historic NEw england SUMMER 2019
A BIGGER PERSPECTIVE ON THE TINY-HOUSE TREND OLD-SCHOOL ARCHITECTURAL SKILLS
SUMMER 2019 • Vol. 20 • No. 1
historic NEw england 1 Relative Raconteurs 5 Granting Access to History 6 Our Great Outdoors 10 Sculpture and the Environment
11 The French Heritage Society Connection
12 A Pictorial Slave Narrative 16 Living Small 20 A Chapter in Immigration History
23 Dedicated Maintenance Fund 24 At the Drawing Board 28 History in the Making 30 Guidance on Gutters 32 Historic Charm Meets Contemporary Comfort
34 Something Old Displayed Anew at Gropius House
From the President
As a newcomer to our Boston offices in 2003, I wrote for an internal newsletter about the tiny garden maintained by one of our neighbors, Schepens Eye Institute. This little patch of green and the bits of color it contains speak to the influence of landscapes in our lives, which affect us whether they are measured in acres or consist of a few square feet. Historic New England proudly preserves 1,284 acres that are open to the public and protects an additional 918 acres through our preservation easement program. We delight in these green spaces, farms, and gardens and we are excited about hosting an exhibition this summer that spotlights the outdoors, Changing Landscape: Sculpture at the Eustis Estate, at our Milton, Massachusetts, property. The hilltop setting and historic orchard are important components of the landscape at Gropius House in Lincoln, Massachusetts. This museum is the site of the special events we have planned to mark the centennial of the Bauhaus, the design school Walter Gropius founded in Germany. The innovative architect was a popular man whose coterie included individuals of international note. In the pages of this issue, two Gropius family members share their personal experiences with and insights into the life that Walter and his wife, Ise, built. Historic New England saves and shares landscapes, buildings, and collections, and what brings them together in meaningful ways are the stories told by and about these resources. Explore with us artifacts that tell the remarkable saga of Pedro Tovookan Parris, who as a child was abducted from Africa, enslaved and transported to South America, and eventually became a free New Englander. With your help, we continue to build collections. Among our recent acquisitions are the architectural drawings of Albert, Righter & Tittmann Architects Inc., whose homes dot the New England landscape. Inside, discover how the firm’s use of the once conventional practice of drawing by hand uniquely captured an architect’s vision. I encourage you to spend the summer visiting the properties and attending programs to expand your knowledge and enjoyment of Historic New England.
Carl R. Nold President and CEO
HISTORIC NEW ENGLAND magazine is a benefit of membership. To become a member, visit HistoricNewEngland.org or call 617-994-5910. Comments? Email Info@HistoricNewEngland.org. Historic New England is funded in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Executive Editor: Diane Viera Editor: Dorothy A. Clark Editorial Review Team: Nancy Carlisle, Senior Curator of Collections; Lorna Condon, Senior Curator of Library and Archives; Sally Zimmerman, Senior Preservation Services Manager Design: Three Bean Press The photograph of the Charles Street Meeting House interior on page 21 of the Winter 2019 issue was taken by Steve Rosenthal. COVER Beauport, the Sleeper-McCann House, in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Photograph by Eric Roth. ABOVE FROM LEFT Photograph of Pedro Tovookan Parris, c. 1855. The former eighteenth-century Croade Tavern is now a tiny residence in Lincoln, Rhode Island. A room in Gedney House in Salem, Massachusetts. Photograph by Nicolas Hyacinthe.
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© 2019 Historic New England. Except where noted, all historic photographs and ephemera are from Historic New England’s Library and Archives.
LEFT Walter and Ise Gropius with Erika Pfammatter (foreground) and her sister Sarina Forberg (left of Walter) in 1968 at Grope Fest, a celebration of the architect's eighty-fifth birthday planned by Harvard University's Graduate School of Design. RIGHT Gropius about 1963-64 in Hanover, Germany, with his nephew Eike Burchard, father of Wolf Burchard.
RACONTEURS What the public knows about the architect Walter Gropius largely concerns the world-renowned body of work he created, the design school he founded, the circles of friends and associates he cultivated, the network of colleagues he forged, the philosophy and ideas he imparted in teaching, and his writings. In the following articles two descendants of Gropius, his granddaughter and his great-nephew, share the ways in which they came to know the man and the meaning it holds for them today. Erika Pfammatter knew him when she was a little girl; her mother, Ati, was the daughter of Walter and Ise Gropius. Wolf Burchard acquired his familial knowledge from his father, who was Walter’s nephew; his grandmother; and his aunts. Pfammatter and Burchard offer their personal perspectives on the man they respectively knew as “Grosspapa” and “Onkel Walter.”
Growing Up GROPIUS
by BY ERIKA PFAMMATTER A musician (harp, piano, and choral) and music teacher, Erika Pfammatter taught at the Shady Hill School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for ten years. She has two grown sons and lives on Cape Cod with her husband and some entitled cats. “GROSSPAPA” WAS WHAT WE children called him. Translated as the rather formal “Grandpapa,” it began as a tongue-in-cheek reference to French aristocratic families and their formal ways of addressing adults. “Opa” would have been a more typical nickname, equating roughly to “Grampa.” But Grosspapa stuck and Grosspapa he always was to me. As a small child, however, I struggled with the guttural German “r” and my version came out as “Goss-papa.” He didn’t mind. My grandfather was a very kind and gentle man. Although he died when I was nine years old, I have many wonderful memories of him. Some of the earliest were at Christmastime, which my family always celebrated at my grandparents’ house in Lincoln, Massachusetts. Grosspapa’s job was to distribute the special German Christmas cookies equally among six plates, one for each family member. While my grandmother bustled in the kitchen and my parents decorated the tree, my grandfather— with great seriousness—carefully allotted each person a fair and equal share of Lebkuchen, Pfeffernuss, and Zimtsterne. Solomon could not have divided the spoils more precisely. And if there was ever an uneven number and the odd cookie was quietly consumed to hide the evidence, no one ever saw him do it.
Once as a young child when I was “digging for gold” in my nose, Grosspapa suggested I not do so in case my finger became stuck. When I reassured him, complete with demonstration, that my finger could in fact go in and out without peril, he let out a real laugh. On summer afternoons we would often go for family walks to nearby Sandy Pond or even just through the apple orchard on their property. He loved nature and often expressed his appreciation for the warm sun, the sparkling water, the crisp breeze. He was a wickedly good table tennis player and had a table set up on their lovely porch. In suitable weather, he and my father would have long, thrilling matches while we children would cheer them both on and scramble after errant balls. My grandfather had a great appreciation for others, especially the young. And for humor. And for love. Grosspapa would often sit on the daybed in the living room, reading a book or some correspondence. There was a beautiful alpaca blanket at the foot of the bed that my grandparents had brought back from one of their trips to Mexico, and sometimes on cold winter evenings I would snuggle with him underneath it. Then we would talk together and he would ask me questions about my drawings or my games.
Grosspapa always made my sister and me feel important, imaginative, and interesting. His most frequent question was, “And then what?” My grandfather was very thoughtful and calm, but with a wry sense of humor. This humor usually came out in special names or titles for people or things. For example, my grandmother (who ruled the roost at home) was fondly called “The Majority.” He had a lovely smile and enjoyed laughing. At the dinner table my mother would share some story about us children or a humorous bit of havoc at home and his eyes would crinkle up and he’d laugh his nearly silent laugh. Occasionally Grosspapa would read lighthearted poetry out loud to us in his sonorous tenor. I always loved his voice and his slight accent. And I giggled at the Christian Morgenstern poems about the poor unloved spaces between the fence slats. His birthday fell in mid-May, a beautiful time of year when we collected lily of the valley to decorate his birthday table. Most of the gifts—even from my parents— were homemade. Beautifully, and humorously, illustrated family stories created by my mother sat alongside my childishly drawn calendars, but Grosspapa was fascinated by and appreciative of it all. He showed my whole family unconditional love and acceptance. Even when we were at continued on page 4
Historic New England Summer 2019
Inheriting MEMORIES by WOLF BURCHARD An art historian who recently joined the European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, Wolf Burchard has always had an interest in workshop practices and artistic and architectural collaborations, such as those encouraged by the Bauhaus. Editor’s note: Blue Plaques are permanent historical markers installed on buildings in London to honor a person or event associated with the structure. The Blue Plaque program is run by English Heritage, a charitable organization that protects more than 400 historic sites, buildings, and monuments that help tell six millennia of history in England.
