historic NEw england WINTER 2017
Neon signs of the times
Restoring the Mansion at the Eustis Estate A Pilotâ€™s Prerogative
FROM THE PRESIDENT
I’m often asked about the chronological threshold for the properties and collections we acquire; what is historical and what is too new to consider? We take a lesson from our founder William Sumner Appleton, who recognized that what is new today will be old tomorrow and antique thereafter. The origins of our historic properties and easement program properties extend from the colonial period into the 1960s, our archives acquires contemporary materials that continue long-standing areas of collection such as domestic ephemera, and our artifact collections also include modern-day objects, especially when appropriate stories and images (“provenance” in museum terms) come with a potential donation. The strength of all of our collections is indeed in the stories they can tell, as we see throughout this issue, where articles span the centuries. From the earliest jewelry brought to or made in New England to neon signs and contemporary sculpture, Historic New England preserves and shares properties, collections, and stories representing the whole scope of the region’s heritage. The sharing part of our mission is fulfilled through exhibitions, publications, and online access, but especially through our historic house museums. In May we open the Eustis Estate Museum and Study Center in Milton, Massachusetts, to the public. The 1878 property provides space for changing exhibitions and new approaches to historic house museum interpretation. We invite our members to be among the first to visit this extraordinary new property and to learn more about the fascinating heritage we all share. In this year of new experiences for Historic New England members, we’re also pleased to introduce a refreshed look for this magazine. We hope you enjoy it.
historic NEw england WINTER 2017 • Vol. 17 • No. 3
A Polished Business Loses its Luster..............1 The legacy of Vermont’s marble industry
Langdon House Artist in Residence............7 Sculptor Amanda Sisk in studio at south lodge
Taking Flight...................................................9 Ripley Miller found passion and purpose in the air
Signs of the Times........................................14 Marquee pieces from the collection of Dave Waller A Light Meal.............................................................................. 19 Iconic Glow.............................................................................. 20
Defending the Walls....24 Combating masonry deterioration at Castle Tucker
Artisans and Craftspeople................25
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.
COVER, ABOVE RIGHT Items in the sign collection of Dave Waller. Beth Oram Photography 2016. ABOVE LEFT Marble capital of column at the Henry Sheldon Museum in Middlebury, Vt. Photo by Glenn Andres. RIGHT CENTER Pendant and part of earring from a micromosaic jewelry set. PAGE 1 Photo by Glenn Andres.
Historic New England 141 Cambridge Street Boston MA 02114-2702 617-227-3956
© 2017 Historic New England. Except where noted, all historic photographs and ephemera are from Historic New England’s Library and Archives.
Mementos: Jewelry of Life and Love................21 Exhibition preview
Carl R. Nold, President and CEO
Executive Editor: Diane Viera Editor: Dorothy 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
Interior restoration at the Eustis Estate mansion
History in the Making...................................30 News and notes
School’s Out!...............................................32 Ecology studies get students outdoors
Codman Scion Portrait is Home to Stay............................................34
A Polished Business Loses its Luster
by Glenn M. Andres, professor emeritus of the History of Art and Architecture at Middlebury College, member of the Vermont Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and a past trustee of the Henry Sheldon Museum HistoricNewEngland.org
EYOND CURIOS LIKE A STUFFED CAT, A “petrified” boy (a Victorian hoax), and an array of antique pianos, the Henry Sheldon Museum in Middlebury, Vermont, has a comprehensiveness and depth to its collections that led an eminent visiting scholar to dub it the “missing link in New England culture.” A case in point is the significance of its collections to the story of an important Vermont, and New England, industry: marble, told through the museum’s Judd-Harris House, various objects, account books, correspondence, legal documents, and early local publications. Middlebury sits astride what has been called the Marble Border of Western New England, strata of marble that extend from Canada to northwestern Connecticut. Ranging from white to dove gray, the marble surfaced in Middlebury in many places like banks of snow and formed the ledge over which Otter Creek rushed at Middlebury Falls. Its potential was not lost on Eben Judd who, at the outset of the nineteenth century, exploited this ready resource to build an industry, a fortune, and the grand house that is now the museum’s home. Others along the range had begun working the marble in the late eighteenth century, but they did it by hand, chiseling rough-split slabs into hearths and tombstones. Having obtained quarrying rights adjacent to Middlebury 2
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Falls, Judd used waterpower to mechanize the process. He was not the first. Research published by the Middlebury Historical Society in 1885 acknowledged that in antiquity Pliny had described toothless iron saws that cut stone by dragging wet sand across its surface. As early as the fourth century Germans harnessed waterpower to drive the process. The technique was revived in the 1730s in Ireland, and in 1748 in Derbyshire, England, it was combined with Leonardo da Vinci’s concept of gang saws. By 1802 the system had been used in New Milford, Connecticut, and West Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Judd, though, did much to perfect the method. In 1803 he built a dam below Middlebury Falls and collaborated with local mechanical wizard Isaac Markham to develop a working model for a waterpowered marble mill. Markham, who would assist in the 1816 construction in Middlebury of reputedly the second set of power looms in the United States and then go on, before an untimely death, to devise machinery for textile mills in Waltham, Massachusetts, was only ten years old at the time. Together, man and boy devised a system in which a mill wheel turned a crank to draw a nail plate mounted on edge in a moving frame across the surface of the marble. The soft iron dragged sand poured along either side of the plate, moistened with water from a teakettle to do the actual cutting.
page 2 James Hope’s c. 1850 depiction of Middlebury Falls with a marble ledge in the foreground. The artwork is part of the collection of the Henry Sheldon Museum. right The piazza of the family home that Eben Judd and business partner and son-in-law Lebbeus Harris built features marble columns with Ionic capitals. The house now serves as the Henry Sheldon Museum. below This fireplace surround was made of black marble from the quarry Judd and Harris opened in Shoreham, Vt.
Refined, this primitive apparatus became the basis for a thriving industry. Judd’s workers blasted marble and wedged it free from the quarry adjacent to the mill and from the bed of the creek when the water was low. Other stone arrived from upstream via barge. Oxen hauled it to the mill where, by 1808, some sixty to one hundred saws installed on the ground floor cut the marble into slabs. Machines on the second floor polished it with hard leather sprinkled with emery and an abrasive powder known as Scotch sand and buffed it with old felt hats. The mill produced 5,000 to 10,000 square feet of 2-inch slabs a year, for such uses as fireplaces, mantels, and hearths; stoves and sinks; and belting for brick or stone residences. For more elaborate work, carvers earned up to $2 a day and inscribers were paid two cents per letter. In 1811 Timothy Dwight, president of Yale College and an extensive traveler, recorded in his journal that the marble Judd produced “is both white and dove-colored, elegantly variegated, and of finer texture than any other which has been wrought hitherto in the United States…and is cut and carved with an elegance not surpassed on this side of the Atlantic.”
left An advertisement for Judd and Harris’ marble business contains testimonials by the president of Middlebury College as well as two professors and a tutor. below The facade of the 1829 house that Judd and Harris built. Besides the piazza’s Ionic marble columns, the windows have rectangular marble lintels. page 5, top This toothless iron saw, designed to cut marble, is part of the Henry Sheldon Museum’s collection. bottom The William Slade family monument in Middlebury’s West Cemetery bears Judd’s name as maker.
Between 1807 and 1811 records show shipments of the mill’s products to Boston; Troy, Albany, and New York, New York; Montreal, Quebec; St. John’s, Nova Scotia; and London. By 1814 Judd was advertising shipment throughout the world and guaranteeing safe transport anywhere in the United States. The transportation was a challenge. The marble had to go overland either to Lake Champlain or the Connecticut River to be loaded onto barges bound for Hartford, Connecticut (two weeks at $32 a ton), or New York via the Hudson River (twenty-five to thirty days at $30 a ton). Shipping to Boston typically added 20 to 25 percent to the cost of the goods.
