Historic New England Winter 2022

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historic NEw england WINTER 2022


Fowler Clark Epstein Farm

VICTORIAN WOMEN Dressed to Express Researchers Foreground the Past HistoricNewEngland.org


WINTER 2022 • Vol. 22 • No. 3

historic NEw england From the President

With the arrival of a new year, many of us typically make resolutions aimed at improving some aspect of our lives. Seizing the opportunity to move forward, we often think about ways to shed certain behaviors and conditions to make ourselves anew. Sometimes, instead of discarding the past, bringing it forward can be a fruitful way to change the present and bring about optimism for the future. Looking back can offer ways to move forward. The cover story of this issue is a prime example. The Fowler Clark Epstein Farm, a thriving urban agricultural enterprise located in the Mattapan section of Boston, is a new incarnation of a colonial-era agrarian property. Though a fraction of its historical size, diminished by the urban growth advanced by modern times, the farm today is the result of determined collaborative efforts of preservation professionals and grassroots neighborhood interests. In saving the property from demolition, this partner work not only restored on a smaller scale a role it had in its earlier days, but it also brought a new vitality to the community. Returning to the past in order to move forward also characterizes the research of the scholars at Historic New England’s Study Center. The strides they have made since September as part of Recovering New England’s Voices, a key initiative in our multiyear strategic agenda, are astounding. They have mined a wealth of information and stories yet to be told about people associated with our properties. This includes identifying several enslaved people whose presence was buried in archives across New England and deepening our knowledge of LGBTQ+ individuals, women, immigrants, laborers, and workers, differently abled individuals, and more. The scholars’ findings bring both heartbreak and excitement—heartbreak over the oppression and atrocities that have been committed against those whom society has marginalized and excitement that Historic New England is poised to share their lives with the public. The work of the first-year research scholars for Recovering New England's Voices is already a resounding success and will enable us to powerfully move forward in our efforts to reframe the experiences we offer at our sites. As the year unfolds, Historic New England will earnestly continue advancing the resolutions of its strategic agenda to reach its fullest potential as a leading cultural heritage organization.


Vin Cipolla President and CEO

1 “Live Like James” Scholarships


Cultivating Community


Perennially Perry


Dressed to Express


The Legacy of Sarah Moore Field

25 Do the Right Thing 29 Color Recovery 31 Foregrounding the Past 33 A Night of Prizes 34 Mr. Martin Builds his Model Dream House

19 Harnessing the Flow of Stormwater

22 Carving Out a Career

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. 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 Cover Aerial view of the Fowler Clark Epstein Farm, located at 487 Norfolk St. in the Mattapan section of Boston. Photograph by Peter Vanderwarker, courtesy of Historic Boston Incorporated. ABOVE The recently painted Castle Tucker in Wiscasset, Maine.

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

© 2022 Historic New England. Except where noted, all historic photographs and ephemera are from Historic New England’s Library and Archives.

James Carew’s family created postcards with his image and the logo of the foundation and scholarship named in his memory.

Memorial scholarship creates access to children’s summer program by ARLEEN SHEA Education Program Coordinator, Newbury, Massachusetts


UMMER AT Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm in Newbury, Massachusetts, is a magical time, an opportunity to play, laugh, and learn. For the “Little Farmers,” the youngest children who attend our summer enrichment programs, this means sun-filled days playing with baby goats, chasing butterflies, singing on hay wagon rides, and making new friends. Many of the children who attend our summer programs return year after year, creating lasting memories and a sense that this beautiful place is an indelible part of their childhood, a place where they grew up. Many continue to return—while home from college during the summer or visiting with friends and family,

eager to share the pleasures that this historic farm gave them as youngsters. These warm, too-short weeks of summer have been the highlight of my job with Historic New England over the past fifteen years. However, last summer brought the legacy and spirit of one young friend, James Carew, who passed away in 2019 at the age of eight, to fill the season with a sense of joy unparalleled. James’s older brother, Jack, was a summer regular. Each day their mother would arrive to pick up Jack with James in her arms, beaming ear to ear. James navigated this world with hugs and laughter, spreading joy and happiness wherever he went. For the first few years, James

was too little to join his brother; later, his physical limitations made it impossible. We had discussions and thought of scenarios to make James’s participation possible, but what he required was a one-to-one aide to assist him with the daily activities at the farm. We simply did not have the capability of safely accommodating a child with special needs. It weighed on me, as a parent, to see his mother searching for ways to offer James what he wanted most of all—a chance to be a kid, with his friends, at this beautiful farm. In the winter of 2020, the Carew family approached me and expressed their desire to create and fund a scholarship through a legacy foundation named for James that would enable children with HistoricNewEngland.org


Little Farmers program participant Kaydie Gonzales in the raincoat she wore during one of her favorite activities in the program, feeding mash to Captain the horse.

special needs to attend the Little Farmers program in a fully inclusive experience. The family outlined a well-planned pilot program that would offer a week’s tuition, along with a one-on-one instructional aide to accompany the child, allowing the child, as they put it, “to be fully included in all the activities in the program.” The foundation was already working with a team at the local elementary school that consisted of an occupational therapist, speech therapist, and physical therapist as well as the special education teachers. This team would identify children and then award the scholarships. The answer was an immediate yes, and we offered to have one child participate each week for the pilot season. The success of the program exceeded our expectations. Children who had never been able to attend a summer camp anywhere locally were able to have a totally inclusive, 2

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safe, and fun experience. One of the scholarship recipients, Kaydie Gonzales, still carries with her a little figurine that looks like Captain, our resident equine. She loved to watch Captain eat his breakfast—a soupy alfalfa and grain mash that he happily slobbers on anyone who gets too close to the fence. Kaydie determined that while wearing her rain jacket it was great fun to be covered with gooey blobs of the mash. She wore that jacket every day to be closer to her new friend. The animals at the farm, all permanent fosters from the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, seem to understand the needs of children in ways that even other humans do not. Last summer I was reminded, perhaps more than in summers past, of how lovingly all the animals take care of and enjoy time with the children. Pike, one of the barn cats, even let Kaydie hold him,

which is not the usual arrangement he has with small children. All of the children loved the hens in the back poultry house. The hens are small and the staff has worked with them since they were little, so they are very social creatures. The children were fascinated with the spaghetti worms we fed the hens each morning. For Kaydie, this became the ideal opportunity to interact with other children. Watching her giggle as she worked with new friends to feed silly chickens a worm made of pasta is what I will perhaps remember the most about summer 2021. It is a beautiful thing to watch small children and animals accept one another so organically. After a long year of pandemic isolation for all of us, with remote schooling and working from home, it was amazing to witness such an abundance of kindness. Kaydie’s family has already expressed the desire for her to return next summer so that she can be with her friends again. As a teacher, I am looking forward to working with the foundation again next summer, to bring joy to ALL children here at Spencer-PeirceLittle Farm. It is, after all, what James would have wanted. Historic New England offers two summer programs at Spencer-PeirceLittle Farm: Little Farmers, for children ages five through eight; and Farm Adventures, for nine to twelve year olds. For more information, visit historicnewengland.org. To learn more about or to donate to the James Carew Foundation, visit JamesCarewFoundation.org.


Cultivating Community Through Urban Agriculture

The Fowler Clark Epstein Farm on Norfolk Street in Mattapan in full growth. Photograph by Peter Vanderwarker, courtesy of Historic Boston Incorporated.

Rehabilitated historic Boston farm redefines “locally grown”


he word “farmstead” often brings bucolic images to mind that include expansive pastures, fields of crops, and livestock. But as farmsteads go, this is a small one: sitting on just a little more than a half acre in the Mattapan section of Boston, it includes a house, barn, greenhouse, and field enough to grow a cornucopia of produce to share with the immediate neighborhood and beyond. Since opening in June 2018 after a one-and-a-half year rehabilitation project, the Fowler Clark Epstein Farm at 487 Norfolk St. has become a much-prized institution. Besides the vital role it plays as a supplier of fresh, locally grown produce, Fowler Clark Epstein has cultivated a vibrant, thriving place that matters where there was once a barren property. “It’s like a mission,” said Michelle Cook, property

manager of the Urban Farming Institute (UFI), which is headquartered at Fowler Clark Epstein. “Find land, make it affordable for people in Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan to farm.” UFI oversees five farms in these three contiguous sections of Boston, which are home to the city’s largest populations of people of color. Those areas also have lower median household incomes than Boston as a whole. “People who look like us do this type of work,” she said of the longtime engagement of communities of color in growing food, whether in a backyard garden or an urban farm. Adapting the Fowler Clark Epstein property as an urban agricultural site harkens back to its life as a farm in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Mattapan, when the neighborhood was a rural village in the town of Dorchester. HistoricNewEngland.org


A view inside the greenhouse, which was constructed in the farm’s backyard as part of the property rehabilitation project. Produce is grown year-round at Fowler Clark Epstein. Photograph by Nicolas Hyacinthe.

The Fowler Clark Epstein Farm is a highly successful example of preservation and adaptive reuse that capitalizes on the grassroots nationwide commercial urban agriculture movement. Broadly speaking, urban agriculture encompasses those production activities that contribute to local food supply chains. They include a range of traditional as well as novel food-growing practices, from ground-level to greenhouse to rooftop cultivation. Other activities include flower growing, beekeeping, and seed production. An important feature of urban agriculture is its proximity to consumers—it makes fresh, healthy foods accessible and affordable. It also engenders a structure of community engagement that cannot exist with distanced, large-scale agriculture and food production operations—growers and consumers 4

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are members of the community. In 2013, the city of Boston adopted a rezoning initiative called Article 89 to support and promote commercial urban food-growing activities. Article 89 expanded the reach of personal and community gardening, enabling economic empowerment through city farming business development as well as helping to eliminate the food insecurity that can beset marginalized and lower-income communities. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, urban farms can also revitalize abandoned or underutilized land, provide social and economic benefits to communities, and have positive effects on the cityscape. Fowler Clark Epstein Farm has accomplished all those things. Historic Boston Incorporated (HBI), a non-profit investor that

spearheads redevelopment and reuse of disregarded significant historic buildings in the city, acquired the property in 2015. HBI partnered with UFI, The Trust for Public Land (TPI), and the North Bennet Street School’s preservation carpentry program to get the farm up and running again. The Perkins+Will architectural firm led the farmhouse and barn design team. The plan was to restore the place as UFI’s headquarters, which would include an urban farming education and training center. HBI owns Fowler Clark Epstein Farm and UFI is a tenant with a six-year lease, said Kathy Kottaridis, HBI’s executive director. After completing the Federal Historic Tax Credit mandatory compliance period of five years’ occupancy— some time in 2023 or 2024—HBI expects to “sell” the farm to UFI with a preservation easement that HBI will hold in perpetuity, Kottaridis said. The partnership of HBI, UFI, TPL and North Bennet Street School determined that as the course of action “long before we raised the money, hammered a nail or laid down new soil,” she said, noting that HBI's strategy “is to sell our properties with easements upon completion to demonstrate that historic properties can continue to thrive in a contemporary city.” The property, owned by the Ida Gertrude Epstein Family Revokable Trust, had been lying fallow for several years. In 2012, after a tenant had been evicted, the city seized it after neighbors’ complaints about the property’s blighted state. The last owner-occupant, Norman Epstein, who died in 2013, apparently hadn’t lived there for some time. His mother, Ida, had passed away in 2010. The family

patriarch, Jorge, had died in 1998. The city placed a lien on the property and a lengthy court battle with the Epstein estate ensued. The estate hoped to sell the site to a developer, which would have meant replacing the colonial-era farmhouse and the Victorian-period barn to construct an apartment complex. The 30,000-square-foot site has always been a unique fixture amid the multifamily houses built during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, modest mid-twentieth-century apartment buildings, and some single-family residences. Although the property underwent many changes in its centuries-old presence, few of those changes kept pace with those of the surrounding neighborhood. That distinguishes Fowler Clark Epstein Farm as one of the remaining earliest intact vernacular examples of an agricultural property in a Massachusetts city. In 2006, the Boston Landmarks Commission designated it a landmark. Fowler Clark Epstein Farm is located on land that was once part of a more than 330-acre estate.

At that time, Mattapan was a village of the largely agrarian town of Dorchester. In 1786, Samuel Fowler inherited thirty-five acres of the estate; construction of the singlefamily farmhouse is attributed to him sometime between 1786 and 1806. Fowler died that year and left his wife, Mary, one-third of the farm—or eleven and one quarter acres—which included the house and a barn. In 1837, the Clark family purchased the property and continued some of its farming activities. However, Dorchester’s agrarian character was changing, a shift that began accelerating after the town was annexed to Boston in 1870. That set the stage for Mattapan’s transformation into one of the city’s many residentially dense “streetcar suburbs.” The property, then known as the Fowler Clark Farm, grew smaller in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as it was subdivided to build residences in the increasingly urban Mattapan. The Clarks retained six parcels, just a little more than the half acre that makes up the farm as it is today. In 1940, the family sold it to Gertrude

Miller and Grace Miller Hunt. The following year, they sold the Fowler Clark Farm to Ida and Jorge Epstein. Jorge, a jeweler, also operated an architectural salvage business called Old Mansions on nearby Blue Hill Avenue. The house and yard at 487 Norfolk St. also featured Jorge’s acquisitions, adding a mix of charm and quirkiness to the place. Jorge acquired materials from vacant structures and others that had been slated for demolition, notably Boston’s West End. Some he sold, others he installed on the house: Georgian pediments, slate slabs etched with the names of Jorge’s favorite artists and architects set in faux windows, a shinglecovered cinderblock ell with a Juliet balcony he added in 1967 to use as his library (when the Epsteins purchased the farm it had an ell, but that was removed in 1942). Or around the yard—gracefully curving brickwork and archways, a stone water fountain that perhaps was removed from the wall of a building, a headstone for a dog named Thor. Jorge received more than one citation for the stuff in his yard. The inside of the house

The farmhouse and barn in August 2013. Despite a high chain-link fence and padlocked gate, trespassers frequently breached the overgrown property. Photographs by Dorothy A. Clark. HistoricNewEngland.org


The spacious first floor of the barn was redesigned for use as a teaching kitchen. Below Sabrina Pilet-Jones, a member of the Urban Farming Institute’s 2017 Farmer Training course, gathering marigolds that grow around the property. Photographs by Nicolas Hyacinthe.

was a canvas for curious design treatments as well, among them c. 1970 murals in the two front rooms that anachronistically depict the property. One is an unfinished nighttime winter scene with firefighters at the farmhouse. The other shows the farm in a rural setting with a dog chasing a boy, a woman at the side of the house, and three men in mid-twentieth-century professional dress standing near a “For Sale” sign. The restored murals remain along with other earlierperiod and some original features, though the farmhouse and barn were sensitively rehabilitated. The ell is now a residence; where Nataka Crayton and Bobby Walker, UFI’s operations manager and farm training manager, respectively, make their home. As live-in caretakers theirs is a joyous lifestyle in which they revel in sharing their extensive knowledge and experience of all aspects 6

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of urban farming with the community. The main part of the farmhouse has meeting rooms and public-use space. In the spacious barn there is an office work area and a teaching kitchen. UFI offers a robust catalogue of programs and events that includes a Friday farm stand from June to October with a preorder pickup option, workshops led by herbalists, fitness and healthy eating programs for seniors, food preservation instruction, and talks on home gardening management. There is also outreach to young people, with school field trips and a mini-farm stand for elementary grade students. High schoolers volunteer, helping out particularly at harvest time. Fowler Clark Epstein Farm has captured nationwide attention. In the fall of 2020, it was the recipient of the prestigious Richard H. Driehaus Foundation National Preservation Award. Given by the National Trust, this award recognizes the best preservation projects in the country. Earlier that year, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Even passersby are drawn inside the farm gate. “Sometimes people walk up and inquire, and we give them a tour,” Cook said. In addition to serving as a health-sustaining green space, Fowler Clark Epstein Farm is a place that fosters unity through agriculture in an urban community. An important part of the farm work is “getting the community to understand that it’s really about getting to know the land,” said Cook. “We’re teaching the community about growing food. It’s great to buy here but the important thing is growing.” The redevelopment of this historic “farmstead” is a growing promise in Mattapan. “Every way you look at it, the Fowler Clark Epstein Farm is an exercise in possibility: the respectful collaboration between the partners, the contributions made by every contractor involved in the redevelopment, the generosity of Boston's funding community, the participation and excitement of the surrounding community in its planning, and the instrumental political support of the city,” said Kottaridis. “We all saw the possibility of training people to grow food here; of making healthy food available where it's most needed; of a welcoming place for the community to gather; and all the health, wellness, and security that would bring a neighborhood with all those desires. And guess what? That's exactly what it's become!”



Archives of 130-year-old paint company are part of Historic New England collection


by LORNA CONDON Senior Curator of Library and Archives s a young boy, Samuel D. Perry would sit in the offices of his family’s firm, the Perry Paint Company on Newbury Street in Boston, and observe and absorb the conversations and work of the artisans employed there. Through this first-hand experience, Sam gained an extraordinary knowledge of nineteenth- and twentieth-century paint technology and technique as it was developed and employed by his family. He also acquired a deep understanding of the significant role his family played in the history of paint in America. The Perry Paint Company (ultimately the Edward K. Perry Company) was founded by Lewis F. Perry in 1858 in South Dedham, now Norwood, Massachusetts; the company relocated to Boston by the mid-1860s. With its emphasis on innovative techniques and high-quality decorative painting, the company’s reputation grew quickly. During its 130-year history, it was responsible for painting and decorating some of America’s most important and well-known buildings, among them H. H. Richardson’s Trinity Church and Symphony Hall in Boston; The Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island; the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City; Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library in Delaware; New York City’s Radio City Music Hall; Colonial Williamsburg in Williamsburg, Virginia; the Library of Congress; the National Gallery of Art; Historic Deerfield in Massachusetts; multiple Harvard University buildings; and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater in Mill Melissa and Sam Perry, supporters of the Perry Paint Collection. Run, Pennsylvania. A 1906 hand-painted calendar advertised the company’s products As the company grew, so did its archives, featuring and services. thousands of cards and boards that illustrate decorative HistoricNewEngland.org


The Perry Paint Company headquarters, c. 1906, at 44 Winchester St., Boston. The company moved there several years after its founding in South Dedham, now Norwood, Massachusetts. Below The work of artist John Singer Sargent is represented in the collection with stencils such as this one.

finishes and paint colors created by the firm; a significant reference library; a photographic collection made up of prints, negatives, and albums; company ephemera; architectural drawings; and hundreds of stencils, some designed and cut by the artist John Singer Sargent, who collaborated with the firm on the decoration of the Boston Public Library, the Rotunda of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and the Memorial Room at Harvard 8

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University’s Widener Library. Architectural fragments, ironwork, and wallpaper and fabric samples completed the collection. In 1986, the Perry family sold the company. Sam Perry and his mother, Alice deV. Perry, recognized the importance of preserving the firm’s archives and donated the collection to Historic New England in order to make it available to the public. Like the Perry family, we are committed to making this unique document of American taste and practice in the decorative arts accessible to the broadest audience—homeowners, architects, historic site stewards, professional designers, and anyone researching the history of interior design and nineteenth- and twentieth-century paint technology and technique— through our website, articles, lectures, and in-person research. Although he has pursued other professional interests since the sale of the firm, Sam Perry remains a passionate and committed advocate for quality painting and decorative work. He shares his tremendous expertise about paint and his substantial knowledge of New England architecture with those involved in the preservation of the region’s built environment. In addition, by devoting many hours to an ongoing series of oral history interviews with Historic New England staff, Sam has ensured that his experience is captured for future generations. Sam and his wife, Melissa, are deeply committed to the Perry Paint Collection and Historic New England. They support our efforts to make this extraordinary resource available to all.

DRESSED to Express Through fashion, nineteenth-century women articulated individuality, identity

by CATE CARVER Guide, Otis House An independent researcher with a focus on nineteenth-century dress history, Cate Carver is a hobbyist historical costumer. In nothing are character and perception so insensibly but inevitably displayed as in dress, and taste in dress. Mary Eliza Haweis in The Art of Beauty (1878)

Mary Todd Lincoln’s purple velvet skirt, shown with daytime bodice, is believed to have been made by Elizabeth Keckley, who endured brutal enslavement before buying her freedom and becoming a successful dressmaker. Smithsonian National Museum of American History, bequest of Mrs. Julian James.



House of Worth afternoon dress. Influential French designer Charles Frederick Worth sparked an 1880s revival of the bustle skirt. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at Metropolitan Museum of Art, gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; gift of Mrs. William E. S. Griswold, 1941.


t’s difficult not to acknowledge that we make some of our first judgments about a person based on their clothing. The age-old warning to not judge a book by its cover, while wise, does not always reflect real human behavior. However, the silver lining of dress as a “second self,” as nineteenth-century author Mary Eliza Haweis put it, is that the wearer can use it to deliver messages. It’s the seat of personal expression—something that for 10

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many women of the 1800s was otherwise extremely limited. Women of the late nineteenth century faced a double standard, as so many had before and still do today. The “New Woman” archetype was becoming popularized in the media, especially from the 1880s through the early 1900s. She might ride a bicycle, smoke, hold a job outside the home, or even attend university. She was mocked and praised as well as reviled and celebrated, leaving women to tread the fine line between too conservative and too forward-looking. In reality, women remained subject to many of the same strictures that had been imposed upon them for decades— among them, the idea of shunning public attention. Women who sought careers in the visual arts often ran up against this concept as a barrier to their professional lives. Women’s artwork might grace a family parlor, in the form of a watercolor or a piece of needlework, but it ought not appear in the Paris Salon. Female writers fared little better, often being obliged to write under androgynous pen names if they wanted to achieve widespread success. With pathways to self-expression so rigorously controlled by the male powersthat-were, it’s no wonder that fashion and dress came to represent a primary avenue of identity expression for many women. And for those who faced intersectional oppressions—Black women, immigrant women, workingclass women, and any combination thereof—taking that route was even more necessary. During the Gilded Age, print media expanded massively. New magazines and other publications brought the latest fashion plates from Paris into the homes of American women. Advertising culture experienced a similar boom, with the birth of modern-style celebrity endorsements (noted beauty and British actress Lillie

Godey’s Lady’s Book illustration of fashions for February 1865. Trade card for Isaac D. Allen & Co. in Boston, which specialized in gloves, corsets, panniers, and hoop skirts. An image published in an 1862 issue of Punch depicts a woman demeaning a domestic worker for wearing a crinoline: “Mary! Go and take that thing off directly! Pray, are you aware what a ridiculous object you are?”

Langtry, for example, endorsed Pear’s Soap in 1887). Suddenly, a woman might know—or think she knew—exactly what beauty products her style icons used. Styles also

changed much faster than before, on a global scale; a brief trend among the English elite might make its way into that month’s edition of a magazine published in Boston and there find

new life. Since these smaller fads and crazes were mostly driven by groups of women rather than large fashion houses like that of Charles Frederick Worth, this rapid ebb and flow of HistoricNewEngland.org


styles represented one way women could exert influence on the visual world around them. Fashion also experienced greater democratization during this period. New industrial technologies made stylish dress easier to achieve than ever before. The cage crinoline, or hoop skirt, is a perfect example; after its introduction in the late 1850s, it quickly became relatively inexpensive to produce and therefore was low priced. Women from all walks of life could embrace the latest styles in skirt shapes, from Mary Todd Lincoln to enslaved women, whose scant free time was precious. Naturally, this created quite a stir in the upper echelons of society. Satirical cartoons in magazines like Punch mocked maids who “dressed above their

station,” with one 1862 illustration showing a wealthy lady berating her maid for wearing a hoop as large as her own. Moving beyond crinolines in particular, newly freed Black women faced far more extreme challenges in claiming fashion as their own. Perturbed by the abolition of slavery, botanist Henry W. Ravenel, a South Carolina plantation owner and slaveholder, complained in 1865 about seeing “Negro women drest [sic] in the most [outlandish] style, all with veils and parasols” on the streets of Charleston. However, besides being trendy, fashion could also represent economic opportunity for women who faced oppression beyond that of their gender. Mary Todd Lincoln may have worn an inexpensive cagecrinoline, but the gowns it supported were made by Elizabeth Keckley. Born enslaved (the plantation owner was her biological father) Keckley eventually managed to buy herself from the brutal family that held her. She went on to become the most celebrated modiste (a person who makes women’s fashionable dresses and hats) in Washington, D.C., during the Lincoln presidency. Though few confirmed examples of Keckley’s work exist today, those that remain are noted for their elegant simplicity, clean lines, and harmonious color coordination. The “Trends Men Hate” lists that emerged during the 2010s are far from a present-day phenomenon; Victorian-era men often reacted to styles women loved with anxiety and derision. Punch, ever willing to offer an unsolicited opinion, featured many cartoons during the hoop skirt

era depicting baffled men unable to get close to the women around them. The bustle was similarly mocked in its day, with images comparing women to centaurs; closer-fitting “natural form” skirts drew analogies to beetles. The medical establishment was quick to throw its two cents in as well. Corsetry in particular drew a great deal of ire, with dire warnings about broken ribs, miscarriages, and death by asphyxiation. (Few if any of these stories have been confirmed to the satisfaction of modern-day researchers.) In a perfect illustration of the classic double standard, The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine published a series of letters promoting extreme tightlacing in the 1860s that many modern historians agree were most likely anonymous works of fetish fiction, probably written by men. In spite of this “giving with one hand and taking with the other,” most corset advertisements of the period mention comfort as a selling point, and the corset remained a primary means of breast and back support until the late 1910s. In many ways, women of the late nineteenth century found their attempts at self-expression stifled at every turn. It was doubly difficult to assert one’s independence if multiple axes of oppression were in play, as with Black women, working-class women, or those who were both. However, through their personal style choices, women at all levels of society managed to find their voice. British author Mary Eliza Haweis called dress “the second self, a dumb self, yet a most eloquent expositor of the person.” With this muted self, women of the Victorian era could

An unidentifed woman c. 1890 in Tallahassee, Florida. Of the approximately 1,500 portraits made by photographer Alvan S. Harper (1847-1911) many of them are middleclass African Americans. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. 12

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The Legacy of

SARAH MOORE FIELD by SUSAN J. MONTGOMERY As a graduate student in 1992, Susan J. Montgomery was hired as a consultant to evaluate Field-Hodges House as it was left by Sarah Moore Field. She has since worked at a number of history and art museums and published widely in the field of American Arts and Crafts-era ceramics. Her book, Wisteria House: Life in a New England Home, 1839-2000, was published in February by Rowman & Littlefield.

