British Monarchs Are Crowned On King Edward’s Throne, But I’d Reign From My “Winter Wonderland” Hitchcock Chair

A Welcome Wagon hostess might not have presented me with a basket of samples and coupons when I moved to Riverlea, but Mary and Peggy, two unmarried sisters in their 80s who lived next door, were a far better gift. The first night I spent the night in my new home, my new neighbors called to make sure I wasn’t afraid to stay there by myself. They invited me to watch television with them in their sunroom, to go with them to Villa Nova for all-you-can-eat spaghetti night, and to join in their Sunday-afternoon card games with their brother-in-law and their niece. And I could come over anytime to play with George, their cat.

Best of all, Peggy and Mary shared my love of Hitchcock chairs, those iconic 19th-century pieces that have come to define an entire genre of home furnishings. With their turned legs, rungs, slightly curved back-slats and rounded-edged plank or saddle seats, these chairs are either painted black or finished with Hitchcock chairan imitation grain to represent mahogany, walnut, or rosewood. They are best known for their beautiful stenciled decorations, most often made with shimmering bronze powders, but other extra-special pieces are adorned with hand-painted scenes.

Hitchcock chairs are the creation of Lambert Hitchcock, who was born in Cheshire, Connecticut in 1795. After apprenticing with a Litchfield chair- and cabinet-maker, 23-year-old Lambert struck out on his own in 1818 and began making his own chairs. In nearby Barkhamsted, on the west branch of the Farmington River, he converted a shed near a sawmill that was used to store lumber into a shop outfitted with waterwheel-powered lathes, boring machines and other equipment essential to making chairs. At first, he made chair parts, selling them to storekeepers, settlers and distributors in the faraway Southern states. By 1825, Lambert’s business was so successful that he expanded to producing fully assembled and painted chairs and other pieces of furniture, building a 10-room factory and employing about 100 men, women and children to produce 15,000 chairs a year, selling them from 49 cents to $1.50 apiece. Convicts in the state prison even helped Lambert by making woven seat frames and extra parts for him.

New Englanders of the day made furniture out of wood from plentiful maple, birch and cherry trees. To simulate more expensive woods like mahogany and walnut, they painted or stained it in a base color like a rusty red, washed it with a coat of black paint, and partly removed it with crumpled cloths, sponges or wood-graining combs before it was dry to create a wood-grain effect. To replicate the expensive brass insets and elaborate filigrees that were so popular on the imported French furniture of the day, early-19th-century American craftsmen relied on less-costly stencil decorations. Lambert was a businessman rather than an artist, so he employed gilders to do the stenciling. They applied bronze powders of many different colors with a tin stenciler’s puffer through a series of pierced stencil overlay patterns made from architects’ linen. The luminous powders adhered to a tacky varnished surface to form a design with attractive depth and shading.

Hitchcock chair stencil

Popular stencil designs included honeysuckle patterns, egg-and-dart borders, and the eagle, which was adopted in 1782 as the official emblem of the United States.

Hitchcock eagle dresser pull

A bowl of fruit containing stylized grapes, melons, peaches and pears, with floral sprays on either side, was especially favored by Hitchcock customers. Paintings of landscapes or familiar farm scenes also adorned the backs of some Hitchcock chairs.Hitchcock mirrorOnce the piece was stenciled, another craftsperson striped and banded it to frame the design and accent the piece’s contours. Using a quill and yellow ocher, black, or umber paint, the artist made one long stripe, then quickly passed the quill from one hand to the other and made another long connecting stripe.

To meet New Englanders’ demand for Windsor chairs, Lambert also made these functional, traditionally English chairs with spindle backs. Additionally, he popularized the Boston rocker, with a high spindled back topped with a decorative panel, arms, and a seat that curves downward at the front. 

Hitchcock child's rockerAll Hitchcock chair seats were either made of wood, cane, or rush, a durable material hand-woven from cattail plants harvested in the late summer from nearby swampy, muddy areas. Weaving rush is such exacting work that only about three seats could be completed a day.

As Lambert’s fame as a chairmaker grew, the citizens of Barkhamsted renamed the village Hitchcocks-ville in his honor. He was so confident in his products that he decided to sign everything that was produced in his factory. A stencil was created that read “L. Hitchcock. Hitchcocks-ville. Conn. Warranted.” The “N’s” were stenciled backwards by mistake, but it remained because stencils were too valuable to discard.

Hitchcock "Warranted" mark

Although Lambert’s assembly-line techniques and merchandising ideas were revolutionary for his day, financial and transportation challenges led his business to go bankrupt in 1828, and it took three years to pay off his creditors. After Lambert died in 1852, his business changed hands several times until the factory closed. In 1865, the similarity between the names of Hitchcocks-ville and Hotchkiss-ville, another Connecticut village, caused so much confusion in the stagecoach postal service that Hitchcocks-ville’s name was changed to Riverton.

In 1946, a shoe-store owner named John Kenney came to Riverton on a fishing trip, discovered the old Hitchcock factory, eventually bought it, and built a very successful business creating and selling new furniture replicating Hitchcock designs, creating the bronze-powder stencils with an airbrush and a series of brass stencil patterns with registration points and overlays so that every stencil would be placed in the exact position needed to create intricate, shaded designs. Several Hitchcock reproduction pieces, including a child’s rocker, a mirror, a dresser, a bed headboard and footboard, a kitchen table and four matching chairs, furnish my home.

After Kenney died in 1983, the Hitchcock Chair Company experienced more difficulties, and its factory, wholesale business and associated retail stores eventually closed in 2006. In 2010, new owners purchased the Hitchcock name, plans and artwork, and the Hitchcock Chair Company began creating Hitchcock chairs, tables, benches, mirrors, occasional pieces and limited-edition selections in Riverton once again.

This past Christmas, my parents gave me a limited-edition Hitchcock Signature Series Christmas chair that was first offered in 1975. Finished in white enamel, with a hand-crafted rush seat, the chair features a hand-stenciled “Winter Wonderland” scene on the main back-slat, which also has a button back. It has holly stenciling on the top-rail, bronze-powder decorative stenciling on the front-rail and side posts, and gold striping on the knobs and the fronts of the legs, just like Lambert’s craftsmen did.  It was finished just days before Christmas.

Hitchcock limited-edition "Winter Wonderland" chair

Peggy and Mary would love it.

Detail of Hitchcock limited-edition "Winter Wonderland" chair
To learn more about Hitchcock chairs, read The Hitchcock Chair: The Story of a Connecticut Yankee – L. Hitchcock of Hitchcocks-ville – and an Account of the Restoration of His 19th-Century Manufactory, by John Tarrant Kenney; Hitchcock Chairs, by Mabel Roberts Moore; and How to Restore and Decorate Chairs, by Roberta Ray Blanchard.

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Where Can You Eat Bratwurst, Sauerkraut and Potatoes In Wiener Werkstätte Style?

There we sat, right in the middle of an elegant room with dark oak paneling and a row of tall windows overlooking Frederic Law Olmsted’s legendary park. To our left, a Phoebe Neidhardt lookalike in a black dress arranged and rearranged the silk scarf she had draped around her arms while she sipped a cup of Harney and Sons “Vienna 1900” tea. Behind us, a pair in sparkling cocktail dresses and fascinators split a piece of Sachertorte. To our right, a ponytailed lady in a fur vest, a red cashmere turtleneck and patterned leggings tucked into the plate of roasted bratwurst, Riesling sauerkraut and roasted potatoes that we also had ordered. Bags of house-made chocolate-covered almonds and nougat-covered hazelnuts stood ready beside a Bösendorfer grand piano and a marble fireplace mantel. Lighting fixtures by Josef Hoffmann, tables by Adolf Loos, and banquettes upholstered with fabric by Otto Wagner provided the finishing touches to this memorable scene. After years of anticipation, we were finally having dinner at Café Sabarsky, a Viennese-style coffeehouse on the Upper East Side of New York City.

Neue GalerieCafé Sabarsky is located in the former dining room of the Beaux-Arts mansion at 1048 Fifth Avenue that was designed by Carrère & Hastings, the architects of the New York Public Library, for William Starr and Edith Warren Miller in 1913. Situated on the corner of Fifth Avenue and East 86th Street, opposite Central Park, the Millers’ Parisian-style townhouse was in a very prestigious location.

Large iron-and-glass doors open from the street into a vestibule that leads to a hall with black-and-white marble floors and a curving marble staircase with elegant French Renaissance-style iron railings, lit by an oval glass skylight with wrought-iron bands.

Neue GalerieOn the first floor, the library featured a marble mantel, oak paneling embellished with foliage and shells, and built-in bookcases with openwork doors and metal hardware decorated with laurels.

Carved oak paneling and doors, mirrors framed by marble pilasters, cornices with gilded acanthus leaves and garland-holding putti, and a geometric patterned oak floor made the house’s second-floor entertaining rooms a grand, but smaller, version of the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. It was the perfect setting for the Millers’ collection of French furniture and decorative objects.

Grace Vanderbilt, wife of Cornelius Vanderbilt III, the great-grandson of the founder of the New York Central Railroad, purchased the house in 1944. In 1955, the house became the home of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, which studied and preserved the history and culture of Yiddish-speaking Jews in Eastern Europe. Then, in 1993, it became the perfect place to house the Neue Galerie, a museum established by Ronald Lauder, the son of Estée Lauder who served as United States Ambassador to Austria under President Reagan, and his friend, Serge Sabarsky. The museum collects, preserves, researches and exhibits the fine and decorative arts of early-20th century Germany and Austria, most memorably created by Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka, Vasily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and other artists associated with the Bauhaus and the Wiener Werkstätte, a community of artists who applied sound design principles to the beautiful furniture, jewelry, and other objects they created for daily use. Examples on display include Josef Hoffman’s Sitzmaschine, an iconic chair from 1908, and brooches displayed in a case Koloman Moser designed in 1904 for Schwestern Flöge (Flöge Sisters), a haute-couture Viennese fashion house.

While the Neue Galerie has the most extenNeue Galeriesive collection of Klimt paintings and drawings in the United States, it is best known as the home of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, Klimt’s 1907 painting of the prominent Viennese socialite that became the center of a famous art restitution case between Austria’s Belvedere Gallery and the Bloch-Bauer family. This exquisite portrait with its golden swirls, displayed in a frame designed by Josef Hoffman, positively shimmers. Neue Galerie visitors are invited to strike a creative pose with a reproduction of the painting that hangs on a wall papered with a contemporary version of “Blueberry,” designed by Josef Hoffman in 1904.

Special exhibitions like Berlin Metropolis 1918-1933, on view during my visit, explore how other paintings, drawings, sculptures, photos, decorative arts, music, architecture, fashion, novels and films from the period have influenced modern culture. Think of Alfred Döblin’s novel, Berlin Alexanderplatz; Fritz Lang’s film, Metropolis; and the musical theater of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, and you’ll understand what I mean.  German Advertising Posters of the Early 20th Century, another special exhibition I saw at the Neue Galerie, introduced me to Lucian Bernhard, the German graphic designer whose 1905 poster for Priester matches introduced a new style of adverting known as the Sachplakat, where simple imagery and a minimum of text combined to create straightforward, persuasive posters that made a quick impression on people as they passed by.  In addition to his trendsetting poster designs, Bernhard created the iconic trademark for Cat’s Paw rubber heels and developed typefaces like Book Antiqua.