LAST SUMMER I WAS GIVEN the honor of unveiling the firstever English Heritage Blue Plaque dedicated to three individuals simultaneously: Marcel Breuer, László Moholy-Nagy, and Walter Gropius. It was installed on the Isokon Building in London, designed by Wells Coates, where all three moved after the Nazis closed the Bauhaus. My great-grandmother Manon Burchard (née Gropius) was Walter’s older sister; I have no personal memory of “Onkel Walter” (as he is known among my father and his siblings) because he died almost sixteen years before I was born. My knowledge of my great-uncle is based on the reminiscences shared with me by my late grandmother Luise von Rauch, who stayed with Walter’s wife, Ise, at Lincoln, Massachusetts, in 1973; my aunts Almut (who stayed with Walter and
Ise in 1952-53) and Sybille (in 1969); as well as my father. In the speech I delivered at the Blue Plaque dedication ceremony, I said to the gathering, “I cannot begin to tell you what an extraordinary honor it is for me to have been asked to be here today to unveil a plaque dedicated to Marcel Breuer, László Moholy-Nagy, and my great-uncle Walter Gropius, three central figures of the modernism movement who found refuge here in Hampstead. “Sadly, I never met Onkel Walter, as he died long before I was born, but my father and his siblings have very fond memories of him. My grandfather Georg Joachim [Burchard] and Onkel Walter were very close; and I think that the separation after Walter immigrated, first to Britain and then to America, must have rather pained them. At home we have several photographs
from the early 1900s, some of which show Walter, my grandfather, and my great-grandfather all dressed up in Oriental costume for a party at their holiday retreat in Timmendorf [Germany]. These images, to me, are evocative of the somewhat Bohemian pre-World War I lifestyle that Walter introduced to the rather formal and somewhat stuffy atmosphere of his parents’ home. “In 1952, my then eighteen-yearold aunt and godmother Almut was sent to the United States to stay with Walter and Ise in Lincoln. To get there, she embarked on a very long boat journey, which first brought her to New York, where she stayed with one of Walter’s architectural assistants, a young American of Chinese descent [I. M. Pei] who later gained fame by placing a pyramid in front of the Louvre. “I first visited my [great-] aunt and continued on page 4 HistoricNewEngland.org
continued from page 2
our worst—a grumpy adolescent, an irritable wife, a preoccupied parent, or a selfish child—he treated us all with equanimity and patience. I can’t recall my grandfather ever raising his voice and I’d be very surprised if anyone else can. He had experienced and endured much in
his life, and I believe he felt very lucky to be where he was with the people he loved most near him. And he showed it. It’s not going too far to say that my grandfather is my hero. As I grew older and learned more about his life, I was amazed at his grace
and courage in the face of harsh criticism, stubborn resistance, outand-out slander, personal challenges, hardship, and loss. He was a truly honorable, courageous, and moral individual. And an awfully good Grosspapa.
A Christmas dinner of lobster at the Gropiuses’ Lincoln, Massachusetts, residence in 1952. In the foreground on the right is the Gropiuses’ eighteen-year-old niece, Almut, the author’s aunt. She turned eighty-five earlier this year.
that had taken over. There is no question that all three, having seen the atrocities to which fascism and populism have led over the course of the twentieth century, would be utterly horrified by some of the political developments that we are all witnessing today in large parts of the Western world. continued from page 3 “Breuer, Moholy-Nagy, and uncle’s house in Lincoln together the Second World War, so their Gropius were immigrants. Some with the curators of Historic New future prospects at the time certainly may say refugees. It is therefore England [in 2017]. I had just spoken must have appeared rather gloomy. most commendable that—just as to my two aunts, who had stayed “It was thanks to the Pritchard international migration has become in the house in the ’50s and ’70s family [Jack Pritchard, the British the most prominent political issue, respectively, and I was most touched furniture entrepreneur who founded dominating Continental Europe, the to be shown the guest book with the the Isokon design firm, hired United Kingdom, and the United photographs of my aunts, as well as Breuer, Moholy-Nagy, and Gropius] States—English Heritage has decided my beloved late grandmother Luise, that Walter and Ise found a new to bestow upon the Isokon Building whom I remember telling me about temporary home here in Britain the honor of a Blue Plaque: a Blue Lincoln and having to drive Ise to the before moving on to the United Plaque for three international airport in this huge American car, States, where he became professor migrants who left their mark on the terribly worried whether she would of architecture at Harvard and cultural landscape of this country. ever make it back to the house. where he and Ise remained until the “Having been a foreigner myself “Everyone in the family who knew end of their lives. Walter and Ise for most of my life, for twenty him was very fond of Walter and were incredibly lucky to have been years in France and now ten years my father always stresses what a greeted here at the Isokon Building in Britain, it is very humbling to good listener he was. A man with a by the Pritchard family with very have been asked to unveil this Blue soothing voice, who always had an open arms indeed. Plaque for three immigrants, three open ear for the young—and in this “Breuer and Moholy-Nagy foreigners, whose move from one case, the young were my father’s and Walter were forced to leave country to another was infinitely generation born just before or during Germany because of the new regime more difficult than my own.” 4
Historic New England Summer 2019
to history by GAIL WHITE USHER Education Program Coordinator
blacksmith jostles for position with a chandler and a carpenter. Young ladies straighten their bonnets and smooth their aprons. Finally, the twenty-two students are ready to have their photograph taken in front of the c. 1693 Arnold House in Lincoln, Rhode Island. For several weeks, third graders from Lincoln Central Elementary School studied the colonial America period. The students chose a trade to research, produced dioramas depicting their work, and assembled an appropriate costume. The field trip to Arnold House for Historic New England’s Colonial Times museum education program was the culminating activity in their study. During the field trip, students participated in three hands-on activities in an authentic setting that immersed them in history. They hand-dipped candles, learned to write with a quill pen, and engaged in role-play in a re-creation of a colonial one-room school. “The children truly feel like they stepped back in time since they dress in that period and participate in these wonderful activities,” said teacher Robin Ryan. Colonial Times is a museum education program based at Arnold House. It engages students in early local history through participatory experiences in an authentic seventeenth-century setting. Arnold
House, a National Historic Landmark, is one of nine surviving Rhode Island stoneenders, so called because the end wall of the timber-frame house consists of a large stone chimney exposed to the exterior. In this original location, students explore work and family life in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and make comparisons with their lives in the twenty-first century. Seventy-nine students from Lincoln Central Elementary School and another 2,100 from twentyone other schools were able to participate in Arnold House museum education programs through the support of a Rhode Island Council for the Humanities grant to Historic New England. A private non-profit organization, the council is the only dedicated source of funding for public humanities in the state. From April 1, 2017, through June 30, 2018, the grant provided partial funding for schools with financial challenges to participate in Arnold House programs. Significantly, it funded student transportation costs, which are often the most prohibitive expense for a field trip. The grant also supported museum staff time. Historic New England reduced or eliminated program fees based on schools’ financial needs to stretch the grant funds even further. This partnership provided in-
Some of the third graders of Lincoln Central Elementary School, Lincoln, Rhode Island, in colonial-style costume outside Arnold House. Photograph courtesy of Robin Ryan.
depth personal learning experiences that have an indelible impact on local students and create lifetime connections. “Arnold House provides a wonderful educational experience for school-aged children,” said Gina Carbone, a third-grade teacher at the Anthony Carnevale Elementary School in Providence. With the council's grant Historic New England was able to work with schools, especially those in the Blackstone Valley, Providence, and Warwick areas, to make field trips to Arnold House possible. Without this grant, children at Globe Park Elementary School in Woonsocket would not have been able to experience Arnold House and “the amazing lessons it has to offer,” said Don Poli, who teaches first grade. “We are a school with a population of 61 percent receiving free or reduced lunch, and asking parents to assist with the cost of a field trip is something we simply cannot do.” The Rhode Island Council for the Humanities and Historic New England have brought history to life for thousands of students. HistoricNewEngland.org
Our Great Outdoors The garden at Hamilton House overlooks the Salmon Falls River in South Berwick, Maine.
by REGINA COLE Regina Cole writes about architecture and design for a number of publications including Forbes.com, Ocean Home, the Boston Globe, New England Home, Interior Design, and Old-House Journal. She especially loves to write about historic houses: their styles, interiors, landscapes, and the people who care for them.
The landscapes of Historic New England
ROUND THE REGION, Historic New England opens some 1,284 acres to the public to experience in a variety of ways: buying local produce, engaging in sports and recreation, appreciating landscape architecture, and more. Ranging from styled gardens that reflect period trends to working farms to urban oases, Historic New Englandâ€™s landscapes tell the story of the region, its people, and their relationships to the land. We invite you to visit these fantastic places and enjoy Historic New Englandâ€™s great outdoors.
Historic New England Summer 2019
THE STYLED LANDSCAPES INCLUDE the surpassing splendor of the Lyman Estate in Waltham, Massachusetts. This unusually intact historic landscape was built in 1793. Theodore Lyman hired an English landscape designer who drew plans for a picturesque English-style garden intended to integrate the architecture with the grounds. The plans included a greenhouse complex (above, left) that today has some of the oldest surviving greenhouses in the United States. One of the most historically specific styled landscapes is at Roseland Cottage (above, right), the 1846 Gothic Revival house in Woodstock, Connecticut. The landscape contains 3,000 square feet of gardens that are as exuberantly Victorian as the house itself. Six hundred yards of English dwarf boxwood, some of it dating to 1850, when the garden was first established, form the edges of parterre beds that are carpet-planted with 4,000 annuals. In the summer, these colorful beds become the backdrop to weddings, teas, a steampunk festival, and a twilight concert series. A LANDSCAPE IMAGINED FROM a different perspective exists at Beauport, the Sleeper-McCann House (left), in Gloucester, Massachusetts. The grounds, like the house, were designed from the inside out by Henry Davis Sleeper, one of America’s first interior designers. Sleeper built Beauport as a showcase for his work. Beauport’s lot, which measures less than one acre, is divided into a number of discrete areas, typical of Arts and Crafts garden design. Historic New England restored these gardens in 2011 and they function much the way they did in Sleeper’s day: as lovely spaces to rest and appreciate the views of Gloucester Harbor.