S Sarah Moore Field (foreground) with her family on the steps of their North Andover, Massachusetts, home in 1899. Her older sister, Anna, is standing and her parents, Bert and Julia, are in the center. Courtesy of North Andover Historical Society.

arah Moore Field (18851988) hoped that after her death, the beloved home she had lived in for all of her 103 years in North Andover, Massachusetts, would become a house museum. That, however, is not exactly what happened. Instead, a more creative solution was found that balanced her intentions with the economic challenges of opening and sustaining a historic property for the public. Field was born at Field-Hodges House at 266 Main St., when her grandfather owned it. Jeremiah Smith Field (1817-1889) purchased the property in 1874 as a retirement HistoricNewEngland.org


sanctuary from a busy career as a merchant in nearby Lawrence. When he and his wife, Sarah, moved in, they brought with them midnineteenth-century furnishings acquired during twenty years of marriage, including Windsor chairs; mahogany Empire tables; painted cottage bedroom sets; and pewter, glass, and ceramic tableware. Their son, Herbert (1857-1939), known as Bert, married Julia McDuffie (1851-1923) in December 1878 and brought her home to live with his parents. Over time the couple purchased furnishings to suit their taste. Thus a five-piece parlor suite, an Eastlake-style sideboard, and an oak extension table were superimposed over the older layer of

decor. Children’s furniture and toys were acquired as needed after their children, Anna (1879-1929) and Sarah, were born. Field studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and later earned certification as a physical therapist, but she never chose to pursue a career. Summoned home to care for her ailing mother, she kept the household as it was, comfortable and familiar. Field’s sense of duty to her family was an essential element of her character. For most of the 1920s and 1930s, she was the primary caregiver for her parents as well as a widowed aunt who lived nearby, nursing all three through prolonged terminal illnesses. Anna,

who married in 1905 and had two daughters, lived most of her life in New Jersey. As the unmarried daughter, Field’s devotion was probably taken for granted, but it often came at considerable cost to her personal life and health. When her father died in 1939, she found herself living alone for the first time; she was fifty-four, wealthy, and free to do whatever she pleased. She could have traveled or modernized her 100-year-old house. Instead, Field continued to live modestly in the only home she had ever known, maintaining what she firmly believed was her family’s legacy. The great size of the house— nine rooms plus a full attic—easily

Wisteria in full bloom on the veranda of Field-Hodges House in a photograph taken between 1900 and 1919. This image, used for the cover of Susan Montgomery’s book Wisteria House: Life in a New England Home, 1839-2000, is a positive color glass plate made by the G. Cramer Dry Plate Company of St. Louis, Missouri.


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Left Top One of the two attic rooms of Field-Hodges House that were collaged with old wallpaper after the Fields family moved in. The large diamond pattern, designed to be combined with the floral elements as borders and friezes, dates from 1840-1860. Both rooms are protected by a Historic New England preservation easement. Left Bottom Sarah Moore Field purchased this Chambers Fireless Cooking Gas Range in December 1928. It was donated to Historic New England in 1998 along with the stainless steeltopped kitchen table and chairs. Photograph © 1992 Randy Sims. Above Field’s father bought this Morris chair, shown in the library of the house in 1992, for his wife in April 1885. Photograph © 1992 Randy Sims.

allowed for the accumulation of a vast collection of belongings. Items that were worn out or no longer needed, pictures and accessories that went out of fashion, clothing and toys that were outgrown—were simply moved to the attic. Many more remained in active service until Field’s estate was settled in 1998. An 1885 English dinnerware service for twelve remained on the top shelves of the pantry. Other furnishings were renewed as necessary. The parlor suite that Bert bought in 1877, for example, was reupholstered in 1902 and again in

1938. It then anchored one end of the formal parlor for another fifty years. Over the years Field added her own belongings to the mix. She kept her Abbot Academy textbooks from the turn of the century in her back parlor. Paintings done during her art student days were hung on the walls. A Colonial Revival mahogany bookcase and desk she purchased in 1909 remained in the double parlor for the rest of her long life. When making new purchases, Field did so with an eye toward longevity. Her Chambers kitchen stove was

innovative in 1928 when she bought it and was still used every day into the 1980s. Field left many small things as she had found them for decades, time capsules for future historians. In 1992, Bert Field’s 1930s cigars and calendars were still in his desk drawers. A bathroom cabinet was filled with long outof-date prescriptions and patent medicines, including laudanum. More deliberately than simply keeping things, Field began to catalogue family relics in the attic in 1940. Among these were a brown HistoricNewEngland.org


A teenaged Sarah Moore Field sat for this studio photograph in 1901. On the right, she tends to her her garden at Field-Hodges House in June 1972.

plush coat and a mohair cape that belonged to her mother sixty-five years earlier. Field photographed the interior of the house twice. In 1910, when she was an avid photographer in her mid-twenties, the exercise might have been for her own pleasure. The second set of photographs, taken around 1940, was surely an effort to document the changes made over the intervening years. The same items of furniture appear in both sets, providing insight into the continuity that permeated her life. Field’s choices of what to retain were linked to her memories. As an elderly woman, she often told visitors that a Morris chair in her library was purchased by her father shortly after she was born as a gift for her mother. Held together by an electrical cord around its legs, the dilapidated chair was clearly a cherished heirloom, an emotional tether to her family, whether or not the story about its acquisition was true. But after her death, a receipt for a Morris chair dated April 1885, three months after Field’s birth, was 16

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found in her father’s records. Field did pursue personal interests. Like her parents and grandparents, she maintained the formal gardens laid out by the wife of George Hodges, who built the house in 1839. Among many other plantings, Elizabeth Hodges planted the wisteria vine that blooms on the veranda to this day and gives the home its nickname, Wisteria House. Field was an active member of the North Andover Garden Club for more than sixty years. In 1936, an item in a local newspaper noted that her famous blooming wisteria was “as much a part of spring in North Andover as the first robin.” Field’s interest in history was closely linked to a sense of duty to her family. After her father died, she investigated her family tree, annotating and correcting her copy of the 1901 Field Genealogy and halfheartedly pursuing membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution. For twenty years she also cared for the Field homestead in Peterborough, New Hampshire, Twin Rock Farm, which her great-

grandfather purchased in 1804. Bert Field inherited the house, barn, equipment, and livestock, plus 150 acres of land in 1913, with the request that it be kept in the family. As a child Sarah had fallen in love with it. She called her reluctance to leave the relaxation and peace she found there the “Peterborough disease.” By the late 1960s it was clear that neither of her nieces could accept responsibility for Twin Rock Farm, so Field gave it to Francis H. Carr, a distant cousin who had lived in Peterborough all his life; Carr had young children who might be instilled with the importance of family roots. In a personal note to Carr she wrote, “You are now the proud owner. Although my heart is a little sad, I feel confident that my choice of you was the right one. Let our ancestors rest in peace.” After settling the future of Twin Rock Farm, she grew more concerned about Field-Hodges House. An astute financial manager, Field was well aware of her property’s market value, but

preserving it was her priority. She had had several offers to buy it over the years. “Of course,” she wrote in February 1970, “my answer to everyone is—I was born here, love the place, its many demands keep me from being too lonesome without a family and I hope to die here. . . . The garden too is one of its attractions to my way of life. There isn’t a spot inside the buildings or on the grounds that I haven’t worked over to make it what it is.” Field’s longtime effort to preserve Wisteria House was entirely personal. She wanted her nieces, Barbara and Polly, to inherit it, so that they would know who they were and where they came from. But Barbara suffered from poor physical and mental health all of her adult life and Polly developed severe rheumatoid arthritis and retired early to Arizona. Neither was able to return to North Andover permanently.

