Recent Acquisition: Lynn Fontanne’s Pearls
A set of faux pearls designed by Antonio Castillo (1908 - 1984) that Lynn Fontanne wore in her final stage production, The Visit, a gift of the Theater Hall of Fame. 
Castillo, who won the Academy Award in costume design for the film Nicholas and Alexandra, created some of Lynn Fontanne’s most elegant and memorable stage costumes, including these pearls, said to have been inspired by Barbara Hutton’s magnificent necklace once (reportedly) owned by Marie Antoinette. 
Speaking of Nicholas and Alexandra, 2013 marks the four hundredth anniversary of the founding of the Romanov dynasty - the Imperial family that ruled Russia for 305 years - an anniversary marked by numerous museum exhibitions throughout the country.

Recent Acquisition: Lynn Fontanne’s Pearls

A set of faux pearls designed by Antonio Castillo (1908 - 1984) that Lynn Fontanne wore in her final stage production, The Visit, a gift of the Theater Hall of Fame. 

Castillo, who won the Academy Award in costume design for the film Nicholas and Alexandracreated some of Lynn Fontanne’s most elegant and memorable stage costumes, including these pearls, said to have been inspired by Barbara Hutton’s magnificent necklace once (reportedly) owned by Marie Antoinette. 

Speaking of Nicholas and Alexandra, 2013 marks the four hundredth anniversary of the founding of the Romanov dynasty - the Imperial family that ruled Russia for 305 years - an anniversary marked by numerous museum exhibitions throughout the country.

Ex Libris Ten Chimneys: The Collected Poems of Rupert Brooke 
This Veterans Day weekend I have been reflecting on the impact World War One had on the lives and destinies of Lynn Fontanne, Alfred Lunt and all of their generation. Born in the closing years of the nineteenth century this war dominated the events of their twenties. Alfred Lunt and his family were summering, as usual, in Finland that August of 1914 when the outbreak of war interrupted their summer idyll. After a harrowing adventure crossing the frontier and securing passage on a ship leaving the Baltic for America Alfred Lunt urgently needed to create a homestead for his mother and younger siblings. In 1915 the first parcel of land was purchased and construction of the Main House begun. Lynn Fontanne was most personally affected by World War I when her fiancé was killed and she had to manage the disposition of his estate.
Lynn Fontanne’s name is inscribed on the inside cover of The Collected Poems of Rupert Brooke found in the Ten Chimneys Library.  Perhaps she would have taken this volume down on a gray November afternoon and thought of her killed fiancé when she read “The Soldier” written by English poet Rupert Brooke not long before he enlisted in 1914.  Brooke would die aboard a French hospital ship the following year.
The Soldier by Rupert Brooke 
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.  
And think this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds, dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven. 

Ex Libris Ten Chimneys: The Collected Poems of Rupert Brooke

This Veterans Day weekend I have been reflecting on the impact World War One had on the lives and destinies of Lynn Fontanne, Alfred Lunt and all of their generation. Born in the closing years of the nineteenth century this war dominated the events of their twenties. Alfred Lunt and his family were summering, as usual, in Finland that August of 1914 when the outbreak of war interrupted their summer idyll. After a harrowing adventure crossing the frontier and securing passage on a ship leaving the Baltic for America Alfred Lunt urgently needed to create a homestead for his mother and younger siblings. In 1915 the first parcel of land was purchased and construction of the Main House begun. Lynn Fontanne was most personally affected by World War I when her fiancé was killed and she had to manage the disposition of his estate.

Lynn Fontanne’s name is inscribed on the inside cover of The Collected Poems of Rupert Brooke found in the Ten Chimneys Library.  Perhaps she would have taken this volume down on a gray November afternoon and thought of her killed fiancé when she read “The Soldier” written by English poet Rupert Brooke not long before he enlisted in 1914.  Brooke would die aboard a French hospital ship the following year.

The Soldier by Rupert Brooke

If I should die, think only this of me:

That there’s some corner of a foreign field

That is for ever England. There shall be

In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;

A dust whom England bore, shaped made aware,

Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,

A body of England’s, breathing English air,

Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home. 

And think this heart, all evil shed away,

A pulse in the eternal mind, no less

Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;

Her sights and sounds, dreams happy as her day;

And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,

In hearts at peace, under an English heaven. 

Rows of established oak trees, fieldstones, and remnants of fencing mark the parameters of the original pastures at Ten Chimneys. Nearly sixty years of overgrowth having obscured their location, a colleague and I spent an afternoon walking the property searching for these tell-tale signs to discover and document their locations. We discovered at least three distinct small pastures along the service drive near the barn. The estate’s farm manager, Ben Perkins, cyclically rotated the Lunts Jersey cows – moving them to the next pasture once they had eaten the available grasses. With the departure of cows from Ten Chimneys in 1953 and the death of Lunts’ horse in the late 1960s, the forest reclaimed the pastures transforming the pastoral landscape the Lunts would have known to a more densly wooded one today.

Rows of established oak trees, fieldstones, and remnants of fencing mark the parameters of the original pastures at Ten Chimneys. Nearly sixty years of overgrowth having obscured their location, a colleague and I spent an afternoon walking the property searching for these tell-tale signs to discover and document their locations. We discovered at least three distinct small pastures along the service drive near the barn. The estate’s farm manager, Ben Perkins, cyclically rotated the Lunts Jersey cows – moving them to the next pasture once they had eaten the available grasses. With the departure of cows from Ten Chimneys in 1953 and the death of Lunts’ horse in the late 1960s, the forest reclaimed the pastures transforming the pastoral landscape the Lunts would have known to a more densly wooded one today.

From the Archives …
American Theatre Wing War Service 
The American Theatre Wing was Broadway’s humanitarian and patriotic response to the Second World War.  Numerous efforts were undertaken by actors of stage and screen who used their celebrity status to sell war bonds, perform for the troops, and raise money for humanitarian causes brought on by the war including the Finnish War Relief  Fund and Bundles for Britain. The American Theatre Wings Stage Door Canteens proved their best-known effort. Here actors and others associated with the theatre served free food to uniformed military personnel.  Some evenings the Stage Door Canteen in the basement of the 44th Street Theater served over 3,000 people. 
Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne devoted themselves passionately to this effort. Lynn wrote Alexander Woollcott in April of 1942 “The canteen is my pride and joy and the center of my life” and that same month Alfred Lunt, already well-known as a “foodie” in today’s parlance, began a series of cooking classes in New York. Alfred Lunt began teaching a series of cooking classes that included six lessons at ten dollars with all proceeds benefiting the Stage Door Canteen. 
From the Ten Chimneys archives we have this press release, written by the actress Constance Collier, announcing the first of these cooking courses and that “Mr. Lunt will attempt to teach the simplest cooking as related to our war-time needs.”  Among the fifty registered for Alfred Lunts’ course was Millicent Hearst, Armina Marshall, and Syrie Maugham.  Lynn Fontanne remembered her husband was more nervous about his first day of teaching than before an opening night. 

