Historic New England Fall 2016

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Historic N E W E NG L A N D

FALL 2016


Historic N E W E NG L A N D

Fall 2016 Vol. 17, No. 2

A Twentieth-century Story with Eighteenth-century Roots


In Two Pots, the Legacies of Many Women’s Hands The Withering of a Garden Square Hidden in Plain Sight

Unknown Hands




Ditching the Old Dishes




A Connecticut House Coming Home

The Making of a Museum

Paving the Path for Preservation



Otis House: 100 Years of Historic New England’s Ownership Keeping It Modern at Gropius House


Articles, Both Useful and Ornamental




This past summer I became chairman of the Board of Trustees. I thank my predecessor Roger Servison for his strong leadership of our dedicated trustees who share with both Roger and me a deep commitment to the important work of Historic New England. It is with much appreciation and enthusiasm that I step into chairing an organization of which I’ve grown very fond. As a trustee I’ve had remarkable opportunities to be involved with the acquisition of new properties and collections. As a historic homeowner and collector myself, I understand the importance of sharing our resources and scholarship with you. In this issue you’ll read about our partnership with a Connecticut historical society to preserve a local landmark. Our museum historian researches the stories of enslaved peo-

ple in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Portsmouth, New Hampshire. A Keeping It Modern grant from the Getty Foundation is supporting conservation planning for the 1938 Gropius House in Lincoln, Massachusetts. You’ll get a glimpse of the transformation of the Eustis Estate in Milton, Massachusetts, and New England preservation professionals share their insights on the fiftieth anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act.

—-David Martland, Chair

HISTORIC NEW ENGLAND magazine is a benefit of membership. To become a member, visit HistoricNewEngland.org or call 617-994-5910. Comments? Email info@HistoricNewEngland.org. Historic ­­­ New England is funded in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Executive Editor: Diane Viera Editor: Dorothy Clark 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 Brick House, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass., 1968. Photographed 2016 by Steve Rosenthal. ABOVE LEFT Dining room at The Brick House. Photographed 2016 by Kindra Clineff. CENTER Surveying in Boston’s West End, 1959, HABS image, Cervin Robinson. ABOVE RIGHT Work at the 1878 Eustis Estate, Milton, Mass.

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


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

A Connecticut House

Coming Home


t 11 o’clock at night on January 14, 1974, Historic New England’s supervisor of properties was roused from his bed to some alarming news: overloaded wiring had caused a fire at the 250-yearold Harrison House in Branford, Connecticut, some 140 miles from his office in Boston. The fire started in the attic and damaged portions of the roof and east gable, but local fire crews prevented it from reaching the second or first stories. Fortunately, members of the Branford Historical Society were already at the property, ensuring that the building was made safe and secure until Historic New England’s staff could arrive in the morning. The two organizations worked together in the following months to repair the damage and arrange for the society to become a long-term tenant at the property. This partnership grew into a forty-two-year collaboration that has allowed Harrison House to be used as a resource by the local community and remain a compelling New England preservation story. Built by Nathaniel Harrison c. 1724, Harrison House is located along the old Boston Post Road outside of the center of Branford, in an area known as Canoe Brook (now a National Register Historic District). While settlers on the northern outskirts of Branford eventually broke away to form the separate town of North

Since 1974, Harrison House has been the headquarters and museum of the Branford Historical Society. Having leased the house from Historic New England for four decades, the society recently completed a capital campaign to buy the property and fund an endowment for maintenance. ABOVE

Branford, residents of the Canoe Brook community maintained their ties to Branford’s civic and religious center. Members of the Harrison family were active in colony and town affairs. In the early twentieth century Harrison House’s saltbox form and intact seventeenth-century, post-Medieval features attracted the attention of noted architectural historians, including Norman Isham and J. Frederick Kelly. Channeling growing consideration for colonial American traditions and a desire to define the modern patriot, antiquarian architects at the turn of the twentieth century brought attention to and provided authentic sources of inspiration for a popular new style of architecture­—Colonial Revival. These architects studied and restored early houses with the goal of educating a national audience about the region’s traditions and heritage. Kelly explained in his book, Early Domestic Architecture of Connecticut, that colo-

nial houses “constitute a momentous and vital link with an epoch to which we owe incalculably much and with a people whose function in our national history nothing can trivialize.” The work of these antiquarian architects to carefully evaluate and advocate for the preservation of early architecture is a keystone in the development of the historic preservation movement in the United States. By combining archival research with onsite investigations, they applied a logical methodology to dating buildings and understanding their evolution. J. Frederick Kelly, who started the firm Kelly and Kelly Architects with his brother, Henry, became particularly well known for documenting the early details of properties in Connecticut in articles and books. Kelly first became familiar with Harrison House, which he thought possessed “a number of features of such uncommon interest as to make Fall 2016 Historic New England


it an outstanding example of its type and period,� when he documented it in the early 1920s. Throughout his career, Kelly regularly corresponded with William Sumner Appleton, founder of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (now Historic New England). The two discussed Harrison House frequently starting in 1933, when it came to their attention that the house was for sale. In 1939 a local painting contractor bought the property, including Harrison House, a nineteenth-century barn and outhouse, and two acres of land, as a speculative purchase. Kelly was alarmed by the alterations the contractor intended to make and quickly purchased the property from him with the goal of restoring it to what he believed was its 1730–40s appearance. Kelly sought existing evidence to guide his decision-making and the building now expresses his restoration technique, common among 2

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architectural historians of the time, which includes retention of some anachronistic later materials alongside earlier features. For instance, six-over-six sash windows were reproduced and installed based on older windows found in the barn, although Kelly speculated that evidence of casement windows might be concealed behind the exterior cladding. He also restored the hall fireplace to its original form and size, but saved later eighteenth-century paneling in the same room, stripping it of layers of paint. Kelly repainted the exterior of the house a dark red, Spanish Brown color, based on paint evidence on a second layer of clapboards concealed beneath a newer outer layer. To Appleton’s surprise, Kelly left the property to Historic New England upon his death in 1947. The property did not come with an endowment

Harrison House was photographed by the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) in 1938, not long before J. Frederick Kelly began restoration work. ABOVE The property also includes a nineteenth-century barn, where Kelly found old six-over-six sash windows in storage. Although the windows were too deteriorated to be used in the house, Kelly was able to base new ones on their design. TOP

Kelly was thrilled to find original exterior clapboards on the south walls of the leanto and lean-to garret, proof that the lean-to was a later addition. BELOW As part of his restoration work, Kelly enlarged the hall fireplace to what he believed were its original dimensions prior to the addition of the lean-to, removed box covers from posts, and stripped paint from wood paneling. LEFT

to support ongoing maintenance and interpretation. Thus, for many years it was leased as a private residence. In 1967 members of the Branford Historical Society contacted Historic New England about the lease arrangement and, starting in 1974, we leased the property to them for use as a headquarters and museum. Under this arrangement members of the Branford community have had access to one of the town’s oldest buildings, as well as the society’s collections and archives housed there. Recognizing the historical society’s long-term commitment to the property, Historic New England offered to sell Harrison House to the Branford Historical Society. Led by Ginny Page, the society’s president and a descendant of one of Branford’s founding families, the Branford Historical Society rallied the local community to raise funds and purchase the property. Although the society is managed entirely by

volunteers, it quickly galvanized local support for the capital campaign, the goal of which was not just to purchase the property but to fund its ongoing maintenance. The sale, at one half the market value, was finalized in May. Historic New England retains a perpetual preservation easement on the property, which provides the Branford Historical Society continued access to Historic New England’s advice and preservation guidance and protects the property’s historic character, should it ever be sold into private ownership. After decades of leasing the property, the Branford Historical Society is thrilled to own Harrison House. With tears in her eyes, Page said of the house, “It feels like it’s finally coming home.” —Carissa Demore Supervising Preservation Services Manager


Kelly drafted post-restoration floor


Fall 2016 Historic New England


Living room showing seascape painting and furnishings.