The first indication that she was interested in establishing FieldHodges House as a historic site was in 1978. She and her trusted adviser, Rev. Herbert I. Schumm, pastor of Trinitarian Congregational Church, met with representatives of the North Andover Historical Society (NAHS). They discussed a tentative budget for maintaining the house, based on an endowment of $300,000, considered adequate to produce an income of $24,000 annually, but nothing was formalized at that time. A year later, Polly died unexpectedly. Field revised her will several times over the next ten years. The 1983 version explicitly stated her wishes: “It is my intention that the house, with the accompanying shed and barn, shall be maintained in a good state of repair at all times, and that they, together with the formal garden, the landscaping, and the surrounding fences, shall

be preserved so far as is practical, in the order in which I have kept them. It is my desire that said property, by reason of its ownership and management by the North Andover Historical Society, shall serve to promote the community’s awareness of its historical heritage, and that, to this end, the property will be made available for viewing by the public as frequently and to the extent which may be possible and practical.” Her fourth (and final) will was written in 1986, after Barbara died. Field bequeathed her home to Trinitarian Congregational Church. She directed the church to contract with NAHS or another experienced agency to preserve and maintain the house and to establish “such historical restrictions on the property as shall insure that the architectural integrity of the house and the general historical significance of the property will be

The front parlor of Field-Hodges House c. 1940, from a set of documentary photographs taken by Sarah Moore Field. The “Turkish” sofa and the chair to the right are part of a suite purchased in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1877. Reupholstered twice, they were still in the parlor in 1992.



Field photographed the pantry in March 1910. Her mother’s English dinnerware set for twelve took up the top three shelves. Above A glass jar of Maxwell House coffee, 1946-1949, is one of many twentieth-century objects Historic New England acquired in 1998.

carefully preserved.” Unfortunately, the endowment stipulation was not revisited. After Field’s death in 1988, a property management expert determined that the $300,000 endowment was woefully inadequate to generate the needed income. Both Trinitarian Congregational Church and NAHS reluctantly declined to assume responsibility for Field-Hodges House; taking it on would have invited financial disaster. Physical maintenance aside, as a museum Field-Hodges House probably would not generate enough visitation to survive. Although the collection was extraordinary in its size and scope, it was not high style. There were no war heroes, no politicians, no great artists or writers in the family. They were simply typical of the upper middle class. A more creative alternative to a conventional house museum was required to ensure that the Field family would not be forgotten. Schumm and an advisory team of curators and historians, including Historic New England’s Richard Nylander, devised an innovative plan. First, the family’s belongings were catalogued and several 18

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regional museums and agencies were invited to choose pieces that best served their missions. The estate donated Field’s family archives, furnishings, and personal belongings to Historic New England, NAHS, North Andover Public Library, the American Textile History Museum, Phillips Academy, Mount Auburn Cemetery, Strawbery Banke Museum, Lawrence History Center, the Peabody Essex Museum, Emerson College, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Monadnock Center for History and Culture in Peterborough, New Hampshire, to ensure their accessibility to scholars and the public as examples of nineteenth- and twentieth-century material culture. The remainder of the collection was sold at a public auction to benefit Trinitarian Congregational Church. In 2000, Historic New England placed an easement (legally binding preservation restrictions) on certain architectural and interior elements in perpetuity, and the house was sold to private owners. Finally, Wisteria House: Life in a New England Home, 1839-2000 was written as a permanent record of the families that lived there. Although Sarah Moore Field’s dream that her historic home be shared with the public as a house museum could not be realized, her intent to preserve her family’s legacy was met.

by MARGARET BACK Preservation Manager, Eustis and South Region and BENJAMIN HAAVIK Team Leader, Property Care

Harnessing the Flow


Increasingly heavy rains call for stronger management strategies


he summer of 2021 was one of the rainiest on record with twenty inches falling on much of New England—and that was before the arrival of Tropical Storm Ida in September. That much rain can really do a number on buildings and landscapes, especially if a drainage system isn’t well designed. Following up on Historic New England’s innovative work analyzing the capacity of traditional gutters on our

historic houses to withstand more frequent and intense rainstorms, we have turned our attention to our overall stormwater management program or, more precisely, “where the water goes after it leaves the gutters.” Stormwater management has been a major component of our site improvements over the last ten years. Our early goals were simply to transport water far from our historic buildings in a way that wouldn’t

detract from the historic landscapes. In recent years we have also come to appreciate that these systems might allow for the replenishment of the groundwater while potentially filtering chemicals, pollutants, and debris before they are introduced into our rivers and streams. Realizing that we wanted a more sustainable approach for our landscapes, we have been working with a range of consultants to inform our thinking and update our approaches.

A series of storms in a past season washed out the main road and aggravated drainage issues at Watson Farm in Jamestown, Rhode Island.



Drainage problems across the Watson Farm property require a broad solution. With support from the van Beuren Charitable Foundation, Historic New England is running a test project using both gutter enhancements and site drainage. Page 21 A rain garden was created at the Eustis Estate in Milton, Massachusetts, to manage stormwater. The first image shows a series of stone check dams installed to slow down the rain water as it flows to the garden. On the right, shrubs planted in the flooded rain garden allow the water to dissipate into the ground.

At Watson Farm in Jamestown, Rhode Island, support from the van Beuren Charitable Foundation is allowing us to implement a test project incorporating both gutter enhancements and site drainage. Existing gutter systems on the farmhouse and main barn date only to the 1990s and have been repaired and replaced in-kind over the years without considering stormwater capacity. In keeping with the findings of our gutter capacity project we found these gutters and outlets to be undersized for the volume of rain we were receiving. On the c. 1796 farmhouse, we increased the size of the gutters and downspouts, ensuring effective runoff from the large roofline. We are considering adding similar larger components to the main barn as part of the next roofing project. Drainage across the property is another problem in need of a broad solution. Running west to east along heavily traveled gravel farm roads is a sixty-five-foot elevation drop across 600 feet. During large storms these roads collect and funnel runoff directly toward and through 20

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the farmyard, which features active agricultural buildings including the farmhouse, three barns, springhouse, and wool shed. A portion of the runoff, nutrient-packed from passing through livestock holding areas, flows into a small groundwater-supplied pond at the base of the farmyard. Storms can produce extensive washout along the farm roads, through outbuildings used for equipment storage, and water infiltration into the farmhouse basement. Working with a civil engineer, we developed two drainage plans with the goal of having a system ready to handle the increasingly more intense storms and keep this runoff away from agricultural activities. The first alternative proposed a level spreader—an above-ground outlet at zero percent grade across a slope. The advantages of a level spreader are in the name itself— converting concentrated runoff into a level, uniform flow over a large area. Called “sheet flow,” this dispersal method maintains an even discharge across a field, avoiding erosion and encouraging sedimentation. While good for stormwater dispersal, this method was not deemed appropriate

as wet weather could disrupt the seasonal haying that provides forage for resident cattle and sheep. The second alternative also considered channeling the runoff into the farm pond, but in a controlled manner. Rather than allowing runoff to flow along gravel paths and foundations, a below-grade piped system will collect stormwater through catch basins at different key points of elevation. The catch basins loosely filter large sedimentation from entering the system and direct runoff into the pond in a controlled manner. Acting as a retention pond, larger nutrient loads and sediments will settle to the bottom and be dredged on a cyclical basis for use as farm compost. When output reaches a certain height in the pond, an upsized culvert to the east will move runoff into the forested wetlands. This alternative works best to confine the project to the affected farmyard core while incorporating the retention pond as a working tool on the farm. While level spreaders and retention ponds work on farmsized properties we also needed an approach with a more domestic scale. At the Eustis Estate in Milton, Massachusetts, a tremendous volume of water flows down the steep entrance drive past the gatehouse to a small area of lawn. In times of severe rain this area is quickly saturated and

threatens to flood the gatehouse. Last trap pollutants and chemicals that potentially destructive pollution. summer, the area was redesigned as might wash in from the driveway and How we adapt our buildings and a rain garden—a more purposefully keep them out of the nearby town landscapes to handle water varies by designed area with native plants and stormwater system. site, but considerations of climate shrubs. Instead of disguising the area When protecting your property change, capacity, landscape design, as lawn we wanted to embrace the from stormwater it is important to and sustainability are where we are sustainable design of the system and think through the complete cycle beginning this work. We hope these the biodiversity we were bringing to from start to finish. Considering and future solutions meet site needs the site. The area was excavated below not just the gutter sizing and and create cleaner landscapes for our the surrounding ground level, a sub maintenance but also where the properties and their surrounding layer of gravel installed to support the water goes once it leaves the gutters ecosystems. drainage, then new soil and finally can prevent unsightly erosion and wet-loving plants were added. All of these aspects will work in tandem to provide a When protecting your property from stormwater it is location for the water while important to think through the complete cycle from it percolates into the soil. start to finish. The rain garden also helps to HistoricNewEngland.org


by KAREN BISHOP Mellon Conservation Fellow


Out A Career For women woodworkers, recognition and acceptance are long overdue

Karen Bishop, Historic New England’s Mellon Conservation Fellow, uses a handmade background punch to put the finishing touches on the carved drawer front she recreated for the missing part of a seventeenth-century box. 22

