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Historic NEW ENGLAND

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From the Chair

Historic N E W E NG L A N D Winter/Spring 2013 Vol. 13, No. 3

David Bohl

Keeping mature organizations relevant and successful requires a strong commitment to mission, creative new ideas, and dedicated supporters. The purchase of the William Ellery Channing Eustis Estate in Milton, Massachusetts, offers many opportunities— not only a new historic house museum, but a style of architecture not represented in our collection, fascinating stories, scholarly initiatives, and a location that expands our regional presence. As we work with new locations and topics, Historic New England is building its scholarship, preservation expertise, and collections. With interviews and photographs of retired factory workers, we explore Everyone’s History themes that enrich our documentation of the region. We study needlework, an area of growing focus in our collections, to enrich our understanding of women’s history. We look at La Leopolda, a house designed by internationally known architect Ogden Codman, and trace the history of historic preservation in New Hampshire. Meanwhile, we continue our commitment to preservation maintenance by renewing the landscape at the Lyman Estate in Waltham, Massachusetts. In all our activities, Historic New England demonstrates that your membership and financial support are being put to good use to fulfill our mission of preserving and sharing New England heritage.

The Eustis Estate 6

The Story of La Leopolda 14 Ed u catio n

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Learning Through Experience 2

P r es ervation

Twentieth-Century Preservation in the Granite State 5

m a ki ng lea r ni ng fu n

Cooks in the Kitchen For e si ght

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Preventing Floods 10

Co llec tio ns

A Genteel Education

—Roger T. Servison Chairman

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Obj ec t L e sso n

Unusual Source

Y e st e r day ’s H istory

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Conjuring a Lost Neighborhood A Matter o f Taste

Historic New England 141 Cambridge Street Boston MA 02114-2702 617-227-3956 historic new England magazine is a benefit of membership. To become a member, visit our website, HistoricNewEngland.org, or call 617-994-5910. Comments? Please call Nancy Curtis, editor. ­­­Historic New England is funded in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Executive Editor: Diane Viera Editor: Nancy Curtis Editorial Review Team: Nancy Carlisle, Senior Curator of Collections; Lorna Condon, Senior Curator of Library and Archives; Jennifer Pustz, Museum Historian; Sally Zimmerman, Senior Preservation Services Manager Design: DeFrancis Carbone

The porte cochere at the 1878 Eustis Estate, Milton, Massachusetts, Historic New England’s recently acquired historic property. Photograph by David Bohl.

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An Artistic Life in Stockbridge Pe r sp ec tiv e

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O p en H ous e

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Factory Memories Yankee Icon

P r es ervation

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cele br ations

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ac quisitio n s

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Reviving a Historic Landscape Preservation Honors

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

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E d u ca t i o n

Learning through

Experience

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above Students love getting their feet wet as they build a scale model of a pontoon bridge.

For more information on our education programs, please visit HistoricNewEngland.org/schoolyouth-programs.

t Roseland Cottage in Woodstock, Connecticut, a seventh-grade class studying the Civil War gathers outside to construct a scale model of a pontoon bridge. Under the guidance of a Historic New England museum teacher, students make a “river,” filling a plastic-lined rectangular form with water. In bare feet with their pants rolled up, they step into the river, float the two pontoons, assemble the bridge with “beams” and “planks,” and finally, walk across it. The experience is challenging and fun and one the students will never forget. “The whole shebang was awesome,” one boy commented. “Thank you for giving us this amazing experience. I wish we could do it all over tomorrow. The bridge and the history are just too cool!” Historic New England’s award-winning education programs, which range from half-day field trips to week-long summer camps, are varied but always creative. Tailored to state curriculum standards, the programs relate to subjects like Language Arts, Social Studies, Science, and Mathematics. Last year, we served 42,784 young people at eleven museum properties, in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, as well as off-site at schools, libraries, and community centers. Our staff derives great satisfaction from watching children’s eyes light up as the subjects they have learned in the classroom become real through experience. In many of the communities we serve, the biggest barrier to participation is the high cost of transportation. Every year, Historic New England must raise funds through grants and donations to subsidize buses for schools with demonstrated need. The following report is typical of the feedback we receive from schoolteachers, “We do not have any money for field trips or an active Parent Council which raises money for them. Not only would it have taken too long to get back and forth, I’ve had students with health problems who have not been able to go on field trips on the subway. It’s awful leaving kids behind because of their health, so I stopped going on trips if all of them could not go, which often meant that the whole class missed out on trips. Thank you for providing a bus.” —Carolin Collins Education Program Manager

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Douglas Armsden. Courtesy of Strawbery Banke

P r e s e r v at i o n

Twentieth-Century Preservation in the Granite State

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ew Hampshire claims several preservation innovations, including early recognition of the importance of preserving neighborhoods and industrial landscapes. One visionary proposal that came to nothing in the 1930s was reborn in the 1950s and transformed the relationship between the federal urban renewal program and historic preservation. In 1935, Congress passed the Historic Sites Act “to provide for the preservation of historic American sites, buildings, objects, and antiquities of national significance.” The response in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, was immediate. Local officials, appalled at the junkyards and run-down tenements (many of them in eighteenth-century houses) in the South End, welcomed

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a plan by the National Park Service and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to restore the neighborhood. This scheme would retrain workers from the then somnolent Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and local laborers who were on relief during the Great Depression. This civilian army would carry out “one of the really important restorations that could be undertaken in America.” The plan was swept aside by the outbreak of World War II but was not forgotten. In 1958, at the beginning of federally-funded urban renewal in Portsmouth, a fragile nonprofit corporation came into being and proposed to redevelop the same junkyard-ridden neighborhood that had excited the zeal of restorationists more than twenty years earlier. Strawbery Banke, Inc.,

adopted most of the ideas of the 1930s, including the excavation of a filled tidal inlet called Puddle Dock as its focal point and the restoration of New Hampshire’s 1758 colonial State House as its administration building. Reacting to a perceived need, Strawbery Banke set aside an area within the urban renewal district as a refuge for endangered historic structures from elsewhere in Portsmouth, including a former home of statesman Daniel Webster and a tavern that had sheltered early Revolutionary activities. In September 1964, Strawbery Banke paid the Portsmouth Housing Authority the balance due on a purchase price of $28,686 and became the owner of the nine-and-a-half-acre heart of the old Puddle Dock neighborhood, including twenty-five houses.

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pied by the treasurer of the State of New Hampshire during the Revolution and later by long-term governor John Taylor Gilman, was probably the first deliberate creation of a historic house museum in New Hampshire’s history. Similarly, the Thomas Bailey Aldrich Memorial Association was founded in 1907 to restore the Portsmouth boyhood home of the author, poet, and editor. The association transferred the property to the adjacent Strawbery Banke in 1979. Motivated both by its architectural merit and by respect for former owners, the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America began to care for the Moffatt-Ladd House in Portsmouth in 1911, finally acquiring title from heirs in 1969. But some preservation efforts were inspired by pure sentiment. In 1908, rural Allenstown voted to transfer its old one-story meeting house to Buntin Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution but added the requirement

Puddle Dock in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, as it appeared in 1962. Above Thomas Bailey Aldrich House, c. 1910. Below The Puddle Dock area today, reborn as Strawbery Banke. Facing Page

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Courtesy of Strawbery Banke

Portsmouth thus became the first community in the nation in which urban renewal was to be used solely for historic preservation rather than for total clearance and redevelopment of “blighted” sites, as occurred in dozens of other communities across the country. As the 1970s unfolded, Strawbery Banke increasingly focused on the social history of the Puddle Dock neighborhood it had acquired, giving less emphasis to the rescue of houses from elsewhere and building a richer picture of the area’s evolution. Strawbery Banke was preceded by a half-century of individual preservation efforts. As in other areas of New England, New Hampshire’s first preservation goals emphasized political history and literary associations. Perhaps spurred by the successful preservation of structures like the Old State House and Faneuil Hall in Boston, the Society of the Cincinnati in New Hampshire, composed of descendants of officers in the Continental Army, purchased the eighteenth-century Ladd-Gilman House in Exeter in 1902. The society’s preservation of that house, occu-

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that the chapter restore the building to its original condition of 1815 and maintain it thereafter. Buntin Chapter complied, rededicating the structure in 1909. In contrast to the restoration of the more impressive Portsmouth and Exeter houses, preservation of the Allenstown Meeting House seems to have been motivated largely by the memories that clustered about the ancient structure. In this respect, the Allenstown project presaged later efforts to restore humble buildings like district schoolhouses and railroad depots in response to the affection they inspired.

in the 1970s made its first concerted efforts to save industrial buildings. The Save the Mills Society in Laconia was organized in 1970 to preserve the 1823 Belknap-Sulloway and 1853 Busiel-Seeburg mills, both slated for demolition under urban renewal. The society’s efforts were successful, and Belknap Mill is recognized as the oldest unaltered brick textile mill in the United States. Historic Harrisville, Inc., was founded in 1971 in reaction to the bankruptcy of a corporation that owned some twenty-five buildings within the textile manufacturing community of Harrisville, a desperate situation that had impelled Yankee magazine to publish an article “Town for Sale!” earlier that year. Rather than creating an outdoor museum, the trustees of Historic Harrisville sought to keep the village a living, working community. Enacting measures to protect the architectural qualities of the buildings, the corporation sought new economic uses for the mills. Harrisville’s example of historic preservation as economic revitalization was the modern response to the 1935 Portsmouth proposal for preservation as work relief. The approach was echoed in Portsmouth in 1968, when Portsmouth Preservation, Inc., a profitmaking corporation, was chartered to rehabilitate a number of houses in the Deer Street Urban Renewal Project for commercial reuse. Today these buildings serve many businesses while preserving the last vestiges of Portsmouth’s vanished North End.

The idealized image of New Hampshire as a place of scenic beauty is accurate but is not the whole truth. New Hampshire has a proud industrial heritage. Industries in cities like Berlin and Manchester were once the greatest of their kind in the world. Entrepreneurship and inventiveness in places like Franklin and Laconia introduced knitting machines with “latch needles” and made the Winnipesaukee River Valley a center of hosiery and knitting machine production by 1860. To recognize this disregarded portion of its history, New Hampshire

Courtesy of Historic Harrisville

—James L. Garvin New Hampshire State Architectural Historian, 1987–2011

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Ladd-Gilman House, Exeter, New Hampshire, c. 1915. Left below The mill village, Harrisville, New Hampshire. top Left

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Ma k i ng

L ea r n i ng

F u n

In this c. 1895 advertisement for an ice cream maker, a pretty young woman sports a maid’s uniform with fashionable leg-o-mutton sleeves.

Students use an 1827 recipe by Robert Roberts to make lemonade during an education program at the Codman Estate, Lincoln, Massachusetts.

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Cooks in the Kitchen In 1900, life at the Codman Estate in Lincoln, Massachusetts, was made possible by a staff of servants. The cook, in particular, was one of the most skilled and best paid of the staff. Women usually learned cookery from their mothers or while working as kitchen maids. For well-to-do families like the Codmans, formal dining was an event. Family and invited guests came to the table in their best attire. The meal was served by a butler and serving maids, dressed in uniforms that reflected the family’s status.

Cooks had numerous cookbooks and domestic manuals to guide them in preparing these elaborate meals. Robert Roberts, the butler at Gore Place in nearby Waltham, Massachusetts, and one of the first African American authors, published The House Servant’s Directory in 1827. This volume includes instructions for all manner of household tasks from polishing silver to butchering lamb as well as recipes, like the one for lemonade illustrated below. —Jennifer Pustz Museum Historian

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The Eustis Estate

Photography by David Bohl

A splendid property offers opportunities for the future

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With the acquisition last June of the 1878 William Ellery Channing Eustis Estate in Milton, Massachusetts, Historic New England takes a significant step toward its vision for the future.

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cross the country, many house museums are struggling to attract audiences and care for their historic landscapes, buildings, and collections. I am often asked if Historic New England will ever accept another property, and my answer is always a resounding, if qualified, “yes!” Over the 103-year life of this organization, we have owned about 130 historic properties; today, we own forty-one, of which thirty-six are museums open to the public. Throughout our history, properties have come in and out of our collection; since the 1980s, we have protected any properties that we deaccession with preservation easements that we hold in perpetuity. Currently, in addition to the forty-one historic sites that we own outright, we also protect eighty-four privately owned properties by means of our Stewardship Easement Program. The majority of the properties protected either by Historic New England ownership or by easement are located in Massachusetts, with smaller numbers in New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Vermont is not yet represented. Looking at these sites across the span of architectural periods, the highest number date from the Revolutionary and early National periods of 1750 to 1800

and the fewest from the 1850 to 1900 period. Stylistically, Georgian and Federal buildings predominate, followed by Colonial Revival, Greek Revival, and First Period houses. Late nineteenth-century styles are hardly represented at all. If we view the 125 owned and easement-protected properties as a group, we see that there are gaps. These gaps motivate us to continue expanding the easement program and to consider additions of museum properties—whether in Vermont or dating from the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In the 1970s, former director Abbott Lowell Cummings developed criteria for accepting museum properties that we still use today. For a property to be considered, it must have architectural and landscape significance, be intact in its context and with collections, have an interesting story to

facing page The multicolored stone and brick mansion, with dramatic arches, gables, and chimneys, stands at the end of a stately allée. ABOVE LEFT The entry hall rises four stories to the ridge of the roof, with dual stained-glass windows coloring the interior. ABOVE RIGHT A stone gate lodge, built in 1892, welcomes visitors to the estate.

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Above Original furnishings in the Jacobean style complement Aesthetic Movement decorative woodwork and tiles. Below The Eustis Estate sits amid acres of protected land adjacent to the Blue Hills Reservation.

be shared, and be financially sustainable. All these factors of significance are found in the Eustis Estate. Together with two adjacent properties acquired to preserve the views from the main estate, the protected land totals nearly one hundred acres. Bordering the Blue Hills Reservation, the estate possesses an extraordinary setting of natural and designed landscape and gardens, the story of which will be part of the interpretation of the site. The main house was designed by Milton resident William Ralph Emerson, who designed houses recognized today as some of the finest examples of what architectural historian Vincent Scully named the Shingle Style. These late nineteenthto early twentieth-century buildings are characterized by asymmetry, horizontal massing, multiple gables and dormers, and the use of natural materials like stone, brick, and wooden shingles in ornamental designs. Their interiors frequently reflect Aesthetic sensibilities—elaborate carved woodwork and handcrafted iron or brass elements, along with decorative tiles. Prominent families of the period often built their summer homes in this style, as is the case at the Eustis house, which contains all these style-defining features. An 1892 gate lodge serves as the formal entrance to the estate. Its impressive archway and stone construction show the influence of H. H. Richardson’s gate lodge for the Ames family in North Easton, Massachusetts. A potting shed, cobblestone power house, greenhouse chimney ruin, and other support buildings ensure that the story of a great late nineteenth-century summer estate can be told when we open the site to the public in the future. The Eustis Estate remained in the family who built it 8

until acquired by Historic New England. Some of the original furnishings purchased for the house in 1878 are still there. The family is sharing information about the house and landscape through oral history interviews. This information, along with research in original documents and photographs, will be the basis for Historic New England’s development of museum programs at the property. In addition to use as a historic house museum, the Eustis Estate offers exciting opportunities for scholarship, landscape use, and public events. Historic New England plans to develop a Gilded Age study center at the site, with annual scholar-in-residence and fellowship programs examining architecture, landscapes, and interiors. There are many potential heritage and environmental partner organizations in the community that we will seek to engage in programs at the property. The 1950 house next door, acquired to protect views, will be sold with preservation easements held by Historic New England, adding a mid-century Modern ranch house to the list of represented styles in the easement program. An adjacent property dating from the 1890s will provide a location for museum administration and educational programs and be a regional center where Historic New England expertise is made available to residents of southern Massachusetts. —Carl R. Nold President and CEO

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F o r e s i g h t

Children experience life on a farm at Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm, Newbury, Massachusetts. above A recent flood at the manor house.