Small rectangular signs flanking the museum’s entrance were created in Vienna by Lilly Brecher, a traditional Viennese sign-painter. With their gold lettering on black backgrounds, they are reminiscent of those used by the Wiener Werkstätte.

The Millers’ formerNeue Galerie library and telephone room have been transformed into a book store and a design shop selling reproductions of Austrian and German decorative arts. I took home Klimt Musik, a compact disc of recordings of the works of Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss, Franz Lehár and other composers popular during Gustav Klimt’s era, but I was tempted by playing cards; a loden dog coat lined with a Josef Hoffman textile design; stems of hand-glazed porcelain flowers with hand-painted copper stems and leaves, including fritillary, alpine forget-me-not and cornflower; replicas of a circa-1903 Klimt painting smock and Sigmund Freud’s Kapritzpolsterl, a traditional Viennese neck pillow; a Steiff teddy bear; and “Blue Angel” and “Berlin 1920” woolen berets, mufflers and gloves hand-knit by Katie Mawson in the English Lake District. See what I mean in the Neue Galerie Design Shop’s Holiday Gift Guide

Aerin Lauder, Ronald Lauder’s daughter, has also created limited-edition lipsticks in custom boxes for the Neue Galerie. “Berlin Nights” was inspired by the bright-red lipstick favored by the Neue Frau of Weimar-era Berlin; “Berlin Red” was based on Otto Dix’s portrait of Anita Berber; and “Liebling” and “Sequin” evoke the golden shimmer of Adele Bloch-Bauer I.

Neue GalerieFor more on the Neue Galerie, see Neue Cuisine: The Elegant Tastes of Vienna: Recipes from Wallsé, Café Sabarsky and Blaue Gans, by Kurt Gutenbrunner, Jane Sigal and Ellen Silverman; 1048 Fifth Avenue: From Mansion to Museum, by Andrew Dolkart; watch a recording of a related presentation Dolkart gave at the Neue Galerie here.

To learn more about the exhibitions of German and Viennese art that the Neue Galerie has hosted, read Berlin Metropolis 1918-1933, edited by Olaf Peters; Birth of the Modern: Style and Identity in Vienna 1900, edited by Jill Lloyd and Christian Witt-Dörring; Postcards of the Wiener Werkstätte: A Catalogue Raisonné: Selections from the Leonard A. Lauder Collection, edited by Elisabeth Schmuttermeier and Christian Witt-Dörring; Wiener Werkstätte Jewelry; Josef Hoffmann: Interiors 1902-1913 and Josef Hoffmann: Interiors 1902-1913: The Making of an Exhibition, both edited by Christian Witt-Dörring; Koloman Moser: Designing Modern Vienna 1897-1907, edited by Christian Witt-Dörring; and New Worlds: German and Austrian Art, 1890-1940, edited by Renée Price.

To discover the story behind Adele Bloch-Bauer I, read Gustav Klimt: The Ronald S. Lauder and Serge Sabarsky Collections, edited by Renée Price, with contributions by Ronald S. Lauder; Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, by Sophie Lillie and Georg Gaugusch; The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, by Anne-Marie O’Connor; Woman in Gold, the 2015 film starring Helen Mirren; Klimt and His Cat, by Berenice Capatti; and Adorable Adele: A Modern Fairy Tale, by Peter Stephan Jungk and John Martinez.

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You Don’t Have To Go To Durham’s Palace Green Library To Knit Two Hats Fit For Heroes

Steps away from Durham Cathedral’s carved stone columns and saintly shrines, paths lined with colorful begonias circle a grassy area known as Palace Green. Durham Castle stands to the north, while the law, theology, classics, history, music and special collections departments of Durham University make their homes in buildings to the east and west. 

Palace Green, Durham UniversityWe burst into one of those buildings in search of Emma Bridgewater’s elusive limited-edition Lindisfarne Gospels mug. We emerged without the mug, but with two knitting patterns designed to complement a series of exhibitions now on view at Palace Green Library.

The library dates to 1669, when Bishop John Cosin founded the first public lending library in the northeast of England that was home to his collection of medieval manuscripts and early printed books. A year after the University of Durham was established in 1832, the library became known as Durham University Library, expanding its collection so much so that it moved to the 15th-century Exchequer Building, a former law court, on Palace Green. Today, the library focuses solely on the university’s archival and special collections.

This winter, the library is hosting four exhibitions on the discovery and exploration of Antarctica.

Antarctica: Explorers, Heroes, Scientists uncovers how people from the northeast of England have contributed to our understanding of Antarctica, from Captain Cook to contemporary Durham University scientists. With Scott to the Pole features historic photographs of Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the South Pole in 1910, where he and his colleagues died on the return journey. Antarctic Witness charts the events of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-16, as documented in 120 glass plates created by Frank Hurley, the expedition’s official photographer. Antarctic Science Today uncovers information about climate and sea level change that Durham University researchers are currently gathering in Antarctica.

Before Christmas, knitters were invited to make two hats that were inspired by Antarctic explorers, with all proceeds donated to Head Start, an initiative of Walking with the Wounded, a charity supporting mentally injured servicemen and women that organized a 2013 trek across the Antarctic. Both hats are made from very simple patterns.

