Page 1

Historic N E W E NG L A N D

W IN T E R 2 0 1 6

The Making of a Museum DISCOVERIES AT THE EUSTIS ESTATE


Historic N E W E NG L A N D

Winter 2016 Vol. 16, No. 3

One Hundred and Growing

15

4

Lyman Estate Greenhouses Staff Q&A Modern Traditions

Surviving 2015’s Historic Snowfall

Design on the Rise

1

10

Twentieth-century New England—The Story Continues Discoveries at the Eutis Estate

Local History—With a Bang!

12

Together Amazing Things Happen “A White Man’s Job”

28

24

Salem’s Cultural Community Springs to Action

14

20

Ladies First

21

27

32

Victorian Connecticut in Living Color

34

FROM THE PRESIDENT

Historic New England begins its 107th year in 2016, a year that also marks the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act. Our organization spans the history of historic preservation, and the articles in this issue illustrate both traditional preservation methods and the evolving face of preservation today. Once focused entirely on architecture and the need to preserve single buildings or individual landscapes as accurately as possible, preservation organizations today focus on communities, context, stories, and values. In this issue we look at the evolution of staircase design and report on discoveries at the Eustis Estate in Milton, Massachusetts, to understand how architecture and design reflect the aspirations of an era. The milestone of securing our one hundredth preservation easement, many of which protect privately owned properties, demonstrates our focus

on providing models of preservation in communities, helping owners preserve historic homes for continued use. Museum collecting and preservation don’t end with any defined date. The twentieth century is now firmly “history.” Places and objects that are familiar to us are now historical items worthy of preservation, and Senior Curator of Library and Archives Lorna Condon highlights some recent midcentury acquisitions.

—Carl R. Nold, President and CEO

HISTORIC NEW ENGLAND magazine is a benefit of membership. To become a member, visit HistoricNewEngland.org or call 617-994-5910. Comments? Email Kris Bierfelt, editor, at kbierfelt@HistoricNewEngland.org. ­­­Historic New England is funded in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Executive Editor: Diane Viera Editor: Kris Bierfelt Editorial Review Team: Nancy Carlisle, Senior Curator of Collections; Lorna Condon, Senior Curator of Library and Archives; Jennifer Pustz, Museum Historian; Sally Zimmerman, Senior Preservation Services Manager Design: DeFrancis Carbone

Carved woodwork surrounds a fireplace at the Eustis Estate in Milton, Massachusetts. ABOVE, LEFT TO A preservation easement held by Historic New England protects this house in Newton, Massachusetts. The main staircase at the Lyman Estate in Waltham, Massachusetts. Icicles at Browne House in Watertown, Massachusetts. COVER RIGHT

Historic New England 141 Cambridge Street Boston MA 02114-2702 617-227-3956 © 2016 Historic New England. Except where noted, all historic photographs and ephemera are from Historic New England’s Library and Archives.


Q

A

WITH LYMAN ESTATE GREENHOUSES STAFF

Greenhouse Manager Lynn Ackerman (right) and Assistant Manager Erin Dancy have an enviable winter workspace in the Lyman Estate Greenhouses in Waltham, Massachusetts. From renegade chipmunks to managing microclimates in a 200-year-old structure, they share some of the rewards and challenges of keeping our award-winning greenhouses thriving year-round.

Winter 2016 Historic New England

1


Tell us a little bit about a typical winter day at the greenhouses. Lynn Ackerman: Winter is really the most enjoyable time to be in the greenhouses. The scents are beautiful from all the blooms…the orchids, citrus, and jasmines. It’s especially nice when you have three feet of snow outside. Erin Dancy: It’s like taking a tropical vacation without traveling. LA: As long as there is at least filtered sun, the greenhouses will get above 80 degrees. It’s our reward for enduring 110-degree days during the summer. The greenhouses must be inviting to the local wildlife, too. LA: Lately we’ve been a highway for chipmunks that tear through at breakneck speed, chasing each other and eating grapes and unprotected seeds. Frogs are welcome in the fishpond. A baby bunny took up residence in the grape houses for a week last summer. We ended up rounding him up and 2

Historic New England Winter 2016

releasing him outside in the daylily bed because it was more than 100 degrees inside. ED: Some of my favorite creatures in the greenhouses are the koi and the frogs that make a home of the cistern, which was once used to raise the temperature and the humidity to make it possible to grow cut flowers. It makes it an even more inviting place to work when you have other creatures to share it with. What sparked your interest in horticulture? LA: I grew up on a dairy farm in upstate New York, in a very rural area. My paternal grandmother Ackerman was my biggest inspiration. I used to watch her sit on an overturned bucket in her large vegetable garden and read the Burpee catalogue. She kept her seeds in one of my grandfather’s old cigar boxes. Her gardening tools and hat were in a cool old metal cabinet. She would steril-

ize her garden soil in the oven and start her tomatoes in the south-facing windows of her 1850s stone house. I spent hours walking around the farm with her asking about all the different plants. ED: My grandparents and parents were the first ones to get me interested in the outdoors and gardens. My father’s mother had a vegetable garden that she loved and worked in every year until she was ninety-two. Every time I spoke with her, we would talk about what she was growing. My mother’s parents helped form my interest in compost; they had a pile in the woods that attracted turtles that amazed me as a child. After graduating from high school, my informal horticultural career began when I

Australian tea tree Leptospermum (left) and Cymbidium orchid “Lucifer” (right) thrive at the greenhouses. FACING PAGE LEFT Awards for our camellias (pictured at right) and orchids decorate the greenhouse shop. ABOVE


worked in the gardens at Canterbury (New Hampshire) Shaker Village. That inspired me to get a degree in horticulture so that I could learn more about plant care. Do you garden at home? LA: I have extensive gardens at home. I started putting plants in an almost barren landscape when I moved in more than twenty-six years ago. Now I can barely keep up with all the work it takes to mulch, weed, cut back…. ED: I rent, so most of my favorite perennials and shrubs have a more permanent home in my parents’ garden. I do have houseplants and a few planters. Most of my houseplants are not unusual types, but they’re special because they remind me of a person or an event. LA: Right now I am really into begonias and gesneriads. I went to a show at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, Massachusetts, a couple of years ago and fell in love with them. When I first started at the greenhouses I had a very bad impression of begonias—they were boring to me. But when I saw the immense variety and gorgeous foliage on some of them I was really taken. Tell us about Historic New England’s prize-winning camellias. What advice do you have for those who want to grow camellias at home? ED: The Camellia House was built in 1820 and some of our camellias are at least seventy-five years old. We’re one of only a couple of old estates that still have a large collection, and only a few places that sell small camellia plants. LA: Dry winter air is very hard on camellias. I usually tell people, if your sinuses are feeling the ill effects of the dry air, your plants are doubly affected by it. The key to growing camellias is to make sure that in the winter, the humidity is above 30 percent, the temperatures do not exceed 70 degrees and drop at least 15 degrees at night. The soil should dry out slightly, but never too much. They enjoy morning or filtered

sun, but limit their exposure to strong afternoon sun. What are the challenges of working in such a historic facility? LA: Because everything is manually controlled you have to be a good grower. You can’t flip a switch for the water and fertilizer to be dripped out in a precise fashion, or control every environmental factor for growing. ED: All of the things that are more time-consuming about working in a historic building also make it more intriguing, like the hand-cranked vents. LA: The greenhouses have numerous microclimates. They’re either particularly hot or cold, sunny or very shady, well ventilated or very stagnant. One has to match up the best climate and conditions to each type of plant.