Kindra Clineff


Historic New England Fall 2016

A Twentieth-century Story with Eighteenth-century Roots Jutting into the Atlantic Ocean just northeast of Manchester, Massachusetts, is 116 acres of farm and forest land that Thomas Jefferson Coolidge purchased in 1871. The property became known as Coolidge Point at Manchester-by-the-Sea. Throughout the century that followed, the Coolidge family built, modified, and demolished residences and supporting buildings, such as cottages, barns, stables, and garages, altering the landscape to accommodate their changing needs and ideals.


oolidge Point is perhaps best known for Marble House, a mansion designed by noted architectural firm McKim, Mead and White for Thomas Jefferson Coolidge Jr. in 1902– 1904 and demolished in 1958. However, the property also has hosted a Modern structure that replaced Marble House, it too now demolished, and a surviving farmhouse called Lily Pond House, dated c. 1870. Over the years land was sold outside the family for other private residences, and sixty-six acres were generously donated to The Trustees of Reservations to preserve as public open space, known today as the Coolidge Reservation. Thomas Jefferson Coolidge’s father married President Thomas Jefferson’s granddaughter Ellen Wayles Randolph in 1825, linking one of New England’s most prominent families to one of Virginia’s. Continuing the Coolidge family legacy, Dr. Catherine Coolidge Lastavica spent much of her youth at Coolidge Point, including in Marble House, the home of her beloved grandmother. In 1968, Dr. Lastavica built her own home at Coolidge Point, known today as The Brick House. A medical doctor, Dr. Lastavica is also devoted to the study of history, especially the history of ancestor Thomas Jefferson and his Coolidge family descendants. For the design of The Brick House, Dr. Lastavica engaged George H. Sherwood, an architect experienced in historical restoration projects from his work for Perry, Shaw and Hepburn, architects of Colonial Williamsburg and for the Society for

A small portrait of Thomas Jefferson c. 1800, artist unknown. BELOW Watercolor of the front of the McKim, Mead and White-designed mansion, Marble House. ABOVE

Fall 2016 Historic New England


Kindra Clineff

the Preservation of New England Antiquities (now Historic New England), among other organizations. The model chosen for The Brick House was the George Wythe House at Williamsburg, Virginia, the 1750 Georgian residence where Thomas Jefferson studied the law and was mentored by Wythe. The exterior dimensions of The Brick House match those of Wythe House, while the interior follows the general plan but with room sizes adjusted to accommodate modern needs such as bathrooms and a kitchen. Its Colonial Revival paint colors were done by the Edward K. Perry Company of Boston, which worked at Colonial Williamsburg and whose records are now in the archives of Historic New England. The interiors include some elements preserved from McKim, Mead and White’s 1904 Marble House, such as mantels and sinks. The Brick House is a showcase for furnishings evocative of the colonial era, as well as a museum of Jefferson and Coolidge family artifacts. Portraits by Gilbert Stuart, Sir George Chalmers, and Robert Feke depict Coolidge ancestors, and landscapes and seascapes of New England reflect the family’s long history here. Chinese export porcelain with a “J” monogram in an armorial crest is known in the family as the Jefferson service and is prominently displayed. A commemorative christening bowl is engraved with the names 6

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and baptism dates of family members. The library is filled with books referencing American history and decorative arts. Photograph albums depict the earlier homes on the property and family life at Coolidge Point. Everywhere there are references to Thomas Jefferson, to Monticello, and to the roles he and his descendants played in American life. Although Jefferson was a Virginian and his home at Monticello is preserved as a national landmark, the Coolidge family presence in Massachusetts brought much of his legacy to the state. The largest collection of Jefferson’s private papers in existence is at the Massachusetts Historical Society, largely gifts of the Coolidge family. The Harvard Art Museums and other institutions hold Jefferson and Coolidge family portraits. In recent years a non-profit organization, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Center, was created by Dr. Lastavica and her late husband, John Lastavica, to continue this legacy through educational programs and public events at Coolidge Point. In 2014 Historic New England was invited to discuss with the Center and Dr. Lastavica a possible role in the longterm preservation of the buildings, landscape, and collections at Coolidge Point that remained in their care. The centerpiece of the discussion was The Brick House. How does Historic New England determine the historical significance of a twen-

tieth-century building like The Brick House and what role we should play in its preservation? While there are strong environmental and economic reasons for historic preservation, a primary reason to save historic buildings and artifacts is to pass on physical evidence of the past that conveys meaning and understanding about our heritage. Structures and objects help to carry our memories, explain our times, and illustrate our values. William Sumner Appleton’s founding of our organization in 1910 was based on his vision of preserving evidence of the esteemed Revolutionary era, and each generation since has added to the organization’s collection of properties that carry meaning in some way. For nearly fifty years, acceptance or disposition of historic properties by Historic New England has been based on a systematic evaluation of significance and consideration of whether a property fills gaps in coverage of New England geography, periods, architectural styles, material culture collections, and stories. Today we look at the properties collection from the perspective of both those we own and those that are privately owned but permanently

protected through the Historic New England Preservation Easement Program. Thus there are 146 properties protected through the efforts of Historic New England, and each tells a particular story about the past. We recognize that significant twentieth-century properties need to be identified and protected. For example, accepting ownership of the 1938 Gropius House in Lincoln, Massachusetts, in 1978 was an extraordinary and controversial step for an organization then best known for protecting antiquities. The 1821 Phillips House in Salem, Massachusetts, was accepted in 2006 with recognition that the building and contents tell a primarily twentieth-century story, but its Federal Revival form does not immediately display that to visitors. Until recently the Preservation Easement Program has been the primary vehicle for protecting twentieth-century homes, including buildings designed by Marcel Breuer, Earl Flansburgh, Henry B. Hoover, and Eliot Noyes. While Historic New England’s scope of preservation activities has significantly broadened since acceptance of Gropius House, the thought of adding The Brick House, a 1968 property, to the collection required careful consideration. Not yet having reached the fifty-year point at which buildings are typically classified as historic, the significance of the property had to be clearly identified. This led the

The dining room at The Brick House. ABOVE Chinese export porcelain soup plate with “J” monogram in an armorial crest is part of what is known in the family as the Jefferson service. LEFT Among the features of the living room are a mantel that was part of the McKim, Mead and White-designed Marble House and a portrait by Robert Feke. FACING PAGE

Kindra Clineff

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organization to consider the place of such a structure in the overall properties collection, what artifacts would support interpretation, and what themes and stories could be explored there. Historian Mark Kurlansky refers to 1968 as “the year that rocked the world” in a book by that title. This is the year of the assassinations of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, the time of riots at the Chicago Democratic Convention, civil rights and Vietnam War protests across the nation, and the opening of Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical on Broadway. Yale announced that it would for the first time admit women. In architecture, the International Style, Postmodernism, and Brutalism were predominant, with Boston City Hall nearing completion for a February 1969 opening. It is difficult to identify any year in the history of the twentieth century that was more volatile, and in which more traditions and conventional behaviors were challenged or abandoned. Yet in this year of convulsions, The Brick House was built as an expression of history and Jeffersonian values, reinforcing core beliefs of a New England family long committed to its history and to American history. Clearly the story and legacy of Thomas Jefferson and his New England descendants have long been safeguarded and shared by the family and are of importance at a national level—sometimes revered, sometimes reviled, and sometimes controversial. Links to other New England families enhance the stories, with Coolidge connections to the Appleton,

Amory, Coffin, Inman, and Sears families, among others. The New England “Gold Coast” north of Boston, noted for visits by Presidents William Howard Taft and Calvin Coolidge, the massive gated estate of Henry Clay Frick, and other exclusive family compounds, is a well-known part of Massachusetts North Shore history, but one not readily experienced by the public. Coolidge Point was farmland in the nineteenth century, a society summer home in the early twentieth century, a lookout station during World War II, and partially public open space by the late twentieth century. Among prominent people connected to the estate is nationally renowned landscape designer Carol Johnson, who restored portions of the landscape in 2000. All of these many factors contributed to an understanding of a special opportunity at Coolidge Point to conserve more waterfront open space, to preserve and use surviving Coolidge family buildings for the benefit of the public, and to study and make available collections representing many aspects of New England and American life. Historic New England will use The Brick House as a study property. There will be opportunities for public tours, but a special focus will be on preservation, research, and scholarship for buildings, landscape, archives, and collections. Oral history interviews conducted with Dr. Lastavica and Carol Johnson have already informed our understanding of the buildings and landscape of Coolidge Point, but there is much to be done to research and learn about the evolution of the property and the stories of its use from the nineteenth century to today. This past summer interns were assigned research projects that support collection cataloguing and interpretive planning. The Brick House garage, converted by the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Center into a handsome conference facility, is suitable for scholarly seminars and public events. Under Historic New England ownership of the property, the Center will continue to offer annual lectures on Jefferson and the Early National period, open to the public and encouraging the understanding of the life, times, and legacy of the third president. Historic New England will encour-

lin ef f Ki nd ra C


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Notes on the State of Virginia was Thomas Jefferson’s only fulllength book.

Tracy Brennan

age collaborative use of the conference facility by other educational and cultural organizations. Tour access to The Brick House requires us to address some infrastructure needs, which will be studied, planned, and carried out in the next two years. Census data show that seventy-two percent of Americans today were born or arrived after 1964, and would have no memory of the dramatic upheavals and changes encountered in the 1960s and 1970s. McKim, Mead and White’s 1904 Marble House at Coolidge Point was already a memory by that time, and the long presence of great family estates and summer escapes to the North Shore was in decline as other large houses were demolished and housing development filled much of the open space. Historic New England’s newest acquisition of The Brick House at Coolidge Point takes another step in protecting and sharing twentieth-century stories. Thanks to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Center trustees and Dr. Catherine Coolidge Lastavica, The Brick House at Coolidge Point and its contents were donated to Historic New England, and now begin a period of study and preparation for public use

Tracy Brennan

The library in The Brick House. ference center. TOP


An event in the con-

as a center for scholarship, collections, and public programs exploring the multifaceted significance of this special place and a time that is quickly fading into history. —Carl R. Nold President and CEO

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In Two Pots, the Legacies of Many Women’s Hands


he great thing about the objects in Historic New England’s collections isn’t that they are items of wonderful aesthetic value, although many of them are, nor is it that they are rare, although many of them are. What’s amazing about these collections is their endless capacity to tell stories. Two objects have recently risen high on my list of favorites for just that reason. Neither is exceptionally beautiful but both reveal stories about remarkable women. This storage jar came into the collection last year. You could certainly call it unprepossessing. But there’s a note inside that tells us it’s anything but ordinary. According to the note, the jar may be the work of the Parker pottery in Charlestown, Massachusetts. Before the American Revolution when most of the town was burned to the ground, Charlestown was a major producer of earthenware pottery. Charlestown Ware was sold up and down the New England coast. The Parker pottery was the first to undertake the complex process of producing stone-


Historic New England Fall 2016

ware. And, after owner Isaac Parker’s untimely death in 1742, it became the only pre-Revolutionary pottery in New England known to have been run by a woman. Isaac was a thriving businessman, becoming one of the leading producers of Charlestown Ware and amassing a fortune in the process. Early in the 1740s he began to explore making stoneware, which until then had been produced only in New York, Philadelphia, and Virginia. He sank much of his capital into the venture but died before his pottery had successfully produced a single piece. After Isaac’s death his widow, Grace, took over his business. Isaac had recently been granted a monopoly to produce stoneware and Grace successfully petitioned the court to have that right transferred to her. The court’s decision gave Grace, in partnership with her brother-in-law, the exclusive right to produce stoneware for fifteen years. After a year of trials, the pottery finally succeeded, advertising that it “made and sold reasonably…blue and

white stone ware of forty different sorts.” If we can prove that this storage jar is the work of the Parker pottery, it would be the only known surviving piece and the only example of intact stoneware produced in New England before the Revolution.

Storage jar, salt-glazed stoneware, possibly Parker pottery, Charlestown, Mass., 1742–45. From the Estate of Malcolm and Joan Watkins. BELOW Lura Woodside Watkins (left) and an unidentified woman. Photo by John Farnum for the Springfield (Mass.) Republican. ABOVE

Pitcher, earthenware, Paul Revere Pottery, Brighton, Mass., 1925–26. Gift of Mrs. James J. Storrow. BELOW Sara Galner decorating a vase at the Paul Revere Pottery, Mary H. Northend, photographer, c. 1914. LEFT

Which brings us to the other extraordinary woman connected to this piece, Lura Woodside Watkins. The jar belonged to her. According to the note inside, Lura’s great-aunt and great-uncle discovered the jar sometime in the nineteenth century in the basement of an old house in Chelsea, Massachusetts. It was Lura who thought that based on its condition, form, and vertical handles, it was probably a Parker pottery production. Lura Woodside Watkins was a selftaught historian who published Early New England Potters and Their Wares (1950), still considered the most reliable book on the subject. As she wrote in the preface, the book was the result of fifteen years of study “carried on, partly in libraries and town records, partly by conferences with descendants of potters and others familiar with their history, and partly by actual digging on the sites of potteries.” It was from the excavations that Watkins learned the most, discovering evidence of types of wares that no longer survived above ground. It is because of her that we know about

Grace Parker’s efforts to create the first stoneware in New England. We’re hopeful that the extensive Watkins family papers that were part of the same gift to Historic New England will shed more light on this unassuming pot. The blue pitcher was made nearly two hundred years after the Charlestown stoneware storage jar. Surprisingly, it is the work of the Paul Revere Pottery, better known for pieces with a single-color matte glaze or decorated with stylized flowers or animals. Like the storage jar, the pitcher also tells the story of some remarkable women— a librarian, an artist, a philanthropist, and a group of immigrant Jewish and Italian girls in Boston’s North End. The librarian was Edith Guerrier, who was hired to oversee a number of girls’ clubs that met at the North Bennet Street Industrial School in the North End. The artist was Edith’s lifelong companion Edith Brown, whom she met when both attended the Boston Museum School of Art. And the philanthropist was Helen Storrow, a born progressive, the granddaughter and grandniece of first-wave feminists

Martha Coffin Wright and Lucretia Coffin Mott. With Storrow’s financial support, the two Ediths established a pottery that would enable the girls in the North End library club, known as the Saturday Evening Girls, to earn a wage at the same time that they furthered their education. The Paul Revere Pottery provided clean working conditions, a decent salary, paid vacation, and an opportunity to learn while they decorated by listening to storytellers and readers. Brown created the designs and oversaw production while Guerrier managed the finances. The pottery was never financially viable and depended on Storrow’s ongoing support. It continued through the Depression, having moved to the Brighton section of Boston in 1915, but closed in the early years of World War II. The pots survive, however, including this example, made more than fifteen years after the pottery’s founding. All of the Paul Revere Pottery pots are a testimony to the girls who decorated them and the women who believed in those girls. —Nancy Carlisle Senior Curator of Collections

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A color slide image of Boston’s West End neighborhood shows clearance in the process, c. 1959.

