historic NEw england Studying the Flow of History ON EXHIBITION: Loud, Naked, & in Three Colors NEW PRESERVATION GRANT for Connecticut Homeowners RIVERS SUMMER 2022
historic NEw england
To all who have made my tenure as chair so rewarding, I extend my deep appreciation andDavidgratitude.A.Martland
I’ve had the privilege as board chair to collaborate with an outstanding group of trustees, two exceptional CEOs (Carl Nold and Vin Cipolla) and an excellent staff as we welcomed as broad and diverse an audience as possible to Historic New England. It has been marvelous to see us expand in our local communities, throughout the region and, with the benefit of virtual experiences, across the country and the globe. Historic New England truly is a leader in using historic preservation to help foster livable, vibrant and inclusive communities. I am eager to see how it continues to do so through its innovative New England Plan.
From the Chair
As my term as board chair comes to a close this month, I reflect on what draws people to Historic New England. For me, it was a personal interest in New England landscapes (the fine, old butternut trees at Hamilton House, the river flowing past Bowman House—complete with bald eagles—the maple allée running up the hill behind Barrett House), New England architecture and, yes, New England brown furniture. I remember what a revelation it was to find an organization that not only sought to preserve those things – but was the leading organization of its kind in the nation and one of the leaders in the world. I had little idea at the time of the wonderful and dedicated people involved at all levels with Historic New England or the many other opportunities Historic New England offered. Experiencing Historic New England’s depth and breadth has been an absolute joy.
© 2022 Historic New England. Except where noted, all historic photographs and ephemera are from Historic New England’s Library and Archives. Cover Photograph taken from a canoe on the Kennebec River in Dresden, Maine, between Historic New England’s Bowman House (1762) and the Pownalborough Courthouse (1761), which is now a museum. Photograph by Scot McFarlane. Above The newly minted Historic New England Medal. Historic New England 141 Cambridge Street Boston MA 617-227-395602114-2702 1 The Historic New England Summit 2 Learning from Rivers 7 So Much in Store 10 Our New Associate Curator 12 Behind the Scenes of Loud, Naked, & in Three Colors 15 Forged of Fortitude 18 Tintype Art 21 Pagentry on the Move 22 The Politics of “Women’s Work” 26 Walking the Watson Farm Wonderland 29 Big Ideas, Local Impacts 31 The Making of a Medal 34 Fanciful Painted FurnitureCONTENTS
President and CEO: Vin Cipolla 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; Leigh Schoberth, Senior Preservation Services Manager Design: Julie Kelly Design
SUMMER 2022 • Vol. 23 • No. 1
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.
JOIN the CONVERSATION
nationally and globally as we work together to
October 13 - 14, 2022, at Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts, and Livestream
Summit themes include • Obliterating the Old Lens on Social History • Institutional Renewal • Toward an Inclusive Collection • Technology and Globalizing Cultural Heritage • Anchoring Community through Culture • Remaking a City • Living Archives • Reimagining Post-Industrial New England FOR MORE INFORMATION AND TO REGISTER Visit Summit.HistoricNewEngland.org
Explore how twenty-first-century challenges and opportunities are transforming the fields of historic preservation, architecture, urban planning, conservation, arts and culture, museum studies, collections management, public history, and education.
Summit discussions will focus on New England while addressing topics that resonate transform preservation into accessible ethic sustainability.
The Historic New England Summit is New England’s largest conference about our collective roles in creating livable and resilient communities.
Add your voice
with our waterways
LEARNING from Rivers courses
n a December 14, 1748, diary entry, the pastor of Second Parish Church in Exeter, New Hampshire, described the danger of the town’s river. “Poor Titus,” Rev. Daniel Rogers wrote, “Col. Gilman’s servant fell into the river going to get a pail of water and was drowned.”
Sunrise over the Kennebec River at Bowman House in Dresden, Maine. Photograph by John Lichter.
Held in bondage at the Gilman House by Peter Gilman, Titus died in New Hampshire’s frigid Exeter River while working for the household. Without this brief mention of Titus, we would have no record of his life. His drowning meant he would not have been recorded in Gilman’s will, one of the main documents available to locate individuals enslaved in this period. And without the Exeter River, the Gilmans might not have enslaved Titus at all. The Gilman family dammed the waterways that powered their sawmills for cutting the large timbers that enabled them to accumulate enough wealth to purchase enslaved people. As they manipulated rivers and cut trees, this led to increasing conflict over resources with the indigenous Penacook people. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Gilmans led military units in their attempts to dispossess Indigenous peoples of their forests and flowing rivers.
As the research scholar examining Maine and New Hampshire, I get to enjoy the rivers flowing past most of the historic sites while focusing on waterways as a vital source of interpretation for Historic New England’s Recovering New England’s Voices initiative. These streams defined the lives of each home’s residents as they traveled and worked on them or contended with their floods. Rivers constantly change; as they do, people change, too, even as they have attempted to control them with dams and canals. To understand New England’s Indigenous history, its history of slavery, or its history of inequality, and the ways these different strands are connected, we must consider the region’s
by SCOT MCFARLANE Research Scholar, Recovering New England’s Voices
meticulously recorded the movement of enslaved people outside the household, examining rivers provides an opportunity to recover more of their stories as they traveled up and down New England’s waterways. Last summer I visited Bowman House in Dresden, Maine, on the Kennebec River, for the first time. Its front door faces the river, which was once the main route to the rest of New England and the world.
One year later, Cicero probably arrived from Boston via the Kennebec River at Bowman House. It was the largest and finest house in the area; Jonathan Bowman wanted to present an image of his
Before Cicero was enslaved at Bowman House (1762), he had lived in Boston; Portsmouth, New Hampshire; and Kittery, Maine. In a 1769 letter, Mary Emerson, soon to be Jonathan Bowman’s wife, wrote from Portsmouth to her sister’s husband, Ebenezer Hancock (brother of John Hancock), asking him to pay the freight as she shipped Cicero down the Piscataqua River and along the coast to Boston.
The front door at Bowman House opens to a view of the Kennebec River.
Photograph by John Lichter.
relatively small population. They could move quickly on the water to attack and then disappear up tributaries, an impossible maneuver for the much heavier craft of the British. The Wabanaki could inflict both real and psychological damage on British settlers, who could only adequately protect themselves by living within forts. Different tribes predominated on each major river, but the birch bark canoe made it possible for them to travel and connect with each other with brief portages.Studying Historic New England’s sites through rivers highlights common themes of resistance and injustice linked through water. In the seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries, white families in northern New England built their fortunes from Native dispossession and the enslavement of Africans.
One of the two enslaved men at Jonathan Sayward’s house, Cato, attempted to escape in 1769 but was recaptured. Shortly after this attempt, Jonathan wrote in his diary that a barrel of sugar had been lost when the enslaved men working on the wharf dumped it overboard into the York
While the Wabanaki, the people native to the Maine area, explicitly claimed rivers in their identity, everyone relied on the waterways to form their communities. Author Laurel Thatcher Ulrich recovered Martha Ballard’s remarkable life story in A Midwife’s Tale, an interpretive study of diary entries Ballard made from 1785 through 1812. Living upstream and across the Kennebec from Bowman House, Ballard used the river to reach her patients in all weather conditions.
wealth and power to everyone on the river. During the Revolution, Cicero crossed the Kennebec as he ran away to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and attempted to join the Continental Army.