ED: The great nooks and crannies remind me of why I like Boston with all of its winding streets and interesting enclaves versus living in a city with a grid system. It’s more confusing but more exciting. LA: After doing a lot of research on period horticulture structures and collecting antique horticulture books, I came to realize what a jewel these greenhouses really are. There just is not another place like it in this country.

Take a break from the cold at the Lyman Estate Greenhouses, open all winter, Tuesday–Sunday, 9:30 a.m.–4:00 p.m. Guided tours by appointment. Visit between February 16 and March 13 for peak camellia blooming season. Visit HistoricNewEngland.org for more information.

A Challenge for Garden Lovers Historic New England recently established a fund to care for the Lyman Estate Greenhouses and landscape thanks to a generous $100,000 gift from Stephen Parson, a Lyman family descendant. “Our grandparents wanted The Vale [the famly’s name for the estate] to be a showpiece of gardens, flowers, and farming, and it was,” he says. “They loved sharing it in every way with others. I am thankful for this, and want to give back in their memory.” Parson challenges all who care about landscapes and gardens to match his gift. Contact development@HistoricNewEngland.org or 617-994-5951 to make a donation and help us rise to the challenge.

Winter 2016 Historic New England

3


One Hundred and Growing Historic New England’s Preservation Easement Program Marks a Milestone

A preservation easement held by Historic New England protects this nineteenthcentury barn in Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

4

Historic New England Winter 2016


Historic New England’s fast-growing Preservation Easement Program is one of the oldest and largest in the country, and is regarded as a model nationwide. It was established in 1981 as a practical, permanent way to ensure the preservation of privately owned historic properties while keeping them in active use. Today, as the organization secures its one hundredth easement with Bell House in Little Boar’s Head, New Hampshire, it utilizes this legal preservation tool to protect nearly 1,000 acres of land and 200 buildings representing a wide breadth of New England architecture from the seventeenth century to the mid-twentieth century.

Winter 2016 Historic New England

5


T

he region’s architectural heritage is increasingly threatened by demolition, development, and insensitive alteration, with the pace of change accelerating in today’s rebounding economic climate. Preservation easements held by Historic New England prevent outright demolition, demolition by neglect, and subdivision. A preservation easement is a voluntary, private legal agreement between a property owner and Historic New England that gives Historic New England the right and responsibility to review and approve all future improvements and repairs. Easements are specifically tailored to protect the important historic and architectural elements of a property. They also identify areas where future alterations may take place to ensure properties can be updated for modern living. These easements are recorded with the property’s deed and run with the land in perpetuity, making them binding on all future owners. The Preservation Easement Program’s success lies in the fact that it forges a true partnership between Historic New England and individual property owners. Unlike many other easement programs, the majority of the easements held by Historic New England are with owners who want to legally

6

Historic New England Winter 2016

ensure the protection of a place that is special to them, not with commercial developers seeking tax credits or mitigation. A full-time, professional staff conducts annual site visits, scheduled at the property owner’s convenience, to confirm compliance with the terms of the easement and develop an ongoing relationship with the property owner. One of the program’s many benefits is the level of deep expertise that we share. We help prioritize repairs and plan future work. We can connect homeowners with experienced contractors and craftspeople and advise on appropriate building materials and specifications for repair and conservation methods. We work closely with owners, architects, and contractors to review project proposals. When an easement-protected property is offered for sale, Historic New England helps market the property, and we meet with real estate brokers and prospective buyers to clearly explain the terms of each easement and answer questions. This level of personal attention is made possible through another important element of the program. The donation of a preservation easement to Historic New England is accompanied by a one-time endowment contribution that covers our upfront costs, provides for the annual cost of site visits, and contributes to the organization’s legal reserve fund for


the rare event that an easement violation requires litigation. Endowment contributions may be paid in full at the time an easement is recorded, in installments, or from the proceeds of the property’s sale. Historic New England’s easement program is one of the most comprehensive in the nation. Our easements protect not only a structure’s facade, but also its interiors and landscapes. From exterior siding, windows, doors, chimneys, and foundations, to interior details and finishes such as staircases, fireplaces, flooring, moldings, hardware, historic wallpaper, and decorative painting, we help protect all layers of a building’s history. Easements can highlight specific unique features such as signatures etched in window glass, built-in furniture, cooking ranges, smoke chambers, and servants’ bells. Kitchens and bathrooms often have limited protection to give an owner flexibility for upgrading amenities. By protecting landscape features, such as stone walls, fences and locations of planting beds, walks and driveways, and outbuildings like barns and garages, we help preserve a property’s context and setting. Landscapes are particularly important for mid-century Modern properties, where buildings were constructed to be integral with their sites, and outdoor and indoor spaces were designed to relate to each other and flow together. The process for entering a property into the Preservation Easement Program begins with a property owner submitting an application to Historic New England. A staff member conducts an initial site visit to evaluate the property, discuss the owner’s preservation goals, and begin identifying the architectural and landscape features to be covered. He or she drafts a proposed preservation easement document for the owner’s review, and schedules comprehensive documentary photography to supplement written descriptions of protected features in the easement record. Once the owner and Historic

The landscape is an integral part of the mid-century Modern Hoover House in Lincoln, Massachusetts. THIS PAGE, CLOCKWISE An easement FACING PAGE

protecting the Stevens House in North Andover, Massachusetts, preserves the historic kitchen fireplace but allows for amenities more suited to twenty-first-century living. Historic wallpapers at the Fogg-Rollins House in Exeter, New Hampshire, and a nineteenth-century signature etched into a windowpane at a New Caanan, Connecticut, house are examples of the comprehensive interior details protected by Historic New England’s Preservation Easement Program.

Winter 2016 Historic New England

7


New England agree on the details, the easement is signed and recorded. It typically takes six months to one year to finalize an easement, working at the property owner’s pace. Several of Historic New England’s earliest preservation easements are on properties once owned by the organization. Since then, many properties have entered the program the way Bell House recently did (see page 9), through owners who have a sentimental attachment or long-standing family association with a property. We also work with executors of estates to honor the wishes of a deceased property owner, with nonprofit organizations seeking to responsibly deaccession and sell former house museums and historic real estate, and with local municipalities that require an easement to complete preservation projects. The buildings and landscapes currently protected in the Preservation Easement Program reflect a range of everyday New England life, from workers’ housing to grand estates. Farmhouses, barns, and outbuildings are represented, as are country estates, suburban homes, and city townhouses. The program also protects meetinghouses, churches, taverns, and mills. We actively seek out architectural styles not currently part of the organization’s portfolio of protected properties, for example, Second Empire and Queen Anne buildings, early-twentieth-century multifamily homes, bungalows, and Tudor and Spanish Revival buildings. We are also working to recruit more properties in Rhode Island and western Massachusetts and to secure our first easement in Vermont. For Historic New England, the Preservation Easement Program enables us to further our preservation mission by filling gaps in architectural styles not represented in our museum properties and serving communities where the organization does not have an active presence. For property owners and their communities, it is the best way to permanently guarantee the survival of irreplaceable historically and architecturally significant properties for future generations to experience and enjoy. —Joseph Cornish Supervising Preservation Services Manager Historic New England easements protect vernacular architecture like this mid-twentieth-century ranch house as well as significant ecclesiastical buildings like All Saints, Ashmont, in Dorchester, Massachusetts. BOTTOM Staff from Historic New England and homeowners sign the first preservation easement donated to the organization in Colebrook, Connecticut, in 1982. TOP AND MIDDLE

8

Historic New England Winter 2016

For more information about our Preservation Easement Program visit HistoricNewEngland.org or call 617-994-6642.