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Preventing Floods

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pencer-Peirce-Little Farm in Newbury, Massachusetts, a two-hundred-acre farm that is a popular destination for families, nature lovers, and fans of historic baseball, also features one of New England’s architectural treasures—a massive stone and brick manor house dating from c. 1690. Masonry buildings were extremely rare in early New England. At a time when most dwellings were modest timber structures, the manor house is exceptionally large—two-and-a-half stories—and is also unusual for having a cruciform plan with a projecting brick entrance porch. The house and its outbuildings reflect the property’s history both as an imposing estate and as a farm in continuous use for more than three centuries. Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm today is threatened by persistent flooding,

which endangers the manor house and adjacent buildings, places collections at risk, and forces frequent cancellation of education and public programs. Several factors—an extremely high water table, an eighteen-inch rise in ground level from centuries of incremental shifts in land, and the close proximity of the structures on the site—are collectively causing the problem. Predictive modeling about global warming shows an increased threat to the site over the next fifty years, as annual precipitation is expected to increase 8 percent, and storms once categorized as hundred-year storms are likely to strike every ten years. With support from donors to the Preservation Maintenance Fund, Historic New England is initiating a water mitigation project that ensures rainwater comes off the buildings appropriately and is directed away

from their foundations. The work includes extensive improvements to the gutter systems on the manor house and carriage barn; regrading the area around the barn, visitors’ center, and museum buildings; and repaving the driveway, all to guide water away to drain elsewhere. These measures will ensure the long-term survival of this exceedingly rare example of a grand masonry structure from New England’s First Period. —Kimberlea Tracey Vice President for Advancement

The Massachusetts Cultural Council has awarded $144,000 from the Cultural Facilities Fund to support drainage modification at the property. As a condition of the grant, we must raise one-to-one matching funds to support the work. We urge our members to participate in this preservation project by visiting HistoricNewEngland. org/PMF and contributing to our ongoing Preservation Maintenance Fund.

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C o llec t i o n s

A Genteel Education A rare group of artworks by a New England schoolgirl in the early nineteenth century offers a perspective on education for young women.

Elizabeth Ann Lyon's 1814 marking sampler, at left, and her 1817 verse sampler, at right. facing page top Elizabeth’s watercolor of a classical scene. facing page Bottom Her depiction of the meeting of Isaac and Rebecca. Both works were painted before 1825. Above

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any examples of schoolgirl art—samplers, needlework pictures, and paintings on paper or velvet—survive today in museums and private collections. Typically they are individual objects bearing their creator’s name and age, and occasionally, location. Rare is the opportunity to examine a group of works by the same girl that traces her education from an early marking sampler to watercolors and needlework pictures. In America, as in Europe, skill with a needle was not only a practical necessity for a young woman but was also an important means of conveying her social standing and level of refinement. Elizabeth Ann Lyon, the schoolgirl who created the works pictured here, was an only child born in 1806 to Theophilus Lyon and Elizabeth Belcher. Her father, a veteran of the Seven Years’ War, with family and property in the Canton, Massachusetts, area, was originally a tanner. After the Revolutionary War, in which he served as a captain, Lyon developed his business and social standing enough to be called a gentleman when he sold half of the tannery business. The Lyons belonged to Old South Church in Boston and owned a home on Summer Street. They had moved into Boston society just before Elizabeth’s birth and must have planned her education to befit their new station. The earliest piece in the group is a marking sampler. Working in blue silk on linen, eight-year-old Elizabeth carefully stitched the alphabet, her name, and age. Preparing a girl for her place as a wife and mother meant

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training her in basic sewing such as making, marking, and darning family linens, a process that often resulted in her first sampler. If a girl’s family wished to continue her education, she learned one or more kinds of “fancy work,” which included creating elaborate pictures in crewel or silk thread. By the time she worked her verse sampler at the age of eleven Elizabeth’s skills had clearly progressed. The sampler features a stanza from Isaac Watts’s 1719 Psalm of David and an unidentified verse common to a group of samplers worked by young ladies in Scituate and Lancaster, Massachusetts. There is no indication of a teacher’s name or location on this piece, nor does it contain stylistic clues that might pinpoint where it was done, so it is difficult to tell if Elizabeth was a pupil in Scituate or Lancaster. Perhaps her teacher owned a copy of the same verse. In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, teachers throughout New England advertised their ability to tutor young ladies in the arts of plain and fine needlework. Instruction ranged from a circle of girls learning to stitch their alphabet in a local woman’s home to boarding schools in the best Boston neighborhoods. In addition to the most expensive establishments in Boston, Salem, and Providence, smaller schools, often begun by graduates of larger academies, sprang up throughout New England from the 1790s to the 1830s. Elizabeth’s two watercolors and her needlework picture, done when she was in her teens, are typical of the art young ladies produced as part of their education. By the early nineteenth century, becoming a refined New England woman meant learning to sew, paint, dance, speak French, and even read a globe, in addition to reading and writing. To learn these skills, young ladies attended academies and seminaries. Critics lampooned such instruction on the grounds that making fine silk pictures did little to teach women how to balance household accounts. Young

women might have had a different perspective, as this verse written by Deborah Cottnam before 1786 titled “A piece for a Sampler” indicates: “Expand your Genius in its prime/Your mind inform, improve your time;/New Pleasures, each, new days shall give/ And Virtue’s bloom, shall time outlive.” Despite calls for increased practical skills, the ability to demonstrate refined sensibilities remained a critical goal of girlhood education. The painted details in the two watercolors and the needlework picture exhibit a distinctive naïve style. Elizabeth would have found sources for

these pictures in the large print collections and illustrated Bible stories that girls’ schools provided to their students. Whether they were day pupils or boarders at these academies, students could elect to study one or more subjects. Girls learning fancy work and painting paid extra fees for paper, paint, and silk. Eager to attract the best and wealthiest pupils, schools competed in the amenities they offered, such as a London-trained painting instructor, a new piano forte, or a well-stocked collection of books and prints. A pupil at the school operated in Dorchester, Massachusetts, by Miss Beach and Mrs.

