historic NEw england WINTER 2019
in New England
TAKING PRECAUTIONS AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE THE BUSINESS OF EARLY CABINETMAKERS
WINTER 2019 • Vol. 19 • No. 3
historic NEw england 1 Volunteers Help Put Sharing into Action 4 Rooting Out the Problem 8 How Gropius Brought the Bauhaus to New England 14 Caring for a Masterpiece
15 Building Resilience
27 History in the Making
18 Repurposed Preservation
29 Transaction Analysis
22 Learning History by Land and by Sea
32 Discovering Family Ties to the Eustis Estate
23 Preserved Seating
34 Garden Delights
From the Chair
This issue of the magazine highlights three of my favorite things about Historic New England. First, the wonderful things we help save and share are important far beyond the borders of New England. The article on our participation in the centennial celebration of the founding of the Bauhaus and preservation of Walter Gropius’s extraordinary house in Lincoln, Massachusetts, is a perfect example. And it reminds us of some of the other homes of internationally influential tastemakers that we also look after, such as the Codman Estate, which is also in Lincoln; the Sarah Orne Jewett House Museum and Visitor Center in South Berwick, Maine; and Beauport, the Sleeper-McCann House, in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Second, we help build the expertise and knowledge necessary to help preserve properties now and in the future. The article on what we are doing to evaluate and address the threats climate change poses to properties that have stood for centuries in harsh New England environments is a great case in point. Finally, we are compelled to be relevant because we need your financial and volunteer support to realize our mission. The level of that support is a “market test” of how we are doing. The article about two of our volunteers who are preparing for digitization a trove of letters, diaries, photographs, architectural drawings, military records, and other documents of the Casey family of Saunderstown, Rhode Island, to give the public free online access to the collection highlights the crucial role of our volunteers. I hope you enjoy the magazine!
David Martland Chair HISTORIC NEW ENGLAND magazine is a benefit of membership. To become a member, visit HistoricNewEngland.org or call 617-994-5910. Comments? Email Info@HistoricNewEngland.org. Historic New England is funded in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Executive Editor: Diane Viera Editor: Dorothy 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 Sarah Orne Jewett’s bedroom on page 8 of the Fall 2018 issue was taken by Shelley Zatsky. COVER Walter Gropius leaning on the staircase railing on the second floor of his home in Lincoln, Massachusetts, in 1960. ABOVE LEFT Architectural rendering of a repurposed abandoned public restroom in Boston, courtesy of Historic Boston Inc. CENTER Isaac Vose & Son couch made in 1824 for the Marquis de Lafayette’s visit to Boston. RIGHT The Johnson brothers, c. 1912, who lived at the Eustis Estate in Milton, Massachusetts, where their father was employed.
Historic New England 141 Cambridge Street Boston MA 02114-2702 617-227-3956
© 2019 Historic New England. Except where noted, all historic photographs and ephemera are from Historic New England’s Library and Archives.
Volunteers help put SHARING INTO ACTION by JENNIFER KING, Project Archivist Jennifer King came to Historic New England in the summer of 2016 as a collections intern and went on to work as a cataloguer. She has processed and catalogued museum objects and archival materials from a number of Historic New England properties, including Roseland Cottage in Woodstock, Connecticut; Castle Tucker in Wiscasset, Maine; and Coolidge Point in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts. King became project archivist for the digitization of the Casey papers in February 2018.
ransforming Washington, D.C.: The Impact of Thomas Lincoln Casey and Edward Pearce Casey on the Nationâ€™s Capital is an extensive digitization project underway at Historic New England that will make the personal and professional papers of Thomas Lincoln Casey (1831-1896) and his son Edward Pearce Casey (1864-1940) accessible online. The project is supported by a grant from
the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. The Casey papers contain a vast array of materials that include diaries, financial records, letters, legal documents, architectural drawings, inventories, photographs, and scrapbooks. Many offer insights into the political culture of post-Civil War Washington and document the construction of the Washington Monument, the
State, War, and Navy Building (now known as the Eisenhower Executive Office Building), and the Library of Congress. The Casey digitization project is a two-year undertaking, a time frame that gives project volunteers the opportunity to become very familiar with the manuscript collection pertaining to Thomas and Edward. In the course of their work, the volunteers explore many facets of HistoricNewEngland.org 1
page 1 Library and archives volunteers have reviewed approximately 30,000 pages of the many thousands that comprise the Casey family papers. left Thomas Lincoln Casey (1831-1896) and his son Edward Pearce Casey (1864-1940). below In a letter dated January 30, 1883, Edward wrote to his father: “I received your letter all right this morning. I haven’t much of anything to do today as there is no examination. I guess I will get my hair cut.” page 3 Susan Jarvis (left) and Susan Johnson are helping to prepare the collection for digitization.
was appointed head of the Office of Public Buildings and Grounds in Washington, D.C. Casey was tasked with redesigning the foundation and addressing the structural flaws of the Washington Monument. He went on to complete many other major projects in the U.S. capital, including the Thomas Jefferson Building, the first home of the Library of Congress; and the Army Medical Museum. Edward Pearce Casey, Thomas’s youngest son, joined his father in 1892 as an architect to complete the construction of the Thomas Jefferson Building. We talked with project volunteers Susan Jarvis and Susan Johnson about what they enjoy about working on the collection, some of the discoveries they’ve made, and their other archival interests. Changing Careers Jarvis attended Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, and worked in daily life in Washington—social and the archives for the four years she political—as well as the personal was a student. “I had already loved dynamic of the Casey family. history, so it was a great job for me,” Thomas Lincoln Casey was born she said. Jarvis chose a different into the distinguished military family career path, however, and was an that owned Historic New England’s accountant for more than twenty Casey Farm in Saunderstown, Rhode years. It was a Historic New England Island. He graduated first in his program that prompted her to class from West Point and in 1878 change careers. While participating 2
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in the Program in New England Studies she toured the Library and Archives one evening and was hooked. Jarvis went on to receive a certificate in museum studies from Tufts University with a concentration in history. Working in an archive is a neverending learning experience. Jarvis says that the most important skills to have are an attention to detail and “an avid curiosity.” Before working on the Casey digitization project, Jarvis catalogued the lantern slide collection of architect Ralph Adams Cram. In the course of doing that work, she came across an image of All Saints Church in Brookline, Massachusetts. It was the church where she was married. “I now know the architect and the history of the building,” she said. Jarvis says that one of the things that interests her the most as a Casey project volunteer is people communicating via letters sent by way of the U.S. mail. “The speed with which letters were delivered and responded to in the late nineteenth century rivals texting today. And there were so many different styles of illegible handwriting, to our twenty-first-century eyes. It’s a
wonder Thomas Lincoln Casey could decipher them all.” The Perfect Match Susan Johnson, who has a master’s degree in library science, was already a member of Historic New England when she discovered that the organization offers volunteer opportunities. “After almost twenty professional years I took a break to raise my daughter. When she was four and starting preschool, I was looking for something to do with my free time,” Johnson said. “This seemed like the perfect match to continue library work as a volunteer.” During her career, Johnson worked primarily in corporations, far removed from history archives. Still, she maintained her interest in things of the past. “I had always enjoyed
old photos and the stories they tell, and have always appreciated old homes,” she said. Johnson has been a Historic New England volunteer for fifteen years; cataloguing the photograph album collection has been her main responsibility. “My time here has broadened my librarian skills: learning to use Minisis [a database management system for archival, museum, and library holdings], using my research skills to enhance the photo album descriptions, and generally learning about the care of old photographs. I have also worked on several large family collections,” she said. “I have thoroughly enjoyed bringing my library skills to benefit Historic New England, as well as myself in continuing my career.”
Before working on the Casey digitization project, Johnson worked on the photographic collection of Boston-based architect Eleanor Raymond (1887-1989). She cites it as among her favorites because of its detailed pictures and articles about Raymond’s architectural projects in New England. Johnson said two letters in particular in the Casey papers stand out for her: one in which Robert Todd Lincoln requests extra marble chips for his residence (presumably Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home, in Manchester, Vermont). In the other letter, former first lady Lucretia Garfield comments on how much her husband, James, would have loved to have seen the completion of the Washington Monument; she imagines him smiling down on the finished obelisk. President Garfield died in 1881; construction of the monument, begun in 1848, was completed in 1884. Letters such as these “bring humanity to the project,” Johnson said, “not just facts.”