Paving the Path

for Preservation This year preservation organizations across the country are marking the fiftieth anniversary of the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. This federal statute established the regulatory framework for the activities of historic preservation, signaling that preservation had finally become a focus of public policy. It paved the way for recognition of historic preservation as a field of professional endeavor, not just an avocational pursuit. But at 141 Cambridge Street in Boston, on October 15, 1966, when the act was signed into law, the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (SPNEA) had already been hard at work on behalf of historic preservation for decades.


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hen he founded SPNEA in 1910 William Sumner Appleton laid out many of the principles and practices later embodied in the Preservation Act, including the need to protect the remarkable variety of historic resources, to empower communities to preserve antiquities through vigorous local advocacy, and to look beyond the historic house museum for ways to preserve a structure and keep historic properties on the tax list and actively in use. Through the 1950s and 1960s Appleton’s successor, Bertram K. Little, carried forward the work of historic preservation in many critical ways, speaking, advising, and traveling nationally to promote the cause. In 1955 when the first historic district in the region was created on Boston’s Beacon Hill, Little reported on his involvement with that effort, and on his many “personal conferences of varying length with individuals concerned with the preservation of old houses and buildings literally all over the United States.” He included mention of work with the chief planner of Boston’s West End Redevelopment project, a late-1950s urban renewal effort that seemed likely to impact SPNEA’s Otis House. That same year, recognizing perhaps that projects like the West End Redevelopment would affect more than just

Abbott Lowell Cummings lecturing with an image of Faneuil Hall in the background, c. 1967. Courtesy of New England Historic Genealogical Society.

Water Street, Newburyport, Mass., 1973. From the collection of Robert Currier. LEFT Detail of a Federal mantel in the kitchen of a c. 1810 house at 91 Green Street, Boston, 1959. HABS image. ABOVE

Otis House, Little brought in Abbott Lowell Cummings to help with, among other things, “protection for important structures threatened with destruction because of highway construction, projected parking lots or plans for modern commercial and public buildings.” Indeed, the wholesale destruction of important structures and neighborhoods such as the West End—home to generations of African American, Irish, and Jewish residents—did much to spur passage of the 1966 act. In the West End, where urban renewal cleared 46 acres and displaced 2,700 families, then Assistant Director Cummings led a critical effort to record its buildings for the Historic American Fall 2016 Historic New England


conditions of suitable adaptive uses.” This study created the preservation criteria for one of the country’s most significant early adaptive use projects, Quincy Market. SPNEA’s other signature achievements from this heady decade included the 1966 launch of the “Preservation Management Program” and the 1968 commitment to help establish the graduate program in American and New England Studies at Boston University. Both continue today. The Preservation Management LEFT Abbott Lowell Cummings interviewing women at 47 McLean Street, Boston, 1959. Program, in which the orgaRIGHT Façade of 47 McLean Street, originally built 1825-50, HABS image, Cervin Robinson. nization took ownership of important buildings but Buildings Survey (HABS). Street-by-street surveys in the late maintained them, as Appleton had long ago hoped, on the tax 1950s identified representative buildings for documentation rolls as rental and adaptively used structures, has evolved into and in 1959 HABS, using Cummings’ selections and building Historic New England’s Preservation Easement Program. notes, photographed a series of doomed structures on streets As the 1960s came to a close, Bertram Little retired and that would soon be swallowed by urban renewal. Abbott Cummings assumed leadership of SPNEA. Much of A review of SPNEA’s annual reports shows how involved Appleton’s vision had been accomplished in the sixty years the organization was in the early phases of the preservation since the organization’s founding. As movement. All through the 1960s, Little and Cummings board President Charles F. Batchelder would be called upon to help steer the movement, which noted, Appleton “saw the urgency of “without question” commanded the “major part” of their preserving our architectural heritage, attention. Both men were “cheerfully devoted to bringing the and had the courage to start, and the Society’s experience and consultative services to the…multiquality to establish high standards.” faceted problems in the historic preservation field.” That urgency and courage, and the Little and Cummings contributed to pioneering architechigh standards set early on, bore fruit tural surveys in Boston’s South End and Charlestown areas, in the 1966 Historic Preservation Act, helped organize newly formed state historical commissions supported in large part by work that in New Hampshire and Connecticut; argued against urban Historic New England cultivated and renewal in downtown Newburyport, Massachusetts, and for nurtured over the years and which preservation of Boston’s Commonwealth Avenue and the still invigorates our region today. Back Bay district; spoke to local preservation groups from Historic Salem, Massachusetts, and Historic Boston to the —Sally Zimmerman Greater Portland Landmarks Society in Maine; and lectured, Senior Preservation Services Manager taught classes, and spoke on the radio about restoring houses and organizing for advocacy. The preeminence of SPNEA’s collaborative expertise and leadership culminated in 1967 when it entered into a South Market Street, Boston, study contract with Architectural Heritage Incorporated and the image for Faneuil Hall reuse projBoston Redevelopment Authority to study “the practicalities ect, c. 1967, from Frederick A. Stahl of preserving the historic and architectural integrity of the Archive. Faneuil Hall Markets and Blackstone Area under present-day 14

Historic New England Fall 2016


If you haven’t visited the glorious but troubled industrial city of Holyoke, Massachusetts, you should, for it lays down a challenge for preservationists as few other places do: Can we fulfill the dream of a progressive preservation movement that not only answers our need for beautiful architecture and meaningful connections to the past, but also helps to build a more sustainable and economically just world? The fiftieth anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act demands that this be the central question we ask. I’ve wrestled with this challenge in two books. One, Bending the Future (University of Massachusetts Press), edited with my colleague Marla Miller at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, contains fifty short essays by leading theorists, historians, and practitioners about their proposals for a better preservation movement. The other, Why Preservation Matters (Yale University Press), is my own gentle manifesto for a progressive preservation movement. In both books, Holyoke is a touchstone. Holyoke is one of our earliest planned industrial cities, once the capital of papermaking in the United States, home to generations of immigrants from Canada, Poland, Ireland, and countries in the Caribbean, as well as citizens of the US territory of Puerto Rico. It is also one of the poorest cities

in Massachusetts, with 30 percent unemployment, a school system in receivership, high crime, drug addiction, and food insecurity. At the same time, Holyoke is experiencing what could be a renaissance, led by a dynamic mayor, Alex Morse, and spurred on by activists and investors who see possibility­—strong buildings; its location on highways and rail lines; its dam and canal system that produces cheap, renewable energy to fuel homes; and the computer farm of the Massachusetts High-Performance Computing Center. But the poverty stubbornly persists. The problems are beyond the trickle-down approach to urban redevelopment that still dominates in our poorest postindustrial cities: encourage artists and wealthy individuals to take over old buildings, hope that this will spur others to follow suit, expect new stores, and job creation. Lather, rinse, repeat. Too often this kind of “development” creates enclaves of renewal and rarely helps those at the lower end of the economic scale. Preservationists should be central figures in a new progressive wave that is cresting and might yet take hold in our most disadvantaged communities. Preservationists, if we choose to, can make the case that the old housing and industrial stock is easily and affordably adapted to present industrial and commercial needs, that the infrastructure and density of buildings is in fact valuable for the environment and for building vibrant communities, that unemployed people can and should be given training and jobs to renovate the sustainable resource that is their city. This is preservation’s moment. It can finally shed its reputation—largely undeserved, but still widely held—of being aesthetically elitist, of being the domain of the rich, of standing in the way of progress, of being obsessed with architecture. And it can offer solutions to some of the most pressing problems of our day—crafting a sustainable approach to climate change, honestly confronting our difficult pasts, and reclaiming a more equitable society. —Max Page Professor of architecture and history at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, director of the university’s historic preservation program, and a 2013 Rome Prize Fellow


Holyoke, Massachusetts, paper mills, c. 1896. Fall 2016 Historic New England


The Withering of a Garden Square


n 1871 John Amory Lowell transformed his influential family’s Roxbury, Massachusetts, estate, Bromley Vale, into a groundbreaking garden square residential development named Bromley Park. Though demolished in 1953 to make way for the city-owned Bromley-Heath housing complex in Jamaica Plain, Bromley Park stood for nearly eighty years as a powerful and fascinating example of how nature and dense private housing could be interwoven in urban design. Several blocks of brick townhouses surrounded more than twenty-thousand square feet of green space. Shady trees, expansive lawns, and wrought iron fences graced the three common areas, which provided a naturalistic oasis for the middle- and working-class immigrant Bromley Park community. This largely forgotten garden square illuminates how Lowell’s desire to provide residents with an experience of nature intersected with the need for adequate housing in an evolving industrial city.

Bromley Park, illustrated in the 1890 Atlas of the City of Boston, was intended to accommodate six blocks of small townhouses surrounding a common garden area. Planned by John Amory Lowell and built between 1871 and 1873, the design sought to integrate natural, open spaces with dense urban housing. 16

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After Old Colony Railroad expanded its tracks through Bromley Vale in 1870, Lowell decided to move from his estate in the industrializing neighborhood to a new estate in Brookline named Sevenells. In determining how to subdivide Bromley Vale, Lowell turned to an urban design form that he knew well from his extensive travels abroad. Garden squares originally developed in London in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Consisting of lush gardens bordered by closely spaced but architecturally refined townhouses, London garden squares constituted peaceful bastions of privilege and wealth separated from the city’s chaotic mix of residents of different classes. Historical examples in Boston originated with Charles Bulfinch, whose

1793 Tontine Crescent located just south of the Boston Common consisted of a semicircular row of townhouses surrounding a small garden plot. During the mid-nineteenth century builders created similar developments in Boston, including Beacon Hill’s Louisburg Square and the South End’s Worcester, Chester, and Union squares. Lowell himself once lived in a now-lost garden square called Pemberton Square. These garden squares joined Boston’s other renowned nineteenth-century public park projects, such as the Public Garden and Emerald Necklace, in demonstrating a new appreciation for creating urban green spaces to uplift residents and reform the urban environment. Bromley Park never housed Boston’s elite. With this real estate venture, Lowell designed a much larger

and denser version of the garden square that reflected the neighborhood’s transformation from a rural hinterland to a busy residential and industrial zone. Roxbury and Jamaica Plain, once pastoral agricultural towns that supplied Boston with produce, had attracted wealthy families like the Lowells who established estates there in the early to mid-nineteenth century showcasing some of the finest examples of landscape gardening and horticultural practice of the day. By the early 1870s these bucolic paradises yielded to the pressures of urbanization and industrialization with breweries, tanneries, chemical works, and myriad other industries built along the nearby Stony Brook. Expanded mass transportation routes leading out of Boston drew diverse groups of middle- and lower-middleclass white- and blue-collar workers to the area. Other working-class residents used the emerging streetcar system to escape the overcrowded and dilapidated downtown tenements. Lowell, a leader of the Boston Associates textile mill owners, had helped to design the cities of Lowell and Lawrence north of Boston, and had ample experience in shaping industrial and residential growth through architecture and planning. Furthermore, through his philanthropic activities, Lowell was well acquainted with the working-class housing developments in London designed by English reformer Octavia Hill. These progressive residential designs challenged often unsanitary and congested living conditions by constructing model tenements that provided open space, fresh air, and natural light. At Bromley Park, Lowell combined the garden square with a novel approach to philanthropic housing for the working class. The fluctuating demographics and occupancy rate of Bromley Park provide a vivid snapshot of social change. In 1880, English immigrant Samuel Miller rented 21 Bromley Park and lived

there with his wife and a Nova Scotian housekeeper. Miller had a white-collar job with the Industrial Aid Society, a poverty prevention organization. Sixtyone people lived in the block of nine townhouses the Millers called home and except for one Irishman, all the residents were born in New England, Nova Scotia, or England. They worked in a range of occupations such as lawyers, machinists, traders, store clerks, and streetcar operators. When the Thomas Plant Shoe Company set up shop next to Bromley

Park in 1899 the makeup of residents changed considerably. Initially a modest operation, the factory expanded quickly. By 1915, it encompassed an area nearly equivalent to all of Bromley Park. Before the expansion, Bromley Park’s green spaces afforded a bit of tranquility within the city; after the expansion the din of machines and reek of leather pervaded the neighborhood. By 1900 the number of residents in Miller’s home had increased from three to eighteen people. John Canavan, a forty-year-old Irish painter, his wife,

The introduction and expansion of the Thomas Plant Shoe Company, depicted here in the 1915 Atlas of the City of Boston, altered Bromley Park’s social and architectural character. Although the garden square had always housed people from a range of backgrounds, the massive shoe factory established Bromley Park as a workingclass neighborhood.

Fall 2016 Historic New England


Photos courtesy of Boston Housing Authority

After plotting out Bromley Park, Lowell sold lots that generally measured nineteen feet wide by sixty feet long to individual builders. He ensured uniformity in design through deed restrictions placed on the properties that limited builders to constructing two-story townhouse residences with slated mansard roofs. Lowell deeded the three central green spaces to the City of Boston. The Boston and Providence Railroad, which brought industry into the area but prompted Lowell to rework his estate, formed the southern border. ABOVE In this 1951 photograph, the Thomas Plant Shoe Company looms on the right, while Bromley Park is situated in the middle. The tops of trees growing in the green spaces can be seen reaching above the townhouses. TOP


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and their seven children shared the small house with nine lodgers, eight of whom worked for the shoe company. By 1910 the nine houses along this block held a total of ninety-three residents. First- and second-generation Irish and German immigrants predominated, though Englishmen, Canadians, Russians, and Armenians joined them. Despite Bromley Park’s growing density, its central green spaces continued to serve as a common area in which to hold neighborhood gatherings and festivals. Bromley Park’s urban square and townhouses contrasted sharply with the three-deckers, freestanding woodframe houses, and small private yards that were the norm in the dense suburbs of Roxbury and Jamaica Plain. By 1950, many of the park’s townhouses had fallen into disrepair, neglected by absentee landlords. While some residents did own and renovate their units, the City of Boston designated the neighborhood blighted and proceeded to demolish Bromley Park and several adjacent blocks as part of midcentury urban renewal efforts. The BromleyHeath public housing development rose from the rubble. John Amory Lowell envisioned Bromley Park as a philanthropic architectural strategy to improve housing options and integrate nature into Boston’s urban landscape. While the city’s larger urban parks and reservations have been well studied and justly celebrated, more modest attempts, such as Lowell’s, to find a balance between residential density and open space, merit a closer look. Bromley Park may no longer exist but its rise and fall offer a compelling illustration of the social and economic change that accompanied Boston’s dynamic growth and influenced both the natural and man-made landscape of the city. —Aaron Ahlstrom Ph.D. student, Boston University American and New England Studies

Take a Peek Inside New England’s Jewelry Box

This vividly illustrated 64-page book by Associate Curator Laura E. Johnson reveals the stories behind four centuries of jewelry in Historic New England’s collection, exploring the timeless essence of cherished adornments made and worn in New England since 1700. Order Keepsakes and Treasures online for $19.95 at HistoricNewEngland.org.