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After upgrading the mill in 1820-1821 in partnership with his son-in-law Lebbeus Harris, Judd announced what would become his company’s prestige products: chimney pieces with pillars and plinths. Conceived for machine production, these were composed of straight lengths of molding and paneled corner and center blocks that could be stockpiled and then variously sized and combined for assembly on site. In 1823 noted architect Charles Bulfinch sent designs and requested quotations for chimney pieces to be delivered to Washington, D.C. The drawings are not to be found; but perhaps it is not coincidental that soon after, Judd was marketing columnar designs similar to ones found in some Bulfinch houses and that would not appear in pattern books until the end of the decade. In 1826 a vein of pure black marble was discovered in nearby Shoreham, and Judd added that option to his stock. Black, or mourning, marbles were becoming fashionable and, until rivals began to appear in 1830, Judd’s was the only known domestic source for pure black marble and was considered to equal the marble of Kilkenny, Ireland. In 1831 Ammi B. Young, who would build the Vermont State House and Boston Custom House before serving as the first supervising architect of the U.S. Treasury Department, wrote from his newly established architectural practice in nearby Burlington requesting quotations on “plane [sic] marble chimney pieces…so the bank folks may determine whether they have the price or not…also the price for a column mantel fireplace and hearth.” These were luxury goods. Pilaster designs ranged from $25 in blue-gray Pittsford (Vermont) marble to $85 in dark marble; columnar designs in the same materials ranged from $60 to $150. In 1824 Middlebury ironmonger Jonathan Wainwright paid $600 ($14,464 in 2017 currency) for four paneled and two columnar fireplaces for his new house. The demand was great, and the marketing was facilitated by the opening of the Champlain Canal in 1821 and the Erie Canal in 1823. Judd employed agents in New York and Boston and opened a finishing shop in Auburn, New York, to supply upstate customers. He shipped to New York City three times a week, and in 1827-1828 alone he sent 74 pilaster and columnar chimney pieces of blue, white, and black marble to Boston agent Charles Harlow. Shipments in 1830 included Providence, Rhode Island; Keene, New Hampshire; Augusta, Georgia; Syracuse, New York (1,112 pounds); and Boston (4,746 pounds of black marble). In 1829 the prospering Judd built a grand house on Park Street, near to his mill and showcasing his wares. The three-story brick structure introduced rectangular rather HistoricNewEngland.org
than trapezoidal marble lintels over windows, marking a beginning of the area’s transition from Federal to Greek Revival style. It also boasted an unusual full-width piazza across its ground floor facade, carried on Ionic marble columns carved by “Obrian the Scotchman” in return for $10 and one month’s board. Inside he installed ten fireplaces, of which eight were marble-faced, six were black, two were columnar, and two were elaborately paneled. The marble works’ ascent to this success was not altogether linear, nor was it destined to last. Judd’s records reveal annual fluctuations of as much as 40 percent in response to the volatile economy of early nineteenth-century New England. Early on, the Embargo Act of 1807, which discouraged foreign trade, made the high cost of domestic marble shipment feasible through the end of the War of 1812, while at the same time Judd was able to smuggle marble northward on Lake Champlain for shipment out of Montreal. After the Treaty of Ghent, though, competition from foreign goods hurt. Then the passage of a protective tariff (for which he lobbied) in 1816, the opening of the western canals, and the discovery of black marble helped. Beginning in 1830 indicators were again downward. Tariffs on Italian marble were dropped, Boston businessmen had begun speculating in marble quarries around New England, flooding the market, and
real estate speculation in the region was fueling instability. At the same time Middlebury’s veins of sound marble were giving out, with customers complaining about flaws. Judd tried to get out. In 1835 he offered his house, mill, and water rights for $22,000. In 1836 he dropped it to $18,000 only to be hit by conditions of the impending panic and depression of 1837. Before he could sell, both he and Harris died in 1837. The ultimate buyer of the business closed it and moved operations to the Rutland area, where waterpower, marble supplies, workforce, and soon railroad transport combined to make it the hub of what would become a consolidated Vermont marble industry. The glory days of Middlebury marble were over, but they remain evident in the fabric of the town and, importantly, they permeate the fabric of Judd’s home and the objects and archives housed there since Henry Sheldon purchased it in 1875. The house preserves a now precious physical catalogue of his goods. Based on its documentable examples it is possible to identify and date similar, and thus very likely Middlebury, fireplaces in such places as Boston’s Beacon Hill; Portsmouth, New Hampshire; Middletown, Connecticut; and Nantucket and Salem, Massachusetts—illuminating not only a local story but also shedding light on Middlebury’s impact on the region.
In West Cemetery, the marble headstones of Eben Judd, wife Lydia (Giddings), and their daughter, Mary.
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Langdon House in Residence Artist
Sculptor Amanda Sisk set up a studio at the south lodge for an inspired new public program
by Linda Marshall, Regional Site Manager, Northern New England
THE SOUTH LODGE AT GOVERNOR JOHN Langdon House, Historic New England’s 1784 Georgian mansion located in the heart of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, burgeoned with creativity last August with the presence of the organization’s first artist in residence, sculptor Amanda Sisk. As part of her residency, Sisk created a bas-relief in clay of Langdon. She based her design on research she conducted at Langdon House as well as other historic sites around Portsmouth and beyond. The sculpture of Langdon features the 1776 warship, the Raleigh, which was built at his shipyard on Badger’s Island (then called Langdon’s Island). It includes a white pine motif inspired by the importance of this resource to Portsmouth’s early economy; white pine was used in building construction throughout the Piscataqua region.
Historic New England developed the artist residency in partnership with the New England Sculptors Association (NESA) after a joint exhibition during the summer of 2015, Sculpted Spaces, Historic Places. That exhibition of contemporary sculpture by NESA artist-members was installed inside Langdon House and on the grounds. As an experiment, the south lodge became a public program space for staging artist demonstrations. This new use of the outbuilding led to the idea of utilizing the space as an artist’s studio, and the vision for an artist residency at Langdon House was realized. Sisk studied at the Herron School of Art and Design in Indianapolis and received her bachelor of fine arts from Indiana University before traveling to Italy to study on scholarship in the Figurative Sculpture Program at the Florence Academy of Art. She served two seasons as HistoricNewEngland.org
Among the tools Sisk used in creating the Langdon bas-relief is a rubber-tipped chisel to aid in refining the details of the artwork.
sculptor in residence at Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, New Hampshire, prior to the artist residency in Portsmouth. Sisk received the Dexter Jones Award for an outstanding work of sculpture in bas-relief in 2013 from the National Sculpture Society. She is also the recipient of NESA’s Gibbons Prize for New England Sculptors, which was awarded in the summer of 2015 at Langdon House. Much of Sisk’s work, as with the sculpture of Langdon, is in bas-relief, a technique in which forms project only slightly from the background. Last year she completed a commissioned medallion for the New York Preservation Archive Project for its inaugural preservation award created to honor outstanding contributions to the documentation, preservation, and celebration of the history of preservation in New York City. From 2013 to 2015 Sisk exhibited portrait busts in London for The Society of Portrait Sculptors’ annual open exhibition. The residency program at Langdon House and its accompanying hands-on workshops were developed in order to bring new audiences to the property and to cultivate fresh engagement with the history of the site. The visual arts audience is strong in Portsmouth, and Langdon House participates in the first Friday gallery walk, Art ’Round Town, to further promote its ongoing exhibition program. As artist in residence, Sisk has provided Langdon House visitors with a model of how to foster curiosity about the past and find 8
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ways to channel that curiosity into creative exploration and personal meaning. Sisk’s decision to focus on Langdon as her sculpture subject generated new interest in the site as well as for the story of a major figure in the founding of the United States. The sculpture was cast in bronze and will be sold to help support the artist residency program.
PRESERVATION HOUSEKEEPING TASKS Historic New England recently completed a preservation project at Langdon House that was funded in part by New Hampshire’s Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP). The scope of the project included repairs to gutters, downspouts, and drains around the main building, as well as replacement of deteriorated cornices and clapboards caused by water infiltration. The project was expanded to include similar repairs to the carriage barn including the replacement of deteriorated beadboard doors and the roof of an attached garden shed, as well as a minor gutter repair on the south lodge. Future preservation projects include repainting the exterior of Langdon House, ongoing rose arbor and fence repair, and landscape maintenance.
Ripley Miller found passion and purpose in the air
by Julia Doten, a family historian and employee of the Rockingham (N.H.) Nutrition and Meals on Wheels
EDITOR’S NOTE: RIPLEY MILLER WAS thirty-six years old when the cargo plane she was piloting on the fog-shrouded night of September 23, 1973, crashed in Boston Harbor after losing contact with Logan International Airport’s control tower. A wife and mother, Ripley’s family included three young children, one of whom, Julia Doten, went on to obtain her private pilot certificate. In 2015 Doten responded to Historic New England’s public
appeal for donations of twentieth-century items that tell stories about our recent social, cultural, and popular history. The artifacts and archival materials that comprise her gift tell the story of a woman whose passion literally took flight, and at a time when airplane cockpits were largely a male domain. Doten is also author of a biography about her mother titled A Long White Scarf: Flying with Ripley Miller. HistoricNewEngland.org
A number of items Ripley Miller acquired in her aviation career are now in Historic New England’s collection, including this copper and enamel aviatrix pendant; a Tiffany-designed gold-tone pin with the insignia of the Ninety-Nines, the international organization of female pilots; silver-tone and enamel wings pin; copper and enamel Ninety-Nines compass rose pendant; and name tag from the Ninety-Nines’ fortieth convention.
“Flying beats housework any day,” Ripley Miller was quoted in her first interview by the Woburn Daily Times, published March 19, 1965. Ripley had stumbled upon a hobby and then enthusiastically built a career as a flight instructor and commercial pilot in New England. Her joy of flying became a passion that she used for leadership to educate and encourage others during a period of tumultuous change in America. It began in the fall of 1963 when Ripley accompanied her husband, Kenneth, to Tew-Mac Airport in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, where he was taking flying lessons. Ripley asked if she could have a lesson. Kenneth consented, but later admitted, “I thought I would humor her.” When the introductory flight concluded, Ripley climbed out of the plane and announced, “I’m getting my pilot’s license.” She then marched into the airport office to buy a flight logbook. Several minutes passed before she emerged, black leather logbook in hand and a look of exasperation on her face. “He tried to talk me out of it,” she sputtered about her encounter with airport owner Warren Hupper. 10
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Ripley was twenty-six, with children ages six, five, and three, and her husband was a self-employed civil engineer. “It was the beginning of a juggling act to fulfill her longing for definition outside the traditional role of wife and mother,” Ripley’s biography reads. She began taking lessons once a week, sometimes every other week. But extra money for flying activities was hard to come by, even with frugal management of the Miller family budget. Ripley cut the grocery bill to afford lessons. She baked bread, watered down milk, and invented casseroles she aptly named “goobalie guts on toast.” To allow for study time she made her life easier by keeping daily tasks to a minimum. She wore little or no makeup and kept her hair cut short in a bouffant style. When there wasn’t time for a wash and set, she wore a wig. By April 1965, Ripley had passed the test required to obtain a private pilot certificate. Her next goal was to join the Ninety-Nines Inc., the international organization of licensed women pilots founded in 1929, whose first president was Amelia Earhart.
“My eyes fly open at the crack of dawn and I rush to the window to see if it is a CAVU [clear air, visibility unlimited] day. I get my housework done as soon as possible so I can get airborne,” Ripley confided to her closest friend. Flying to monthly meetings of the eastern New England chapter of the Ninety-Nines she met women like herself—women who loved to fly. Active by nature, Ripley Miller easily launched into leadership roles with the Ninety-Nines, holding offices as secretary, vice chairman, and chairman. Over time she also served as chairman of the chapter’s scholarship, aerospace education, museum, and nominating committees. Rip Miller’s first race as PIC, or pilot in command, was held in Norwood, Massachusetts, in October 1967. The All-Women
Ripley Miller (right in top photo, left in bottom photo) and Georgia Pappas preparing for the 1972 AWNEAR, the All-Women New England Air Race. Contestants often matched their race outfits to each other and to the plane they were piloting.
Ripley Miller used this log book to record date, location, duration, and other information for each ﬂight, as required by the Federal Aviation Administration.
New England Air Race (AWNEAR) was a 300-mile, crosscountry proficiency competition that began and ended at the same airport. Twenty-four planes flew to locations in four New England states before returning to Norwood. Although Ripley did not place, she flew in subsequent AWNEARs until 1972, when she and her co-pilot placed second. Ten days later, Rip Miller was flying as co-pilot in the Angel Derby, an international race run that year from Ottawa, Ontario, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It wasn’t long before Ripley knew she wanted to do more than fly for fun and she soon earned her commercial and flight instructor certificates. Already working as a secretary at Tew-Mac Airport, Ripley could now pilot charters, scenic rides, aerial photography flights, conduct pilot reviews, and teach students. Tew-Mac owner Hupper would cautiously watch the reactions of customers and students as he eased Ripley out of the office and into the left seat of a company plane. Some considered Hupper progressive for having a female pilot on staff. Others refused to fly with her. One man climbed out in anger when he realized that the pilot was a woman. Two years later there were a dozen female students at Tew-Mac; half of them were taking lessons from Rip Miller. The Boston Evening Globe reported on July 8, 1970, that Ripley “thinks that women still have a long way to go in aviation and in space.” What began for a reporter as a feature story on a local housewife with a novel hobby became an avenue for Rip Miller to educate the general public. She was the subject of numerous radio and newspaper interviews on the topic of 12
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female pilots, telling a Woburn Daily Times correspondent in 1965, “We don’t wear helmets and parachutes any longer, but I may invest in a long white scarf.” Ripley’s passion for flying spilled over into her household, where she organized events, hosted monthly meetings, and collected books about flying, art and jewelry of airplanes, birds in flight, and the NinetyNines insignia. Family vacations were flying trips to Florida, New York, and Minnesota. Sunday “drives” were flown, perhaps to a horseback ride at Silver Ranch in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, or a summer outing on Nantucket Island off Massachusetts. Continuing her own training by finding hidden hours in the day, Ripley added multiengine and glider ratings to her commercial license and completed her instrument instructor rating to enable her to teach about flying in inclement weather. She designed and taught an aerospace program for local elementary schools and arranged for several scout packs to have scenic flights. At the 1970 Ninety-Nines international convention, which was hosted by her section, Ripley was in charge of registration for 300 attendees piloting eighty aircraft into the White Mountain and Twin Mountain airports of New Hampshire. At this event, like so many others, her son and two daughters tagged along, alternately helping, getting underfoot, or being included in promotional photograph shoots. Husband Kenneth attended, too; the NinetyNines included members’ spouses—“the other half”—and affectionately nicknamed them “49 1/2-ers.” On the dual controls in the four-seat Cessna the Millers purchased were two tiny strips of plastic printed from a label maker. The left, or pilot’s, control spelled out “HIS” and the co-pilot’s control on the right was designated “HERS.” Although they switched seats as needed, the labels stayed, a reminder or perhaps a little joke about how the couple began flying together. Ripley quickly surpassed her husband in flying abilities, and he never caught up. But he agreed with her statement about flying
gressed along with the changes transforming mainstream American culture. On September 3, 1973, the Boston Herald American noted that Rip Miller “insists that a woman pilot is hardly a rarity these days, though she adds that a woman flying for an airline is.” The National Aviation Hall of Fame documents that it wasn’t
until 1976 that a woman became a captain of a scheduled airline. By then barriers between men and women in the aviation industry were melting away and—thanks to Ripley Miller and others like her— the next generation, women like myself, simply flew.
in the September 7, 1972, edition of the Wilmington Town Crier: “You are working in another dimension, not confined by roads or gravity. The freedom of flight is a beautiful thing.” Training, practice, and hard work paid off not just for Ripley but for all women in aviation. Perceptions regarding women and flying pro-
“MY EYES FLY OPEN AT THE CRACK OF DAWN and I rush to the window to see if it is a CAVU day. I get my housework done as soon as possible so I can get airborne.”
Ripley Miller with daughter Janice and fellow pilot Mona Budding at the 1970 Worcester Municipal Airport Show in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Interview by Kris Bierfelt Photos by Beth Oram
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t’S DiffiCUlt to KNow where to looK firSt UpoN eNteriNg the Waller family’s home in Malden, Massachusetts. Parked in the bays of this former fire station are a mid-twentieth-century pickup truck next to the 1929 Apple Tree Diner from Dedham, Massachusetts. Nearby is a lighthouse lens that Dave Waller is restoring for use at Graves Island Light Station, the Boston Harbor island that he and his wife, Lynn, purchased at auction in 2013. But what really dominate the space are dozens of glowing and buzzing neon signs, just some of the highlights from Waller’s extensive collection. Last year he treated the Young Friends of Historic New England to a tour of the family’s home and spoke about his passion for neon signs and what it means to him to be a collector and preservationist. HistoricNewEngland.org
Interview by Kris Bierfelt Photos by IBeth Oram My first sign was just a little sign. got it when I was nine, and I folded it in half to bring it home on my bike. And I learned that you can’t really do that; I was so upset that I wrecked the paint. After that purchase I started really collecting signs. Nobody else did at the time, kids or grownups. …Signs seemed like something I could collect. You didn’t need much money at all. Now I have about 150 neon signs and 100 non-neon signs.
This round sign was made for President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration in 1913 and it’s one of the earliest electric signs. I have a New York Times article from the time, and all the men in bowler hats and the women in their long skirts are standing in front of this magnificent electric sign— it was really a big deal. They put it in front of the Capitol during the inauguration and it was on the Government Printing Office building for forty or fifty years after that. President Truman eventually gave it to the Masons, where it was behind the front desk at the Masonic headquarters in Virginia. I learned about it through the exhibition I had done at the Heritage Museum, which is a Masonic museum. They were ready to get rid of the sign and they asked me if I wanted it. I don’t ask questions when I’m offered something this incredible. I just said, “I’ll be right down!”
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In 2002 I did an exhibition with the National Heritage Museum [now the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library] in Lexington, Massachusetts, and it was then that I realized what I liked the most were the stories behind the businesses that owned these signs. The signs are a touchstone of something more, to a business’ and a neighborhood’s history. …It’s through the stories that you find the commonalities. You start to see a lot about immigration and industry in Greater Boston, for example.
This sign is from Howard Johnson’s. The motif is “Simple Simon met a pieman going to the fair.” I have the rest of it outside—it’s massive, about 25 feet tall. There’s a motor lodge sign that goes with it, a giant flashing arrow that’s too big to put in here. Friends often call me when they notice a sign I might like. A friend in Fall River, Massachusetts, called me when this Chinese restaurant, Mark You, was going out of business after seventy years. I went to talk to the owner—he gave me a menu, it was “The home of the chop suey sandwich.” I learned that all the Chinese restaurants in Fall River serve that. That was a total get, a great sign. And I was down there quick. A neon dragon? As neon goes, it’s like…you have to have it! The dragon sign was actually something we had in mind when we bought this place in 1992. A lot of the building had burned down and we bought it at auction from the city. It was in rough shape, but it was perfect for what we were trying to do. You can’t buy a place and then say, “OK, where does the two-story dragon go?” I don’t really have a lot of self-control when people call me about big, old cool stuff. But my wife, Lynn, is very good about keeping the collection under control. She has a sizeto-coolness ratio: If it’s big, it had better be extremely cool. Everything in our home fits that criteria, and I have a building in Lynn where I store a lot of other signs that don’t quite make the cut or that still need restoration. Someone asked me recently about the giant cactus from the Hilltop Steakhouse on Route 1 in Saugus, Massachusetts—it’s just sitting there! But that’s a divorce in the making. HistoricNewEngland.org
Signs give back to a community in that they become icons. You don’t say, “Take a right at Maple Street,” you say “Take a right at the bicycle sign.” So the signs were wayfinding devices, not just for businesses but for the whole neighborhood. These pastel drawings were pulled out of a dumpster at the Back Bay Sign Company. They’d do proposals, so if you had, say, a hardware store, the salesman would pitch some ideas and have the company’s artists work them up. These guys were classically trained commercial artists. That’s why there’s a certain uniformity to old signs, because they were all designed by guys who Interview by Kris Bierfelt went through thatPhotos trade school setup Oram and learned how to do layout. by Beth I think a lot about why all of these neon signs are disappearing from businesses. Everybody loves them, but they’re disappearing. One reason why is maintenance. They cost a lot of money because they get broken and it’s a lot of labor to fix the glass. There are only about two glass benders left in Boston and they’re retiring without anyone to inherit the businesses. That’s common throughout the country.
I have a neon shop in my basement because one of Boston’s last benders offered to help me set it up and teach me. He’s a second-generation bender; his father helped build the Citgo sign in Kenmore Square in Boston (see related article on page 20). That’s the last piece of what you do as a collector, is learn how to make or repair the things you collect. I can tell you, I’m not a good bender. It’s an art and it takes years to learn. I can make a simple letter, like a capital A, but anything more complex is way beyond my ability. He’ll come in and do the tricky repairs, the curved pieces.
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Text and photography by Richard J. S. Gutman, author of American Diner Then and Now and one of the 2016 recipients of Historic New England’s Prize for Collecting Works on Paper for his diner collection
he ClaSSiC roaDSiDe DiNer iS a bUilDiNg that really requires no sign. It announces itself with its unique presence in the landscape: a long, low building with an unbroken row of windows that resembles a railroad car. This distinct look also includes a metal skin, often brightly colored porcelain enamel or stainless steel, or a combination of the two. No other building looks like a diner. The precursor to the diner was a horse-drawn wagon that, like today’s food truck, was a vehicle built especially to dispense food. When these eateries settled down on permanent foundations, they kept this distinctive shape in order to move them through the streets, from the factories where they were manufactured to the locations where they operated as restaurants. Diners were located mainly in cities and towns at the beginning of the twentieth century. When automobile traffic picked up in the 1920s, they appeared along roadsides to feed travelers. It was customary for the diner’s name to be emblazoned on its facade. For greater visibility, some owners added signage, either projecting over the sidewalk or coursing along the diner’s roofline. Early signs were often simple affairs, selected from a catalogue and “suggesting” that the customer should “EAT” or stop into the “DINER” for a bite. One such example was the Flying Yankee, a dining car manufactured by the Worcester Lunch Car Company and located near the General Electric plant in Lynn, Massachusetts. Coowned by Jack Hines (grandfather of Dave Waller, the sign collector featured in this issue of Historic New England), the diner turned on Essex County’s first neon sign in 1928. Neon had arrived in the United States only five years earlier. It created a sensation with its ornamental possibilities and unique qualities of illumination. Waller remarked, “My grandpa was always very proud of that fact. The sign wasn’t custom, though. I’ve seen it on another diner on the North Shore [of Massachusetts]. It was likely made up in a Claude Neon franchise, [which controlled the business in the United States at that time] and shipped to a local sign company who set it up. In those days, as now, you could buy generic signs from a catalogue before neon shops were plentiful.” The electric sign industry pegs the peak use of neon to the 1930s and 1940s, with spectacular creations continuing into the 1950s.
