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BACK TO SCHOOL IN VERMONT


FROM THE CHAIR

Historic N E W E NG L A N D Winter 2015 Vol. 15, No. 3

Courtesy of Norwich Historical Society

While browsing this issue of Historic New England, I hope you’ll be struck by the national and international significance of the properties we protect and the items we collect and share. For example, our project to make twenty-six collections of family papers more accessible—funded in part by a federal grant—provides valuable insights into the everyday lives of New Englanders, including their roles in and responses to events on the national stage. Research into the origins of a 1752 valentine at Quincy House in Quincy, Massachusetts, connects it to a family’s migration from Germany to New Jersey. And our work to document one-room schoolhouses in Vermont touches on issues in public schooling that resonate nationwide even now. You’ll read about All Saints, Ashmont, in Boston, which is now protected through our Stewardship Easement Program. The church was Ralph Adams Cram’s first ecclesiastical commission, and marked his emergence as the most influential architect of the modern Gothic style in America. None of this work would be possible without the generous support of our members. As Historic New England’s fiscal year draws to a close, we hope you may be inspired to increase your giving as we embark on another year of protecting and preserving our shared history.

Back to School in Vermont 2

Seeing the World through New England’s Eyes 14 1

OBJECT LESSON

A Rare Valentine Discovered at Quincy House SPOTLIG HT

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Architecture for Education: Improving the Little Red Schoolhouse 8

STEWAR D SHIP

All Saints, Ashmont: Protecting a Modern Gothic Icon D ESIG N

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Architectural Glass at All Saints, Ashmont 13

LOOKING AHEAD

The Making of a Museum 18

EMER G ING VOICES

Foreseeing a Future in Protecting the Past HOUSE STORY

—Roger T. Servison, Chair

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Preserving Seven Generations of Change at Jackson House PR ESERVATION MAINTENANCE

When a Lean-to Leans Too Far

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 Kris Bierfelt, editor. ­­­ 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

The former Root schoolhouse in Norwich, Vermont, now a community center. RIGHT, TOP The Root schoolhouse in 1941. RIGHT, BOTTOM Detail of a drawing for the Washington Monument,Washington, D.C., Robert Mills, architect, from the Casey family papers collection. COVER

YOUR SUPPORT AT WOR K

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Increasing Our Commitment to Collections Care HID D EN TR EASUR E 2 6

Venice in Boston: Wall Murals at the Ames-Webster Mansion 30

MEMBER SPOTLIG HT

Earle G. Shettleworth Jr.: A Lifelong Passion for Preservation A DAY IN THE LIFE

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South Berwick, Maine, Site Manager ACQUISITIONS

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Pride on the Home Front © 2015 Historic New England. Except where noted, all historic photographs and ephemera are from Historic New England’s Library and Archives.


O B J E C T

L E S S O N

A Rare Valentine Discovered at Quincy House

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“Let love occupy your heart. Let love inflame you continually. Not a love which burns with incontinence, and pursues a base desire for worldly things. God’s love should impel you, to leave Evil alone, to love your Neighbor as yourself, and carry your cross patiently.” Cutwork valentine for Maria Sophia Kemper, 1752. In addition to the poem, it is inscribed in German and English: “Made in honor of Sophia Kemperin. [Made] of John Tillman Dickenshaid in the year of our Lord 1752.” RIGHT Cutwork valentine, 1754. Philadelphia Museum of Art, promised gift of Joan and Victor Johnson. ABOVE

iven the predominantly British heritage of colonial New England, Historic New England’s collection is one of the last places one might expect to find an important German-language document. Yet that is exactly what happened when Senior Curator of Collections Nancy Carlisle asked me to help identify a valentine at Quincy House in Quincy, Massachusetts. Dated 1752 and embellished with flowers and human figures, it is an example of fraktur—a Germanic manuscript art that was transplanted to the New World by Germanspeaking immigrants, most of whom settled in Pennsylvania. The most common type of fraktur is the birth and baptismal certificate; other types include house blessings, New Year’s greetings, and Liebesbriefe or love letters (valentines). The Quincy House valentine was made for Josiah Quincy III’s mother-in-law, Maria Sophia Kemper (1739– 1832). She was the daughter of Jacob and Maria Kemper, who emigrated from Germany in 1741 and by 1749 settled in New Brunswick, New Jersey. In 1759 the Kempers moved to New York, where Maria Sophia met and married John Morton. Their daughter Eliza Susan Morton married Josiah Quincy III in 1797. An 1879 note by Josiah’s eldest daughter, Eliza Susan Quincy, reported “this Valentine, never seen by her children during her life, was found in the till of her chest…It is the oldest valentine in the U.S.A. & probably in the world.” Although this claim is exaggerated, the piece is one of the oldest known dated American valentines. The fact that family members learned of its existence only after Maria Sophia’s death raises the question of why she kept the valentine hidden. A possible clue is suggested by the other name inscribed on the valentine, John Tillman Dickenshaid, who may have been the artist, her admirer, or both. The discovery of Maria Sophia Kemper’s valentine enabled me to link a second valentine—dated May 22, 1754, but with no name or location—to the New Brunswick settlement. Comparison of the handwriting and cutwork technique (known in German as Scherenschnitte, or scissors cutting) reveals that the two pieces were made by the same artist. The 1754 valentine is on view in the exhibition Drawn with Spirit: Pennsylvania German Fraktur from the Joan and Victor Johnson Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through April 26. Both valentines are illustrated in the accompanying catalogue, available from Yale University Press. —Lisa Minardi Lisa Minardi is a fraktur expert and assistant curator at Winterthur Museum. Winter 2015 Historic New England

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E V E RY O N E ’ S

H I S T O R Y

Back to School in Vermont

“Basically it was a one-room schoolhouse…it had large windows, no insulation anywhere, one big wood stove with a tin around it, kerosene lamps braced on brackets around the wall, and one schoolteacher that had to do everything—twenty-eight kids, first grade to eighth.” —Stanley Alfred Wallace, Beaver Meadow School

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“Oh, when I couldn’t go to school I cried… I don’t know, I liked it, I know that, that’s all I can say.” —Helen E. Smith, Root School (third from left)

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hy do one-room schoolhouses resonate with people today? Do they remind us of a more rural America with strong local communities? Is it nostalgia for a simpler, slower pace of life? Historic New England sought to answer these questions as part of an Everyone’s History project in Norwich, Vermont. We partnered with Community Access Television (CATV) and the Root District Game Club to preserve the legacy of five oneroom schoolhouses in Norwich. One-room schools were common in rural areas in most of the country in the late nineteenth century and in some areas well into the twentieth century. The Republic of Vermont was the first state to authorize public education with its progressive 1777 Constitution, and in 1781 Norwich built its first school. The next year Norwich town leaders began dividing the town into districts. Many of these were in farming communities remote from the town center, where, according to Dartmouth College Professor Emeritus of History Jere Daniell, the schoolhouses “were the major community building for the neighborhood, at a time in an agricultural society when neighborhood relations were of

central importance.” These schools flourished for more than a century, but in 1892 the district school system was largely abolished in favor of a town system, which consolidated many of the remote, so-called common schools into a central schoolhouse with graded instruction. The Norwich School (now called the Marion Cross School) was built in 1898 with four rooms, two grades in each. Although any Norwich child could attend this central school, five one-room schoolhouses remained in operation into the early 1940s: Beaver Meadow, New Boston, Pompanoosuc (Pompy), Root, and Turnpike. All had ceased functioning as schools by 1951 and the school board sold them in 1952. New Boston and Pompy became residences; New Boston burned in a late-1960s fire but Pompy is still a single-family home. Turnpike was deliberately burned down in the 1970s in a fire department drill. The Beaver Meadow and Root schools were purchased for five dollars each by neighborhood groups with the requirement that they be used as community centers. Both were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2013 as part of the community’s efforts to preserve these important places. Winter 2015 Historic New England

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The Root schoolhouse was built in 1937, replacing a school that had burned the previous year. By the time it closed in 1945 only four pupils remained. The building was in active use as a community center until 2011, when a deteriorating foundation necessitated its closing. Fundraising efforts are underway to rebuild the foundation and bring the building back into community use possibly as a preschool. Beaver Meadow schoolhouse opened in March 1791 and remained in operation until 1946 except for a short time after a fire in 1922. As many as sixty children attended the school when Beaver Meadow was an active farming community. The school closed in 1946 when enrollment dropped to eight students. Beaver Meadow continues to serve the neighborhood as a community center and is used for a host of annual events including Halloween and winter holiday parties as well as potluck suppers, birthday parties, and presentations. Historic New England and CATV staff met with several former students of these last five one-room schools to record their memories, which highlight the importance of preserving these evocative spaces. The surviving students, most in their late seventies or older, have fond memories of the schools but also remember the hardships. Some