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Saunders noted in her memoirs the school’s extensive print collection with engravings of classical subjects and fine paintings. Students could spend months on their pictures, working closely with teachers to learn specific techniques and designs. The resulting needlework and paintings often exhibit stylistic similarities by which scholars can identify a particular school or instructor. One of Elizabeth’s watercolors depicts the meeting of Isaac and his bride, Rebecca, who has covered her head with a veil. While the print source for the image is unknown, the subject was clearly selected as an object lesson about marriage and duty. The second watercolor features a classical landscape. While neither painting is signed, “Miss EA Lyon” is inscribed on their backboards. Like her watercolors, Elizabeth’s needlework picture is difficult to place with a known school, as both the stitches and the style are unusual. She chose a pastoral scene, a variant of those long popular in the eighteenth century that depicted young ladies at leisure in a field, but the source remains unidentified. In the eighteenth century, family and friends could appreciate a young girl’s schoolwork on display in her home. In 1778, the Reverend Mather Byles wrote a sampler verse for his daughter Eliza that highlights the con-

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Above Elizabeth Ann Lyon’s needlework picture. Watercolor and silk thread on silk, before 1825. Below Portrait of Elizabeth by an unknown artist, c. 1830.

nection between a young lady’s needle and her esteem, “The curious Needle spreads the enamel’d Dye/While varying Shades the pleasing Task beguile/ My Friends approve me, and my parents smile.” Newburyport, Massachusetts, resident Sarah Emery recalled in her 1879 memoir, Reminiscences of a Newburyport Non-agenarian, “This fancy work opened a new world of delight. I became perfectly entranced over a sampler that was much admired.…One was considered very poorly educated who could not exhibit a sampler.” By the early nineteenth century, seminaries like those operated by Mrs. Rowson and Miss Beach and Mrs. Saunders advertised showings of their students’ talents and sold tickets to recitals of piano, poetry, and dance and displays of artworks. Academies relied on looking-glass framers like John Doggett in Roxbury, Massachusetts, or Cermenati & Monfrino in Boston to frame and glaze their students’

work for such exhibitions. Framing was expensive, but a girl’s family and potential suitors could then admire the finished pieces as the culmination of months or years of work. In 1825, at the age of nineteen, Elizabeth Lyon married Henry Johnson. Elizabeth and Henry were sufficiently well off to have their portraits painted in the late 1820s. They had only one child, a daughter, who was named after her mother. In 1834, at only twentyeight years of age, Elizabeth died in Boston of consumption, the same disease that would later claim the life of her child. Thanks to the generosity of a descendant, who donated these items early in the twentieth century, they survive as a group to measure Elizabeth’s early life in silk embroidery and watercolor, testament to her many accomplishments. —Laura Johnson Associate Curator

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O b j e c t

L e s s o n

Unusual Source

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he treasury of photographs, postcards, ephemera, manuscripts, and architectural drawings in Historic New England’s Library and Archives provides a wealth of documentation about the region’s cultural history. This handsome apparatus, along with the photographs it contains, is one of the more unusual sources of information we preserve. Architect and decorator Ogden Codman, Jr., was justifiably proud of his estate on the French Riviera called La Leopolda, discussed on the following pages. Codman’s extensive documentation of the property with both professional photographs and snapshots speaks to his desire to preserve a record of his masterwork. At some point, glass stereoviews of the property were made, largely recording the exterior, which could be viewed through this Stereoscopes Planox Rotatif machine. Manufactured in France, probably in the 1920s, the device has a mahogany case with brass fittings, a carousel holding the glass stereoviews, a magnet that lifts them for viewing, and an electric light at the back to provide illumination. Codman had to abandon La Leopolda during World War II, but the albums and stereoviews capture the property as its creator envisioned it. —Lorna Condon Senior Curator of Library and Archives

Planox stereoviewer. Left Stereoview of a garden at La Leopolda. A metal bracket at the top of the plate allows a magnet to pull it from the carousel for viewing. above

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Ogden Codman Builds His Dream House:

The Story of La Leopolda

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A panoramic view of La Leopolda and its magnificent site overlooking the Mediterranean. inset right Ogden Codman and his dog on the terrace. far right The grand staircase leading to La Leopolda from Moyenne Corniche.

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he story of Ogden Codman, Jr., (1863–1951) and the creation of his final masterpiece, La Leopolda, is an amazing tale. How did it happen that an American architect from an old-guard Yankee family would decide to build what is now considered the grandest, most expensive villa on the French Riviera? Codman, a talented architect and interior decorator who practiced mainly in Boston, Newport, and New York, was known for his classically proportioned townhouses and elegant interiors notable for their restraint in an era of opulence and excess. Though born in Boston (and a member of the Codman family, whose country estate in Lincoln, Massachusetts, is now owned by Historic New England), Codman spent considerable time in France during his youth, which resulted in a strong predilection for French architecture and decorative arts, especially those of the eighteenth century. His name is frequently associated with Edith Wharton for their path-

breaking book, The Decoration of Houses, published in 1897, which became the bible for classical taste, especially among prominent families of Boston, Newport, and New York. At age sixty-six, Codman, a wealthy widower, had retired to France in 1920, disdainful of the changes that had taken place in American society since World War I. He was bolstered by a considerable inheritance from his late wife, Leila Griswold Webb. The lure to create the perfect villa under his own supervision—a legacy that would be the ultimate expression of his architectural ideals—was a temptation he could not resist. As described by the distinguished critic Augusta Owen Patterson, Codman “had the practical experience and knowledge, gained from books and travel, to embark upon an ambitious project which would have appalled a less courageous designer.” And so it happened that in 1929, while looking for a place to rent on the French Riviera, he saw the perfect site,

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left The simili-stone stair hall contains a statue representing Spring and a staircase modeled after one at the Chateau Borelli in Marseilles. middle The salon de famille features marble walls

the Domain of La Leopolda, formerly owned by Leopold II, King of the Belgians. Given Codman’s aspirations to nobility (he always thought of his ancestry as superior to, or at the very least, the equal of European aristocracy), the property not only had a suitable provenance but a spectacular site overlooking the Mediterranean with a panoramic view that included Cap-Ferrat, Beaulieu-sur-Mer, and the harbor of Villefranche. Metaphorically speaking, if Washington had his Mount Vernon and Jefferson his Monticello, then why not Codman his villa, La Leopolda? The Domain of La Leopolda had originally been developed in 1895 by King Leopold II, who assembled approximately eighteen small adjoining estates on a dramatic hillside that extended upward to a thousand feet. Leopold, among the coterie who created the chic of the Côte d’Azur, owned additional property in Cap Ferrat. There is minimal documentation regarding the development and landscaping of the property between its initial owner and Codman’s purchase. In 1919, Leopold’s successor, Albert I, sold the estate to the Comtesse Thérèse de Beauchamp, who remodeled two existing cottages and added a separate library building that connected one of the structures with a semicircular colonnade. As described in period articles, the Comtesse’s primary focus was the considerable development of the gardens, 16

and an Aubusson carpet. Two windows give onto the terrace and views of the Mediterranean, while mirrored double doors on the opposite wall reflect the view. right The dining room has walls of

“planting and pruning thousands of orange, mandarin, lemon and other fruit trees and the magnificent Chaliapin rose trees and camellias which the King had collected.” Terraces, pools, and individual gardens were created on a number of different levels, each terrace planted with flowers all in a single color, differing from each other. An extremely important contribution to the landscaping was the great flight of steps descending the hillside past a number of terraces. Codman wrote that La Leopolda was designed to show “how a house can be built exactly on the lines laid down in that book,” meaning The Decoration of Houses. As Edith Wharton had done thirty years before at The Mount, Codman wanted to create his own laboratory for the ideas and taste that they had expressed in their collaborative venture. But, whereas The Mount compressed the concepts of plan and arrangement into a succinct statement, La Leopolda was elaborate and expansive, containing the full complement of rooms and anterooms outlined in the book. Both were situated on a hillside and featured a balustraded terrace and double staircase, a device with numerous Italian precedents, which extended the house into the landscape. Inside, following the French tradition, both had plans that emphasized the importance of privacy and distinctly articulated spaces. This was carried out by the arrangement of the stair hall in a sub-

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soft red marble and a plaster statue of figures holding garlands of fruit, a copy of a work by Clodion. The design of the dining chairs is attributed to Georges Jacob, one of the leading makers of furniture

sidiary space off the vestibule. On the first floor, the principal rooms are arranged enfilade, each opening onto the terrace. In 1939, Codman published a handsomely illustrated booklet about La Leopolda that serves as a guide to the rooms and grounds of the estate. Each detail of the villa’s design and decoration was carefully thought out to enhance the total classical ambience, while also including the “most modern developments in plumbing, heating, and lighting such as are used…in America.” Similar in form to several other country houses designed by Codman, La Leopolda has a hip roofline and a central block with modified octagonal towers, one a water tower, the other used for a small apartment. Codman credited three eighteenth-century villas “which had ornamented the shores of the Mediterranean” with providing exterior and interior details that he adapted to his taste for a more suitable and less formal treatment—the Chateau Borelli in Marseilles and two villas which he attributes to Giocondo Albertolli, the “magnificent” Villa Belgiojoso at Milan, and the “superb” Villa Melzi at Bellagio. The decoration of the “Gala apartments”—the salon de famille, Italian salon, and the dining room is completely derived from eighteenth-century Italian sources, with walls stuccoed in various shades of scagliola, a composite of colored plasters

in Paris in the late eighteenth century; the seats are covered with green leather enlivened with pink piping and brass-headed nails.

and glue. The design of the Italian salon, or ballroom, a cube of thirty feet, was drawn from the works of Albertolli. Codman described: “One enters the house through an austere simili-stone vaulted vestibule, which makes an agreeable contrast in its sober simplicity to the gay colouring of the Gala apartments that lie beyond.” In the dining room, the scagliola walls were in three shades of soft-toned red, and the ceiling painted to resemble a blue sky with white clouds. The decoration was dominated by two life-sized plaster groups of figures holding garlands of fruit, copies of Clodion originals in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs that Codman brought from the dining room of his New York house. The upstairs was given over to Codman’s extensive private quarters and three guest suites, each room furnished with the requisite pieces of predominantly French or Italian eighteenth-century furniture, with decorative objects and pictures whose color and shape would suit the theme of each room. In his own bedroom, Codman had a Louis XVI four-post bed, hung with a French glazed chintz, and curtains to match. Characteristic of the decoration was the careful mismatched combination of objects to create a room that looked as if its decoration had evolved over the years, an effect he tried to achieve throughout his career. In the service area, there were eleven servants’ bedrooms on the basement Winter/Spring 2013 Historic New England

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left Codman's bedroom with a Louis XVI four-post bed and curtains and upholstery in glazed floral chintz. All bedrooms, including three guest suites, were precisely furnished with decorative

level and a large servants’ hall complete with marble dining table. The grounds and gardens of La Leopolda, as magnificent as the house, appear to have been planned to a great extent by the previous owner. An extremely important element of the landscaping was the great flight of steps descending the hillside past a number of terraces. One of Codman’s most significant changes to the landscape was to redesign this dramatically important feature, placing great stone urns at different levels, thus replacing an elegant horticultural statement with one decidedly more classical in appearance. Approaching La Leopolda up the steep winding road of the Moyenne Corniche, passing through iron gates, the visitor glimpses its pedimented façade above, achieving the full effect of a neo-Acropolis. This grand staircase was memorialized for filmgoers in The Red Shoes, when in a climactic scene Moira Shearer, who plays the role of an aspiring ballerina, ascends the stairs in a flowing blue silk cape. Such classical devices as monumental flower pots, flowing fountains, a grotto, and a rose garden with trellis and niches, were linked by means of the various terraced gardens. In addition there was a swimming pool, tennis court, kitchen garden, and numerous outbuildings, including garages, gardeners’ cottages, greenhouses, and guest cottages. No detail that added 18

objects and pictures whose color and shape would suit the theme of each room. right The servants’ hall had a marble dining table and tiled floor and dado for sanitary purposes. The basement level

luxury to its splendor was overlooked by its creator. Alas, Codman’s joy in his ultimate indulgence was very brief due to the financial debacle of 1929. When President Roosevelt took the United States off the gold standard, Codman’s income was reduced by over forty percent. He alternated between cursing the “Fuhrer Duce Roosevelt,” “that socialist in the White House,” and himself for having tied up all his assets in property. He compared himself to his ancestor, Richard Codman, who had brought ruin to the Codman family by his overindulgence in French real estate. He hoped Elsie de Wolfe (who had by then become Lady Mendl) and Sybil Colefax, the society mavens of the Riviera, could find him a buyer or tenant for La Leopolda. By the summer of 1933, his plight was so grave that he moved into one of the small cottages and prepared to await a change of fortune. In anticipation of such a possibility, Codman drew up a list of restrictions to be observed by a future tenant. The four-page document detailed the terms of the rental: “no awnings to any windows for interference to the outside shutters”; “no painting to be done inside or outside because I do not wish my colour schemes to be interfered with in any way whatever; no nails to be driven to the scagliola or plaster wall surfaces”; “no statues, busts or decorative vases may be moved”; “no changes may be made to the upholstered fur-

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also incorporated eleven servants’ bedrooms. below Cypresses and urn-topped pillars line the great flight of steps descending the hillside past a series of terraces.

niture, excepting slipcovers that can be removed without injuring the said furniture.” Finally, there was a required deposit of £1,000 against loss and damage. Never was Codman truer to his New England aristocratic sensibilities than in his refusal in 1938 to let La Leopolda to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Although they were prepared to pay a respectable sum, they wanted to make changes to the decor, paint the walls, and remove most of the furniture—in short, take away “everything that gave the house its artistic character.” To seek a solution, a conference was held at a Paris hotel at which neither side budged. As described by a cousin, Florence Codman, “when Ogden …realized his terms would not be met, he started to leave. The husband, accompanying him to the hotel elevator, pleaded with him to withdraw the demand for the deposit. His wife had her heart set on La Leopolda. Its owner was not impressed, and as he stepped into the elevator he bowed and said, ‘Good day, sir, I regret that the House of Codman cannot do business with the House of Windsor.’”

Postscript There have been a number of owners since Codman’s death: in 1951 the estate was sold to Isaac Walton Killam (1885–1955), a wealthy Canadian industrialist, whose widow in turn sold it to Gianni Agnelli (1921–2003) in 1952 supposedly for the sum of $100,000. Unfortunately, the Agnellis made the magnificent variegated-hued walls of the Italian salon a ubiquitous white. The present owner is Lily Safra, who inherited the property in 1999, following the death of her husband, Lebanese philanthropist Edmund Safra. The Safras commissioned interior designers Renzo Mongiardino to decorate the ground floor and Mica Ertegun to decorate the bedrooms. In 2008, it was reported that Russian playboy billionaire, Mikhail Prokhorov, purchased the villa at a price of $750 million; struck by financial losses in the mining business, he backed out of the record sale, forfeiting a deposit of $39 million to be paid to Lily Safra in support of her humanitarian causes. La Leopolda now proclaims the title of the world’s most expensive privately owned property. Historic New England, the repository for Codman family archives, has numerous photographs and papers relating to its history, but many details about its actual construction and building remain unknown. Though registered as a monument historique in France, Ogden Codman’s magnificent architectural legacy deserves to be given more thorough research as well as appreciation by a wider audience. —Pauline C. Metcalf Ms. Metcalf is an architectural historian and author of Ogden Codman and the Decoration of Houses and Syrie Maugham: Staging the Glamorous Interior.