Some diners had rooflines articulated with neon tubing and featured a prominent clock, hinting that it was “time to eat.” The Boulevard Diner in Worcester, Massachusetts, operating at its Shrewsbury Street location since 1937, is a great example. With “Boulevard Diner” emblazoned in Old English lettering across the porcelain enamel facade, the ensemble includes a generic “DINER” swing sign over the sidewalk. Striving for more prominence to further gain an edge over the competition, larger and more garish signs adorned the new highway diners of the era. In 1954, soaring above Zip’s Diner in Dayville, Connecticut, was an immense pylon topped by the command in neon: “EAT.” The sign continues to beckon today. Similarly, that same year the Hyland Diner in Danvers, Massachusetts, erected a gigantic sign at the roadside of its Route 1 location. HistoricNewEngland.org
Diners in the cities went for bold statements. In 1953 Al McDermott commissioned neon signage running nearly the entire length of his new 65-foot establishment in Fall River, Massachusetts. This read, “DINER . . . Al Mac’s . . . RESTAURANT” and indicated the shift toward catering to family-oriented business that the industry was courting. The sign also included the eatery’s slogan, “JUSTLY FAMOUS SINCE 1910,” the year when Al Mac went into business with a horse-drawn lunch wagon. The Interstate Highway System, born in 1956, loomed large in the minds of small business owners like diner operators. The October 1957 issue of Diner Drive-In magazine reported some reactions: “These new limited access highways will ruin my business.” “Motorists won’t bother with my place. They’ll be hell-bent on speeding to their destination and will eat when they get there.” “How will the driver know where to turn off to get to a [diner] when he’s barreling down the pike at 60 miles an hour?” The answer was bigger and taller signs. As diners have become recognized for their distinctive architecture, design, food, and ambience, it should not be forgotten that image and signage are integral to the pull that they have on our psyches and our stomachs. Preservationists strive to protect the best of our heritage; the U.S. Department of the Interior adds this to the mix: “Preserving historic signs is not always easy, but the intrinsic merit of many signs, as well as their contribution to the overall character of a place, make the effort worthwhile.”
by Sally Zimmerman, Senior Preservation Services Manager Boston’s red, white, and blue Citgo sign lights the sky high above Kenmore Square, a landmark in the textbook sense of an easily seen object that helps identify a location. But there’s been a question Photo by James Owens since the 1980s about whether the sign is also a landmark in the preservation sense, as an object deserving protection under the city’s landmarks statute. The Citgo sign, erected in 1965, stands atop a 1910, sixstory commercial building built for the Peerless Motor Car Company. The Peerless building anchored a prominent location at the head of the early twentieth-century “auto mile” of car showrooms that once lined Commonwealth Avenue. Purchased by Cities Service Corporation in 1940, the Peerless building became the oil company’s regional headquarters and an earlier version of the iconic sign was installed to mark the spot. From the 1940s through the 1960s, large, boldly lit neon and incandescent signs were a lively feature of the region’s rooftops and roadways. Among the brightest and most 20
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eye-catching were the “spectaculars,” signs that combined movement with colored lighting in flashy brilliance. On the White Fuel Company sign, a lost Kenmore Square spectacular, incandescent bulbs in sequence spouted “oil” from a Texas-style derrick. Nearby on Storrow Drive, reflections in the Charles River luridly mirrored back the red script logo atop the Coca-Cola Bottling Plant, while Shell Oil Company’s yellow and red display twinkled on and off from Memorial Drive. Among the many such signs that once lit the Boston skyline, the modernist Citgo and Cambridge’s big yellow shell are some of the last survivors. Preservation of the Citgo sign has been on and off the table for decades. Darkened during the 1970s oil crisis, the Citgo sign was to be demolished in the early 1980s before a petition to study the sign as a Boston Landmark resurrected it. While not acted on, the sign’s petitioned status provided interim protection from loss. The sign, repaired and relit in 1983, needed further attention by the early 2000s. In 2004, energy-conserving LED bulbs replaced the original neon, cutting costs and renewing the complex structure. Preservation of such signage is an ongoing challenge. Though costly to maintain and operate, and sometimes seen as tawdry or garish, these bright displays nonetheless orient us, not just in the present day, but also to our past.
Mementos: Jewelry of Life and Love Enduring adornments display narratives of joy and sorrow by Laura Johnson, Associate Curator
1828 Mary Bestwick Wright published her poem titled, “To a Lock of hair, set in a Brooch.” It begins, “Memento of my ‘soul’s far better part,’ / Here will I wear thee near unto my own heart.” Wright’s poem captures jewelry’s unique power to express personal sentiment. Adornment is a narrative. Whether it is with fashionable accessories or homemade trinkets, adornment tells a story–about ourselves, our families, and our lives. This spring Historic New England will present its newest exhibition, Mementos: Jewelry of Life and Love, at the Eustis Estate in Milton, Massachusetts. The exhibition draws on Historic New England’s collection of approximately 2,000 pieces of jewelry, spanning the early eighteenth century to the present day. Displayed in five themes that echo the storytelling power of jewelry–Celebrate, Remember, Tour, Collect, and Create–the exhibition showcases souvenir necklaces, diamond brooches, hair bracelets, and fashion jewelry. Here are a few of the many treasures in Mementos. n
Memory Buttons When twenty-one-year-old Elisha Doane wed Jane Cutler in 1783, he was wearing a scarlet coat with elaborate silver,
tortoiseshell, and mother-of-pearl buttons, just as he is depicted in his miniature portrait, shown here. At a later date Doane, or a descendant, removed the buttons and attached one to his portrait, doubling its power as a memento. Doane’s great-granddaughter inherited both the portrait and the coat button and gave them to Historic New England in 1937. The story might have ended there, with the delicate watercolor memorial of a Massachusetts wedding. But a recent discovery added new depth to the tale of Elisha Doane. The remaining buttons from Doane’s coat passed through a different branch of his family. Vipont de Riviere Doane Perry married Edward Merwin in 1923. At her family’s longtime summer home in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, there was a glass case in the first-floor parlor that held many of her favorite treasures. Among them was a string of buttons with a tag in Mrs. Merwin’s handwriting, identifying them as the buttons from her great-great-grandfather Elisha Doane’s wedding outfit. The buttons and miniature will be reunited in the exhibition for the first time in more than ninety years. Designed for Love Before marrying Mollie Armstrong in 1857, Captain Richard Tucker embarked on a tour across Europe to Russia. Along the way he acquired many jewels for his future wife. This necklace (shown on page 22), which bears a Roman hallmark, is a fine example of micromosaic jewelry. Each image was HistoricNewEngland.org
carefully constructed from minuscule slivers of colored glass called “tesserae,” painstakingly assembled like a puzzle and set into gold mounts. Each medallion was then strung on a woven gold chain. After Richard and Mollie married, the couple embarked on the renovation of Castle Tucker, their home in Wiscasset, Maine. Mollie struggled to maintain her previous lifestyle amid the family’s economic setbacks. She must have cherished this necklace, as she carefully reinforced the pendants with goldcolored embroidery thread after the original gold connectors began to break. “Near unto my own heart” Margaret Duncan, shown below in a photographic portrait made at a studio in Haverhill, Massachusetts, spent more than
two years in mourning. Her father, the Honorable James H. Duncan, died in February 1869. Her sister Rebecca, who went to Hawaii for health reasons accompanied by Margaret, died abroad in 1870. Strict etiquette surrounded the clothing and adornment that family members wore during periods of mourning. Margaret and her sisters shared their family’s mourning jewelry, choosing various pieces from the collection they had amassed over the years in marking the memory and passing of loved ones. Margaret is wearing a small group of pieces from her family’s extensive collection. The brooch contains her father’s hair; the hair of her sister Rebecca is woven into the lyre pendant hanging beneath it. Each earring commemorates a sibling who died in childhood. Margaret also chose to wear a rope of Rebecca’s jet beads. The set includes a small brooch that commemorates Margaret’s grandfather. While such pieces may seem macabre to viewers today, these jewels were visible, tangible ways to mark the continued memory of beloved family members in this close-knit clan. Costume or Couture? The popularity of costume jewelry dates to the period between the First and Second World Wars. The rise of department stores, the emergence of Hollywood celebrity, and the economic swings that culminated in the Great Depression drastically affected American interest in fashion jewelry. Designers intended pieces to resemble precious jewelry, as few Americans could afford the real thing. This silver brooch below, which depicts a bird in a wreath, was made in the 1940s by Coro Inc. of Providence, Rhode Island (which, along with Attleboro, Massachusetts, dominated costume jewelry manufacturing for decades).
Margaret Duncan wore these mourning earrings and pendant, each of which contains a different color braid of hair, faceted jet beads, and seed pearls, which symbolize tears.
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It is a near copy of a fine silver brooch that artist and craftsman Kristian Mohl-Hansen designed for Danish silversmith Georg Jensen, c. 1904. Coro produced several Jensen-esque designs as part of its “Nordic” line in the 1940s. The donor of the brooch, who purchased it at an antiques store in Maine, pinned it to the lapel of her red Pendleton jacket each December as her Christmas jewelry. Custom Wiring In 1937 Harvard University invited Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius to chair the department of architecture’s new Graduate School of Design. The home that Gropius designed in Lincoln, Massachusetts, became an immediate draw for students of design as well as an international group of friends. As soon as they arrived, and during World War II, Walter and his wife, Ise, worked tirelessly to help their friends and family in Europe. To celebrate the arrival of the first few Bauhauslers in the United States, fellow architect Marcel Breuer and his wife, Constance, (who had built their home just down the road) hosted a New Year’s party as 1940 ended. Not only was it notable for the stellar guest list, but also for the outstanding jewelry the women wore, recorded in photographs that Ise pasted into the Gropius House guest book. The party coincided with a significant jewelry exhibition in New York at the Marian Willard gallery. Sculptor Alexander Calder, who had been making wire jewelry for friends and family since the 1930s in Paris, offered a range of jewelry for sale at Willard’s gallery in December 1940. This party, held that same month, included Calder and his wife, Louisa, who were good friends of the Breuers; as well as architect Josep Lluis Sert and his wife, Moncha. Sert knew Calder from their work together on the Spanish Pavillion at the Paris Exposition of 1937 (World’s Fair), which included Calder’s famous Mercury fountain. Moncha Sert collected Calder’s jewelry, as did Connie Breuer. Naturally Willard was a key component of the party. Nearly all of the women photographed at this party were wearing Calder jewelry. Calder’s jewelry debuted at Willard’s gallery to great success. Calder loved to make personalized jewelry for his family and friends. Many of these items were brooches designed with the name or initials of the recipient. At the New Year’s party, or shortly thereafter, the Gropiuses’ daughter, Ati, received a special gift from Calder: a brass and silver wire brooch that spelled out her name. The brooch, which her daughter loaned to the exhibition, will be on view to the public for the first time. These are some of the more than 130 pieces included in Mementos: Jewelry of Life and Love. Displayed with complementary textiles, portraits, and photographs, these objects are memory storehouses that illuminate a facet of New England’s past. Many of the exhibition items are featured in the book Keepsakes and Treasures: Stories from Historic New England’s Jewelry Collection, which can be purchased online at HistoricNewEngland.org or by calling 617-994-5924.
Sculptor Alexander Calder made this unique pin for Ati Gropius, which spells out her name. He probably presented it to her at a New Year’s party held to usher in 1941. Nearly all of the women photographed at the celebration, their pictures placed in the guest book below, were wearing pieces that Calder had created for them.
Defending the Walls AT
by Laura Lacombe, independent architectural conservator
IN 2013 CASTLE TUCKERâ€™S NORTH BOW END, ONE OF the semicircular bays adorning the sides of the building, showed alarming rates of deterioration. The north and south hemispheres of this 1807 Regency-style townhouse in Wiscasset, Maine, had been altered in the 1850s; the chimneys were moved to the outer edge of each bow end in a campaign to improve the heating system throughout the house and the center windows were closed up with a softer brick-and-mortar combination of the chimney stack. The incompatibility of the chimney bricks and the subsequent inappropriate application of latex paint layers created a host of water-related problems on the north bow end, where moisture collected within the porous bricks, damaging the bricks and the paint. In 2014 a repair project was initiated. Damaged bricks were removed, the paint stripped with an environmentally friendly chemical remover, and the damaged masonry units replaced with a more compatible brick-and-mortar combination. The north bow end is completely repaired but remains unpainted. Repair of the south bow end will be undertaken when the budget allows. The next step is to determine what type of paint to use for repainting. Historically, Castle Tucker was painted white and should remain painted, both to reflect the period of significance of the building and to protect the bricks from the salty, humid air. In July 2016 baseline water absorption samples were taken on the painted and unpainted surfaces of the bricks. This data will help determine the degree of protection and water blockage that the current latex paint is providing as well as the unpainted brick absorption capabilities. Brick samples were collected from the site (extras from 2014 repairs in the barn) and will be tested with modern and historic paint samples to determine the best product to use. RILEM tubes, pictured here, were designed to measure the rate of absorption of a wall surface when presented with 98 mph wind-driven rain. They are affixed to a wall using special putty and filled with water. When the water level reaches the top of the tube a timer starts and the researcher records how much is absorbed every 30 seconds. The resulting chart gives a baseline for absorption capabilities.
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Artisans and Craﬅspeople: Then and Now
Shanon Wood and Mary Aldrich of International Fine Art Conservation Studios (IFACS) working in the main hall of the Eustis Estate mansion. As chief conservator and senior project manager of Atlanta, Georgia-based IFACS, Aldrich heads the team working on the paint restoration effort.
In May the Eustis Estate in Milton, Massachusetts, opens to the public. The staff of Historic New England is working to transform this 1878 property—which consists of a mansion, outbuildings, and eighty acres of designed landscape and open space—from a private home into a museum and study center. Restoration work on the mansion, a grand stone structure designed by William Ralph Emerson, is leading to some fascinating discoveries as every nook and cranny in the house is examined. Our staff members researched some of these discoveries and talked with specialists who are well versed in the remarkable craftsmanship that decorators of the nineteenth century employed in their work. HistoricNewEngland.org
Window Shades: W. J. McPherson’s Stained Glass
By Elyse Werling, Curatorial and Interpretive Planning Assistant
When entering the Eustis mansion, two striking stained glass windows greet you from the vestibule doors. One of Historic New England’s first restoration projects required sending the panels to a conservator’s workshop. When they were removed from the doors, a telling detail came to light: a signature identifying William J. McPherson of 440 Tremont Street in Boston, written plainly on the hidden edge of the glass, as the creator of the panels. A native of Scotland, he learned his trade there under the tutelage of respected painter and grainer David Hay (17981866) of Edinburgh. McPherson and his brother Walter immigrated to Boston in the early 1840s, establishing their business in 1845. Walter died in 1860 and William continued to operate the business until 1900. A highly successful artisan and businessman, McPherson’s net worth in the 1870s ranged between $20,000 and $50,000, according to a credit reporting firm, which consistently listed him as one of the finest workmen in the trade. In a 1910 publication titled The Oldest Paint Shops in Massachusetts, author William E. Wall offered this proclamation about McPherson: “No shop ever established in Boston has done more good for the craft, both master and man, than that of W. J. McPherson. He always advocated the highest grade of work that his clients could afford, and he never rushed his men.” McPherson eventually expanded his shop to employ 150 men. Over time he employed many artisans who would go on to make names for themselves, such as Donald MacDonald (1841-1916), a partner with whom he split in 1876; and John La Farge (1835-1910), who worked for McPherson in the early to mid-1870s. While it is certain that the set of windows at the Eustis mansion 26
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came from McPherson’s shop, it is very likely that a stained glass artisan in his employ was the fabricator. An 1888 advertising pamphlet in the collection of the Corning Museum of Glass lists McPherson’s stained glass jobs, which included the Connecticut State Capitol and Memorial Hall at Harvard University. Part of the interiors of Old South Church on Boylston Street and Park Street Church, both in Boston, were also products of McPherson’s firm. The McPherson stained glass panels stand as an introduction to the masterful interiors of the Eustis mansion. Artisans were involved in detailing every wall, crevice, and corner of the public spaces in the house with exquisite finishes that when exhibited together exemplify the Aesthetic Movement in the Boston area. This refined ornamentation can especially be seen in the decorative wall surfaces, the details of which were discovered after an extensive analysis and research project conducted by Historic New England. above Signature and address written on stained glass panel. below W. J. McPherson’s trade card. page 27 left An advertisement c. 1895 for the decorative painting firm. right Area where painters dated their job in the attic of the Eustis mansion.
L. Haberstroh & Son, Decorative Painters By Elyse Werling, Curatorial and Interpretive Planning Assistant
As part of the transformation of the Eustis mansion from a private home into a public museum space, electricians replaced much of the wiring. In the highest point of the attic one electrician made what is among the most exciting finds yet at the property: a painter’s signature identifying the firm of L. Haberstroh & Son as having worked on the house in 1883. The date of the signature corresponds with what is believed to be the completion date of the house. This discovery has opened new doors in our research and interpretation of the estate. Lucas Haberstroh (1822-1883) was a German-born artisan who immigrated to Boston after living in England. He established a decorative painting firm in 1848 and in 1877 his son Albert (1855-1912) joined him. The firm of L. Haberstroh & Son operated out of School Street in Boston until the elder Haberstroh’s death. Albert then moved the business to 9 Park Street, where it remained for more than twenty years. In 1905 Albert bought the building at 647 Boylston Street in Copley Square, where the firm operated until his death. To this day the building’s facade bears the firm’s name and decorative ornamentation. L. Haberstroh & Son was a prominent decorative arts firm. An 1895 advertisement promotes the business as “interior decorators and painters” specializing in “tapestries, embossed leather, mosaic, and textile fabric effects reproduced on ceilings and walls.” Albert Haberstroh explained this specialization further in his 1889 book, Art in Decoration. He
describes a patented system called the “Haberstroh Process,” a decorative technique that allows a designer to stencil walls and other surfaces in high and low relief. This technique may have been used on the walls in the small parlor of the Eustis mansion. L. Haberstroh & Son decorated numerous private residences and commercial buildings and assisted in the interior decoration of several well-known theaters and churches, including parts of the Colonial Theatre (1900) and the Cutler Majestic Theatre (1903), both in Boston.
‘No Shard is Too Small to Save’:
Conserving the McPherson Stained Glass Panels By Alex Carlisle, Supervising Conservator
After assessing the surface damage of the McPherson stained glass panels – they had bowed outward over time – it was clear that their long-term preservation required the attention of a specialized conservator. Diane Rousseau of Diane Rousseau Conservation in North Adams, Massachusetts, was commissioned to handle the task. Rousseau was initially drawn to preservation while studying abroad in East Anglia, Norwich, a medieval city in England, and soon after enrolled in the Vauxhall College of Applied Arts in South London. While there, “the gift of a gorgeous Edwardian window, in precarious condition, redirected my focus toward stained glass,” Rousseau said. Her specialty is stained glass but she also treats glass objects and high-fired ceramics. “The skill set and materials to reconstruct a shattered chandelier have much in common with what’s needed [to repair] a vandalized stained glass window.” Rousseau approaches conservation projects with a “range of sophisticated adhesives, and the sense that no shard is too small to save.” Her assessment of the panels explains why there was an urgent need for treatment: Active, daily use over a century, combined with a minor design flaw caused a gradual decline in stability. The panels have swung back and forth thousands of times for more than 130 years, and their large size and design took a toll on the materials. “The panels were crafted to fit the door openings with extreme precision, and since wood, lead, and glass 28
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undergo expansion/contraction cycles under heat and cold,” Rousseau said, “the tight fit may have caused the panels to begin deflecting laterally.” Rousseau also found that McPherson’s design was a factor. “The glass is in many small, densely leaded pieces, with abstract floral, water, and sun patterns framing a central lozenge of irregular shapes. These are basically concentric rectangles. …When the panels deflected, glass started to break and leads to bend.” Rousseau developed a conservation plan that is unique to these panels, taking into consideration Historic New England’s approach to preservation. “Minimum intervention, with enough restoration and restructuring to accommodate the panels’ intended use” is the strategy she employed. Rousseau’s work includes strategically disassembling the panels to make the necessary repairs. Any broken pieces of glass will be reassembled using a special epoxy that matches so well that the repair lines will be almost invisible. Only a few of the damaged lead lines between the glass fragments needed to be replaced because much of it is in good condition despite its age. “There is a common misconception that stained glass windows need to be completely disassembled and re-leaded every hundred years,” Rousseau said. She counters with the example that while a 600-year-old European window may have been regularly releaded, it is often due to damage incurred during wartime. The McPherson panels in the Eustis mansion have not been exposed to such drastic conditions, so a much less invasive conservation technique can be used.
Restoring the Haberstroh Hues By Melanie Weston, Preservation Manager During the spring of 2016, International Fine Art Conservation Studios (IFACS) was at the Eustis mansion to begin the first phase of an intensive paint restoration project. This phase included investigating the original paint systems and creating mock-ups of the original colors. After members of the IFACS team first visited the property they were “delightfully surprised to find that the house was in such good shape,” said Mary Aldrich, IFACS chief conservator. “All of the surfaces have been cared for over the years. Even small details, like door hardware, which is often replaced or broken over time, is intact.” Aldrich was captivated by the paint colors. “They are harmonious and there is a flow from room to room. It’s obvious the original painters were artists, and put a great deal of thought into the sophisticated palette.” As the lead for the IFACS team that is re-creating and restoring the paint scheme, it is fitting that Aldrich is not only a conservator, but also a lover of historic buildings. She said it was “a love of paint and color combined with an interest in historic buildings” that drew her to paint conservation. After receiving a bachelor of fine arts from the University of North Carolina, Aldrich went through a training program with the City and Guilds of London. In collaboration with the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, she learned advanced decorative techniques such as gilding, stenciling, plasterwork, and the use of historic paints.
“Since going through the City and Guilds program sixteen years ago, I’ve been able to travel around the country with IFACS restoring historic buildings such as theaters, house museums, and churches,” she said. The IFACS team returned to the site this winter to implement its recommendations. “The Eustis Estate project will take several weeks to complete,” Aldrich explained. “The first step is to clean and stabilize the plaster walls and ceilings. Any plaster repairs will be done during this time. Repairs will be followed by applying layers of paint, metal leaf, and metallic powders. The final step will be glazing and/or applying pigmented varnishes which add depth and protect the painted surfaces.” The project is not only time consuming; it is challenging as well. “The biggest challenge,” Aldrich said, “is the application of multiple layers of paint and varnish. Each wall must be visited several times. So planning the most efficient way to work and to utilize our access to equipment will be important to keep us on schedule.” Despite the demands of the work, Aldrich recognizes the importance of using traditional paints, especially on a project like the Eustis mansion. “Hand-ground paints have a quality of color and finish that can’t be replicated with modern commercial paints,” she said. “When applied with a brush, hand-ground paint has a soft quality that accentuates the beauty of old plaster walls.” HistoricNewEngland.org
News and notes from Historic New England
Royal Barry Wills in a 1949 photographic portrait by Bachrach. The architect was renowned nationwide not only for the single-family residences he designed but also for the books he wrote about architecture.