Help ensure the future of the region’s history
Volunteers like Susan Johnson and Susan Jarvis are not only crucial to the Casey digitization project; the work of volunteers is needed throughout the organization. Historic New England benefits immensely from the time and expertise of volunteers, who assist with archival and collections processing, special events, and lending a hand with office work. It’s a way to contribute to preserving New England history and the built environment. Volunteering with Historic New England is rewarding in and of itself, but it also comes with benefits. Volunteers receive free admission to our properties and discounts on Historic New England publications and merchandise. They also get complimentary admission to programs and events at which they work (and other programs, space permitting). Volunteers can serve at Historic New England’s annual Open House held the first Saturday in June, work at the wide range of public programs offered at our properties, help with our public relations efforts, act as shop attendants and greeters, work as landscape volunteers, and much more. After 100 hours of work, volunteers get a complimentary one-year Historic New England membership. Learn more about volunteering at HistoricNewEngland.org/get-involved/volunteer. HistoricNewEngland.org
This panorama of the landscape at Cogswellâ€™s Grant in Essex, Massachusetts, was taken from the front steps of the house museum looking south toward downtown Essex.
Rooting by VALERIE HEIDER
A former preservation manager with Historic New England, Valerie Heider is project manager for the Minnesota Historical Society.
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Vegetation management restores shorelines at historic landscapes
he landscapes that comprise Historic New England’s properties are complex systems that are significant cultural and natural resources. From farms to estates and wetlands to gardens, each landscape carries its own preservation and conservation challenges. One of these challenges is managing the invasive and aggressive vegetation that can very quickly spread and overtake areas of the land, often next to waterways on or adjacent to the properties. This overgrowth can cause ecological issues as well as interfere with the public’s enjoyment of the site. Historic New England practices
vegetation management at its sites that have shorelines with the intent to reclaim and conserve these assets. Vegetation management is a multifaceted approach that involves restoring areas that are overgrown with invasive and aggressive plant species. In New England these include phragmites, a tall, perennial grass typically found in wetlands in temperate and tropical regions; multiflora rose; honeysuckle shrub; wild grape; and chocolate vine, so called because of its chocolatescented flowers. Vegetation management also means reclaiming historic viewsheds (the natural and cultural environment that
is visible from a viewing point), which is of particular importance to Historic New England as an organization concerned with the preservation of the region’s diverse terrain. One of the sites where vegetation management work is underway is Cogswell’s Grant (1728) in Essex, Massachusetts, a coastal farm of 165 acres. Located on the banks of the Essex River, Cogswell’s Grant is just two miles from the Atlantic Ocean. The landscape reflects the site as it was in the mid-1980s when there was a view from the front of the house through the trees and over the marsh toward downtown Essex. Over the years, prolific plants, particularly vines, HistoricNewEngland.org
An excavator with a brush-cutting attachment makes short work of invasive material along the waterâ€™s edge at the Lyman Estate in Waltham, Massachusetts. page 7 An undergrowth clearing project at Castle Tucker in Wiscasset, Maine, revealed the banks of the Sheepscot River.
became overgrown, causing trees to decline or be choked out and killed. In 2017 Historic New England engaged the services of landscape architects to develop site and vegetation management plans. The initial brush cutting and vine removal was done in December 2017, resulting in dramatic visual changes to the site that reopened views toward Essex. By continuing to maintain this cleared area, native vegetation can again thrive, preserving an aspect of the historic landscape. Vegetation management is also underway at the Lyman Estate (1793) in Waltham, Massachusetts. This site is a National Historic Landmark, an early and influential example of 6
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eighteenth-century English naturalistic landscape design in the United States. A series of ponds was constructed starting in 1794. These ponds were created by excavating and widening Chester Brook, which flows in front of the Federal-style mansion; the excavated material was used to shape the topography of the rest of the estateâ€™s landscape. Today, views of and access to the ponds are masked mostly by nonnative vegetation, growth that has taken over the once-sweeping lawn that led down to the banks of the ponds. Because of the scale of the proposed work the overgrowth removal will be conducted in several phases, most
likely over the next five to ten years. New trees will be planted once clearing is complete; this project will ultimately merge the historic appearance with modern conservation requirements by planting sections of native trees and shrubs, highlighting major areas of views of the pond. Castle Tucker in Wiscasset, Maine, is also benefiting from a vegetation management plan. Located in the midcoast region along the Sheepscot River, the site reflects what the landscape was like between the 1880s and 1920s. During that time, the riverbank was clear of woody vegetation, with informally placed elms of varying size and other small-scale vegetation. The
slope has been difficult to maintain and over the years maturing growth had begun to obstruct views of the river. This succession growth (an ecological term referring to the process of gradual change and development in ecosystems) also was reducing the size of the large open fields around the house, which are key features. Landscape architects proposed selective cutting and pruning of vegetation along the banks of
the river to restore and maintain views. Volunteers helped launch the vegetation management plan. Historic New England is working with a local arborist in further developing the plan and will continue removing aggressive vegetation from the shoreline. Vegetation management is an ongoing process that will continue at these and other properties for years to come, including Casey Farm in Saunderstown, Rhode Island,
which overlooks Narragansett Bay; and Merwin House, located on the Housatonic River in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. You can help ensure that this work is done and support our land conservation efforts by contributing to Historic New Englandâ€™s Preservation Maintenance Fund. Visit HistoricNewEngland.org/ get-involved/donate/ or call 617994-5951.
Photograph by Eric Roth
How Gropius brought the Bauhaus to New England by MELISSA VENATOR Stefan Engelhorn Curatorial Fellow in the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University
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THE AREA AROUND LINCOLN, MASSACHUSETTS, IS famous for the Revolutionary â€œshot heard round the worldâ€? in nearby Concord and the natural beauty that inspired Henry David Thoreau to live on Walden Pond in the midnineteenth century. In 1937 this historical heart of New England became the unlikely epicenter of an architectural revolution with the arrival of Walter Gropius. Famous for founding the Bauhaus school of art, design, and architecture in Germany in 1919, Gropius accepted an invitation to teach at Harvard University in part to escape the Nazi persecution that closed the school in 1933. He had a clear mission to imprint the United States with Bauhaus values starting with his home in Lincoln, which he designed and built on land and with financing provided by philanthropist Helen O. Storrow. More than a private residence, it served as a show house where Walter, his wife,
Ise, and their daughter, Ati, lived out the Bauhaus integration of art and life. This year the Bauhaus celebrates its centennial, a milestone that invites us to revisit Gropius’s Lincoln home and its role in his larger project to bring the Bauhaus to the United States. When Gropius House was completed, local residents considered it an alien addition to the Lincoln landscape and compared it to chicken coops and sugar cubes. Gropius, however, emphasized its adaptation to New England’s unique climate and vernacular architectural traditions, describing in 1956 its
“fusion of the regional spirit with a contemporary approach to design.” He oriented the house on its hilltop site to mitigate the effects of extreme summers and winters and used common local materials like brick, wood cladding, and fieldstone. On a deeper level, he identified with colonial builders, whose homes had the same unadorned simplicity and boxlike geometry as his own. Despite these New England touches, the residence is largely the product of Gropius’s “contemporary approach” applied to the suburban singlefamily home. As his first building in the United States and his personal residence, Gropius House is a
case study of Bauhaus architecture in action. In fact, Gropius closely patterned his Lincoln home on the first home he designed for himself: the Bauhaus director’s residence in Dessau, Germany (below), where he lived from 1926 to 1928. After establishing the Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany, in 1919, Gropius led the school through a tumultuous five years before the conservative city council decided to stop funding the experiment. Gropius shrewdly used the public outcry against the closure of the Bauhaus to secure it a new home in the progressive industrial city of Dessau. Its mayor offered not only
page 8 This view of the house Walter Gropius designed in 1938 for his family in Lincoln, Massachusetts, shows the screened porch. below The city of Dessau, Germany, commissioned Gropius to build faculty residences called the Masters’ Houses (1925-1926) when he was head of the Bauhaus. He lived in this one. It was destroyed in an air raid in 1945.