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Furniture made for women is well represented among the aisles of Historic New England’s collection at the Haverhill (Massachusetts) Regional Office—diminutive writing desks, chairs, sewing tables. I took note of this while touring the collection in the fall of 2020, when I started my Mellon Conservation Fellowship and was looking for potential research projects. My interests in furniture conservation and the history of women in woodworking prompted me to wonder if there were other examples of furniture made by women in the collection; if not, why? Accompanying me on the tour was Senior Curator of Collections Nancy Carlisle, who suggested several project ideas to complete during

This 1901 chest was thought to have been carved by Ida Rydingsvärd, though now it seems likely to be the work of her husband, Karl, a minor figure in the Arts and Crafts movement who taught women how to carve in the early twentieth century. Below To make her interpretive reconstruction of the missing half of a seventeenthcentury box in Historic New England’s collection, Karen Bishop used the example on the left, which was made during the same period and is now in the collection of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. On the right is Karen’s reconstruction, which she left unfinished to distinguish it from the original section of the box.

my fellowship. One was to make an interpretive reconstruction of the missing half of a seventeenthcentury box. Another was to investigate the attribution of an early twentieth-century chest that may have been carved by a woman named Ida von Rydingsvärd. Fellowships provide advanced training after graduate school, and for the past twenty years, Historic New England’s Mellon Conservation Fellowship has served as a mutually beneficial opportunity for focused specialization. Woodworking is an integral aspect of furniture conservation and one of the goals for my fellowship was to strengthen my skills in this craft. Replicating the seventeenthcentury box was a great opportunity

to learn how to carve and turn, build on my cabinetry experience, and fill a curatorial need. I based the design on a similarly decorated box in the collection of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. Both boxes are strongly associated with the William Searle and Thomas Dennis workshops of Ipswich, Massachusetts, and appear to be variants on the same design. Bowdoin staff graciously granted my access request, and I was able to examine their object closely, taking notes on measurements, joinery, and tool marks. Assuming that the carving would be the most time-intensive aspect of the project, I decided to start with the drawer front. I practiced using carving gouges on scrap wood until

I felt I could control the tools and then made a full-size mockup of the drawer front. The mockup took me longer than a week to complete as I figured out which tools to use and how to sharpen them properly. All the practice paid off; after marking the design layout with a compass and scribe I completed the final carving in three days. I built the rest of the drawer and the surrounding base following the same joinery methods evident in the Bowdoin box. To avoid altering the original top by using adhesive or fasteners, I created a custom-molded lining so the two sections securely pressurefit together. I spent an afternoon with Caleigh Sullivan, Historic New England’s Americana Fellow for HistoricNewEngland.org


Definitive attribution in furniture chronicled in Carlisle’s Architectural Conservation and Preservation Carpentry, scholarship can be difficult even essay, from gender-based and learned how to make a discrimination to unequal with a well-known maker. custom molding profile for scrutiny and biased the trim. Lastly, to make the expectations, make it evident small round feet, I had the wonderful titled “Woodcarving at Home,” there is a lot of progress to be opportunity to take a beginning which starts, “Every year the field made toward equity and inclusion. lathe turning course at the Center of woman’s work grows broader, and Women and nonbinary craftspeople for Furniture Craftsmanship in one after another those occupations are pushing the boundaries of Rockport, Maine, with instructor which were formerly looked upon as tradition to create stunning, highBeth Ireland. In the end, the success a man’s exclusive domain, fall into caliber work. Yuri Kobayashi creates of the reconstruction had nothing line, and open their doors to the elegant, sculptural forms that go to do with my gender, of course, weaker sex.” The title and opening beyond the previously believed and everything to do with access to line reflect the beginnings of limitations of steam bending using professional educators, quality tools, change in the prevalent belief that her own creative technology. Beth and the financial support allowing a woman’s sphere was only in the Ireland masterfully recreates turned me time and space to complete the home. architectural elements massive in work. In the late twentieth century size and scale. Aspen Golann subtly While I worked on the replica, women emerged as major figures blends classic American furniture I continued to think about the von in the American studio furniture styles with contemporary images to Rydingsvärd chest. Ida W. (Simpson) movement. However, as Anne make statements regarding power Jackson of Brunswick, Maine, was Carlisle noted in a 2018 essay, “This dynamics in the history of craft. the second wife and had been a Is My Work: The Rise of Women While gender has no influence on student of Karl von Rydingsvärd, in Woodworking,” in the journal the technical qualities of any of the one of many women he taught as he American Craft Inquiry, “The histories finished pieces, it’s an inseparable extolled the Swedish sloyd system and works of women, minorities, and aspect of the experience of the of handicraft-based education people of color are often subsumed makers within the field. and artistic carving at the turn of into the legacies of their male, likely Definitive attribution in furniture the twentieth century. Karl is a white, collaborators and colleagues.” scholarship can be difficult even somewhat obscure figure in the Arts A 2019 show at the Foundation with a well-known maker, and the and Crafts movement though he is Louis Vuitton in Paris titled Charlotte stories of those in supporting roles noteworthy because of his influence Perriand: Inventing a New World, must be gleaned from archives of as a teacher. The styles of Ida and highlighted the life and work of the ledgers and town records. Therefore, Karl being quite similar, I wondered modernist architect and furniture finding a piece of furniture made how one might be able to distinguish designer. Previously, Perriand’s by a woman that fits within Historic between their works. name appeared far less than images New England’s current collecting Recognizing the benefit of of her work, as her finest pieces practices may be difficult. As we close examination, I had hoped of furniture were misattributed to make an effort to expand the to compare the chest in Historic Le Corbusier, a collaborator who narrative of the stories we tell, an New England’s collection with continuously dismissed her talents. alternative exhibition practice could another known example of Ida’s Current research and exhibitions be to showcase contemporary work work but was unable to find such as Inventing a New World work alongside pieces already in the anything attributed to her in a public to integrate the names of women collection. Women woodworkers collection. In addition, the only makers into the craft canon. are just woodworkers, after all, but written information mentioning Even as the self-representation the history surrounding access to her name was in reference to her made possible by social media has education and societal expectations husband’s work. I finally came across given makers a platform to showcase regarding gender makes the an instructional column she wrote in their work, the experiences of distinction an important part of the an 1896 issue of The Art Interchange women in the woodworking field story of furniture making. 24

Historic New England Winter 2022


The Right Thing How abolitionist Joshua Coffin took action to free the Amistad captives by BETHANY GROFF DORAU Executive Director Museum of Old Newbury A former Historic New England staff member, Bethany Groff Dorau is author of A Brief History of Old Newbury: From Settlement to Separation.


or many visitors to Historic New England’s Coffin House in Newbury, Massachusetts, Joshua Coffin (1792-1864) is seen as the stern-faced elderly man in the portrait seeming to stare down at them as they enter the house. Perhaps while peering into the study, visitors take note of the eyeglasses and the yellowed copy of A Sketch of the History of Newbury, Newburyport, and West Newbury, from 1635 to 1845, which he wrote there. They might have even heard stories about his years as the beloved schoolmaster of poet John Greenleaf Whittier.

This picture of a New England antiquarian is not the Joshua Coffin his contemporaries knew, however. To them, he was a fire-breathing radical who led an extraordinary life dedicated to justice and freedom for enslaved people. Coffin was, as newspaper publisher William Lloyd Garrison wrote, one of the twelve “apostles of the cause” who founded the first abolitionist organization in Massachusetts, the New England Anti-Slavery Society, and “set in motion that ball which now shakes the world.” Coffin “ever after ardently acted in behalf of the slave.”

