 artifacts in our collection. Coupled with our 1.2 million archival items, these objects tell the most complete story of New England life over four centuries. Ensuring the best possible collections care is a top priority. Sharing our collections with the broadest possible public is just as important. Why care if not to share? Last year 200,000 people visited our historic sites, where about half of our artifacts are on display. Our Collections Access database at HistoricNewEngland.org allows visitors around the world to view 177,287 object and archival

records. And we continue to share our collections through exhibitions. When the Eustis Estate Museum and Study Center in Milton, Massachusetts, opens next spring, the inaugural exhibition in the second-floor gallery will be Mementos: Jewelry of Life and Love from Historic New England, featuring pieces that tell personal stories of their owners. We also lend items to other museums. Pictured here are objects currently or soon to be on view at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Yale University Art Gallery in Connecticut, and Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, where former slave Crispus Attucks’s gnarly teapot will once again tell his incredible story. Whether we’re reaching people at our historic sites, through exhibitions, or on the web, making our collections accessible is at the heart of what we do. —Diane Viera Executive Vice President and COO

G7a, bequest of Ise Gropius, 1984.106. Chippendale chair, gift of Cherry Fletcher Bamberg, 2012.41.1 Teapot, gift of Miss S. E. Kimball through the Bostonian Society, 1918.1655.

Summer 2016 Historic New England


Introducing the

Vermont pottery lines the windowsill next to the dry sink in the JuddHarris House kitchen.


Historic New England Summer 2016

Photography by Brett Simison

Henry Sheldon Museum

The Henry Sheldon Museum is the oldest communitybased museum in the country.

In October 2015 Historic New England and the Henry Sheldon Museum in Middlebury, Vermont, announced an alliance that strengthens the connections between our regional heritage institutions. Vermont native Mary O’Neil, Historic New England Council member and principal planner for the City of Burlington, shares her impressions of the Henry Sheldon Museum and its eclectic collections.


he Henry Sheldon Museum offers four distinct entities worthy of exploration: the historic Judd-Harris House, the collection of the Henry Sheldon Museum, the Walter Cerf and Adèle Eels Pierce galleries, and the StewartSwift Research Center. This is not a house museum frozen in time, but rather an assemblage of furniture, paintings, clocks, household artifacts, ephemera, and more amassed by Middlebury local Henry Sheldon and opened to the public in 1882 as the first chartered community museum in the country. The historic, three-story Judd-Harris House, a handsome brick Federal, fronts Cannon Park in downtown Middlebury. Constructed by quarry owner and marble merchant Eben Judd and his son-in-law Lebbeus Harris in 1829, it remains a notable but reserved monument to the prosperity of man and local industry. Judd and Harris operated the marble works at the falls of nearby Otter Creek, a business that contributed to Middlebury’s reputation as a marble mecca in the nineteenth century. The Judd-Harris House quietly reveals its connection to the family business through its front porch columns, window lintels, and interior hearthstones. The stone is used more flamboyantly in six black marble fireplaces, quarried from nearby Shoreham.

Both Judd and Harris died in 1837, and by the 1850s the large house was taking boarders, Henry Sheldon among them. Henry Luther Sheldon was born in 1821 and moved to Middlebury in 1841. He worked as a railroad agent for a time, and became the organist at nearby St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. His predilection for documentation and recording may have been born in his next occupation as town clerk. For thirty years Sheldon sought, collected, identified, sorted, and compiled an unparalleled compendium of Addison County objects and documents. He acquired furniture, paintings, textiles, household articles, clothing, pamphlets, notices, maps, books, and anything associated with Middlebury or central Vermont. Sheldon was pointedly focused on provenance, sometimes tacking notes to an object in his own handwriting that described previous owners or location, where accessed, how acquired, under what terms, and in what condition. His fastidious occupation is the basis for the collection, and supports the assertion that Middlebury is the most well documented town in New England. Sheldon ultimately purchased the Judd-Harris House for his own residence and to house his expanding, idiosyncratic collection. The house itself exudes an intimate warmth and joyfulSummer 2016 Historic New England


Vermont artist Wendy Copp’s dashing crow originally appeared in a 2013 exhibition that paired items from the museum’s clothing collection with Copp’s fashion ensembles from natural

materials. RIGHT Henry Sheldon’s handcrafted “Court House Chair” includes twenty-four spindles made using wood from historic buildings and ships.

ness: volunteers play the parlor’s Chickering pianoforte with exuberance for holiday visitors, children intently examine replica kitchen objects or explore a hands-on play area, laughter spills from exhibit spaces. The chests, secretaries, cabinets, clocks, and musical instruments reveal not only the particular interests of Sheldon as a collector, but also the identities of Vermonters who chiseled, planed, honed, and tuned sundry and spectacular objects in rural Vermont. The story is very personal; many of the artisans and subjects were local. Joseph Dyar’s banjo clock (c. 1830) features a reverse painting of Lake Champlain with sailing ships and a fort. Warren Hastings’s eighteenth- and nineteenth-century cabinetry represents a livelihood begun in Middlebury. Paintings in the collection are a visual scrapbook of local personalities, places, and vistas. Benjamin Franklin Mason’s works reflect a forty-six-year career of painting local townspeople. Portraits by Jesse Grandey Converse and itinerant artist Sheldon Peck represent nineteenth-century local tradition. Vermont’s own Great Lake, Lake Champlain, is a recurring theme, well represented in John Bunyan Bristol’s landscape panorama. The view is recognizable to those who have hiked Mount Philo and gazed westward to the Adirondacks. Curiously, the scene was completed simultaneously from the same outlook with one painted c. 1860 by noted landscape

artist Frederic Church. Who knew Middlebury’s close association with the Hudson River School? A visitor will find the Henry Sheldon Museum comfortably casual and full of surprises. Those who have struggled with new technology will understand Lydia Judd’s insistence on building a kitchen hearth stylistically older than the 1829 house, outfitted with an earlier generation’s kitchen tools that better suited her talents. Lounging within the rooms are two figures by Vermont artist Wendy Copp, outfitted in period clothes drawn from the museum’s collection of vintage textiles. One whimsical character has a papier-mâchè doe head and is dressed in bloomers, hoop skirt, housecoat, and silk shoes. A recent exhibition of work by Vermont artist Warren Kimble spilled into the historic galleries, where his iconic painted assemblages co-existed comfortably with antique objects from centuries past. The current exhibition, Pedaling Through History: 150 Years of the Bicycle, The Collection of Glenn Eames, marks the 150th anniversary of the first pedal bicycle patent in the United States. Designs from the 1860s Boneshaker to twenty-first-century fatbikes are on view, with a spotlight on the bicycle’s golden age in the late 1800s. The “Court House Chair” in a third-floor bedroom reflects Sheldon’s peculiar approach to artifacts. The Windsor-



Historic New England Summer 2016

This c. 1825–40 sofa with its lyre-clock arms is attributed to Nahum Parker. Of the Middlebury cabinetmakers, Parker was the only one to ever purchase the sprung seats needed to make an expensively upholstered sofa like this one.