All the wealthy families relied on their rivers for trade—in New Hampshire, the Langdons and Rundlets on the Piscataqua, the Gilmans on the Exeter; and then in Maine, the Hamiltons on Salmon Falls River, the Saywards on the York, the Bowmans on the Kennebec, and the Tuckers and Nickels on the Sheepscot. These families did this in large part by trading timber for sugar. Trees felled inland were floated down and sawn on waterways before being loaded on ships to trade with planters in the West Indies who had already deforested those islands to grow sugarcane. In addition to the lives lost through warfare as settlers sought their resources, Indigenous communities suffered as dammed streams began to dramatically reduce the number of life-sustaining fish like salmon and shad that migrated upstream.
The history of the Kennebec also explains why so few colonists settled in the area around Bowman House prior to the middle of the eighteenth century. Scholars such as Ashley Smith and Zachary Bennett have shown how rivers were central to the Wabanaki people’s understanding of the world; when they negotiated treaties, they referred to “their rivers” rather than their land. Their superior technology in the form of birch bark canoes and their knowledge of Maine’s waterways allowed the Wabanaki to resist British settlement despite their
Given the importance of these locations for each family’s wealth, rivers could also be sites of resistance. Today most of these landscapes appear relatively noncommercial though they were once occupied with people filling boats with timber and unloading rum. When I visited SaywardWheeler House in York Harbor I saw a waterfront that had changed far more than the old homes adjacent to it—the York River appeared as a Maine tourist postcard scene of pleasure boats and a few lobster boats. The old wharves and ships had long since disappeared.
DuringRiver.theColonial Revival period from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth centuries, many wealthy New England families set out to restore homes as they imagined them in the colonial era, ignoring the parts of the landscape that made it possible to construct these grand homes in the first place. As Historic New England considers how to present each site through Recovering New England’s Voices, one possibility would be to recreate some of the old wharves for visitors to visualize the work and the laborers who did
Thoughit. they may appear to have a diminished role in American life, rivers remain an important source of interpretation and influence today. The power of their tides or floods, worsened by climate change, makes it unwise to ignore the ongoing
Just as New England rivers could cause death, they also connected communities and enabled access to care. For brief periods, when the river froze or thawed, the Kennebec was a more formidable barrier since it could neither be paddled across nor traversed by foot. However, this did not stop Ballard from crossing it to treat her patients. In one instance, she describes crashing through the ice and quickly changing clothes before delivering another baby.
An image from the late nineteenth century shows a wharf on the Sheepscot River in Wiscasset, Maine, at Historic New England’s Castle Tucker (1807), visible high on the hill in the background. This is the site today, long after activity there ceased. Photograph by Scot McFarlane.
Launched in September 2021, Recovering New England’s Voices is Historic New England’s multiyear commitment that takes a more inclusive approach to sharing the region’s history with truth and
importance of our relationship with them.Each Historic New England site with a pretty view of the river has a tie to the past. Much of my work as a researcher involves reading through archival manuscripts or browsing digital archives, but
6 Historic New England Summer 2022
sometimes we can learn the most from being on the water.
accuracy. Using research, art, storytelling, and technology, this initiative makes our historic sites catalysts for new conversations, recognizing historically marginalized communities and creating a more complete record of all the region’s stories
by CHARLOTTE BARRETT Community Preservation Manager, Western New England
So Much inStore
Since the 1980s, Vietnamese, Bosnian, Bhutanese Nepali, Iraqi, Congolese, Ghanaian, Somali, and other immigrants have continued this entrepreneurial tradition. They offer staples, spices, seafood, halal products, tropical fruits and vegetables, and grains important to a multicultural clientele.
In the late 1800s and first half of the 1900s, immigrant-owned markets were everywhere in Burlington and Winooski, Vermont. French Canadian, Italian, Irish, Lebanese, Jewish, and German markets were concentrated in Burlington’s Old North End and Lakeside neighborhoods and near the mills in Winooski. Most, except for kosher businesses, sold typical American food that could be used in recipes of many cultures.
Above: Anthony Tran, Thai Phat Market, Burlington. All photographs by Mary Rizos unless otherwise credited.
Food, community, and family in the markets of Burlington and Winooski, Vermont
ur lives intertwine through food—sharing meals with family and friends, learning to cook a family recipe, cultivating a community vegetable garden, or browsing for ingredients at the local market. For immigrants and refugees, markets offer a place to socialize, catch up on local and national news and hear gossip from back home, speak in a native language, and purchase familiar foods. They are places of physical and spiritual nourishment that contain the rich and complex life of a community.
Middle Right: “Everybody [who] walked in the store would visit with him and he made a good neighborhood center point. All the salesmen would come in and visit. They'd be talking about all kinds of community things and activities—as a kid it was good to listen to, and they were good role models.” —Michel Allen, on Georgie George (center), owner, George’s Market (1935-1962), Burlington. Photograph courtesy of Michel Allen. Bottom Right: "As soon as I get into the door—they say, ‘Oh where you been?’ This mean they looking for me and care about me, and it’s nowhere, no place, that you can go and people care about you for just shopping. So I love them, they are my brother and sister.” —Issakha Kounta, customer, RGS Nepali Market, Burlington.
8 Historic New England Summer 2022
top: Markets are a thread that connects people. Customers arrive to shop and linger to pass the time. Employee and family member Ahmed Hassen (right) and customer Mahadi Hassan Moussa, Halal Champlain Market, Burlington. Bottom Left: Whether traveling by steamship in 1922 or by plane in 2022, the migration journey embodies both loss and opportunity. Markets can offer a safe place for connection with others who understand the experience. Izzo’s Market, c. 1930, Burlington. Photograph courtesy of Louis Mario Izzo.
A SOCIAL AND CIVIC CENTER
The stories of markets established by immigrants and refugees embody timeless values of hard work, resourcefulness, resilience, and commitment to family and community—values that bind across time and across
a Market shares the stories of immigrantowned markets in Burlington and Winooski, Vermont, through the voices of their owners and customers. This multiyear project includes a web app, a walking tour, and an exhibition opening June 27 at the Old North End Community Center in Burlington. For more information, visit MoreThanaMarket.org.
Donat Danis, butcher, Danis’s Cash Market, Burlington. Photograph courtesy of Louis Mossey III. “In the wintertime everybody made the tourtières. My father would grind the meat just right. The tourtières are the Canadian meat pies, and they're a combination of pork and beef. My mother did the head cheese. At that time, it was really made with the head of a pig. That was tradition as well as the boudin, which is blood sausage. My father used to make it himself at the store and sell it.” —Val Sicard, daughter of Donat Danis.
today may live farther away from markets, in neighborhoods or suburbs with available housing. For immigrants and refugees, the personal connections at small markets remain an important part of their lives.
Market ownership offers a path to independence and economic security for newly arrived families. Owners work long hours and take on second jobs to create a better life and a future for their children. Early market owners worked second jobs in textile and lumber mills and other industries. Today many owners work late shifts in service or manufacturing businesses so they can be in the market during business hours.
What small markets lack in space they compensate for in the opportunities for personal relationships and service. As a frequent stop in the daily lives of their customers, markets are often the centers of community life.
In the first half of the twentieth century, residential and commercial life mingled in city centers. With markets tucked into neighborhoods, daily interaction was easy. People stopped by for a loaf of bread, a gallon of milk, or a cut of meat from the butcher counter. Children ran errands for their parents, eager for the penny candy at arm’s reach.Customers
Customer service in local markets is more than a business transaction. Many market owners are community leaders. They mentor children, help the elderly and
housebound, provide rides to those without cars, and deliver food. Customers often seek help navigating an unfamiliar bureaucracy, whether completing legal papers or finding work or housing. In earlier decades, many markets offered free delivery and credit to customers based on trust.