From the Archives …

American Theatre Wing War Service

The American Theatre Wing was Broadway’s humanitarian and patriotic response to the Second World War.  Numerous efforts were undertaken by actors of stage and screen who used their celebrity status to sell war bonds, perform for the troops, and raise money for humanitarian causes brought on by the war including the Finnish War Relief  Fund and Bundles for Britain. The American Theatre Wings Stage Door Canteens proved their best-known effort. Here actors and others associated with the theatre served free food to uniformed military personnel.  Some evenings the Stage Door Canteen in the basement of the 44th Street Theater served over 3,000 people.

Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne devoted themselves passionately to this effort. Lynn wrote Alexander Woollcott in April of 1942 “The canteen is my pride and joy and the center of my life” and that same month Alfred Lunt, already well-known as a “foodie” in today’s parlance, began a series of cooking classes in New York. Alfred Lunt began teaching a series of cooking classes that included six lessons at ten dollars with all proceeds benefiting the Stage Door Canteen.

From the Ten Chimneys archives we have this press release, written by the actress Constance Collier, announcing the first of these cooking courses and that “Mr. Lunt will attempt to teach the simplest cooking as related to our war-time needs.”  Among the fifty registered for Alfred Lunts’ course was Millicent Hearst, Armina Marshall, and Syrie Maugham.  Lynn Fontanne remembered her husband was more nervous about his first day of teaching than before an opening night. 

Tuesday, October 2 former Ten Chimneys Preservation Intern and independent historian Erika Laabs will discuss the significant role agriculture played at Ten Chimneys, with special emphasis on the impact World War II, at the Wisconsin Historical Museum. 
In this photo from 1942 Warren O’Brien has captured a threshing crew at work at Ten Chimneys with Alfred Lunt (in white pants), Ben Perkins the estate manager (hands on hips) and local farmer Ed Carroll. To the right they are bagging the grain to be either sold, stored for feeding animals, or used as seed.  On the upper left the straw is being blown into the hay mow of the barn.  In 1945 Alfred Lunt writes from London to his brother-in-law George Bugbee “I wrote Benny [Perkins] not to put in many oats or so much corn next year; just enough to feed the cows, pigs and chickens, not to sell as the price of grain and so forth doesn’t compensate us for the hard labor involved, either morally or in hard cash.” Even from afar the farming concerns of Ten Chimneys were always on Alfred Lunts mind and he and Ben Perkins wrote weekly letters discussing the issues and progress of the agricultural work at “the farm”. This correspondence has provided a rich resource of historic documentation that Erika Laabs has drawn from to expand our understanding of daily life at Ten Chimneys.

Tuesday, October 2 former Ten Chimneys Preservation Intern and independent historian Erika Laabs will discuss the significant role agriculture played at Ten Chimneys, with special emphasis on the impact World War II, at the Wisconsin Historical Museum. 

In this photo from 1942 Warren O’Brien has captured a threshing crew at work at Ten Chimneys with Alfred Lunt (in white pants), Ben Perkins the estate manager (hands on hips) and local farmer Ed Carroll. To the right they are bagging the grain to be either sold, stored for feeding animals, or used as seed.  On the upper left the straw is being blown into the hay mow of the barn.  In 1945 Alfred Lunt writes from London to his brother-in-law George Bugbee “I wrote Benny [Perkins] not to put in many oats or so much corn next year; just enough to feed the cows, pigs and chickens, not to sell as the price of grain and so forth doesn’t compensate us for the hard labor involved, either morally or in hard cash.” Even from afar the farming concerns of Ten Chimneys were always on Alfred Lunts mind and he and Ben Perkins wrote weekly letters discussing the issues and progress of the agricultural work at “the farm”. This correspondence has provided a rich resource of historic documentation that Erika Laabs has drawn from to expand our understanding of daily life at Ten Chimneys.

A morning rain was the perfect opportunity to inspect active drainage of water from Ten Chimneys historic structures. Venturing out with umbrella (and coffee) in-hand I observed how rain is flowering over our buildings looking for any potential problem area that may result in those dreaded leaks.  Where does a large amount of water congregate on a roof? Where are gutters over-flowering? Are the downspouts leaking or clogged?  Are there areas where rain rushing off of a roof can damage plantings?   
Our nine historic buildings provide us with complicated rooflines and diversity of building materials (metal, tile, glass, and wood or asphalt shingle). These diverse roofs and gutters must repel large amounts of water to protect fragile and significant historic interiors.  Understanding where and how water is flowering and being directed off of and away from the buildings is important in preventing potential leaks or addressing future moisture issues.  
And, I have to admit, after a season of drought it was fun to play in the rain. 

A morning rain was the perfect opportunity to inspect active drainage of water from Ten Chimneys historic structures. Venturing out with umbrella (and coffee) in-hand I observed how rain is flowering over our buildings looking for any potential problem area that may result in those dreaded leaks.  Where does a large amount of water congregate on a roof? Where are gutters over-flowering? Are the downspouts leaking or clogged?  Are there areas where rain rushing off of a roof can damage plantings?   

Our nine historic buildings provide us with complicated rooflines and diversity of building materials (metal, tile, glass, and wood or asphalt shingle). These diverse roofs and gutters must repel large amounts of water to protect fragile and significant historic interiors.  Understanding where and how water is flowering and being directed off of and away from the buildings is important in preventing potential leaks or addressing future moisture issues. 

And, I have to admit, after a season of drought it was fun to play in the rain. 

Recommended Readings: The House in Good Taste by Elsie de Wolfe. Published 1913. 
Second in a series of recommended readings for Ten Chimneys Foundation’s current exhibit Stagecraft: The Interior Designs of Claggett Wilson 
Reading Elsie de Wolfe’s chatty and breezy The House in Good Taste is a delightful master class in graceful living.
Her advice on home decoration remains surprising relevant neatly a century later – and though some of her advice proved impractical (“For a Drawing Room … wax candles are perfect”) her influence is undeniable and no design library complete without a copy of The House in Good Taste. In the work she calls for suitability and simplicity in interiors taking her greatest inspiration from the styles of eighteenth-centuryFrance and Colonial America.
Elsie de Wolfe’s influence at Ten Chimneys can be seen in our Entrance Hall and in Lynn Fontanne’s Dressing Room. Entrance Halls and Dressing Room are of key consideration in The House in Good Taste from someone with a keen appreciation for the importance of first impressions. The Lunts and de Wolfe were friends for decades. A friendship documented in the April 28, 1928 issue of the New Yorker “when they [the Lunts] went off to visit their friend Elsie de Wolfe at her exquisitely appointed house in Versailles” and in this photograph of the inscription by Elsie de Wolfe in the Lunts’ copy of her 1941 work Recipes for Successful Dining.

Recommended Readings: The House in Good Taste by Elsie de Wolfe. Published 1913.

Second in a series of recommended readings for Ten Chimneys Foundation’s current exhibit Stagecraft: The Interior Designs of Claggett Wilson

Reading Elsie de Wolfe’s chatty and breezy The House in Good Taste is a delightful master class in graceful living.

Her advice on home decoration remains surprising relevant neatly a century later – and though some of her advice proved impractical (“For a Drawing Room … wax candles are perfect”) her influence is undeniable and no design library complete without a copy of The House in Good Taste. In the work she calls for suitability and simplicity in interiors taking her greatest inspiration from the styles of eighteenth-centuryFrance and Colonial America.

Elsie de Wolfe’s influence at Ten Chimneys can be seen in our Entrance Hall and in Lynn Fontanne’s Dressing Room. Entrance Halls and Dressing Room are of key consideration in The House in Good Taste from someone with a keen appreciation for the importance of first impressions. The Lunts and de Wolfe were friends for decades. A friendship documented in the April 28, 1928 issue of the New Yorker “when they [the Lunts] went off to visit their friend Elsie de Wolfe at her exquisitely appointed house in Versailles” and in this photograph of the inscription by Elsie de Wolfe in the Lunts’ copy of her 1941 work Recipes for Successful Dining.

The Beetle and the Rose Bud 
Late summer finds Ten Chimneys’ staff and volunteers battling an influx of Japanese Beetles. 
First documented in the United States in 1916, the Japanese Beetle can be found in every state east of the Mississippi River.  They can be identified by their shiny, metallic green color and are slightly less than half an inch long. They feed in clusters on the soft mesophyll tissue between the veins of leaves, leaving behind a ghostly lace-like skeleton.  
Frustratingly these invasive pests have an unquenchable taste for our hedge of hybrid rugosa roses (wildberry breeze and wild spice) growing alongside the Greenhouse. They have munched away nearly every summer blossom and many of the leaves.  Japanese beetles also have a taste for birch trees and have been known to defoliate the upper canopy of the tree.  
Our patient and diligent garden volunteers have been knocking the beetles into buckets of soapy water which finishes them off quickly. Our caretaker has also been applying small doses of insecticide onto the shrubs in the late afternoon as well.    
Your local extension agency may be able to help you identify any new pests or diseases you may have noticed in your garden thanks to the strange weather patterns of this spring and summer. The Wisconsin Extension has a handy web site with information on a variety of invasive plants and pests. 

The Beetle and the Rose Bud

Late summer finds Ten Chimneys’ staff and volunteers battling an influx of Japanese Beetles.

First documented in the United States in 1916, the Japanese Beetle can be found in every state east of the Mississippi River.  They can be identified by their shiny, metallic green color and are slightly less than half an inch long. They feed in clusters on the soft mesophyll tissue between the veins of leaves, leaving behind a ghostly lace-like skeleton. 

Frustratingly these invasive pests have an unquenchable taste for our hedge of hybrid rugosa roses (wildberry breeze and wild spice) growing alongside the Greenhouse. They have munched away nearly every summer blossom and many of the leaves.  Japanese beetles also have a taste for birch trees and have been known to defoliate the upper canopy of the tree. 

Our patient and diligent garden volunteers have been knocking the beetles into buckets of soapy water which finishes them off quickly. Our caretaker has also been applying small doses of insecticide onto the shrubs in the late afternoon as well.    

Your local extension agency may be able to help you identify any new pests or diseases you may have noticed in your garden thanks to the strange weather patterns of this spring and summer. The Wisconsin Extension has a handy web site with information on a variety of invasive plants and pests. 

The Glessner House’s William Tyre: An Interview 
Over the past twenty-one months of writing this preservation blog it has been a pleasure to introduce sixteen individuals trusted with caring for historic house museums. My intention for this series (beginning with the curator of Fallingwater) is to promote the excellent work of my colleagues and provide something of a behind the scenes glimpse into the various workings of house museum stewardship. It is also my hope that it can serve as a corrective to the prevalence of pessimism surrounding house museums that I find frustrating and inaccurate.  Impressed with the aesthetic authenticity of Glessner House and the vigor of their public programs on a recent visit I was delighted when William Trye agreed to be included in this interview series.  
 
William Tyre has served as Executive Director and Curator of the H.H. Richardson designed Glessner House Museum in Chicago since October 2007 and is the author of Chicago’s Historic Prairie Avenue, published in 2008.  He holds a Masters in Historic Preservation from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  Prior to coming to Glessner, he served as the comptroller for the Society of Architectural Historians and was the program manager for their site, the Charnley-Persky House Museum, a Chicago landmark designed by Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright in 1892.  
 
What factors contributed to your ability to undertake the recent restoration of the Glessner House’s parlor? 
The restoration of the parlor was first considered in 1991 when a sample of the elaborate hand-stenciled wall covering was produced by The Grammar of Ornament in Denver.  However, the museum did not have funds in hand to continue with the project, so it was shelved.  Three years ago, one of our long time docents passed away and donations were received in her memory specifically earmarked for the parlor.  The next year, a charter docent also passed, and she left a significant unrestricted bequest to the museum.  The Board decided to use the gift to at long last bring the parlor restoration to fruition.  Additional funds were obtained from the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation and the project was completed in October 2011.  We were fortunate to have extraordinary craftsmen for every step of the restoration - from the elaborate wallcovering (which took six months to produce) to the reproduction William Morris “Kennet” draperies and portieres, and from the construction and upholstering of the banquette, to the gold leafing of the moldings.  The finished room, which cost more than $50,000 to restore, is really the jewel-box space within the museum.  
 
What resources do you turn to when researching the house? 

We are extraordinarily lucky to have significant resources for researching and interpreting the house.  Chief among these is the journal of Frances Glessner which chronicles the period 1870 (the year she married) until 1917.  The typed transcript copy of the journal runs nearly 5,000 pages, so the amount of information is quite amazing!  Fortunately, she and her husband John were passionate about their house and their collections, so that type of information is frequently recorded in some detail.  In addition, John Glessner wrote a wonderful story about the house for his two children entitled “The Story of a House” which details working with the architect H. H. Richardson, the construction, and the furnishing and decoration.  The original featured more than 60 professional photographs of the exterior and interior.  (We were able to reprint the Story in its entirety in 2011 through a grant from the Graham Foundation.) The Glessners’ son George was a talented amateur photographer who photographed the house extensively from the time they moved in 1887 until the late 1890s.  Beyond that, our archives contain correspondence between John Glessner and the architect and other vendors who provided services and goods for the house.  We also have the Glessners’ original set of blueprints and specifications for the house.  For anyone interpreting a house, it really is a dream come true! 
 
The room’s wallcovering is remarkable . . . 
The wallcovering is really remarkable, which is why it took 20 years to get it made, as we wanted to make sure it was as close to the original as possible.  The original was designed and produced in 1892 by William Pretyman, a talented designer from England who spent about a decade living in Chicago.  He used a decorator’s grade burlap which he attached to the walls and then sized.  Once that was done he used a series of layers of metallic paints, glazes, two layers of stencils, and hand painting to produce the finished design, which is very much in the style of William Morris.  No doubt he was influenced by the Glessners’ use of Morris fabrics, rugs, and wallpapers elsewhere in the house.  During the 1950s when the house was occupied by the Lithographic Technical Foundation, they painted over the wallcovering, and tests we undertook in the 1990s determined that there was no way to remove the later paint layers without damaging the original painted surface.  Fortunately a pristine section of wallcovering about 12 inches in diameter was found behind the backplate of a wall sconce.  This provided the exact color information, and historic photographs were used to recreate the pattern.  (The original wallcovering was carefully removed and stored).   
 
Has this restoration project influenced the interpretation of the museum? 

The richness of this space is a bit different from the other rooms in the house.  But one must keep in mind this was the primary entertaining space for the Glessners.  It was utilized by Frances Glessner when she would receive in the afternoon, and they would use it for musical entertainments in the evenings.  It is interesting to see how the character of the room changes during the day.  On a sunny day, the room is bathed in sunlight coming through the large south-facing windows into the courtyard, and the wallcovering simply glows.  But in the evening, utilizing a light level similar to what the Glessners would have known, the room becomes warm and rich, the colors of the wallcovering glowing with a richness that does not feel ostentatious, but instead sophisticated.  It says a lot about who the Glessners were as individuals and how they were quite different from their neighbors in the furnishing and decoration of their house.
 
How has working-in and caring-for an H.H. Richardson building influenced your opinion of this architect?  

I have always had a great respect for Richardson, in fact it was one of the reasons I was first drawn to Glessner House.  What I love to tell visitors during tours is that the house was the result of a nearly perfect architect-client relationship.  The Glessners interviewed quite a number of architects before approaching Richardson.  They were disappointed with what the others suggested - all “conventional” houses.  The Glessners were clearly looking for something different.  When they met with Richardson, they found an architect who was progressive and looking for clients who would allow him to express his ideas to their full potential.  John and Frances Glessner had a large library of books on architecture and design and were well-informed and able to understand and appreciate what Richardson suggested.  In the end, the house was the perfect expression of the Glessners, and for Richardson, he stated it was the one house of all the ones he designed in his career, that he would have wished to have lived in himself.  Because of that, my opinion of him continues to grow.  The brilliant floor plan, the treatment of the exterior, the separation of family and servant spaces - everything he did becomes clearer the more time you spend in the house, and you come to realize what a true genius Richardson was.  It is no wonder that he achieved such “stardom” in his short life.  He truly was taking American architecture in a new direction. 
 
The Glessners were significant patrons of music and the performing arts – how does the collection reflect this interest and contribution?  
The Glessners were significant patrons.  John Glessner was a long-time trustee of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Frances Glessner played an important role as a member of the Society of Decorative Arts (now the Antiquarian Society).  However, their greatest passion was clearly the symphony orchestra.  They had attended performances of orchestras visiting Chicago for years, and had become well acquainted with the conductor Theodore Thomas.  When he was approached about forming a permanent symphony in Chicago, John Glessner was among 50 of Chicago’s business leaders who guaranteed to fund the orchestra until it could become self-sufficient.  It was a struggle in the early years, and his donations were significant.  By the end of the 1890s, Glessner was the second largest contributor to the symphony.  The Glessners and the Thomases also formed a close personal relationship, and the Glessners became his confidants as he struggled to make the orchestra successful.  Thomas even built his summer house in Bethlehem New Hampshire just a mile from the Glessners’ estate “The Rocks,” so the time they spent together was significant.  The last baton he used to conduct before he died was given to the Glessners and it is still displayed in the house.  
 
John Glessner became a trustee of the Orchestral Association in 1898 and remained on the board until his death in 1936.  Frances Glessner, along with Mrs. Thomas and one other lady established the Chicago Chamber Music Society.  The orchestra was their greatest passion.  When Thomas (and his successor Frederick Stock) would write to the Glessners, he always referred to the orchestra as “their” orchestra.  And when Stock completed his First Symphony in 1909, he dedicated it to his “best friends” John and Frances Glessner.
 
We are fortunate to have many items in the collection that relate to the symphony and the world-class musicians who visited here and often performed in the parlor - , their original 1887 Steinway piano, signed photographs, letters, and more.  It is a wonderful part of the story.  
 
How does your location in Chicago influence your operations and programming?  
Glessner House and Chicago are inseparable.  The house is located on Prairie Avenue, which was THE street on in the late 19th century. Marshall Field, George Pullman, and many others were the Glessners’ neighbors.  As such we are able to tell the story of the great rise and success of Chicago in the late 1800s using the house and the street as tools.  We are also fortunate in that we are just two miles from the heart of downtown, “the Loop”, so geographically it is easy for visitors to get to us.  Additionally, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the area immediately around the museum transformed from a desolate dying area with abandoned loft buildings, to a thriving residential community with many young families and empty nesters.  This provides many opportunities for us that were not feasible in years gone by.  We open the doors for neighborhood events - food and wine tastings, children’s events at Easter and Halloween, and our beautiful courtyard and restored coach house are utilized for weddings and other events.  All of which bring new audiences to the museum, many of who never knew we were here.  Of course all of this is on top of our more “traditional” programming including tours and lectures. 
 
What percentage of your annual museum’s visitors is there through special events or programming and compared to those who attend a standard tour?  
Our total attendance is around 10,000 per year.  Of that, about 60% come on our “standard” tours, and about 40% come because of events and programming.  There was very limited programming prior to when I came to the museum in 2007, so I have seen the attendance increase from about 5,000 to 10,000 in five years.  
Tell me about your upcoming seminar … what are your goals for this event? 
On November 10th we will host an all-day seminar commemorating our 125th anniversary.  The event is being co-sponsored by the Victorian Society in America, and as such will have attendees from around the country.  We are delighted that James F. O’Gorman, the acknowledged scholar on H.H. Richardson, will be here for the keynote address.  Six other speakers will discuss various aspects of Richardson, interior design, and lastly how the rescue of the house in the 1960s was an important catalyst in the Chicago preservation movement, then in its infancy.  In the end, I hope that those in attendance will come away with an appreciation for what Glessner House truly is - an extraordinary building that helped define American architecture and influence the generation of architects who followed.

The Glessner House’s William Tyre: An Interview

Over the past twenty-one months of writing this preservation blog it has been a pleasure to introduce sixteen individuals trusted with caring for historic house museums. My intention for this series (beginning with the curator of Fallingwater) is to promote the excellent work of my colleagues and provide something of a behind the scenes glimpse into the various workings of house museum stewardship. It is also my hope that it can serve as a corrective to the prevalence of pessimism surrounding house museums that I find frustrating and inaccurate.  Impressed with the aesthetic authenticity of Glessner House and the vigor of their public programs on a recent visit I was delighted when William Trye agreed to be included in this interview series.  

 

William Tyre has served as Executive Director and Curator of the H.H. Richardson designed Glessner House Museum in Chicago since October 2007 and is the author of Chicago’s Historic Prairie Avenue, published in 2008.  He holds a Masters in Historic Preservation from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  Prior to coming to Glessner, he served as the comptroller for the Society of Architectural Historians and was the program manager for their site, the Charnley-Persky House Museum, a Chicago landmark designed by Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright in 1892. 

 

What factors contributed to your ability to undertake the recent restoration of the Glessner House’s parlor?

The restoration of the parlor was first considered in 1991 when a sample of the elaborate hand-stenciled wall covering was produced by The Grammar of Ornament in Denver.  However, the museum did not have funds in hand to continue with the project, so it was shelved.  Three years ago, one of our long time docents passed away and donations were received in her memory specifically earmarked for the parlor.  The next year, a charter docent also passed, and she left a significant unrestricted bequest to the museum.  The Board decided to use the gift to at long last bring the parlor restoration to fruition.  Additional funds were obtained from the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation and the project was completed in October 2011.  We were fortunate to have extraordinary craftsmen for every step of the restoration - from the elaborate wallcovering (which took six months to produce) to the reproduction William Morris “Kennet” draperies and portieres, and from the construction and upholstering of the banquette, to the gold leafing of the moldings.  The finished room, which cost more than $50,000 to restore, is really the jewel-box space within the museum. 

 

What resources do you turn to when researching the house?

We are extraordinarily lucky to have significant resources for researching and interpreting the house.  Chief among these is the journal of Frances Glessner which chronicles the period 1870 (the year she married) until 1917.  The typed transcript copy of the journal runs nearly 5,000 pages, so the amount of information is quite amazing!  Fortunately, she and her husband John were passionate about their house and their collections, so that type of information is frequently recorded in some detail.  In addition, John Glessner wrote a wonderful story about the house for his two children entitled “The Story of a House” which details working with the architect H. H. Richardson, the construction, and the furnishing and decoration.  The original featured more than 60 professional photographs of the exterior and interior.  (We were able to reprint the Story in its entirety in 2011 through a grant from the Graham Foundation.) The Glessners’ son George was a talented amateur photographer who photographed the house extensively from the time they moved in 1887 until the late 1890s.  Beyond that, our archives contain correspondence between John Glessner and the architect and other vendors who provided services and goods for the house.  We also have the Glessners’ original set of blueprints and specifications for the house.  For anyone interpreting a house, it really is a dream come true!

 

The room’s wallcovering is remarkable . . .

The wallcovering is really remarkable, which is why it took 20 years to get it made, as we wanted to make sure it was as close to the original as possible.  The original was designed and produced in 1892 by William Pretyman, a talented designer from England who spent about a decade living in Chicago.  He used a decorator’s grade burlap which he attached to the walls and then sized.  Once that was done he used a series of layers of metallic paints, glazes, two layers of stencils, and hand painting to produce the finished design, which is very much in the style of William Morris.  No doubt he was influenced by the Glessners’ use of Morris fabrics, rugs, and wallpapers elsewhere in the house.  During the 1950s when the house was occupied by the Lithographic Technical Foundation, they painted over the wallcovering, and tests we undertook in the 1990s determined that there was no way to remove the later paint layers without damaging the original painted surface.  Fortunately a pristine section of wallcovering about 12 inches in diameter was found behind the backplate of a wall sconce.  This provided the exact color information, and historic photographs were used to recreate the pattern.  (The original wallcovering was carefully removed and stored).  

 

Has this restoration project influenced the interpretation of the museum? 

The richness of this space is a bit different from the other rooms in the house.  But one must keep in mind this was the primary entertaining space for the Glessners.  It was utilized by Frances Glessner when she would receive in the afternoon, and they would use it for musical entertainments in the evenings.  It is interesting to see how the character of the room changes during the day.  On a sunny day, the room is bathed in sunlight coming through the large south-facing windows into the courtyard, and the wallcovering simply glows.  But in the evening, utilizing a light level similar to what the Glessners would have known, the room becomes warm and rich, the colors of the wallcovering glowing with a richness that does not feel ostentatious, but instead sophisticated.  It says a lot about who the Glessners were as individuals and how they were quite different from their neighbors in the furnishing and decoration of their house.

 

How has working-in and caring-for an H.H. Richardson building influenced your opinion of this architect? 

I have always had a great respect for Richardson, in fact it was one of the reasons I was first drawn to Glessner House.  What I love to tell visitors during tours is that the house was the result of a nearly perfect architect-client relationship.  The Glessners interviewed quite a number of architects before approaching Richardson.  They were disappointed with what the others suggested - all “conventional” houses.  The Glessners were clearly looking for something different.  When they met with Richardson, they found an architect who was progressive and looking for clients who would allow him to express his ideas to their full potential.  John and Frances Glessner had a large library of books on architecture and design and were well-informed and able to understand and appreciate what Richardson suggested.  In the end, the house was the perfect expression of the Glessners, and for Richardson, he stated it was the one house of all the ones he designed in his career, that he would have wished to have lived in himself.  Because of that, my opinion of him continues to grow.  The brilliant floor plan, the treatment of the exterior, the separation of family and servant spaces - everything he did becomes clearer the more time you spend in the house, and you come to realize what a true genius Richardson was.  It is no wonder that he achieved such “stardom” in his short life.  He truly was taking American architecture in a new direction. 

 

The Glessners were significant patrons of music and the performing arts – how does the collection reflect this interest and contribution? 

The Glessners were significant patrons.  John Glessner was a long-time trustee of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Frances Glessner played an important role as a member of the Society of Decorative Arts (now the Antiquarian Society).  However, their greatest passion was clearly the symphony orchestra.  They had attended performances of orchestras visiting Chicago for years, and had become well acquainted with the conductor Theodore Thomas.  When he was approached about forming a permanent symphony in Chicago, John Glessner was among 50 of Chicago’s business leaders who guaranteed to fund the orchestra until it could become self-sufficient.  It was a struggle in the early years, and his donations were significant.  By the end of the 1890s, Glessner was the second largest contributor to the symphony.  The Glessners and the Thomases also formed a close personal relationship, and the Glessners became his confidants as he struggled to make the orchestra successful.  Thomas even built his summer house in Bethlehem New Hampshire just a mile from the Glessners’ estate “The Rocks,” so the time they spent together was significant.  The last baton he used to conduct before he died was given to the Glessners and it is still displayed in the house. 

 

John Glessner became a trustee of the Orchestral Association in 1898 and remained on the board until his death in 1936.  Frances Glessner, along with Mrs. Thomas and one other lady established the Chicago Chamber Music Society.  The orchestra was their greatest passion.  When Thomas (and his successor Frederick Stock) would write to the Glessners, he always referred to the orchestra as “their” orchestra.  And when Stock completed his First Symphony in 1909, he dedicated it to his “best friends” John and Frances Glessner.

 

We are fortunate to have many items in the collection that relate to the symphony and the world-class musicians who visited here and often performed in the parlor - , their original 1887 Steinway piano, signed photographs, letters, and more.  It is a wonderful part of the story. 

 

How does your location in Chicago influence your operations and programming? 

Glessner House and Chicago are inseparable.  The house is located on Prairie Avenue, which was THE street on in the late 19th century. Marshall Field, George Pullman, and many others were the Glessners’ neighbors.  As such we are able to tell the story of the great rise and success of Chicago in the late 1800s using the house and the street as tools.  We are also fortunate in that we are just two miles from the heart of downtown, “the Loop”, so geographically it is easy for visitors to get to us.  Additionally, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the area immediately around the museum transformed from a desolate dying area with abandoned loft buildings, to a thriving residential community with many young families and empty nesters.  This provides many opportunities for us that were not feasible in years gone by.  We open the doors for neighborhood events - food and wine tastings, children’s events at Easter and Halloween, and our beautiful courtyard and restored coach house are utilized for weddings and other events.  All of which bring new audiences to the museum, many of who never knew we were here.  Of course all of this is on top of our more “traditional” programming including tours and lectures.

 

What percentage of your annual museum’s visitors is there through special events or programming and compared to those who attend a standard tour? 

Our total attendance is around 10,000 per year.  Of that, about 60% come on our “standard” tours, and about 40% come because of events and programming.  There was very limited programming prior to when I came to the museum in 2007, so I have seen the attendance increase from about 5,000 to 10,000 in five years. 

Tell me about your upcoming seminar … what are your goals for this event?

On November 10th we will host an all-day seminar commemorating our 125th anniversary.  The event is being co-sponsored by the Victorian Society in America, and as such will have attendees from around the country.  We are delighted that James F. O’Gorman, the acknowledged scholar on H.H. Richardson, will be here for the keynote address.  Six other speakers will discuss various aspects of Richardson, interior design, and lastly how the rescue of the house in the 1960s was an important catalyst in the Chicago preservation movement, then in its infancy.  In the end, I hope that those in attendance will come away with an appreciation for what Glessner House truly is - an extraordinary building that helped define American architecture and influence the generation of architects who followed.

Recommended Readings: 
The Decoration of Houses by Ogden Codman Jr. and Edith Wharton. Published in 1897
First in a series of recommended readings for Ten Chimneys Foundation’s current exhibit Stagecraft: The Interior Designs of Claggett Wilson 
More a manifesto than a how-to book, The Decoration of Houses is a significant salvo in the design reform movement of the late nineteenth-century. It challenged the comfortably cluttered and eclectic Victorian interiors of the era. A collaborative publication by architect Ogden Codman Jr. and the (future) novelist Edith Wharton, the book argued that the decoration of houses was an architectural concern that required a careful study of the best examples of classical and neoclassical styles. Working together to create Edith Wharton’s summer house in Newport, the two discovered kindred aesthetic spirits in one another.
The authors repeated references to often-obscure European, examples and their un-blushing elitist tone (Need to decorate that new ball room? The chapter titled Gala Rooms offers helpful advice.) is either irritating or charming to modern readers. Assured of their infallible taste, the two sought to improve the manner of living of their Newport (new-moneyed) neighbors, and in the process, influenced the course of interior design for the next century.  
“Of all forms of ceiling adornment painting is the most beautiful. Italy, which contains the three perfect ceilings in the world – those of Mantegna in the ducal palace of Mantua, of Perugino in the Sala del Cambio at Perugia and Araldi in the Convent of St. Paul at Parma – is the best field for the study of this branch of art.” Wharton and Codman praise fifteenth-century Italian ceilings “with their Roman arabesesques and fruit-garlands framing human figures detached as ornament against a background of solid color” and singled out as “equally well suited to modern use are the designs in arabesque,” found in French eighteenth-century ceilings.  
In this photo, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne admire their recently painted ceiling of arabesques and floral garlands created by Claggett Wilson. The ceilings’ symmetrical design disguises the asymmetrical architecture of the room, which was built as an addition onto the existing Main House at Ten Chimneys.

Recommended Readings:

The Decoration of Houses by Ogden Codman Jr. and Edith Wharton. Published in 1897

First in a series of recommended readings for Ten Chimneys Foundation’s current exhibit Stagecraft: The Interior Designs of Claggett Wilson

More a manifesto than a how-to book, The Decoration of Houses is a significant salvo in the design reform movement of the late nineteenth-century. It challenged the comfortably cluttered and eclectic Victorian interiors of the era. A collaborative publication by architect Ogden Codman Jr. and the (future) novelist Edith Wharton, the book argued that the decoration of houses was an architectural concern that required a careful study of the best examples of classical and neoclassical styles. Working together to create Edith Wharton’s summer house in Newport, the two discovered kindred aesthetic spirits in one another.

The authors repeated references to often-obscure European, examples and their un-blushing elitist tone (Need to decorate that new ball room? The chapter titled Gala Rooms offers helpful advice.) is either irritating or charming to modern readers. Assured of their infallible taste, the two sought to improve the manner of living of their Newport (new-moneyed) neighbors, and in the process, influenced the course of interior design for the next century.  

“Of all forms of ceiling adornment painting is the most beautiful. Italy, which contains the three perfect ceilings in the world – those of Mantegna in the ducal palace of Mantua, of Perugino in the Sala del Cambio at Perugia and Araldi in the Convent of St. Paul at Parma – is the best field for the study of this branch of art.” Wharton and Codman praise fifteenth-century Italian ceilings “with their Roman arabesesques and fruit-garlands framing human figures detached as ornament against a background of solid color” and singled out as “equally well suited to modern use are the designs in arabesque,” found in French eighteenth-century ceilings. 

In this photo, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne admire their recently painted ceiling of arabesques and floral garlands created by Claggett Wilson. The ceilings’ symmetrical design disguises the asymmetrical architecture of the room, which was built as an addition onto the existing Main House at Ten Chimneys.

When I stayed with Lynn and Alfred, writes actress Joan Crawford in her memoir My Way of Life, on their lovely farm in Wisconsin they told me that their custom – a very nice one for a guest – was to give the breakfast order the night before, and then ring when it was wanted. There was never a sound until I pressed the button that told the kitchen “I’m up. You can prepare it now.” They would never let a houseguest go down for breakfast.  Then I would appear whenever I felt like it. If I had a script to prepare I just stayed in my room
To effect such ease of hospitality at Ten Chimneys of course meant a morning of bustling work for the household staff. In the summer of 1941 at least five servants were working at Ten Chimneys: Ben Perkins the estate caretaker, Jules Johnson the valet, and three maids. As Lynn Fontanne wrote to her sister in May, 1941, We have three maids – two of them we have had a long time – they belong to the Genesee house and one is a new little girl about 19, very pretty with enormous blue eyes, rather chunky and Dutchy-looking … All three of them are wonderful cooks, so we get such food as you never dreamed of.  
Positioned in the center of the Ten Chimneys kitchen the announciator was part of a well planned workstation that included a clock, cookbooks, pads, pencils, and telephone directory, and one of the two phones in the house. Its location was within easy reach of cabinets containing breakfast trays and flower vases. One could turn from the task at hand – see by the annunciator where they are summoned – and have what was needed within easy reach.  Request for services came across the Edwards Annunciator with an insistent buzz, and the location in the house where required. So important was the comfort of guests and servants to the Lunts it comes as no surprise that they turned to companies, such as S.J. Casper Co, that more commonly provided food service equipment to hotels rather than private residences to create the Ten Chimneys kitchen.

When I stayed with Lynn and Alfred, writes actress Joan Crawford in her memoir My Way of Life, on their lovely farm in Wisconsin they told me that their custom – a very nice one for a guest – was to give the breakfast order the night before, and then ring when it was wanted. There was never a sound until I pressed the button that told the kitchen “I’m up. You can prepare it now.” They would never let a houseguest go down for breakfast.  Then I would appear whenever I felt like it. If I had a script to prepare I just stayed in my room

To effect such ease of hospitality at Ten Chimneys of course meant a morning of bustling work for the household staff. In the summer of 1941 at least five servants were working at Ten Chimneys: Ben Perkins the estate caretaker, Jules Johnson the valet, and three maids. As Lynn Fontanne wrote to her sister in May, 1941, We have three maids – two of them we have had a long time – they belong to the Genesee house and one is a new little girl about 19, very pretty with enormous blue eyes, rather chunky and Dutchy-looking … All three of them are wonderful cooks, so we get such food as you never dreamed of. 

Positioned in the center of the Ten Chimneys kitchen the announciator was part of a well planned workstation that included a clock, cookbooks, pads, pencils, and telephone directory, and one of the two phones in the house. Its location was within easy reach of cabinets containing breakfast trays and flower vases. One could turn from the task at hand – see by the annunciator where they are summoned – and have what was needed within easy reach.  Request for services came across the Edwards Annunciator with an insistent buzz, and the location in the house where required. So important was the comfort of guests and servants to the Lunts it comes as no surprise that they turned to companies, such as S.J. Casper Co, that more commonly provided food service equipment to hotels rather than private residences to create the Ten Chimneys kitchen.

The National Trust’s Mark Purcell: An Interview
Mark Purcell has been the Libraries Curator to the National Trust since 1999. Mark is responsible for the Trust’s 168 historic libraries in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. He has published and lectured extensively on the history of books and libraries and presided over the digitization of the collection’s catalogue.  I had the pleasure of getting to know Mark six years ago when we were participants in the Attingham Summer School – a time in which his insightful knowledge and affection for historic libraries and books enlivened many a country house visit. It is a pleasure to introduce him to this series of historic site stewardship interviews. 
 How many books are in the National Trust’s collection?
It depends what you count.  But if you count separate titles (i.e. a three-volume First edition of Pride and Prejudice counts as 1, not 3), we have round-about 300,000 books in round about 170 locations.
How did you end up as the caretaker of one of the largest libraries in the world?
Compared to the holdings of a great research library, our holdings are actually quite small.  Libraries like the British Library or the Library of Congress have collections running to tens of millions of items.  However, looked at as a collection of (mostly) early books and excluding more modern material, we probably rank in the top half dozen in the United Kingdom. As for the job, it was advertised in the main British professional journal, and I applied for it.  I was working at Christ Church, Oxford at the time (one of the 40-odd constituent colleges of the University, and the home of the second-most important collection of early printed books in Oxford, housed in a magnificent early eighteenth-century building). The new Trust job was the result of a major fundraising campaign by the Royal Oak Foundation in the late 1990s.
In what ways does your responsibility overlap between the care and interpretation of the library (a collection of books) and the National Trust’s Libraries (rooms dedicated to books)?
The two can’t be separated.  Most historic house museums with libraries have a habit of thinking only about the interior, and ignoring the books, or, at best, of treating them as secondary. We certainly don’t do that, and we aim to understand, document and make our books available to the same standard that would be taken for granted in a serious research library.  At the same time, the thing which gives our collections their special interest is precisely the fact that they are in situ in the rooms where they were originally stored and read.  So spaces, fittings, furnishings, and indeed historic arrangement all need to be thought about - as well as the history and characters of the original owners.
 What was the earliest recorded Library in England?
Presumably there were libraries in Roman Britain, though I don’t think we have much evidence of this.  In the Middle Ages, monasteries of course owned books, but so, by the later Middle Ages, did aristocrats: the Chaucer manuscript of about 1420 at Petworth is a good example.
Who – in your estimation – was England’s greatest bibliophile?
It’s not really a question that much interests me.  I’m interested in the way that owners interacted with their books, and I’m not greatly concerned whether that owner was a sophisticated connoisseur, a provincial squire, an Enlightenment nobleman, or a Victorian factory worker.
Which of your library collections is the most redolent of its creator?
 Almost all of them!
Can you share with us some of your efforts to connect people with the National Trust’s libraries?
The main task has been to get the catalogue done and online (about 200,000 books to date are visible at Copac.ac.uk), since without that, it’s difficult to do anything.  We organize occasional exhibitions and we try to make sure that new guidebooks cover libraries adequately as they come out.  We also publish, run a flourishing Facebook site (National Trust Libraries), and organize a program of events, open days and group visits.
Pictured above is the library at Sissinghurst Castle, home of Vita Sackville-West and Sir Harold Nicholson. c. National Trust Images/John Hammond. 
 

The National Trust’s Mark Purcell: An Interview

Mark Purcell has been the Libraries Curator to the National Trust since 1999. Mark is responsible for the Trust’s 168 historic libraries in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. He has published and lectured extensively on the history of books and libraries and presided over the digitization of the collection’s catalogue.  I had the pleasure of getting to know Mark six years ago when we were participants in the Attingham Summer School – a time in which his insightful knowledge and affection for historic libraries and books enlivened many a country house visit. It is a pleasure to introduce him to this series of historic site stewardship interviews.

 How many books are in the National Trust’s collection?

It depends what you count.  But if you count separate titles (i.e. a three-volume First edition of Pride and Prejudice counts as 1, not 3), we have round-about 300,000 books in round about 170 locations.

How did you end up as the caretaker of one of the largest libraries in the world?

Compared to the holdings of a great research library, our holdings are actually quite small.  Libraries like the British Library or the Library of Congress have collections running to tens of millions of items.  However, looked at as a collection of (mostly) early books and excluding more modern material, we probably rank in the top half dozen in the United Kingdom. As for the job, it was advertised in the main British professional journal, and I applied for it.  I was working at Christ Church, Oxford at the time (one of the 40-odd constituent colleges of the University, and the home of the second-most important collection of early printed books in Oxford, housed in a magnificent early eighteenth-century building). The new Trust job was the result of a major fundraising campaign by the Royal Oak Foundation in the late 1990s.

In what ways does your responsibility overlap between the care and interpretation of the library (a collection of books) and the National Trust’s Libraries (rooms dedicated to books)?

The two can’t be separated.  Most historic house museums with libraries have a habit of thinking only about the interior, and ignoring the books, or, at best, of treating them as secondary. We certainly don’t do that, and we aim to understand, document and make our books available to the same standard that would be taken for granted in a serious research library.  At the same time, the thing which gives our collections their special interest is precisely the fact that they are in situ in the rooms where they were originally stored and read.  So spaces, fittings, furnishings, and indeed historic arrangement all need to be thought about - as well as the history and characters of the original owners.

 What was the earliest recorded Library in England?

Presumably there were libraries in Roman Britain, though I don’t think we have much evidence of this.  In the Middle Ages, monasteries of course owned books, but so, by the later Middle Ages, did aristocrats: the Chaucer manuscript of about 1420 at Petworth is a good example.

Who in your estimation was England’s greatest bibliophile?

It’s not really a question that much interests me.  I’m interested in the way that owners interacted with their books, and I’m not greatly concerned whether that owner was a sophisticated connoisseur, a provincial squire, an Enlightenment nobleman, or a Victorian factory worker.

Which of your library collections is the most redolent of its creator?

 Almost all of them!

Can you share with us some of your efforts to connect people with the National Trust’s libraries?

The main task has been to get the catalogue done and online (about 200,000 books to date are visible at Copac.ac.uk), since without that, it’s difficult to do anything.  We organize occasional exhibitions and we try to make sure that new guidebooks cover libraries adequately as they come out.  We also publish, run a flourishing Facebook site (National Trust Libraries), and organize a program of events, open days and group visits.

Pictured above is the library at Sissinghurst Castle, home of Vita Sackville-West and Sir Harold Nicholson. c. National Trust Images/John Hammond.

 

A Bocage with Saint Peter 
This c. 1830 bocage figure of St. Peter is one of the many examples of English Staffordshire ceramics in our collection. A selection of Staffordshire figures were artfully arranged on top of a pair of bookshelves in the Flirtation Room adding delightfully to the nostalgic atmosphere of the room.
Our nineteenth-century St. Peter was itself is an expression of nostalgia when made. It recalls an earlier Rococo style ceramic design known as bocage. The term refers to the closely clustered ceramic foliage around the figure. Though a French word for a grove or thicket, bocage is a technique associated with English ceramic manufacturing. Such foliate decoration was both fanciful and practical. Such figures recalled contemporary paintings that often placed their protagonists within an arbor or garden setting. While the stem of the bocage, visible reflected in the mirror behind the figure, was popular with manufacturers as it provided a way to support the clay figure and prevent its sagging. 
This piece is typical of the literary, historical, and mythological figures manufactured by Staffordshire potteries c. 1830 – 1860. Here Saint Peter is depicted kneeling in prayer, his face turned upward and hands crossed in supplication. Around him are the attributes or symbols that help us identify the saint. At his feet are the keys to the kingdom of heaven (I hope he doesn’t forget them there …) and a rooster recalling Peter’s denial of Christ as told in the ceramic gospel of Luke also included on the figure: 
And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean. And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.
Further identification of the saint is provided by the raised pad at the figure’s base – just in case the rooster and keys did not give it away – a typically nineteenth century detail. 
Other Staffordshire figures displayed with Saint Peter in the Flirtation Room include Saint Paul, a lion, and a zebra, greyhounds, and a pair representing The Holy Family’s Flight Into Egypt and The Holy Family’s Return.

A Bocage with Saint Peter

This c. 1830 bocage figure of St. Peter is one of the many examples of English Staffordshire ceramics in our collection. A selection of Staffordshire figures were artfully arranged on top of a pair of bookshelves in the Flirtation Room adding delightfully to the nostalgic atmosphere of the room.

Our nineteenth-century St. Peter was itself is an expression of nostalgia when made. It recalls an earlier Rococo style ceramic design known as bocage. The term refers to the closely clustered ceramic foliage around the figure. Though a French word for a grove or thicket, bocage is a technique associated with English ceramic manufacturing. Such foliate decoration was both fanciful and practical. Such figures recalled contemporary paintings that often placed their protagonists within an arbor or garden setting. While the stem of the bocage, visible reflected in the mirror behind the figure, was popular with manufacturers as it provided a way to support the clay figure and prevent its sagging.

This piece is typical of the literary, historical, and mythological figures manufactured by Staffordshire potteries c. 1830 – 1860. Here Saint Peter is depicted kneeling in prayer, his face turned upward and hands crossed in supplication. Around him are the attributes or symbols that help us identify the saint. At his feet are the keys to the kingdom of heaven (I hope he doesn’t forget them there …) and a rooster recalling Peter’s denial of Christ as told in the ceramic gospel of Luke also included on the figure:

And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean. And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.

Further identification of the saint is provided by the raised pad at the figure’s base – just in case the rooster and keys did not give it away – a typically nineteenth century detail.

Other Staffordshire figures displayed with Saint Peter in the Flirtation Room include Saint Paul, a lion, and a zebra, greyhounds, and a pair representing The Holy Family’s Flight Into Egypt and The Holy Family’s Return.

Driven partially by a selfish desire to be outside during this glorious time of year -Ten Chimneys staff have been leading a series of garden tours for volunteers this June. These informal and informative tours provide an opportunity to share with our volunteers the Ten Chimneys Foundation’s ongoing efforts and stewardship of our grounds and gardens amidst birdsong and dappled shade. In turn, these volunteers can share this information with our visitors.
Here we are on the south side of the Main House discussing the original approach to the Main House and the evolution of that landscape over the years.

Driven partially by a selfish desire to be outside during this glorious time of year -Ten Chimneys staff have been leading a series of garden tours for volunteers this June. These informal and informative tours provide an opportunity to share with our volunteers the Ten Chimneys Foundation’s ongoing efforts and stewardship of our grounds and gardens amidst birdsong and dappled shade. In turn, these volunteers can share this information with our visitors.

Here we are on the south side of the Main House discussing the original approach to the Main House and the evolution of that landscape over the years.