Summer 2016 Historic New England


An activity room invites children and adults alike to try their hand at nineteenth-century games and school activities. CENTER LEFT School groups enjoy participating in an antique kitchen-

tool scavenger hunt in this kitchen. CENTER RIGHT Henry Sheldon’s former office features the only wallpaper original to the house, a late 1800s Egyptian-themed design that

style chair is Sheldon’s own handiwork. The spindles are all turned from relics of various historic venues and structures, including the USS Constitution, the Connecticut Charter Oak, and the homes and barns of many notable Middlebury residents. Sheldon’s handwritten note under the center panel reads, “This is a part of the seat used by the criminals and prisoners in Middlebury Court House during their trial for the last fifty years, taken out by myself in 1883 when the new court house was built.” Other highlights include a c. 1810 painted pine bookcase belonging to Rev. Thomas Merrill and the c. 1825–40 sofa by Nahum Parker, both of which can be admired for their beauty, local manufacture, or simple survival. Textiles, quilts, and period clothing are on rotating display throughout the Judd-Harris House. The inventory of musical instruments reflects Sheldon’s musical interest and organist duties and helps tell the stories of social entertainment of their period. An 1859 Estey Melodeon, manufactured at the Estey Organ Company of Brattleboro, Vermont, is kept in tune and pressed back into service for occasional performances. The archives in the attached 1972 Stewart-Swift Research Center contains one of the most impressive collections of primary documentation and ephemera in Vermont. The substantial holdings include two hundred years of local newspapers

(beginning with the Middlebury Mercury, 1801); more than one thousand linear feet of manuscripts, programs, posters, invitations, and tickets; more than four thousand books and pamphlets; and thirty-thousand individually catalogued letters. This quarry of information has provided the foundation for many notable publications, including the recent Charity & Sylvia, A Same Sex Marriage in Early America by Rachel Hope Cleves. The moving story of a forty-four-year relationship between two skilled and self-supporting seamstresses is powerfully documented through their archived personal letters. The Stewart-Swift photograph collection numbers as many as twenty thousand images, many of which are available online through the University of Vermont Landscape Change Program (uvm.edu/landscape). The Cricket Foundation along with a local family recently helped fund the Henry Sheldon Museum’s continued conservation of its extraordinary map collection. While the majority of maps relate to Addison County and the central Vermont area, unusual examples include a historic map of Palestine. There is also a beautifully hand-drawn chronology of the temperance movement. More recently the museum has acquired through donation a hand-rendered 1828 pew chart for the Leicester Meeting House with specific pew ownership identified.



Historic New England Summer 2016

once included vivid pink accents, now faded to salmon. The paper reflects Henry Sheldon’s interest in Egyptology. RIGHT Archivist Eva Garcelon-Hart and volunteer Joann Langrock examine an 1849

The Henry Sheldon Museum offers a robust educational agenda, with activities both onsite and “to-go.” An ongoing collaboration with Middlebury College brings new energy and intellectual inquiry to the museum on a regular basis as students and faculty alike make use of the museum’s resources. Here also are indexed hundreds of scholarly papers and presentations relative to architecture, health, music, population studies, biographies, and social organizations. All manner of intellectual curiosity is sure to be satisfied here. Community events remain popular, especially the annual Holiday Open House that has featured an extensive model train installation for the past twenty-eight years. The grounds are open seasonally for picnicking, with gardens maintained by the Middlebury Garden Club. Locals especially appreciate the annual Pops Concert and fireworks hosted by the Henry Sheldon Museum at Middlebury College. Through this welcome partnership, Historic New England members enjoy free admission to the Henry Sheldon Museum. Make a visit to the museum and lively downtown Middlebury part of your summer plans. —Mary O’Neil Historic New England Council member and principal planner for the City of Burlington

map of Vermont in the newspaper and map vault of the archives.

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO Admission is free for Historic New England members as part of the alliance. Likewise, Henry Sheldon Museum members receive free admission to Historic New England properties. June 1–mid-October: Tuesday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. and Sunday 1–5 p.m. Mid-October–May 31: Tuesday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. (Closed mid-January through February) Research Center: Year-round, Thursday and Friday, 1–5 p.m. (appointments encouraged) Henry Sheldon Museum One Park Street, Middlebury, Vermont 05753 802-388-2117 henrysheldonmuseum.org

Summer 2016 Historic New England



Ida von Rydingsvärd carved her initials and the date, 1901, on the front right and under the lid of this oak chest.

Expanding the Story of the

ARTS AND CRAFTS MOVEMENT Twentieth-century studio furniture. Immigrant craftsmen. Women’s roles in the region’s Arts and Crafts movement. Maine craft traditions. This recently acquired chest carved by Ida von Rydingsvärd expands Historic New England’s ability to tell all of these important stories.


s an example of artistic wood carving, this chest illuminates a frequently overlooked aspect of the American Arts and Crafts movement: the women amateur artists who embraced this challenging craft. The carver of the chest, however, was no ordinary amateur. Ida von Rydingsvärd (1862–1941) was the second wife of Karl von Rydingsvärd (1863–1941), who was largely responsible for creating the interest in artistic wood carving in the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Born and trained in Sweden,


Historic New England Summer 2016

Karl von Rydingsvärd immigrated in 1883 and settled in Boston. There he worked for the A. H. Davenport Company, taught wood carving, and began a career of making customcarved work for homes, yachts, and furnishings. He opened his own school of wood carving in New York City and offered a five-week summer class at the property he and Ida built in 1903 in the Pennellville section of Brunswick, Maine. A gifted teacher, he traveled all over the country to give classes in wood carving. Von Rydingsvärd’s belief that wood carving was “excellent training for the growing child, strengthening the child’s

powers of observation and developing his appreciation of the beautiful,” as the Omaha World Herald reported in 1913, attracted female teachers to his classes. Many other women who flocked to his classes wanted to make decorative and useful furniture for their own homes. Hand-carved furniture became a treasured gift: when a “young society woman of New York presented a half dozen fall brides with trousseau chests, richly sculptured, the work of her own hands, the novelty of the thing started such a craze in the ranks of young girls as to monopolize all their leisure moments,” wrote a correspondent for the Daily Illinois State