“Of course, there was no refrigerator there [but] there was a brook that ran behind the school and that’s where we’d put our milk.” —Jaqueline TeeterDurkee, Turnpike School (far right) students had to walk two miles in all weather to attend school; in the winter, others took a sleigh and some even skied. Most schools had a wood stove with fuel supplied by area residents and stoked by the boys. Alfred DeVaux of Pompy recalled being “all huddled around the stove” in the cold building with the “older students farthest from the stove.” Mornings generally started with the Pledge of Allegiance and the Lord’s Prayer. Alma Lola Gray of Pompy remembers, “We used to have to take our seats,

“School was never canceled because the teacher walked to school; she lived up the road. I tell you what, you had a chance to learn something because Miss Stella didn’t take a lot of foolishness.” —Stanley Alfred Wallace, Beaver Meadow School (second row, fourth from left) 4

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1941: “My dear teacher said Roosevelt had declared war.” The prospect of attending the comparatively large and anonymous district school made some students nervous. Gray recalls, “Ugh, I was petrified. I mean, going from a oneroom school… We were never taken over there [to Marion Cross] for orientation…. [We] went from a one-room school to high school where you had to go from room to room.” Norwich’s one-room schools are now part of the past, but these stories are just as important to the town’s history as the structures themselves. Our interviews with former students, historians, and community leaders, along with historic photographs courtesy of the Norwich Historical Society, form the basis of a documentary film, Back to School: Lessons from Norwich’s One-room Schoolhouses, that will be broadcast on CATV. Visit HistoricNewEngland.org to view clips from the interviews and share your own school memories. —Ken Turino, Manager of Community Engagement and Exhibitions

New England’s Northernmost One-room Schoolhouses Historic New England awarded a 2014 Community Preservation Grant to the all-volunteer Presque Isle Historical Society in Maine to create an exhibition on the role of one-room schoolhouses and those who taught in them. Presque Isle is the largest city in geographically remote Aroostook County. Read about other grantees at HistoricNewEngland.org/CommunityPreservationGrants.

All historic photos courtesy of the Norwich Historical Society, Norwich, Vermont

put everything away, and then we started in on our assignments. It wasn’t like today, you jump around from here and there and sit where you want to. No, we sat in rows and all had our own seat. [And] when we had our work done we’d go and help the younger kids read.” Some students went home for lunch and others ate at school. Teachers might help warm soup in a jar on the stove or even heat a meal. Stanley Alfred Wallace of Beaver Meadow echoes a common schoolboy theme when he recalls that his favorite subject was recess. Rockcey Robinson Ruby of Root remembers the hijinks: “The boys were atrocious,” she says. Dan and Fred Smith, also of Root, bear this out when they remember putting tacks on a girl’s seat. “First thing I got in trouble on?” Fred searches his memory. “I was trying to put a girl’s pigtail in the inkwell.” Clearly, discipline was a necessary part of school life, but unlike today, it sometimes took the form of physical punishment. Ruby remembers her teacher Annie Bradley “would make [the boys] bend over the desk so their bottoms were in the air and she would whack them and whack them. Poor Annie, her face would get so red… but it really didn’t work, the punishment.” Students remember that although Bradley was tough, she also cared about the children and their families. Helen Smith (no relation to Dan and Fred) remembers the strong sense of community and how everyone looked after each other. She recalls that Bradley, knowing that the Smith family had no radio, called to tell them about the attack on Pearl Harbor in

“We usually had a week off in the spring, what they call mud season… it was a floating thing, it depended on what was going on.” —Alfred DeVaux, Pompanoosuc School (front row, fifth from left) Winter 2015 Historic New England

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S P O T L I G H T

This 1828 brick district schoolhouse in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, now a local history museum, far surpassed the norm for pre-reform schoolhouses. BELOW The 1839 Greek Revival Barnstable Academy typified reformers’ goals for improved design.

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Architecture for Education:

Improving the Little Red Schoolhouse

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urveying American schoolhouses in 1898, The School Journal commented, “The little red schoolhouse, in spite of the wealth of sentiment that gathers around it, is not exactly an up-to-date structure from an architectural and sanitary point of view.” That year the Journal sponsored a competition to improve one- and two-room schoolhouses, noting, “Certainly no subject more immediately concerns the educational public. Attractive school-houses will help to make good citizens.” In fact, educational reformers had been working for at least sixty years to correct deficiencies in the typical schoolhouse. The individual most often credited with spurring the movement to improve school architecture was Henry Barnard (1811–1900). A Yale-trained Connecticut

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lawyer and one-term legislator, he secured passage of a bill to improve school supervision and went on to a groundbreaking national career in education reform. The pivotal work in his distinguished and wide-ranging career was his 1838 treatise, School Architecture; or Contributions to the Improvement of School-Houses in the United States. In the passionate preface, Barnard laid out the problem: Go where [the author] would, in city or country, he encountered the district School-house, standing in disgraceful contrast with every other structure designed for public or domestic use. Its location, construction, furniture and arrangements, seemed intended to hinder, and not promote, to defeat and not perfect, the work which was to be carried out within and without its walls.


Barnard’s career dovetailed with that of pioneering Massachusetts educational theorist Horace Mann (1796– 1859), “father of the common school movement” for universal, non-sectarian, free public education. Under Barnard’s and Mann’s influence, New England was a focal point for school design as a reflection of educational theory and practice. Both men worked for the establishment of “common schools,” which sought to exert greater controls over public education at the state level, and thereby to establish higher standards and better conditions for teaching and learning. They looked to reform the old district schools, which, though mandated to provide rudimentary public education, were solely controlled by individual towns, often meaning that the schooling was of variable quality and duration, and generally poorly housed. As the editor of the Albany, New York, Common School Assistant opined in 1837, “The district school ought to be elevated till it is good enough to educate the Lawyer’s child, and then it will be good enough to educate every child in the district. In this republican government, there should be no distinctions.” Barnard’s book served as a pattern book or architectural guide for the design, construction, and fitting out of schoolhouses to suit the educational goals reformers like Mann advocated. School Architecture laid out detailed plans for school construction, covering everything from siting, grounds, building size, lighting, heating and ventilation, desks, and seating to teaching apparatus such as maps, charts, and globes, play areas, and, of course, blackboards, textbooks, clocks, and the teacher’s bell. Barnard included “arrangements which help to promote habits of order, and neatness,” such as cloak hooks, and that “secure cleanliness,” such as scrapers and mats for the feet and sinks and towels for hand-washing. Last but not least, schools had to provide separate “places of retirement for children of either sex” for the “offices of nature.” Barnard’s improvements to school architecture soon revealed themselves in the schools of the 1830s and ’40s. A pair of doors on the front elevation signaled separate entries for boys and girls, while a slender brick chimney at the roofline proclaimed the presence of a stove at the center of the room. The school itself remained ungraded with children of all ages and levels in a single room, but inside, the schoolroom took on a basic order and form, with aisles for the teacher to navigate among uniform rows of student desks and a platform from which to teach. Windows were arranged to allow a blank wall for the blackboard while still lighting the space and adding ventilation. Outdoors, privies were provided—disconnected from the play space if possible and with adequate privacy. As educational historian Charles Glenn sees it, the adoption of many of the common school movement’s goals

reflected not only a need to redress inadequacies in the district system, but also a fear of growing immigrant populations and the desire to assimilate those groups into American values. We can see these aspirations played out in the variety of architectural responses that shaped the one-room schoolhouse. Surviving one-room schoolhouses still dot the landscape throughout New England and beyond, in rural areas and in towns, appearing at crossroads and along country lanes. Their small size and quaint appearance make them excellent candidates for preservation and reuse as weekend getaways in country locations. In many communities, surviving district schoolhouses are unrecognizable, having been enlarged and assimilated into other buildings long ago. Still others live on as museums, though their minimal interior finishing, modest original construction, and lack of collections can present interpretive challenges. And, while evocative, they are also relatively numerous: in Massachusetts, upwards of 800 pre1860 public schools may still be standing, albeit in much altered condition. Despite the challenges of preserving and interpreting these not-quite-rare structures, one-room schoolhouses continue to evoke the optimism of a young democracy and its commitment to public education for all. —Sally Zimmerman Senior Preservation Services Manager

The dilapidated interior of this one-room school in Maine, depicted in an 1870s photograph, illustrates the conditions reformers sought to improve by enforcing uniform state standards.