It is little surprise, perhaps, that Coffin was compelled to assist in one of the most prominent self-emancipation court cases in American history, that of the illegally enslaved prisoners of the Amistad. Aiding Coffin in his efforts was Lahy (also called Levi) Ganges, a free man living in Philadelphia who was the son of a chief of the Susu (or Sosu) people of West Africa. In August 1839, the U.S. brig Washington seized the Spanish schooner La Amistad off the coast of Long Island, New York, and brought it into port at New Haven, Connecticut. There HistoricNewEngland.org


Portrait of Sengbe Pieh, leader of the Amistad captives, also known as Joseph Cinqué, painted in 1840 by Nathaniel Jocelyn. Painting held by New Haven Colony Historical Society. Right Illustration from the frontispiece of the 1840 book A History of the Amistad Captives compiled by engraver and historian John Warner Barber.

were 53 kidnapped Africans on board—forty-nine young men and four children, three of them girls apparently no older than eleven years—who had been taken to Havana, Cuba, where two sugar plantation owners enslaved them. The enslavers shackled the captives on La Amistad and set off for their plantations. However, the captives freed themselves and killed the vessel’s captain and cook. They spared their two enslavers in exchange for a promise to take them back to West Africa. Instead, the enslavers sailed up the East Coast, eventually attracting the attention of a U.S. government revenue cutter. The plantation owners were set free 26

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while the kidnapped Africans were imprisoned for murder. Abolitionists closely watched the Amistad case as issues of freedom and criminality were debated internationally. The narrative of the case seemed to be controlled by the enslavers, who spoke Spanish and whose testimony could be easily translated and was widely published. The African prisoners were members of various ethnic groups and spoke a variety of languages, and they were unable to communicate with anyone but each other. Though the murder charges were dropped, there was continued legal wrangling about the status of the Amistad captives, as their enslavers, and the Spanish

government, sought to have them declared property and returned. On September 13, 1839, desperate to assist the men, abolitionist Lewis Tappan published this plea in the New-York Commercial Advertiser: If there are native Africans in this city, or elsewhere in this country, who were born near the sources of the river Niger, or in Mandingo, or who can converse readily in the Susoo, Kissi, Mandingo, or Gallinas dialects, they will confer a great favor by calling or sending to the undersigned, for the committee, at 143 Nassau Street, New York City. Two days later, while attending the afternoon service of a

Philadelphia church “for colored people,” a member of the congregation introduced Joshua Coffin to Levi Ganges. The following day, Coffin penned a lengthy letter to Tappan in New York. “I was introduced to a native Soosoo who was kidnapped from Africa when a man grown. I went last evening with John Shain [a white man who had spent his boyhood on slave ships and spoke several African languages]. I was grateful to find them both well acquainted with the language. The old man Levi Ganges, alias Lahi, the son of Mulcauba. He can speak the Soosoo, the Mandingo, the Mandingo Foulah, the Timmanee and the Lambar languages

& how many more I know not." He also suggested that Shain could be a useful eavesdropper at the trial, as he “can speak the Spanish both the classical & creole & not improper to suggest the propriety of not saying a word about his knowledge of Spanish unless the question is asked him in Hartford.” Coffin ended his letter with his standard closing: Yours for the slave, Joshua Coffin Levi Ganges had been a victim of the legal limbo of the slave trade. He was in his forties when he was kidnapped from West Africa and sold into slavery, one of 135 captives

held aboard two illegal American slave-trading schooners. The U.S.S. Ganges intercepted the vessels off Cuba. The captives were taken to Philadelphia on August 4, 1800, where the Pennsylvania Abolition Society placed them under its guardianship; all were given the surname Ganges. After serving out indentures, which provided for their education, many became part of the free Black population of Pennsylvania. At the time of the Amistad trial Levi Ganges was about eighty years old. Shain was sent to Connecticut first, but was not able to communicate with the leader of the Amistad captives. It was initially HistoricNewEngland.org


Expenditures ON ACCOUNT OF CAPTURED AFRICANS Sept. J. Leavitt’s expenses to and from New Haven with interpreter, Paid interpreters expenses and time, J. Coffin’s expenses to and from Philadelphia, Mr. Shain’s interpreter expenses from Hartford to Philadelphia, Paid N. Southard, for assistance, Paid H. Nowcomb, reporter, John Ferry, (interpreter), board at New Haven and passage to New York, Mr. Shain’s (interpreter) passage and expenses to Hartford, and board there, Levi Ganges (interpreter) board at Hartford.

15 00 14 00 8 00 5 00 3 00 5 00 4 50 7 88 1 62

Transcription of Joshua Coffin’s expenses for his efforts to secure the freedom of the Amistad captives. The antislavery newspaper The Emancipator published the bill on February 6, 1840.

unclear whether this was a language barrier or a trust issue, as the leader, Sengbe Pieh, also known as Joseph Cinqué, did not appear willing to speak with a white man. Coffin and Ganges went together from Philadelphia to Connecticut (various court cases were held in both New Haven and Hartford), as the bill for expenses incurred was published in The Emancipator, an antislavery newspaper that Tappan funded, on February 6, 1840. Ultimately, Ganges was not able to effectively communicate with the Amistad prisoners. Tappan had misunderstood the language that they shared, not Mandingo but Mendi, in his initial plea for assistance. The abolitionist committee called on Josiah Gibbs, a professor of linguistics at Yale College, for help. Gibbs learned from the captives how to count to ten in Mendi and began walking up and down the docks in New Haven and New York City shouting the words. It was a free Black teenager from Sierra Leone, a sailor in the British Navy named James Covey, who heard his language of origin 28

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and responded to Gibbs’s plea for a translator. Coffin continued to write to “Brother Tappan,” determined to help the Amistad captives. In January 1840 he consulted his former student and dear friend, poet John Greenleaf Whittier, on the best way to secure permission to accompany them to Sierra Leone. Coffin suggested that their lawyers submit a petition on his behalf to the president of the United States, Martin van Buren, even though the chief executive supported Spain’s position on the status of the captives. Coffin had a secret plan, he said, to write a damning expose of the American Colonization Society, which had been advocating for the relocation of all people of African descent from the United States to Liberia, regardless of their preference or background. If he went to Africa with the Amistad captives, Coffin thought, he could get to Liberia unnoticed. However, this plan also came to naught. Ganges returned to Philadelphia, where he died of apoplexy on September 13, 1846, at

the Philadelphia Almshouse. He was interred at Bethel Colored Burial Ground. The fate of the Amistad captives was determined on March 9, 1841, by the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that they were free men who had been captured and transported illegally. The surviving thirty-five captives went to Sierra Leone in 1842. Coffin, who worked as a postman, lost his job in 1840 because of his abolitionist activities. He left Philadelphia in 1843 in poor health and returned to Newbury, to the house where he was born. Though he continued to be deeply involved in abolitionist work, lecturing around the country as his health allowed, he turned to research and writing, intending to prove, in part, that influential Puritans rejected the institution of slavery, particularly those associated with his beloved Newbury. He completed his magnum opus, A Sketch of the History of Newbury, Newburyport, and West Newbury, in 1845, along with family histories of early Newbury settlers. By 1857, former students and fellow abolitionists were raising money for their teacher and friend, who was “now suffering the united evils of old age and poverty.” In 1860, fighting depression and dementia, and with the nation on the cusp of the Civil War, he completed his final book. An Account of Some of the Principal Slave Insurrections was Coffin’s answer to those who claimed that immediate emancipation was dangerous. Not so, Coffin argued. “The consequences of holding slaves in bondage…have always been disastrous.”

In 2021, Historic New England rejuvenated the exterior of its mansion in Wiscasset, Maine, Castle Tucker, with a new color scheme, replacing the red and cream tones with green and cream. The change is actually a return to the color choices that mother and daughter Mollie and Jennie Tucker made for their longtime family home in the late nineteenth century.

Color Recovery Exterior painting project brings Castle Tucker’s earlier hues HistoricNewEngland.org


Jennie Tucker died in 1964. One of her heirs, Jane Standen Tucker, moved into the property in 1965 and made it her mission to preserve it. She had the trim on the house and the barns painted dark red, explaining in her repair journal that “the color lasted better, and to get rid of the beetle look,” referring to the older red and green paint that deterioration had exposed. “The pillars [presumably the piazza columns] had been green, but were now painted cream in the supposedly Greek style.” Although the red paint of the trim and windows first showed up during Jane’s residency, there were variants of a red painting scheme applied in the Victorian era. Through studying documentary evidence in addition to analysis of the paint layers, the green trim was determined to represent the period from 1908 to 1964 and indicative of the post-Victorian story being told at Castle Tucker. Several details, including the columns, brick insets, and balustrades for the piazza that were painted the dark green in 1908 and then cream in 1965 have been repainted green.

Sutherland Conservation and Consulting of Augusta, Maine, analyzed the layers of paint in 2013 to determine the colors used on the building from 1898 through 1921, the time period of Historic New England’s interpretation of the house. After her mother’s death in 1922, Jennie continued residing at Castle Tucker. She came to see that the family’s financial inability to decorate the house to keep up with current styles had a significant unintended benefit. Castle Tucker’s nineteenth-century character had remained intact. Amid the march of the twentieth century and the embrace of contemporary styles, the unique look of Castle Tucker was one that Jennie believed must be maintained.