INFORMAL PUBLIC USE IS common at many of Historic New Englandâ€™s landscapes, including Castle Tucker and Hamilton House (right), both in Maine. At Castle Tucker in Wiscasset, a recent landscape restoration reestablished the vista between the house and the river. Similarly, the thirty-five-acre grounds of Hamilton House in South Berwick attract area residents, who go there to walk their dogs and enjoy the dramatic site overlooking the Salmon Falls River. Early twentieth-century preservationists Emily Tyson and her stepdaughter, Elise, purchased the property and reimagined the late eighteenth-century farm as a romantic retreat; the house and gardens reflect their vision today.
IN PORTSMOUTH, NEW HAMPSHIRE, two houses built within twenty-three years of each other are urban oases surrounded by very different landscapes. While the 1784 Governor John Langdon House and its gardens (left) were transformed to reflect Colonial Revival tastes at the turn of the twentieth century, not much has changed at Rundlet-May House (right), built in 1807 during the Federal era. The original garden pathways are still visible, and the mock oranges and roses continue to grow. The landscape at Langdon House reflects trends of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The hidden corners and picturesque reveals of the property lend themselves especially well to one of Portsmouthâ€™s most popular events, the annual Fairy House Tour organized by the Friends of the South End.
Historic New England Summer 2019
AN IDYLLIC SETTING FOR WEDDINGS is the Codman Estate (left) in Lincoln, Massachusetts: its four-and-a-half acres abut woods and farmland specified as conservation land by Dorothy Codman when she bequeathed the house and its collections to Historic New England in 1968. Pictured left is the walled Italian garden that Sarah Bradlee Codman began work on in 1899. Her elaborate two-year project resulted in a classically inspired area on the northwest side of the house with fountains, a canal, pergolas, and statuary. This year, the Massachusetts Master Gardeners began restoring a secret space tucked behind a picket fence beside the carriage barn called Dorothy’s Garden. The Codman Estate is the site of Historic New England’s antique auto and classic car show, now in its thirty-fifth year, as well as the fine arts and crafts festival, which has been running for thirty-six years. In Milton, Massachusetts, at the Eustis Estate, landscape walking tours are popular. This eighty-acre estate is located at the base of the Blue Hills. Visitors get the added treat of seeing a sculpture exhibition on the grounds through October 13 (see article on page 10). Also offered this summer are concerts under the stars and yoga classes on the lawn. SOME OF THE MOST POPULAR outdoor activities and events take place at Historic New England’s farm properties, including activities geared toward children and families. In Rhode Island, Casey Farm in Saunderstown and Watson Farm in Jamestown (right, top) have been farmed since the eighteenth century. Watson Farm, where grassfed cattle are raised, holds an annual sheepshearing day, a family-friendly spring event during which visitors meet the farm’s baby lambs, watch shearers work on the flock, and take scenic hikes around the fields and pastures along Narragansett Bay. Just across the bay is Casey Farm, Historic New England’s most visited property. This site has a farmers market, a Community-Supported Agriculture program, and many educational programs for children. Another working agricultural property is the Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm (right, bottom) in Newbury, Massachusetts. In 2003, Historic New England and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals forged a partnership to care for abused farm animals. About twenty-six rescued farm animals are currently being cared for at Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm, including a goat named Sky; Amos, a donkey; and Nelson the rooster. The public can visit the animals throughout the year. The animals are also featured in school programs. The 230 acres of land surrounding SpencerPeirce-Little Farm are an important part of a 300-year-old legacy. Much of that acreage is leased to local farmers, who grow market vegetables and harvest salt marsh hay. In most cases, Historic New England’s landscapes are open dawn to dusk at no charge. Visit HistoricNewEngland.org for information about all the properties. HistoricNewEngland.org
and the Environment
by KENNETH C. TURINO Manager of Community Partnerships and Resource Development
olar bears at the Eustis Estate this summer? Yes indeed, as part of Historic New England and the New England Sculptors Association’s (NESA) jointly curated exhibition of their members’ and Milton-area artists’ works at the Eustis Estate in Milton, Massachusetts. This sculpture, The Discarded, made of painted and welded steel barrels by Morris Norvin, is one of thirty-six outdoor artworks on display on the estate grounds. Another forty-five sculptures occupy the three main galleries on the second floor of the museum. The outdoor and indoor displays are part of Changing Landscape: Sculpture at the Eustis Estate. This exhibition builds on the highly successful 2015 and 2017
Historic New England Summer 2019
sculpture showings at Governor John Langdon House in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, albeit on a grander scale at the Eustis Estate. The works on display in the interior galleries are open through September 29 while the exterior exhibition closes on October 13. The theme of this year’s exhibition relates to landscape and the environment. By its very nature, sculpture is transformation. A block of marble becomes graceful curves in an abstract carving, a lump of clay is shaped into a vessel, and scrap metal is fashioned into an intriguing three-dimensional statement. From the transformations come new perspectives. Sculpture can have a particular impact in conjunction with its
environment. It can become an integral part of a garden, start a path, or create a focal point. Visitors can walk completely around strategically placed sculptures and be encouraged to think, ask questions, and gain a new appreciation of their surroundings. NESA, one of the oldest sculptors’ associations in the United States, was organized in 1948 and represents a diverse membership of nationally and regionally recognized sculptors. The association’s mission is to educate people of all ages about sculpture through exhibitions, panel discussions, workshops, and other events. Its 140 members are from all over New England. Their work is shown throughout the world and represented in numerous private and museum collections.
The French Heritage Society Connection by JULIE SOLZ Team Leader for Collection Services
detailed measured drawing of the facade of Otis House in Boston, a beautiful description of a hand-blocked wallpaper pattern, a thoughtful translation of a French letter, or the sensitive cleaning of a carved firescreen—all are wonderful examples of the contributions made by a network of passionate and dedicated graduate-level interns from Agathe Albi, a former French Heritage Society intern at Historic New England, worked with France who work with Historic New archival objects in the Library and Archives at Harrison Gray Otis House in Boston. England staff each summer. For more than twenty-five years, French interns, from the École du culture—taking them out for craft Historic New England has benefited Louvre, have experienced hands-on beers and watching them eat their first enormously from an ongoing conservation techniques,” Diane de fried pickle is always a fun experience. partnership with the French Heritage Roquette-Buisson and Amy Fienga, The interns never fail to return the Society. This non-profit organization cochairs of the French Heritage hospitality by making festive French arranges work opportunities in the Society’s Student Exchange Program, treats to share with us. United States for summer interns with wrote in a letter. “We are ever grateful We are always amazed at the specialties in architecture, archives, to our friends at Historic New England talent, language skills, dedication, and collections, and conservation. For for having opened its doors up to these adventurous nature of these interns, periods of six to eight weeks, interns talented future curators.” and each has left lasting impressions complete projects such as creating The interns have worked with the on Historic New England. So, when detailed measured drawings of carpenters and site managers, librarians the summer is over, we stay in touch. Historic New England buildings, and archivists, curators, conservators, We hear about their graduation exams, processing manuscript collections, and cataloguers. They come with a their internships at Versailles and translating letters, cataloguing artifacts, wide range of experiences, interests, the Louvre, their travels to Scotland cleaning furniture, and rehousing and skills, but more importantly, they and Rome, and their new positions textile collections. Each student come eager to explore, learn, and share. at French museums, newspapers, and brings different career goals and To maximize their time in the United auction houses. For years after their personal interests to the internship, States, many take the opportunity to internships, they send holiday greeting from photography to Frank Lloyd travel around the region. Some have cards with updates on their lives and Wright architecture to Southeast Asian gone to the White Mountains in New activities. The former interns even ethnographic objects. Historic New Hampshire and the Southern Maine come back to visit and bring their England works with them to find Coast region; some prefer to explore families. In addition to the impression projects that complement their goals the Massachusetts cities of Salem, they make on us, we hope we have a and aspirations. Boston, and Cambridge, as well as little impact on their future careers and For many of these interns, spending Newport, Rhode Island; Montreal in love for preservation. We so appreciate a summer with Historic New England Quebec, Canada; or New York. We at our collaboration with the French has been life changing. “Thanks to this Historic New England love that we Heritage Society and hope it will partnership, year after year our selected can share New England and American continue for years to come. HistoricNewEngland.org
Aslave pictorial Narrative Pedro Tovookan Parris used art to recount his saga of enslavement and release
by MARTHA J. McNAMARA Martha J. McNamara is director of the New England Arts & Architecture Program in the Department of Art at Wellesley College. This article is drawn from her book in progress, Tovookanâ€™s Story: Pictorial Autobiography and Abolitionist Narrative in Antebellum America.