As part of her “Explorer” collection of knitted hats, Angelea McGarrah designed her “Shackleton” hat in honor of Sir Ernest Shackleton, a polar explorer who led three expeditions to the Antarctic.Angelea McGarrah's "Shackleton" hat

The “Tom Crean Tea Cozy” hat honors Tom Crean, Shackleton’s second officer on the Endurance expedition to Antarctica in 1914. The Irishman first traveled to the Antarctic with Shackleton in 1901. During an expedition with Robert Scott to the South Pole in 1911, he walked 35 miles alone across the ice to rescue a fellow explorer, an act which won him the Albert Medal for Lifesaving. When the dog-handler Shackleton hired for the Endurance expedition didn’t show up, Crean took charge of the 69 dogs that were chosen to work with the crew. He also accompanied Shackleton on the 800-mile journey to South Georgia to find help after the Endurance sank after encountering hundreds of miles of pack ice.

Inspired by the hat that Crean is wearing in this photo, Jane Suzanne Carroll made a pattern for a hat that doubles as a tea cozy. Carroll, a lecturer on children’s literature at the University of Roehampton, recommends reading Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill, a picture book about the Endurance expedition which won the 2015 Kate Greenaway medal for illustration. To see more of her work, click here.

Jane Suzanne Carroll's "Tom Crean Tea Cozy Hat"

For more on Shackleton, see Chasing Shackleton: Re-creating the World’s Greatest Journey of Survival, by Tim Jarvis; Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, by Alfred Lansing; and Shackleton’s Voyage of Endurance, NOVA’s 1999 expedition following in Shackleton’s footsteps to Elephant and South Georgia Islands.

All three exhibitions are on view at Durham University’s Palace Green Library through February 7.

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Henry’s Home Is Comfortable, Well-Arranged, In Good Taste, And Not Ostentatious

This is a door that’s a big deal. Besides being embellished with the monogram of its owner, it’s crowned by a limestone pediment for which Audrey Marie Munson, “Miss Manhattan,” the leading model for New York City’s public statues of the day, posed.Frick Collection

Opening this door was an equally big deal.

This is the front door to a mansion at the corner of Fifth Avenue and East 70th Street in New York City. It was the home of Henry Clay Frick, who made millions in the coke industry that was essential to the creation of iron and steel. Ever since seeing Frick’s Pittsburgh home, Clayton — a sumptuous place with embossed velvet wallcoverings, mahogany furniture, and tiger and bird’s-eye maple woodwork — I’ve been itching to open this door and step inside.

Frick was also an art collector with a good eye, selecting paintings, sculptures and decorative art “that were pleasant to live with,” his daughter, Helen, said. His custom was to take paintings on approval for months before he finally decided to purchase them. This way, he would be certain that they fit in well with the rest of his collection. Frick envisioned that his home would eventually become a place to encourage and develop the study of the fine arts, so that the public could enjoy his collection. Today, this door is the main entrance to The Frick Collection, a museum presenting fine paintings by the European Old Masters and 19th-century American artists, Italian bronzes, 18th-century French furniture and Sèvres porcelain.

In 1905, Frick rented the former New York City home of William H. Vanderbilt at 640 Fifth Avenue. The next year, a plot of land on Fifth Avenue between 70th and 71st Streets caught his eye. It was the site of the Lenox Library, a building which Richard Morris Hunt designed to hold the collection of a philanthropist named James Lenox. Six years later, the library’s holdings were incorporated and moved into the newly built New York Public Library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. Frick took title of the land, and the building was torn down to make way for “a small house, with plenty of light and air and land” that would be “a comfortable, well-arranged home, in good taste, and not ostentatious,” Frick ordered.

He was determined to create a superlative setting for his equally superlative art collection.

Frick commissioned Thomas Hastings to design a Neoclassical house, and hired Sir Charles Allom, a leading British decorator with Buckingham Palace to his credit, to handle the interior decoration on the first floor, the second-floor breakfast room and his private sitting room. He also hired Elsie de Wolfe, the first American professional interior decorator, to design and furnish 14 rooms on the second and third floors. As the trio worked, Frick reminded them of their mission to create “a liveable, homelike house and in the best of taste” while keeping their spending under control.

When Frick moved into his new home in November 1914, he personally oversaw the unwrapping the placement of each piece in his collection. He rearranged rooms as he acquired new items.

Frick took great joy in his art collection, and in the home he created to display it. The grand West Gallery was originally designed as an art gallery, just as it is today, and most of the same paintings hang on its forest-green velvet walls. Allom installed special lighting that illuminated each painting by an individual concealed spotlight, directing the light to fall only on the canvas and the frame. Before the room was completed, Frick wrote, “The picture gallery is going to be a dream. I like its proportions immensely.” When he lived in the house, Frick enjoyed sitting alone here at night, looking at the paintings.

When J.P. Morgan, also an art collector, died in 1913, some of his collection was displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Frick purchased several items from Morgan’s collection, including Limoges enamels, porcelains, and bronzes that he displayed in the oak-paneled library on waist-high bookcases, for which Allom designed special tooled-leather pads to keep Frick’s most important works on art, music and literature from getting dusty. When Frick’s grandchildren visited, they played with the smaller bronzes on the library floor.

Perhaps Frick’s most memorable purchase from Morgan’s estate was a series of 14 paintings by Jean-Honoré Fragonard called The Progress of Love. Frick had the drawing room totally rebuilt to accommodate them, and spent over $5 million on sculptures, furniture, porcelains and bronzes to complement them.

Frick was an avid reader, and his bookplate read, “Those who do not read are going back instead of progressing.” He often read in a chair in the Living Hall, looking up to gaze at one of his favorite paintings, St. Francis in the Desert, by Giovanni Bellini. He napped on the library’s sofa, beneath Miss Mary Edwards by William Hogarth, and on the sofa in the West Gallery, beneath King Philip IV of Spain by Diego Velazquez.