Historic New England’s tour of Castle Tucker includes a focus on the creative and entrepreneurial women who managed and preserved the house for more than 140 years.


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The Sheepscot River flows in the background of this side view of the piazza.

Historic New England Study Center researchers Tian Xu, full-time scholar-in-residence, and part-time fellows Willie Granston and Eleanor Martinez-Proctor.

Activity has revved


and SCHOLARS are Foregrounding

THE PAST by ALISSA BUTLER, PhD Study Center Manager

up at Historic New England’s Study Center at the Eustis Estate in Milton, Massachusetts, the research branch of our organization. Last September, we added three endowed positions. Now, along with our Study Center manager and the graduate intern program, we have two fellows and one scholar-in-residence, all of whom are conducting academic research to help broaden and deepen our knowledge of New England’s history and its stories. The two fellowships are part time, with each focused on a larger area of research specialty. The current fellows are studying architectural history and labor history at the Eustis Estate. The scholar-in-residence position is a fulltime position in which the scholar pursues a significant, independent research project, such as writing a book or several academic journal articles. Our current fellows are Eleanor Martinez-Proctor and Willie Granston. Eleanor’s research is focused on finding and broadening historical narratives around the domestic staff employed at the Eustis Estate. Her work seeks to gain a deeper understanding of their lives not only in relation to their employment but in a wider social context in order to facilitate more complete and connected storytelling at that site. Willie's research reconsiders William Ralph Emerson, focusing on how Emerson's reputation as an innovative, forward-thinking architect developed in the late nineteenth century through projects like the Eustis Estate. HistoricNewEngland.org


Scholar-in-residence Tian Xu discovered the depiction of an Asian man in this Historic New England lithograph titled View of the Water Celebration on Boston Common, October 25th, 1848. He was able to find details about the man’s identity and history.

Emerson’s public reputation as an artist, lecturer, and mentor to many younger New England architects is also an aspect of this research. Our scholar-in-residence is Tian Xu, PhD, who is investigating the work of late-nineteenth-century attorneys on behalf of Black Civil War pensioners as well as Chinese immigrants. This work has a special focus on the lawyers’ and their clients’ historical negotiation of domesticity, gender roles, and racial constructions. With just a few months in, these researchers are finding fascinating information, which we are looking forward to incorporating into our programming next season. Eleanor has been able to trace several workers at the Eustis Estate, about whom we previously knew little, beyond a photograph or two or a name from a census record. In these findings, she has been able to flesh out the details of their lives within and beyond their work at the estate. Willie has uncovered new 32

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information about the early construction stages of the Eustis Estate, discovering some architectural drawings that it seems have not been viewed since Historic New England acquired them in 1939. He has also found “Page Six” (the New York Post’s copyrighted term for its celebrity gossip page) style reporting in Milton newspapers during the estate’s early days, showing that there was so much local fascination that the family opened the house to tours. While Tian’s work is of a much larger scale and longer trajectory, he is also finding some interesting history pertaining to our houses and collections. For example, hanging on the wall of Quincy House in Quincy, Massachusetts, is a lithograph titled View of the Water Celebration on Boston Common, October 25th, 1848. Tian noticed the image of an Asian man in the print. He identified the man as Ar Showe, a prominent Chinese tea merchant in Boston in the mid-1800s, and has provided

us with a rich history of Showe’s time in Boston (see the lithograph at historicnewengland.org/explore/ collections-access/gusn/55899/). The Study Center is not only focused on research but it is also an institution that allows us to invest in the public historians of tomorrow. We host three graduate interns per semester who are pursuing careers in the museum field. We also work closely with graduate and undergraduate programs to provide professional development support for students interested in public history and careers with nonprofit organizations. To learn more about our internship program, the free services we offer college and university programs, or the research positions discussed above please email Alissa Butler at abutler@ historicnewengland.org or visit historicnewengland.org/getinvolved/volunteer/.

Books and More: a Night of Prizes by LORNA CONDON Senior Curator of Library and Archives Historic New England honored the 2021 winners of the Historic New England Book Prize and the Prize for Collecting Works on Paper at its Night of Prizes on November 23. The virtual event recognized nine individuals for the work they have done to expand our knowledge and understanding of New England and its people. President and CEO Vin Cipolla welcomed the audience and awarded the prizes; and the recipients gave presentations on their books and their collections. The Historic New England Book Prize was created with two goals in mind: first, to recognize significant publications that advance the understanding of New England’s architecture, landscape, and material culture, which includes works in the decorative arts, archaeology, historic preservation, the history of photography, and related subjects; and second, to underscore the organization’s commitment to new scholarship about the region, fresh perspectives, and accessibility to broad and diverse audiences. The 2021 Historic New England Book Prize recipient is Boston’s Apollo: Thomas McKeller and John Singer Sargent edited by Nathaniel Silver, the Lia and William Poorvu Curator of the Collection at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. This book explores the collaboration between renowned painter John Singer Sargent and model Thomas McKeller, who worked together between 1916 and 1925, the year of Sargent’s death. Through seven essays by Silver and other contributors, the book examines Sargent’s drawings of

McKeller in detail, offers the first biography of McKeller, a Black man, and presents a window into African American life in early twentieth-century Boston. Boston’s Apollo: Thomas McKeller and John Singer Sargent was published in conjunction with the Gardner’s 2020 exhibition of the same title, which celebrated McKeller’s accomplishments. Historic New England gave its 2021 Honor Book recognition to Maine and American Art: The Farnsworth Art Museum and Frederick Law Olmsted: Plans and Views of Communities and Private Estates. The first, produced by the Farnsworth Art Museum, in Rockland, Maine, was written by Michael Komanecky, the museum’s chief curator; Jane Bianco, the museum’s curator; and Angela Waldron, the Farnsworth’s registrar. Published for Maine’s bicentennial, this lavishly illustrated book illuminates the state’s central role in American art from the early nineteenth century to the present. Frederick Law Olmsted: Plans and Views of Communities and Private Estates is the first comprehensive presentation of Olmsted’s design concepts for communities and private estates. Edited by Charles E. Beveridge, who is the leading U.S. authority on Olmsted; Lauren Meier, a landscape preservationist and co-editor of The Master List of Design Projects of the Olmsted Firm, 1857-1979; and landscape designer Irene Mills, it is the twelfth and final volume in the

series The Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted. The Prize for Collecting Works on Paper honors collectors or dealers who have assembled or helped save significant collections of historical material that might otherwise have been unrecognized or lost. The recipients were Barbara Fahs Charles of Washington, D.C., and James L. Kochan of Wiscasset, Maine. Charles is a nationally known museum consultant who began documenting American carousels in 1971. She has amassed the most extensive collection of carousel-related ephemera and photographs in the country. Kochan, an expert and leading dealer in early American military and naval manuscripts, rare books, and works of art, has assisted museums and research institutions as their agent in strategic collections building. He has assembled one of the finest private study collections on the early military and naval history and material culture of Maine prior to statehood in 1820. Night of Prizes was made possible by support from Historic New England’s Friends of the Library and Archives. HistoricNewEngland.org


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Mr. Martin

Builds His Model Dream House

by LORNA CONDON Senior Curator of Library and Archives


ENE AND JANET MARTIN ACHIEVED their dream of home ownership in Natick, Massachusetts, in the 1950s. Following Gene’s service in the Navy during World War II and the Korean War, he and Janet married and began building their house. It was based on a design the couple saw in a magazine article and inspired by a drawing published in Your Dream Home: How to Build It for Less Than $3,500 by Hubbard Cobb (1950). The Cape Cod-style, single-family residence was home to the Martins and their three children for more than forty years. In the 1970s, Gene decided to construct a model of the house in his basement. Built to scale, it is a near perfect replica of his beloved family home, even down to the furnishings. A wood frame structure, it has electric wiring throughout, a working doorbell, a stereo system, and a chimney that smokes. The double-hung windows and doors are operable. The model was the centerpiece of the Natick Historical Society exhibition, Your Dream House: At Home in Postwar Natick. When the exhibition closed in 2020, Gene and Janet’s daughter Jane Martin donated the model to Historic New England. Gene Martin’s labor of love will help us tell the myriad stories of domestic life in midtwentieth century New England. Gene Martin lovingly and painstakingly recreated this model of the family dream home he and his wife, Janet, built in the 1950s after his military service. He captured in miniature every feature of their home, including the electrical wiring.

The award-winning Historic New England magazine is a benefit of membership. To join, please visit HistoricNewEngland.org. 34

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