Photograph by Lucia Moholy c. 1926, courtesy of Artists Rights Society, New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
top Gropius House features a number of large windows designed to frame views of the landscape, expand the interior spaces, and take advantage of natural light and heat. Here is a section of the living room. The familyâ€™s possessions are still in place, including a collection of furniture designed by Marcel Breuer and made in Bauhaus workshops. left The dining area and living room flow into one another with an open-space design. The two rooms can be separated by a ceiling-to-floor curtain. (Photographs by Eric Roth) right The size of the furniture determined the size of this small guest bedroom. The beds, placed head to head, equal the roomâ€™s length. The dressing table, night table, and bed equal the width of the space. The placement of the furniture makes the room seem much larger than it is. When they had no guests, the Gropiuses used this space as a sitting room. Because of its southern exposure, Ise Gropius used it as a greenhouse in the winter.
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top Gropius used several features of his Lincoln house, such as ribbon windows and outdoor living spaces, when working with Marcel Breuer on the design of the Abele Residence (1941) in Framingham, Massachusetts. bottom Gropius (right) at his Lincoln home in 1940 with visitors (from left) Breuer; Mary and James Plaut, who was director of the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston; and Frank Lloyd Wright.
operating funds, but also land and funding for a new school building, new housing for the faculty, and a low-cost housing development for the city’s factory workers. This unprecedented commission gave Gropius the opportunity to articulate his contemporary approach to architecture across multiple building types with a coherent unity. Features of the Lincoln and Dessau homes show Gropius’s Bauhaus functionalism at work. Sheltered recessed entrances, larger for the harsh climate of Lincoln, protect people and entrance halls alike from the elements. Gropius designed and arranged interior rooms according to their use and the residents’ need for light and fresh air, which also determined the size and placement of windows. In both homes, narrow clerestory windows to the left of the front door offer light and privacy for the bathrooms behind them. The controversial flat roofs, which shocked Dessau and Lincoln residents alike, provide for spacious patios and second-floor terraces. These serve as outdoor living spaces and offer scenic vistas of the surroundings, displaying a love of nature not normally associated with Bauhaus architecture. Yet, photographs of both homes show that Gropius sited them amid mature trees. Even inside the homes, expansive picture windows free of shutters or heavy drapes meant that nature was never far away. Gropius extended his functionalist approach to the furniture, interior finishes, and appliances as well. Here, too, his Dessau and Lincoln homes are almost carbon copies, in part because Gropius brought many of his Dessau furnishings with him to Lincoln. All of the Dessau Bauhaus buildings, including the main school building, were furnished with furniture, light fixtures, and textiles produced in the Bauhaus workshops. Gropius, in agreement with his fellow modern architects, believed the new architecture required new styles of furniture that were similarly unencumbered by historical forms. The Bauhaus workshops realized those forms, and Gropius conceived of the Dessau buildings as both showrooms and laboratories for these designs, which were usually handmade prototypes. In his Dessau living
Photograph courtesy of President and Fellows of Harvard College
room, Gropius had tubular steel armchairs and a daybed designed by Marcel Breuer, who also designed Ise and Walter’s famous double desk now in Lincoln. Although some of the furniture has changed—the Breuer armchairs have been replaced by his Isokon lounge chair—Gropius re-created the bookcase wall of modular shelving and daybed as the centerpiece of his Lincoln living room. Unlike his Lincoln home, Gropius’s home in Dessau was built with public funds and integrated with the educational work of the Bauhaus. When the Bauhaus Dessau campus opened in 1926, it attracted thousands of visitors who traveled from across Europe to see experimental architecture at its best. Ise wrote in her diary about her endless work scheduling private tours, including multiple daily tours of her home that she led herself—a precursor to Historic New England’s tours of Gropius House. Public interest was so great that a short documentary film was made in which Ise demonstrated all the innovative features of the Dessau home. Easycare furnishings and the latest electrical appliances made housekeeping a breeze, and Walter’s functionalist HistoricNewEngland.org
bottom left Gropius with a rendering of the headquarters building that he and partner Adolf Meyer submitted in the Chicago Tribuneâ€™s 1922 international design competition. left The Bauhaus building in Dessau, Germany, c. 1926. below Acclaim for the Bauhaus school design led to high-profile commissions for school buildings in the United States, including the Harvard Graduate Center student center and dormitories (1950). It was the first example of architectural modernism on Harvardâ€™s predominantly neo-Georgian campus.
Images courtesy of Harvard Art Museums/ Busch-Reisinger Museum, gift of Ise Gropius, President and Fellows of Harvard College
design offered unprecedented convenience and efficiency. Ise proclaimed the same virtues about her home in Lincoln in interviews and lectures from the 1930s and 1940s. Gropius never offered public tours of his Lincoln home as he did in Dessau; in fact, groups of curious onlookers who gathered at his driveway forced him to run a notice in the Boston Globe stating that no tours were available and asking the public for privacy. But, as in Dessau, he encouraged professional interest in his new show home, which offered Americans their best and only direct access to a building designed following Bauhaus ideals. Gropiusâ€™s Harvard architecture students joined him on site visits during the construction and visited after completion to examine the house as a case study. Gropius was equally welcoming of architectural 12
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journals, which sent critics to review the first Bauhaus building in the United States. In this way, Gropius House became a model Bauhaus show home, despite its function as a private residence. As part of his Harvard contract, Gropius negotiated permission for a private architectural practice, which he first did in partnership with Breuer and, after 1945, with his seven partners in the Cambridge-based firm The Architects Collaborative (TAC). Between 1937 and his death in 1969, Gropius contributed to hundreds of designs, many of which were built in the Boston area. Believing in the importance of standardized building types, Gropius used his own home as a prototype for several suburban single-family homes. In the Abele Residence (page 11, top) in Framingham, Massachusetts, completed in 1941, the front door is on the warm south
Gropius oriented his Lincoln house to complement its New England habitat, which features fields and an apple orchard. He designed a regionally inspired residence that exhibits the philosophy and goals of the Bauhaus.
face of the building, allowing for first- and second-floor terraces and large ribbon windows that stretch almost the whole length of the house. This commission was part of a regional surge of interest in modern residences, driven largely by Gropius’s Lincoln home and its coverage in local media. Even tradition-bound Harvard was not immune from the appeal of the Bauhaus. The university commissioned Gropius and TAC to design what would be their most ambitious American project to date. The Harvard Graduate Center (page 12) was a complex of dormitories and a student center to house graduate students who struggled to find offcampus rooms to rent in the postwar housing crisis. It was also the first modernist architecture on Harvard’s predominantly neo-Georgian campus, a prospect that worried university administrators. Inevitably, reviewers compared the completed buildings to Gropius’s other great school building, the Bauhaus Dessau (page 12), renowned for its glass curtain walls and three radiating wings. Gropius didn’t simply remake his earlier masterpiece; instead of a
single massive building, he designed seven small dormitories with a large student center arranged around central green spaces and connected by breezeways. Completed in 1950, the Graduate Center continues to house students and preserves the neighborhood feel of Gropius’s original design. Buildings were only part of Gropius’s broader work to promote the Bauhaus in his adopted home. At Harvard, he incorporated modern principles into his classroom instruction, creating a new generation of American modern architects that included, among others, a young I. M. Pei. He also found teaching opportunities at Harvard for his former Bauhaus colleagues, including summer courses led by Josef Albers, then teaching at Yale University, and a faculty position for Marcel Breuer, who built a modernist home next door to Gropius’s in Lincoln. A prolific writer, Gropius began to produce English translations and new texts soon after his arrival for American audiences unfamiliar with the Bauhaus’s innovative work. All of these activities should
be considered in the context of the Bauhaus’s traumatic closure only four years prior to Gropius’s arrival in Lincoln. They acted as living memorials to a remarkable moment in history that Gropius feared would simply disappear in the face of Nazi persecution and, later, a divided Germany. This concern inspired him to help establish a Bauhaus collection at Harvard’s Busch-Reisinger Museum (then the Germanic Museum), to collect Bauhaus art, design, and architecture, as well as archives and classroom exercises made at the Bauhaus in Germany and in Bauhaus-inspired classes in the United States. Now the largest collection of Bauhaus art outside of Germany, it will be the focus of a major exhibition at the Harvard Art Museums for the international Bauhaus centennial. As we celebrate the legacy of the Bauhaus in 2019, Gropius House reminds us that, like so many chapters in American history, it all began in New England. To learn more about Gropius House and what's on display there, visit HistoricNewEngland.org/ property/gropius-house. HistoricNewEngland.org
Caring for a
The architect playing ping-pong on the screened porch of his home.
Masterpiece by DIANE VIERA Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
hen Walter Gropius accepted an appointment as professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in Architecture in 1937, he and his wife, Ise, came to the United States with their personal belongings and little else. The German government allowed their transfer to the United States but did not allow them to take any cash assets. With their twelve-year-old daughter, Ati, remaining in England to finish the school year, Walter and Ise set about building a new life for their family in the New England countryside outside of Boston. A social connection led them to philanthropist Helen O. Storrow, who generously offered them a fouracre site in the bucolic community of Lincoln, Massachusetts, and the funds to build a house. Gropius designed a modest yet masterful home that immediately became a teaching tool for the principles of the Bauhaus and modern movement. Gropius House remains that today, welcoming visitors from all over the world as one of Historic New England’s most popular historic properties. Why does the Gropius House design endure? In large part, it’s the intriguing combination of traditional elements of New England architecture with the
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decidedly nontraditional Bauhaus aesthetic. For example, white clapboards commonly used as siding on colonial-style houses got a Bauhaus twist when Gropius installed them vertically in his front hall where they create an illusion of height as well as a dramatic backdrop for the family’s modern art, much of which had been given to the Gropiuses by friends. Gropius embraced another common New England architectural feature—the covered porch, which he found to be a very practical space for the changing seasons. What Gropius didn’t embrace was the porch’s traditional location on the front of the house where it blocked natural light from the living and dining rooms and faced the noisy street. At Gropius House the porch is perpendicular to the back of the house where it darkens only a service room and has privacy from the road. The carefully selected location allowed for outdoor use year-round. South- and west-facing sun warms it in the fall and spring, and breezes cool it in the summer. In the wintertime, the porch provided the perfect space for playing ping-pong. The porch location also took advantage of the surroundings. Marriage between house and
landscape was important to Gropius. Even before shovels broke ground for the foundation of the house, Gropius moved mature trees from nearby woods and planted them around the site. These older trees were mixed with new trees commonly found in New England, such as Scotch and white pine, elm, oak, and American beech. Climbing bittersweet, trumpet vine, and Concord grapes further linked the house and landscape. This year marks the centennial of the Bauhaus, the German design school Gropius established in 1919, which became one of the most influential forces in modern design. During this 100th anniversary year, Historic New England is raising $100,000 to restore the Gropius House exterior, screened porch, and landscape. Will you honor Gropius’s legacy by helping Historic New England care for this iconic property? To make a donation, please visit my.historicnewengland. org/donate/i/bauhaus-100 or call 617-994-5951. Thank you.
Historic New Englandâ€™s Dole-Little House (c. 1715) in Newbury, Massachusetts, is at risk of flooding in a major storm because of its proximity to the Parker River. Docks from the adjacent town landing are visible in the foreground. below Intern Emma McDonagh on site at Beauport, the Sleeper-McCann House, in Gloucester, Massachusetts.
Resilience Preparing historic properties for the impending effects of climate change
by EMMA MCDONAGH A senior at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont, majoring in architectural studies and environmental studies, Emma McDonagh worked as an intern last summer at Historic New England.
esiliency is a word that comes up in planning for the many ways climate change will affect our lives and property, including changes to temperature and precipitation, sea level rise, and extreme weather events. Just as resiliency planning is underway at many levels globally, Historic New England knows it is essential to plan for and begin to adapt its properties to be resilient to climate-caused and other stressors that will occur. For Historic New England, being resilient is defined as “having the capacity to prevent, withstand, respond to, and recover from disruptions to museum sites, structures, and collections.” I am far from an expert in such planning, but I started the summer of 2018 eager to research models for resiliency planning. I was born and raised in Reading, Massachusetts, and am now in my senior year at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont. I am majoring in architectural studies and environmental studies, which proved to be a useful background for some aspects of this project. Yet, most of the project was uncharted territory and working on an open-ended project provided me with great independence and opportunity. Historic New England has undertaken studies related to weather impacts at its properties but had not previously studied all of its sites in a specific geographic region for anticipated climate change stressors. I was chosen to work on the first phase of a two-year resiliency planning internship project to help Historic New England assess and plan for regional resiliency measures at its eleven museum properties in Essex County in Massachusetts. The Planning for Resiliency project, a collaboration of Historic New England, the
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Middlebury College Center for Careers and Internships, and the Henry Sheldon Museum (which facilitated the connection with Middlebury College), will include a second phase this summer and involve several Middlebury College students who will implement the recommendations I drafted in phase one. My knowledge of the North Shore of Massachusetts aided my research of the ecological effects of climate change on the Essex County buildings and sites that were chosen for the focus of phase one. When responding to disruptions, it is Historic New England’s goal not just to recover but also to look for opportunities to make its properties stronger and more sustainable while preserving their architectural integrity. This will allow the properties to steadily become ever more resilient. Focusing on climate-caused stressors and collecting information about past incidents at museum sites, along with monitoring annual climate trends regionally, will help predict disruptions and provide a framework for assessing stressors and vulnerabilities. This framework will help Historic New England prioritize interventions for
baseline provided the information to complete a status report on current resiliency planning measures and responses at each location and to develop a checklist of possible ways to mitigate specific issues at those sites. Using Historic New England’s resiliency definition, my goal was to scope out and identify planning measures that would help to prevent disruptions or absorb stresses from climate events at the sites. To achieve resiliency, potential issues must be understood and vulnerabilities identified and addressed. The project culminated in a phase one resiliency planning report and recommendations for phase two. I was motivated by my desire to leave Historic New England with a useful framework to start prioritizing vulnerabilities and to play a role in protecting these historic resources. We identified the importance of aggregating responses across sites and developing a better understanding of climate-caused trends to move beyond reacting to individual incidents. Sharing and communicating this information organizationally and publicly is an important component of
Historic New England can reach out to cities and towns to participate in local resiliency planning conversations. both prevention and response. During my internship I worked out of the Lyman Estate in Waltham, Massachusetts, and had the opportunity to visit each of the case study sites. I reviewed files on past weather-related events and interventions and interviewed site and preservation managers of all eleven properties to gain a baseline understanding of their experiences with their sites and collections. This
strengthening the resilience of Historic New England’s properties. I also studied the resiliency planning work that is occurring at the local government level in the Essex County communities where Historic New England properties are located. While many are at the stage of prioritizing their vulnerabilities, such as threats to municipal infrastructure and fragile ecosystems, and are working on plans to strengthen or protect those
systems, historic and cultural resources often have not been accounted for or considered as part of that planning. This is an area where Historic New England can reach out to cities and towns to participate in local resiliency planning conversations. My recommendations for phase two include advancing resiliency planning by updating emergency plans and checklists at the sites and building stronger communication among the Essex County properties; developing site-specific vulnerability maps and mitigation responses for inundation, storm surge, and sea level rise events using GIS technology; calculating the capacity of gutters at the sites to move intense rain using the methodology
Historic New England developed recently in a project looking at the Maine properties; and gathering data on potential species encroachment threats from invasive vegetation and from pests as part of the Integrated Pest Management strategies being implemented by the collections services staff. Historic cultural resources like Historic New Englandâ€™s museum properties need to be included in policymakersâ€™ overall plans for addressing climate change. If these resources are not advocated for now, resiliency planning and adaptation will not be effected in time for historic buildings and collections to withstand intensifying climate stressors.
My work last summer showed me that I and many others are well equipped to research and prepare for these issues if we recognize the severity of climate change. What is missing, however, is a larger societal urgency to address the impacts and to prioritize historic and cultural resources. By planning now, Historic New England can begin to mitigate many issues, hopefully putting in place measures that will help it prevent, withstand, respond to, and recover from climate disruption when it occurs. This is a forward-thinking approach that should be shared by everyone in order to protect our historical resources.