Hidden in Plain Sight


he lives of free and enslaved black men and women in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century New England reflect a complicated negotiation of being seen and yet not seen. Although the percentage of people of color in New England cities was never high, the New England colonial economy depended on their labor. From domestic workers in elite homes and on large farms to laborers in shipyards and ropewalks, the impact of black New Englanders is hard to ignore and yet, in the documentary record, their presence can be difficult to locate. Recent research on enslaved and free African Americans in New England has begun to fill in the gaps. In their book Black Portsmouth, Valerie Cunningham and Mark Sammons provide valuable guidance on primary source material in the New Hampshire documentary record. As we at Historic New England work to enrich our understanding of African American contributions to our historic sites, we, too, turn to


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these records to better describe the role of enslaved people in Portsmouth and other communities. As important as these primary sources are, it can be difficult to take in the harsh discrimination of the world they reveal. Reading advertisements for enslaved people, accounts of slaving voyages and insurrections, and other period documents that strip away the humanity of individuals takes an emotional toll but also reinforces the need to ensure that the humanity of black New Englanders is restored in contemporary public history. Visitors to Historic New England’s properties ask when enslaved people were first brought to the Piscataqua region of New Hampshire and Maine and about the historical context for the slave trade in the area. Cunningham and Sammons’ work provides many of the answers, but turning directly to one particularly critical primary source, newspapers, is even more vivid. Often, the most valuable information is found in the advertisements, which document goods

and services for sale, the traffic of ships in and out of port, and sale or transfer of property. Unlike modern advertisements that work through subtle persuasion, eighteenth-century newspaper advertisements are straightforward, blunt descriptions of whatever is on offer. Historians in the digital age can home in on specific keyword searches that take them right to advertisements that fit their research interests. The New Hampshire Gazette was first published in Portsmouth in October 1756. Enslaved men and women are present in the paper from its very early issues as the subjects of advertisements for runaways or sale. Historians have long turned to runaway ads to discover personal details about enslaved people due to the specific information contained in them, including clothing, physical characteristics, and at times skills, such as musical talent. Advertisements related to the sale of enslaved people offer different kinds of information. One learns how the individuals were brought to Portsmouth, the

A print titled “A View of Portsmouth in New Hampshire, taken from the East Shore,� 1778. LEFT New Hampshire Gazette advertisement, April 24, 1767. The original is in the collection of the American Antiquarian Society. BELOW Bill of lading for an enslaved woman consigned to William Pepperrell, 1719. FAR LEFT

Courtesy of the New York Public Library

Collections of Maine Historical Society

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type of work to which they were accustomed, and their family associations. These advertisements can also suggest the strength or weakness of the local economy. Although such advertisements disturb modern readers, in eighteenth-century New England they were published without shame or apology because slavery was among the economic engines of the region. Many advertisements include the name of the seller or owner of the ship that carried enslaved Africans directly to Portsmouth. Other enslaved men and women were brought to Portsmouth by way of the West Indies or via the ports of Boston or Newport, Rhode Island. Advertisements also noted the amount of time these men and women had been in New England or if they were born here. As a whole, this information suggests the diversity of black Portsmouth residents and reminds us that individuals brought unique stories that included different points of origin and most likely a variety of languages and belief systems. The most common information presented in these sales notices involved the skills of the enslaved person in question, documenting the ways black residents of Portsmouth interacted in the community. Enslaved women and girls were limited almost exclusively to domestic work in the household although on occasion their skills in cookery were mentioned. Men and boys were often described as “fit for any laborious employment” or “fit for town or country,” suggesting that many worked as general laborers for families both in town and on farms. Some advertisements specifically highlighted an understanding of farming or “country business” or a specialized knowledge like ropemaking. One of the most detailed descriptions appears in a notice published in October 1776: “A genteel sprightly Negro Fellow, in fine health, about eighteen years of age; he can be recommended for many good qualities, has served at sea and land, waits on company well, and is extremely desirous of belonging to a Captain of a privateer.” The presence of enslaved men and women as household servants is commonly understood and discussed, but these advertisements illustrate that enslaved people worked in varied capacities, particularly in coastal towns like Portsmouth where there was a need for laborers in the maritime trades. As New England faced the threat and then the arrival of the Revolutionary War, the lives 22

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of enslaved people became increasingly precarious. Scarcity of currency is evident in the terms described in slave sale notices. An August 1766 advertisement notes, “As Money is very scarce, LUMBER will be received as Pay, provided the Parties can agree.” By the mid- to late 1770s, enslaved people are offered for sale “very cheap” or in one case “given away with a Sum of Money.” Numerous notices mention that the motivation for sale is the inability to provide employment. Such language suggests both economic instability and the downsizing of property holdings, which in turn put enslaved people and families at risk of relocation and division.

The question of when African Americans were emancipated in New England is a complex one and varied from colony to colony. During the chaos of the Revolution and through the formation of the new republic, there were likely many black New Englanders who liberated themselves. Others sought emancipation in return for service in the Continental Army. In 1779 a group of twenty black Portsmouth men submitted a petition for freedom to the legislature in which they proclaimed “we fondly hope that the eye of pity and the heart of justice may commiserate our situation and put us upon the equality of free-men, and

give us an opportunity of evincing to the world our love of freedom, by exerting ourselves in her cause, in opposing the efforts of tyranny and oppression over the country in which we ourselves have been so injuriously enslaved.” Cunningham and Sammons noted that in 1784 New Hampshire enslaved people were to be taxed as property, while a revision of the code five years later stated that “slaves [would] cease to be known and held as property.” However, the first federal census, taken in 1790, recorded 157 enslaved people in New Hampshire. The state did not officially abolish slavery until 1857. In 2013 the legislature accepted the Portsmouth men’s 1779 petition, which had been tabled at the time of its original presentation. Other New England states had similarly complex paths to freedom. As free black New Englanders, these men and women most likely remained in jobs much like those they held while enslaved, but were now able to choose for whom they worked and where they lived. Prince and Cuffee Whipple are two wellknown free African Americans in Portsmouth history. Prince was a signer of the aforementioned 1779 petition and had been enslaved by General William Whipple, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and Cuffee by Whipple’s brother Joseph. Prince and Cuffee received their freedom c. 1784 and the 1790 census identifies both men as heads of their own households. James Rundlet hired Cuffee Whipple occasionally between 1809 and 1812 to work in and around the garden and landscape of his newly built house on Middle Street. Cuffee and his wife, Rebecca, were baptized in Portsmouth’s North Church as were their children Daniel, Mary, Peggy, and John. As we seek evidence to reinstate the lives of enslaved African Americans in New England history, records like the Rundlet family papers and those of local churches are yet other sources from which the stories of enslaved and free African Americans can be brought to light, no longer hidden, but now in plain sight. —Jennifer Pustz Museum Historian

James Rundlet used this ledger book to keep track of his accounts with servants, laborers, and truckmen. LEFT A page from Rundlet’s book lists payments he made to Cuffee Whipple, a free black man. FAR LEFT

Fall 2016 Historic New England



Jackson House, Portsmouth, N.H., c. 1895. BELOW On the south side of Jackson House, archaeologists located a seventeenth-century drainage trench filled with early ceramics. Test Unit 2 is where the man in tan clothing is digging.

Ditching the Old Dishes Remnants of Fine Ceramics Found in Seventeenth-century Drainage Trench


ackson House in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is the oldest timber-framed building in the state. Built c. 1664 by Richard Jackson (d. 1718), a shipbuilder and cooper, the house sits perched high on the side of a hill that slopes down to the Piscataqua River. Not surprisingly, the 352-year-old house suffers from drainage and structural problems that threaten the building’s long-term preservation. With the critical assistance of a $90,000 grant from the New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program, Historic New England is addressing these problems through drainage remediation, structural repairs, roof replacement, and archaeology. 24

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To protect the below-ground resources that would be affected by this work, Historic New England hired my firm, Independent Archaeological Consulting (IAC) of Portsmouth, to carry out the archaeological component of the project by sampling eight impacted areas. From July to August 2015, IAC excavated twenty-eight units of various sizes, totaling 9.5 square meters. This effort resulted in the recovery of 12,363 artifacts—making the Jackson House site one of the richest that I have worked on in thirtyfive years of excavation. Along the southern perimeter of the house, IAC excavated three test units from which thousands of artifacts were retrieved. Test Unit 2, just

outside the main door, yielded a high quantity of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century artifacts, just a mere 15 centimeters (six inches!) below the

surface. IAC also exposed what was probably an early drainage trench in Test Unit 2 that led out from the basement of the house. When this trench failed in the 1690s, the Jackson family filled it with ceramics, including German Bellarmine and Westerwald, English brown stoneware, North Devon gravel-tempered redware, buff-colored coarse earthenware with combed decoration, Chinese porcelain, and tin-glazed earthenware (“delft”) decorated in a style that can be identified as Portuguese. The artifacts from the trench provide a rare glimpse into the wide trade networks of late seventeenth-century colonial New Hampshire and may, in fact, be one of the earliest such assemblages in the state.

The assemblage attests to the consumer behavior of the family, which indulged in the purchase of English, Chinese, German, and Portuguese wares. The vessel forms ranged from stoneware jugs to delft chargers and porcelain teawares. Among the assemblage are fragments of a tin-glazed plate with a rabbit motif that can be dated to at least as early as 1660. The rich artifact assemblage in the drainage trench in Test Unit 2 also contains a high volume of mammal, fish, and bird bone that sheds light on the foodways of the Jackson family. Preliminary examination revealed cow, pig, sheep, and goat among the domestic species, along with local cod. Remnants of clay pipe bowls and stem fragments were also present in the

drainage trench, indicating that members of the household smoked tobacco. The presence of porcelain teawares along with the smoking paraphernalia testifies to Richard Jackson’s wealth. IAC’s 2015 investigation confirmed the overall richness of the Jackson House property as an archaeological site. IAC was pleased to have contributed to this important project, which has resulted in a fuller understanding of early colonial New Hampshire history. —Kathleen Wheeler Independent Archaeological Consulting, LLC Portsmouth, New Hampshire

View of the drainage trench extending south out of Jackson House. BOTTOM LEFT A variety of late seventeenth-century ceramic wares from Test Unit 2, including manganese and cobalt-decorated Westerwald, Portuguese hand-painted blue and polychrome tin-glazed earthenware, and buff-colored coarse earthenware with combed and dotted decoration. ABOVE Sherds matched with an image of a c. 1660 tin-glazed earthenware plate with a rabbit motif. Courtesy of Ceramics in America, photo by Gavin Ashworth. Private collection. TOP LEFT

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Unknown Hands “I have gotten a job as a cordwainer. The Otis family loves my expensive shoes.”


or almost thirty years, as part of the program Unknown Hands: Everyday Life of Bostonians in 1800, students have prepared for a field trip to the 1796 Otis House in Boston by completing an activity prior to their visit in which they take on the persona of one of the Otis family’s Beacon Hill neighbors. There are fifty different neighbors representing various socioeconomic and racial groups, including wealthy Nathan Appleton (grandfather of Historic New England founder William Sumner Appleton) and Primus Hall (who established the first school dedicated to African American boys in his home), as well as skilled artisans, apprentices, servants, and sailors. During the four-hour field trip, which includes time in Otis House, the opportunity to learn the plaster trade while crafting a plaster ornament to take home, and a walking tour of Beacon Hill, students wear tags with their characters’ names and jobs, and are asked to think about how they fit into the life of the neighborhood. Students from the Josiah Quincy School in Boston’s Chinatown have participated in Unknown Hands for many years. This year, one teacher, Epifania Stevens, had her students go further. In addition to completing the visit pre-


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paration worksheet provided by Historic New England, Mrs. Stevens had the students write letters in character, like the one pictured above, and illustrate a scene from their lives. They also had to include an explanation about how the character interacts with the Otis family. The students finished this project before the field trip, and while our education staff always looks forward to visits by Quincy School students (in addition to Unknown Hands at Otis House, both the third- and fifth-grade classes visit Pierce House in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood), we were especially impressed by the thoughtfulness and curiosity these students showed, which were direct results of their extra preparation. Since 1985, Historic New England has provided free programs and buses (when necessary­­—Quincy School students can walk to Otis House, but not to Pierce House) to those Boston public schools that cannot afford to pay. Please consider making a donation to Historic New England to support this vital and creative work. —Carolin Collins Education Program Manager

Otis House, Boston, 1916. CENTER Collections on display at the museum, 1926. ABOVE A group of students in the drawing room during a recent visit. LEFT

Otis House­ 100 Years of Historic New England’s Ownership


rowing up on nearby Beacon Hill, Historic New England’s founder William Sumner Appleton was no doubt aware of the grand late-eighteenthcentury mansion presiding over Cambridge Street in Boston. One of the last survivors of a once elegant neighborhood, the house was designed by famed architect Charles Bulfinch in 1796 for his friends Harry and Sally Otis. Harrison Gray Otis was a successful politician and real estate developer who, along with his wife, was known for lavish entertaining. This would be their starter home, the first of three brick Federal-style houses Bulfinch designed for the wealthy couple. The Otises spent only four years on Cambridge Street before moving to the top of Beacon Hill into a newer, more fashionable neighborhood. Over the next century, Otis House would become a duplex, a medicinal clinic, a genteel boarding house, and later a lodging house for a more transient population. Appleton first recognized Otis House’s remarkable state of preservation while working as a real estate and investment broker in the late 1890s. Two decades later, in 1916, he successfully campaigned to have Historic New England purchase the house, making it the sixth property to be owned by the organization. Originally acquired to be the organization’s headquarters, Otis House has undergone many changes in its history as a museum. It has been used as staff offices, entertaining space, exhibition galleries, and home to a grow-

ing collection of objects and archival material chronicling New England life. In the late 1960s, Historic New England reenvisioned Otis House to present an authentic Federal-era home. Today, the house tells not only the story of the Otises’ residency, but also the cycles of change it experienced in a dynamic urban neighborhood. Otis House withstood the widening of Cambridge Street in 1925 when it was moved back forty-two feet. It witnessed the demolition of Boston’s West End in the mid-twentieth century, and it subsequently received recognition as part of the Beacon Hill Historic District. Historic New England’s vision of presenting regional history and material culture has evolved over the past hundred years, but our commitment to preserving and interpreting this remarkable building remains the same. We look forward to seeing what the next one hundred years will bring! —Shira Gladstone Site Manager, Otis House and Lyman Estate Be a preservation champion Help preserve New England history by making a gift in honor of the 100th anniversary of Otis House’s preservation. To make a gift please call 617-994-5951 or go to our website at www.HistoricNewEngland. org and click the “Donate Now” button. Thank you for championing New England history!