THE MARKET FAMILY
Family is the heart of many small markets. Generations pitch in on the tasks required to feed the community—ordering and picking up food, stocking shelves, butchering, accounting, and dealing with legal paperwork. Many family-owned markets treat customers like family, sharing time inside and outside the business.
10 Historic New England Summer 2022
Historic New England’s new associate curator, Erica Lome, joined the organization in March. Team Leader for Collection Services Julie Solz interviewed Erica about her background, why she is excited about joining the Historic New England team, and her thoughts on building a new collecting plan for the organization.
MyCity.graduate work focused on the Colonial Revival movement that began in the late nineteenth century, when colonial-era objects
A Conversation with new Associate Curator Erica Lome
Erica Lome: I grew up in western Massachusetts and my first job was as a historic interpreter at The Mount, Edith Wharton’s home in Lenox. Looking back, what drew me to this profession was the experience of showing Wharton’s home to visitors. Everyone knew her as an author, but then people got to know her better as a human, as an individual, by seeing how she lived.
I studied art history at Bard College in New York and in my final semester I took a class on design history that met at several
Associate Curator Erica Lome at the Historic New England Study Center for Preservation and Collections with paintings from the recent exhibition Artful Stories.
Julie Solz: Can you share a bit about how you became interested in American and New England material culture?
of the great mansions along the Hudson River Valley. Of course, the opulence of it all thrilled me, but so did the work of researching and interpreting the beautiful objects that adorned these spaces. I wanted to keep going and that led me to seek a master’s in decorative arts, design history, and material culture at the Bard Graduate Center in New York
JS: Historic New England is working on the development of a new collecting plan that is committed to telling stories that better reflect the region’s diversity. What do you think is particularly exciting about this project?
acquire artifacts and works of art from members of more of the communities we share space with throughout New England—that is what I am most excited about. I also anticipate the intellectual challenge of reassessing our existing collections so we can extract unfamiliar narratives from familiar objects.
EL: This project is all about community engagement and bringing stakeholders into the museum world who are not traditionally of the museum world. Building a collection that can inspire discussion, debate, and hopefully
JS: What excites you about joining the Historic New England team?
EL: I love this organization and have long used its resources for my research. What fascinates me is that Historic New England is itself a project of the Colonial Revival movement, founded in 1910 to document, collect, and preserve select aspects of New England’s changing cultural and material landscape. I am excited to join my new colleagues in reassessing that history to better understand who and what is missing from the stories we tell visitors.
JS: Part of the collecting plan will include seeking new acquisitions that reflect a sense of place and identity and foster greater social consciousness about the region’s past, present, and future. What are your thoughts about shaping the collections?
EL: I think we are on the right track in first identifying who is currently represented in our collections and who is not. Some of the major areas where we can improve are in documenting the lives and labor of New Englanders of color as well as peoples who migrated to New England throughout its history, including the present. Another untapped area I am particularly interested in is domestic religious life in New England. Private, devotional material culture says so much about ethnic identity, cultural values, language, and gender.
and experiences of individuals not typically centered in Concord’s historic record, culminating in a new and more inclusive interpretation of well-known events, such as the Battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775.
Building a collection that can inspire discussion, debate, and hopefully acquire artifacts and works of art from members of more of the communities we share space with throughout New England—that is what I am most excited about. I also anticipate the intellectual challenge of reassessing our existing collections so we can extract unfamiliar narratives from familiar objects.
became prized and valued not only for their aesthetic quality but also for their ties to historical events and people, which transformed them into antiques and patriotic symbols. I became interested in the people working behind the scenes to make this happen, in particular the European immigrants restoring and reproducing old furniture and developing a trade in antiques. I was fascinated at how prolific their participation was in that movement, especially during a period of great nativism and discrimination against outsiders. I began to ask myself what role material culture plays in how we express belonging to a community or country.Thiswork led me to the American Civilization Program at the University of Delaware for my doctoral degree. I did graduate assistantships at the Boston Furniture Archive, Nemours Estate, and Winterthur Museum. After I received my doctorate, I went to the Concord Museum in Concord, Massachusetts, for a two-year curatorial internship sponsored by the Decorative Arts Trust. I came in right at the beginning stages of a multiyear project to redesign, reinstall, and reinterpret the museum’s permanent galleries. This also involved surveying the collection to determine how we could better represent the lives
Loud, Naked, & in Three Colors explores the phenomenon of tattooing in Boston through a stunning selection of flash art, photography, ephemera, and objects. It features the work of Frank Howard and the Liberty family—Edward (Dad), Frank, Ted, and Harold (Lefty)—who dominated Boston’s tattoo scene from their
Loud, Naked, & in Three Colors: The History of Tattooing in Boston opened at the Eustis Estate in Milton, Massachusetts, on June 10 after months of work by Historic New England staff and independent curators and designers. It is an exuberant, colorful, and powerful show that engages all of us. We want to share just a glimpse of how it came together.
& LOUD, Naked, IN THREE COLORS:
by LORNA CONDON Senior Curator of Library and Archives and JULIE SOLZ Team Leader for Collection Services
Technician Adam Osgood and Registrar Jennifer Widmark preparing artwork for matting and framing. TOP RIGHT Exhibition designer Keith Ragone working on the introductory display panel for the exhibition. ABOVE Objects Conservator Michaela Neiro examining a sheet of tattoo designs.
PAGE 12 Woman with Flag and Sword, tattoo design by Ben Corday (1875-1938), courtesy of Nora Liberty White. TOP LEFT Collections
tattoo flash art, are amazed by the life stories of the tattoo artists, and marvel at the machines that actually created the tattoos, but they may be unaware of the work that brought the exhibition to fruition. It includes a wide range of tasks: curation, design, conservation, registration, marketing, and program and event planning.
Guest curators Derin Bray and Margaret Hodges, experts on the history of American tattoos, developed the concept for the exhibition and brought it to Historic New England. Given its extraordinary visual appeal and intriguing subject matter we enthusiastically embraced the idea.
Studio, a graphic and exhibition design studio located in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, area. Ragone engaged immediately with the subject and began to develop design ideas.
LEFT Lenders to the exhibition Nora Liberty White (standing) and her brother Harold Liberty, children of Harold “Lefty” Liberty; and Lillian Liberty Castell, daughter of Frank Liberty, displaying a photograph taken of him during a 1948 appearance on the radio program We the People RIGHT Original watercolor tattoo design of a sailor, possibly by Joseph Hallworth, courtesy of The Strong, Rochester, New York.
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Historic New England contracted with the principal of Keith Ragone
To enhance and expand the story of the Howards and Libertys, we borrowed fifty-eight objects from fourteen lenders across the country, including members of the Liberty family. We also acquired objects for the exhibition that are now a permanent part of Historic New England’s archival collections.
The exhibition also examines the influence of the burgeoning and increasingly diverse communities in Boston that drove demand and shaped tattooing culture. It is a fascinating twentieth-century tale filled with the stories of men and women who lived and worked in urban areas, soldiers and sailors on leave, and tourists, all of whom were eager for amusement and ways to express themselves.