Prior to a site-wide drainage project, all of the buildings at Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm in Newbury, Massachusetts, were prone to flooding. The project, part of Historic New Englandâ€™s resiliency planning, has mitigated the effects of severe rainstorms at the property. HistoricNewEngland.org
by SALLY ZIMMERMAN Senior Preservation Services Manager
Hope & Main, Rhode Islandâ€™s first culinary incubator, is located in a former school building in Warren where it operates a popular farmers-makers market called the Schoolyard Market. The non-profit organization helps local entrepreneurs launch early-stage food companies and food-related businesses.
n abandoned 1912 public restroom in Boston becomes a bike repair and coffee shop; a 103-year-old school in Warren, Rhode Island, provides 17,500 square feet of state-of-theart incubator space for start-up food entrepreneurs; a former tobacco barn and cigar factory from the 1830s in northwestern Connecticut houses a craft distilleryâ€”these examples are at the forefront of historic preservation today. They are among the latest applications of a strategy preservationists call adaptive 18
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Adaptive reuse ensures future of historic buildings
use or reuseâ€”the process of reviving old buildings with new purpose to prevent their loss or destruction. One of the first to suggest that old buildings could be saved by finding new uses for them was Historic New England founder William Sumner Appleton. Radically for his time, Appleton recognized that museum use would never protect more than a few landmarks and that preserving large numbers of historic structures would require other approaches to keep them vital and functioning. In a May 1910 bulletin that announced
An abandoned “comfort station,” or public restroom, built in 1912-13 on Columbia Road in the Uphams Corner neighborhood of Boston’s Dorchester section, will be reused as a combination café and affordable bicycle and parts sales and repair shop called The Sip & Spoke Bike Kitchen.
Images courtesy of Historic Boston Inc.
the formation of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (Historic New England’s founding name) he argued the merits of preserving buildings. Appleton’s first application of his vision for how his organization would acquire an old building and keep it viable through a new use was the Swett-Ilsley House (c. 1670) in Newbury, Massachusetts. This building had a long history of commercial use by tradesmen and small craftsmen, including carpenters, cordwainers, saddlers, and tavern keepers. Purchased by the organization in 1911 and restored by preservation architect Henry
Charles Dean, Swett-Ilsley House was rented to tenants and opened as a tearoom. Tearooms were one of the most common forms of adaptive reuse of old houses in the early twentieth century, as ubiquitous in New England then as the condominium conversions of old mills and schools would become in the 1970s and 1980s. Tearoom conversions appealed to a romantic vision of the past. Astute preservationists recognized that they could capitalize on that appeal, perhaps none more so than the Wenham Village Improvement Society (WVIS) in Wenham, Massachusetts, which
in 1912 acquired a small, disused harness shop on the village green to be resurrected as a tea shop quaintly named At the Sign of The Tea-kettle and Tabby Cat. A 1914 House Beautiful account reported that the WVIS not only sought to increase its operating funds but also to make the town more appealing and “to serve as a means of increasing social interest among the townspeople and a homelike stopping place for tourists.” WVIS also strove to fulfill a mission: “eliminate political, sectarian, and class prejudice and create an enterprise in which there could be a common interest,” building a spirit of friendliness and cooperation in a “cleaner and more attractive town.” It is still in operation as the Wenham Tea House. Reusing a building with a higher purpose in mind beyond the simple goal of saving a historic resource underlies many adaptive reuse projects. From its headquarters in a refurbished 1930s Texaco gas station, the West Broadway Neighborhood Association (WBNA) in Providence, Rhode Island, undertakes projects to preserve and promote the neighborhood as “a safe, vibrant, and sustainable place to be SWELL (Shop, Work, Eat, Live and Learn locally).” The WBNA’s purpose updates the Wenham Village Improvement Society’s for today’s social needs. In partnership with other non-profit, private, and public organizations, HistoricNewEngland.org
right This undated photograph shows the interior of the Wenham (Massachusetts) Village Improvement Society’s tearoom, called At The Sign of The Tea-kettle and Tabby Cat. The mural above the fireplace reads, “Polly put the kettle on and we’ll all take tea. For the cup that cheers and not inebriates waits on all.” below A onetime Texaco gas station is now home to the West Broadway Neighborhood Association in Providence, Rhode Island.
WBNA has converted historic structures into multifamily affordable housing and non-profit office space; created market-rate and affordable rental units in an 1892 schoolhouse; and set up composting, community gardens, rodent control, and recycling programs, and park and play spaces to create a safe and clean neighborhood on Providence’s West Side. Adaptive reuse success stories like WBNA’s are often just one facet of an ongoing effort to retain and preserve historic buildings. Experience during the twentieth century has shown that new threats to old buildings arise generationally, requiring new approaches to meet changing social, economic, and Courtesy of The West Broadway Neighborhood Association
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demographic trends. Churches, architecturally prominent but diminishing in community life, are particularly vulnerable. Boston’s 1807 Charles Street Meeting House, for example, has weathered at least three major transitions in the last century. In 1921, when Charles Street was widened ten feet to accommodate traffic, a group of Beacon Hill advocates raised funds to move the meeting house a commensurate ten feet west, toward the Charles River. Then in 1947, its longtime owner, the Charles Street African Methodist Episcopal Church, facing “economic,
social, and political forces that made continued existence on Charles Street difficult” (according to the Boston African American National Historic Site), sold the building. Historic New England briefly took possession of the structure and placed its first preservation restriction on the property before conveying it to a Universalist
The Charles Street Meeting House on Charles Street in the Beacon Hill section of Boston was built in 1807 as Third Baptist Church and has a long history of housing different congregations. In the early 1980s the exterior was restored and the interior renovated for retail and office space and residential use. This is one of the offices in the building
Courtesy of Paul Elias.
congregation. By 1980, that group’s needs had shifted and the building’s fate was once more in limbo until an activist Boston architect, John Sharratt, purchased it. Sharratt created a bold and prize-winning reuse that combined two floors of office space in the sanctuary with ground-floor retail and a five-level residence in the tower. Stewart Brand’s 1994 book How Buildings Learn (winner of Historic New England’s first Book Prize in 1995) affirms the idea that buildings must be periodically adapted and reshaped to survive. Twentiethcentury industrial and commercial buildings, many with large, open spans and masonry and steelreinforced construction, often adapt well, especially when federal and
state tax credit programs and other incentives can offset development costs. In New Milford, Connecticut, a 1917 switching and equipment building for the Southern New England Telephone Company, after serving a variety of uses (temporary elementary school, town offices, and a recreation center), reopened in 2013 as Ameico, a retail store for contemporary design products. Retaining flexibility in interior spaces is among the design principles that increasingly characterize adaptive reuse projects. Recently, interior architecture students at the Rhode Island School of Design considered options to adapt the sanctuary at Newport (Rhode Island) Congregational Church as a public performance
space while still allowing for worship services on Sundays. Students proposed a series of minimal, reversible designs for different musical genres that would protect the church’s iconic 1880 John LaFarge interior decorations. The group also produced a sweeping architectural fabric canopy art installation that filled the polychrome space. From tearooms to incubator spaces, adaptive reuse—the simple idea that buildings can evolve to accommodate new uses within the existing structure—reflects a century of successful historic preservation, with creative and inspirational examples in every community throughout the region and beyond. HistoricNewEngland.org