Journal in 1909. Karl von Rydingsvärd married Ida Simpson, the daughter of Elbridge and Jane Simpson of Brunswick, Maine, in 1898. Little information is available about Ida in public records. Whether she started her training with Karl prior to their marriage or took up carving only afterward, she was clearly quite accomplished by 1901 when she carved this chest. Ida’s carved decoration features fantastic beasts, wave motifs, and other elements typical of the Scandinavian, Viking, or Norse style. Her husband’s Swedish background and training explain the predominance of Norseinspired imagery in his work and that of his students. Such patterns, he told the New York Herald, relate “to the Celtic in effect, but the motives [sic] are interlacing forms of serpents and animals, wave forms and Viking ships.” He discouraged direct copying and urged his pupils to devise their own patterns within a given style. Besides its visual appeal, Norseinspired ornament was “suitable for beginners,” Karl wrote in The Craftsman, because it required “very little modeling, the figures being char-

acteristically crude.” As seen on Ida’s chest, these motifs have many curved lines and are carved in low relief. Karl and his students did not construct the boxes, chests, cabinets, chairs, and other furniture they embellished but engaged cabinetmakers for that work. The forms could not have elaborate contours, moldings, or panelings; ends and sides were fitted and grooved but not nailed or glued together so the artists could carve the parts separately and assemble them. Von Rydingsvärd recommended oak and mahogany and noted that oak was best for carving in the Scandinavian style. Ida’s chest is significant because it was among the furnishings of Hewn Oaks, the summer home that artist Douglas Volk (1856–1935) built in 1898 in Center Lovell, Maine. For several years, Hewn Oaks was an active Arts and Crafts center. Although an easel painter by profession, Volk had a keen appreciation of crafts and encouraged his wife, Marion, in her efforts to establish an innovative weaving concern. At a special exhibition of crafts held at the property on August 24, 1901, both Ida and Karl displayed examples of their wood carving. It is

very likely that this chest was in that display and was acquired by the Volks at that time. —Arlene M. Palmer Arlene M. Palmer is the curator at Victoria Mansion in Portland, Maine, and has written about the Hewn Oaks Arts and Crafts community.

Hewn Oaks, c. 1930. BELOW LEFT Karl von Rydingsvärd with students in his New York City studio in The Craftsman, 1908. BELOW RIGHT The chest exemplifies the Norse style that was popularized by Karl von Rydingsvärd. ABOVE

Summer 2016 Historic New England


Kathy Somssich

Guide at Langdon, Jackson, and Rundlet-May houses, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, since 2001

Q Carolyn Nelson

Guide at Clemence-Irons House in Johnston, Rhode Island, since 1992



Charles Ruby

Guide at Marrett House, Standish, Maine, since 1999


Historic New England Summer 2016

Historic New England guides are hosts, teachers, and storytellers. They need to be articulate, knowledgeable, and adaptable. Given all the hours they spend in “their” houses sharing stories with guests, it’s no surprise that many guides become very attached to these homes away from home. We spoke to a few of our longest-serving guides about the secrets of their success and what keeps them excited year after year.


What sparked your interest in historic houses? I grew up in Greater Los Angeles but I love New England, I love the history. I think that’s what brought me to Historic New England. In Los Angeles there isn’t the same appreciation for history. Coming to New England there is just this connection to the past, people know it’s important. Tell us something about your life outside of Historic New England. When I'm not guiding, I work as an actor throughout New Hampshire and I co-host a weekly radio show on Portsmouth Community Radio. Right now I’m in rehearsals for Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. I’m playing [accused witch] Rebecca Nurse, which is cool because she has her own historic house in Danvers, Massachusetts, which is protected by our Preservation Easement Program.

new guides whom I train that the tour is not about them. Our job is not to spew data or impress guests with our knowledge of facts, but to give our guests a tour that is informative, engaging, interesting. Leave your audience wanting more! Learn to read your audience: are they interested in history, furniture, architecture? Listen to your guests and let them feel a part of the tour.

houses—show me the places no one gets to see. When you work in an old house you get to see behind the scenes.

What’s your favorite Historic New England property other than your own? Hamilton House [in South Berwick, Maine] in the summer! That is probably the best spot Historic New England has. At the bend of that river, the gorgeous garden, oh my gosh. If I had the opportunity to learn another tour it would be the Gropius House in Lincoln, Massachusetts, because its style is entirely different from the New Hampshire houses.

What’s your favorite object or place in the house? One of my favorites is the Marrett family portrait album in the sitting room. It starts with an image of Daniel Marrett, who was the first to move here in 1796, and includes all of Marretts who lived here until 1944, when the last generation left it as a house museum.

Portraits of Kathy Somssich and Chuck Ruby by Olivia Gatti. Portrait of Carolyn Nelson by Mary Dolan.


What is your favorite object or place in your houses? The butler’s pantry in the 1905 McKim, Mead, and White addition at Langdon House. Guests love the built-in icebox under the counter, the annunciator that summoned the servants, and the beautiful Limoges and Dresden china left by Mrs. Langdon. Every house should have a butler’s pantry... and a butler! What are the most important skills a guide needs to have? My performance background has had a large influence on my approach to guiding. I feel it’s important to always keep your audience in mind. I always tell the

What sparked your interest in historic houses? I started doing tours back in 1991 at the Victoria Mansion in Portland, Maine. I grew up in an old house in Portland and always loved old Surveying the damage from a late-night car crash at Marrett House. BELOW

Tell us something about your life outside of Historic New England. I’m a middle school science teacher and once in a while I teach a Maine history course at Southern Maine Community College.

What’s the craziest experience you’ve had at Marrett House? In April 2012 a car crashed into the parlor. That was a wild night. I got a call from the alarm company that there was an intrusion alarm, which I thought meant a squirrel had gotten in. But they called back and said a car had hit the building—was in the building. I started making phone calls and by the middle of the night the carpenters had tents pitched, lumber was being sawn, by the next morning it was all patched up neatly with a blue tarp and repairs were underway. I thought, “Wow! Our disaster response system really works!” What are the most important skills a guide needs to have? If there’s one thing you learn from teaching middle school it’s that you have to adapt to your students, and Summer 2016 Historic New England


when you guide you have to adapt to your guests. A good guide can suspend disbelief and evoke the sensations of living in the house. You suddenly feel yourself back in time. I love when guests leave feeling like they’ve been in a real home. Some of our other houses are fabulous mansions, but this is like the house of a relative you really enjoyed visiting. There’s a sense of “Ahh, this is really comfortable, I can see myself living here, growing old here.” We all have relatives that had that one good living room you weren’t allowed to go in. CAROLYN NELSON

What’s your favorite room at Clemence-Irons House? The garret. The framing is nearly all original, which helped determine an accurate date for the house. Prior to 1938, everyone believed the house had been built in 1654. Preservation architect Norman Isham led the restoration effort in the early 1940s and builder’s marks on the rafters were part of the evidence that made him realize the house was not as old as previously thought. Through Isham’s research and later dendrochronology, we now know the house dates to 1691. The first time I helped out at Arnold House [in Lincoln, Rhode Island], Site Manager Dan Santos gave me my choice of rooms to work in and I chose the garret. So much can be learned about a house's history by looking in its garret (or attic) and basement spaces. Have you had any memorable guests? The second tour I ever gave was to Antoinette Downing, one of the founders of the preservation movement in Rhode Island. She wrote about Clemence-Irons House in her 1937

book Early Homes of Rhode Island, so she was very knowledgeable about it. That made me a little nervous. That same year this middle school–aged boy came by on the last day we were open in October. He lived nearby and had ridden his bike. He thought this house was the coolest thing and wanted to see it again, but it was the end of our last day of the season. I told him we’d be back the following June, never expecting to see him again. But that kid showed up every Saturday we were open the next year! Sometimes he brought friends. When you give tours, you mix things up a little bit for a variety but if I left something out he’d remind me. What skills do you think a good historic house guide needs to have? A good guide needs to enjoy working with the public and has to like history. You also need to make adjustments for the various types of guests that come to see the house. My own strength is my love for the house. I've spent a lot of time alone in the house and I've grown very attached to it over the years. What is your favorite Historic New England property other than your own? This is a tough question, but I'm going to go with Lyman Estate [in Waltham, Massachusetts]. It was a favorite of mine before I started working here. Tell us something about your life outside of Historic New England. I live in Jamestown, Rhode Island, near Historic New England’s Watson Farm, with my husband, Kurt, and our dog, Wally. I am also the vice-president of the Portsmouth [R.I.] Historical Society.