Visit Loud, Naked, & in Three Colors from June 10 through October 30. Explore it online at Eustis. Estate.
shops in Scollay Square, the city’s gritty entertainment district. Their stories reveal the complex and nonconformist tattoo culture and the people, businesses, and communities surrounding the tattoo trade.
We hope that exhibition-goers enjoy the extraordinary examples of
“Free License-For-Dog Woman
Historic New England now owns the 1691 Clemence-Irons House, a stone-ender on George Waterman Road in Johnston, Rhode Island, that was Ellen Irons’s lifelong home.
ageSheseven.enrolled at the Providence Normal School, which was a leader in training future educators; however, Irons attended sporadically and did not graduate. That apparently was not a setback; during her twenties and thirties she worked as a schoolteacher. However, in 1897 discussions began to take hold regarding the need for increased teacher certification requirements. Irons’s career was at risk, but the grateful parents of her former students came to her defense. On October 15, 1897, this notice appeared in the Olneyville Times of Providence: “Miss Ellen Irons, a former teacher in the Sisson St. School, Providence,
Irons, known in her youth as Nellie, was born in 1862, during the Civil War, and died in 1938, before the country had fully recovered from the Great Depression; the latter partially factored into the dire financial situation that she found herself in at the end of her life. She
was the last owner/occupant of Clemence-Irons House (1691), a rare surviving example of a stoneender that is now a Historic New England property. During the two-and-a-half centuries from its construction to Irons’s death, there were three major family ownership periods of the property on George Waterman Road: the Clemence ownership, 1691–1740; the Angell/ Goddard ownership, 1740–1826; and the Sweet/Irons ownership, 1826–1938.Ironswas a unrelatedandtemperanceleaderschoolteacher,respectedpianoinstructor,inherlocalchurchandthemovement,landlord,asinglewomanwhorearedanchildfrominfancyuntil
by DAN SANTOS, Regional Site Administrator, Southern New England
Despite life’s hard knocks, Ellen Eliza Irons found ways to survive in her Rhode Island community
Dies” read the Pawtucket Times obituary headline for Miss Ellen Eliza Irons, seventy-five, of Johnston, Rhode Island. That lessthan-illustrious death notification highlighted one of the public’s defining memories of a particularly low point in Irons’s life. Yet, four years earlier she had been among the honored luminaries at Johnston’s 175th anniversary celebration.
Perhaps the most interesting account of Irons’s boarders appears in the 1900 federal census. In this record, thirty-seven-year-old Ellen is listed as living with eight-month-old Wilhelmina Peppers, who is described as white and a “boarder.” Research shows that Wilhelmina’s parents, George Warren Peppers and Lillie May Tittle, were married in Providence three months before Wilhelmina’s birth. In the same census, Mr. and Mrs. Peppers are living on the North Shore of Massachusetts and recorded as ages sixty-eight and thirty-five respectively. The arrangement raises questions, though whatever the answers, Irons raised Wilhelmina on her own until the girl was seven. This was two years after the child’s father, whose occupation was listed as “capitalist,” had
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received a testimonial as to the satisfactory qualities of her work signed by sixty-five of the parents from that school.”Unfortunately, Rhode Island legislators passed a law in 1898 requiring stricter guidelines for teacher certification. Irons was last employed as a teacher during the 1897–1898 school year. She was in her mid-thirties and single, her parents had died, and henceforth she supported herself by continuing to take in boarders, as her family had done for years. Also, she sold parcels of the small acreage that she had inherited.
The individuals aren’t identified in this c. 1902 photograph of Clemence-Irons House, but it is likely that the woman is Ellen Irons and the toddler is Wilhelmina Peppers, a “boarder” according to the 1900 U.S. Census. The child was in Irons’s custody from the age of three months until she was seven years old. Image from Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey.
State and federal census records show that the Irons house was almost always filled with people, including family members, a few occupants listed as servants, and often many boarders. For example, Rhode Island’s 1875 state census lists twelve-year-old Ellen along with five family members; a twenty-five-year-old boarder named Frank Holland, who was listed as a white farmer originally from Illinois; a boarder named Alexander Hammond, also twenty-five, who was a Black farmer originally from Westerly, Rhode Island; and fifty-eight-year-old Ruth Williams, a white servant who had come from England.
The 1910 federal census shows Irons hosting two
widowed boarders, one in her seventies and the other in her eighties. The 1920 federal census lists an Italian immigrant family of eight boarding in the rear of the house with Irons, who then was fifty-eight years old. At this time, Italian immigrants Ralph and Annett Raffatory (the surname was incorrectly transcribed; further research points to the last name of the family as D’orio or Diorio) had six children; the eldest was sixteen years old and the youngest was eighteen months.
After Irons died, her house was ordered to be sold for no less than $2,200, the sum of her debts, which included a heating bill, funeral expenses, and the mortgage. Siblings Ellen Sharpe, Henry Sharpe, and Louisa Sharpe Metcalf, scions of a wealthy, philanthropic Rhode Island industrialist family, purchased the property. The house had grown from a simple five-room structure to a thirteen-room Victorian cottage during the Sweet/ Irons occupancy. The Sharpes commissioned Norman Isham, a noted preservation architect and authority on colonial Rhode Island dwellings, to restore the house, as much as was possible in accordance with contemporary scholarship and science, to its seventeenth-century appearance. Isham began his work in 1938, removing everything that was not original to the 1691 structure. He used a combination of salvaged and new materials to recreate the original appearance of the house—a five-room, one-and-a-half-story structure. After completion, the Sharpes opened the house to the public. In 1947, they donated Clemence-Irons House to Historic New England.
Irons was a member and an elected officer, including serving as president, of the Johnston chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). The Olneyville Times announced that she hosted socials and led WCTU meetings several times at her residence between 1904 and 1914. When the Providence Daily Journal announced the formation of the Johnston Public Health Association in April 1911 to “aid in the campaign against tuberculosis and in the bringing about of sanitary conditions,” it reported that Irons was elected a health officer. In 1928, the Providence Daily Journal informed readers that Irons had discovered an extremely rare 1853 map of North Providence, which she donated to the town. In 1934, during Johnston’s celebration of the 175th anniversary of its incorporation, the roster of speakers included public officials, such as Governor Theodore Francis Green, and “Miss Ellen Irons, 71 yearold occupant of the old Irons homestead on George Waterman Road.”
Several state and local newspapers illustrated Irons’s selfless service to local health and welfare organizations as well as her church, village, and the larger communities of Johnston and the state of Rhode Island. Irons hosted many church and community meetings at her home. Newspaper accounts share that she organized and led a Christmas concert with her brother Daniel in 1892, presented a reading and talk on temperance at the Baptist Chapel in 1898, led a meeting of the Ladies’ Sewing Society in 1903, hosted a well-attended and successful fundraising “musicale” for the Baptist Chapel in 1904, and held an “entertainment” for the benefit of the Fountain Fund at her home in 1907.
Shortly after the town honored Irons, she started asking for funds to maintain her home. This included a letter she wrote to the Johnston dog officer saying that she had enclosed one dollar to pay for the license for her pet, Beauty. However, the letter contained no money; Ellen had added a postscript: “Since writing this, have been obliged to remove the dollar for feeding myself.” The impact of the Great Depression coupled with Irons’s lack of any substantial income for many years led her to take out a mortgage on her house. She did receive some assistance from the Rhode Island Department of Public Welfare, Division of Old Age Security during the last years of her life.