HISTORY by LAND and by SEA by CAROLIN COLLINS Education Program Manager STAR ISLAND, NEW HAMPSHIRE, IS A RATHER remote place. It is one of the nine rocky islands clustered at the border of New Hampshire and Maine that form the Isles of Shoals, located about seven miles off the coast. It looks almost as natural as it did centuries ago when America’s indigenous inhabitants and later, British and French colonials, fished there. It was England’s Captain John Smith who, after sighting the islands in 1614, named them in his own honor. Smyth’s Isles was eventually changed to the Isles of Shoals, most likely in reference to Students and staff make their way to the docked M/V Thomas the abundant shoals, or schools, of fish. Laighton, the vessel used for field trips to Star Island, New Each May and June, Historic New England’s education Hampshire, in the Isles of Shoals. staff is invited to join the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation and the Isles of Shoals Steamship Company Historic New England museum teachers. We provide an in facilitating field trips to Star Island for youngsters in illustrated timeline and information on topics ranging from elementary and middle school. The Blue Ocean Society Abenaki settlements to piracy to urban renewal. We work for Marine Conservation is a non-profit organization with each group of students to find the correct answer. that protects marine life in the Gulf of Maine through When there are large groups of students or several schools, research, education, and advocacy and works to encourage half of them play the question challenge on the way out citizen commitment to environmental stewardship. The and the other half takes its turn on the return trip. organization is based in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, at Once we arrive at Star Island, students take a walking Historic New England’s Governor John Langdon House. tour with crew members of the M/V Thomas Laighton. The Students begin their field trip when they board the M/V island is a historic district and has many paths to traverse Thomas Laighton in Portsmouth for a one-hour journey and captivating architecture to see. After the walking tour, into the open ocean to reach Star Island. While on board the students have lunch. they form teams to participate in a question challenge. The For many of our youngsters, taking the trip to Star teams choose one question out of a jar. Once they have Island is their first time on a maritime vessel. This field trip come up with the answer they receive a ticket, then select is just one in the wide range of educational programs that another question. The team with the most tickets at the end Historic New England offers for schoolchildren. Providing of the question challenge gets a small prize. this unique experience for youngsters is an important part Questions concern either maritime ecology, the vessel of our commitment to engaging diverse audiences and itself, or the history of Portsmouth and the Isles of Shoals. encouraging the public to get to know the many stories of To answer the history questions, students confer with New England’s past. 22
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Preserved Seating How to restore a couch
by NANCY CARLISLE Senior Curator of Collections This tale begins a few years ago when two furniture scholars visit Otis House in Boston and discover a treasure. Research ensues, emails are exchanged, and soon others are involved. As the story progresses the cast of characters grows to include curators, conservators, textile experts, an upholsterer, a weaver, the owners of a newly revived eighteenth-century textile factory in France, a brass monger, a photographer, and a pair of wheeling-dealing museum directors. As part of a project that would result in an exhibition at the Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS) and a
seminal new book, Rather Elegant Than Showy: The Classical Furniture of Isaac Vose, furniture scholars Robert Mussey and Clark Pearce visited Otis House in December 2013 looking for pieces by the early nineteenthcentury cabinetmaker Isaac Vose, whose shop produced what many consider to be the best furniture made in the neoclassical style in Boston. Among the items they came to see was a couch on the second-floor landing. The overall form was impressive but the darkened surface and anachronistic lilac satin upholstery made it easy to overlook. HistoricNewEngland.org
page 23 The couch made by Isaac Vose & Son for the Marquis de Lafayette’s August 1824 visit to Boston after restoration. below Some of the experts involved in solving the mystery of the origins of the couch and its restoration examining the item at Historic New England’s regional office in Haverhill, Massachusetts. bottom The couch had been reupholstered c.1960 in lilac satin.
By the time they were done with their examination they had discovered “Wightman” inscribed on the front seat rail; a reference to Thomas Wightman, Boston’s most important carver in the early nineteenth century. They were especially intrigued by the evidence of original gilding. Mussey sent me an email that afternoon: “FYI—Clark and I went over your classical sofa this morning. We are confident it’s by Vose & Son. …It is the only piece we've found in our entire Classical Boston study [so far] that has gilt wood elements.” What followed was a deep archival dive and collaboration. It was clear that this was an important piece, although until Mussey completed his research we had no idea how important. Historic New England’s records held two important clues. The first was a small fragment of “gauffraged” or stamped velvet that was almost certainly a sample of the original upholstery. The second was correspondence from 1979 between John Cushing, a librarian at the MHS; and Richard Nylander, then curator and now curator emeritus at
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Historic New England, describing a reference in the historical society’s records to a sofa that had been made for the Marquis de Lafayette’s stay in Boston in 1824. The French aristocrat who had served in the Continental Army during the American Revolution was on a grand tour of the United States and visited Boston that August. Our couch had been
transferred in 1923 from the MHS. Could this be it? There was nothing in Historic New England’s files about the Lafayette connection, so the matter dropped. Mussey and Pearce continued their investigation of Boston-made classical furniture for the next twoand-a-half years and as they did, the significance of our couch became
Liz Peirce, Historic New England’s 2016-2017 Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Conservation, restoring the gilding.
increasingly obvious. They wondered whether it might be a candidate for the cover of their book. If so, conservation and reupholstery would be necessary, an estimated cost of $12,000 for which no funds had been allocated. That’s when the two wheeling-dealing museum directors, Dennis Fiori of the MHS and Carl Nold of Historic New England, got involved. For several decades the two organizations shared ownership of an eighteenth-century pulpit from Boston’s Brattle Street Church (razed in 1872)—the MHS owned the top section and Historic New England owned the base. If Historic New England would foot the bill for conservation of the couch, the MHS would transfer ownership of its portion of the pulpit. Three parallel activities followed: Mussey’s investigation into archival records to determine if there was any evidence that this couch was linked to Lafayette’s 1824 visit; conservation work by Historic New England specialists including Liz Peirce, our 2016-2017 Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Conservation; and research into the exact details of the reupholstery by a host of people headed by Nylander, textile historian Nancy Barnard, and me. While Mussey scurried down a series of research rabbit holes that led nowhere, conservators carefully peeled back layers of upholstery, removed degraded finishes, and restored the gilding. Nylander, Barnard, and I contacted colleagues at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and the Winterthur Museum in Winterthur, Delaware, to learn about the upholstery on classical sofas in their collections. Pearce supplied period design drawings and we looked at portraits with subjects seated on classical sofas, wondering, for instance: How fat should the pillow be? What should the trim look like? After months of digging we realized that the answers had been in Historic New England’s collection all along, in an 1886 photograph of the parlor in the Beacon Street house of textile manufacturer Nathan Appleton (grandfather of Historic New England’s founder), showing one of his classical couches. Textile expert Jane Nylander (president emerita of Historic New England) was convinced that the upholstery in the photo showed appropriate early nineteenth-century details. Trim, pillows, cording, and tassels were all there. HistoricNewEngland.org
This 1886 photograph shows a classical couch in the parlor of textile manufacturer Nathan Appleton’s house at 39 Beacon Street in Boston. The experts studied it to determine how the Vose/Lafayette couch should be restored.
In the meantime, Mussey hit pay dirt. In the Boston City Archives he discovered that Vose supplied all the furniture for the apartment that Lafayette would occupy. One of the items listed on Vose’s receipt for the furniture was “1 Rose Wood Couch covered with Crimson plush.” That upholstery fragment in our couch’s accession file? Crimson plush. In a feat of research derring-do, Mussey traced the ownership of the couch after Lafayette’s visit to John Odin, a Boston hardware dealer. About thirty-five years later Odin’s grandson, Charles Day Kellogg, donated it to the MHS. The stage was set to bring this relic back to its glorious beginnings. First we needed the crimson plush. By chance a few months earlier, a pair of French entrepreneurs who were reviving the textile mill Bonvallet in Amiens had visited Historic New England. This eighteenthcentury mill was known for its stamped velvets and still owned more than five hundred original gauffraging rollers, one of which had the pattern that matched our upholstery fragment. The French entrepreneurs agreed to supply the crimson fabric. Nancy Barnard 26
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worked with weaver Rachael Emmons in Maine, who would provide the gold cording and tassels. Providence, Rhode Island-based brass monger Joan Parcher had the brass button that would ornament the end of the round pillow. Then the newly
conserved couch, cushion, pillows, fabric, and trim went to upholsterer Diane Welebit in Arlington, Vermont, to complete the treatment. The final step took place with the finished couch back at our regional office in Haverhill, Massachusetts, where photographer David Bohl took pictures. These were used on the cover of Mussey and Pearce’s book, on the front page of Antiques and the Arts Weekly, with an article by Mussey and Richard Nylander in Antiques & Fine Art, on a large display board outside the MHS, and now here, in Historic New England. And that is the story of how a tired old couch became a historic icon.
Best Wishes to Historic New England in 2019
Architect: Morehouse MacDonald & Associates / Landscape Architect: Gregory Lombardi Design / Photographer: Sam Gray
73 Newbury Street, Boston 77 Main Street, Hopkinton TheLagasseGroup.com | 508-686-5040
MAKING News and notes from Historic New England
aluminum patio furniture, and a white picket fence. Historic New England is featuring some of its archival collection as well, including advertising ephemera. Patios, Pools, & the Invention of the American Backyard will be on view through May 26.