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S T E W A R D S H I P

Although All Saints was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, the listing provides no local protection against demolition or insensitive alteration. The preservation restriction RIGHT

held by Historic New England addresses this vulnerability by protecting the church’s significant interior and exterior features.

All Saints, Ashmont:

Protecting a Modern Gothic Icon Reflecting almost forty years of Ralph Adams Cram’s architectural career as well as the emergence of a modern Gothic architecture and recognized as a high point in American ecclesiastical interior design, All Saints Church in Dorchester, Massachusetts, is an important recent addition to Historic New England’s Stewardship Easement Program.

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he Parish of All Saints was founded in 1867 as a mission for Dorchester’s industrial workers. The congregation grew quickly and in 1872 moved to a new wood-framed building on Washington Street. Several years later, Colonel Oliver and Mary Lothrop Peabody were hindered by snow en route from their home in Milton, Massachusetts, to their usual place of worship, King’s Chapel in Boston. They stopped at All Saints in Dorchester instead at the suggestion

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of their carriage driver. Moved by the sermon they heard that Sunday, the Peabodys became active members of the parish and eventually became the primary benefactors of a new, stone church building at 209 Ashmont Street, the construction of which spanned from 1892 to 1929. All Saints was the first major architectural commission of Ralph Adams Cram (1863–1942) of the firm Cram and Goodhue. Cram was only twentysix years old when he was hired at the Peabodys’ suggestion. Dissatisfied with

Victorian Gothic architecture, Cram sought to design a church building that would adapt medieval Gothic forms to the needs of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. He explained his effort to avoid merely imitating earlier Gothic features by saying, “It is art, not archaeology, that drives us.” Rather than re-creating earlier works, the young architect strove to develop a new work with its own artistic integrity, but based on Early English Gothic principles. The completed design for All Saints was a departure from the


classical forms that had pervaded American architecture throughout the nineteenth century and a masterwork in the revival of Gothic architecture. All Saints was quickly acknowledged as a national prototype for a modern American Gothic architectural style. All Saints was constructed in several stages, starting with the nave, chancel, and cloister in 1893. The tower and west and south porches were added in 1896, the parish house in 1906, the Lady Chapel in 1912, and the Chapel of Saint Stephen in 1929. While the earlier exterior portions of the building are unadorned, textured masses of Quincy granite with sandstone trim, Cram’s later additions include more ornamental detail. Nevertheless, the building’s simplicity of form and powerful massing were a bold departure from typical latenineteenth-century architecture. The interior was designed with the same simplicity as the exterior, in order to retain consistency throughout. Cram intentionally reversed the classic proportions of Gothic churches, creating narrow, dark side aisles with low ceilings that contrast with the nave, which

is brightly lit by elevated clerestory windows. In areas that required more ornamentation, Cram partnered with noted architectural artists: Charles J. Connick and others created stained glass windows; sculptor Domingo Mora carved the stone altar and reredos (also known as a retable); and Johannes Kirchmayer contributed carved oak paneling in the chancel, side altar, and Lady Chapel, depicting Gothic motifs and biblical scenes. By the time Cram completed his work on the building in 1929, All Saints was as distinguished as many prominent urban churches, despite its then-suburban location. Beginning in spring 2013, the Parish of All Saints, a church of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, undertook substantial repairs and restoration of the 120-year-old building with support from an anonymous donor. Work included repointing the entire exterior, updating heating and electrical systems, conserving the stained glass windows, chemically

stripping paint from interior masonry, constructing a new ADA-compliant ramp at the tower entrance and an elevator at the parish house, and replacing the deteriorated slate roof and flashing at the nave and tower. The parish worked with this donor to establish an endowment for future maintenance and also donated a perpetual preservation restriction to Historic New England. All Saints is the third ecclesiastical property protected by our Stewardship Easement Program, joining two in Boston: Old West Church (1806) and the Charles Street Meetinghouse (1804), both designed by Asher Benjamin. The preservation restriction donated by the parish assures that the rich legacy of the building and its connection to the surrounding community will continue for many years to come. —Carissa Demore Preservation Services Manager

All Saints Church was Ralph Adams Cram’s first major architectural commission. His later work included the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, Princeton University Chapel, and Cadet Chapel at the United States Military Academy at West Point. ABOVE The tower, which anchors the north end of the church, was completed in 1896 and houses the chime, manufactured in 1923 by McShane Bell Foundry of Baltimore, Maryland. The prominent tower and bell chime are both characteristic of English Gothic architecture. LEFT

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D E S I G N

Architectural Glass

Photographs Š 2013 Julie L. Sloan

at All Saints, Ashmont


The Risen Christ (attended by St. Peter and St. John the Evangelist) by Christopher Whall of London (1906–07) commissioned by Ralph Adams Cram for the north clerestory. BELOW, TOP Central light in the threelight Adoration of the Magi and Shepherds (1895–96) made by Harry Eldredge Goodhue in Horace Phipps’s Brookline, Massachusetts, studio. BELOW, BOTTOM Annunciation (1893) by Otto Heinigke of New York. FACING PAGE

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hat Ralph Adams Cram accomplished in ecclesiastical architecture in the United States beginning in the 1890s was a creative adaptation of Gothic forms. Modern Gothic architecture required modern craftsmen—glaziers, metalworkers, sculptors, woodcarvers––and Cram did more than any other architect of his generation in the United States to find, encourage, and provide work for such artists. It is largely due to Cram’s advocacy that twentieth-century stained glass windows were made in the United States using the materials and techniques of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and were considered appropriate and indeed sophisticated elements in a new architectural language based on medieval forms. Cram was particularly drawn to the stained glass craft and equally committed to finding qualified American glass craftsmen to design and make modern Gothic windows. He writes in his autobiography, “[W]e wanted to work with our own compatriots. I felt this particularly for I have always had a passion for stained glass….” The windows designed at All Saints, Ashmont, in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood, between 1893 and 1941 by Otto Heinigke, Harry Goodhue, Christopher Whall, and Charles J. Connick “take their place among the most distinguished glass in the city,” according to historian Douglass Shand-Tucci, and Ashmont was a key formative site for modern American Gothic glazing.

At the turn of the twentieth century, the glass used by virtually all American glaziers, including those who worked with Cram, was American opalescent glass invented by John La Farge in the 1870s and aggressively marketed by Louis Tiffany. Cram, his partners, and the artists they nurtured, however, rejected La Farge’s pictorial realism, and preferred to view windows as lighttransmitting, two-dimensional architectural elements in the wall. Heinigke wrote to architect Bertram Goodhue: “[O]ur windows of today…should not be pictures with painters’ effects. They should be pieces of architecture as much as the stone, copper or wood.” Cram and his collaborators valued the leading that held the pieces of glass together not because it delineated naturalistic shapes, but because it focused the light and sharpened the colors. This approach can be seen at All Saints, Ashmont, in Heinigke’s Annunciation (1893) and Harry Goodhue’s Adoration of the Magi and Shepherds (1895–96). The rejection of academic Classicism by Cram and his Boston colleagues suggests the influence of William Morris, both through his writings and through three major stained glass windows designed by Edward Burne-Jones and made by Morris & Company: the threelancet North Transept window (1880) and the Baptistry window (1882) in Trinity Church, Boston, and Justice and Humility (1883) in the Church of Our Saviour, Brookline, Massachusetts. Morris’s writings on stained glass, in particular “Glass, Painted or Stained” Winter 2015 Historic New England

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Details of St. Agnes (1920, bottom) and St. John the Evangelist (1941, top) from a set of six two-light aisle windows depicting biblical figures and Christian saints created by Charles J. Connick of Boston, 1920–1941. BELOW

(1890) noted, “any departure from the medieval method of production in this art will only lead us astray.” Cram wrote that the work of Morris and Burne-Jones was “medieval in its suggestion, yet it is in no way an imitation…. It is the immutable ideal expressed through modern methods” and Heinigke noted that “the strong old work is today called archaic and medieval and out-ofdate; yet the formulas…are as true now as when they were invented.” The revitalization of medieval glassmaking was stimulated by Morris’s revival of medieval crafts and craftsmanship in what came to be known as the Arts and Crafts movement. His glassmaking partnership with Burne-Jones inspired English stained glass artists like Christopher Whall, who in turn influenced Americans like Connick, Goodhue, and Heinigke. Cram visited Gloucester Cathedral in England and saw a series of windows by Whall begun in 1898 in the Lady Chapel, windows that Cram characterized as “extraordinary new glass…at the same time perfectly Medieval and perfectly Modern.” Shortly after Whall opened his own studio in London in 1906, Cram commissioned The Risen Christ (1906–07) for the north clerestory of All Saints, Ashmont, across from Goodhue’s Adoration. It was the third permanent window in the church. Immediately thereafter Cram commissioned five clerestory windows from Whall for the Church of the Advent, Boston, installed between October 1907 and December 1909. Whall authority Peter Cormack observes that “Cram’s intention in commissioning these five lancets, as well as the earlier Ashmont window, was to set forth definite exemplars 12

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of the best modern glass, thereby giving inspiration and guidance to the emerging school of American designers and craftsmen.” Whall is recognized as the leading English Arts and Crafts glazier and his book, Stained Glass Work: A Text-book for Students and Workers in Glass (1905), is considered the definitive Arts and Crafts glass textbook.

Find an expanded version of this article, suggestions for further reading, and more images at HistoricNewEngland.org/StainedGlass.

Whall criticized the Renaissance-derived desire to turn windows into naturalistic pictures: “Keep your pictures for the walls and your windows for the holes in them.” Charles J. Connick, trained in Pittsburgh, was working in Boston when he met Cram in 1909 and received the commission for a window at a Brookline parish also called All Saints. It was also about 1909 that Connick saw the Whall windows in the Church of the Advent, which he described as “sections of glass glowing serenely and beautifully in light.” Connick’s fee for the Brookline window allowed him to travel to England and France for five months. He visited Whall at his studio and they kept in touch until Whall’s death in 1924. Whall’s influence can be seen in Connick’s brilliant aisle windows (and St. Stephen’s window in the chapel) at Ashmont. “Whall’s…use of ‘staggered’ solder-joints…is also a regular feature of Connick’s windows, and one which he seems to have found particularly inspiring. It is at least partly the origin of that rhythmic use of leading which gives his windows of the late 1920s and the 1930s their quasimusical syncopated or ‘swinging character,’” writes Cormack. Connick wrote: “Ancient windows taught me that light changes constantly, and that a window balanced in light, is more like music than it is like any sort of picture. It sings in the light, and I learned to listen to the shifting colors in glowing windows, much as I learned to listen to vibrant sounds in music.” —Albert M. Tannler Historical Collections Director, Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation


L O O K I N G

A H E A D

The Making of a

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wo years ago in the Winter/ Spring 2013 issue of Historic New England magazine, President and CEO Carl R. Nold introduced the Eustis Estate and shared his vision to create a historic site with engaging public programs and a study center for advancing scholarship in historic landscapes, architecture, and interiors. How do we transform a home lived in by the same family for more than 130 years into a museum? It begins with a strong vision that is realized through creative thinking, careful planning, and collaboration. Historic New England purchased the Eustis Estate in 2012. Located

At our August 2014 summer staff outing, Historic New England colleagues enjoy their first visit to the Eustis Estate. RIGHT The grand staircase and a wheelchair lift will lead to a second-floor public resource room and bedrooms transformed into exhibition gallery space. LEFT

Museum

in Milton, Massachusetts, the nearly eighty-acre estate borders Blue Hills Reservation, creating an astonishing oasis of green space only a few miles from downtown Boston. The main house was built in 1878 and designed by noted architect and Milton resident William Ralph Emerson, who is known for designing in the Shingle Style. The Eustis Estate main house is Queen Anne Style, with a stone exterior and distinctive decorative bricks and timbers. The property offers rich opportunities for study, and we’ve just scratched the surface. Much early information has been gathered through oral histories. The Eustis family remained at the estate for two years following Historic New England’s purchase. During this time, staff members interviewed them discovering details such as how afternoon tea was enjoyed near the parlor’s heated tile hearth, where the family put their Christmas tree, and when the dark walls were repainted to brighten the spaces.

Upon the family’s departure, planning has accelerated. A project team is in place, site conditions have been assessed, a cultural landscape analysis is concluded, and design and construction documents are in development. We’ve completed nomination materials and secured an initial determination of eligibility for a proposed National Register Historic District. Meanwhile, we’re defining the visitor experience, from the best pedestrian paths through the landscape to tour content and exhibition design. We’ll keep you updated as we move closer to sharing this extraordinary new historic site with members and the public. —Diane Viera Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

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O N L I N E

A C C E S S

FACING PAGE

Orders from Paul Revere and Colonel Samuel Pierce, April 3, 1778. FACING PAGE, BOTTOM LEFT

Colonel Pierce’s diary.

Among Historic New England’s archives are twenty-six collections of family papers—most of which directly relate to our thirty-six properties— that offer a wealth of information on the social, cultural, economic, and agricultural history of New England and its place in U.S. history. Project archivist Bridgette Woodall shares some of the stories she encountered while working with the collections.

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Seeing the World through New England’s Eyes

ithin the Pierce family papers, a nondescript pocket diary, weather-beaten and water-spotted, sits humbly in a box. The writing is small. One entry reads: “Sheared my sheep.” Another: “I began to graft Apple Trees.” Yet another: “I began to sow barley.” Obviously the diary of a farmer. But on April 19, 1775, a different entry appears: “this Day there was a terrible battle at Lexinton & Concord between our People and the Soldiers which marcht out of Boston the Soldiers fird on our People and then the Battle Began & there was about 40 of our People kild & 190 of the Soldiers as near as could be Recolected.” This diary belonged to landowner Samuel Pierce Jr. (1739–1815) of Dorchester, Massachusetts, a colonel in the King’s militia (a post from which Pierce resigned in order to join the Massachusetts militia and the fight for independence). Pierce took part alongside Colonel Henry Knox in the Battle of Dorchester Heights, a decisive skirmish that successfully drove the

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British forces out of Boston on March 17, 1776 (Evacuation Day) and pushed the American Revolution forward. Pierce’s unassuming diary is interspersed with his observations surrounding the events of the American Revolution, including a first-hand account of the Boston Massacre and commentaries regarding the Intolerable Acts. Photographs and ephemera from the Bowen family papers reveal the instrumental role of Henry Chandler Bowen (1813–1896) in reviving Independence Day as a patriotic holiday. Faces of the post–Civil War era peer back from photographs of spectacular Fourth of July celebrations at the family’s summer home, Roseland Cottage, in Woodstock, Connecticut. From 1870 until his death, Bowen hosted some of the largest Fourth of July parties in the nation there. Every year, he erected a giant American flag on the front lawn, sent elaborate invitations, and entertained notable guests. Four U.S. presidents can be glimpsed in these photographs: Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Harrison, Rutherford B. Hayes,


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Fourth of July at Roseland Cottage, Woodstock, Connecticut. Back row, fourth from right, Henry C. Bowen; seated in front of Bowen between two men holding hats is President William ABOVE

and William McKinley. Julia Ward Howe, author of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” also makes an appearance. Other important guests attending the festivities included Henry Ward Beecher, John C. Fremont, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. Bowen was a businessman and entrepreneur. He founded the Independent newspaper (which disseminated Congregational values) and the Continental Insurance Company. An early supporter of Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party, he risked everything and was widely ridiculed when he denounced the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Newspaper clippings and a simple letter to his children regarding his opposition to slavery are safely preserved within the collection. Casey Farm in Saunderstown, Rhode Island, yields meticulous records of the farm’s daily operations, as well as some of the professional papers of Thomas Lincoln Casey (1831–1896). In 1876, when the federal government assumed responsibility for the completion of the Washington Monument, Casey, a lieutenant colonel in the Army Corps of Engineers, was placed in charge of the project. Casey also oversaw the construction of the State, War, and Navy Building and the Library of Congress. 16

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McKinley. ABOVE Invitation to an 1891 celebration at Roseland Cottage. BELOW Miss Mary Tucker in the play Darkest Russia, as published in the Biddeford Record, Biddeford, Maine.