Today, Historic New England maintains ClemenceIrons House as a museum and opens it periodically to the public. Visit irons-house/historicnewengland.org/property/clemence-formoreinformation.
With a matching grant from the 1772 Foundation through Preserve Rhode Island, Historic New England recently completed a window and door restoration project at ClemenceIrons House. The grant funded conservation of the eleven diamond-pane windows and the historic front door. This included work on the glass and lead framework of the casement windows as well as repairs to window frames and doorframes.
died. The August 16, 1907, edition of the Olneyville Times reported that “Miss Wilhelmina Peppers who has lived some time with Miss Ellen Irons is about to go to Boston to reside.” Ellen apparently maintained a relationship with Wilhelmina. The November 20, 1908, edition of the same newspaper states, “Miss Ellen Irons visited Miss Lillie Pepper at her home in Beverly Mass this week. [sic]”
by LORNA CONDON, Senior Curator of Library and Archives and CAROLINE LITTLEWOOD, Local History Librarian, Watertown Public Library and cataloguer of the Diana Korzenik Collection of Painted Tintypes
Nineteenth-century photographic process brought pictures to the masses
18 Historic New England Summer 2022
These types of photographs were produced in the millions from the 1850s into the twentieth century, satisfying countless Americans’ efforts to record their lives in a variety of ways. Americans flocked to photographers’ studios and posed in front of painted backdrops or sought out itinerant practitioners who set up shop at seaside resorts, carnivals, amusement parks, and in rural areas. Because tintypes were more affordable, durable, and
the collodion process; they range in size from ¾ by 1 inch to 11 by 14 inches. Some have been so thickly overpainted with oil or watercolor that the original photographic image is obscured; others have only one or two pigments added to give color to faces or highlight jewelry or other items of adornment; still others are not colored at all. The Korzenik Collection includes largersize plates, many overpainted to compete with oil paintings.
HE FOUND THEM AT flea markets and antiques shops. Painted tintype portraits of anonymous Americans always caught Diana Korzenik’s eye. Over the years, she amassed an impressive collection of more than 500 of the photographs.
What appealed to Korzenik was the tintype’s enormous diversity— of the makers, often unknown male and female photographers and colorists; of the sitters, who reflected all Americans; and the diversity of the finished products. Korzenik was particularly interested in painted tintypes of groups, couples, and children, especially images of babies with “hidden mothers”— that is, with the adult presence concealed. Photographs illustrating the occupations of the sitters or their leisure activities also intrigued her. And the treatment of the surface of the image, whether heavily overpainted with oil or watercolor, tinted, highlighted, outlined, scratched, or solarized— fascinated her.
As an educator, author, and artist, Korzenik recognized the extraordinary power of tintypes to convey insights into the everyday lives of middle- and working-class Americans in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. She also understood that until fairly recently, tintypes had been largely overlooked and underappreciated as both art and critical historical documents. She built the Diana Korzenik Collection of Painted Tintypes to rectify that Tintypes,situation.orferrotypes or melainotypes as they were originally called, actually are not made of tin. They are unique direct positive images, laterally reversed, made on enamel-coated iron plates using
page 18 This tintype portrait of a child was hand painted, giving it the look of traditional painted portraiture. above This young man posed in front of a painted outdoor backdrop for his tintype portrait. His cheeks were painted to effect a rosy glow.
above These images show how tintypes might either be heavily or minimally overpainted. below Hand coloring was added to accentuate the eyes of this little girl, who is holding a fan, which was a standard photographic prop. The corners of unframed tintypes were frequently rounded to eliminate bends caused in production.
Tintypes served a variety of purposes: those overpainted with oil by colorists were often framed and hung on the walls of homes to serve as substitutes for traditional painted portraiture; others were placed in keepsake photograph albums for family members and friends; and others were housed in paper sleeves and given as tokens of affection. However they were used, tintypes documented people’s lives for nearly seven decades.
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faster to produce than daguerreotypes, people felt more at ease when they posed for the photographer. As active participants in the process, they used the tintype to illustrate their family relationships, show their interests by including personal objects in the photograph, highlight their sense of humor, depict their occupations, and provide mementos for family and friends before going off to the Civil War.
In 2014, Korzenik donated her collection to Historic New England to facilitate the ongoing study and appreciation of the art of the tintype. The collection can be viewed online at gusn/325646.historicnewengland.org/explore/collections-access/
Jane C. Nylander’s latest book, “The Best Ever!” Parades in New England, 1788–1940, was recently published by Old Sturbridge Village and Bauhan Publishing of Peterborough, New Hampshire.
ARADES REFLECT MANY ASPECTS OF local and national culture. Long lines of marchers illustrate hierarchies and chosen identities as well as military strength and discipline. Participants celebrate patriotism and victory, honor individuals, recognize innovation, and document progress. They advocate ideals and values, political parties, services, and products. Narrative floats present living tableaux that illustrate pivotal moments in national, local, and personal stories. Much relies on repetition of cherished symbols, myths, and stereotypes that have helped to define the present.Among many distinctive New England parades are those held in late summer in places with large numbers of seasonal hotels or wealthy summer residents. Most featured pretty girls riding on horse-drawn coaches elaborately decorated with flowers, ribbons, and crepe paper. The earliest, in Bethlehem, New Hampshire, in 1887, was followed on the East Side of the White Mountains in North Conway in 1890. Newspaper publicity spread the concept and soon resulted in the Flower Festival in Saratoga Springs, New York; and the Tournament of Roses in Pasadena, California; among others.
by JANE C. NYLANDER, President Emerita Historic New England
Imagine the excitement in North Conway during the last week of August in 1894 when this fanciful version of Cleopatra’s Barge arrived for entry in the Fifth Annual
Coaching Parade. Seen here on parade day with the Moat Mountains in the hazy distance, the float carried eighteen young ladies in Grecian costume accompanied by oarsmen, a sternman, mounted outriders, and a driver. Extensive descriptions of this spectacle appeared in the White Mountain Echo, St. Nicholas Magazine, and many newspapers across the country. The Worcester Daily Spy called it “a brilliant gratifying success.”
New book pictures the pomp of New England’s parades On The Move
Paying homage to the first seafaring yacht built in the United States, Cleopatra’s Barge was a magnificent sight at the 1894 parade in North Conway, New Hampshire. This photograph is from Historic New England’s collection.
by NANCY CARLISLE Senior Curator of Collections
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The Politics of “Women’s Work”
decades, even centuries, the phrase “women’s work” has been used derisively to suggest that women’s work isn’t important. This summer, Historic New England is participating in an exhibition that confronts this perception. Women’s Work, on view at Lyndhurst in Tarrytown, New York, showcases pieces by major twentieth-century female artists alongside examples by eighteenth- and nineteenth-century women, many from Historic New England’s collection. The exhibition tracks the influence of women’s historical craft traditions on the work of contemporary artists. Expressing acts
"When I was growing up and was a student, painting was the dominant art form, really the center of a cult, and the members of that cult were historically mostly male—there was very little room for women there. And I have to say I love painting, but I also feel, what’s the big deal? I can make these same images using knitting, using embroidery—using media traditionally associated with women. But if I make them that way, of course their meaning changes, since the meaning of an artwork is always bound up with its media and processes and their history."
The Lyndhurst exhibition pairs Reichek’s 1992 Sampler (Their Manners Are Decorous) with one by Atta Downing of Marblehead, Massachusetts, made nearly two
of resistance, many of these modern artists have rejected the traditional primacy of painting and turned instead to textiles, ceramics, and mixed media.