The Fricks read, played cards, and talked over after-dinner coffee in the oak-paneled living hall. They were surrounded by Hans Holbein’s portraits of Sir Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell; El Greco’s painting of St. Jerome; 18th-century ebony and gilt-bronze French cabinets; Chinese porcelains; and Japanese lacquer panels.

Frick lived in the house for just five years. In November 1919, Frick contracted ptomaine poisoning that was either caused or aggravated by the lobster he ate for lunch, which led to heart failure. When Frick was dying, he took to his bed, staring first at Lady Hamilton as Nature by George Romney, then rolling over to stare at a studio copy of Miss Louisa Murray by Sir Thomas Lawrence. Frick’s wife, Adelaide, and their daughter, Helen, continued to live there after his death. When Adelaide died in 1931, the house was converted into a museum, following Frick’s wishes.

In his will, Frick provided a $15 million endowment for the house and his collection, stipulating that it open to the public as The Frick Collection. Helen continued to expand the collection by acquiring new works of art. John Russell Pope was commissioned to convert the family home into a public facility, moving the front door to 70th Street, transforming the courtyard and carriageway into a garden court with a skylight, a pool and fountain, and plants. He added a music room, where T.S. Eliot read from his poems and great 20th-century musicians like Isaac Stern have performed. He created a new entrance hall and additional galleries, and incorporated the Frick Art Reference Library into the space. Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., whose father planned Central Park, designed the museum’s garden. The Frick Collection opened to the public on December 16, 1935.

In the 1970s, the museum acquired three neighboring properties on 70th Street for the addition of a new wing housing a reception hall, gift shop and coat room, together with a garden designed by Russell Page.

One of the most appealing things about the Frick Collection is that it not only has stayed true to its founder’s intent, but that it also retains much of the atmosphere of the Frick family’s home. Many of the paintings are still arranged according to Frick’s design.

The Frick Collection and Frick Art Reference Library Archives have digitized photographs and documents related to the Fricks, the house’s construction in 1913 and its conversion into a museum. Click here to browse them.

Click here to see a digitized album of the earliest known photographs of the interior of the house, taken in 1927. 

And click here to see an online exhibition marking the 100th anniversary of the Fricks’ moving into their new residence at 1 East 70th Street. Digitized photographs and manuscripts tell the story of the house’s planning, construction, furnishing and early days. 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the completion of Henry Clay Frick’s New York residence at 1 East 70th Street, now the home of The Frick Collection.  This online exhibition draws upon documents and photographs in The Frick Collection and Frick Art Reference Library Archives to tell the story of the house’s planning, construction, furnishing, and early days.

For more on The Frick Collection and the Frick family’s New York home, see The Henry Clay Frick Houses: Architecture, Interiors, Landscapes in the Golden Era, by Martha Frick Symington Sanger; Art in the Frick Collection: Paintings, Sculpture, Decorative Arts, by Charles Ryskamp, edited by Joseph Focarino; Building the Frick Collection: An Introduction to the House and Its Collections, by Colin B. Bailey; The Frick Collection–A Tour, by Edgar Munhall, with Susan Grace Galassi, Ashley Thomas, and the Acoustiguide Corporation staff; and “The Frick Collection,” the first chapter in American Art Museum Architecture: Documents and Design, by Eric M. Wolf.

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I Wonder If You Will Ever Know How I Loved Seeing Sagamore Hill, Even With All Those Hunting Trophies

On September 30, 1918, an exuberant fellow got off the interurban electric railroad known as the Columbus, Delaware and Marion Railway and walked east on Granville Road in Worthington to this house. He had spent the day in downtown Columbus to launch the fourth Liberty Loan Drive, speaking at a luncheon at the M160 E. Granville Rd., Worthington, Ohioasonic Temple and addressing the crowd that had gathered at the corner of Broad and High Streets for the dedication of the Franklin County Soldiers’ War Memorial on the northwest quarter of the Statehouse grounds. Before he returned home to his Long Island, New York home, he would spend the night here, at the home of his friend.

The fellow was Theodore Roosevelt. His friend was retired General Charles Cooper, a fellow Rough Rider during the Spanish-American War. And Roosevelt’s Long Island home was Sagamore Hill, the legendary estate that reopened last July after a three-and-a-half-year, $10 million restoration project.

Three generations of Roosevelts had summered on the north shore of Long Island, so in 1880, Theodore’s fond childhood memories prompted him to buy 155 acres of farmland high on a hill in the center of the peninsula, with Cold Spring Harbor on one side and Oyster Bay on the other. He decided to build a home for his family there and call it Leeholm in honor of his wife, Alice Hathaway Lee. When Alice died in 1884 after the birth of their daughter, Alice Lee, Theodore named it Sagamore, after the Algonquin word for chieftain or “head of the tribe.” Two years later, Theodore married Edith Kermit Carow, and Sagamore Hill was completed. The 22-room, three-story Queen Anne-style house became the Roosevelts’ home for the rest of their lives, first as a summer home, and then their permanent residence after 1910.

Theodore had definite ideas about how Sagamore Hill should look. He wanted a large piazza where he could sit on a rocking chair and look at the sun setting on Long Island Sound and the shores of Connecticut, a library with a bay window looking south, a parlor stretching across the western end of the first floor, and thick foundatiSagamore Hillons and large fireplaces to withstand the wintry blasts that made the home so difficult to heat that he called Sagamore Hill the “Bird Cage.” Except for Edith’s parlor, the décor was decidedly masculine, with mahogany ceiling beams, dark walnut moldings and hunting trophies galore.

Theodore loved hunting, from tracking game and demonstrating his skill in marksmanship to writing about his experiences, such as in his 1885 book, Hunting Trips of a Ranchman, and collecting specimens that formed the basis of the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum collection. Whether in the American West or on an African safari, Roosevelt hunted for sport and education, but not just for the sake of killing animals.

Be warned; if taxidermy makes you squeamish, hang on to a buddy as you walk through the first floor of Sagamore Hill. The head of an African Cape Buffalo hangs over the mantelpiece in the entrance hall, and a moose head graces the dining room. Pairs of elephant tusks flank dinner gongs and doorways. A rhinoceros foot inkstand and an elephant foot wastepaper basket stand ready at Theodore’s desk. Buffalo heads hang opposite elk heads, from whose antlers hang Theodore’s Rough Rider hat and sword. Animal skins cover the floors, including a polar bear rug that Admiral Robert E. Peary gave the Roosevelts after his return from the North Pole; Oyster Bay was his last stop before he started the journey on his ship, The Roosevelt.

More than 90 percent of Sagamore Hill’s furnishings are original to the house, and Theodore’s presence is everywhere.

A pair of blue-and-white Spanish ginger jars on the entrance hall mantel used to hold the children’s tennis balls, while a matching bowl in the drawing room was the dogs’ water dish. A silver tankard came from Theodore’s Harvard classmates. The Roosevelts purchased the dining room furniture during their wedding trip to Florence, Italy. Charles McKim, the architect who directed the White House’s remodeling in 1902, presented the couple with bookcases. Frederic Remington’s Bronco Buster was a gift from the officers and enlisted men of the Rough Riders when the regiment disbanded. The front horn of a bronze rhinoceros Edith didn’t care for was the perfect place for her to hang her summer hat. Thomas Nast gave the Roosevelts a drawing of Santa Claus filling stockings marked with the names of the six Roosevelt children for Christmas in 1901. One room filled with Theodore’s collection of weapons and Western memorabilia is where he wrote several of his books.

At first, Theodore hosted honored guests in his library, like the delegates from Russia and Japan who resolved their conflict and earned him the Nobel Peace Prize. The silver candlestick used in melting the wax that sealed the Treaty of Portsmouth still stands on his desk. After Theodore was elected to a second presidential term, he commissioned C. Grant LaFarge, son of the artist John LaFarge, to design a spacious, dignified and formal room in which to receive distinguished guests. Built entirely of American and Philippine wood, the North Room is a 30’-by-40’ sunken room with black walnut columns, panels carved with “TR” and “EKR” and a high vaulted ceiling of American swamp cypress and hazel wood. Its richly colored wallpaper is embossed with vines and flowers and accented with gold.

When the North Room was added in 1905, the piazza was extended to create a platform from which Theodore addressed the crowds who often gathered at Sagamore Hill. Constant activity was a way of life here. As Theodore’s daughter-in-law, Eleanor Butler Alexander Roosevelt, recalled in Day Before Yesterday: ThSagamore Hille Reminiscences of Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., “Something was going on every minute of the day. The house was always full of people. Conferences went on all day. The telephone never stopped ringing….At first I thought everyone would be tired when the day was over and would go to bed early, but I soon found out that nothing of the kind could be expected. The Roosevelt family enjoyed life too much to waste time sleeping. Every night they stayed downstairs until nearly midnight; then, talking at the top of their voices, they trooped up the wide uncarpeted stairs and went to their rooms. For a brief moment all was still, but just as I was going off to sleep for the second time they remembered things they had forgotten to tell one another and ran shouting through the halls.”

The Roosevelt family motto, “Qui plantavit curabit,” or “He who has planted will preserve,” is carved above the entrance door on the west side of the house. Theodore planted maSagamore Hill ny of the maples, white birches, pines and poplars on Sagamore Hill’s grounds.

At Sagamore Hill, the Roosevelts enjoyed hiking, playing tennis and football, horseback riding, rowing across Oyster Bay for picnics, swimming, running obstacle courses, staging theatrical productions and giving impromptu speeches. It was also a working farm, so they helped tend gardens and fields planted with wheat, rye and barley and cared for farm animals and pets, which included at various times an eagle, a macaw, a mountain lion, guinea pigs, a flying squirrel, a kangaroo rat, a garter snake, a one-legged rooster, and a bear named Jonathan Edwards in honor of one of Edith’s ancestors. Behind the house at Sagamore Hill is a cemetery with a boulder marked “Faithful Friends” where several of those pets are buried.

One pet ended up not in the cemetery, but stretched out on the floor in Theodore’s library at Sagamore Hill. During the president’s 1903 railroad tour of the American West, his train stopped in Sharon Springs, Kansas and a girl gave him a baby badger, which he named Josiah after the girl’s brother. He wrote his children that the little badger reminded him of “a small mattress, with a leg at each corner.” Back at the White House, Josiah became the pet of 12-year-old Ethel and 9-year-old Archie, charming the family with his antics until he developed a temper, started “hissing like a teakettle” and nipping ankles, and was sent to the Bronx Zoo in New York. Click here and here to see photos of Archie holding Josiah at Sagamore Hill, circa 1903-1905.

Theodore and Edith’s oldest son, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., and his wife, Eleanor Butler Alexander Roosevelt, commissioned their son-in-law, Baltimore architect William G. McMillan, Jr., to build them a home in the old apple orchard behind Sagamore Hill in 1938. They named it “Old Orchard,” filling it with mementos from their world travels. Eleanor continued to live there after her husband passed away in 1944 until her death in 1960. Today, it houses a musOld Orchard, Sagamore Hilleum that chronicles the president’s life and career. Artifacts on display include Roosevelt’s Rough Rider uniform, tailored by Brooks Brothers, and mementos from his “Bull Moose” campaign challenging William Howard Taft for the presidential nomination in 1912, so called after he told reporters that he felt “like a bull moose” ready for a fight.

“I wonder if you will ever know how I love Sagamore Hill,” 60-year-old Theodore remarked to Edith hours before he died at Sagamore Hill on January 6, 1919. Edith lived in the house until her death in September 1948 at age 87. Sagamore Hill opened to the public in 1953 and has been a National Park Service site since 1962.

For more on Sagamore Hill, see Sagamore Hill: An Historical Guide, by Hermann Hagedorn and Gary G. Roth; Presidential Retreats: Where the Presidents Went and Why They Went There, by Peter Hannaford; The House Tells the Story: Homes of the American Presidents, by Adam Van Doren, with a foreword by David McCullough; “Theodore Roosevelt: Oyster Bay White House,” in Away from the White House: Presidential Escapes, Retreats, and Vacations, by Lawrence L. Knutson; “The House of the Happy President,” by Henry F. and Katharine Pringle, from the June 13, 1953 issue of The Saturday Evening Post; Hard Work Worth Doing: Conservation Treatment of Historic Wallpapers at Theodore Roosevelt’s Sagamore Hill,” by the Northeast Document Conservation Center; andTheodore Roosevelt’s Sagamore Hill Home Cries ‘Bully!’,” from the July 9, 2015 edition of the New York Times.

James Foote as Theodore Roosevelt, Sagamore HillTry to plan your visit to Sagamore Hill when Frank Konop is giving tours and James Foote is portraying Theodore Roosevelt there.

To learn more about Theodore Roosevelt, read Mornings on Horseback, by David McCullough; The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt; Theodore Rex; and Colonel Roosevelt, all by Edmund Morris; Kathleen Bart’s A Tale of Two Teddies; and Theodore Roosevelt in the Field, a new book by Michael R. Canfield. Canfield is encouraging support for “The Boat Thieves,” a LEGO set that has been proposed about Roosevelt’s Badlands life. Click here to learn more.

Discover more about Roosevelt’s family in Edith Kermit Roosevelt: Creating the Modern First Lady, by Lewis L. Gould; Edith Kermit Roosevelt: Portrait of a First Lady, by Sylvia Jukes Morris; Crowded Hours, by Alice Roosevelt Longworth; Alice: Alice Roosevelt Longworth, from White House Princess to Washington Power Broker, by Stacy A. Cordery; What To Do About Alice?: How Alice Roosevelt Broke the Rules, Charmed the World, and Drove Her Father Teddy Crazy!, by Barbara Kerley; All in the Family, by Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.; 

Day Before Yesterday: The Reminiscences of Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., by Eleanor Butler Alexander Roosevelt; and “The Coq d’Or of Eleanor Butler Alexander Roosevelt,” Marjorie Littlejohn’s article in the September/October 2001 issue of PieceWork.

Sagamore HillUnlike modern presidents, Theodore Roosevelt does not have a presidential library. Instead, his personal and presidential papers are scattered in libraries and other repositories across the country. The Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University is creating a comprehensive digital archive of documents, photographs, letters, political cartoons, scrapbooks, diaries, newspaper articles, speeches, film clips and audio recordings related to our 26th president. 

See photos from Roosevelt’s September 30, 1918 visit to Columbus here, as recorded in the Columbus in Historic Photographs database.

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Think Outside The Brick To Discover Columbus

Cheryl’s Cookies, chocolates and cheers from his grandfather couldn’t distract my new friend Ryan.

Guided by a blueprint of wordless picture diagrams, Ryan was engrossed in putting the finishing touches on a charming cottage with red-and-white awnings, colorful window boxes and hidden hinges that folded out to reveal a fully furnished interior. Within minutes, a bird perched in the branches of an apple tree. A smartly dressed man in a blue car drove up to deposit a letter in the mailbox. A lawn mower appeared on the front lawn by the swimming pool. A girl with braided hair plopped down to rest in a chaise lounge next to a vegetable patch. Barbecue tongs and a sausage stood ready at the barbecue grill.

When he was finished, Ryan pressed a button, the grill glowed, and I was hooked on LEGO® bricks all over again.

Think Outside the Brick, Columbus Museum of ArtOle Kirk Kristiansen, a Danish toy manufacturer, developed a new product in 1949 to fulfill his “Only the best is good enough” motto. Deriving its name from “LEg GOdt,” or “Play Well” in Danish, the LEGO plastic brick has a patented stud-and-tube interlocking system that provides almost infinite possibilities for building stable structures. Today, there are over 4,000 different LEGO brick shapes, complemented by brick-bodied minifigures with printed faces and moveable arms and legs. Besides offering unlimited play possibilities for girls and boys of all ages, LEGOs also develop motor and social skills, foster collaboration, encourage curiosity and creativity, and lead to feelings of achievement and pride.

Go to the Columbus Museum of Art and you’ll be amazed by what talented LEGO brick-builders of all ages have created for the fourth year of Think Outside the Brick: The Creative Art of LEGO.

Paul Janssen’s model of The Ohio State University Stadium awaits in the atrium of the museum’s new wing. Janssen, associate professor of physiology and cell biology and an associate professor in cardiovascular medicine at OSU, took over 1,000 hours and more than one million LEGO bricks to construct a scale model of the ‘Shoe that measures eight by six feet and consists of 10 come-apart sections, each weighing about 50 pounds. LEGO minifigures positioned around the stadium can be adopted as a fundraiser for medical research.Think Outside the Brick, Columbus Museum of Art

Adults in the Central Ohio LEGO Train Club built scaled replicas of Columbus buildings from LEGOs that fill an entire gallery of the museum. In “Columbus Real and Imagined,” the Vern Riffe Center for Government and the Arts, the Nationwide headquarters and other Downtown skyscrapers tower over the Ohio Statehouse, the Supreme Court of Ohio and Janssen’s model of the Columbus Museum of Art.