Historic New England Summer 2019
lmost six feet long and only eighteen inches high, the watercolor landscape was clearly meant to tell a story. And a harrowing story it was. Using glazed cotton as his canvas, Pedro Tovookan Parris recorded his life in four vignettes: an image of Rio de Janeiro where as a ten-year-old he was brought from Africa to be sold into slavery; another of a ship perhaps representing his transport to New England to testify in a trial against the American ship captain who had carried him to South America; and, finally, a view of Boston coupled with an image of the western Maine farm where he lived out the rest of his short life. Historic New England acquired this possibly unique pictorial slave narrative in the late 1960s. The banner was accompanied by an ambrotype photograph of Pedro, a small framed sketch, a five-page memoir of Pedro’s life written by Percival Parris, the youngest member of the Virgil D. Parris family with whom Pedro lived until his early death in 1860, and other documents. Although we may never fully understand what compelled Tovookan to record his story, the watercolor is a rare depiction of experiences in the life of an ordinary person facing extraordinary circumstances. Equal parts personal memory, political polemic, and depiction of place, the watercolor reveals how perceptions of Rio de Janeiro and New England— places as foreign to him as they were disparate from each other—shaped Tovookan's understandings of the
meaning of slavery and of freedom. Tovookan’s story begins in East Africa where he was kidnapped, along with his three brothers, in a raid on his village somewhere inland from the coast of presentday Mozambique. With at least one of his brothers he was taken to a small island in the Mozambique Channel and sold to a Portuguese trader named Sebastian who gave him the name Pedro and taught him to speak Portuguese—presumably in an effort to boost his value as a slave. Sold again, Pedro was transferred to a slave trading station or “factory” in Lourenço Marques (present-day Maputo, Mozambique) run by “Capt. Paulo,” an agent of one of the leading slave traders in Rio de Janeiro during the 1840s and 1850s: Manoel Pinto da Fonseca. Although England and the United States had outlawed the trans-Atlantic slave trade in 1807, Fonseca, like many other successful Brazilian slave traders, operated by hiring American and British merchant ships to transport slaves or act as tenders for larger slaving vessels. American ships provided cover for the Brazilian merchants: if a slaver were confiscated, it would be an American ship captain and not the Brazilian agent who would face trial in the international commissions established to suppress the slave trade. The American captain of the Porpoise became thus ensnared when he sailed his ship into Brazil’s port city of Rio de Janeiro; it was his arrest and deportation to the United States that ultimately brought Pedro Tovookan to New England.
Pedro Tovookan Parris (1833-1860) drew these scenes using pencil, ink, and watercolor on a piece of fabric nearly six feet wide and eighteen inches high to tell his story of enslavement and release. His drawing includes an image of Rio de Janeiro, a ship at sea, a view of Boston, and a New England farmstead.
This formal studio portrait of Pedro Tovookan Parris was made c. 1855. He died, reportedly of pneumonia, at age twenty-seven and was laid to rest in the Parris family cemetery. Although sometimes referred to as Pedro Parris, the name Pedro Tovookan is etched on his headstone, which also identifies him as a native of the eastern coast of Africa.
Pedro and another boy called Guilherme had boarded the Porpoise in the late spring or early summer of 1844. Commanded by Captain Cyrus Libby of Scarborough, Maine, the Porpoise was one of at least three ships (including the Kentucky, also a Maine ship) whose activities Capt. Paulo was directing along the East African coast. Libby’s crew, disgruntled by the long voyage and the captain's harsh treatment, immediately contacted the American consul general in Rio, George W. Gordon, when the Porpoise arrived there on January 23, 1845. A Boston native with big political ambitions, Gordon had a particular interest in suppressing the slave trade. When he learned of the Porpoise’s possible slaving activities, Gordon impounded the ship, sequestered the crew and the captives as witnesses, and, after some legal and political wrangling with Fonseca, sent the Porpoise to Boston. 14
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When the case against Libby went to trial in Portland, Maine, a year and a half later, he pleaded ignorance, claiming in court testimony that he thought the boys were free and were being sent to Rio “to be educated, and then to be sent back to the Coast.” On July 24, 1846, a jury acquitted Libby on the grounds that there was not enough evidence to prove that he had intentionally been slaving. The future for Pedro and Guilherme could hardly have been murkier. One might have expected that, given their lack of ties to the area, they would ship out on a Portland vessel or perhaps find work on the waterfront. Instead, Pedro was taken as a “boy of all work” into the household of Maine lawyer and politician Virgil D. Parris, then serving as the US marshal for the District of Maine. Guilherme, now called William or Billy, was taken in by another lawyer involved in
the trial and relocated to Milton, Massachusetts. The Parris family lived in Portland until about 1851, when they moved approximately fifty miles northwest to the county seat town of Paris. Pedro must have been an exotic sight in this rural western Maine town. A small community of African Americans lived in Portland, but as third- or fourth-generation descendants of slaves from West Africa, they would have had little in common with the East African teenager. Surely, almost no one in the area spoke Portuguese. Yet, Pedro seemingly fit in with both the Parris family and the rural Maine community. Indeed, at his death in 1860, the Oxford Democrat printed a laudatory obituary and a neighbor of the Parris family recorded in her diary: “Pedro was a great favorite with all. He had not one enemy. The children in the family are inconsolable.” This is an important context for the watercolor drawing: Pedro must have been a charismatic person—Percival Parris writes that he wanted to be a “showman”—and he was possibly a natural storyteller. That may explain why ten years after Libby’s trial, Gordon, now running for governor of Massachusetts on an antislavery platform, brought Pedro to Boston to participate in his gubernatorial campaign. Pedro’s watercolor drawing was probably part of a larger performance of his captivity story for campaign audiences in Boston. Given this context, the sequence of images, which appear to focus on his
condition as enslaved or his status of being free, makes sense. The story begins, after all, not in Africa, but in Rio de Janeiro at the moment when the US government intercedes in his captivity. Missing are images of his childhood in Africa, his sale to a Portuguese slave trader, or his experience of the Middle Passage. Instead, the watercolor opens with Pedro’s fate turning on the policies established by Atlantic world nations to abolish the slave trade. Reading the watercolor from left to right, the first images of Rio de Janeiro and of a ship (sailing northward, an American flag flying astern) dominate the drawing’s composition. These are the key passages: George Gordon’s legal and political intervention in Brazil and the transportation of the witnesses to New England. The city of Boston, where the Porpoise landed, is signified by the golden dome of the State House and is positioned adjacent to a recognizable rendition of a New England farmstead. Interestingly, only the last image is populated with clearly and particularly delineated people. Most notable are the herm-like figures acting as gateposts—possibly Virgil D. Parris and his wife, Columbia Rawson Parris—standing like sentinels of the property. There is also an oversized female figure in the front yard and a boy with a pony cart. Taken together, the images articulate a narrative of narrow escapes, dangerous passages, state power, and, ultimately, benevolent protection. Although there is no mention of Pedro’s watercolor in newspaper coverage of Gordon’s campaign, the size of the banner (six feet by one-and-a-half feet), its horizontal orientation, and sequencing of
images point to its use as a visual prop for Pedro (who reportedly spoke English with some difficulty). The shape and size also relate the watercolor closely to panoramas— commercial entertainments that first appeared in the United States in the early nineteenth century and became highly popular beginning in the 1840s. While living in Portland from 1846 to 1851, Pedro could have seen dozens of panoramas, including depictions of the Nile and Mississippi rivers and narrative examples such as the Battle of Bunker Hill and A Walk in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. One work in particular may have caught his attention: Benjamin Russell and Caleb Purrington’s 1848 Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ’Round the World (which survives in the collections of the New Bedford Whaling Museum in Massachusetts) was exhibited in Portland during August and September 1850. This enormous work of art probably depicted Russell’s 1841-45 whaling voyage and carefully details cities, villages, landscapes, and seascapes from New Bedford around Cape Horn to the Indian and Pacific oceans. Certainly the images of a bustling New England port would have struck a chord with residents of Portland but the images of Rio de Janeiro may have also piqued Pedro’s interest. Another, perhaps more influential panorama was The Mirror of Slavery, shown as part of abolitionist performances staged by Henry “Box” Brown in 1849-50. Brown’s theatrical performances combining abolitionist narrative and a moving panoramic display had captured the imagination of antislavery advocates in New England. Brown famously escaped from slavery in
1849 by packing himself into a crate that was shipped from Richmond, Virginia, to Philadelphia. After his flight to freedom, Brown became a popular speaker on the antislavery circuit and in early 1850 created a panorama of approximately four dozen scenes illustrating “an affecting delineation of slavery and the slave-trade without any exaggeration of their enormities.” Brown toured a number of New England towns with his panorama. Whether Pedro would have seen The Mirror of Slavery, he—as well as Gordon and his supporters—would surely have known of Brown’s successful performances. Perhaps the theatricality of a panoramic composition as well as the implicit connections to the wider antislavery community appealed to both politician and freed slave. Pedro Tovookan Parris survived the traumas of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and lived to record his experiences. His story is both extraordinary and depressingly ordinary—some ten million Africans were kidnapped and transported to the Americas during the three centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. What is so striking about Pedro’s slave narrative is that he tells his story through images rather than text. Of course, his pictorial autobiography is fundamentally shaped by the swirl of midnineteenth-century commercial imagery, both print and spectacle, but his tale of movement from slavery to freedom is also tightly bound to the places—and the people—he knew. For a young man, displaced from East Africa to rural Maine, concepts of slavery, freedom, emancipation, and abolition were inextricably tied to depictions of place. HistoricNewEngland.org