Page 22 A plate from the Dinner Party series, a feminist work of art that Judy Chicago created in the 1970s. Photograph courtesy of the artist and Salon 94, New York. top Nineteenthcentury writer Celia Thaxter found a new creative outlet by decorating tableware. This teacup and saucer evoke the writer’s love of nature. Historic New England, gift of Boylston Beal. above Elaine Reichek created Sampler (Their Manners Are Decorous) in 1992. Though inspired by traditional needlework examples, Reichek used her work to make a contemporary statement that cites Christopher Columbus’s encounter with Indigenous people in the “New World.” Photograph courtesy of the artist and Marinaro Gallery.
Before the twentieth century, the division between female craft and the male-dominated field of “fine art” was exacerbated by the traditional training that artists received. It wasn’t until the end of the nineteenth century that women were allowed to take classes where artists learned how to depict the human figure by sketching the anatomy of nude models. Instead, women’s artistic undertakings were more often confined to traditional crafts, particularly the so-called needle arts.When women were finally allowed into the hallowed world of fine art, it wasn’t long before they rebelled, turning away from painting and sculpture in favor of craft. In the 1970s artist Elaine Reichek, for example, despite earning a bachelor of fine arts degree in painting at Yale University, turned to needlework. She explains that her change of media was about “aesthetic politics”:
left Curupira is Shary Boyle’s female reimagining of a mythological male creature in Brazilian folklore. Loan from private collection. page 25 The exhibition pairs the porcelain Curupira with a female wax figure under a glass dome that the daughter of a wealthy Boston family created in the 1720s. Historic New England, gift of Mary C. Stimpson.
woman with a quotation from Christopher Columbus about the people he met, among them the Taino, on a Caribbean island he named San Salvador. “Their manners are decorous and praiseworthy,” Columbus wrote to his financial backers, Spain’s King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. He kidnapped several Taino and transported them to Spain.Reichek was by no means the first to use needlework to make a controversial statement. In the early nineteenth century, women’s sewing circles in Boston played a key role in abolitionism in the region. The women organized fundraising fairs where they sold the goods they made, often inscribed with antislavery maxims, and used the
In the continuing fight for women’s rights, Judy Chicago’s plate [shown on page 22] is part of her Dinner Party series, created in the 1970s and considered one of the cornerstones of twentiethcentury feminist art. Dinner Party comprises a triangular table with thirty-nine place settings, each one representing a heroine—from Boadicea to Artemisia Gentileshi to Emily Dickinson. In the full installation the place settings included embroidered table runners, utensils, goblets, and plates with painted vulvar designs. Two plates will be in the Lyndhurst exhibition, one honoring Elizabeth Blackwell, America’s first female medical doctor, and the other, author Virginia
The number of surviving samplers like Downing’s suggests that while they may not have been valued by society the way paintings have been, they were clearly valued by the families of the makers. Historic New England owns more than two hundred examples, most of them made between 1735 and 1825. At first glance, Reichek’s sampler is very much in the tradition of earlier ones—two figures mimicking Adam and Eve, separated by a tree and surrounded by a decorative border. But Reichek’s is polemical, showing an Indigenous man and
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hundred years earlier. When Downing was young, a sampler did double duty, encouraging the maker to practice lettering at the same time that she practiced her stitches.
income to support abolitionists’ activities. Before long, alongside abolitionists like Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison, their activism included the fight for women’s rights.
Nineteenth-centuryWoolf. writer Celia Thaxter also decorated tableware. Married to an indigent and sickly man several years her senior, Thaxter became a successful author and the family breadwinner. Over time she grew tired of the literary demands placed on her and turned to a new creative endeavor. “I have taken to painting, – ‘wrastling with art,’ I call it,” she wrote to a friend. “I can scarcely think of anything else. I
Historic New England’s treasures, a female wax figure under a glass dome created by Sarah Gardner in the 1720s, when the daughters of Boston’s well-to-do families were taught reading, writing, needlework, and other art forms.
When Gardner married Rev. Joshua Gee, the third pastor of Boston’s Old North Church, she brought with her three “Shadow Glasses on Stools filled with Wax Work.” Each is listed in the inventory
want to paint everything I see, every leaf, stem, seed, vessel, grass blade, rush, and reed and flower has new charms and I thought I knew them all before.” The teacup and saucer [shown on page 23] are suggestive of Thaxter’s enduring love of nature. Indeed, her garden at the artists’ retreat she created on Appledore Island off the coast of Maine is the subject of numerous paintings and books.Athird pairing includes one of
of Gee’s estate, valued at £30 while most of the furniture in the house averaged £3 to £4. Gardner kept the figures after her husband’s death. One of them disappeared long ago. The other two passed down in Gardner’s female line; a descendant donated them to Historic New England in Gardner’s1924.wax figure is paired with a female figure by Canadian artist Shary Boyle. Like other contemporary artists in the exhibition, Boyle uses a medium not usually considered in the canon of fine art; she creates fantastical figures out of porcelain. Curupira [shown on page 24] is a male mythological figure in Brazilian folklore, a creature of the forest whose backwards feet enable him to leave misleading tracks that confuse travelers and hunters. Curupiras are known for protecting woodland creatures when they’re caring for offspring. The backwards feet of Boyle’s female figure no doubt connote those same protective qualities.Twenty works made by women from Historic New England’s collection are on view in Women’s Work along with the work of nearly fifty contemporary artists including Harmony Hammond, Faith Ringgold, Yoko Ono, Jenny Holzer, Kara Walker, Cindy Sherman, and Liza Lou.
Women’s Work is on view through September 26 at Lyndhurst, a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. For more information, visit lyndhurst.org/. Discounted tickets are available for Historic New England members.
Historic New England invites you to explore the landscape at Watson Farm in Jamestown, Rhode Island, a 265-acre pastoral setting of fields, pastures, and woodlands. Last year, hundreds of visitors came to the farm for self-guided walks in the fresh air, down the paths, and through the stone wall-lined fields, gazing on delightful views and exploring the West Passage shoreline of Narragansett Bay. Seasonal flowers and herbs welcome visitors, along with the timeless utilitarian architecture of the 1796 house and barn and several other farm buildings. But Watson Farm isn’t a display-case property; it’s a working farm that Historic New England maintains in the tradition of the small family-farm operation, using sustainable practices.
This is a great time of year to take a stroll through Watson Farm’s bucolic landscape and see the animals, among them heritage breed Red Devon cattle and a flock of multicolored sheep. To plan your visit, check out our website at historicnewengland.org/property/watsonfarm/.
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Before European settlement, the Narragansett people lived on Conanicut Island, now the town of Jamestown, clearing the land and planting crops.
The island’s grasslands attracted colonial farmers for pasturing their sheep and cattle. In 1789, Job Watson purchased a piece of this rich farmland, which began five generations of Watson family ownership. In 1979, Tom Carr Watson bequeathed it to Historic New England with the stipulation that it be a working farm in perpetuity. Watson Farm has a long history of tenant farmers.Farm Manager Max Sherman and his colleagues have worked intensively to clear brush and invasive plant species, reclaiming hundreds of feet of historic stone walls and dramatically improving some of the viewsheds.
The landscape near the farmhouse and barn is enlivened by dedicated volunteers who have added birdhouses, flowers, and shrubs to the venerable stone walls and cedar fences. The herbs and vegetables in this kitchen garden are a traditional way the farm family enjoys the land where they live. The planting beds delight artists, herbalists, critters, and all who come to Watson Farm. All images by Beth Oram Photography.