DIGITIZING ARCHITECT’S ‘GOOD LIVING’ LEGACY In 1946 Life magazine published an extensive article about Royal Barry Wills with the subtitle “Boston Architect Designs the Kinds of Houses Most Americans Want.” The piece went on to describe Wills as “the nation’s most popular architectural author…and the leading U.S. designer of small traditional houses.” Wills achieved these distinctions through his talent for design, brilliant marketing skills, prodigious work ethic, and clear understanding of the aspirations and desires of his clients. After founding his firm in 1925, Wills would go on to design 2,500 single-family residences across the country, many in the Cape Cod style; write eight books about architecture, 30
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Houses for Good Living among them; host a radio program; lecture widely; receive numerous awards; supply “Home Building Plans” for a number of newspapers; and become the subject of feature articles in Life, The Saturday Evening Post, and Good Housekeeping. Following Wills’ death in 1962, his son Richard became a principal in the firm. Under Richard Wills’ direction, the firm, renamed Royal Barry Wills Associates, continued to design houses and other structures throughout the United States that were based on the design principles expounded by his father. In 2013, Royal Barry Wills Associates donated its archival holdings to Historic New England. The collection contains materials from the 1920s to 2003 and includes architectural drawings for 2,000 projects (32,000 individual items); 6,000 black-and-white and color photographs; 800 8”x10” negatives; 74 linear feet of project files; and 27.5 linear feet of scrapbooks, publicity files, original manuscripts and accompanying illustrations, reference resources, recordings, speech scripts, certificates, and diplomas. In September 2016, Historic New England was awarded a $150,000 Museums for America grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to support a twoyear project to catalogue, clean, rehouse, digitize, and provide online access to the Royal Barry Wills Associates Archive. The IMLS grant funds will enable us to digitize 11,000 key items (6,000 drawings, 4,000 photographs, and 1,000 other items) that illustrate the firm’s many projects, expand public access to the collection, and broaden awareness of the tremendous influence the Wills firm has had on domestic architecture in America. Lorna Condon, Senior Curator of Library and Archives
DOWN BY THE RIVERSIDE The Housatonic Valley Association’s (HVA) Massachusetts regional office is truly in its element since relocating to Merwin House, Historic New England’s 1825 property located in Stockbridge. With the Housatonic River right in its backyard now, the organization is environmentally and operationally well situated to continue advancing its conservation mission in partnership with Historic New England. “We are definitely enjoying our new home,” said Dennis Regan, HVA’s Berkshire director. “This is a tremendous partnership. It’s a win-win on this one.” HVA was established in 1941, Historic New England in 1910. As partners, the organizations’ efforts and accomplishments add up to more than 175 years of stewardship of regional treasures. Regan characterizes Merwin House and its Stockbridge neighborhood as the perfect spot for HVA’s regional office (HVA has a second regional office in Wassaic, New York, while its general office is located in Cornwall Bridge, Connecticut). The setting is peaceful and quiet, and it has an inviting presence. “People walk their dogs and stop to chat,” he said. “It’s a great environment.” That aura is no doubt why the family that formerly owned Merwin House named it “Tranquility.” The inspiring backyard Housatonic River vista prompted an artist to capture spring and winter scenes on canvas. HVA moved to Merwin House from its previous home in Lee, Massachusetts, last fall. HVA was founded to protect the land and water of the Housatonic Watershed, which spans from western Massachusetts to southern Connecticut and includes some areas in New York State. The partnership with Historic New England is helping HVA expand its outreach. HVA is planning interactive educational displays and workshops that “tie in all things river,” Regan said, capitalizing on other areas of interest in which the Housatonic plays a role, such as biology, history, and culture. These offerings will be targeted to appeal to local residents as well as visitors to the Berkshires region, where tourism is vibrant. Dorothy Clark, Editor
VERMONT’S GRANGE WAY OF LIFE At 7 p.m. on a September evening last year, West Topsham, Vermont, was cloaked in silence and the first chill of fall. But inside Riverside Grange Hall there were frequent outbursts of laughter as eleven members shared memories during a Story Circle with Greg Sharrow of the Vermont Folklife Center about growing up in the Grange. This
An unsigned, undated painting of the Housatonic River as seen from the backyard of Merwin House in Stockbridge, Mass. The piece of art, which depicts the serenity of the environment, hangs in the house with a companion summer scene.
Story Circle was a kick-off event for Historic New England’s latest Vermont Everyone’s History project, a thirty-minute film celebrating the role of the Grange in the state’s agricultural heritage and exploring its continuing relevance through the stories of two local granges–Riverside and Middle Branch. Oral histories will anchor the film, interspersed with archival images and footage of present-day Grange events. This year the National Grange marks its 150th anniversary, an ideal time to draw attention to its importance as an organization that has offered political, economic, and social support to rural communities in Vermont since the late nineteenth century. Though best known today to the general public for community suppers and service work, local granges are like a tight-knit family to their members, who enjoy a full calendar of activities from corn roasts and play performances to card parties and dances. However, as younger generations leave rural areas for better job opportunities elsewhere, Grange membership has steadily declined and aged. Between 1992 and 2016, the number of granges in Vermont dropped by more than 50 percent, creating the possibility that the organization will disappear from the state’s cultural and physical landscapes. Free film screenings and related discussions in Grange communities around the state and airing on local access stations will create opportunities for new connections and potential partnerships among the Grange, local communities, and statewide agricultural organizations. Charlotte Barrett, Community Preservation Manager, Western New England HistoricNewEngland.org
Students make tracks to Winter Ecology classes by Adam Lowe, Education Program Coordinator
After the leaves have fallen and the crisp
autumn days are replaced by the frigid, cutting winds of December, long dark nights chase the sun’s low arc in the sky. Winter is upon us at Casey Farm. Fields lie dormant, the hum of the farmer’s machinery a distant memory. Although some traditional farming activities cease with the transition to the cold season, for Casey Farm staff in Saunderstown, Rhode Island, education doesn’t stop in the winter. In fact, all kindergarten classes in the North Kingstown School District, as well as a charter school in Providence and several parochial schools, invite us in to teach a unique Winter Ecology program. While many people might prefer to huddle inside, gazing out the window at the snow and gray, students studying Winter Ecology bundle up to go outside their school buildings to investigate the winter world. Students learn which animals migrate, hibernate, and stay active. They learn the basics of animal tracking and scat identification. Activities include using natural materials to insulate and keep their gelatin-made critters from freezing and playing active games to learn about how animals adapt to survive the cold. Learning about the natural world in their own environment (as opposed to traveling to a nature preserve) allows students to appreciate the biodiversity that dwells with us. Students are surprised to find coyote tracks by the playground or watch a downy woodpecker drilling
Historic New England Winter 2017
for insects just outside their school. They may detect the musky smell of fox in the ditch near the bushes or wonder about the frogs in the icy woodland pond. They may even awaken in the middle of the night to the sound of a great horned owl hooting in the January mating season. Whether learning about the seasons as a five–year-old or supplementing science studies in third grade, students enjoy the hands-on, experiential lessons and natural history observation that Casey Farm education programs bring to their schools. above Children participate in a scavenger hunt while taking part in the Winter Ecology program. below Playground activities keep the children moving during their winter studies.
Coming This Spring
Historic New England invites you to experience the Eustis Estate in Milton, Massachusetts w
aturday, April 29: Gilded Glamour, a ticketed gala that will recall the splendor of S Americaâ€™s Gilded Age
ednesday, May 10 through Sunday, May 14: Member Preview Week. Visit the W Eustis Estate before it opens to the general public. Perfect for Motherâ€™s Day!
ednesday, May 17: The Eustis Estate opens to the public. Explore the house and W landscape your way, and see the premiere exhibition, Mementos: Jewelry of Life and Love from Historic New England
HistoricNewEngland.org | 33
Non-Profit Organization U.S. Postage PAID Boston, Massachusetts Permit No. 58621 141 Cambridge Street Boston, Mass. 02114-2702
Codman Scion Portrait is Home to Stay by Nancy Carlisle, Senior Curator of Collections Portrait of John Codman III (1755-1803), c. 1800, by John Singleton Copley (1738-1815), oil on canvas.
Codman, a successful merchant whose ships traded with Spain, Portugal, France, Holland, and the French West Indies, is one of the pivotal figures in the history of the Codman Estate, located in Lincoln, Massachusetts. In the 1790s he invested thousands of dollars of his own money, as well as funds he held in trust for his son, and turned a two-story L-shaped Georgian house into the three-story Federal mansion that we know today. Codman’s wife’s family, the Russells, constructed the original house around 1740. Codman’s son, Charles Russell Codman, inherited the residence in 1790. As his ohn
son’s executor the elder Codman spent the next ten years turning the property into an up-to-date country seat that his contemporary, Mrs. Christopher Gore, called “the handsomest place in America.” In the 1760s and 1770s, John Singleton Copley was America’s most successful and accomplished artist. It is not surprising that John Codman sought Copley when he visited England some years after the artist had moved there. Copley painted Codman’s portrait in Torquay, England, around 1800. The portrait shows a ruddy-cheeked Codman in front of a red damask curtain and beyond him in the lower left is a mountainous landscape with dramatic clouds. Perhaps Copley included the landscape because he knew about Codman’s obsession with his family’s land in Lincoln. Copley had visited the property in the 1760s when it belonged to Codman’s in-laws. Most of the paintings at the Codman Estate came through Ogden Codman Sr. or his progeny. However, this portrait descended through the son of John Codman III, to the family members who loaned it to Historic New England in 1988. They recently offered it for private sale and we were able to purchase it. The painting will remain on view, a core part of the museum’s story and a legacy of the Codman family.
The award-winning Historic New England magazine is a benefit of membership. To join, please visit HistoricNewEngland.org. 34
Historic New England Winter 2017
Read about the art of neon sign collecting, the legacy of Vermont’s marble industry, an artist-in-residence at Governor John Langdon House,...
Published on Jun 15, 2017
Read about the art of neon sign collecting, the legacy of Vermont’s marble industry, an artist-in-residence at Governor John Langdon House,...