by SALLY ZIMMERMAN Senior Preservation Services Manager
Tiny houses trended big long before their millennial-era popularity
above In 1931 the Croade Tavern was moved to the Arnold House property in Lincoln, Rhode Island, for use as a caretakerâ€™s residence. page 17 In Johnston, Rhode Island, the 1691 Clemence-Irons House is 532 square feet, standard size for its time. 16
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TANDING OPPOSITE the late twentieth-century McMansion trend is the tiny-house movement, David to the Goliath of today’s supersized houses. With the footprint of new houses topping out at almost 2,700 square feet by 2015 statistics, the average house has nearly tripled in size since the 983-square-foot-house of 1950. Tiny-house advocates argue for the affordability and environmental sustainability of very small residences, buildings of less than 1,000 square feet and often only half that size or less. Generally credited as having begun with the 1987 publication of Tiny Tiny Houses or How to Get Away From It All by architect Lester Walker, tiny houses now have their own shelter magazines, how-to television shows, and specialty builders. Millennials, those born between about 1981 and 1996, may claim the tiny house as their design but, historically, houses of about 500 to 800 square feet represented the standard size home in many communities and always far outnumbered the larger eighteenthcentury houses we now see as typical of the colonial and early Federal periods. In a 1989 article on the “common house” in eighteenth-century Worcester County in Massachusetts, cultural geographer Michael Steinitz used data from the 1798 Federal Direct Tax Census to document and compare the numbers and types of houses common in that period with houses of that age that have survived to the present. Steinitz’s analysis demonstrated that the surviving historic eighteenth-century houses of our region represent “at best 10 percent” of the structures standing in 1798. The direct tax data, which
included building dimensions, height, material, number of windows, and number and type of outbuildings, further revealed that the average house plan size was 831 square feet and that about a quarter of houses in the tax census were even smaller, less than 600 square feet. Those houses were plainer and simpler than many of today’s surviving early houses. Most were only one story and rarely included any outbuildings. In contrast, the two-story houses enumerated in the census were not only larger (most more than 1,100 square feet) but also had specialized outbuildings, often making them the highest valued houses in town. This pattern, where the strong majority of houses in a community was considerably smaller and more modest than what has typically survived into the twentyfirst century, has been borne out in studies of other regions along the eastern seaboard. Among Historic New England’s holdings are a number of these once-common small dwellings, from
the 532-square-foot ClemenceIrons House (built in 1691, restored in 1938) in Johnston, Rhode Island, to the comparatively generously sized Gardener’s Cottage (1858) at the Lyman Estate in Waltham, Massachusetts, where the 800-square-foot Italianate structure includes another 300 square feet in a kitchen ell. The construction history of Clemence-Irons House illustrates the pattern by which most small houses expanded over time—altered, updated, and eventually subsumed into larger structures. Ultimately, such houses either survived hidden within larger structures or were demolished and replaced. Clemence-Irons House was constructed on the 300-acre farm of its builder, Richard Clemence. Leased to a tenant farmer by the eighteenth-century owners, the Angell family, the property was partitioned by later owners after 1855. By 1938, when it was purchased for the express purpose of recapturing the original form of HistoricNewEngland.org
Cox Cottage is nestled just behind Gedney House in Salem, Massachusetts. Constructed c. 1775, the little 700-squarefoot dwelling has always been used as a rental property.
this classic seventeenth-century Rhode Island stone-ender, it had grown to thirteen rooms with many extensions, including a rear leanto, a front porch, and a one-story ell. Architectural historian and preservationist Norman Isham (18641943) removed these later accretions (with the exception of the early
houses constructed for Salem’s growing population as maritime trade expanded during and following the American Revolution. The Lyman Estate Gardener’s Cottage, although quite simply detailed, is recognizably part of a formal architecture, with eaves and dormers in the Italianate style.
One can imagine a future time when houses of this scale will gain interest as historical artifacts. lean-to kitchen and chamber) in a subtractive restoration process that typified the preservation practices of the period. Historic New England's c. 1775 Cox Cottage, which is adjacent to the 1664 Eleazer Gedney House in Salem, Massachusetts, reflects a different pattern of survival. Located on a narrow urban lot of 9,583 square feet, Cox Cottage was never enlarged. Built when Benjamin Cox (1743-1789) purchased the single-family Gedney House from the family’s heirs to convert it into a rooming house, the 700-squarefoot cottage supplemented income from the property; it continued in multifamily use, along with Gedney House, until the early 1960s. Three bays wide, with four small rooms and an attic under a gambrel roof, Cox Cottage is typical of the small 18
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At a story-and-a-half in height and with three rooms on both levels, the cottage was the kind of welldesigned dwelling promoted by theorists like Andrew Jackson Downing as homes for artisans and mechanics, the skilled workers of the early industrial period. Indoors, there is a formal parlor with plastered walls, molded door and window casings, and a simple mantelpiece. Elsewhere in the house, Greek Revival pediments top the doors and windows; a chunky, turned newel post anchors the staircase; and closets and cupboards with built-in shelving and drawers provide space for the growing array of possessions that upwardly mobile workers like the Lyman Estate gardener could provide for his family. Historic New England properties often include a historic “tiny” house,
either originally constructed, like the Lyman Estate Gardener’s Cottage, for support staff or added or repurposed as a rental property. Croade Tavern, a small, gambrelroofed, eighteenth-century cottage located behind the c. 1693 Eleazer Arnold House in Lincoln, Rhode Island, was moved there in 1931 for a caretaker’s residence when a diner was constructed on its original site in nearby Pawtucket. At Beauport, the Sleeper-McCann House, in Gloucester, Massachusetts, a small, modular, modern house was built by the Washington State-based Weyerhauser Company in 1956 for a similar purpose. One can imagine a future time when houses of this scale will gain interest as historical artifacts. In communities throughout New England, very small historic houses of any date are increasingly rare and face considerable risk of demolition simply because they lack the amenities now standard in contemporary housing. As evidence of a time when most people lived in significantly smaller spaces, these houses reveal much about the character of the historic landscape. Steinitz concluded his study of these small, common houses with a call to “pursue a more balanced, comprehensive rethinking” that recognizes the “middle landscape” of modest housing. The historic common houses around the region, including those on Historic New England properties, offer a glimpse of that middle landscape and provide a fuller picture of life in the tiny houses of the past.
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A Chapter in IMMIGRATION HISTORY Colonial-era house became a twentieth-century tenement
And, another group, for a variety of reasons, Settled in a city 20 miles northeast of Boston, A city whose name is famous in American History, A name coming from the Hebrew word, “Shalom,” Meaning Peace. It was called Salem, Massachusetts. And they settled, Most of them, In the Ward Three section of Salem, It became known as LITTLE ITALY. — Alfred Ruscio, An Actor’s Journey into Poetry Salem, Massachusetts, 1997
21 High Street, Salem,
20Massachusetts, Historic New England 1912 Summer 2019
by MADISON VLASS A graduate student pursuing a master's degree in public history at the University of Massachusetts Boston, Madison Vlass spent two seasons as a guide at Phillips House in Salem, Massachusetts.
alem, Massachusetts, though known the world over for its 1692 witch trials, is a vibrant city with a complex and storied past that is often overlooked. Many of the historic sites and museums in Salem narrate the stories of wealthy merchant families, famous literary figures, and imagined tales of witchcraft. Few sites, however, focus on the less glamorous but infinitely rich histories of the city’s ethnic communities. During the first half of the twentieth century, Historic New England’s Gedney House, one of the oldest timber-frame dwellings in the country, stood at the center of what was a thriving immigrant neighborhood nicknamed Little Italy. In 1665, Eleazar Gedney, a wealthy shipwright whose father was among Salem’s first settlers, built the main section of the residence. Located at 21 High Street, a main thoroughfare in the colonial town, the original structure exemplifies traditional post-Medieval architecture with a hall and a parlor on either side of a large central chimney. In 1733, a Gedney descendant sold the expanded structure to Benjamin Cox, who added two ells to the back and began renting out the house as a multifamily dwelling. Cox was, for the most part, an absentee landlord. Such a pattern of ownership status continued until 1967, when Historic New England acquired the property in order to preserve the endangered architecture. Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century with the arrival of the Irish, Salem became home to successive groups of immigrants, among them French Canadians, Polish, Ukrainians, Eastern European Jews, Greeks, and Russians. Between 1860—amid decades-long social
The house at 21 High Street (center) in July 1914. The 1920 U.S. Census recorded fifteen individuals living in the home, ranging in age from a few months to seventy years. The residents were one widow and the members of two families. Five of the residents were adults who, along with one family’s ten-year-old boy, had emigrated from Italy between 1895 and 1920. Nine of the children had been born in Massachusetts; the oldest was eight.