WALKING Watson WonderlandFarm the
“To be here every day and wake up in the beautiful historic home and farm, this same land that has been worked by so many before me, is an honor to me and my long family lineage of farming in New England since the 1600s,” said Farm Manager Max Sherman, seen here with oxen Ollie and Otis. He recently learned that one of his ancestors married into the Watson family two centuries ago, which makes him a direct descendant of the early owners of the farm.
The West Passage of Narragansett Bay is the halfway-point for many hikers as they enjoy Watson Farm’s sweeping vistas. This view to the south from the farm’s shoreline shows Dutch Island. Located on Dutch Island is Fort Greble. Its history goes back to the Civil War, when the segregated African American Fourteenth Rhode Island Heavy Artillery Regiment (Colored) trained there.
LEFT The sight of cattle grazing on Jamestown’s prized lush, green grass is one that could be seen for centuries. By raising heritage breed Red Devon cattle, Watson Farm both continues and modernizes that tradition for today’s sustainable agricultural practices to produce grass-fed beef.
ABOVE The Jamestown Bridge can be seen in the distance from the hayfields in the north central part of Watson Farm.
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Historic homes such as these in New London, Connecticut, may qualify for the Edward F. Gerber Urban Preservation Fund, Historic New England’s new grant program for historic homeowners in that state. Photograph by Dylan Peacock, Historic New England staff.
The grant will complement essential preservation work already being accomplished by organizations around the state. Preservation Connecticut, the State Historic Preservation Office, local historic district commissions, and grassroots community groups all provide support, insight, and expertise. Currently, preservation grants are available for nonprofit institutions as well as tax incentives for larger income-producing properties, such as industrial mill conversions. However, there are rarely grant opportunities for small, private residences.
Big Ideas Local Impacts
magine taking a whistle-stop tour of Connecticut’s largest cities by train. Within the span of a few hours, you could visit some of the state’s densest urban cores, all filled with hundreds of historic structures. You might note the interesting designs of buildings in Manchester, where worker housing was constructed in the nineteenth century to attract a steady labor force to the city’s silk velvet factories. Perhaps you might wander through Bridgeport’s Pembroke City, laid out in a grid pattern reflecting Victorian ideas of city planning. Or you might pass through Whistleville, a Norwalk neighborhood situated within hearing-distance of passing trains, where a variety of houses occupied by Hungarian and Italian immigrants still line the streets. All of these neighborhoods form a distinct regional tapestry of places that evoke the New England experience— layers of living history that form an identifiable, regional sense of Twenty-sevenplace. percent of Connecticut’s population lives in urban areas filled with historic buildings— Bridgeport, Hartford, Manchester, New Britain, New Haven, New London, Norwalk, Stamford, Waterbury,
Historic New England’s grant program will enable individual homeowners to decide what is important to preserve in their communities. It will incentivize homeowners working with people skilled in traditional trades work, which is often one of the most challenging aspects of owning an older home with one-of-a-kind, and sometimes complicated, elements. Perhaps most importantly, it will highlight what makes these cities unique and how historic assets connect the community to broader stories and shared spaces.
and West Haven. These ten cities represent a vital confluence not only of architectural styles, urban planning trends, and historic development patterns, but also of communities and neighbors who continue to shape the city landscape. They form the heart of Historic New England’s newest grant opportunity, the Edward F. Gerber Urban Preservation Fund, which will award an annual grant of up to $10,000 to a homeowner pursuing a distinct preservation project that will impact their neighborhood.
homeowners’Connecticut grant opens the door for vital repairs, buildingcommunity
by JENNIFER ROBINSON Preservation Services Manager, Southern New England
This grant program would not have been possible without the creative forethought of Edward Gerber, who has roots in Bridgeport and North Haven and is a stalwart defender of historic buildings in New England and Washington, D.C.
Gerber has a firsthand perspective on preservation’s most pressing challenges and the current gaps in the field. Last year, after many travels around his home state, he began to think about the geographic areas that may benefit the most from added support and the ways in which a nonprofit organization could connect with individuals who are passionate about the character of their communities and homes. After collaborating with Historic New England staff, the idea for a homeowner grant came into focus.
The Edward F. Gerber Urban Preservation Fund notably diverges from traditional ideas about preservation with its intention to target a variety of buildings, some of
For eligibility requirements and funding conditions, visit programs/edward-f-gerber-urban-preservation-fund/.historicnewengland.org/helpful-links/awards-
For Gerber, Historic New England is an ideal match for his idea. Through the organization’s maintenance of a wide range of museum houses, as well as expertise garnered from ongoing management of 118 easement properties, Historic New England staff has the opportunity to regularly work with many building types and repair projects. In addition, our homeowner services program, white papers, and public programs provide guidance and support to a wide variety of constituents each year. This knowledge will be shared with homeowners in the grant program.
It is easy to think that historic districts and National Register nominations alone will protect a neighborhood. However, as Gerber quickly learned through involvement in his community, grassroots preservation work is more nuanced and complex. He has remained involved with the preservation community in the Washington area ever since, but was called back to New England in 2010 to save his godparents’ eighteenth-century residence in Westport, Connecticut, which he now calls home. True to his passion for preservation, Gerber has served on Westport's Historical District Commission and as president of the Westport Historic Society. He is a board member of Preservation Connecticut, an Advisory Council Member of the National Trust's President Wilson House, and a trustee and easement committee member of Historic New England.
A longtime passion for preservation motivated Edward F. Gerber to team with Historic New England to establish the grant program.
Many people who have an affinity with historic buildings can recall a time that made them lifelong preservation advocates. For Gerber, this turning point occurred when he was a student at Georgetown University in Washington. He saw the positive impact that unique historic buildings could have on individual communities. He also witnessed how Georgetown’s Historic District (established in 1950, it is the sixth oldest in the nation) leveraged its influence to prevent the widespread redevelopment of the area in the late twentieth century.
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which are typically not considered worthy of preservation attention. Reflecting on his varied experiences with different building types, Gerber said, “I hope that applicants for this grant will be representative of a variety of architectural styles, ranging from traditional Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, Victorian, and Colonial Revival to triple-deckers, Cape Cods, and finally to Mid-Century Modern residences. My own background includes my childhood spent in a Mid-Century Modern house that was designed by a student of Walter Gropius, a series of inner-city Colonial Revivals, and currently a 1760s saltbox with alterations.”
The unique projects funded by the grant will hopefully serve as case studies and catalysts for other local projects. Because of their density, urban spaces provide the framework for dynamic streetscapes where homes, businesses, and people interact—and historic buildings can often serve as anchors where a specific community identity can be reinforced and celebrated. This new grant is meant to provide another complementary piece to an emerging preservation toolkit—one that is increasingly flexible, inclusive, and community-focused.
Opportunities for Nonprofits
Since 2011, Historic New England’s Community Preservation Grants program, now funded by the Herbert and Louise Whitney Fund for Community Preservation, has awarded annual grants to nonprofit organizations in each New England state. These grants bolster projects that show New England’s diverse history and culture and have supported archival, conservation, preservation, and programmatic efforts. To apply, visit preservation-grants-now-available/.org/herbert-louise-whitney-fund-community-historicnewengland.
by JULIE SOLZ Team Leader for Collection Services of a Medal
Our medal committee was led by trustees Deborah Allison, David Feigenbaum, and Kristin Servison and included President and CEO Vin Cipolla, Vice President for Advancement Jennifer Kent, and me. However, we needed a creative team to help transform our vision into something tangible. We sought recommendations from trustees, staff, and colleagues and we reached out to designers, artists, and foundries. We had a tight deadline: nine months to go from visioning to having a medal in hand—a task that would have been extremely difficult even if we had not been in a pandemic. Nevertheless, we persevered
The front of the Historic New England Medal (top), also called the obverse, and the back or reverse.