New Hampshire Governor John Langdon’s 1784 home is a traditional Georgian style, but built on a larger and more impressive scale. CENTER LEFT A view of the Marrett House sitting room, preserved by the Marrett family much as it appeared in 1847. BOTTOM LEFT From 1938 to 1947 Clemence-Irons House was restored to its seventeenthcentury appearance, a restoration that included these leaded-glass casement windows. TOP LEFT


Historic New England Summer 2016

Students participate in Project chick at Casey Farm, Saunderstown, Rhode Island.

Success and Sustainability in History Education


hat is the impact of a museum experience on a child? For most, it’s one of many building blocks that shape their perspectives on the world. For others, it’s an unforgettable experience that helps define the future. Kate Hooper, Historic New England’s education coordinator for Pierce House in Dorchester and Quincy House in Quincy, Massachusetts, first encountered Historic New England in 1988 as a fourth-grader on a field trip to the Codman Estate in Lincoln, Massachusetts. “We used several types of primary source materials to discover the lives of the Codman family,” she remembers, “and I was especially pleased to take home a button pin proclaiming that I had ‘solved the Case of the Empty House.’” Already a history buff, Kate was hooked. After majoring in history in college and completing an internship at a house museum, Kate successfully applied for a teaching position at Historic New England. She was among the museum educators who, in 2002, transformed Pierce House from an underutilized architectural study site to a lively education center with classroom, craft, and exhibition spaces and an eighteenth-century period room. Last year, Historic New England reached a significant milestone—more than 50,000 children served through education programs across the region. From Rhode Island to Maine, at working farms and in urban classrooms, we engage children in science, agriculture, language arts, and civics, all through the lens of history and a menu of handson, curriculum-based programs. • Through Project chick students learn about the life cycle of chickens. They incubate heritage breed eggs in their class-

rooms and later visit the chicks at their new home at Casey Farm in Saunderstown, Rhode Island. • In Search of a Story casts students as authors of historical fiction using artifacts and historic documents at the SpencerPeirce-Little Farm in Newbury, Massachusetts. • The Anti-Slavery Debates asks students to consider if they would speak out against slavery if it meant risking their livelihood or even their life. Led by our Connecticut education staff playing the roles of an abolitionist and a slave owner, students role-play in an anti-slavery meeting. Funding education is challenging. Historic New England’s education program has limited endowment support and grants are increasingly difficult to secure. Program fees cover less than half of the costs. We must raise more than $250,000 annually to subsidize education programs. Our commitment to education is unwavering. If you share this commitment, please consider supporting Historic New England’s education programs. Inspire the next generation’s passion for history • • • • •

Help defray the cost of admission to Pierce House for one class with a gift of $100 Provide transportation to Otis House for fifty Boston Public School children with a gift of $375 Provide 130 students with a memorable history experience with a gift of $1,000 Share Project chick with one thousand Rhode Island students with a gift of $5,000 Serve 2,500 students in Maine through our newest education programs with a gift of $21,000

To make a gift, use the enclosed envelope, call 617-994-5951, or donate online at HistoricNewEngland.org.

Summer 2016 Historic New England



Historic New England Summer 2016

Š Raimund Koch

Cape Cod’s Modern Masters



Hatch House today.

ast fall Historic New England awarded its twenty-first annual Book Prize to Cape Cod Modern: Midcentury Architecture and Community on the Outer Cape by Peter McMahon and Christine Cipriani. It tells the story of the cosmopolitan group of designers who lived in Wellfleet and Truro, Massachusetts, between the 1930s and 1970s, and their experimental architectural legacy in the woods and dunes. Cipriani offers these brief sketches of some of the group’s most notable architects and their buildings. Learn more at the Cape Cod Modern House Trust (ccmht.org) and find the book online at shop.historicnewengland.org.


If any one of Cape Cod’s modern houses can be called an icon, it is the Hatch House (1962), overlooking Cape Cod Bay from northwest Wellfleet. Here, a career-hopping designer-builder with no formal training in architecture assembled one of the most distinctive compositions of the mid-twentieth century: a wooden house in three volumes, set within a three-dimensional modular grid of columns and beams, with no halls except the open air. Jack Hall was a native New Yorker who studied English at Princeton and divided his time between Manhattan and Wellfleet, eventually moving to the Cape full time. In the 1950s, he honed his skills

Courtesy Noa Hall

at George Nelson Associates, makers of modern furniture and other high-design goods for Herman Miller. Hall’s clients in Wellfleet, Robert and Ruth Hatch—a Nation magazine editor and a painter, respectively—wanted a house with clearly defined spaces after seeing some chicken coops that a friend had turned into miniature guest houses. The living room of their seaside redoubt became known as a casual intellectual salon, not to mention the best place in town to watch the sunset. The Hatch House is now owned by the National Park Service and leased by the Cape Cod Modern House Trust, which restored it in 2013 and rents it out by the week. Courtesy Noa Hall


Designer Jack Hall in his studio, Wellfleet, late 1970s. Jack Hall, Hatch House (1962), Wellfleet, upon completion. Summer 2016 Historic New England


The Colony (formerly Mayo Hill Colony Club) today. BELOW Nathaniel Saltonstall, Mayo Hill Colony Club (1949), Wellfleet, in a 1949 watercolor by R. D. Patterson. LEFT

© Raimund Koch


A tireless patron of contemporary art and architecture, and a fixture on the Boston social scene for almost forty years, Nathaniel Saltonstall was the most openly patrician of the Cape Cod modernists. His finest work in Wellfleet was the Mayo Hill Colony Club (1949), where he presided every summer with his companion, Tom Gaglione. The club was a collection of eleven cross-shaped cottages spilling down a gentle hill near Wellfleet Harbor, anchored by a larger building holding an active art gallery. Interspersed with a variety of sculptures and a fresco by Henry Varnum Poor, the cottages were rented by invitation to patrons of the arts, who enjoyed porter and maid service, a fire laid each morning, and meals from the club kitchen. Today, owner Eleanor Stefani rents the cottages to the public. Courtesy Eleanor Stefani