REGIONAL STUDIES Courtesy of James Shea
Historic New England’s Program in New England Studies returns this THE GREAT OUTDOORS: America entered the 1950s on a summer for its one-week intensive THE BACKYARD quest to discover new ways in which examination of history and material The making of America’s midto enjoy the peace and prosperity culture from colonial times through twentieth-century suburban it found as it emerged from the the Colonial Revival period of the backyard takes center stage in shadow of World War II. Trends late nineteenth and early twentieth Patios, Pools, & the Invention such as a burgeoning middle class, centuries. This regional immersion of the American Backyard, an the baby boom, and the significant experience offers lots of places to exhibition opening March 16 at the growth of suburban homeownership see and activities to do, such as Eustis Estate Museum in Milton, contributed to the popularity of the tours of historic properties, lectures Massachusetts. backyard, adding to the trappings by curators and historians, and More than just a nicely kept piece associated with attaining the workshops in ceramics, textiles, of land, the backyard served as an American dream. This outdoor space and furniture. essential space at the suburban became, in effect, an extension The fee is $1,600 ($1,500 for homestead. The exhibition uses of the house. It was a place for members of Historic New England). historical photographs, drawings, relaxing, recreation, entertaining, Enrollment is limited to twentyand period advertisements to and cooking and dining, furnished five participants. Scholarships are explore the backyard habitat of with a grill and patio furniture made available and cover the program fee, the 1950s from the rise of the of new materials such as plastic and housing at a local university, and a suburbs and tract houses and aluminum. Installing a pool was an travel stipend of $200. the aesthetics of postwar garden affordable amenity. A specific scholarship is offered design to the emergence of the Historic New England created for applicants who represent a environmental movement. Patios, a vignette using pieces from its racial or ethnic minority group Pools, & the Invention of the permanent collection to complein the United States. Visit American Backyard is presented by ment the exhibition. The playful, HistoricNewEngland.org/PINES for the Smithsonian Gardens’ Archive three-dimensional installation an itinerary or to register, or contact of American Gardens and the includes mannequins in swimwear Ken Turino at 617-994-5958 or Claire Smithsonian Institution Traveling posed on a backyard croquet Sadar at 617-994-6679. Exhibition Services. court complete with AstroTurf, —Dorothy A. Clark, Editor HistoricNewEngland.org
page 27 The Shea family of Wenham, Massachusetts, hosted this backyard barbeque in August 1964. right The footbridge between Hamilton House and Vaughan Woods in South Berwick, Maine, was a jumble of rotted pieces of wood before Eagle Scout Ryan Bisson and his volunteer crew rebuilt it. below Bisson at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the footbridge opening.
Photographs courtesy of Tim and Kris Bisson
EAGLE SCOUT CONNECTS Vaughan Woods WITH HISTORIC NEW ENGLAND State Park was once On a hot Friday and Saturday last July—the sort of days that many teenagers would be found at a local swimming hole or air-conditioned movie theater—the grounds of Hamilton House in South Berwick, Maine, were abuzz with twenty-nine youths and parents working up a sweat while building a footbridge over the marsh connecting Hamilton House and the property Vaughan Woods. The construction of the span was the culmination of more than a year’s planning and persevering by fifteen-year-old Eagle Scout Ryan Bisson, a resident of South Berwick. Bisson approached Historic New England in the spring of 2017 with a proposal for his Eagle Scout project. Besides fulfilling a serviceoriented task Bisson’s proposal had personal meaning. “Ever since I was young my family and I hiked at Vaughan Woods and Hamilton House,” he said. “When it became time for me to begin an Eagle Scout project, I decided to better the trail that joined the two together.”
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part of the Hamilton House property. Elise Tyson Vaughan and her stepmother, Emily Tyson, bought and restored Hamilton House in 1898 and maintained the area now known as Vaughan Woods. Even by Eagle Scout standards, the footbridge project was an ambitious effort (the bridge is forty-six feet long and six feet wide). In addition to gathering and leading a volunteer corps for the project, Bisson met several times with Historic New England staff about the proposal, created a budget, and raised funds, with a goal of $1,500. He exceeded that, securing $2,700 through a GoFundMe campaign, live fundraising at South Berwick’s Strawberry Festival, and a car wash. Bisson faced many challenges during the process. “My project was personally challenging because I had to deal with multiple moving parts at a time.” Bisson noted other challenges as well, including “the time and planning the project required, leading Scouts from my troop as well as friends from school that were not used to working with me, and designing the bridge itself. As a whole, this experience gave me the ability to plan and execute future large-scale projects.” On the building days, his parents, Tim and Kris Bisson, were on hand to lend support, as they had been throughout the process, including
participating in meetings with Historic New England staff. The result of this effort is an attractive, safe, and environmentally friendly span that will provide lasting enjoyment to site visitors. Shawn Papp, Historic New England’s regional landscape manager, said, “The footbridge not only protects a sensitive wetlands area from damaging foot traffic, but it also serves to connect Hamilton House and Vaughan Woods State Park properties. Visitors are now able to enjoy both properties seamlessly without having to trudge through marsh.” “The most important thing that I learned during my Eagle Project was to plan ahead. This made the actual execution of the project much easier as I knew what had to be done,” Bisson said. “I also learned that community support, which I received a lot of, is powerful, and that people’s support directly benefits the community.” —Marilyn Keith Daly South Berwick Site Manager
Account books show early cabinetmakers' business dealings
by DERIN BRAY
An art and antique dealer, Derin Bray is a consultant specializing in early American furniture, folk art, and decorative arts. He is the author of Bucket Town: Woodenware and Wooden Toys of Hingham, Massachusetts, 1635-1945, a Historic New England 2015 Honor Book. LONG BEFORE QUICKBOOKS AND TURBOTAX, people minded their business the old-fashioned way, with paper and pen. In eighteenth- and nineteenthcentury America, transactions were tediously recorded in daybooks and ledgers, often in spectacular detail. Several cabinetmakersâ€™ account books that Historic New England recently acquired are an excellent case in point.
Brimming with names, numbers, and descriptions, these handwritten records bring to light new information about furniture making in early New England. The account book of Seth Peck (1770-1856), for example (above), documents the career of a prolific cabinetmaker and carpenter who was active in Warren, Rhode Island, between 1792 and 1818. Peck crafted HistoricNewEngland.org
page 29 Seth Peck’s account book details the work he did for two customers and their payments. left Edward Shepard itemized several pieces of furniture he crafted for customer Jacob Robbins in 1819 and recorded payments made on the account, some of which Robbins’s son and daughter delivered in cash. page 31 An account book page labeled “William Fiske to Cummins Lincoln” and dated 1819 includes four entries for the making of a pair of Grecian card tables with pillars. The Grecian-style card table shown here from Historic New England’s collection fits the description of one of four surviving pieces. The table bears the label of furniture maker William Fiske of Boston, for whom Lincoln worked.