Welcoming number 100

Historic New England is thrilled to welcome Bell House in Little Boar’s Head, New Hampshire, as the one hundredth property to join our Preservation Easement Program. Designed in 1898 by Boston architects Wales and Holt, the oceanfront Shingle Style house is an architectural gem of this former summer colony. For the longtime owners of this property, it represents generations of priceless family memories. Our family’s vacation home on the New England coast has been important to us in many ways. At the most basic level, it provided a respite from sultry Washington, D.C., summers and connected us to our New Hampshire roots. As soon as school was out in June we would board the overnight Federal Express at Union Station and spend an excited, mostly sleepless night peering through the blinds of our Pullman compartment. We’d get off at Back Bay in Boston, where our grandmother would pick us up in her Packard and drive us to stay with her in Manchester, New Hampshire, for a few days. Mother would stay with us all summer at the Beach, as we called it, and Dad would come up for two weeks in August. We dreaded our return to Washington in September, and looked forward to repeating the adventure next year. When we first knew the house in the 1940s it was not even fifty years old, but the place seemed ancient to us. Our greatgrandfather had purchased it in 1918, and our mother remembered that when they came down by train from Manchester for the summer in the early 1920s the family cow would follow

behind in a wagon to provide safe (tuberculosis-free) milk for the children. The empty stalls in the barn we played in are still there. I became a constant companion to Charlie Craven, our gardener, and ate my lunch every day with him in his “office” in the barn. The nearest market was a country store near the North Hampton railroad station, and vendors of ice, fish, meat, and vegetables would make the rounds of the summer places every week. The town police chief, Oliver Henckel, kept a dory at one of the fish houses on the town beach and was a reliable provider of lobsters. This delicious lifestyle would be difficult to maintain in the twenty-first century. Little Boar’s Head and nearby Rye Beach are suburbs now, with almost every house in yearround use. Mothers have jobs, vacations are shorter, and grandchildren are scattered all over the country. Real estate values are skyrocketing, old houses are increasingly expensive to maintain, and there is no certainty that a future owner willing to invest in oceanfront property would be willing or even remotely interested in preserving a grand old house. We are extremely grateful that Historic New England’s professionally managed Preservation Easement Program will take responsibility for our parents’ and grandparents’ legacy. —Charles Sullivan Charles Sullivan is the executive director of the Cambridge (Massachusetts) Historical Commission.

Winter 2016 Historic New England

9


Modern Traditions Jewelry by Twenty-first Century Native Artists

J

ewelry embodies self-expression. It is both a private and a public object. Visible to all yet intensely personal, adornment reaches across the years, across cultures, and across the room to provide an immediate link between two people. For Jason Brown, the “true value of a piece of jewelry [lies in] what it represents and means to the person who gives or owns it.” For Elizabeth JamesPerry, jewelry “is the way we choose to honor each other, Mother Earth, and the rest of creation.” Brown’s copper cuff and JamesPerry’s wampum necklace are two of the latest additions to a collection of jewelry at Historic New England focused on personal stories. The work of these New Englanders represents the continuity of traditional art forms long practiced by their Native communities. 10

Historic New England Winter 2016

A member of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah, Massachusetts), Elizabeth James-Perry uses wampum—beads made from shells of quahog clams native to the southeastern New England coast—to form strings, belts, necklaces, and crowns. Long before Europeans arrived in the region, the Wampanoag and many other Native groups from Canada to the Mid-Atlantic used wampum in ceremonial observances, for trade, and as mnemonic devices. The name is derived from the Wampanoag word for white shell beads: wampumpeag. Native speakers used wampum to remember and record their words and deeds. Handling the beads, woven into meaningful patterns, would prompt the speaker’s memories of legend and history or assist in recalling important points. James-Perry’s bias-woven collar is based on an example recovered

from an archaeological site in Warren, Rhode Island. Her work with wampum began in 2005 with a personal challenge to create a wampum star medallion. James-Perry regards her work as a lifelong process, a way to “grasp our place and responsibilities in the world as People of the Dawn.” More than just jewelry, wampum is the embodiment of power and story through adornment. In his Bangor, Maine, studio Jason Brown, a member of the Penobscot Indian Nation, mixes traditional materials such as copper and brown ash wood with Swarovski crystals or Australian opals with a distinctly modern sensibility. For his Creation cuff, Brown combined copper, once mined by the Penobscots near the Bay of Fundy, with ash splints, used for centuries to make baskets, to depict the tale of Gluskap and the Wabanaki people’s


tion to our land and to our ancestors.” Growing up on Indian Island, Maine, in a family of artists, Brown began stringing beads to make chains and earrings, selling them door to door in the early 1980s. He now works with local tribal members to acquire his brown ash supplies, which he splits, scrapes, and gauges prior to weaving. Using the same ash Gluskap first provided to The People makes Brown feel “fortunate to be a part of something so special and ancient.” For James-Perry, jewelry incorporates enduring gifts from the natural world that “remind us that everything we need is right here.” As she notes, working “with our local materials keeps us tied to our Wampanoag lands and ocean and our ancestors’ ways—an important relationship.” James-Perry also comes from a creative family, with a brother who is a woodcarver and copper artist, and cousins who weave baskets and make mats. She clearly remembers being two years old and seeing her weaving

teacher’s mother downstairs making beaded jewelry, a “social thing people did back then, getting ready for powwows, making gifts.” It is the ability of both Brown and James-Perry to illuminate narratives and to express personal identity through adornment that makes their work such exciting additions to the collection. Look for the cuff and the necklace in the exhibition Mementos: Jewelry of Life and Love from Historic New England, when it opens next year at the Eustis Estate in Milton, Massachusetts. —Laura Johnson Associate Curator

FACING PAGE LEFT

Portrait of Jason Brown: Courtesy of Decontie & Brown

origins. The Wabanaki of northern New England and Canada have numerous creation stories about their cultural hero Gluskap, also known as Koluskap, Glooskap, or Gluskabe. He taught The People many of their traditional arts, protected them from danger, and was responsible for their very existence. Striking a brown ash tree with his arrow, Gluskap split the tree open and the Wabanaki appeared. Cut in copper silhouette against a background of woven ash splints, Brown’s cuff depicts the moment of Gluskap’s arrow striking the tree. His favorite of the many Gluskap tales, Brown notes that the story is “older than one can imagine.” In material and myth, the bracelet embodies connections of land, legend, and person. Working with traditional materials and techniques provides both artists with a strong sense of personal connection to their ancestral lands and their families. Brown describes it as “an incredible feeling of place for me as a Penobscot […] a direct connec-

Elizabeth JamesPerry (pictured left) named her quahog shell, deerskin, and sinew Alliance collar after early examples given by Native people to Euro-Americans throughout the region. FACING PAGE RIGHT Jason Brown (pictured right) of Decontie & Brown jewelry studio describes his copper and brown ash Creation cuff bracelet as “a blend of ancient craftsmanship and modern style.”

Winter 2016 Historic New England

11


Local History—

Historic New England engages students of all ages through innovative programs presented at our properties and as outreach in communities. At Pierce House in Boston, some of our youngest learners spend the day preparing for an explosive encounter with local history.

12

Historic New England Winter 2016

Photography by Beth Oram

With a Bang!