and political change that would unite Italy’s numerous independent governing entities—and the early 1910 eruption of Mount Etna on Sicily’s east coast, Italy endured an extreme period of drought, crop disease, heavy taxation, and horrific natural disasters, especially in the southern regions. This forced many to seek opportunity in other countries, including the United States. An estimated fourteen to fifteen million people left Italy between 1880 and 1920. Between 1900 and 1910, more
than two million came through American ports. Primary source research on the social history of the neighborhood, located in Salem’s Ward 3, brings to light a fuller picture of life at Gedney House and the cultural landscape of the area in the first half of the twentieth century. As many as six separate sections of the house served as tenants’ quarters in the early twentieth century. The 1910 U.S. Census shows seven people residing in the house; by 1940, census data HistoricNewEngland.org
With 21 High St. behind them, children posed to have their picture taken by Historic New England founder William Sumner Appleton. Historic New England went on to acquire the property in 1967.
were members of extended Little Italy families, and belonged to myriad community groups. Descendants of these immigrants still call the neighborhood home today. World War I, together with the restrictive Emergency Quota Act of 1921 and the Immigration Act of 1924, abruptly ended the immense wave of immigrants to the United States. This, however, allowed ethnic neighborhoods like Salem’s Little Italy to stabilize and prosper. Some Gedney House dwellers worked in leather and cotton factories, others tested electrical appliances at the Sylvania plant located in Salem; there were those who crushed stone for the city and still others who owned grocery carts and stores. The area was composed primarily of Italians but was also home to many different ethnic groups, all of which coexisted in this vibrant neighborhood. As the community prospered, it gained political clout, too, though it wasn’t until 1984 that Salem elected its first Italian American mayor, Anthony V. Salvo (19282017). The son of immigrant parents, Salvo was born in Gedney House, he recalled in a story he wrote about reported four households and about twenty-five people, Little Italy, published in a collection by the Salem officially classifying Gedney House as a “tenement.” This Cultural Council. Salvo said his family lived in Gedney was not uncommon for the area, which was populated House until he was two years old, then moved to Mason by many large, Catholic extended families. Salem’s 1914 Street. fire destroyed many buildings in the neighborhood. Salem’s Little Italy neighborhood is an essential Fortunately, Gedney House survived and was integrated part of the city’s past. The 1665 timber frame structure into a neighborhood rebuilt mainly by Italian immigrants has stood witness to more than 350 years of Salem who made Ward 3 their home. history. Visitors to Gedney House can see how building Community was an integral part of the immigrant techniques and architecture have changed over the experience of Gedney House residents. The centuries. Visit Gedney House to hear about what life neighborhood provided them with a network and was like in the Italian immigrant community of the early support systems as they attempted to simultaneously twentieth century. assimilate into American culture and maintain their “We say to our parents and grandparents… traditions. Many were parishioners of St. Mary’s Italian We are glad you came here to America. Church on Margin Street, the heart of the community. We are proud of you. It was a place of shared religion, language, heritage, We are grateful that we grew up in LITTLE ITALY. and experience. The neighborhood also supported We found freedom and opportunity here – and – bakeries, barbershops, a gas station, a Christopher The Spirit of AMERICA – but – Columbus Club, the Sons and Daughters of Italy, a pool We never lost our heritage – That special ITALIAN gift hall, butchers, and a grocery on almost every corner. For life and love and Even though the residents of Gedney House were only Celebration.” renting rooms, they were still integral members of the — Alfred Ruscio, An Actor’s Journey into Poetry community; they owned and patronized businesses, 22
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Dedicated maintenance fund helps THIS OLD HOUSE STAND THE TEST OF TIME by JODI BLACK Supervising Preservation Manager, North and North Shore When a historic building is open to the public, it is always a wise course of action to periodically review the structural stability of the building. In 2018 Historic New England commissioned a structural assessment of the 1665 Gedney House in Salem, Massachusetts, to inspect the visible areas of the house and draft a report outlining existing conditions and repair recommendations. The interior of Gedney House had been stripped in the 1960s as part of a plan to create The report noted that although apartment units. With plaster and paneling removed, the construction work on the seventeenthcentury dwelling was visible. Historic New England chose to leave the museum in this state to modified throughout its 350 years exhibit early building practices in the region. Photograph by Nicolas Hyacinthe. of existence, Gedney House is generally in good condition, with and once may have served as part colony of powderpost beetlesâ€” some minor repairs needed. of a raised flowerbed. The concrete wood-boring insects that can cause A key part of the repair work cap slopes toward the house and severe structural damage. Insect is implementing measures to keep is broken in a few areas, allowing extermination will be completed as water away from the building. Efforts water from the eaves to hit the cap soon as possible. are being planned to better direct and flow back to the foundation. Future work at Gedney House storm water away from the structure. Masonry work will include repairs includes roof replacement, exterior Gutters and downspouts will be to the cap as well as resetting the painting, and window conservation measured and flow calculated to unevenly settled front steps. as well as planning for possible confirm that they are large enough The chimney will be further mechanical measures for addressing to support current and future rainfall evaluated for stability and for the freeze/thaw and humidity concerns. projections (see article on Historic possibility of adding a vented cap Historic New England believes in New Englandâ€™s gutter systems that will allow air circulation while maintaining our historic sites to the analysis, page 30). minimizing moisture infiltration. highest standards. Protecting our Outside, the grade has gradually Carpentry repairs identified in the properties is full-time, daily work risen over time, covering portions report include wood trim repairs, that ranges from project planning of the basement's wood window repainting at the windows and doors, to handling emergencies. Help us sills and water table, which traps and replacement of the bulkhead. ensure the long-term sustainability moisture and rots important Inside, Gedney House is a of our sites by donating to Historic structural elements of the house, relatively open shell that displays New Englandâ€™s Preservation and enables water to penetrate into its seventeenth-century timber Maintenance Fund. Please visit the basement. frame architecture for visitors and HistoricNewEngland.org/PMF A stone ledge with a concrete scholars to examine. The open form to make a contribution. cap sits at the front of the building allowed us to discover an active Thank you. HistoricNewEngland.org
At the DRAWING BOARD
Reflecting on old-school architectural skills by JACOB ALBERT An architect and partner at Albert, Righter & Tittmann Architects Inc., Jacob Albert is a member of Historic New England’s Board of Trustees.
rawings are an indispensable tool in designing buildings. For historians or for anyone interested in architecture, architects’ drawings offer insights into the design process and into the evolution of architectural thought, as well as provide records of buildings that may no longer exist. The Library and Archives of Historic New England contains a treasure trove of drawings of New England buildings and collections of drawings by New England architects from the eighteenth century to the present. We were thrilled when Historic New England accepted our offer of the archives of our firm Albert, Righter & Tittmann Architects. Included are thousands of drawings, along with other documents. We have so far given documents for 180 projects, built and unbuilt, covering the period from 1969 (when the firm began in New Haven, Connecticut, as James Volney Righter Architects) to slightly beyond 1980, when the office moved to Boston. Another group of projects from the 1980s is soon to follow. We plan to continue transferring materials from the 1990s, when we assumed our current partnership, Albert, Righter & Tittmann Architects, and onward. Architectural drawings fall into several categories and serve different purposes. The earliest drawings in a project are rough diagrams with which we try out relationships of rooms to each other and to the site. Next, still in rough sketch form, the diagram takes shape as a building, in three dimensions. At this stage many aspects of the design—the experience of arriving at and moving through the building, continued on page 26
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The first soft-pencil doodle for a new house starts in plan as a bubble diagram and begins to take shape as a building. Basic relationships of rooms are established, with thought to the way you move through the site, from cars at the road, through a gateway, into a garden, and through the house toward the water.
The diagram takes on more specificity, with further delineation of rooms, furniture within those rooms, and planting in the sheltered entry garden, which is integral to the house that wraps around it.
The road-facing elevation sketch shows the idea of the “gate lodge,” which centers an otherwise asymmetrical composition, gives more presence to a small house, and enhances the experience of moving from public toward private spaces. References to the American Shingle Style blend with nods to Edwin Lutyens, whose work was receiving renewed attention with an exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in London at the time of this design (1981).
An early perspective sketch of the living room explores decorative possibilities. The note “geometric peacock” (which appears upside down) is a search for a metaphor on which to base the design.
above A floor plan, roof plan, and thumbnail bird’s-eye perspective on one page describe an early scheme for a house that pinwheels around an octagonal tower. The barn-like vernacular of the design incorporates a reference to the turrets of our client’s grandparents’ Victorian seaside house that had been lost to fire. As with most of our work, the roof plan is a key to figuring out how the design works in three dimensions. top right In the late 1970s we, along with others, were excited to discover the Classical tradition, which had been suppressed in architectural education in the post-World War II period. We set out to educate ourselves by studying and drawing the Classical Orders and putting names to all the parts and pieces. bottom This study, which has continued over the years, gave us fluency in the use of moldings such as the detail sketch of the top and bottom of a stair newel post. The sketch is a kind of shorthand on the way to a more complete drawing. continued from page 24
how daylight is admitted, and what the flavor and materials of the building may be—are in our heads but not necessarily intelligible to others. Subsequent drawings allow us to get these ideas down on paper and show our clients. We later move from sketch form to drafted drawings, showing at each step more detail, for presentation to regulatory bodies, for pricing by contractors, and finally for construction. We often revert to freehand sketches, even during the construction process, to work out details that need further consideration. Each type of drawing has its own interest. However, as we look back over drawings we’ve done we’re most strongly attracted to the early sketches, which reveal the germ of an idea. Even in our more developed presentation drawings, such as John Tittmann’s watercolor interior perspective (page 27), we try 26
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to capture the spontaneity and unselfconsciousness of the early sketches to convey the mood of the building. Our archives, beginning with work from the mid-1990s, also contain untold megabytes of computer drawings, which are what we spend by far the most time on today. Nonetheless, we still start designing every project by hand. As partner JB Clancy says, the hand is an extension of the brain. The computer seems to put the drawing at a farther remove from the brain. Those of us schooled in hand drawing feel that this is a loss, though a younger generation may find new opportunities in computers.
top left An interior perspective sketch gives clients a sense of how they might live in a room. This one was part of a series that presented, with watercolor, alternative color schemes. top right Ideas can come at the lunch table as well as at the desk, and paper napkins are there to record them. bottom An interior elevation helps us figure out how to make a coherent composition of the various elementsâ€”doors, windows, or stairsâ€”on each wall. For this renovation of an apartment with a high living room we introduced a grid in which some of the sections are solid wall panels, some are cabinets or bookshelves, and some are open to a partially concealed stairway.
MAKING News and notes from Historic New England LEARNING SKILLS TO MAINTAIN TRADITIONAL WORK
historic finishes such as whitewash and paint. “It’s a really fantastic opportunity,” Klemek said of the Windows were just the beginning fellowship, which supports and for Natasha Klemek. As Historic encourages the development of New England’s postgraduate fellow skilled practitioners of architectural in architectural conservation/ conservation and preservation preservation carpentry, Klemek has carpentry. “It’s the work on done restoration work at several the ground that supports the of our properties involving plaster, organization functioning at its best.” masonry, carpentry, roofing and The Americana Foundation siding, and fencing. All of it calls for provides partial funding for the a specialized approach that requires fellowship. The foundation supports solid knowledge about traditional programs that promote sustainable building methods and materials, how growth and the development of they were used in the past, and how agriculture and community food to work with them today. systems, as well as conservation and Offering such a program is a preservation of natural resources. first for Historic New England. With Caring for the historical built a term of eighteen months, the environment means keeping up with Americana Foundation Postgraduate tradition, learning the trades and Fellowship in Architectural skills used in the construction of Conservation/Preservation the centuries’ worth of properties Carpentry focuses on immersive that Historic New England training in the conservation of stewards. “Those of us working wood structures and features as with built heritage recognize that well as other traditional trade and it is challenging to find skilled conservation skills, including plaster craftspeople who are knowledgeable consolidation and repair, masonry about historic building systems and mortar care and repair, and and traditional construction technologies,” Klemek said. “There is Natasha Klemek doing conservation/ an urgent need to preserve and pass preservation carpentry on a section on traditional skills.” of a fence from Roseland Cottage in This professional development Woodstock, Connecticut. program further advances Historic New England’s commitment to being a leader in expanding and fostering the next generation of architectural conservators and practitioners. The fellowship underpins the organization’s institutional mandate to set the standard for care and use of historic resources, to 28
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improve the quality of care at our historic properties, and to meet or exceed national and international preservation protocols. Whether Klemek is restoring clapboard or doing interior paint touchups, she is always working and learning. “I stay very busy,” she said, commenting on the "huge variety of tasks at the properties.” Before coming to Historic New England, Klemek had worked with a series of architectural, conservation, and restoration firms. She holds a master’s degree in architectural conservation from the University of Edinburgh and a bachelor’s degree in ecological design from Prescott College in Prescott, Arizona. The fellowship, she said, “has fit very well into my career. I feel incredibly lucky that I have this opportunity.”
EXTREME GARDEN GUIDE Everything for the Garden, the fourth volume in Historic New England’s pictorial history series, will be available in the fall. The book celebrates the items and the literature that people used to design, cultivate, and decorate their green spaces. Lavishly illustrated, the publication is a history of the books, goods, and services that gardeners relied upon from the mid-nineteenth century through the beginning of the twenty-first century. It’s a must for anyone who enjoys making, tending, and looking at gardens. Bursting with glossy, full-color images from Historic New England’s extensive collection of gardenrelated items, Everything for the
society’s library research books For more information about can be accessed via Keene-Link, a the Historical Society of Cheshire catalogue shared with Keene State County, including hours, events and College and Keene Public Library. programs, and online access, visit “There’s a lot that’s been happening,” hsccnh.org. Jennifer Carroll, the historical Community Preservation society’s director of education, said Grants demonstrate Historic New of the ongoing work conducted to England’s belief that collaboration advance the organization’s ability to among organizations devoted serve wider audiences. to preservation activities and The Community Preservation cultural heritage will strengthen Grant was an important component all efforts and raise the visibility in the society’s transformation. As it and importance of preservation continues to expand its collections, throughout the region. The grant the historical society is focusing program is endowed by the Herbert on carefully planned strategies for and Louise Whitney Fund for Garden goes beyond the garden growth and maintenance of storage Community Preservation. The fund as a general subject and includes space. This includes developing supports conservation, preservation, furniture design, ceramic arts, book plans to add to its collections restoration, education, research, cover design, architecture, and of with a focus on areas of need and public accessibility to collections, course, landscape design. importance. and exhibitions. Everything for the Garden is a “We’re extremely busy here,” Visit HistoricNewEngland.org/ visual delight for garden aficionados, said Executive Director Alan Rumrill, community-preservation-grants for from the novice gardener to the pointing out that the historical information about applying for a 2019 landscape designer. It should be on society is doing more living history Community Preservation Grant. every garden lover’s bookshelf. To and hands-on programming, which —Dorothy A. Clark preorder a copy call 617-994-5925. has been a big draw. “There’s lots Editor of demand.” He added that Ball Mansion, headquarters of the Historical Society HISTORICAL SOCIETY BOOSTS the society aims to educate of Cheshire County in Keene, New Hampshire. DIGITAL PRESENCE its audiences about history When Historic New England in such a way that they make awarded its first annual Community connections between events Preservation Grants in 2011, the of the past and the happenings Historical Society of Cheshire of today. County in Keene, New Hampshire, The Historical Society of was among the recipients. The Cheshire County has grown historical society had applied for so much that it has added a one of the six $1,000 grants to help third building to its Main Street fund its artifact reorganization campus, opening the Bruder and storage improvement project. House this June. It acquired this The purpose of the project was to 1839 brick dwelling in February ensure preservation of the society’s 2018. It expands the Cultural collection and to provide easier Heritage Center Campus, which access for research and educational includes the Wyman Tavern purposes. (1762), a museum property; and Today, the society has a robust Ball Mansion (1870), the society’s online presence, having digitized headquarters, pictured here. 14,000 historical photographs and The Bruder House contains the information about 7,000 objects in welcome center and classroom its collections. Also, 5,800 of the space, Carroll said. HistoricNewEngland.org
Guidance on Gutters
amid Climate Change Although this downspout looks big enough to move water, the size of the pipe connecting it to the gutter is too small to move a high volume of water.
by BENJAMIN HAAVIK Team Leader for Property Care
ainstorms have been intensifying in recent decades, bringing everincreasing volumes of water that are certain to render present-day gutter systems incapable of protecting historic properties from decimating damage. Based on our studies, Historic New England published a white paper for homeowners and stewards of old houses on climate change and gutters. Our staff is sharing these findings with the public at local, regional, and national events. Water is one of a historic buildingâ€™s worst enemies. At Historic New England, we spend a lot of time determining how and when water might penetrate our buildings because of the damage it can cause. Gutters and downspouts play a critical role in the defense against water but we are not usually afforded a chance to step back and assess whether they are actually up to the task. We are typically focused on keeping gutters free of debris and preventing blockages; but what if there is no blockage and a hard rainstorm simply overwhelms the system and saturates the siding? This requires looking for other issues that may be causing the problem. Using our seven historic properties in Maine, as well as two others in private ownership, as laboratories, we analyzed how existing gutter systems perform under current weather conditions. Using this analysis, we were able to calculate how the gutters would perform in the future as climate change increases the frequency and intensity of rainstorms. This project, supported in part by a grant from the Historic
Historic New England Summer 2019
This portion of a historic gutter element from Castle Tucker in Wiscasset, Maine, is too shallow to support a high volume of water.