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Y e s t e r day ’ s

H i s t o r y

Conjuring a

Lost Neighborhood

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n 1923, the City of Boston announced plans to widen Cambridge Street to relieve congestion. Numerous buildings, including the 1796 Otis House, which William Sumner Appleton had only recently acquired for Historic New England’s headquarters, were slated for demolition. Appleton immediately began rallying his supporters to raise funds to move Otis House, writing in Old-Time New England that it “would be doomed to destruction” unless the organization could acquire a new site for it. By 1925, he had managed to acquire four early nineteenth-century brick row houses that stood just behind Otis House along Lynde Street. The first two houses were demolished, and

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in 1926, Otis House was moved back forty-two feet and joined to the two that remained, whose interiors were adapted for exhibition and office space. Three decades later, in the 1950s, most of the old West End neighborhood surrounding Otis House was razed as part of urban renewal. Government buildings, offices, and apartment blocks replaced the crowded urban neighborhood, and Lynde Street was reduced to a dead-end alley. From the late eighteenth century on, the West End, bounded by Beacon Hill, the Charles River, and the North End, underwent numerous changes. In the early Federal era, the area near the North End contained ropewalks, an almshouse, and an asylum. To the

southeast lay the fashionable district of Bowdoin Square, and closer to the river, Massachusetts General Hospital and the Suffolk County Jail. By the mid-nineteenth century, well-to-do residents were relocating to newly developed districts, and the West End filled in with brick row houses and shops. By 1900, the neighborhood was among the most densely populated in the city, housing a diverse population of white Americans, African Americans, and newly arrived immigrants. Public documents such as maps, atlases, censuses, city directories, tax records, and lists of voters, as well as reports by government agencies and settlement houses, provide a snapshot of West End life during a period of

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rapid change. Taking one of the Lynde Street row houses—Number 14—as an example, mid-nineteenth century records reveal a pattern of stable middle-class ownership. In 1850, Aaron Hotchkiss, a bookseller, lived there with his wife, Harriet, and their two children. The family also had two young men boarding with them, both clerks, perhaps Hotchkiss’s employees, and a young Irish woman, Bridget Hogan, presumably a domestic. By 1858, George Russell, a homeopathic physician with a degree from Harvard Medical School, had moved into the house with his wife, Hannah, and their family. The Russells remained there for at least twenty-four years, sharing the house with members of Hannah’s family, a domestic, and on occasion, a medical student. The residential pattern started to change in the 1880s with 14 Lynde Street’s next owner, John A. Ryan, a grocer who owned a store a few blocks away at 56 Pitts Street. Within ten years, Ryan and his family had moved but continued to own and rent the house to couples who in turn took in lodgers. Most of these were single men working in jobs within walking distance. By 1910, the building seems to have made the full transition to lodging house, offering rooms for rent but no board. Notes made in the census report mention Catherine Blakeman as the keeper of a lodging house and her husband as a meat cutter, as well as their three school-age children. Their lodgers, men from Massachusetts, New York, and Germany, worked as cigar makers, waiters, telegraph operators, and in other skilled and semi-skilled trades. A last snapshot of 14 Lynde Street residents appears in the city’s 1923 List of Residents 20 Years of Age and Older, which identifies at least eighteen people living there. The lodgers were clerks, salesmen, milk drivers, tailors, barbers, and a boilermaker, and all had lived at the same address the previous year.

Two years later, Number 14’s residents were dispersed due to the widening of Cambridge Street, and thirty years after that, nearly the entire old West End was demolished. Those who were displaced in the 1950s still cherish memories of a vibrant community. Now attached to Otis House, Lynde Street’s last two row houses survive as physical evidence of a vanished neighborhood.

A view of Lynde Street from the front yard of the Old West Church, 1925. Numbers 10 and 12 have been demolished. Otis House, still in its original location, is just visible at left. Below A detail from G. W. Bromley’s Atlas of the City of Boston, 1898, reveals the West End’s dense residential pattern prior to the 1950s. facing page

—Jennifer Pustz Museum Historian

14 Lynde Street

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A

Ma t t e r

o f

Ta s t e

An Artistic Life in Stockbridge

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eginning in the 1860s, a group of artists, architects, and designers in England began to rebel against the commercial art world, believing that beauty could be found not only in paintings but also in the mundane things with which we surround ourselves. Men like artist and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti and poet and designer William Morris advocated that people devote themselves to living artistically. These reformers’ views were promoted in books like Charles Eastlake’s Hints on Household Taste, and, in America,

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Clarence Cook’s House Beautiful. By the time of the Centennial of 1876 their ideas were beginning to take hold. The style that emerged from this period has come to be known as Aesthetic. Well-to-do New Yorkers William and Elizabeth Doane moved in the sophisticated circles that would have made them among the first Americans to be influenced by this movement. After visiting their friend the British Shakespearean actress Fanny Kemble at her summer home in the Berkshires, the Doanes fell in love with the region. In 1875, they purchased a Federal-

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style brick house in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, filled it with books and tasteful furnishings and named it Tranquility. Today it is known as Merwin House, after their daughter, Vipont Doane Merwin, who left the house and its contents to Historic New England “as an example of an American culture which is fast becoming extinct.” Born in Paris, the daughter of the British ambassador to France, Elizabeth Doane brought European stylishness to her summer home. The evocative albumen photograph on the facing page reveals her artistic sensibility. She sits before her piano, showing off her beautiful profile and the aesthetic trappings with which she

surrounded herself—Chinese vases filled with peacock feathers and dried flowers, a glass-fronted corner cabinet containing ceramics, and rich textiles at the windows and draped from the mantelpiece. Interest in art for art’s sake inspired people to find delight in objects from all over the world. The wonderful hanging shelf at right, likely made in Hoshiapur, Punjab, may well have been purchased by the Doanes’ eldest daughter, whose husband was a British officer stationed in India. People interested in living artistically were fascinated by all things Asian; the Japanese

and Chinese exhibitions at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia were particularly popular. The frame surrounding the large porcelain tile at left is part of a centuries-old Chinese tradition of fashioning things out of roots and gnarled wood as symbols of age and wisdom.

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An artistic life often meant a literary life. The Doanes’ bookshelves contain works by Molière, Victor Hugo, and Alexandre Dumas as well as twenty-six volumes by Dickens. Washington Irving’s Alhambra, Longfellow’s Wayside Inn, and Mrs. Gaskell’s Cranford, share space with books devoted to spiritualism and the occult. Like the two volumes shown here, many of the books feature designs that mirror the aestheticism of the house. The turtle, an important symbol in Japanese mythology, represents longevity and good luck. The exoticism of the Japanese bronze from the Meiji era (1862–1912) shown below would have appealed to the Doanes. —Nancy Carlisle Senior Curator of Collections

Merwin House is open this year on the following Saturdays: June 1, Sept. 28, and Oct. 26. Tours are on the hour from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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sy AVA G al le ry an d A rt C en te r

P e rsp e c t i v e

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here was a time in Lebanon, New Hampshire, when the H.W. Carter and Sons factory on Bank Street was a community hub. The locally owned company, established in 1859, employed over 175 people at its height of operation in the 1920s. From dungarees and overalls, to hunting gear and lab coats, the Carter brand made a national name for itself by delivering sturdy products made from good materials by skilled hands. The business was family run for over a century, first by generations of Carters and then by generations of Jacksons. In 1967, the company was sold out of the family, and eventually its operations were moved south, where labor was cheaper. The H.W. Carter and Sons Lebanon factory manufactured its last pair of overalls on Friday, June 28, 1985. Today, those who once made their living at Carter’s still recall the speed of the machines, the weight of the cloth, and the everyday rhythms of factory work. In those same rooms on Bank Street where stitchers stitched and pressers pressed, local artists work today in paint, clay, and stone. The AVA Gallery and Art Center

C o ur te

Factory Memories

acquired the old factory building, and in 2006, renovated it to house an art gallery and artist studios and present art programs for all ages. Historic New England has partnered with the AVA Gallery and Community Access Television of the Upper Valley on a documentary about the factory, Connecting the Threads: Overalls to Art at the H.W. Carter and Sons Factory, which includes oral history interviews with former workers and will be broadcast on CATV in the Upper Valley region of New Hampshire and Vermont. —Brooke Steinhauser, Community Engagement Assistant An early twentieth-century poster; the Carter factory, c. 1960; the AVA Gallery and Art Center today. left to right

Visit HistoricNewEngland.org for the oral history interviews and itinerary of the Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition, The Way We Worked, currently being circulated in the region by Historic New England.