F

or young children still figuring out their place in time and space, history can be a confusingly abstract concept. Historic New England’s History for Early Learners programs, offered on-site at Pierce House in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood and as outreach in classrooms, libraries, and community centers, provide a foundation for learning history in a concrete and manageable way. Each program includes a storybook and craft on a topic connected to Pierce House or the Pierce family. Five- and six-year-olds from Dorchester’s Leahy-Holloran Community Center summer camp visited Pierce House last year for Triumphs and Trophies, a program focusing on Revolutionary War hero Henry Knox’s journey to Fort Ticonderoga in New York to acquire abandoned British artillery. This led to the fortification of Dorchester Heights and the evacuation of British soldiers from Boston during the early days of the American Revolution. Pierce House’s most illustrious resident, Colonel Samuel Pierce, wrote many journal entries referencing the war. Of the fortification he wrote, “[O]ur People went on to Dorchester neck and Built two forts in the same night & there was 380 teems and about 5000 men the most work Don that Ever was Don in one Night in New England.” During their introduction to Pierce House, kids start to think generally

about Historic New England’s collections and specifically about changes to Pierce House and the surrounding neighborhood. We talk about the ten generations of Pierces that lived in the house and how each generation is like a layer in a family. Misunderstandings bring laughs from students and educators alike, as when one boy answered the question, “Who is above your grandparents [in your family tree]?” with “A giant!?” and another expressed disappointment that there are no genie lamps in the house. Next comes story time: Henry and the Cannons by Don Brown. This picture book conveys Knox’s bravery and the hardships he and others faced while transporting fifty-nine cannons by oxen and sled more than 400 miles over lakes, rivers, and mountains. The children, most of whom shared that they’ve seen cannons before on George’s and Castle Islands in Boston Harbor, sat riveted during the exciting story. After the war, Knox helped found an organization for officers of the war, the Society of the Cincinnati, and designed a medal for them to wear. So for a craft activity, each child designs a medal of his or her own. Children this age love to make connections to their own lives, and told us about medals they have for soccer, T-ball, basketball, gymnastics, and hockey, and about the symbols that appear on those medals. One child said, “I have a medal for graduation from my old school. It has

a word and a big star and the star tells us that I did a really good job.” Once they’re all finished and wearing their medals, it’s time for the most exciting activity of the day—firing cannons! Colleagues at Boston’s U.S.S. Constitution Museum shared this idea with us and it has quickly become a student favorite. The children work in teams to decorate a cannon made from a toilet paper roll and cardboard wheels, then head out to the backyard. One by one, each team puts a piece of an antacid tablet and a little water into a film canister, quickly puts the lid on, then loads the fizzy ammunition into their cardboard cannon. Once the gas builds up, it shoots the cap off the canister with a loud POP! The teams cheer each other on while competing to see which cannon fires the farthest. At the end of the day, students may still not really understand the difference between 1776 and 1976 or be able to identify the underlying causes of the American Revolution, but those lessons will come as they get older. For now, they’ve learned that important things happened in their own neighborhood and that history equals captivating stories and exciting activities. —Carolin Collins Education Program Manager, School and Youth Programs

Winter 2016 Historic New England

13


Together Amazing Things Happen

W

hen people come together around their passions, it’s incredible to see what is possible. Whether through your membership, your gifts to the annual fund, or your support of collections care, preservation maintenance, or school and youth programs, it adds up to you being able to achieve so much through Historic New England. Thanks to you historic structures and landscapes are being protected every day throughout New England. Our ability to preserve our own historic sites has most definitely been bolstered by your interest and support. And our Preservation Easement Program, a national model for preserving historic properties, celebrates its one hundredth easement this year. Thank you for protecting the historic character of so many New England neighborhoods and communities. Thanks to you 50,000 school children annually have the opportunity to participate in one of Historic New England’s innovative education programs, making history interactive and exciting. Always on the lookout for new ways to reach more students, we launched our first-ever Historic New England Homeschool Week last fall. One hundred and fifty young people and their families quickly and enthusiastically signed on for programs held at nine historic sites in four states. On behalf of 50,000 young people, I thank you for providing both the information and the inspiration. Thanks to you our collections of historic objects and archival materials continue to grow with more than 110,000

14

Historic New England Winter 2016

objects and more than one million archival documents now safely protected and maintained to the highest standards. Preserving and conserving these incredible objects is only part one—we want to share these objects with all of New England and beyond. With your help we now have 92,000 objects and 69,000 archival records accessible in our Collections Access database and our traveling exhibitions bring these collections and their stories to every New England state. Since joining this preeminent heritage organization just this past fall, I have been inspired to see your commitment to these efforts. For me it brings together a lifetime of passion for museums and all that they preserve and share so that we can learn and be inspired. I am honored to be working together with you and I hope that you will continue to be a proud member of Historic New England’s team making amazing things happen. —Jennifer Kent Vice President for Advancement

Students learn to make candles at Arnold House in Lincoln, Rhode Island. MIDDLE Young Friends of Historic New England enjoy the grounds at Beauport, the Sleeper-McCann House, in Gloucester, Massachusetts. RIGHT Collection Services staff examine jewelry in our conservation lab. ABOVE


Design on the Rise New England Staircase Architecture The staircase has always played a vital role in American houses, moving people from one floor to the next—grandly in the case of affluent homeowners who recognized the staircase as a focal point of design and taste, inconspicuously in the case of their household staff. Whether Georgian or mid-century Modern, the staircase, in both form and function, reflects the design trends and domestic values of its time.

Winter 2016 Historic New England

15


Eustis Estate, 1878, Milton, Massachusetts Staircases of the later Victorian era typically had a heavy wood newel post and balusters clustered closely together to create a substantial impression, as seen in this stunning example at the Eustis Estate. The array of applied and carved embellishments ranged from simple carved chamfers (grooves or bevels) in the newel posts to rosettes and geometric elements along the balusters and stair strings. The handrails were also elaborate and often had multiple moldings and turnings. OPPOSITE PAGE

T

he staircases found in Historic New England’s museum properties and private homes protected by our Preservation Easement Program showcase a range of forms and stylistic ornamentation. The earliest American staircase was solely a functional element; in New England, it was austere and typically unobtrusive. As time passed, builders, craftsmen, and, later, architects began utilizing the main staircase to highlight an overall decorative scheme, while service staircases remained efficient and unadorned. Published design guides and pattern books, industrial advances, and access to a wider range of materials gave rise to a greater variety of styles. In seventeenth-century New England, the entry passage and staircase were often combined, which made for very tight, steep stairs with minimal ornamentation. Anyone who has climbed the stairs at the c. 1664 Jackson House in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, has experienced how cramped this style of staircase, a strictly functional stair that frequently abutted a large chimney, can feel. The stair strings—the tread and riser comprising a step—were enclosed by a wall, which might have been covered by vertical board sheathing. The Georgian era brought increased interior decoration, such as paneling, moldings, and carved balusters, like those seen at Stanton-Tucker House in Kingstown, Rhode Island. By the end of the Revolutionary War, residential architecture took a more refined turn. With the Federal style, staircases became the focus of an overall decorative scheme emphasizing elaborate neoclassical motifs, complementary colors, delicate moldings, slim balusters and handrails, and symmetrical spaces. Central entrance halls were enlarged to highlight the staircase as a key feature of the house, and heavy paneling covering the stair strings was replaced by smooth plaster and minimal trim. Slender newel posts or balusters continuing to the base of the stair replaced

16

Historic New England Winter 2016

heavy, turned newel posts of the Georgian style. Builders and architects began experimenting with the shape of the staircase, frequently advocating for delicate oval, cantilevered staircases that seemed to float, as seen at Nickels-Sortwell House in Wiscasset, Maine, rather than the functional L- or U-shaped staircases of earlier years. While main staircases from the late-Colonial period onward became increasingly refined centerpieces, secondary staircases remained unadorned and primarily functional. These staircases were similar in form and lack of decoration to the utilitarian staircases of the seventeenth and early-eighteenth centuries. Service staircases were usually located in the back of the house, out of sight of the main rooms. They typically connected kitchen, storage, and laundry rooms with bedrooms upstairs. The presence of two sets of stairs in one house reinforced the social hierarchy that separated owners and guests from servants. The Victorian era brought English-influenced romantic revivals, such as the earlier Italianate and Gothic revivals, and the later Shingle, Stick, and Queen Anne styles, and a step away from the rigid formality of Federal architecture. Late-Victorian builders and craftsmen continued utilizing advanced technology to create more elaborate carvings and turnings. This era saw more interiors with open staircases laden with heavy wood ornament, often with natural motifs and geometric detail. As living spaces were combined with stair halls, staircases remained an aesthetic focal point, such as at the Eustis Estate in Milton, Massachusetts. From the late-nineteenth century to the early-twentieth century, the Colonial Revival reigned throughout New England, with architects and builders reinterpreting eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century dwellings to create contemporary versions that fit with current housing expectations. Later in the century, staircases in the Modern movement emphasized functionality and simplicity. With a wider selection of materials, streamlined design trends, and a focus on progressive design, many architects began creating functional works of art for their clients. Compared to Colonial Revival buildings, mid-twentieth-century houses such as the Gropius House in Lincoln, Massachusetts, were relatively simple with unadorned designs and surfaces. It can be easy to take stairs for granted as elements designed only to move us from one floor to another, but their details give us clues about the aesthetics and aspirations of an era as expressed through its domestic architecture. —Joanna McKnight Preservation Services Manager, Northern New England


Stanton-Tucker House, c. 1720–40, Kingstown, Rhode Island The flattened, almost abstract balusters at Stanton-Tucker House may be a regional interpretation of the more high-style Georgian turned balusters found in prosperous New England port towns, such as those at the 1774 Sarah Orne Jewett House in South Berwick, Maine (see page 18). Both staircases relied on the handiwork of a highly skilled craftsman.

Perkins House, c. 1701, Ipswich, Massachusetts The turnings and embellishments at Matthew Perkins House are highly polished and finished in comparison to typical seventeenth-century designs. The lapped wood paneling along the stair adds sophistication to an element typically seen as strictly functional.

Winter 2016 Historic New England

17


Sarah Orne Jewett House, 1774, South Berwick, Maine At the Sarah Orne Jewett House, the stripped down service staircase (inset) is located away from the formal rooms of the main house and near the service zones in the rear ell. The lack of ornamentation stands in stark contrast to the heavily decorated main stair in the entry hall of the house.

Nickels-Sortwell House, 1807, Wiscasset, Maine (far right) Henry Alexander Jr. House, c. 1811, Springfield, Massachusetts (right) Nickels-Sortwell House and Henry Alexander Jr. House are great examples of staircases influenced by pattern books with their curved forms, slim, square balusters, and perfectly proportioned, delicate handrails that form scrolled volutes at the bases of the stairs.

18

Historic New England Winter 2016


Lyman Estate, 1793, (main stairs 1884), Waltham, Massachusetts The Lyman Estate was heavily remodeled in 1884 in an overall late-Victorian mode, an update that included the relocation and redesign of the main staircase. The newel posts integrate carved rosettes and turnings that highlight the natural wood. During this remodel, the service staircase (inset) was also updated. Compared to the simple, functional service stairs seen in earlier high-end houses, this staircase contains high-style finishes such as turned balusters and newel post and a natural wood finish. While the staircase was finished to a higher standard, it remained in the service ell, away from the formal areas and separate from the main staircase.

Glossary stretch between the stair tread and handrail. Typically turned, carved, or mass-produced and often circular in section, they define the area inside and outside of the staircase. BALUSTERS

sit at the base of the stair, and sometimes also at junctions and landings. They provide a larger, more substantial starting point for smaller-scale balusters. NEWEL POSTS

are pieces of trim that cover the gap where stairs and treads meet the wall. Carved or cut millwork can be placed atop a skirtboard for additional ornamentation. SKIRTBOARDS

Gropius House, 1938, Lincoln, Massachusetts For his personal residence, Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius created a sleek and functional stair that blends seamlessly into the overall aesthetic scheme. Located in the central entry hall, the curving staircase blends wood, cork, chrome, and painted iron to create a modern take on the traditional New England wood staircase.

are where the tread and riser of a stair meet. If the step’s side profile is covered by millwork or a wall as in the examples on page 17, it’s a closed-string stair. If the side profile is left exposed as in the Lyman House service stairs (above), it’s an open-string stair. STAIR STRINGS

Winter 2016 Historic New England

19


Nebraska State Historical Society, Nebraska State Historic Preservation Office

RIGHT Druid Hall is home to the North Omaha, Nebraska, lodge of the Prince Hall Masons, a predominately African American branch of the Freemasons founded in Boston in 1776. BELOW Linda Williams.

“A White Man’s Job” “[Architecture]—a

white man’s job.” These were the words said to me by an African American friend in 1996 when I was enrolled in an urban studies class at the University of Nebraska Omaha’s pre-architecture program. “The Brady Bunch!” she explained: “The dad was an architect.” Where I live, in Omaha, architecture is still a white male–dominated profession. Even in historic preservation efforts this holds true. I started working to save old buildings in 2001 when some buildings in my majority African American neighborhood (thought of by many as the ghetto) were threatened. Though my friends and I lost that battle, I still felt really good about believing in something so passionately. At the time I did not even know there was a name for the work I was doing. A friend gave me a book on historic preservation and case law that awakened me to a whole new world. I discovered that I was a preservationist! Ever since then I’ve continued the good fight in “the ghetto” and even presented at the local community college about buildings in the neighborhood that were designed about 1909 by Clarence “Cap” Wigington, Omaha’s first African American architect. In 2014 I became the first African American female to graduate from the Boston Architectural College Master of Design Studies in Historic Preservation program. While enrolled I helped to nominate two buildings to the National Register of Historic Places: the 1889 Memmen Apartments and Druid Hall, the 1915 home of Omaha’s Prince Hall

20

Historic New England Winter 2016

Masons. These listings make the buildings eligible for historic tax credit financing for continued renovations that will contribute to the revitalization of North Omaha. Last summer I applied for and was awarded a scholarship to attend Historic New England’s weeklong Program in New England Studies, which enabled me to tour historic properties throughout New England among other things such as studying furniture in Historic New England’s collection. Now I look at furniture in a whole new way, and I’ve become confident in educating people in my community about the importance of house museums and how just about any space can be converted into an exhibition space. I am involved with a local historic preservation group called Restoration Exchange Omaha, through which I give historic tours of the architecture in North Omaha. I am on the advocacy committee and have made lots of noise in the past two years about North 24th and Lake streets, the historic center of Omaha’s African American community, and the need to designate the area as a historic jazz district. Two nominations for this area are in process now. So about architecture being a white man’s job? My response to that is, “Somebody forgot to tell me!” —Linda Williams Linda Williams is the CEO of ShotgunHaus Designers in North Omaha, Nebraska.


A 1955 advertisement from a Pontiac dealership in Lincoln, Massachusetts, emphasizes the significant developments in transportation that impacted New Englanders in the last half of the twentieth century. Historic New England holds large collections related to the history of transportation in the region, including one that documents construction of the Boston subway. LEFT

Twentieth-century New England The Story Continues Photographs, ephemera, architectural drawings, original artwork, prints, and engravings convey rich information about New Englanders in the twentieth century: the buildings we lived, worked, studied, and worshiped in; our methods of transportation; how we dressed, celebrated significant events, and entertained ourselves. We hope that this sampling from Historic New England’s Library and Archives inspires you to visit our archival collections online and to reflect on the touchstones of your own twentieth-century stories. —Lorna Condon Senior Curator of Library and Archives

California Gold, Spanish Avocado, and Cordoba Copper were popular colors for Maytag household appliances in the 1970s. The donor of this Maytag advertising brochure selected Spanish Avocado for her washer and dryer in 1973, paying $479.90 for the pair. Pieces like this provide valuable information about evolving domestic technology, not to mention changing tastes. ABOVE

Winter 2016 Historic New England

21


The staff of the Vitagliano family’s Ideal Market in Winthrop, Massachusetts, pose proudly in their perfectly appointed store. Kellogg’s Pep cereal, Beech-Nut cream of tomato soup, and CocaCola are among items offered for sale. This mid-century photograph is one of many in the collection that record how twentieth-century New Englanders shopped for everyday needs. LEFT

Since the first decades of the twentieth century, Historic New England has collected travel material that documents New Englanders’ leisure activities, including their vacation trips to iconic sites across the region. This colorful c. 1930 brochure from the Cape Cod Steamship Company advertises a daylong, round-trip voyage to Provincetown, Massachusetts, by then already well-known as a coastal resort and artists’ colony. In the 1950s, a family trip to New Hampshire's White Mountains might have included a stay at Howard Johnson Cabins in West Thornton or a visit to Story Land in Glen, where the storybook characters and fairy tale houses continue to draw visitors. RIGHT

22

Historic New England Winter 2016


Royal Barry Wills was one of the most famous architects in America from the 1930s to his death in 1962. He designed 2,500 houses from coast to coast, authored eight tremendously popular books about architecture, and was named by Life magazine as one of “eight of the most distinguished architects in America.” He was particularly well known for his designs for Cape Cod–style houses. This drawing was published in Wills’s Living on the Level: One Story Houses (1954), whose purpose was to help readers identify the sort of house that appealed to their “particular mental and spiritual individuality.” LEFT

Winchester, New Hampshire, designer Stewart Ross James (1912–1997) is represented in the collection by a large group of watercolor renderings, photographs, blueprints, and ephemera that illustrate his Modern designs for items such as chairs, lamps, sofas, and tables. The James archive is a wonderful complement to Historic New England’s collections of earlier designers such as Irving and Casson–A. H. Davenport (see “Building the Irving and Casson–A. H. Davenport Archive,” Fall 2014, and browse it online at HistoricNewEngland.org/davenport). LEFT

Library and Archives Wish List Do you have any twentieth-century examples of these items? • Examples of the work of women architects practicing in New England • Images representing the richness of multicultural New England

The children at this 1950 birthday party in Greenwich, Connecticut, seem to convey the sense of optimism and security that was prevalent in the post– World War II years. The donor of this photograph, one of the children enjoying the festivities, now owns the wrought-iron table and chairs visible in the image. RIGHT

• Photographs depicting commercial and industrial buildings, inside and out • Ephemera illustrating how New Englanders lived, worked, and played • Images of vanished or vanishing professions • Illustrations of designs for furniture, textiles, and other household items

Winter 2016 Historic New England

23


Low Art Tile’s “natural” or “dust” tile from 1878 exemplifies Aesthetic Movement design in its blending of art and nature.

This gold Low Art Tile is a classic design by the Chelsea, Massachusetts, company. BOTTOM When laid in the floor around the parlor fireplace, this tile by an unknown maker creates a striking geometric and floral pattern. TOP

24

Historic New England Winter 2016

Tilework at the Eustis Estate promises to be a fruitful area for future research. This floral design found in the second floor master bed chamber is marked by William De Morgan, but lacks the depth of color for which his work is known.


The Making of a Museum

Discoveries at the Eustis Estate

O

ur work to transform the Eustis Estate in Milton, Massachusetts, into a museum, exhibition space, and study center continues to yield exciting and unexpected results. Designed by preeminent Boston architect William Ralph Emerson in 1878 for William Ellery Channing and Edith Eustis, the four-story house is an outstanding example of Emerson’s work. Its largely intact original interiors and exterior offer a remarkable glimpse into Gilded Age architecture and domestic life. In my role as curatorial and interpretive planning assistant, I’ve been researching the house and its architect and craftspeople, and the family that resided there for more than 135 years. A stash of original, unused decorative tiles found in the first-floor china closet helps us better understand the design and decor of the house. One of the tiles is from the Chelsea, Massachusetts, firm of Low Art Tile, and matches those used on the face of the dining room fireplace. Further research reveals that this particular style was one of the very first produced by the firm. Called “natural” tiles, the designs, inspired by Japanese motifs, were created by imprinting leaves and other greenery into the ceramic, transferring the design onto the tile. A patent search confirmed that John Gardner Low patented this particular manufacturing process in 1878, the year the Eustis Estate was built. One of the most exciting discoveries so far has come from the interior paint analysis. Microscopic cross-section analysis of the interior finishes revealed an exquisite color and texture palette that, when first installed in the late 1870s, was groundbreaking as an expression of the Aesthetic Movement in America. Consultants from Sutherland Conservation were able to determine that the painted finishes originally presented a variety of glittering, shimmering, and glowing metallic surfaces set off by deep, rich colors and warm wood tones and ceramic art tiles. For example, in the dining room where Low’s natural tiles were used, the walls were finished with a base coat of dark green oil paint mixed with sharp-edged grains of coarse sand overlaid with bright, gold-colored bronze powder. This created a surface that would reflect light off the tens of thou-

sands of tiny facets on the grains of sand. These glittering walls would have complemented Low fireplace tiles to stunning effect, especially at dusk. According to Scott Hanson, Sutherland Conservation architectural historian, “Laid atop each other, these layers created a depth of color and richness that had more in common with easel painting than with modern house painting.” These original wall treatments were painted over in the twentieth century; the metallic powders had tarnished over time, leaving the walls dark and brownish in color. Historic New England will recreate the original glittering vision using modern, tarnish-proof powders and leaf. In a 23,300-square-foot family home, careful attention to household technology helped ensure smooth communication between family and domestic staff. Builder’s plans from 1878 reveal that the service elevator was in the plans since the house’s conception. While most likely intended for transporting firewood from the basement level to the first, second, and third floors of the house, it was later converted to a lift for people, probably in the twentieth century as the inhabitants of the house aged. A dumbwaiter linked the china closet and pantry to the night nursery on the second floor. When W. E. C. and Edith moved into the house, their twin sons, Frederic and Augustus, were two years old. This dumbwaiter was certainly an appreciated convenience for the boys’ caregivers, and allowed food and other necessities to be transported from one floor to the next while keeping hands free to carry or care for the twins. Speaking tubes, which functioned as early intercoms, linked several rooms in the house to the kitchen. In addition to these speaking tubes, an electrical call system was installed throughout the house. With the simple touch of a button, a family member could alert the kitchen staff or other service personnel that they were needed, further enhancing seamless communication between servants and the family. While this technology was part of many upper-class homes in the late nineteenth century, the system installed at the Eustis Estate was surely among the best then available. We have only scratched the surface at the Eustis Estate— sometimes literally, as with our historic paint analysis—and Winter 2016 Historic New England

25


there are countless more research projects to be undertaken. When we removed two stained glass panels in the entry doors, we found the signature of Boston stained glass artist and decorator W. J. McPherson, whose role in the house’s design remains to be explored. And we are just beginning to learn more about furniture maker C. W. Roeth, who designed many of the intricately carved mantels (including the one pictured on the cover) and collaborated with Emerson on other commissions. With so much rich history yet to be explored, we plan to experiment with visitor experiences that go beyond the traditional historic house tour. We’re excited to see what lies ahead at the Eustis Estate, and even more excited to share it with our members and the public.

n vatio r e s Pre

: y t i C s in n c t o i i t s c e r a i m a he P D n y D or t e h T res f u t u F y ntur e c t 21s

—Elyse Werling Curatorial and Interpretive Planning Assistant, Eustis Estate

Seth W. Fuller advertised “Speaking tubes & whistles, electric bells and annunciators” in nineteenth-century trade directories throughout New England.

04 01 04 02 2016 BOSTON

Join preservationists, architects, planners, scholars, and public officials in discussions about the history and future of American cities.

HOSTED BY BOSTON UNIVERSITY Initiative on Cities Preservation Studies Program American and New England Studies— Graduate Student Association

HISTORIC NEW ENGLAND For more information and to register, visit HistoricNewEngland.org or email Sally Zimmerman, szimmerman@historicnewengland.org. 26

Historic New England Winter 2016

Photograph by PJ Carlino


Photo courtesy of The House of the Seven Gables

Salem’s Cultural Community Springs to Action

H

istoric New England takes a proactive role in disaster preparedness. Over the past few years this has included revamping disaster plans and kits, providing staff training, and ensuring that physical infrastructure is ready to meet the challenges of New England’s harsh weather. Historic New England is also a member of the Massachusetts Coordinated Statewide Emergency Preparedness (COSTEP) group that provides feedback and receives training from federal and state agencies as well as local networking opportunities to prepare for issues ranging from nor’easters to tornadoes to terrorist attacks. The staff at Phillips House in Salem is active in the local chapter of COSTEP. After a fire at the nearby Peabody Essex Museum’s Ropes Mansion in 2009, local first responders and the cultural community came together under the COSTEP umbrella. In addition to being the location of Historic New England’s Phillips House and Gedney House, the city of Salem is home to the Southern Essex County Registry of Deeds, the Peabody Essex Museum, the Salem Athenaeum, a number of churches with records dating back to the settlement of Salem in the 1620s, and city records of similar vintage. The Ropes Mansion fire was an eye-opening experience for the whole community. Since the inception of COSTEP Salem, staff and volunteers at local organizations have had the opportunity to participate in hands-on exercises, hear speakers from around the country discuss disaster response in their own cultural

organizations, learn about local response tactics from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, and build better relationships with Salem’s first responders. These relationships paid off in February 2015 with a COSTEP response to a frozen sprinkler head that burst at the Seamans Visitor Center at The House of the Seven Gables National Historic District. Around 8 a.m. on the Presidents’ Day holiday, the maintenance crew was shoveling snow from yet another massive storm when they heard the alarm and contacted the Salem Fire Department. Firefighters responded and quickly shut down the water supply. Museum staff knew that the basement of this modern building contained storage areas for the archives and collections. As water seeped through the first floor to the basement, the Gables staff covered as much as possible with plastic and moved objects to higher ground. Gables Director of Visitor Services Dan Marshall activated COSTEP by calling me as the local cultural triage officer and then–site manager at Phillips House. I reached out to Historic New England’s Registrar Megan MacNeil and we worked through the COSTEP phone tree to secure assistance from local organizations including the Peabody Essex Museum and Salem State University. The swift response from all resulted in minimal object loss. “We were very lucky. Only a handful of pieces had significant water damage, some being framed photographs with multiple copies in our archives,” said Marshall. Most of the items from the basement were temporarily removed to a secure and environmentally appropriate area as a precaution until temperature and humidity levels returned to normal. “I was impressed by and truly grateful for the response of Salem’s cultural community through the COSTEP program,” said House of the Seven Gables Executive Director Kara McLaughlin. “It is incredibly reassuring to know that our talented and dedicated employees have the necessary backup when emergency situations arise.” If you take care of a cultural collection, please consider these small steps you can take today to protect that collection: Review your disaster plan. Take stock of your disaster kit. Set up a meeting with local first responders so they can be familiar with the special needs of your property and collection. Talk to your staff or volunteers about emergency response. Visit mblc.state.ma.us/costepma to learn more about how COSTEP can help your local cultural community. —Julie Arrison Site Manager at Phillips House from 2008 to 2015

Julie Arrison, COSTEP Salem’s cultural triage officer, dons work gloves to minimize further damage to cultural collections as volunteers move objects to safety. Winter 2016 Historic New England

27


An early sunset casts a warm glow across the winter landscape at the Lyman Estate in Waltham, Massachusetts, in this photo taken by Landscape Assistant Kristin Wood.

Surviving 2015’s

Historic Snowfall

T

The record-breaking snowfall of 2015 tested the patience of even the most diehard New Englanders. Our site staff, property care team, and volunteers were on the front lines all season, digging out their own cars and homes so they could get to our properties and do it all over again, and again…and again. As we prepare this issue of Historic New England magazine, we don’t yet know what 2016 has in store for the region, but we hope that you enjoy this look back at some of the trials, triumphs, and monster icicles we encountered while keeping our historic properties and landscapes safe from winter’s worst.

28

Historic New England Winter 2016


Taking care of the animals “One morning I arrived behind the snowplow to find Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm completely buried in snow. My first concern was to make sure that the animals were safe and fed, so I dug out a path to the barn, filled up two buckets with hot oatmeal mash for the pigs, and set off to feed them. Once in the pen, I was in snow up to my waist, but didn’t realize I was walking on a thin crust of previously fallen snow. Needless to say, I fell through, holding two buckets of warm pig slop over my head as I plunged in up to my armpits. After some struggles and encouraging hungry squeals, I managed to make my way through the snow with most of breakfast still in the buckets. And that was only one day! I don't know how we would have made it through the winter without the help of our sturdy and dedicated staff and volunteers.”

Photographer and farm volunteer Sara Willman snapped this shot of an angora goat at Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm in Newbury, Massachusetts, early in the season.

—Bethany Groff Dorau North Shore Regional Site Manager

Keeping ice dams at bay “This past winter was the Season of the Ice Dam for the preservation services team and many of the private homeowners in our Preservation Easement Program. I’m sure there were many frantic Google searches for ‘how to get rid of ice dams.’ Unfortunately it’s easier to prevent ice dams than to chip away at one that has already formed. Things like increased attic insulation and properly maintaining gutter and downspout systems can help.” —Joanna McKnight, Preservation Services Manager, Northern New England

Senior Preservation Manager Colleen Chapin spotted this impressive row of icicles reaching like stalactites toward the ground at Browne House in Watertown, Massachusetts. Winter 2016 Historic New England

29


Monster icicles! “Icicles on the Eustis Estate gatehouse nearly touched the ground and kept forming despite efforts to keep them at bay. I couldn’t resist snapping these shots one morning when I pulled into the parking lot with snow piles taller than my car.” —Diane Viera Executive Vice President and COO Preservation Manager Joy Naifeh experimented with homemade snow melt socks made from pantyhose and rock salt to help prevent ice dams from forming.

Every day we’re shoveling… Property care staff spent nearly a month on snow removal duty. “Landscape Assistant Kristin Wood shoveled like a machine,” says Ben Haavik, team leader for property care. At Cogswell’s Grant in Essex, Massachusetts, Site Manager Kristen Weiss had the Sisyphean task of clearing a path to the oil fill pipe every morning, as snowdrifts twice her height blew in each night. “It seemed like the snow never stopped once it started!” says Preservation Carpenter Foreman Bruce Blanchard. “At Beauport we had to use snowshoes everywhere, even to get over the wall into the property.” Senior Preservation Manager Jodi Black shot preservation carpenters Dave Maloney and Bruce Blanchard (right) standing on a snowbank that covered the six-foot wall at Beauport, the Sleeper-McCann House.

30

Historic New England Winter 2016


Where to start? “It was a tough winter, but I just tried to keep in mind, ‘If there were an emergency, would first responders be able to get from point A to point B?’ At some sites the answer was no, and those were the sites I tried to focus on.” —Jodi Black, Senior Preservation Manager Snowdrifts nearly covered Jackson House’s iconic lean-to roofline in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in this photo from Ben Haavik, team leader for propery care.

LEFT

There was no question of being able to open the kitchen door at Beauport as snow drifts built up faster than we could keep them away. ABOVE A rare sunny day provided an opportunity for Site Manager Martha Van Koevering to appreciate the winter wonderland of the Beauport terrace.

Winter 2016 Historic New England

31


Ladies First

I

t’s not always easy to uncover the individual stories of women in history. Historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich writes in Good Wives that in Colonial New England, a woman’s goal was in fact not to stand out as an individual. As Ulrich puts it, she was to submerge her individuality in pursuit of a womanly ideal—faithful wife, loving mother, friendly neighbor. While this ideal was neither universal nor unchanging, its echoes can be heard in the stories of women’s lives at several of our properties. Lucy Tappan Bowen (1825–1863) was the first wife of prominent businessman Henry Bowen of Roseland Cottage in Woodstock, Connecticut. She gave birth to ten children in eighteen years and during her lifetime Roseland Cottage was a family-centric summer retreat. The boys engaged in hearty pursuits like hunting and fishing and newly popular pastimes like croquet and polo. The girls—Mary, Grace, and Alice— spent their time more quietly, preparing for genteel lives much like their mother’s. As Lucy wrote to a friend in 1854, “After breakfast, each day, sisters & myself read French for an hour & then in the afternoon, read History or something of that nature…. The remainder of the day is spent in riding, eating, sleeping, sewing & thinking.” Lucy didn’t live to see any of her children into adulthood. She died in 1863 shortly after the birth of her tenth child, who died in infancy that same year. “I think it’s clear that Lucy relished her role as a mother,” says Roseland Cottage Site Manager Laurie Masciandaro. “Her letters to the children show a deep affection for them.” Although Henry’s second wife, Ellen Holt, embraced her role as stepmother to the large Bowen brood, to the children she was always “Mother.” Lucy remained their one and only “Mama.” During the same era, the Misses Williams were living very different lives in Boston, though still well within the

32

Historic New England Winter 2016

bounds of respectability. From 1854 until 1868, Lavina, Maria, Eliza, and Aroline were the proprietors of a boarding house at Otis House. After their mother’s death and father’s remarriage, the unmarried sisters needed to support themselves financially, but options were limited for middle-class women. “Taking in boarders was an appropriate extension of a woman’s domestic role,” says historian Camille Arbogast, who leads the popular Ladies of Otis House tour every March. Eleven thousand people, 7.5 percent of Boston’s population, lived in boarding homes during the 1850s as more and more people left rural towns to find work in the city. Women like the Williamses not only provided meals and lodging, but also served as surrogate family for long-term boarders away from the comforts of home. Prolific and successful author Sarah Orne Jewett (1849– 1909) was far from anonymous, even in her own time, but she embraced the role of good neighbor in her loyalty to her hometown of South Berwick, Maine, and her pride in the family home. After the death of their father, the town docLucy Bowen holds her ninth child, Franklin Davis, in this c. 1861 carte de visite. Lucy’s gold wedding band is inscribed with her and Henry Chandler Bowen’s initials. ABOVE


Am 1743.26 (16). Houghton Library, Harvard University

tural firm of McKim, Mead, and White to create an expansive addition with modern amenities, completed in 1907. Elizabeth’s personal passion was the creation of the Colonial Revival gardens, including the 100-foot rose arbor, glades, and summerhouse. Though some left significant records of their thoughts and some left only names on census records, all of these women left their marks on the Historic New England properties they once called home. —Kris Bierfelt Editor and Publications Manager Lavinia Williams’s signature from a Boston census is among the only artifacts we have of the sisters who once operated Otis House as a boarding house. ABOVE Sarah Orne Jewett’s writing desk still overlooks the town center of South Berwick, Maine. BELOW Woodbury and Elizabeth Langdon shared an affection for Langdon House, but wanted to update it for modern living. LEFT

Courtesy of Strawbery Banke

tor, Sarah and her sister, Mary, lived there with their mother, decorating the home in a way that honored family history and also proclaimed the sisters’ own progressive tastes. She told a reporter for the Boston Journal: “I never feel prouder or more of the sense of owning and being owned, than when some old resident near Berwick meets me and says, ‘You’re one of the Doctor’s girls, ain’t ye?’ It makes me feel as though that were really my place in the world.” In 1901 Jewett told the Bangor Daily Commercial, “One’s house is almost like one’s body when it is so much a part of life…I was born here, and I hope I’ll die here—and leave all the chairs in their places!” Sarah got both wishes. She died at home from complications of a stroke in 1909, and in 1931 the Sarah Orne Jewett House became a Historic New England property, with rooms preserved very much as they were when Sarah lived and wrote there. In nearby Portsmouth, New Hampshire, family pride also animated Elizabeth Elwyn Langdon (1871–1946) as she preserved and expanded her family’s legacy. The greatgreat-granddaughter of Governor John Langdon, “Elizabeth felt a strong connection to the importance of the family,” says Northern Regional Site Manager Linda Marshall. Several years after marrying Woodbury Langdon, a distant cousin, the couple began transforming Langdon House into a Colonial Revival showplace and a worthy memorial to Governor Langdon. Together they stripped away later Victorian-era decor and hired the prestigious architec-

Winter 2016 Historic New England

33


141 Cambridge Street Boston MA 02114-2702

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

Victorian Connecticut in Living Color

B

lue, pink, and green Chinese fans tucked behind picture frames on the wall. Warm brown tiles by J. and J. G. Low Art Tile on the mantel. A burgundy, blue, and gold carpet on the floor. This 1878 watercolor painting shows the influence of the Colonial Revival and the Aesthetic Movement on a Connecticut family’s decorating schemes in vivid colors that are difficult to imagine when viewing the black-andwhite photography of the era. Painted by Frances Antoinette Beach, the daughter of a prominent Hartford businessman, it’s from a set of three watercolors that instantly caught our attention when they came up at auction. These rare, personal documents of domestic life in the late nineteenth century depict the interior of a cottage that once stood on the family’s West Hartford estate, Vine Hill. The consignor, a descendant of the Beach family, was delighted when she realized that her family’s objects would become a part of Historic New England’s museum collections and made a generous donation to offset the purchase price of the paintings. Not only did we acquire three important watercolors, but we also made an invaluable connection with the family to whom they had belonged. —Nicole Chalfant Collections Manager

Fireplace at Vine Hill, by Frances Antoinette Beach (b. 1852). West Hartford, Connecticut. Watercolor on paper. Search Collections Access online at HistoricNewEngland.org for additional watercolor views of Vine Hill’s parlor and reading nook.

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

Historic New England Winter 2016  

Our one hundredth easement property in Little Boar's Head, New Hampshire, discoveries at the Eustis Estate in Milton, Mass., a day in the li...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you