Preservation Fund administered by the Maine Historic Preservation Commission and the National Park Service, began in fall 2017 with taking notes and recording videos of our gutters during storms. Working with M. Gaertner, Historic Building Consultants of Portland, Maine, a team of Historic New England staff members visited all nine sites in spring 2018 to document the design of the propertiesâ€™ roofs and gutter systems. Staff members documented the dimensions and construction of the gutter systems for clues to possible deficiencies. For example, perhaps the gutter is operating as it should but water backs up because the outlet is a fraction of the size of the overall gutter. Or maybe the wooden gutter trough is too shallow and had never been sufficient for the task. Common repairs or modifications that seemed suitable at one time
may inhibit the function of a gutter system now. Perhaps the gutter was lined with lead to prevent continued deterioration but what it really does is reduce the volume of water the gutter can carry. Maybe the band of copper installed at the edge of the roof to help mitigate ice damming actually creates a slick surface that causes the runoff in an intense rain to overshoot the entire gutter. We found that these previous interventions in some instances exacerbated gutter failures. With the survey work completed, our consultant began calculating the ideal amount of water a gutter should carry (its capacity) based on the roof size, then compared that with the actual capacity of the gutters using current rainfall data. Finding that some of our gutters were indeed undersized wasnâ€™t surprising. However, we didnâ€™t anticipate finding that in
almost every situation, the outlet or pipe connecting the gutter to its downspout was significantly undersized. It was also interesting to discover that although precipitation from extremely heavy storms has increased 70 percent since 1958, the industry charts and websites we reviewed for the project still calculate gutter sizing based on rainfall totals that were last updated in 1978. The implication is clear: even modern gutters are not being sized using the most up-to-date rainfall data. Historic New England has begun incorporating this data into all repair work related to roofs and gutters at the historic properties. To access the white paper, visit HistoricNewEngland. org/preservation/for-professionalsstudents/property-carewhite-papers/gutters-anddownspouts. HistoricNewEngland.org
Contemporary Comfort by PEGGY KONITZKY Site Manager, Wiscasset, Maine
ave you ever wanted to spend some vacation time
Historic New England house? Then visit Wiscasset, in a
Maine, and book your accommodations at our vacation rental, the history-rich Nickels-Sortwell House, built in 1807. In 2018 Historic New England opened a seasonal rental in the ell of the spacious Nickels-Sortwell House. Rooms with original architectural features contain nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century antique furnishings in styles similar to furniture that the Sortwells, the family that owned the house from 1899 to 1958, chose. The past is part of the experience, with family photos of parties and life enjoyed here, along with copies of vintage Maine-inspired artwork from the Historic New England collection. Explore the historic village of Wiscasset, located on the scenic Sheepscot River. The downtown area hosts art and antiques galleries, unique gift and clothing shops, florists, and several eateries, including the famous Redâ€™s Eats lobster shack. Have a lobster roll and then stroll along the harbor where a restored train from the Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railway Museum in nearby Alna illustrates the story of Maineâ€™s narrow-gauge railroads that transported goods and people throughout the state from the 1890s to the 1930s. Yachts and fishing boats call the harbor home and add to the experience of historic coastal Maine. Wiscasset's historical setting is a major tourist attraction. When the American Revolution ended in 1783, Wiscasset was ideally situated to benefit from the burgeoning international sea trade. With a safe and easily accessible deep harbor fifteen miles inland from
Historic New England Summer 2019
page 32 Visitors mill around downtown Wiscasset, Maine, during the village’s Wiscasset Art Walk. Photograph courtesy of Roxanne Rollins. right The blue bedroom at the NickelsSortwell vacation rental in Wiscasset.
the Atlantic Ocean, the little village became a shipping hub, with all the mercantile and service establishments needed for crews and cargos coming on and off ships, and sailors and captains ready to serve. As the seat of Lincoln County (which extended from present-day Topsham to the Canadian border), the town was also a legal center, attracting lawyers and judges, several of whom—including Silas Lee, the builder of Historic New England's Castle Tucker; and Franklin Clark, a later owner of the house—served in Congress representing Massachusetts’ District of Maine. The period of prosperity and the boom in building ended abruptly with President Thomas Jefferson’s Embargo Act of 1807 and the decline continued with the War of 1812. But the beautiful mansions built in that period and those built in the later pre-Civil War cotton era still stand overlooking the river. High Street, which connects Castle Tucker on Lee Street with Wiscasset’s Main Street, has a row of stunning mansions culminating in a classic New England church and courthouse anchoring the Town Common. Other beautiful historic buildings line Route 1 through Wiscasset, including Nickels-Sortwell House, which presides over the village and harbor just as its first owner, shipping magnate William Nickels, intended. The Nickels-Sortwell House rental comfortably sleeps five, with three bedrooms that the large Sortwell family used. There are portable air conditioners, window screen inserts, and fans to accommodate a range of temperature preferences. WiFi is available throughout the house. Downstairs, the large kitchen, with its original brick hearth and bake oven, has china, flatware and glassware for dining, microwave, toaster, coffee machine, stove and dishwasher. The large living room with comfy wing chairs and sofa features a flat-screen television with Roku, cable, and access to streaming services. A small outdoor eating porch overlooks the solarium and garden. The restoration of the garden to its late 1930s appearance by Historic New England and the Garden Club of Wiscasset has won state, regional, and national historic garden restoration awards. Across the street, Wiscasset’s Sunken Garden, built by the Sortwell family in the foundation of an old hotel, offers an almost magical, secret garden experience. Guests also get a private guided tour of the museum
side of Nickels-Sortwell House and a free tour of our other Wiscasset property, Castle Tucker (also built in 1807), just a few blocks away. Previous guests were unanimous: They loved staying at Nickels-Sortwell House. From the millennial journalist from a Berlin magazine who did a live Facebook tour and raved about the unique, authentic, “very cool” New England experience to the couple from Seattle who wrote, “Learning the context of the house made it come alive, imagining life here. …We loved the uneven wide plank floors, the odd corners and doors … tangible reminders of the years. Thoughtful furnishings and supplies made our visit comfortable. …We’ll have to come back!” Whether you enjoy warm, sunny days, starry summer nights, or the crisp autumn air, there’s plenty to see, do, and enjoy when you visit Wiscasset and stay at Nickels-Sortwell House. Book your stay now at Turnkey Vacation Rentals, turnkeyvr.com/wiscasset-me/121mscv6. HistoricNewEngland.org
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Something Old Displayed Anew
AT GROPIUS HOUSE by DOROTHY A. CLARK, Editor
mid the Modern environment that the Gropiuses fashioned at their home in Lincoln, Massachusetts, there are elements that reveal an appreciation for the traditions and things of the past. For example, on the double desk in the study that Walter and Ise shared, three ceramic figures, four to five inches in height, held prominent positions. These Mesoamerican artifacts, which date roughly to 300BCE-300CE, were removed years ago. Now, the figurines are back on display. The trio of pre-Columbian ceramic statuettes is from the Colima state of Mexico, a small western region on the central Pacific coast. The painter Diego Rivera presented the figurines as a gift to Walter and Ise in 1947 while the couple was visiting Mexico. Walter died in 1969 and the statuettes remained at the house with the family until they were given to the Gropiuses’ daughter, Ati, upon Ise’s death in 1983, the year that Historic New England became steward of the property. After Ati's death in 2014, the family gave the figurines to Historic New England for display in Gropius House. By studying old photographs, Historic New England was able to position the figurines just as they were on Walter and Ise’s shared desktop. Visit gropius.house, Historic New England's interactive web app, on a computer or personal device before touring the museum for a close-up look at the Gropius collection. The app contains a wealth of expanded content about Gropius House as well as the architect's
work and his friends and family. Access home movies of the family celebrating Christmas and Walter's eighty-sixth birthday—just a few weeks before his death in 1969. The app can also be accessed at the museum using a newly installed kiosk. In celebration of the centennial of the Bauhaus, the design school that Gropius founded in Germany, Historic New England is hosting many special events at Gropius House. Visit HistoricNewEngland.org/property/gropiushouse for information.
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A pictorial tour of the landscapes of Historic New England's properties Inside: Two descendants of Walter Gropius, his granddaughter and gre...
Published on Oct 30, 2019
A pictorial tour of the landscapes of Historic New England's properties Inside: Two descendants of Walter Gropius, his granddaughter and gre...