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Vermont photographer Jack Rowell took these portraits of some of the interviewees when they returned to the factory to record their oral histories for the documentary.

right

Thelma M. Follensbee Stitcher, 1934–83 I don’t regret ever going in there when I was sixteen. My aunt, my mother, and my grandmother worked there. All the machines was on a long assembly line. They didn’t want you to talk because you’d be distracted—you’d stitch your finger. Many times, I’ve had a needle go right through. It’s quick, too, when you’re flying around with them needles going so fast, and your fingers are right there.

left

Linda Boucher Stitcher, 1975 I only worked about a month, because I hated the job. The work ethic was great, they were very friendly. But the fact that they rang the bell when you could come in, when you could take a break, when you could have lunch…you just felt like an animal. You didn’t have your own voice. You couldn’t make your own decisions.

right

Chester Dutille Cutter, plant manager, 1947–85 We made a lot of dungarees. Once in a while we’d make fancy ones in different colors. I remember one year, the buyer bought a lot of odd stuff—all different colors and designs. We decided to make overalls out of them, mix and match. One might have a front out of this plaid, another one out of that plaid, and the back out of a different one. Those things went like hotcakes! Thirty-eight years, and there’s only a couple of times when we cut down on hours. We never had a big layoff. In the winter, Jackson wouldn’t lay the help off, because he didn’t want to lose his experienced people. He’d put them painting the factory inside.

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right

Eugene G. Dauphinais Stringer, presser, 1947–85 My two aunts and my family—ten boys and two girls—all worked here at one time or another. The whole shop was on piece work. If you stop working and talk to someone you’re not getting paid. See, you’ve got to finish the whole bundle. If you go to the bathroom and talk for a half an hour, go see your friends, you make no money! Then the boss says, “Jeez, what you been doin’, talkin?” They’ll give you hell right there.

left

Madeline E. McGonis Stitcher, 1948–85 When I first started to work? I was sixteen. I worked for them, all those years, till they closed. I think every day was the same. I was young and I just liked what I did. Sometimes I got told to keep still because I talked too much, but they said I was a great sewer and I did a lot of work. When I did the straps on the overalls, I could really zoom.

right

Gordon S. Jackson Son of Frank Jackson, co-owner of H.W. Carter and Sons from 1940s–1964 My job was to lay out the cloth on the table—about a hundred layers. If it was a patterned cloth you had to make sure that you matched up the pattern so that when the cutter came down he was actually cutting the same pattern all the way through. Afterwards, I’d pick up all the pieces in the order that they were going to be stitched and put them in the cart and take it to the stitching room. Stephanie F. Jackson Daughter of Frank Jackson, co-owner of H.W. Carter and Sons from 1940s–1964 It was for a time the largest employer in town, so you were guaranteed that some of your classmates’ parents worked here. I was in high school before I realized that “Oh, my father doesn’t just work here…he owns the factory!” That was when the strike occurred, and I realized, “My classmates’ parents are striking on my dad.”

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O p en

H o u s e

Sandy Agrafiotis

[H]e built for himself…one of the best and largest houses in the place, finely situated, imposing in its appearance, and an object of envy to many, who predicted with wise nods and sagacious shakes of the head, that so much pride must have a fall, and concluded that he had built his house too high. But they happened to be mistaken. He was one of those thorough men who did not have to do his work twice; his house, built large enough and built right, stands unaltered and needing no alteration, having lasted out the lifetime of its owner…and bidding fair to outlast other generations. James Rundlet’s obituary, Portsmouth Morning Chronicle, November 27, 1852

Yankee Icon

T

here’s a Danish proverb that says “He who builds to every man’s advice will have a crooked house.” Perhaps that’s one reason Rundlet-May House in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, stands so plumb, square, and proud today, more than two hundred years after James Rundlet oversaw the construction of his new home. As a monument to economy and technology, it’s a wonderful example of a home that fully reflects the personality and interests of its owners. The fact that it was meticulously maintained with minimal changes across four generations makes it all the more a remarkably pristine reflection of a place and time. Although there’s no direct evidence that Rundlet designed it himself, it’s clear that the stately Federal-style

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manse was the product of this young, ambitious, and careful man’s mind. Only thirty-five years old when the house was built, he had lifted himself from his farm-boy upbringing in nearby Exeter to a position in the highest echelons of Portsmouth society, and he’d done it through self-directed hard work. In a slim notebook titled “Memorandum of Adventures 1791– 1792,” the then nineteen-year-old chronicled his modest business accomplishments, including “Sent by Joseph Jackson One half Dollar to by [sic] me limes in West Indies—Returns 1 bb [bushel?] Rotten limes worth 4/6.” Though not exactly good news, the report is characteristically precise, foreshadowing a career of prudent trading and investment that would eventually yield the kind of fortune necessary to

construct a $12,604.47 home (from his exact accounting, of course), at a time when the average worker brought home about $16 a week. By all accounts not a boastful man, Rundlet nonetheless made sure that his new house was set to impress. Three stories tall, it sits upon a small rise at the front of his property, its aspect further accentuated through the construction of a built-up plinth that towers eight feet above Middle Street. Inside, its grand entry hall is flanked by formal rooms with fine moldings and expensive imported wallpapers, includ-

Rundlet-May House is open on the first and third Saturdays of the month from June 1 to Oct. 15.

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ing a somewhat hallucinogenic pattern known as Green Worm. But it was the house’s practical aspects that surely captured Rundlet’s attention. Part of his ascent from the farm included an education at the new Phillips Exeter Academy, where his surviving copybooks show that he took many scientific and technological courses. He subscribed to the first American edition of Rees’s Cyclopaedia, a serialized and exhaustive scientific volume. He’d made part of his fortune in textile manufacturing, playing an active role in the setting up of his factories. It was a time of great innovation—gas lighting, the cotton gin, the steamboat, and batteries had all been recently invented. When it came to his new house, Rundlet made sure its systems were the very latest. Thanks to the late eighteenth-century work of the physicist and inventor Benjamin Thompson (a native of Woburn, Massachusetts, who moved to Europe, where he was known as Count Rumford), the kitchen was becoming a place of new advances. In his, Rundlet installed the revolutionary Rumford Roaster, a metal cooking chamber sur-

rounded by a complex set of tubes, flues, air registers, and dampers. Its chief advantage over the open fireplaces of the past: constant and continuous heat. Its other advantage: a hot fire kept at a minimum of expense. Along with a set of Rumford boilers, also efficiently heated with their own fireboxes, Rundlet had a kitchen that perfectly suited him—modern and money-saving. Also convenient and not standardissue in houses of the period: servants’ bells; a well house with pump, attached to the home; and a multi-seat, tworoom privy at the end of a covered hallway. Not long after the house was built, Rundlet commissioned another improvement, guaranteed to impress his guests. In the grand front hall, an undoubtedly chilly spot during New Hampshire winters, a patch of floor was removed and filled with a square of stone panels. In the basement below a large coal-burning furnace (the first in a Portsmouth home) fired away; its rising warmth gave the hall radiant floor heating. Rundlet’s house was built to no one’s advice but his own. Visit and see

for yourself how it served him and his family well—and defied his neighbors’ predictions. —Bruce Irving Mr. Irving, a member of Historic New England’s Council, is a home renovation consultant, realtor, former executive producer of This Old House, and author of New England Icons.