Fall 2016 Historic New England




Historic New England Fall 2016

The Making of a Museum s we transform the eighty-acre Eustis Estate in Milton, Massachusetts, into a museum, we are documenting every step of the journey. And what a journey it is. From microscopic paint analysis that reveals dazzling original decorative finishes to moving more than 3,500 tons of dirt for infrastructure improvements, making a museum is complex, challenging, and fascinating. We’re excited to share with you these behind-the-scenes glimpses of what’s happening as we prepare to welcome you to the Eustis Estate next spring. Follow our progress at HistoricNewEngland.org/Eustis-Estate. —-Diane Viera, Chief Operating Officer

SITE WORK AND INFRASTRUCTURE Safety precautions on the property include installation of a fire hydrant just down the hill from the 1878 mansion. BELOW Great care is being taken to preserve historic resources inside and out. To protect established plantings, contractors hand dug trenches where backhoes weren’t allowed, such as near the roots of a sugar maple tree by the gatehouse. CENTER Work crews excavate behind the 1892 gatehouse for the septic system that will service the buildings in use on the property. LEFT

THE VISITOR CENTER Drone imagery shows the visitor center parking area under construction. Occasionally an unexpected challenge is unearthed, such as this massive boulder. The 1970s garage next to the mansion is being converted into an accessible visitor center with a museum shop and restrooms. When the doors are down, the building retains its original appearance. CLOCKWISE FROM RIGHT

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INSIDE THE MUSEUM Mary Aldrich of International Fine Art Conservation Studios (IFACS) recreates the original goldcolored bronze powder paint on the main hall cove molding using a modern mica treatment that will not tarnish. The walls will be returned to their original deep Pompeiian red color. BELOW All pieces of original woodwork removed for renovations are labeled and stored on site. LEFT


When the two stained glass panels were removed from the front hall doors for restoration we discovered the artisan’s signature: W. J. McPherson, 440 Tremont St., Boston. 30

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In the parlor, the original wall treatment of amber clouds will be fully revealed (shown here in one vertical section). After trying several techniques for removing the modern paint layer, IFACS confirmed that simple duct tape worked best. Gold-colored metallic paints will be restored on the archway to the right. The yellowed varnish on the ceiling will be removed to enhance the clouds overhead. ABOVE Historic New England Carpentry Foreman Bruce Blanchard prepares a closet off the kitchen for installation of the chair lift to the museum’s second floor. LEFT

This painter's signature was found in the attic eaves by the electrician. Preliminary research found that the decorating firm of L. Haberstroh & Son was located at 9 Park Street in Boston. The Eustis family may have hired the firm to do much of the decorative painting in the house. Fall 2016 Historic New England


Keeping It Modern

at Gropius House Image from a 3-D laser scan shows longitudinal section through the center of the house. ABOVE RIGHT Gropius House exterior. RIGHT Testing the effectiveness of cleaning techniques using a colorimeter to measure color change. ABOVE LEFT


Historic New England Fall 2016


hen Walter Gropius designed his own house in Lincoln, Massachusetts, in 1938, he reinterpreted many elements of traditional New England architecture within his otherwise Bauhaus design. One of the key principles of the Bauhaus movement was the reconciliation of mass production with individual artistic vision. To that end, Gropius House features a number of construction materials that were mass produced in 1938. Almost eighty years later, these materials are no longer readily available. While eight decades may represent a good and serviceable life for some building materials, especially innovative products of the early twentieth century, some of the materials used at Gropius House and other midcentury Modern buildings are starting to degrade. Recognizing this, the Getty Foundation awarded Historic New England a $75,000 grant as part of its Keeping It Modern initiative to conserve twentieth-century architecture. The initiative targets development of conservation practices for the ongoing preservation of these twentieth-century trendsetters. Historic New England was one of fourteen international organizations to receive Keeping It Modern support in 2015. At Gropius House we’re using the grant to investigate appropriate conservation techniques for acoustical plaster, specialty glass, and exterior siding. In addition, we are investigating a lighting solution that will create the effect that Gropius intended with his dramatic ceiling light over the dining room table while eliminating the risk of

overheating the electrical system. Jablonski Building Conservation is evaluating cleaning techniques for the acoustical plaster found in the living and dining rooms. Records indicate that Gropius used “Stucoustic” from the California Stucco Products Company, now California Products Corporation (with which Historic New England partners on the 20th Century Colors of America paint palette). The company promoted Stucoustic as an economical solution for sound control in 1936. Over the years this once-white plaster finish has become stained and dingy from cigarette smoke, water

leaks around the windows, and general environmental dirt. Determining a technique for restoring the original design intent of white walls will be an outcome of this project. Gropius used modern specialty glass in the pantry, maid’s bathroom, and foyer closet. The glass provides privacy for certain rooms but also allows light to pass through, an important factor in the overall design. Some of the iconic glass blocks on the wall flanking the entry marquee have suffered damage over time. The blocks, “Insulux” pattern number 407, were manufactured by the Owens-Illinois Glass Company and were introduced to the market in 1935. No longer commercially available, repair or replacement of the blocks

is challenging because every batch of glass has unique characteristics that affect light reflection and transmittance. In other words, a replacement block is likely to stand out like a sore thumb. Similarly, fluted glass­ —Louvrex, from the Blue Ridge Glass Corporation—and ribbed glass were new products in 1938. Both are now broken and unfortunately are no longer manufactured, so we’re investigating other appropriate restoration options. From a distance, Gropius House still appears white. However, up close, seasonal mold growing on the paint gives the exterior a decidedly light gray appearance. Mold on exterior painted surfaces is certainly not a new problem; the boiled linseed oil of traditional paints provides a fine food source for this fungus. The specifications for the paint in 1938 called for “2-1/2 gallons of raw oil in 100lbs of lead.” Lead helped fend off the mold, but now owing to health hazards, modern oilbased paints no longer offer that protection. Current investigation suggests that the house may need thorough washing every year to eliminate mold and present the clean white aesthetic that Gropius intended. While Gropius’ designs for the house and blueprints for the construc-

tion exist, no “as built” documentation was ever completed. Using twentyfirst-century technology of 3-D laser scans, Feldman Land Surveyors has comprehensively scanned the house, garage, and surrounding landscape to create existing conditions documentation. This highly accurate and speedy method aids in understanding how the house was constructed, showing how rooms line up and that otherwise flat roofs are pitched for appropriate drainage. This information will be important in developing future repair plans. The scans also provide a pointin-time condition detail that can help us understand if any subtle structural changes occur over time. The research funded by the Getty Foundation Keeping It Modern grant allows us to carefully and thoughtfully preserve this iconic Modern house while respecting Walter Gropius’ original design intent. —Colleen Chapin Senior Preservation Manager, Metro Boston Preparing latex poultices to test cleaning of the acoustical plaster ABOVE RIGHT 3-D laser scan picture showing phototextured image of the living and dining rooms. ABOVE LEFT

Fall 2016 Historic New England


141 Cambridge Street Boston MA 02114-2702

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

Articles, Both Useful and Ornamental


hroughout its nearly twohundred-year history, the Taunton, Massachusetts, firm of Reed and Barton produced sterling silver, pewter, and silver-plated tableware and other household objects that attracted a wide range of consumers. The company’s tea and coffee services, flatware, epergnes, and candlesticks, among other items, graced tables across the country. Organizations, associations, churches, and governmental agencies also sought out the firm to create commemorative medals, trophies, and ecclesiastical wares. Internationally recognized for its fine quality of workmanship and sophisticated design, the firm had salesrooms around the country and according to company publicity, “Jewelers Everywhere Sell Reed & Barton Productions.” When the Lenox Corporation acquired Reed and Barton in 2015 it closed the Taunton facility. At an auction of some of the company’s archival holdings, we were able to purchase a watercolor rendering of the Reed and Barton factory by Joseph Brammer (1833–1904), a lavishly illustrated

1885 catalogue of the company’s products, and six original design drawings for a punch bowl, tea set, urn, waiter, and coffee pots. These items together with the more than one hundred Reed and Barton objects already in Historic New England’s collection allow us to share a part of the history of this exceptional New England company. —Lorna Condon Senior Curator of Library and Archives

A plate from Reed and Barton’s 1885 catalogue featuring serving utensils advertised as “Specimens of Silver Engraved, Oxidized, and Gold Inlaid Ware.” LEFT View of the Reed and Barton factory, Taunton, Massachusetts, by Joseph Brammer, c. 1880. ABOVE

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