handwritten evidence of game table production is hard to come by. Halyburton is perhaps the only New England cabinetmaker known to have made one. It wasn’t the only gaming device Peck had a hand in selling. A few years later he made “dice rolls” for another customer. In East Windsor, Connecticut, Martin Rockwell (1778-1834) was just getting started in the furniture business. He offered the full range of forms, from swelled mahogany bureaus and inlaid breakfast tables to modest chests and chairs. Like Peck, Rockwell worked closely with neighboring craftsmen, including veteran chairmaker Ebenezer Williams and clockmaker Samuel Terry (who once ordered cherry boards for wooden clock movements, the interchangeable components that would become the backbone of his brother Eli’s everything from sideboards to money boxes and vault grates for the local bank. He also frequently conducted business with other skilled cabinetmakers, most notably James Halyburton, whose fancifully inlaid desks and card tables are now prized by collectors and institutions. Indeed, on dozens of occasions Halyburton bartered fine furniture for lumber, hardware, and food. His most noteworthy transaction, however, occurred in 1798, when he sold Peck a mahogany billiard table valued at twenty-five dollars. Although billiards was a popular recreation during this period, physical and 30
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clock empire). However, cabinetmaking wasn’t enough to eke out a living. Rockwell also farmed and frequently took up repair work and odd woodworking jobs to make ends meet. Some of his best customers were the contractors who supplied the nearby armory in Springfield, Massachusetts. Rockwell did a brisk business making gunstocks for them. The career of Edward Shepard (1783-1862) stands in stark contrast to those of Rockwell and Peck. In 1805, after working as a journeyman for Glastonbury, Connecticut, chairmaker Solomon Cole, Shepard struck
out on his own and opened a cabinet warehouse and manufactory on Main Street in nearby Wethersfield. His impressive ledger leaves little doubt that he was a major player in the regional furniture trade. Shepard’s large shop employed multiple journeymen and apprentices who crafted fashionable and often expensive furniture, including a carved mahogany sideboard a customer purchased in 1820 for the costly sum of seventy-one dollars. Although business was booming, newspaper advertisements indicate that at least two apprentices—evidently unhappy with their situations—fled Shepard’s shop. Walter Warner ran away in 1825, though he must have been easy to spot. A disabled toe obliged him to “wear his shoe with a hole in the top,” one advertisement stated. A fourth account book connects more directly with Historic New England’s collection of early American furniture. Cummins Lincoln, a previously undocumented cabinetmaker, ground out a living in Boston’s competitive furniture scene from at least 1818 to 1821. During this period he worked as a journeyman
in the shops of no less than five of the city’s leading cabinetmakers and retailers, earning one dollar and fifty cents for a day’s work. Lincoln began boarding with William Fiske in July 1819 and worked in his shop through February of the following year. During this brief but productive stretch, Lincoln crafted dozens of pieces of furniture, including four pairs of “pillard card tables of the Grecian form” at nineteen dollars apiece. Interestingly, a card table fitting this description in Historic New England’s collection bears Fiske’s stenciled label with his Washington Street address. It is unknown if Lincoln had a hand in crafting it, but the possibility is certainly intriguing. The business records of these little-known cabinetmakers are only a small part of the vast collection of manuscript material in Historic New England’s Library and Archives. It is through their preservation and availability to researchers that we are able to better understand the lives of many New England craftsmen and the communities they served. HistoricNewEngland.org
Discovering Family Ties
EUSTIS ESTATE by DIANE VIERA Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
was at work when my father called. It was unusual for him to call during the workday. He had just received Historic New England and an article on the Eustis Estate in Milton, Massachusetts, got his attention. “You know,” he said, “Grandpa Johnson lived at that estate when he was a kid. His father worked there.” Albert “Grandpa” Johnson was my maternal grandfather. Needless to say, I was skeptical. What are the chances of Historic New England, my employer, acquiring a property where my family had lived and worked? Dad must be confusing the Eustis Estate with another location. I pushed back, but he was sure. My mother, Lorraine, had passed away many years before. She was an only child and, unfortunately, there were no immediate family members to ask for more information. A quick online search uncovered a 1910 census that showed that Dad was right. The Johnson family—including my grandfather, who was eleven years old at the time—was living at the Eustis Estate. There wasn’t time for further research. I was deep into the work needed to transform the Eustis Estate into a public museum, but I promised Dad that once the museum opened I’d find time to delve into the
Historic New England Winter 2019
above Diane Viera with her father, John Koukol, outside the Eustis Estate in Milton, Massachusetts, on opening day, May 10, 2017. This is their last photograph taken together. right Hanna Christine Johnson, Viera’s great-grandmother, with her children Doris and Paul. Paul, who wrote passionately about his childhood at the Eustis Estate, passed away in 2000 at the age of ninety-four.
Johnsons’ story. That was the spring of 2015. Fast forward to May 10, 2017, when Dad came to opening day at the Eustis Estate Museum. I remember him pointing to the gatehouse, where my office is, and saying that Grandpa lived in that building. He reminded me that I had some research to do. I got started and soon the family’s Eustis
Estate story— my family’s story—came to light. It was fascinating. My greatgrandparents, Manning Magnus and Hanna Christine Johnson, both
left In his autobiography, Paul Johnson wrote about his interest in the wind turbine that once stood on the Eustis Estate, describing how his father, Manning Magnus Johnson, would work on the structure. above The Johnson brothers c. 1912: Elmer, Paul, and Albert. right Manning Magnus and Hanna Christine Johnson on their wedding day in 1892.
emigrated from Sweden to the United States, where they married in 1892. From 1903 to 1917 Manning was a groundskeeper at the Eustis Estate, where he and Christine lived with their five children, including my grandfather, Albert, and his siblings Mabel, Elmer, Paul, and Doris. The couple lost a son named August in infancy. Grandpa passed away when I was only three years old. My memories of him are dim. But my memories of Uncle Paul (actually my great-uncle) are clearer. Paul Johnson had many interests, including—as I was to discover during my research—a keen interest in memoir writing. In 1991 Uncle Paul wrote One Man’s Story, an autobiography that includes two chapters filled with details about the Johnson family’s time living at the Eustis Estate. Paul was born in 1905 at the estate, “and what a wonderful place for me to grow up it was!” he wrote. “The estate maintained nine houses where employee families lived. All the help were supplied with dairy products and all the produce from the gardens and orchards as needed. While all of this estate operation was going on, I was able to observe it and learn from it.” Observe and learn he did. One Man’s Story is a treasure. My colleagues and I continue to find pieces of information to enhance our understanding of daily life at the Eustis Estate, such as Paul’s description of the wind turbine, a fascinating structure long gone of which we only have historical images. “I was very interested in watching Dad’s work in the windmill,” Paul wrote about my great-grandfather. “He would check it twice a day to change instrument charts and to see that everything was working fine. The wind would usually handle the generating of electricity and the pumping
of water, but in calm weather, Dad would start the huge gas engine to supplement the wind. The engine had a five foot fly wheel which he would turn to start. …The mill would pump water and charge the batteries in the basement of the big house. At one time, it supplied the electricity needed for all purposes.” Paul shared personal stories as well. “Among my memories are my mother, my sister Doris, and me pulling a sled and sliding down hills to get Christmas food at the store, Swedish fish, meat, breads, candy and other delicacies. We loaded it all on the sled and hauled it back home, mostly up hill, but it was worth the work. About a mile of our trip to and from the store was straight and level parkway lighted by gas lights, manually tended by a lamp lighter carrying a ladder. He cleaned and adjusted the lamps as he went along.” Such information about the staff that kept these great estates operating is hard to find because it’s often not recorded. My journey of discovery has been a wonderful one as my professional and personal lives blend in a way I never could have imagined. And Dad was right, the gatehouse office from which I’m writing this article was one of the Johnson family’s bedrooms. Maybe my grandfather’s? My journey is also bittersweet. My dad passed away on August 1, 2017, twelve days shy of his ninety-second birthday and less than three months after he visited the Eustis Estate on opening day. I never had the chance to share with him what I’ve learned through my research, but I can picture him saying, “I told you so.” Viera extends deep appreciation to the Reverend James B. Mitchell Jr., Paul Johnson’s son-in-law who edited One Man’s Story, for permission to use the content of the autobiography. HistoricNewEngland.org
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Delights by LORNA CONDON Senior Curator of Library and Archives
EAUTIFULLY ILLUSTRATED AND COLORFUL catalogues for seeds, garden furniture, weather vanes, fountains, garden tools, sundials, greenhouses, flagpoles, and even birdhouses; programs for horticultural exhibitions and tours; garden plans from Ladies’ Home Journal; how-to-books and style guides—these are just some of the more than 300 items that the Library and Archives recently received as a gift from collector Richard Cheek. Asked to describe the purpose of his collection, Cheek said, “We are used to saving and celebrating images of our favorite gardens, but we don’t always appreciate the work and equipment involved and the many aesthetic and practical decisions that had to be made in the course of designing and planting them. I have been collecting the publications and promotional ephemera that claim to provide homeowners with everything they need to enable them to make those choices and create a beautiful garden.” The Cheek collection has greatly enhanced Historic New England’s garden and landscape holdings, and thanks to an ongoing ephemera cataloguing project the record for each item is available on our website. Many of the items will be used to illustrate Everything for the Garden, the next volume in Historic New England’s visual history series, which will be available this summer. For more information about the book, go to HistoricNewEngland.org/bookdonation.
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