Following the August 2011 earthquake that struck Washington, D.C., and weakened the Washington Monument, structural engineers and architects from Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc. consulted Casey’s documents in Historic New England’s Library and Archives to guide their assessment of the monument’s structural stability. Castle Tucker in Wiscasset, Maine, provides a bountiful source of letters that reveal the everyday lives of women in Victorian America. The letters of three sisters who came of age in the last quarter of the nineteenth century speak to a time when middle-class women were increasingly able to find paid employment—although few did except in cases of extreme financial hardship. A severe recession in the 1890s meant that the Tucker sisters had to earn their own livelihoods; they were also committed as much as possible to


helping their mother, Mollie, keep the family home. Mary Tucker traveled with a series of theater companies, including the Buffalo Bill Combination. Patty Tucker Stapleton (using the name Patience Stapleton) wrote for national magazines and published a number of novels and short stories. Jane Tucker traveled across the country selling corsets and McCall’s patterns, worked in department stores, taught decorative painting, and raised squabs for the restaurant trade. She even went undercover as a spy in a convent for “fallen women” to gather evidence in the trial of a congressman being sued by his mistress (see “Jane Armstrong Tucker, Girl Spy,” Historic New England, Fall 2012). All three women regularly wrote to their mother to share their successes, failures, and stories of daily life in places often quite distant from their childhood home in midcoast Maine. Many other treasures of regional and national signifi-

cance lie within these twenty-six collections of family papers. They include the family papers of architect Walter Gropius (founder of the Bauhaus school), the personal correspondence of author Sarah Orne Jewett, and the professional papers of statesman and real estate developer Harrison Gray Otis. We have legal and financial papers documenting the business dealings of the Coffin family, who were responsible for bringing to America Chang and Eng Bunker, the famous “Siamese Twins” and one-time partners with showman P. T. Barnum. The correspondence between architect Ogden Codman Jr. and author Edith Wharton highlights their collaborative work on the 1897 influential and still in-print publication The Decoration of Houses. And the political correspondence between Stephen Henry Phillips and King Kamehameha V during Phillips’s tenure as attorney general to the Kingdom of Hawaii (1866–1873) puts the final years of the Kamehameha Dynasty in an international context. Preserving nearly 1,400 linear feet of letters, diaries, photographs, account books, land deeds, site plans, legal documents, and ephemera is no small task. Library and Archives staff, volunteers, and interns reassessed and processed the collections, which required establishing or updating the arrangement, description, and housing of archival materials for storage and use by patrons. We created digital finding aids that describe the records, give the repository physical and intellectual control over the materials, and assist users’ access to and understanding of the materials. We double-checked facts, did background research, deciphered handwritten notations, reunited materials that had been dispersed, and more. In the end, sixteen legacy finding aids were updated, finding aids to ten unprocessed collections were completed, and twenty-six collections are now searchable via online finding aids. Thanks to generous funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, the Bedford Family Foundation, and an anonymous foundation, researchers from across the country and around the world now have better access to these voices from the past, all eagerly waiting to share their stories. —Bridgette A. Woodall, Project Archivist, Library and Archives Print of Chang and Eng Bunker, Siamese conjoined twins, and the agreement between Charles Harris and Susan (Hale) Coffin regarding the care of the twins upon their arrival in America. LEFT

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E M E R G I N G

V O I C E S

Former Historic New England intern Jared Walske is completing a dual degree LEFT

program in Library and Information Science Archives (MS) and History (MA) at Simmons College’s School of Library and Information Science.

Foreseeing a Future in Protecting the Past

M

y initial contact with Historic New England happened unexpectedly, but had a profound effect on me. My high school curriculum required that I find a week-long internship each January. Some family members suggested Historic New England and I was able to set up an internship with Lorna Condon, senior curator of Library and Archives. The project for that week was simple: re-sleeve a series of glass plate negatives from the turn of the twentieth century. Prior to that week, I didn’t know that glass plate negatives even existed and I thought it was cool that I was able to look at and handle these artifacts that were so fragile and could easily have been destroyed long ago. It also helped foster my interest in history, as it was fascinating to have a glimpse into the period in which these plates were made.

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This experience led to a number of important developments in my life. I interned at Historic New England many more times in the following years, where I processed more glass plate negatives as well as photographic collections, scrapbooks, blueprints, books, and manuscripts. I was inspired to work at similar archives at WGBH in Boston and the Natick (Massachusetts) Historical Society, where I worked with correspondence and legal documents for companies and societies both past and present. My archives experience helped me decide to major in history at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, and to apply to the library science graduate program at Simmons College in Boston, where I’m currently finishing a dual degree in archiving and history. I’ve discovered how much I enjoy working with cultural materials, which is a field I hope to continue working in.

Working at Historic New England let me explore topics I was interested in and see how the physical items associated with those topics are preserved. Being able to view and handle the older materials was a thrill. I saw how important the preservation aspect of archives is and that they are more than just a repository for neat old stuff. Even more than my interest in history, this is what made me want to work in archives professionally. Being able to help items survive the many dangers that they can face appealed to me and helped solidify my interest in archival work. Regardless of what institutions I end up working at, I’ll always cherish how Historic New England helped me understand both how fun archives can be and how important they are. —Jared Walske Simmons College, School of Library and Information Science


H O U S E

S T O RY

Photographs by Olivia Gatti

Preserving Seven Generations of Change at Jackson House

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ichard Jackson, a shipbuilder and cooper by trade, built his four-room house in 1664 on a hillside overlooking the north mill pond in what is now Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Constructed only thirty-four years after and one mile west of Strawbery Banke, the oldest European settlement in New Hampshire, Jackson’s little house on a hill would eventually shelter seven successive generations of Jacksons. Brickyards and shipyards would arise along the riverbank below them and then fall in ruin; apple orchards would grow and be hewn down. Winter 2015 Historic New England

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Jackson House is one of the oldest existing examples of timber-framed colonial construction, which was an adaptation of English medieval vernacular architecture. ABOVE, LEFT The original structure, constructed in 1664, is in the center with

the 1760s shop on the right and the 1810 parlor on the left. ABOVE, RIGHT This c. 1932 postcard of Jackson House shows both the 1810 parlor and the rear lean-to with its distinctive sloping roof.

And just as the Jackson family lived, Jackson House also lived, growing as the family grew, changing as the world around it changed. About fifty years after the house’s construction, the Jacksons built a long lean-to with a distinctive sloping roof at the rear of the house for extra kitchen and storage space. Around the same time, one of the upstairs chambers was divided by the terms of a will to provide permanent accommodation for a disabled son. In the 1760s they built an addition on the northeast end to serve as a shop, which was later separated into two rooms, and in 1810 they added a third and final addition, a parlor on the southwest side of the house. Each generation augmented or divided space as needed, and by 1893 the simple house that Richard Jackson built had achieved such a picturesque appearance that it captured the imaginations of all who saw it. Among these visitors was a college freshman from Boston who would later recall “liking the place very much in a perfectly ignorant way.” When next he visited Jackson House, thirty years later, it was as its prospective owner, and it is thanks to him that Jackson House survives to tell its many-faceted story of growth and change. This young visiting scholar was William Sumner Appleton, who would go on to found the Society for the Preservation of New England

Antiquities, now Historic New England. Appleton purchased the house in 1924 from Nathaniel Jackson, the sixth Jackson of that name to inhabit the house, with funds gifted to the organization by an anonymous donor. As soon as the organization took possession, Appleton began to remedy conditions that were contributing to the house’s noticeable deterioration. He rebuilt the stone wall in the rear lean-to in an effort to solve a persistent drainage problem and re-shingled the roof. He rebuilt chimneys that were falling in and replaced decaying sills. In all cases, he treated the ancient nature of the house with respect, replacing materials in kind and doing as much as he could to ensure that the repairs resembled the original design of the house. This conservative approach to preservation would ensure that Jackson House remained as a living testament to the many hands that had molded, added to, and changed the structure over time. When encouraged by many to remove the addition on the southwest side of the house, Appleton declined, feeling instinctively that this would be a wrong approach to the preservation of the property. Similarly, in 1932 after the bulk of his work at Jackson House had been completed, he was asked why he had refused to remove the later partition from one of the upstairs chambers. “This seemed to me a most unwise proceeding,” he responded,

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“for the reason that if I should I would have had to destroy much interesting old work and should have substituted for it a new wall on this staircase and entry. Why, even were this new wall built of old stock, it would still remain mine, and I much prefer the interesting alteration made by long-dead generations of Jacksons. Their work was very good and the best I could have done would have been of vastly inferior interest in comparison.” It was this desire not only to protect what remained of the original structure, but also to respect that buildings grow and change over time that continues to shape Historic New England’s preservation philosophy. Each addition, each partition or alteration, is a part of living history and is as worthy of preservation as is the work of the original builder. As Appleton himself said, “I have always felt that there is something to be said in favor of showing these rooms as they are modified by later generations instead of always scrapping this later work in order to show our idea of what the original was like.” Today, Historic New England practices a similar philosophy, treating each project independently but retaining as much as possible the overall history of each property, in all of its layers. Though conservative, Appleton’s approach to restoration did allow for each instance of repair to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. While all three of the later additions to the property were preserved, the nineteenth-century windows

that had been added to the front facade were removed and replaced with replicas of seventeenth-century diamond-paned casement windows. A later critic would call these “newold windows,” but Appleton defended his preservation decision: “[The change is] merely a detail of repair, for the present frames, sashes, etc. are all late 19th century work and would have to be scrapped anyway in the process of repair, and might as well be replaced by something approximating the original style.” In the vast majority of cases, however, Appleton remained true to his belief that Jackson House was “one of those best left showing the course of its evolution.” Nathaniel Jackson expressed the opinion in 1924 that there was “nothing beautiful about the old house, [for] it was built at a time when our forefathers thought more about shelter and refuge from the Indians than they did about ornamentation.” There are few who would agree with this sentiment now, for it is just this connection

“Why, even were this new wall built of old stock, it would still remain mine, and I much prefer the interesting alteration made by long-dead generations of Jacksons.”

The east room of the 1760s shop as photographed in 1930 after Appleton’s restoration. RIGHT

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with the earliest beginnings of our country and with preceding generations of his family that have made Jackson House, with its massive hand-hewn beams, enormous center chimney, and many unique additions, so worthy of interest. It stands today as the oldest extant timberframed house in New Hampshire. Thanks to Appleton, it stands also as a testament to the lives of the seven generations of Jacksons who once inhabited it. —Sarah Bell Undergradutate Research Fellow, Columbia University Sarah Bell researched Jackson House as part of an internship with Historic New England in summer 2014. The center staircase of the oldest part of the structure provides access to the north and south chambers above. LEFT, TOP Appleton removed a later ceiling to reveal the joists above as they would originally have been open to view. LEFT, CENTER Appleton used diamondpane casement windows to replace the damaged nineteenth-century windows of the front facade. LEFT, BOTTOM Richard Jackson's 1664 house was built with a garret, shown here, as were each of the three additions. ABOVE

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P R E S E R V AT I O N

M A I N T E N A N C E

When a Lean-to Leans Too Far

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hen analyzing a property care issue, we try to determine the underlying cause of the problem. Understanding the evolution of a building informs our approach to a repair. The lean-to at Jackson House creates a sweeping roofline that extends to a point just above grade at the rear of the house. This iconic feature of the house also causes a significant and long-standing drainage issue. A recent conditions assessment revealed that the lean-to is, in fact, not connected to the building at the top where it normally would be tied into the roof structure, nor at the bottom where it might be tied into the sill. The only actual connection point is at the second floor. The roof’s sheathing boards are the only thing tying the top of the structure into the main body and the back end of the lean-to is essentially laid on top of a rubble stone retaining wall that is buckling from frost heave. These conditions have started to torque the lean-to and it is pulling away from the building. A review of the historical record doesn’t reveal much about this odd construction technique, but a 1949 reference noted that the lean-to was “braced and supported” as it had begun to lean away from the house. The retaining wall, however, has been a problem for Historic New England since we acquired the house. The drainage on the outside of the wall was addressed in various ways in 1924, 1952, 1966, and 2005 but none of these repairs resolved the problem. Research does not give us all the answers but it is a valuable starting point. We know there was a previous effort to

Your support of the Preservation Maintenance Fund makes this work possible. Read about other projects and make a donation at HistoricNewEngland.org/PMF.

brace the lean-to rafters, and so the situation we see at the second floor could actually have been successfully stabilized in 1949. Because nothing else appears drastically out of place, we installed monitors to confirm if there is any movement. Instead of leaping into a repair of the retaining wall, we need to learn what we can from past drainage efforts and perhaps design a new intervention using the knowledge of where past attempts have failed. These types of projects are not always obvious to visitors, but they’re critical to the preservation of our properties. Jackson House is more than 350 years old; it’s worth taking the time to thoroughly analyze its repair history and make sure any additional work will help the structure last well into the future. —Benjamin Haavik Team Leader, Property Care The lean-to garret in 1924. The rafters on the roof don’t connect to the structure. BOTTOM This 1922 photograph shows Jackson House’s iconic roofline. TOP

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Off the Walls Inspired by the largest wallpaper collection in New England Bring patterns of the past into your home or office. Shop a selection of coasters, magnets, and note paper at HistoricNewEngland.org/shop.

Make Your Celebration Truly Historic

Photography © BrianPhillipsPhoto.com

Start planning an event that’s as unique as you are. Historic New England can host any celebration, from an intimate dinner to a full-blown fete, at many of our properties across the region. Contact us at 617-994-6671 or Functions@HistoricNewEngland.org.

At the Lyman Estate in Waltham, Massachusetts, you and your guests will enjoy the grandeur of a Federal mansion on thirty-seven acres, with an elegant ballroom and veranda overlooking manicured lawns and perennial gardens.

“[The staff] were phenomenally helpful before and during the wedding.” “The size of the house gave us a lot of room to play with, so we were able to offer our guests much more than we might have otherwise.” “This was the perfect, most picturesque place to get married!”


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AT

W O R K

Increasing Our Commitment to Collections Care

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ith more than 110,000 objects and 1.2 million archival documents, Historic New England preserves a record of New Englanders’ lives through objects from the luxurious to the everyday. Sustainable and reliable temperature and humidity controls, state-of-theart photography and scanning equipment, an energy-efficient carbon dioxide fumigation system, and a highly trained staff are just some of the elements required to preserve these materials and make them accessible to audiences in person and online. New acquisitions are cleaned and conserved. Objects are carefully treated before traveling in exhibitions at major museums throughout the country. Historic New England is embarking on several projects that will improve our ability to care for these collections and make it easier than ever to share them with audiences worldwide.

Collections Care Project Our largest undertaking will provide significant upgrades to our 142,000-square-foot collections storage in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund are supporting the project and require us to raise matching funds. Wallpaper Cataloguing and Digitization After extensive cataloguing and digitization, funded in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Historic New England launched an expanded online database for its renowned wallpaper collection, one of the largest in the country. Visitors can explore 6,000 samples from woodblock prints to William Morris designs to Waterhouse reproductions to learn how styles of the past can inform trends of today and get ideas for their own homes.

Irving and Casson–A. H. Davenport Company Digitization Project Historic New England recently acquired significant collections relating to influential furniture makers Irving and Casson–A. H. Davenport Company. We have begun creating detailed digital records, including highresolution photographs of watercolors, design sketches, scrapbooks, and photograph albums. More than 8,000 digital images, a collection finding aid, and catalogue records will be available on our website in fall 2015. “Keep Calm and Move the Collections” is the motto for staff volunteers on Ceramics Cleaning Day, part of phase II of the Collections Care Project. ABOVE

Support the ongoing preservation of these treasures with a gift to the Collections and Conservation Fund. Visit www.historicnewengland.org/CCF, email Development@HistoricNewEngland.org, or call 617-994-5951.

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Color images courtesy of the author

Venice in Boston: Wall Murals at the Ames-Webster Mansion


H I D D E N

T R E A S U R E S

Benjamin-Constant in his studio in the rue Pigalle, Paris, c. 1890. CENTER John Hubbard Sturgis’s renovation of 1882 is commemorated in a plaster cartouche on the facade of the Ames-Webster Mansion. RIGHT 306 Dartmouth Street (c. 1875), detail from a photograph taken from the Brattle Street (First Baptist) Church tower.

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he port cities of Venice and Boston, despite being more than 5,000 miles apart, share

a surprising number of similarities: rich maritime legacies, famous academic institutions, traditions of religious freedom, robust publishing industries, seafood cuisine, and even distinctive accents. Nineteenth-century Bostonians, such as John Singer Sargent, James McNeill Whistler, and Isabella Stewart Gardner, regularly traveled to Venice for business, art, and leisure. A number of period buildings in Boston reflect strong Venetian influence, including the courtyard of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the Venetian Lobby of the Boston Public Library, and the facade of the Boston Athenaeum.

The two Venetian murals and the four Byzantine murals by Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant just below the skylight by American artist John La Farge. Two wooden loggias face each FACING PAGE

other, allowing musicians to play on one side and guests to peer down the stairwell (or up at the murals) on the other.