Our charge was to create a medal that embodies all that is Historic New England, the region, and its audiences, one that reifies our 2021-2025 strategic agenda statement: The New England experience is powerful, personal, and diverse and it provides a compelling and enduring framework for sustainability and resilience as we consider and navigate the dynamic changes and possibilities affecting the region in the years ahead.
In March, we began a new tradition with the presentation of The Historic New England Medal at the organization’s annual benefit gala. The purpose of this honor is to recognize recipients for a lifetime of preservation and philanthropy. Here is the story of the work that went into developing its unique design and executing the final product.
As medal committee member David Feigenbaum said, “We had a tall order to fill. We wanted the medal to depict the full spectrum of resources that Historic New England presents—our historic buildings, landscapes, documents, and objects. Portraying the people with whom the organization connects was important, too. The sculpted medal would need to present these concepts simply and beautifully. Yet we only had two sides of a four-inch piece of metal to workSowith.”where to start? In the collections. Historic New England has significant collections of decorative arts that include all types of medals. Small and large medals; medals of bronze and silver; medals that are plated, engraved, or enameled; medals in presentation boxes, on ribbons or bars; medals celebrating individuals, organizations, and craft. There were so many examples to review and consider what makes a truly wonderful object and a lasting form of recognition. We wanted something beautiful and tactile. Something so engaging that it calls to you to pick it up and hold it in your hand.
Once the designs were approved, Jeffrey began production of eighteen-inch maquettes, which enabled us to see the design in a three-dimensional form. These sculptures were an important part of the refinement process. As Kristin Servison commented on one review, “Our visit with sculptors Jeff and Lindley Briggs in their Newburyport studio to approve the maquettes of the Historic New England medal opened my eyes to the complexity of the job of the creator. Among the design elements we discussed was
the challenge of adjusting the medal lettering against the edge of the circle. On the reverse side, conveying a sense of movement forward by adjusting the proportions of the figures relative to each other and the background, and highlighting foreground details, expressions of New England heritage and community were key focal points. They knew how to ensure that the four-inch medal created from the two maquettes would satisfy these desires.”Once the eighteen-inch clay models were complete, plaster models were cast and those were
We received several proposals for the project and found a creative team in Jeffrey and Lindley Briggs of Briggs Design of Newburyport, Massachusetts. They have worked together for more than forty years to create unique commissioned sculptures. We reviewed at least ten concepts before we settled on the directions for each side of the medal and worked through many revisions
The stairway in the front hall at Historic New England’s Castle Tucker in Wiscasset, Maine, was used for the image on the front of the medal. The landscape at Casey Farm in Saunderstown, Rhode Island, was used to illustrate the medal’s reverse.
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and though we did not have the final cast bronze medal in hand for the inaugural presentation during the Historic New England gala in March, we did have a 3D replica.
until our final designs were realized.
Sculptor Jeffrey Briggs of Briggs Design of Newburyport, Massachusetts, carving an oversize image of the medal in clay. This phase of the process allowed the medal committee to see the design in threedimensional form.
particularly pleased with the use of a spiral, it being a symbol of strength, movement, and growth. It is an ancient form that is found not only in nature but is also connected to art and architecture of all cultures. The back of the medal celebrates our landscapes, properties, and communities. It was inspired by the buildings, stone walls, and community at Casey Farm in Saunderstown, Rhode Island. It was important that one side of the medal show that our sites are powerful places of engagement, that they are preserved and shared with all communities.Themedal creation process was a fascinating project. The collaboration of the medal committee and the creative team was particularly successful as everyone brought different sensibilities and perspectives, which was important for translating our vision into reality.
“The medal signifies Historic New England’s highest honor, recognizing the few who’ve demonstrated a deep and sustained commitment to preservation, and contributing truly extraordinary philanthropic and civic leadership in the field,” Cipolla said. “Our inaugural medal recipients, Lillie Johnson and Biddy Owens, exemplify this level of dedication. Their devotion to preservation and to the mission and work of Historic New England is unparalleled. It has been an incredible honor to honor them.”
cherry boxes were made for each medal by collection committee member Richard Oedel of Fort Point Cabinetmakers in South Boston.
scanned by Northeast 3D Solutions in Springfield, Vermont. Then, Northeast printed 3D four-inch models of the two-sided medal, which Lindley painted to mimic the final bronze patina. Bronze casts of the medals were completed by Sincere Metal Works in Amesbury, Massachusetts, and elegant ebonized
The face of the medal depicts a stylized spiral staircase inspired by the stairway in the front hall at Historic New England’s Castle Tucker in Wiscasset, Maine. We were
w Do not create matching sets of furniture. Each one should be its own thing. Unrelated items will work in harmony.
The table shown here, decorated with faux lobster place settings and teetering wine glasses, is from Hunt’s workshop. It came to us from the estate of Christopher Monkhouse, a longtime friend of Historic New England. Monkhouse used it to decorate his summer cottage in Machias, Maine.
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Hunt (1896-1967), a decorator and antiques dealer, fell in love with Provincetown, Massachusetts, when he first visited in the early 1920s. He returned again and again during the summertime and became a year-round resident in 1942. During his first winter in Provincetown, Hunt decided to use the quiet time to paint an old chest in the style of a Sicilian wine cart he had once owned. He loved the colors and motifs and the intensity of the decoration of Sicilian carts. And he discovered that he loved fixing and painting old furniture.
w If you have whimsy, be whimsical, but don’t force it.
w Do not slavishly copy—any motif that is a copy is bad.
w Consider context—paint wheat or a mouse on a breadboard, save flowers for pieces in the living room.
w Let your decoration tell a comedic story.
w Most importantly, if you’re not having fun decorating furniture “just stop right there, because as sure as death the result will be a tired, dreary affair.”
Fanciful Painted Furniture
by BY NANCY CARLISLE Senior Curator of Collections
Non-Profit Organization U.S.PAIDPostage Boston,PermitMassachusettsNo.58621FSClogoThe award-winning Historic New England magazine is a benefit of membership. To join, please visit HistoricNewEngland.org
Over time, Hunt found inspiration in traditional pieces not only from Italy but also from Mexico, the state of Tyrol in western Austria, Sweden, Russia, and Egypt. He found eager buyers for his refurbished pieces among Cape Cod’s summer visitors. Before long, national magazines featured his work. By the 1950s he had a thriving business and employed many Cape Codders who created painted furniture inspired by folk art. These furnishings were sold to tourists as well as in department stores in New York City and Chicago.
Hunt published his first book, How to Transform Outdated Furniture, in 1943. Peter Hunt’s Workbook followed in 1945 and in 1952 he published Peter Hunt’s How-To-Do-It Book, in which he promises that if you have “a love of color and a merry heart,” you too can produce charming repurposed furniture. Before delving into the
141 Cambridge Street Boston, Mass. 02114-2702
“how to” of repairing and painting old furniture, Hunt laid out a series of edicts, among them: