Greek Revival Mystery: Who Designed the Bartow Mansion?

 

_AW_9710

Bartow mansion, east façade

The present proprietor has lately erected a fine stone house, in the Grecian style, which presents a neat front with projecting wings. Robert Bolton Jr., A Guide to New Rochelle and Its Vicinity, 1842

Robert and Maria Bartow wanted to live in high style. And they had the perfect opportunity to do just that in the 1830s when Mrs. Bartow inherited from her uncle George Lorillard a handsome sum, which enabled the couple to build an elegant stone mansion “in the Grecian style.” Surrounded by expansive lawns and sweeping views of Long Island Sound, their new house—in what later became known as the Greek Revival style—was a status symbol that proclaimed the family’s good taste and social position to admiring visitors and passersby and created a grand impression befitting the descendants of the Lords of the Manor of Pelham.

BartowMansionca.1870 - Copy

Bartow mansion, west façade, ca. 1870

Why did Robert and Maria Bartow decide to leave New York City? Tragedy struck in December 1835, just before Christmas, when two of their four young children died at the family’s home in today’s lower Manhattan, probably from a contagious disease. Dramatically, this was the same week as New York’s Great Fire of 1835, when high winds and frigid temperatures made it difficult to control rapidly spreading flames that destroyed hundreds of buildings. Although there was little loss of life, the conflagration was witnessed by a terrified New York City populace. The traumatized Bartows were probably anxious to leave urban perils behind, and, four months later, they purchased their country property, which had belonged to Robert Bartow’s Pell ancestors and to his grandfather John Bartow (1740–1816). Robert must have had fond boyhood memories of the estate, when his grandfather “kept open house to all his relatives and friends, and his home was the center of attraction in the society of the county from the hearty welcome they always received.” (Evelyn Bartow, Bartow Genealogy, 1878). Now, retired from business, Robert Bartow could live the life of a modern “Lord of the Manor,” following in the footsteps of his venerated Pell ancestors.

Bartow stair print ready 8x10

The mansion’s staircase spirals past a bank of windows, allowing light and air to suffuse the center of the house.

On April 25, 1836, the couple bought 233 acres from Herman LeRoy for $40,000. Tradition says that the seventeenth-century Pell manor house was destroyed during the American Revolution and replaced with another dwelling around 1790. This second house no longer exists, but it is believed that Robert and Maria lived there during the six years it took to build their new home. Construction was likely under way by 1838, when the Bartow tutor Augustus Moore wrote: “Mr. Bartow and I have many pleasant walks about the place examining the improvements, etc.” The family moved into the mansion in 1842.

W. Strickland Second Bank of the US, Philadelphia

William Strickland, Second Bank of the United States, Philadelphia, 1819–24. Historic American Buildings Survey, 1939. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Greek Revival architecture was in full swing when the Bartows built their new house. This was a common style for domestic structures in the United States from the 1820s to the 1850s and first became popularized by public buildings such as William Strickland’s Second Bank of the United States in Philadelphia (1819–24). The revival of Grecian style in the Western world resulted from a widespread interest in classical archaeology, antiquity, and the architecture of ancient Greece. The United States—with its roots in Thomas Jefferson’s embrace of classical architecture as an appropriate style for the new American republic—was particularly receptive to Greek Revival designs. Prosperous times and new-found wealth, especially after construction of the Erie Canal in New York State, led to a proliferation of this new “National Style.” Pattern books by Asher Benjamin (1773–1845) and Minard Lafever (1798–1854) were important disseminators of architectural elements, serving as guides for builders, carpenters, and craftsmen. Greek Revival had become de rigueur in America.

Front door - Copy

Bartow-Pell’s front entrance with pseudo-pediment

Door front hall

Entry hall and parlor door pediments at Bartow-Pell

Greek Revival buildings often mimic ancient Greek temples, with porticoes, colonnades, and columns, but the presence of these elements was not required, and they are non-existent at the Bartow mansion. Nevertheless, many standard Greek Revival features are found at Bartow-Pell, including a symmetrical main façade, a heavy cornice above a wide band of trim, and a low-pitched hipped roof. A pseudo-pediment above the front door adds a classical component that echoes the interior pediment profile. Some other classical design details—such as niches—create cohesion and balance between the front and back façades and the interior. The mansion’s two projecting wings owe a debt to the architectural legacy of Palladio.

9370 RW

Double parlors

Bartow-Pell’s subtle exterior contrasts with its robust high-style Greek Revival interiors. In the double parlors, dynamic carved wooden winged cherub’s heads and eagles in high relief fill the pediments; double anthemia (honeysuckle petals) adorn the pilasters; and acanthus and papyrus leaves embellish Corinthian capitals.

Plaster ornamentation includes dentil molding and elaborate ceiling medallions. The somewhat unusual combination of eagles and cherubs—both winged creatures—provides decorative continuity between the two rooms, and the wing form adapts easily to fill the sloping sides of the pediments. The eagle, a popular patriotic motif in the nineteenth century, has sometimes been identified as a more masculine element, perhaps chosen by Mr. Bartow. The cherub’s more feminine overtones suggest an affinity with Mrs. Bartow.

Now for the big question: Who designed the Bartow mansion?

So far, the architect’s identity is lost in history. No drawings, plans, or documents related to the mansion’s design and construction have ever come to light. Architectural scholars have often noted that some of the mansion’s Greek Revival details appear to derive from Minard Lafever’s guides and pattern books, such as the 1833 edition of The Modern Builder’s Guide, and sometimes the mansion is even attributed to him, but there is no evidence that Lafever designed Robert Bartow’s residence.

pilasters plate 13

Plates from Minard Lafever’s book The Beauties of Modern Architecture, 3rd ed., 1839

Capital plate 11

Perhaps coincidentally, Robert Bartow’s brother Edgar John Bartow hired Lafever in the mid-1840s to design the Gothic Revival-style Church of the Holy Trinity in Brooklyn and commissioned stained-glass artisans and brothers William Jay Bolton and John Bolton—whom Edgar John likely met because the Boltons were Robert Bartow’s neighbors—to design and execute the church windows. According to the 1850 census, John Bolton (1818–1898) was employed as a “glass stainer,” but he was working as an architect by 1855 in New York City at 348 Broadway and was in practice with his brother-in-law John Schuyler, a civil engineer. John Bolton has sometimes been identified as possibly designing the Bartow mansion, but this is doubtful because he was only eighteen years old when Robert and Maria bought the property and there is no evidence that Bolton was employed as a professional architect before 1855. Furthermore, he is not mentioned in his brother Robert’s published description of the house. However, the Bolton brothers were also woodworkers, and perhaps John helped with some of the wood carving or carpentry at the mansion. (He later became an Episcopal priest.)

Hawkswood LOC HABS

Hawkswood. Historic American Buildings Survey. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Other attributions for the Bartow mansion have been suggested, including Thomas Cole (1801–1848), the Hudson River School painter and sometime architect who married Robert Bartow’s first cousin Maria Bartow, and Martin Euclid Thompson (1787–1877), who has been named as the architect of Hawkswood, a nearby Greek Revival house known as the Marshall mansion (and later the Colonial Inn) that was among the historic Pelham Bay dwellings demolished by Robert Moses during the 1930s. Finally, as clients, how involved were the Bartows in the building’s design, and how much influence did they exert over the unknown architect?

At present, we can only speculate on who designed the Bartow mansion, but we hope that one day this Greek Revival mystery will be solved.

Margaret Highland, Historian

Posted in Mansion Musings | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Crowning Glory: Bartow-Pell’s Lannuier Bedstead

_MG_5519masterbedcropped

Charles-Honoré Lannuier. French Bedstead, 1812–19. Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum, Gift of Henry S. Peltz and Mary Nevius, 1985.06. Photo: Richard Warren

Some of our visitors have probably imagined spending the night at Bartow-Pell, luxuriously ensconced in our magnificent mahogany bedstead made in New York sometime between 1812 and 1819 by the remarkable French émigré cabinetmaker Charles-Honoré Lannuier (1779–1819). This splendid and rare piece has it all—fabulous style, an impeccable provenance, exceptional quality and craftsmanship by an important furniture maker, and its original crown and label. The bedstead combines Lannuier’s exuberant French Empire sensibility with the influence of recent archaeological discoveries and le goût antique.

G-002618.jpg

John Vanderlyn (1775–1852). Mary Ellis Bell (Mrs. Isaac Bell), ca. 1827. Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Gift of Evangeline Bell Bruce, 1997.19.1.

The bedstead’s original owners were Isaac Bell (1768–1860) and his wife, Mary Ellis Bell (1791–1871), who married in 1810 and lived at 14 Greenwich Street in a fashionable part of New York City. Mr. Bell, a prosperous merchant (like many of Lannuier’s clients), made his fortune in shipping. Bell descendants loaned the bedstead to Bartow-Pell for many years and donated it to the museum in 1985.

Lannuier was trained as an ébéniste in Paris during the 1790s by his older brother Nicolas. In 1803, he left the turmoil of post-Revolutionary France to begin life anew in New York, where he joined another brother, Auguste, who had established a thriving confectionery shop on Broadway. Honoré was a great success in America, not only because of his extraordinary artistic and technical skills, but also because he cleverly marketed his cutting-edge knowledge of Parisian furniture, which he advertised as being “in the newest and latest French fashion.” This appealed to the new American republic’s love affair with French luxury goods and to a wealthy merchant class that valued the prestige and snob appeal associated with having a home fashionably furnished in the best taste with expensive pieces of the highest quality.

Lannuier and his primary competitor, Scottish-born Duncan Phyfe (1770–1854), were the leading furniture makers among dozens working in New York in the early nineteenth century. The two cabinetmakers influenced each other’s work, which derived from both French and English sources, and created a New York style through their significant impact on other makers. They also shared a client base that extended well beyond New York to places such as Philadelphia and Savannah. Sadly, Lannuier died prematurely at the age of forty; Phyfe, on the other hand, had a very long and prolific career.

_MG_5519masterbdetailBartow-Pell’s bedstead is a type known as a French bedstead, which featured headboards and footboards of equal height that often scrolled out at the top. These beds, which were designed to be viewed from the side, were placed with the other side against a wall. They ordinarily included bed curtains and the means to hang them. Our example features a superb and rare original crown encircled by classical faces made of gilded brass with a lion’s head in the center. Massive vert antique lion’s paw feet, gilded acanthus leaves, and columns terminating in gilded foliate scrolls provide additional classical ornamentation typical of Lannuier’s oeuvre from the period beginning in 1812 until his death in 1819. The bed is made of fine figured mahogany veneer with secondary woods of mahogany, yellow poplar, and white pine. Casters allowed it to be moved easily for changing the bed linens or for cleaning.

1985.06label - Copy

Lannuier’s trade label (1812–19) on the Bell bedstead

Although tradition dates the bedstead to around the time of the Bells’ marriage in 1810, Lannuier scholar Peter Kenny assigns a date range of 1812–19. This is partly because of the bed’s stylistic characteristics, which place it in Lannuier’s mature antique style, with its rich classical ornamentation and appearance of monumentality. In addition, the Bartow-Pell bedstead bears the bilingual engraved label that Lannuier used during this period. The label features a cheval glass with the eagle from the great seal of the United States in the pediment. Patriotic symbols were especially popular around the time of the War of 1812.

_MG_5519crownLavish bed curtains made of expensive, opulent fabric and trim helped achieve the elegant appearance of beds like this one. Bed curtains were not only stylish, but also practical, since they protected against drafts and provided privacy. Bartow-Pell’s reproduction sheer white curtains and tangerine-hued silk valances and coverlet with violet trim, which are sometimes surprising to modern eyes, were made by Nancy Britton of the Objects Conservation Department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1996–97, from an 1802 illustration for a lit ordinaire in Pierre de La Mésangère’s influential publication Collection de Meubles et Objets de Goût.

Meubles et Objets de Gout, plate 574, engraving published around 1823

Pierre de La Mésangère. Lit à Dôme, ca. 1823

1985.06 Lannuier bed hangings

Pierre de La Mésangère. Lit Ordinaire. Engraving from Collection de Meubles et Objets de Goût, 1802. The bed curtains on Bartow-Pell’s bedstead were modeled on this design.

Our Lannuier bedstead has been included in two major exhibitions: Classical Taste in America, 1800–1840, organized by Wendy Cooper for the Baltimore Museum of Art in 1993, and Honoré Lannuier, Parisian Cabinetmaker in Federal New York, organized by Peter Kenny for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1998. The Met’s exhibition publication by Peter Kenny, et al., Honoré Lannuier: Cabinetmaker from Paris, is an excellent source for those who want to learn more about Lannuier.

Robert Bartow built his country seat around 1840, about a generation after Lannuier’s death. Although the bedstead predates the house, its sophisticated classicism complements the mansion’s handsome Greek Revival interiors and our fine collection of classical furniture. This important and dramatic bed, with its distinguished provenance, is the highlight of our period rooms and adds a special dash of glamour to Bartow-Pell.

Margaret Highland, Historian

 

 

Posted in Mansion Musings | Tagged | Leave a comment

Summer Mourning: Death at Bartow, June 24

Bartow plot at St. Peter's - cropped

The Robert Bartow family plot at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, near Westchester Square in the Bronx

St. Peter's engraving, Robert Bolton Jr. History of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the County of Westchester, 1855 cropped

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in 1855. Illustration from History of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the County of Westchester by Robert Bolton Jr.

On June 24, 1867, twenty-seven-year-old Robert Erskine Bartow died at his family’s bucolic country estate. Exactly one year later, his father, Robert Bartow, followed him to the grave at the age of seventy-six. Both are buried in the family plot at historic St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in what was then the village of Westchester (now part of the Bronx), where their ancestor the Reverend John Bartow was the first rector.

Robert Bartow (1792–1868) grew up on his father’s farms in Westchester and Fishkill, New York. Bartow was a descendant of the Pells—the Lords of the Manor of Pelham—through his great-grandmother Bathsheba Pell. He and his brothers were commission merchants, book publishers, and paper manufacturers. In 1827, Robert Bartow married tobacco heiress Maria Lorillard. In 1836, the couple purchased property that included the site of the seventeenth-century Pell manor house, where Bartow lived the life of a gentleman farmer on his ancestral land. It was here that the Bartows built the Greek Revival mansion that still stands today.

Robert and Maria Bartow’s son Robert Erskine Bartow (1840­–1867) was named after an older brother who had died as a toddler in 1835 (three days after the death of another sibling). Robert E. Bartow graduated from Columbia College in 1862 and completed a graduate degree in 1865, just as the Civil War ended. Like his father, who was warden at both St. Paul’s Church in Eastchester (now Mount Vernon) and Trinity Church in New Rochelle, the younger Robert was involved in the Episcopal Church and was elected to the vestry of Christ Church, Pelham, in 1864. He never married. On the evening of his death, according to the weather report in The Sun, “The windows of heaven were opened.” The rain continued on the following day, accompanied by “a very cold wind.”

Although we do not know what caused these deaths, June obituaries in the New York Times report deaths from typhoid, consumption, apoplexy, heart disease, scarlet fever, “peri-pneumonia,” and short, long, and sudden illnesses in 1867 and 1868. Fatal accidents were another possible cause.

Obituaries for father and son appeared in the New York papers on the dates of their funerals (two days after their deaths). Friends of the family were invited to attend the services at 4:00 at St. Peter’s Church. “Carriages will be at the Mott Haven depot upon the arrival of the half-past two Harlem train from New York.” According to John Disturnell’s 1864 Traveler’s Guide to the Hudson River, this New York and Harlem Railway station was reached after “crossing Harlem River over a substantial bridge, [and] entering the county of Westchester at Mott Haven, where [there] is a thriving settlement, and several extensive manufacturing establishments.” Carriages were a sign of high social standing and were hired by the undertaker for affluent families in the countryside in order to provide convenient transportation to mourners arriving by train from the city.

After someone died, the body was dressed for burial, and the corpse was usually laid out in the parlor in an open coffin set on a table or sawhorse until the funeral. “On a marble-topped table stood the rich, mahogany coffin, in which lay the remains,” wrote Mary J. Holmes in an 1867 short story set in New York.

Peterson's 1870 Mourning dress, bonnets

Mourning walking dress and bonnets, Peterson’s Magazine, July 1870

In 1869, Sarah Annie Frost described funeral etiquette in her book Frost’s Laws and By-Laws of American Society. If invitations were sent, they were to be delivered by hand, and the undertaker was to be provided with the seating order for the carriages. If there was no guest list, the newspaper obituary was to include an invitation “without further notice,” and guests were placed in the carriages or procession in no particular order. Frost advised that a cross of white flowers was usually placed upon the coffin of a married person, and gifts of flowers to the bereaved “must be white only, and sent on the day of the funeral early enough to be used in the decoration of the coffin.” The ladies of the family wore deep black from head to toe, and female guests wore black or somber colors. Men wore black crape hat bands and black gloves.

Nineteenth-century funerals were often held at the residence of the deceased, but they also took place in churches. Sarah Annie Frost instructed: “When the funeral procession is ready to start, the clergyman leaves the house first, and enters a carriage, which precedes the hearse. Then follows the coffin, which is placed in the hearse; the next carriage is for the immediate family and relatives.” Black plumes adorned the hearse for married or elderly people (and white for young people). Pall bearers, if used, were to be “immediate friends of the deceased.” Upon arrival at the church, men were required to remove their hats as “the coffin passes from the hearse to the church, when the guests form a double line, down which it is carried, and the same . . . observance must be made after the service.” When the funeral was at a residence, the corpse was commonly placed in the parlor, but at the church, “the coffin is usually placed in front of the chancel, with the lid removed, and friends pass, from the feet to the head, up one aisle and down another, after the services are over.”  According to the 1868 Book of Common Prayer, the service began with “I am the resurrection and the life.” The rector of St. Peter’s at this time was the Reverend Charles D. Jackson, D.D., whose son William H. Jackson married the Bartows’ daughter Henrietta at St. Peter’s few years later.

Albany Hearse illustration

“The Albany Hearse.” Illustration from The New York Coach-Maker’s Magazine, Vol. 1, June 1858 to May 1859. This hearse was made by the well-known Albany firm of James Goold & Co. (which also made the carriage on loan to Bartow-Pell from the Long Island Museum of American Art, History, and Carriages). The hearse’s torch and plume sockets were available in silver and black. “The trimmings are black velvet curtains, with silver fringes, cords, and tassels.”

The Bartow family plot is on the grounds of St. Peter’s, so the procession on foot to the adjoining cemetery would have been short. Sarah Annie Frost relates:  “At the cemetery, the . . . clergyman walks in advance of the coffin, and the others . . . stand around the grave.” “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” the minister read while earth was “cast upon the body by some standing by” (Book of Common Prayer, 1868).

Elaborate nineteenth-century mourning rituals involved complex etiquette on what to wear and when to wear it, when and how to pay calls, and how long the various stages of mourning should last. Although mourning was sometimes very expensive and overly complicated, these social customs helped people grieve while paying homage to their loved ones.

mourning card with black border 1870

Mourning card. Printer’s sample from Harpel’s Book of Specimens, 1870. Mourning stationery was commonly used in the nineteenth century. In 1869, Sarah Annie Frost advised: “In mourning, the paper and envelopes may have a black border suitable to the relationship of the dead, and the length of time the mourning has been worn. In the deepest mourning, exaggerations of black border are unbecoming and in bad taste. Real grief is always unostentatious.”

Half-mourning bonnet Godey's illustration, August 1866

Half-mourning bonnet, Godey’s Lady’s Book, August 1866

In another book by Sarah Annie Frost, The Art of Dressing Well (1870), she wrote: “It is difficult to establish rules for a dress upon which there is such a diversity of opinion as that worn by persons in mourning. It is worn by some a very long time for even a distant relative, and by others but a few months for a parent or a child. There is really no rule . . . but there are rules for the proper degrees of first, second, deep, or half mourning.”

Mourning dress Peterson's March 1873 - detail

Mourning dress (detail), Peterson’s Magazine, March 1873

As a widow, Mrs. Bartow would have been expected to wear mourning for two years or longer, according to Frost. “Widows’ mourning, for the first year, consists of solid black woolen goods, collar and cuffs of  . . . crape, a simple crape bonnet, and a long, thick black crape veil.” Black crape and bombazine were two popular fabrics for mourning clothes. Black dye often discolored the wearer’s skin. “Ladies who are in mourning are often very much annoyed by finding their arms and shoulders dyed by the garments worn, and which often resists successfully the most lavish use of soap and water.” She advised using a “poisonous” mix of oxalic acid and cream of tartar to remove the stains from one’s body.

Capture 3

New York City mourns the death of President Lincoln. Illustration from Obsequies of Abraham Lincoln in the City of New York, 1866. It was a common practice to drape buildings in black crape, as seen in this view of City Hall.

The Bartow deaths occurred not long after the Civil War and the shocking Good Friday assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865. Widespread grief among Unionists, former slaves, and others followed his death and added to the personal losses of those whose loved ones had died in the war. And in an age of higher mortality rates and lower life expectancy, people continued to face sorrow and bereavement throughout their lives. Sadly, mourning was an unwelcome, but familiar, occupation in many households.

For the Bartows, June 24 would never be the same.

Margaret Highland, Historian

Posted in Mansion Musings | Leave a comment

Beautiful Again: An Argand Lamp Shines Anew

A wobbly old Argand lamp with a dull surface and broken parts sat unnoticed for years in an obscure corner of Bartow-Pell’s dining room. Now, after restoration, this former diamond in the rough shines as one of the most beautiful pieces in our collection.

1963.06restored(1)

Argand lamp, English, ca. 1830. Baldwin Gardiner, New York, retailer. Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum, Gift of Mrs. Charles Class Paterson, 1963.06

The stunning double-arm oil lamp was made in England (possibly in Birmingham) about 1830 and was sold in New York by the stylish high-end retailer and importer Baldwin Gardiner, who was located at 149 Broadway. Although this lamp did not belong to Mr. and Mrs. Bartow, it’s possible that the couple may have made purchases at this popular shop near their New York City residence after they got married in 1827 and started furnishing their home.

The range of surface treatments and the richness of detail announce that this was an expensive lamp. Glass prisms and multi-faceted cut-glass elements reflect light, matte and burnished brass surfaces add complexity, and patination creates contrast. The ornamentation includes a wreath, leaves, and flowers, and the oil font is shaped like an urn, a popular classical form. Using evidence found on the lamp, the conservator restored the original finishes; stabilized the frame; repaired and replaced broken and missing glass elements and shades; and added reproduction chimneys.

Burnishing equip. Illus from Hunt, Robert. A Treatise on the Progressive Improvement & Present State of the Manufactures in Metal. London Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1853.

Illustration of burnishing equipment in A Treatise on the Progressive Improvement & Present State of the Manufactures in Metal, by Robert Hunt (London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1853)

Lacquered finishes were used on all English brass objects that were imported into the United States in the mid-nineteenth century. This method replicated the look of French gilt bronze (also known as bronze doré, fire gilding, or ormolu) but avoided the expense of gold and the high toxicity of mercury. The English technique involved using acid baths to bite into the brass and render it an appropriate shade of matte lemon yellow. The bright or highlighted areas were burnished, and the surface was lacquered (sometimes with tinted lacquers) to tone the color and prevent tarnishing. Lacquer, however, will eventually disintegrate, which means that the underlying brass will tarnish and the carefully designed effect of the contrasting matte and burnished areas will disappear. At Bartow-Pell, the lost art of lacquered brass has been beautifully re-created in our restored lamp.

Lamps like this one were inspired by ancient urns, stands, and vessels, many of which had been discovered by archaeologists in southern Italy. Lamp makers learned of these classical forms through the engravings of Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778), which allowed them to cater to a populace that was enamored of the ancient world and eager to embrace objects made in the classical taste.

A_marble_vase_placed_on_an_urn._Etching_by_G.B._Piranesi_Wellcome_L0074176

Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778). Vaso antico di marmo, con urna cineraria (Antique vase in marble with cinerary urn) from Vasi, candelabri, cippi, sarcofagi, tripodi, lucerne, ed ornamenti (Vases, candelabra, grave stones, sarcophagi, tripods, lamps, and ornaments), ca. 1778

Argand lamp engraving Penny Cyclo 1834 - Copy

Illustration of an Argand lamp in The Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (London: Charles Knight, 1834)

Argand lamps were invented in 1782 by the Swiss scientist Aimé Argand (1750–1803) and were a vast improvement over earlier lighting devices. They were cleaner and had a much brighter flame, thanks to a cylindrical wick sleeve that allowed better air circulation. Oil—often whale, but sometimes colza (rapeseed) or other varieties—was poured into the reservoir at the top. Gravity then allowed it to flow through the arms into the burners where the wicks were located. Oil lamps required frequent cleaning, however. In the 1828 edition of The House Servant’s Directory, Robert Roberts grumbled: “I have been in some houses where the rooms were almost filled with smoke and stench of the oil, and the glasses of the lamps clouded with dust and smoke . . . this is a very disagreeable thing indeed.” He went on to say that it was the servant’s fault “if they [the lamps] are dirty, or not in good order.”

Lamp shop NY 1845 prob Starr's more contrast

Illustration of a New York lamp shop in Sheldon & Co.’s Business or Advertising Directory (Boston: John F. Trow, 1845)

A robust economy, the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, and technological advances made possible by the Industrial Revolution created a favorable environment for commerce and produced a large demand for all types of merchandise. Retail stores abounded in large cities, and Broadway was the place to shop in New York City. Frances Trollope described the scene in her 1832 book Domestic Manners of the Americans: “From hence [the Battery] commences the splendid Broadway, as the fine avenue is called, which runs through the whole city. This noble street may vie with any I ever saw, for its length and breadth, its handsome shops, neat awnings, excellent trottoir, and well-dressed pedestrians.”

nypl.digitalcollections.510d47d9-7a99-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99.001.w

Broadway, New-York, Showing Each Building from the Hygeian Depot Corner of Canal Street to Beyond Niblo’s Garden, 1836. Thomas Hornor, artist and etcher; John Hill, etcher; and J. Stanley & Co., publisher. The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library

Furnishings Warehouse detail 1836 nypl engraving - Copy

Broadway, New-York, 1836 (detail). Furniture Warehouse on Broadway

Baldwin Gardiner (1791–1869) was the younger brother of silversmith Sidney Gardiner (d. 1827). After working in Boston and Philadelphia, Baldwin moved to New York in 1827 and set up his furnishings warehouse on Broadway, where he sold a variety of luxury goods, including silver and imported lamps, such as the one at Bartow-Pell that bears his retailer’s mark.

We thank our generous donors who helped to defray the cost of restoring our glorious lamp, which reigns supremely from the dining room sideboard, just as it might have done in a fashionable and affluent home in the nineteenth century.

 Margaret Highland, Historian

Thanks to Carswell Rush Berlin for his help on this post.

Posted in Mansion Musings | Leave a comment

Chariot Clock: Neoclassicism in the Hands of an Expert

On Thursday, May 19, at 7:30 p.m., BPMM presents “Time Will Tell: Clocks at Bartow-Pell.” Discover the world of gears, drives, wheels, and escapements with John Metcalfe, owner and founder of Antiquarian Horologist, who has restored ticking and chiming to clocks in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, British Museum, and National Watch and Clock Museum. Learn about the nineteenth-century clocks at BPMM and their place in the history of clock making, as well as the technical aspects of antique clock restoration and repair. Reception after the presentation. Admission proceeds and donations go toward the restoration of clocks in the collection. Cost $10 adults; $8 seniors, students, and members. Registration requested.718-885-1461 or info@bpmm.org

CO9A6941 - Copy

Chariot Clock (after restoration), French, 1825. Gilt bronze with impressed initials “L G.” Dated 1825 on the spring. Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum, Gift of Mrs. Elliot Tuckerman, 1946.02

 

PierredelaMesangeredesigns_c.1802_CB(3)

Clock design, ca. 1802. Pierre de La Mésangère (French, 1761–1831), Collection de Meubles et Objets de Goût

A superb French chariot clock made in 1825 that has been at Bartow-Pell since it became a museum in the 1940s was recently cleaned and restored by antiquarian horologist John Metcalfe and is now back in its place on the marble mantel in the south parlor. French clocks like this one were desirable decorative accessories in stylish, wealthy American houses during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when neoclassicism was at its peak.

 

FrancisSmithIMG_2472

Charioteer (before cleaning). Photograph by Francis Smith

This fine example features Hippolytus (or Artemis) as a charioteer. The figure wears a lion pelt over one shoulder and carries a quiver of arrows while holding the reins of two rearing stallions. A bas-relief of Phaedra and Hippolytus appears on the base. The composition of this mythological scene derives from an 1802 painting in the Louvre, Phèdre et Hippolyte, by Baron Pierre-Narcisse Guérin (1774–1833), in which Hippolytus rejects the illicit love of his stepmother, Phaedra, the wife of his father, Theseus. The story is told in a fifth-century BCE tragedy by Euripides, which begins when Hippolytus has offended vengeful and jealous Aphrodite, the goddess of love, because he is a follower of the goddess of the hunt and chastity, Artemis. (On our clock, as in the painting, Hippolytus stands by his hunting dogs and holds a bow and arrows, thus demonstrating his affinity for Artemis.) It is not surprising that bad things follow, and the play ends with the death of Hippolytus in his chariot.

chariotclock_pre-cleaning(2)_CB - Copy

Bas-relief on clock base depicting Hippolytus and Phaedra (before cleaning)

 

Phaedra and Hippolytus engraving

Engraving from Painting: Spanish and French by Gerard W. Smith (London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, 1884), after Phèdre et Hippolyte, an 1802 oil painting by Baron Pierre-Narcisse Guérin (French, 1774–1833)

The clock’s connections to Greek mythology, art, and culture allowed the original owners of this beautiful and costly imported object to demonstrate their education and knowledge to a society that was captivated by the ancient classical world.

Now is the perfect opportunity to see—and hear—our clock, after its recent restoration by expert horologist John Metcalfe, as it once again chimes and tells us the hour, taking us on a trip back in time.

JohnMetcalfe_clockrepair

John Metcalfe is a horologist, a master of antique clock restoration, and owner of Antiquarian Horologist in lower Manhattan.

To learn more about John Metcalfe’s story, click here.

Margaret Highland, Historian

Posted in Mansion Musings | Leave a comment

The Camera as Eyewitness: An Everyday Portrait of the Bartows

An exciting discovery was made at Bartow-Pell a number of years ago. Lurking in the dusty shadows at the back of a closet was a large, long-forgotten photograph. History detectives will appreciate the delight of Bartow-Pell Curator Emerita Mary Huber when she unearthed this treasure, which is the only image we have of the mansion and some of its inhabitants during the Bartow era.

BartowMansionca.1870

Bartow mansion. Albumen print, ca. 1870. Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum

The photograph’s composition recalls a “conversation piece”— an art-historical term for an informal group portrait in which the subjects interact or engage in various activities in an outdoor or domestic setting. Although the Bartow group seems casual, the mise-en-scène was probably carefully staged by the photographer, who created an interactive story within a balanced composition that contrasted dark and light areas to enhance visibility. The image also follows a long tradition of depicting homeowners against a backdrop of their residence.

When was the photograph taken? Who are the people in it? What can we learn through close observation of the sitters, clothing, building, and landscape? This intriguing picture can tell us a great deal.

The date of our albumen print is about 1870, but how do we know that?

July 1870 fashion plate from The World of Fashion and  Continental Feuilletons

Fashion plate from The World of Fashion and Continental Feuilletons, July 1870

First, let’s look at the clothing. Details are hard to see, but the women’s skirts—although full—do not have the enormous width of the late 1850s and the Civil War era, nor do they have the narrower silhouette that came into style in the mid-1870s. The woman seated on the steps has arranged her abundant tresses (which might have included false hair) in a large and low style, and she wears a small bonnet. Old-fashioned daycaps, like the one on the woman at the right, had been worn only by older women for quite some time. The little girls wear full-skirted white dresses, perhaps with whitework embroidery. We see black kid boots on one of the young girls, and the edges of her pantalettes are just visible below her hemline. The little boy wears short trousers, although he probably stopped wearing a dress only recently, as dresses were worn by all very young children. The gentleman’s attire includes a sack jacket, a vest, and a wide necktie. (If you are interested in learning more about your own historic photographs, an excellent reference book is Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans & Fashion, 1840–1900 by Joan Severa.)

Bartowfamily detail

Some members of the Bartow household

Next, we need to check the census to see who was living at the mansion in 1870. The head of household was sixty-nine-year-old Maria Lorillard Bartow (1800–1880). Her husband, Robert Bartow (1792–1868), had died two years earlier and does not appear in our photo, which could mean that it was taken after his death. The Bartows’ daughter Clarina (1838–1898) is also listed in the household, along with five of her six children—Maria, eight; Bessie, six; James H., four; Duncan, two; and Clarina, three months. (A sixth child was born later.) Clarina’s husband was the Reverend James Hervey Morgan (died 1876), but the 1870 census tells us that he was living with his parents, Rev. and Mrs. Richard U. Morgan, in a New Rochelle boarding house (the elder Rev. Morgan was the rector at nearby Trinity Church). This does not mean that the couple had marital problems. Evelyn Bartow relates in the Bartow Genealogy (1875) that Clarina’s five oldest children were born in Pelham, where the Bartow mansion was located. (This section of Pelham later became part of the Bronx.) It makes sense that Clarina gave birth at her parents’ house to benefit from household and childcare help, along with her mother’s support. Research indicates that the Morgans lived in New York City, so the older children probably enjoyed spending time at their grandparents’ lovely country estate. The Bartows’ youngest daughter, Henrietta (1843–1902), and all of their surviving sons lived at home in 1870—George (1828–1875), Reginald (1842–1888), and Theodoret (1846–1891). Seven servants—six of them Irish-born—rounded out the household. There were so many people in the house that there may have been no room for Clarina’s husband.

So who is in the photograph? Using our clues, we can draw the following conclusions. The older woman is Mrs. Bartow. Her daughter Clarina Bartow Morgan is seated on the steps and looks back at her eldest son—and husband’s namesake—James Hervey Morgan. The two little girls are Clarina’s eldest daughters, Maria and Elisabeth (“Bessie”). The young woman in a simple dress standing by the little boy is probably one of the Irish servants (perhaps she helped with the children). Maybe it is Kate Marshall or Annie Regan, who were both in their twenties at the time. Finally, we have the hard-to-see gentleman at the right. Is he Clarina’s husband or one of her brothers?

Bartow-PellFrontca.1870cropped lightened

Bartow mansion, west façade

Now let’s explore the building.

Window treatment. illustration in Beautiful Homes; or, Hints in House Furnishing, Hentry T Williams and Mrs. C. S. Jones, 1878

Illustration from Beautiful Homes; or, Hints in House Furnishing, 1878

Visitors often ask us about the niche above the front door. Was a sculpture ever there? Probably not, since the space is empty in this photograph. The windows and doors are interesting elements. You will notice that some of the exterior shutters are closed, which would never happen today, as our shutters are purely decorative. Before window screens, exterior louvered shutters provided ventilation, light, protection from the elements, and privacy, especially during the warmer months when windows were open. We even see shutters on the front door. To further cool the house and encourage cross-ventilation, both the front door and the French windows in the north parlor are open to catch breezes from Long Island Sound. Embroidered muslin or lace undercurtains can be glimpsed in some of the windows and were probably used in tandem with more elaborate draperies.

Finally, the photograph shows us what some of the landscaping looked like at this time. The lawn came right up to the steps leading to the front door, and the carriage drive runs straight across the lawn, probably making a circular route back to Shore Road. The current parking lot in front of the building did not exist until much later, as it would have been difficult for carriages to turn around in a small space. The shrubs are planted in a haphazard way, and there appear to be no flowerbeds near the house. A vine, probably ivy, is starting to cover some of the façade.

This special image reminds us that today’s museum was yesterday’s family home, where life’s happenings—mundane to momentous—unfolded for three generations. Because Robert and Maria Bartow’s family line seems to have died out and most of their photo albums, letters, and other mementoes have been lost, we must use our imagination to fill in the blanks. Luckily, this photograph has survived to tell part of the story.

BPMM docents

BPMM docents pose on the front steps about 150 years later.

 Margaret Highland, Historian

Posted in Mansion Musings | 2 Comments

The Irrepressible Zelia

1978.02

Sydney Percy Kendrick (British, 1874–1955). Mrs. Charles Frederick Hoffman, ca. 1930. Oil on canvas. Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum, Gift of Mrs. Aymar Johnson, 1978.02. This posthumous portrait was painted from a photograph taken of Zelia in evening dress before a 1920s function in London and was given to Bartow-Pell by her daughter.

International Garden Club founder and Bartow mansion preservationist Zelia Hoffman (1867–1929) was definitely not a shrinking violet. The hard-charging Newport hostess, transatlantic horticulturalist, country house chatelaine, philanthropist, and political candidate was described by the pseudonymous Old Guard gossip columnist Cholly Knickerbocker in 1929 as “Zealous Zelia.” This visionary woman with a get-it-done attitude was much more than a mere grande dame with lots of ideas. Today she would probably be making headlines as an elected official or a CEO.

Zelia Krumbhaar Preston was born in Evansville, Indiana, in 1867. Her father was a bank president, and the family lived in New Orleans, Philadelphia, Europe, and New York. At nineteen, Zelia attended Oxford, not long after the first women’s colleges were founded there. It is unknown whether her mother hoped to marry her off to a British aristocrat like other wealthy Americans who traded cash for titles, but as an enthusiastic anglophile, Zelia “used a number of her American dollars later in life to lease a great [British] establishment” (in Knickerbocker’s words).

Charles F. Hoffman Jr. from Select Organizations in the United States, William V. R. Miller, ed., 1896 - Copy - Copy

Charles Frederick Hoffman Jr. in 1896

On December 29, 1900, thirty-three-year-old Zelia married forty-four-year-old Charles Frederick Hoffman Jr. (1856–1919) in a yuletide ceremony at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Tuxedo Park, a blueblood enclave north of New York City where the couple had met. The New York Times reported that the bride wore “old family lace, a diamond collar, the gift of the bridegroom, and a diamond spray of flowers, a gift of the bridegroom’s mother,” and proceeded down the aisle on her brother’s arm as the choir sang the wedding chorus from Wagner’s Lohengrin. It was the first marriage for the bride and the second for the groom, whose first wife had died in 1895.

Zelia’s husband was a very rich man. His father, Rev. Dr. Charles Frederick Hoffman, Rector of All Angels’ Episcopal Church in New York City, and his father’s brother, Rev. Dr. Eugene Augustus Hoffman, Dean of the General Theological Seminary, had inherited an immense fortune from their father. When Charles Hoffman died in 1919, the New York Times announced that he had left an estate of five million dollars, stipulating that $50,000 a year be devoted “to the education and maintenance” of the couple’s only child, seventeen-year-old Marian, so that she could “keep up the state of life which is suitable to one in her station.”

Marian Hoffman Johnson recounted that her parents had built a home in New York City at 620 Fifth Avenue designed by Carrere and Hastings (further research needs to be done on this now-demolished building). The Hoffmans spent the summer season at their palatial Newport estate, Armsea Hall (also demolished), where they enjoyed a lavish social life among posh people such as the Astors and Vanderbilts.

Roses at Armsea Hall, glass lantern slide by Francis Benjamin Johnson, Library of Congress - Copy

Frances Benjamin Johnston (American, 1864–1952). Rose Trellis at Armsea Hall, 1914. Glass lantern slide. Library of Congress

Along with other progressive well-to-do women at the time leading up to World War I, Zelia must have grown tired of a life limited to running the household, making trips to the dressmaker, and planning the next party, so she took on leadership roles in a number of philanthropic organizations and social causes. Among her projects was the creation of the International Garden Club (IGC) and restoration of the Bartow mansion to serve as the organization’s clubhouse. Zelia had a longtime interest in horticulture and had beautiful gardens in Newport, where she was a founder of the Newport Garden Club.

The story of the IGC starts with two women—Zelia Hoffman, an American who was in love with Britain, and Alice Martineau, an Englishwoman who was in love with America. It was a match made in gardening heaven.

In 1913, Mrs. Martineau published The Herbaceous Garden and sailed to America that autumn to “give a course of drawing-room lectures in New York . . . for the purpose of increasing interest in fine gardening among wealthy society people,” as the New York Times reported. It is unknown exactly when and how the two women met, but at Alice Martineau’s suggestion, Zelia sprang into action to create a new organization modeled on the Royal Horticultural Society. By the spring of 1914, Mrs. Hoffman had enlisted an impressive array of wealthy and influential people to join the new garden club, restore the historic Bartow mansion, and create a variety of gardens. Their ambitious vision included publishing a serious horticultural journal, establishing a library, and organizing lectures and flower shows, among other activities. In May 1914, the New York Tribune gushed: “The International Garden Club, which was formed as a result of Mrs. Martineau’s enthusiasm, has already grown to a size which promises that the club will be able to do the great work it has set itself.”

Delano Bartow rose garden design 1917

Delano & Aldrich, architects. Proposed Rose Garden for the International Garden Club, Bartow Mansion, Pelham Bay Park, 1917. Illustration from the Journal of the International Garden Club, vol. I, no. 1, August 1917. Mrs. Hoffman loved roses. Delano & Aldrich proposed a magnificent rose garden at Bartow-Pell under her leadership, but the design was never realized.

Astoundingly, the IGC was only one of Zelia’s many activities around this time. She was also Secretary and Vice President of the Diocesan Auxiliary of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine; Acting President of the National Special Aid Society (a World War I women’s service group); active in the Red Cross; and President of the Newport Garden Club. Not surprisingly, she supported women’s right to vote and attended a suffrage ball for 1,500 people in Chicago in 1916. She must have had boundless drive and energy.

In 1919, Zelia’s husband died at Armsea Hall in Newport. The wealthy widow moved to England a few months later, eventually settling at Blickling Hall, a grand historic Norfolk estate with extensive gardens that is now part of the National Trust.

Blickling Hall - Copy

Blickling Hall, Zelia Hoffman’s home in the 1920s. The Gardens of England in the Midland and Eastern Counties, 1908

Mrs. Hoffman became a British subject and ran for Parliament in 1929, hoping to follow in the footsteps of fellow American-turned-Brit Nancy Astor, who was the first woman MP in the House of Commons. During her campaign, Zelia did not mince words when asked about her strong but surprising stance on Prohibition, saying in the New York Times: “‘Prohibition—for Americans, yes; for England, no. In England, there is no need for prohibition at all. It is a peaceful, law-abiding country.’” She went on to say: “‘No, I do not agree with Lady Astor. I should hate to give Englishmen raspberry frappé and sundaes instead of beer.’” (Lady Astor was sympathetic to anti-drinking laws.) Although Zelia wanted to “inject a new brand of American pep into the sedate Parliament,” according to the Pittsburgh Press, she lost her bid as the Liberal candidate for North Norfolk.

A few months after her political defeat, Zelia Hoffman died at the age of sixty-two. The Bishop of Norwich presided at her funeral service at Blickling Church, and she was buried in New York alongside her husband at Trinity Cemetery in Upper Manhattan.

As we recognize Bartow-Pell’s 102nd anniversary, we celebrate the remarkable Zelia Hoffman, the irrepressible force who started it all.

Margaret Highland, Historian

Posted in Mansion Musings | Leave a comment