Architect Olav Hammarström and textile designer Marianne Strengell, both Finnish immigrants, fell in love with Cape Cod while vacationing with friends. In 1949 they were married in Wellfleet, and in 1950 they bought property near Newcomb Hollow Beach. Hammarström seems destined never to be a household name, yet he spent most of his career working for architects who were: Alvar Aalto, Eero Saarinen, Kevin Roche, and The Architects Collaborative. Free rein came in his residential work, which comprised more than fifty homes around the country. Several of his Olav Hammarström, Saarinen House (1960), Wellfleet, with textile designer Marianne Strengell. FAR RIGHT Olav Hammarström, Hammarström House (1952), Wellfleet. RIGHT

Alexandre Georges, courtesy Susan Saarinen


Historic New England Summer 2016


Architect of the longtime Madison Avenue home of New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, Marcel Breuer was by far the best known of Cape Cod’s modern designers. Born in Hungary in 1902, he attended the fledgling Bauhaus design school in Weimar, Germany, in the early 1920s, and later taught cabinetmaking there. He gained early renown for his innovations in furniture, including the now-commonplace cantilevered chair of tubular steel. After following Walter Gropius to Harvard University in 1937, Breuer followed another European designer, Serge Chermayeff, to Wellfleet, and between 1948 and 1963 he built five summer homes on Cape Cod. Four of them, including his own on Williams Pond, are variations on a prototype, honoring the modern ideal of

affordability through efficient design and construction. The concept is almost raw in its simplicity: a long, rectangular box lifted off the ground, clad in plywood that was unfinished outdoors and uncovered indoors, with a roughly cubic screened porch cantilevered out toward the water. The porch was the central gathering space, inviting people to flow from the house into the landscape. Breuer’s own cottage was so spectacularly sited that Walter Gropius’s daughter, Ati Gropius Johansen, remembered the land as essential to the experience: That site was “just to die for, it’s so beautiful,” she said. “It’s grown up very much now, but in the old days you could see three ponds fully from it.”

Marcel Breuer, Breuer House (1949), Wellfleet, view from porch. TOP RIGHT Marcel Breuer, Stillman House (1953), Wellfleet. BOTTOM RIGHT Hungarian artist György Kepes and Marcel Breuer relax on Breuer’s porch. LEFT

Marcel Breuer Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries, © Tamas Breuer

© Raimund Koch

Tamas Breuer

Wellfleet works were published nationally, including the Hammarström House (1952); the Saarinen House (1960), built on Herring Pond for Lily Swann Saarinen, who was married to Eero for fourteen years; and the summer Episcopal Chapel of St. James the Fisherman (1957). Most are thoughtful combinations of prospect and refuge, using stained wood for womblike warmth and large breezeways or windows for views and fresh air. A lover of the great outdoors, Hammarström carefully sited his houses to avoid cutting down trees or otherwise marring the land. “I often choose the poorest space on a lot,” he said, “to save the most beautiful.” —Christine Cipriani

© Cranbrook Archives, Olav Hammarström Papers

Summer 2016 Historic New England


Discovering an Early

“Modern” Architect


oseph Collins Wells (c. 1814–1860) played a central role in changing the trajectory of American architecture during the 1840s and ’50s. He created some of the earliest Gothic and Italianate houses, designed revolutionary commercial buildings that helped introduce the Ruskinian Gothic in the United States, and designed churches in the Gothic and Romanesque styles—both new in America. He was a founding member of the American Institute of Architects. Despite these accomplishments, virtually no records or papers of Wells’s exist and no portrait has yet emerged. Born in England about 1814, Wells received some training there as an architect, probably as an apprentice. He came to New York about 1839, following the path of many other British-born architects including Benjamin Henry Latrobe and Richard Upjohn, and preceding Gervase Wheeler and 22

Historic New England Summer 2016

Calvert Vaux. America had few architects (the country’s first architecture school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology didn’t begin until 1868) and although independent from England politically, artistically and culturally the country was then still a British colony. Shortly after arriving in New York Wells went into partnership with architect William H. Ranlett, who later published the first American architectural magazine, The Architect, in 1848–49. Wells’s and Ranlett’s partnership lasted only one year; if Wells had later partnerships they are not known. Wells quickly acquired well-heeled clients and produced houses in the so-called Wooden Gothic Cottage or Rural Gothic style. In Connecticut these include the Jonathan Sturgis House (1841) in Fairfield and Henry C. Bowen’s Roseland Cottage (1845–46) in Woodstock, now a Historic

to become a partner in the renamed Bowen-McNamee Company, which was a major fabric wholesaler in New York. When Bowen’s company needed a new store on lower Broadway, they contacted Wells, who had just completed Roseland Cottage. Wells’s design for the Bowen-McNamee store and warehouse (1848–49) is an early example of the Ruskinian Venetian Gothic style in the United States. Art critic John Ruskin had just published his principles of architecture in The Seven Lamps of Architecture in 1849 and the more in-depth, three-volume The Stones of Venice did not appear until 1851. Wells seems to have caught on early to some of these new ideas. The Bowen-McNamee store featured contrasting polychrome colors and pointed arched windows. He employed cast iron as a building material, which was just beginning to make inroads into the New York construction market. Wells did other commercial buildings in the city but they, like the Bowen-McNamee store, have since disappeared. He also designed at least one courthouse in

Courtesy of the author

New England property. He designed similar houses in New York on the Hudson River and Staten Island, where he lived, but none of these survives. Constructed of wood, with vertical board-and-batten siding, high-pitched roofs, pointed windows, gingerbreadlike bargeboards and similar cutout porch posts, and elaborate chimney pots, these Rural Gothic houses were unusual and indeed revolutionary for their time. Landscape architect Andrew Jackson Downing had begun to publicize the style in his books Cottage Residences (1842) and The Architecture of Country Houses (1850). Architect Alexander Jackson Davis had also published a little-known book of drawings in the 1830s and designed a few houses, but as a style the Rural Gothic was new. Both Downing and Davis got their ideas from English publications such those by P. F. Robinson and J. C. Loudon, and Wells probably brought those books with him to the United States. Wells would go on to design in other styles, too. The Reefs, the Wolfe-Knower-Whitney Estate (1853), was an Italianate villa with bracketed eaves and tall towers in the growing summer community of Newport, Rhode Island. Wells designed and helped decorate the interiors of his houses. He also provided the garden designs. Clients are always important to architects and the owners of Roseland Cottage were no exception. Henry Bowen came from Woodstock, Connecticut, and went to New York to work in the silk trade at Arthur Tappan and Company. He married his boss’s daughter, Lucy Tappan, and went on

This 1846 watercolor sketch of Roseland Cottage is attributed to Wells. The now-iconic pink facade dates to the 1880s. LEFT Historic New England recently acquired this preparatory drawing by Wells, which may be for a Newport dwelling. ABOVE The BowenMcNamee Silk Warehouse building in Lower Manhattan was an early example of the Venetian Gothic Revival championed by John Ruskin. FACING PAGE

Summer 2016 Historic New England


Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, HABS NY, 24-BROK, 31

Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, which is also lost. Churches were another important source of architectural commissions in the nineteenth century, and here Wells made a major impact. One of his best known surviving places of worship is the “Old” First Presbyterian Church on Fifth Avenue between 11th and 12th streets in Manhattan, constructed in 1845–46. The style of the church was Perpendicular Gothic and very revolutionary. This style was usually associated with High-Church Episcopalian such as Richard Upjohn’s just completed Trinity Church (1839–46) on lower Broadway. The Presbyterians must have felt a need to keep up. Encouraged by member James Lenox (founder of what would become the New York Public Library) and minister Dr. William Wirt Phillips, a new church designed by Wells was built. The new brownstone building attracted critical attention. The New York Herald noted at its opening in January 1846 that the “novel” interior was “without columns to sustain the long extended arch, which makes the seats in a remarkable degree available and unobstructed. 24

Historic New England Summer 2016

This is a new feature in modern architecture.” The Bowens of Roseland Cottage were ardent Congregationalists and took to attending church not in Manhattan but in Brooklyn at the Church of the Pilgrims. Henry Bowen served on the vestry and took up collections. When a new church was needed, congregation leaders selected Joseph Collins Wells. Wells’s design for what would be called Plymouth Church (1849–50) called for a large red brick rectilinear box perfect for the highly charged sermons of its newly appointed preacher, the influential abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher. The vast interior accommodated the crowds of up to 2,800 who came each Sunday to hear Beecher’s sermons. Over the years the church invited many famous individuals—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charles

Abolitionist preacher Henry Ward Beecher captivated crowds of 2,800 with his sermons at Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, New York, shown here in a 1934 photograph. ABOVE

Courtesy of the Newport Historical Society

La Farge created a comprehensive decorative scheme of opalescent and stained glass windows and murals. Over the years the building has suffered due to deferred maintenance and redecoration. It is currently facing major ongoing restoration and potential adaptive reuse. Wells was also instrumental in professionalizing the field of architecture. On February 23, 1857, in Richard Upjohn’s office, he and twelve other architects founded the American Institute of Architects (AIA) to “promote the scientific and practical perfection of its members.” Wells served as AIA’s first treasurer until his death in July 1860 aboard an English steamer bound for Liverpool. An indication of his stature was the obituary that appeared in one of the foremost American art magazines of the time, The Crayon. After noting some of his many works and “social qualities,” the author asserted that Joseph Collins Wells has made “the land we live in more comfortable and more beautiful by the art than it was before he entered it.” —Richard Guy Wilson Victorian Society in America Newport Summer School Director and Commonwealth Professor of Architectural History, University of Virginia

Congregants at First Presbyterian Church in Manhattan have unobstructed views thanks to Wells’s design that used groined arches with intersecting ribs and pendants instead of columns. ABOVE Twin gabled towers flank a three-door entrance in Wells’s Romanesque design for the United Congregational Church of Newport, Rhode Island. LEFT

Courtesy of the author

Dickens, Mark Twain, and Martin Luther King—to give a sermon or speak, marking Plymouth Church as a center of American intellectual life. In the mid-1850s Wells received a call from prominent minister Thatcher Thayer asking him to provide designs for a new Congregational Church in Newport. Congregationalists had settled Newport in 1639 and were very much in competition with newcomers such as Episcopalians. Built of red Connecticut sandstone, it was one of the most impressive structures in town with its tall twin towers. Wells chose—and certainly the minister and vestry approved—a round arched Romanesque, or English Norman, or German Rundbogenstil expression. Architect James Renwick had recently popularized the style at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and reform politician Robert Dale Owen later lauded it as the true American architectural expression. The gigantic interior provided seating for 1,100 congregants. In 1880–81 artist John

Summer 2016 Historic New England



Historic New England is in full swing during the summer, with thirtysix properties ready to welcome visitors. Join us and collect more stamps in your member passport or explore a favorite property

Confirm open dates and hours at HistoricNewEngland.org. Show us your #HistoricNewEnglandSummer!

from a new perspective.





The Great Outdoors Pack a picnic, read a book, sunbathe, play with your dog, stroll the grounds. These properties are some of our best for spending a laidback day outdoors.

South Berwick, Maine

Everyone at Historic New England has a few favorite properties, but the one that gets mentioned most often is Hamilton House, hands down. Situated on a bluff overlooking the Salmon Falls River, its tranquil gardens are an ideal spot for yoga, plein air painting, and daydreaming. WATSON FARM

Jamestown, Rhode Island

With miles of self-guided trails through



Hamilton House garden

Historic New England Summer 2016


pastures, past lowing cattle, and down to Narragansett Bay, Watson Farm offers a top-notch outdoor experience without crowds. It’s easy to feel like you have a piece of Conanicut Island all to yourself at this 265-acre working farm.

foster friendly sheep, goats, chickens, pigs, and a horse. The northernmost section of the 230-mile Bay Circuit Trail (baycircuit.org) passes by the manor house, and Vintage Base Ball games take place throughout the summer.


Newbury, Massachusetts

The most popular attraction at this site, especially for young visitors, is the farm animals. In partnership with the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, we

The Mudville Base Ball Club at Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm

More historic places with cool open spaces… • Cogswell’s Grant, Essex, Massachusetts • Barrett House, New Ipswich, New Hampshire • Codman Estate, Lincoln, Massachusetts


Experience Historic New England Your Way This Summer








Rural, Refined, Revolutionary



Gorgeous Gardens Following a garden-themed itinerary of Historic New England properties could keep you occupied all summer. These are just a few of our visitors’ favorites. ROSELAND COTTAGE

Woodstock, Connecticut

The original boxwood parterre garden at Roseland Cottage has twenty-one flowerbeds with heliotrope, cosmos, dahlias, begonias, and coleus. The gardens are a wonderful example of Andrew Jackson Downing’s method of planting annuals in solid blocks of color, known as carpet bedding. LYMAN ESTATE AND GREENHOUSES

Waltham, Massachusetts

Horticulture has been a passion of the Lyman family since the 1700s. Behind the house is one of the country’s oldest greenhouses, a sprawling complex that was added to with each genera-

tion. Historic New England now preserves the estate’s thirty-seven acres, whose beautifully preserved gardens and grounds include a 600-foot-long peach wall, a one hundred-year-old copper beech tree, and an immaculate perennial garden. RUNDLET-MAY HOUSE





More gardens to get your green thumb twitching… • Codman Estate, Lincoln, Massachusetts • Beauport, Gloucester, Massachusetts • Sarah Orne Jewett House, South Berwick, Maine

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

James Rundlet’s 1807 grid-plan garden is one of the oldest gardens in Portsmouth to retain its original layout. Spiral rose trellises flank the stairs leading from the flower beds closest to the house down toward what remains of the orchard, where the Rundlets once grew peach, pear, and other fruit trees.

Roseland Cottage c. 1902 (inset) and 2015 BELOW

Summer 2016 Historic New England




Rainy Day Respites When dreary weather dampens your outdoor plans, keep cabin fever at bay with a visit to these properties near vacation hotspots. WINSLOW-CROCKER HOUSE

Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts

This 1780 Mid-Cape house was moved piece by piece from its original location six miles away to become a showplace for Mary Thacher’s extensive antique furniture collection, which represents a thorough survey of early American styles.

Revolutionaries and Redcoats From battlegrounds to birthplaces, evidence of the American Revolution still remains throughout New England. Our properties have a few tales of their own. SAYWARD-WHEELER HOUSE

York Harbor, Maine

Fortunately for us, Jonathan Sayward’s property remained unharmed despite the loss of stature and threats by mobs that he suffered because of his loyalist leanings. Sayward-Wheeler House contains many of his original furnishings as the family had arranged them. Most notable is the tall case clock in the parlor that Sayward listened to during sleepless nights as antiCrown sentiment escalated into war.

from which Colonel Josiah Quincy saw the evacuation of British general Thomas Gage in October 1775. He etched “Governor Gage sail’d for England with a fair wind” in a windowpane. ABOVE BELOW

Sayward-Wheeler House Visitors at Quincy House


Portsmouth, New Hampshire

We maintain several house museums along the Seacoast, but the Georgian-style Langdon House is the most glamorous, “esteemed the first in Portsmouth” by none other than George Washington. You’ll find Rococo woodcarving, fine examples of Portsmouth furniture, and often exhibitions of contemporary art, historic artifacts, and more.


Quincy, Massachusetts

Or try these other comfortable spots to stay dry on a dreary day…

Although the view has changed drastically since 1775, you can still look out the monitor roof

• Sarah Orne Jewett House Museum and Visitor Center, South Berwick, Maine • Marrett House, Standish, Maine • Otis House, Boston, Massachusetts • Henry Sheldon Museum, Middlebury, Vermont. Free admission for Historic

Learn about more patriots and heroes who lived at… • Gov. John Langdon House, Portsmouth, New Hampshire • Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm, Newbury, Massachusetts • Pierce House, Dorchester, Massachusetts


Historic New England Summer 2016

New England members

e Explor




WinslowCrocker House


Mary Wonson (right) and staff in the kitchen at Beauport

Upstairs, Downstairs Visit these homes for a look beyond the impressive parlors and beautifully appointed table settings at how domestic staff lived and worked. PHILLIPS HOUSE

Salem, Massachusetts

Three Irish immigrants—nursemaid Catty Shaughnessy, cook Bridget Durgin, and first-floor maid Bridget Cawley—worked for the Phillips family and lived on the third floor. One of their rooms is interpreted much as it appeared in 1919. Some of the auto-

mobiles and carriages that chauffeurs Patrick O’Hara and Clarence Sullivan drove and maintained are still on display in the carriage house. Phillips House is also home to Historic New England’s most intact early twentiethcentury kitchen. BEAUPORT, THE SLEEPERMCCANN HOUSE

Gloucester, Massachusetts

Mary Wonson was the housekeeper at Beauport until owner Henry Davis Sleeper’s death in 1934 and stayed on as the first site administrator of the museum until her own death in 1957. Many of the functional staff spaces provide a striking contrast to the highly designed rooms of Sleeper’s showpiece summer house. LEFT


S U M M E R 2 0 1 6



Lincoln, Massachusetts

In 1888 the Codman family built a large servants’ wing where staff including a cook, chambermaids, chauffeur, parlor maids, and laundress lived and/ or worked. Tours of the house end with the servants’ hall, pantry, kitchen, and laundry, underscoring just how many people it took to support the Codman family’s elegant lifestyle. Ask a guide about staff stories and spaces at… • Langdon House, Portsmouth, New Hampshire • Roseland Cottage, Woodstock, Connecticut • Hamilton House, South Berwick, Maine

Phillips House Summer 2016 Historic New England


Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum

Revisiting the Kearsarge-Alabama Celebration In 1900 a maritime reunion in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, recast a famous duel between a Confederate raider and a Union cruiser as a celebration of growing American naval power and reconciliation between North and South. More than a century later, the story of this reunion suggests both the power of history to heal old wounds and the complexity of reconciliation. The Sinking of the CSS Alabama, 1922, is one of six versions of the Battle of Cherbourg painted by Xanthus Smith. Franklin D. Roosevelt commissioned this one when he was Secretary of the Navy. ABOVE


Historic New England Summer 2016


a thunder of broadsides witnessed by thousands of French civilians, two American ships, one from the North, the other from the South, fought to the death in the waters off Cherbourg, France. The date was June 19, 1864. The Republican party had just nominated Abraham Lincoln for a second term and the American Civil War showed no signs of abating. Off the coast of France, Captain Raphael Semmes had decided to sally forth with his ship, the CSS Alabama, in a do-or-die effort to sink or elude its Union pursuer, the USS Kearsarge, so that he could continue his course of maritime destruction aimed at northern merchantmen.

Courtesy of the Portsmouth Athenaeum

at the 1876 Centennial Exposition. That was the same year as the disputed Hayes-Tilden presidential election, which helped end Reconstruction in the South. The politics of a new kind of division cast a shadow over the exposition and its symbols of national unity. Indeed, after the ending of Reconstruction, white southerners initiated wide-ranging measures to return the region to prewar conditions. Only the formal institution of slavery was absent from the picture. Soon, the so-called Jim Crow laws saw most African Americans systematically disenfranchised and segregated from whites in public schools, public places, and public transportation—practices often echoed locally in other parts of the country. As those tragic events unfolded domestically, the American navy reached its nadir. Continuing to rely on a handful of tired and aging wooden ships while the rest of the world built navies of iron and steel, it was outclassed by nearly every European nation as well as the navies of many South American countries. Finally, in 1883 the first glimmers of rebirth came with an authorization to build four small new steel ships, the start of what came to be called the New Navy. Old and out of luck, the Kearsarge itself finally succumbed to the sea, foundering on a Caribbean reef in 1894. But back in Washington, the loss of Kearsarge prompted calls in Congress for a new navy ship to bear its historic

Thousands of spectators watched military and naval units parade through Portsmouth, pictured here at the corner of State and Pleasant streets. ABOVE A ceremonial arch in Market Square proclaimed “Strength in Union.” LEFT

Courtesy of the Portsmouth Athenaeum

The Battle of Cherbourg, which culminated in the sinking of the Alabama, was a dramatic and unusual confrontation between North and South in international waters. The vastly expanded US Navy sought to block southern ports and penetrate the Mississippi River. By strangling Confederate commerce, the eventual triumph of Union arms was inevitable. A handful of Southern commerce raiders responded to this threat, of which the Alabama was the most notorious. Built illicitly in Britain, and deemed little better than piratical by the North, it was commissioned at sea in August 1862. The Alabama singlehandedly took the war to the Union by destroying or capturing scores of merchant ships, thereby disrupting Union logistics. When Kearsarge, a new and powerful Union steam sloop named after a New Hampshire mountain, caught up with it at Cherbourg and tried to block its escape, the stage was set for a dramatic dustup. The triumph of the Kearsarge garnered attention in the North far out of proportion to the real military significance of the action. The defiance of Semmes and his crew was likewise grasped by the South as a symbol of pluck and perhaps even Southern chivalry. So great was the hold of the Kearsarge-Alabama battle on the American imagination that more than a decade after the war’s end, a vast painting of the battle by American marine artist Xanthus Smith was granted a place of honor

Summer 2016 Historic New England


name. One who heard that plea was Alabamian Hilary Abner Herbert, secretary of the navy in the second Grover Cleveland administration. His suggestion was to make a single exception to the long American tradition of naming the largest capital ships or “battleships” after states. He would have Kearsarge inserted into a sequence that already included the Maine, Texas, Indiana, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Iowa. This course was duly approved and the Kearsarge was laid down at Newport News Shipbuilding Company in the former Confederate state of Virginia, on June 30, 1896, and launched on March 24, 1898. Meanwhile, the revival of the Kearsarge name created a swell of interest, even among northerners, in launching a sister ship bearing the name Alabama. Reconciliation had become a popular theme. Herbert later confessed to having harbored a hope for just such a symbolic reciprocal gesture. The idea received broad support and the modern Alabama was laid down in December 1896 at the William Cramp and Sculptor Bela Pratt’s tablet, seen in this c. 1910 postcard, reads, “From The State of New Hampshire To The U.S.S. Kearsarge To Maintain Justice, Honor, And Freedom In The Service Of A United People.” It remained between the guns on the front turret of the Kearsarge until World War I. ABOVE


Historic New England Summer 2016

Sons shipyard of Philadelphia. It was launched in May 1898, just a few months after Kearsarge. Meanwhile, a deadly explosion sank the USS Maine in Havana Harbor, leading to war with Spain in April 1898. The navy’s stock rose in the wake of the rapid American victory over the tottering Spanish empire that summer. And that’s when the tale of the Alabama and Kearsarge also rose once again in the national consciousness. This time, it was the New Hampshire legislature that got into the act. Pleased to have another ship in the navy linked to the Granite State, legislators proposed at first to equip the Kearsarge with a plaque honoring its historic predecessor. Now swept up in the spirit of patriotism and national reconciliation following the triumph over Spain, the legislature enlarged its vision and proposed to offer memorials to both vessels—commemorating past enmity and celebrating renewed accord and national strength. So it was that plans were made to craft “fitting memorial[s]” and to host a ceremony and celebration at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where the original Kearsarge had been constructed nearly forty years earlier. A correspondent for the Boston Herald wrote that it was “a realization of the indissoluble linking of the names of the Kearsarge and Alabama [which] led to the decision that with the presenta-

tion to the Kearsarge should be combined a gift to her sister ship.” Connecticut-born sculptor Bela L. Pratt was asked to prepare a design while plans got underway for a grand fete to be held September 17–20, 1900. On the first day of the celebrations, General Charles H. Burn of Wilton, New Hampshire, introduced Miss Mary Thornton Davis, a Bostonian and grand niece of the executive officer of the “old” Kearsarge, who unveiled the tablet intended for the Alabama. Burn then introduced Mrs. Henry Bryan, daughter of Semmes of the Confederate Alabama. She unveiled the tablet destined for the Kearsarge. Both plaques, impressive in scale and conception, were ultimately installed between the giant guns of the forward turret on each ship. The estimated $5,000 cost of the tablets was paid through popular subscription made across each of New Hampshire’s ten counties. In addition to Kearsarge and Alabama, the naval fleet in attendance for the three-day celebration included the battleships Kentucky, Indiana, and Texas and the flagship, the armored cruiser New York. The final day featured a naval and military pageant with a reception for the governors of New Hampshire and Alabama aboard the New York and on the Kearsarge itself, followed by a “grand ball” at the nearby Hotel Wentworth. Various military and naval units paraded about the city, too. Speaking during the celebration, former Secretary of the Navy Herbert best described the spirit of the event. He saluted the strengths and “noble” motivations of both North and South in their years of conflict as well as the spirit of reconcilation that now propelled the nation forward. He continued, “[T]he Governors and peoples of New Hampshire and Alabama, under the auspices of the National Government, joining hands to send forth, freighted with the prayers and

hopes of a united country, the two great battleships, the new Kearsarge and the new Alabama.” “How has all this come about?” he asked. “The answer is simple—the people of the two sections have at last come to understand each other as never before.” In the sense he intended, it was certainly true. For white America, the determination to let bygones be bygones had taken on steam with the Spanish-American War, which had united former Union and Confederate leaders in a national enterprise. That spirit was, in turn, crowned by the Kearsarge-Alabama celebration. Sadly, though, the reconciliation of North and South also came with a freezing of racial attitudes and an unraveling of much of the progress made following emancipation. Indeed, this white unity culminated in 1913 with the formal institution of widespread discrimination within the federal government, initiated by President Woodrow Wilson, a Southerner. Even the army saw a reduction in opportunities and rights for African Americans over the coming years. But for those few balmy days in September 1900, the nation could honestly celebrate a healing spirit that would prove foundational for the unfolding twentieth century. —Alan R. Earls Alan R. Earls is an independent journalist who has published dozens of articles and books about business and technology history, including several titles about military technology history in New England. General Augustus Ayling’s Grand Marshall ribbon from the collection of the Centerville (Massachusetts) Historical Society. NEAR LEFT According to the inscription, the tablet presented to the Alabama by the state of New Hampshire “Perpetuates Enduring Peace Names Once Joined In Historic Combat.” ABOVE The Kearsarge at sea, c. 1909. FAR LEFT

Courtesy of the author

Courtesy of the US Naval Academy

Summer 2016 Historic New England


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Made in the Green Mountain State


piece of furniture made in Vermont has been high on our collections wish list for a long time. Now, in the span of a few months, we’ve acquired two examples. The oldest is a half sideboard, a hybrid between a sideboard and a chest of drawers. Although the piece came to us from New Hampshire via New York, it is almost certainly the product of a craftsman working in Vermont in the early years of the nineteenth century. The half sideboard form is typical of and possibly unique to Vermont. The use of lively maple veneers and contrasting veneered lozenges is also typical. An inscription inside the right cupboard door places the piece in Vermont in the early twentieth century. The other piece is a signed chest of drawers made around 1830 by journeyman Isaac Bowman of Rochester, Vermont (near right). This chest has many of the hallmarks of Vermont furniture: deep cross-hatching carved into the columns, pedestals flanking the splashboard above the glove drawers,

and above all the use of figured maple. Vermont cabinetmakers achieved an effect similar to exotic hardwoods by using highly figured local woods— occasionally flame birch, but most often tiger and bird’s eye maple as Bowman used here. What raises the chest above the ordinary is the flourishing script on

the back of a drawer where Bowman proudly signed his work. —Nancy Carlisle Senior Curator of Collections

Sideboard, probably Vermont, 1810–15. Maple, mahogany, eastern white pine. Gift of Irene Hollister. RIGHT Chest, Isaac Bowman, Rochester, Vermont, c. 1830. Maple, eastern white pine. Museum purchase. LEFT

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