Courtesy of the Print Department, Boston Public Library

Courtesy of the Archives of American Arts, Smithsonian Institution

LEFT

The city’s Back Bay neighborhood harbors another monument to Venice, one largely unknown today. The AmesWebster Mansion at 306 Dartmouth Street was commissioned by industrialist Frederick Lothrop Ames (1835–1892) in 1872 and radically redesigned in 1882 during the height of the Renaissance Revival. Although the building itself is Queen Anne Style, lining its three-story staircase are two splendid murals known as The Venetian Cycle. French artist Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant (1845– 1902) painted the murals in 1889–90 in the style of Paolo Veronese, the late-Renaissance artist renowned for his use of color and his imaginative groupings of figures. The images do not portray specific people, but rather archetypes of Venetian and Muslim nobility, engaged in diplomacy and statecraft. Above these two horizontal murals, in a nod to the prehistory of Venice, are four large portraits of Byzantine historical figures from Late Antiquity, called The Byzantine Cycle. In an undated letter to Ames’s wife, Rebecca, Benjamin-Constant explained his rationale for linking Byzantium and Venice: “As to the ceiling […] I have used the gold in mosaic to lighten the vault. This brought me to compose in the Byzantine style. But Byzance [sic] and Venice go hand in hand.” The dominant figure in The Byzantine Cycle is the Emperor Justinian, flanked by the Empress Theodora. Winter 2015 Historic New England

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The lower section of the west elevation shows a procession of the doge of Venice and his counselors, receiving homage from two Ottoman figures bowing before him. They are surrounded by a fictive conglomeration of Venetian architecture redolent of the area around Piazza San Marco. Above them is a portrait of a Byzantine patrician woman. ABOVE, BOTTOM The east elevation shows the procession of the dogaressa (wife of the doge) of Venice and her ladies, accompanied by three young girls. All of them follow the so-called “Master of the Palace” and an unidentified Ottoman figure wearing a turban and grasping the pommel of a sword. Above them is a portrait of the Empress Theodora. ABOVE, TOP

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Another imposing couple adorns the two remaining walls: a scribe described by Benjamin-Constant as the “First Counsellor of the State” and a woman noted simply as a “Patrician Woman.” American artist John La Farge contributed five exquisite examples of stained glass, including a superb angel inspired by seventeenth-century artist Guercino in the domed skylight just above the murals. Although most of La Farge’s stained glass was removed from the house by prior owners, the skylight, framed by the Venetian and Byzantine murals, remains in situ 125 years later. The murals reflect the Renaissance Revival movement that swept through America’s elite during the late nineteenth century. Similar examples can be found in the “cottages” of Newport, Rhode Island, such as The Elms and Marble House, or in the opulent urban palaces of New York. Frederick Lothrop Ames was Boston’s wealthiest man at the time of his unexpected death in 1892, according to his New York Times obituary, and he modeled himself on the even grander examples of the Morgans, Rockefellers, and Vanderbilts. The period from 1880 to 1925, sometimes called the American Renaissance, witnessed profound transformations in how Americans viewed themselves and their place in the world. Driven by the twin engines of industrial capitalism at home and neo-imperialism abroad, Americans felt a renewed national self-confidence and a certainty that their culture was the heir to the great civilizations of the past. This confidence often manifested itself in the desire to acquire European symbols of cultural excellence. Wealthy Americans like Isabella Stewart Gardner, Payne Whitney, and William Randolph Hearst used their vast fortunes to purchase paintings, sculptures, manuscripts, and other objets d’art for their public and private collections. Some of these treasures were kept in private “plutocratic palaces” designed to resemble the great villas of Republican Rome and Renaissance Florence; some became the cornerstones of important public institutions like the Boston Public Library and


the Metropolitan Museum of Art. These so-called robber barons, who would become the greatest philanthropists in modern American history, perceived themselves as temporary stewards of wealth and culture with a responsibility to uplift American society. Frederick Ames considered himself part of the same tradition. Mark Twain famously called this period the Gilded Age, an apt term to describe the acquisition of cultural capital from the Old World and its conspicuous consumption in the New World. From armchair tourists to serious scholars, late-nineteenth-century Americans were fascinated with the golden age of the Renaissance. Venice and Florence held a particular allure on account of their republican forms of government, reputation for cultural innovation, and economic success. The professors, philanthropists, artists, architects, and businessmen of Boston participated actively in this socalled Renaissance Revival, with the Ames-Webster Mansion being one example among many. The Ames-Webster Mansion was expanded in 1882 by John Hubbard Sturgis, a British-trained architect who had worked with his brother-in-law, Ogden Codman Sr., two decades earlier to renovate “The Grange,” Historic New England’s Codman House in Lincoln, Massachusetts. Sturgis reoriented the mansion to face Dartmouth Street and added a monumental tower, large front hall, and porte cochere, as well as a glass conservatory—all of which remain in place today. A year earlier, in 1881, Sturgis had written to his wife Frances Codman Sturgis from England, noting that “I had a letter from Ames today asking me to…find something nice for the house,” and indicating his intention to travel to London to look for tapestries and other decorations. Sturgis was a well-known architect in Boston, but it is curious that Ames did not choose his close friend from college, H. H. Richardson, to be the architect of this grand house. Richardson’s reputation for being difficult to work with and his preference for institutional rather than residential projects may have been factors. Although Sturgis appears to have finished his work on the house in 1882–83, Benjamin-Constant completed his murals in 1889–90. An article in The Illustrated American in 1892 observed that the artist had recently completed “an important decorative work” in his Paris studio, intended for the house of Frederick L. Ames of Boston, and then describes The Venetian Cycle in detail. Benjamin-Constant had made his name painting large, imaginative canvases drawn from his own experience traveling in North Africa in the 1860s and ’70s, but by the time he worked for Ames, the artist had shifted primarily to portrait painting. His clients were the European aristocracy, especially in England, although he also painted portraits for American tycoons such as Anthony Drexel of Philadelphia and Jay Gould of New York. The subject of Venice was an unusual one for Benjamin-Constant;

he did only four other images of the city. Most of them feature a juxtaposition of figures in what he believed to be Venetian and Moorish dress, just as we see in the AmesWebster murals. The Venetian and Byzantine murals at the Ames-Webster Mansion are among the earliest examples of mural painting in America, and can be profitably studied in conjunction with those by John LaFarge at Boston’s Trinity Church or by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes at the Boston Public Library. This is the only set of wall paintings that Benjamin-Constant ever completed in the United States. Immediately following his commission for Ames, the artist returned to Paris and decorated the ceiling of the Hotel de Ville and the OperaComique. Frederick Ames died unexpectedly in 1892; BenjaminConstant also died unexpectedly, just one decade later in 1902. The mural cycle that the two men created, however, has endured into the twenty-first century. The murals, and the opulent setting in which they are embedded, remain as a reflection of the optimism and wealth that characterized American society at the end of the nineteenth century. —Christopher Carlsmith Department of History, University of Massachusetts-Lowell AUTHOR’S ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance of Carol Lloyd and Ted Raymond, photographer Benn Craig, and architect Kahlil Hamady, as well as the support of the Ames family and of the current owner of the Ames-Webster Mansion.

The Ames-Webster Mansion c. 1895, after John Hubbard Sturgis’s expansion.

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M E M B E R

S P O T L I G H T

Earle G. Shettleworth Jr.

A Lifelong Passion for Preservation Shettleworth’s many gifts to Historic New England include BELOW Capital from the Governor Hutchinson House in Milton, Massachusetts. Given in honor of Abbott Lowell Cummings. FACING PAGE, TOP Architectural drawing by John Calvin Stevens (1855–1940) for a Maine cottage, 1888. FACING PAGE, BOTTOM Pastel drawing by William Ralph Emerson (1833– 1917), architect of Historic New England’s Eustis Estate in Milton, Massachusetts, c. 1895.

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n 1960, eleven-year-old Portland, Maine, native Earle Shettleworth’s grammar school was slated for demolition. With a maturity far beyond his years, he made an appointment to speak with former Maine Governor Percival Baxter to request saving the building. Although the school did not survive, a lifelong friendship was formed that day between a precocious preservationist in the making and a seasoned politician who recognized in the young boy signs of the profound impact he would one day have on Maine.