Rundlet-May House, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 1807. above Servants’ bell. below left The kitchen features a round metal Rumford roaster and cooking grates over individual fireboxes. below right The front hall was warmed by a furnace in the cellar, whose heat rose through the ornamental grate and warmed stone panels in the floor.

facing page

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P r e s e r v at i o n

Reviving a Historic Landscape

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he Lyman Estate represents one of the few remaining American landscapes laid out in the English landscape style popular in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Once encompassing hundreds of acres of farmland, the estate today consists of thirty-seven acres, including the man-made pond system in front, the southern field, and, most importantly, the gardens behind the house, complete with a brick peach wall separating the formal grounds from a wooded knoll. Over the last three years, Historic New England has been restoring the

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landscape to its appearance during the 1920s. This period of the landscape is consistent with the exterior restoration efforts on the house, which focus on the way it looked after renovations done in 1917, and reflect the twentieth-century evolution of the property while also retaining the core elements of its original English-style landscape. In the nineteenth century, the peach wall garden was planted with vegetables rather than flowers and was separated from the path system by a boxwood hedge. Images from the late nineteenth century show the hedge

reaching heights of five to six feet. In 1904, a hard winter decimated the hedge, and though it was replanted, Arthur Lyman noted, “I used to have the biggest boxwood hedge in America; now I have the smallest.� At about the same time the garden plantings shifted from vegetables to flowers. The gardens remained in use, but the boxwood hedge slowly died out, until the last remaining section was removed in the 1980s. In the spring of 2011, working in partnership with a horticulture class from Minuteman High School, a regional vocational school in Lex-

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ington, Massachusetts, three hundred boxwood plants were installed to recreate the hedge, and the historic grass border between the new hedge and the path system was re-established. Then, over the course of the summer, staff removed historically inappropriate woody shrubs and perennials that had been planted over the last fifty years, revitalized the existing plantings from the correct period, and supplemented them with new material mentioned in Lyman family diaries and journals. Additional work included extensive regenerative pruning of the nineteenth-century rhododendrons, which reclaimed a missing section of the original walking paths, and tree pruning. Volunteers joined in efforts to eradicate invasive species. In the future, we hope to continue our restoration efforts by removing invasive species lining the ponds to open up more of the historic viewsheds. — Ben Haavik Team Leader, Property Care The boxwood hedge at the Lyman Estate, Waltham, Massachusetts, in the 1890s. above right The hedge replanted after a killing frost in 1904. middle The hedge in 1959. below Replanting the hedge in 2011.

facing page

Boxwood blight is a fungus that was first identified in October 2011 and has been confirmed in nine states, including Connecticut and Massachusetts. The fungus can devastate a boxwood in about a week and can easily be spread through casual contact. While there is currently no treatment, there are best practices for working with boxwood. Please refer to www.boxwoodblight.org for current recommended practices. We invite you to visit the Lyman Estate to observe our progress in renewing the landscape and stop by the historic greenhouses. The grounds are open year round from dawn to dusk; greenhouse open hours are listed at HistoricNewEngland.org.

Winter/Spring 2013 Historic New England

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C ele b r a t i o n s

A grant from Historic New England helped conserve this painting by Webster Kullberg, c. 1935. below Shaker ephemera. left

Preservation Honors

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istoric New England seeks to further its mission in many ways­ —via publications, sharing expertise, administering preservation easements, presenting traveling exhibitions, and partnering with other organizations. In 1995, we initiated an awards program to honor individuals and groups that enhance public understanding of the region’s heritage by establishing an annual prize for books on New England’s architecture, landscape, and material culture. The Historic New England Book Prize, awarded each fall, has celebrated more than three dozen publications. In 2009, the awards program expanded to include a new annual honor—the Prize for Collecting Works on Paper. This prize recognizes a col-

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lector or dealer who has assembled or helped save a significant collection of books, photographs, prints, manuscripts, or other historical material that might otherwise have been lost. The winner is selected each spring through a public nomination process. In 2012, the prize was shared between Dr. M. Stephen Miller, for his unparalleled collection of Shaker ephemera, and Scott DeWolfe and Frank Wood, antiquarian book dealers who helped him build the collection. Dr. Miller is transferring his collection, which includes advertising images, product labels, and other items documenting Shaker industries and craft, to Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. In addition to honoring authors and collectors, Historic New England offers Community Preservation Grants

of $1,000 to recognize the achievements of a preservation organization in each of the six New England states. This year, grants supported the renovation of the historic Ioka Theater in Exeter, New Hampshire; the documentation of an exhibition on President Lincoln and the Civil War at Hildene, the Lincoln Family Home in Manchester, Vermont; and the conservation of Works Progress Administration paintings from the Depression era for an exhibition at the Mattatuck Museum Arts & History Center in Waterbury, Connecticut. Each year, Historic New England offers scholarships for graduate students and museum professionals to the Program in New England Studies. The scholarships make the week-long educational experience accessible to those who are likely to benefit the field in the future. —Rob Watson Marketing Manager

For more information, visit HistoricNewEngland.org/about-us/awardsprograms. Many of the Book Prize winners are available at our online shop.

Historic New England Winter/Spring 2013

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Look right to you?

Go to HistoricNewEngland.org/Paint to see the difference a historically appropriate color scheme can make. We will send you a free booklet, Preserving Your Old House, just for looking.

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141 Cambridge Street Boston MA 02114-2702

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

a C q u i s i t i o n s

Dowries for Two Daughters

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eceipts for furniture bought from Boston craftsmen in the early nineteenth century are uncommon. Extremely rare is the survival of an entire group of receipts and accounts for two late Federal-era weddings in a leading Massachusetts family. Historic New England recently acquired a trove of fourteen such receipts and two accounts representing wedding gifts from United States Congressman Elijah Brigham of Westborough, Massachusetts, to his daughters. Brigham lavished furnishings from some of Boston’s best craftsmen and merchants on his eldest daughter, Anna Sophia, when she married Boston merchant Joseph Freeland Boardman in 1813. Brigham advanced the couple $929. His accounts record purchase of a pair of card tables from Boston’s leading cabinetmaker, Thomas Seymour; window curtains and bed hangings for their new “high post mahogany Bedstead and Sacking,” from one of Boston’s finest upholsterers, James Hiller Foster; and a “Sofa easy chair [and] making coverings &c” for $50 from cabinetmaker Benjamin Bass.

Brigham also set aside funds for the marriage of his youngest daughter, Anna Maria, who married Ebenezer Morgan Phillips of Bolton, Massachusetts, in 1818. Though her budget of $558 was smaller than her sister’s, she wanted quality, going to Boston’s leading looking-glass maker, John Doggett, for four gilt mirrors. These papers offer important insights

into consumer taste and the business of furnishing in the Federal period. —Robert D. Mussey, Jr. Mr.Mussey is author of The Furniture Masterworks of John and Thomas Seymour. below Receipt from John Doggett for four looking glasses of varying sizes.

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

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Historic New England Winter-Spring 2013  

Introducing the Eustis Estate in Milton, Mass., Ogden Codman Jr.'s La Leopolda, and more. Become a member at historicnewengland.org and rece...

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