Today Earle Grey Shettleworth Jr. is the longest-serving state historic preservation officer in the country (appointed in 1976) and the official historian of the State of Maine. He is a nationally respected architectural historian, a pioneer of model preservation practices, and a scholar and antiquarian who has collected countless objects documenting the history of the Pine Tree State. The recipient of honorary degrees from Bowdoin College and the Maine College of Art, Shettleworth travels from Kittery to Fort Kent giving numer-


ous lectures on Maine history and architecture. A featured guest on public television, Shettleworth is known to many Mainers simply as Earle. In 2014 Shettleworth celebrated his fiftieth anniversary as a member of Historic New England (formerly the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, SPNEA), the organization atop a long list of memberships on his résumé. It was a 1964 meeting with then–assistant director of SPNEA Abbott Lowell Cummings that broadened his view of preservation. “My Portland friend Christopher Monkhouse [now the Eloise W. Martin chair and curator of European decorative arts at the Art Institute of Chicago] shared my passion for Maine architecture and history. He was already an SPNEA member and invited me to join him for a visit to Boston. I was fifteen years old; Christopher was a year older. We arrived at Otis House and Abbott bounded down the stairs toward us, began talking about the Society with such enthusiasm and, well, I was hooked. And to this day Abbott is my pied piper and my mentor.” The more Shettleworth learned about the preservation philosophy of SPNEA’s founder, William Sumner Appleton, the more he understood the importance of objects as documents giving context to the past. “Appleton was a visionary, systematically practicing preservation through documentation,” says Shettleworth. “From 1910 to 1947 he built the core of the collections, showing how New England history can be taught through surviving objects. This is basically what I had been doing in my own childish way—collecting Maine objects, postcards, and stereo views to preserve pieces of the state’s past. When I discovered the Society I found validation for what I’d been doing since childhood. I can’t tell you how important that was for me.” In 1970, after attending Colby

College, Shettleworth turned to Cummings for graduate school advice. He enrolled in the American and New England Studies Program at Boston University and was awarded the first SPNEA fellowship. At the same time Cummings hired Shettleworth as a cataloguer. Earle remembers the 1970s as a golden age at SPNEA. “Aside from working with Abbott, I had the good fortune to work with, among others, George Wrenn, Morgan Phillips, and Richard Nylander. I was exposed to ways of looking at preservation problems more analytically. My time with the Society was an experience equal to graduate school.” For more than fifty years Shettleworth has been giving back to SPNEA, now Historic New England, by donating objects to the collections that help document and give context to New England’s history. Historic New England’s Senior Curator of Library and Archives Lorna Condon knows the importance of those donations. “Throughout the years, Earle has discovered wonderful collections of postcards, stereo views, photographs, architectural drawings, books, ephemera, and objects that shed light on the social, cultural, and architectural history of New England. Without question, our collections are far richer because of Earle’s tremendous generosity.” Earle Shettleworth is one of the highest profile members of Maine’s arts and culture community, whose decades of innovative leadership are unparalleled in state history. Richard Cheek, Historic New England overseer, fellow collector, and long-time friend, sums up Shettleworth’s contributions to historic preservation. “As this country’s longest-serving state historic preservation officer, he has nominated more buildings and sites for recognition on the National Register of Historic Places than anyone else in this country

who has held that position. Earle may well be the best known civil servant the Pine Tree State has ever had, or ever will have.” —Grace Friary Grace Friary is a marketing and development consultant working with cultural institutions throughout the United States. She can be reached at gracefriary@comcast.net.

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A

D AY

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T H E

L I F E

SOUTH BERWICK, MAINE,

Site Manager

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ast spring, as we were preparing to open the inaugural exhibition at the Sarah Orne Jewett House Museum and Visitor Center, Here by the Sea: Contemporary Art of the Piscataqua, my long to-do list briefly got the best of me. After one particularly busy day of preparations, I dreamed that our beautiful new galleries displayed not the artworks we had painstakingly juried months before, but a collection of rotten tomatoes. Of course, when I woke up, all was well and plans for the opening celebration were moving along smoothly. As the South Berwick, Maine, site manager for Historic New England overseeing the Sarah Orne Jewett House Museum and Visitor Center, Hamilton House, and Sayward-Wheeler House (York Harbor, Maine), there’s no time to dwell on strange dreams. There are budgets to manage, group tours

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Historic New England Winter 2015

to book, public programs to plan, research to undertake, merchandise to stock, and staff to train. Not to mention exhibitions to open. When you are a site manager for Historic New England, no two days are ever alike. The fourteen site managers’ unified purpose is to ensure that the visitor experience at all thirty-six Historic New England museums is consistently excellent. But with a range of museum schedules and visitation, varied New England geography and weather, and the idiosyncrasies of historic structures and landscapes, site managers encounter all kinds of challenges and opportunities. Along with my team of guides, I have wrangled snapping turtles out of the bathroom and bats out of the heating vents at Hamilton House. We have seen a microburst narrowly miss Sayward-Wheeler House, while laying

waste to other nearby structures. I’ve fielded research inquiries on everything from local rock quarries to transatlantic maritime history to herbology. I’ve booked performers for concerts in the garden, including one who brought along his “limberjack” doll, which kept time to traditional logging songs. We’ve welcomed 2,000 cheerful visitors to our inaugural Hamilton House Fine Arts and Crafts Festival, which saw approximately fifty-six people per hour touring the museum. We’ve directed eighth-grade “Sarah Orne Jewetts” and “Dr. Jewetts” as they performed in our yard for an audience of third graders during South Berwick’s annual Hike through History. We’ve met descenSince 2013 Brooke Steinhauser has been Historic New England's South Berwick site manager, based at the Sarah Orne Jewett House Museum and Visitor Center. ABOVE


dants of Jewetts and Saywards, and spoken with people who remember the last inhabitants of the Hamilton House. We’ve witnessed school kids, their hands in the dirt, really, fully engaging with a historic site for the first time by volunteering in our gardens. But what truly gets me up in the morning are the community partnerships. As a member of both the South Berwick community and Historic New England staff, it’s important to me that every choice we make helps us become more accessible than ever to the people living in our home communities. In late 2011 when we re-acquired the Jewett-Eastman House, which would become our new visitor center, we asked the greater South Berwick community for input as we explored programming possibilities. One of the things they told us was that the area really needed a place for the vibrant local arts community to show their work. In May 2014 the opening for that inaugural exhibition, Here by the Sea, saw one hundred guests attend in support of the twenty-eight artists featured in the show. It was a great success, with nary a rotten tomato in sight! Our exhibition contributed to the creative economy of the Seacoast, and viewing contemporary art in our historic space gave visitors a new entry point into the story of Sarah Orne Jewett.

Here’s another of my favorite collaborative programs: In September 2014 at the Jewett House we celebrated the author’s 165th birthday. It was also the bicentennial year for the town, so we wanted the celebration to be a special one. We worked with the Community Chorus at South Berwick to present a program of readings and music, including a Jewett poem set to music by composer Kevin Siegfried. A local writer, Brian Evans-Jones from the University of New Hampshire, led a crowd-sourced poetry project resulting in a commemorative poem. From that partnership will come future writing groups and workshops at the museum, furthering our goal of year-round accessibility and integration with the local creative economy. By working with neighboring organizations and businesses, from yoga studios to documentary filmmakers, we ensure that our programming is relevant to the community. At the South Berwick sites in the coming year we will have family sledding programs, contemporary writers’ talks, vintage film screenings, site-specific museum theater, slow-food programs, objectbased storytelling, photography contests, sculpture exhibitions, and more. Frankly, I can’t wait. A site manager’s job is never done. The stories we interpret at our muse-

ums may be centuries old, but our audience is ever changing and we’ve got to keep up! I always get a little excited when I hear someone say that he or she has never visited Historic New England’s southern Maine museums, because it means we’ve got more work to do. I’m going to find some new way to grab your attention and show you these fantastic sites. Who knows? Maybe it will come to me in a dream. —Brooke Steinhauser South Berwick Site Manager Hamilton House’s nineteen acres of grounds along the Salmon Falls River make for a great arts and crafts festival location. BELOW, LEFT The Sarah Orne Jewett House Museum and Visitor Center is a regional office for Historic New England. BELOW, RIGHT One hundred guests enjoyed the opening reception for Here by the Sea: Contemporary Art of the Piscataqua. ABOVE

Winter 2015 Historic New England

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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

Pride on the Home Front

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n September 1917 the Twentysixth Infantry Division sailed for France as a part of the American Expeditionary Forces. Under the command of Major General Clarence R. Edwards, the division consisted of units from the National Guards of all six New England states. At a press conference of Boston newspaper journalists called by Commander Edwards to determine a nickname for his troops, the suggestion “Yankee Division” was made and quickly adopted. One of the first Boston units to go to Europe sailed from New York Harbor. Only a small contingent of dignitaries was allowed to see them off, including the Boston politician John F. “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, who serenaded the men with “Sweet Adeline” from a tugboat escort. This image made from a glass plate negative, a recent gift to the Library and Archives, depicts Wash-

ington Street in Boston heavily decorated in celebration of the Yankee Division with American flags, “YD” banners, and “26th Div.” signs bedecking the buildings. Pennants and garlands are strung across the street holding placards with names of men in the

division including Major Frank Stevens, Colonel William J. Keville, and Lieutenant Colonel William E. Southard. As we mark the centennial of the start of World War I, we are particularly pleased to add this image to the collection of the Library and Archives. —Jeanne Gamble Library and Archives Specialist

Celebration of the Twenty-sixth Yankee Division, Washington Street, Boston, Massachusetts.

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

Historic New England Winter 2015  

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