Think Outside the Brick, Columbus Museum of Art

Other features include the arch from Union Station, the lone remnant of the city’s train station that the great Daniel Burnham designed in the 1890s and was demolished in 1979; The Columbus Dispatch building; a “Bricks & Rubble” store that resembles the Barnes & Noble in the University District; a drive-in movie theater showing The Lego Movie; a “Brick Castle” recalling White Castle, the first hamburger restaurant chain that’s headquartered in Columbus; a mini version of Commencing, Todd Slaughter’s sculpture of a giant mortarboard suspended over Rich Street in front of Franklin University; and COTA buses cruising along the streets.

Think Outside the Brick, Columbus Museum of Art

The museum’s 114 volunteer docents used more than 2,800 bricks to create a LEGO mosaic of Schokko with Red Hat, the painting by Alexej von Jawlensky that is part of the museum’s permanent collection.

Think Outside the Brick, Columbus Museum of Art

Eric Cacioppo, president of Ohio LUG (Lego Users Group), interpreted four famous works of art in LEGO bricks. Gothic Bricked is a mosaic patterned after Grant Wood’s American Gothic.Think Outside the Brick, Columbus Museum of Art

LEGO creations by finalists in the 2015 Creative LEGO Design Challenge are also on view. See how builders of all ages and experience levels have creatively met the challenge to transportation and architecture, then vote for your favorite. The Ohio History Center will also display works by finalists in the challenge in There’s No Place Like Home, on view from January 13 to April 10.

Think Outside the Brick, Columbus Museum of Art

Across the hall from the exhibit, visitors can build with white LEGOs, display their creations on shelves, and discover a scavenger hunt for LEGO miniature figures like Santa Claus and Bigfoot that are hidden throughout the museum. Kits Janssen developed to make your own LEGO Columbus Museum of Art, as well as other LEGO-themed merchandise, are for sale in the museum shop.

Think Outside the Brick: The Creative Art of LEGO is on view at the Columbus Museum of Art through February 21. For more on LEGOs, see The LEGO Book by Daniel Lipkowitz and A LEGO Brickumentary.

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A Bitter Rivalry Led to Sweet Success in Cincinnati

Looking at this pair of teacups and saucers, you’d never guess that they brewed up a long, bitter rivalry between two talented artists.Cincinnati Art Museum

Following the advice of tastemakers like John Ruskin, William Morris and Charles Eastlake, ladies of the late 19th century added beauty to their homes with all sorts of artistic endeavors, including painting porcelain. As “china mania” swept the country, Cincinnati’s most elite ladies decided to auction 35 hand-decorated teacups and saucers at a May 1875 tea party to raise money to display artistic creations by female Cincinnatians at the country’s Centennial Exhibition to be held the next year in Philadelphia, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in that city. Two cups and saucers went for $25, the auction’s highest bid — one by Mary Louise McLaughlin, and the other by Maria Longworth Nichols.

Louise, the daughter of a successful dry-goods merchant, also expressed her artistic talent through woodcarving, a skill that she had learned from Cincinnati’s master woodcarvers, Henry and William Fry and Benn Pitman. Inspired by an illustration from Gothic Forms Applied to Furniture, Metalwork and Decoration for Domestic Purposes, a book written by Scottish Aesthetic Movement designer Bruce James Talbert in 1867, Louise carved a walnut and ebony cabinet to display at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. She painted tiles with images of women in fashions from 1776 and 1876 to make her creation even more special.  Maria, mother of two young children, was the daughter of JosephCincinnati Art Museum Longworth, one of Cincinnati’s wealthiest citizens. She displayed examples of her china-painting skill at the Centennial Exhibition.

Both Maria and Louise attended the exhibition and were inspired by what they saw. Louise marveled at the porcelain created by Haviland & Company of Paris, the first to be decorated under the glaze, instead of over it, which kept the decoration from chipping, smearing or rubbing off the vessel itself. Louise returned home from Philadelphia determined to discover the secret of Haviland’s technically difficult technique in which the colors used for the decoration would not fade in the glaze firing. Maria arrived back in Cincinnati fired up about Japanese glazes. She asked her father to import an entire Japanese pottery establishment, complete with workers, so that she could provide the means for artists to create outstanding ceramics. Louise was more successful than Maria in accomplishing their goals.

In 1877, Louise published China Painting: A Practical Manual for the Use of Amateurs in the Decoration of Hard Porcelain, the first instruction book on china painting in the United States. The best-seller was so popular that it was published in 10 editions and sold more than 20,000 copies. The following year, Louise became the first American to produce pottery that was decorated under the glaze.

A brainstorm came to Louise in August 1879. She would make the largest decorated-under-the-glaze vase in America. After four unsuccessful attempts, Louise made three vases in February 1880 and called them “Ali Baba” vases, after the jar that held 40 thieves in The Arabian Nights. Louise’s Ali Baba vase was displayed at the Cincinnati Pottery Club’s first reception on May 5, 1880; was listed for sale at $150 (over $2,700 in today’s money); and was proclaimed as the finest piece of decorated pottery ever made in the country.Cincinnati Art Museum

When Maria heard that Louise had created the largest vase decorated under the glaze in America, she was not to be outdone. Using Louise’s technique, Maria created her own decorated-under-the-glaze vase and called it the “Aladdin.” Although more than seven inches shorter than the Ali Baba vase, the Aladdin was two inches wider. It was a real accomplishment because it was even more difficult to fire.

Cincinnati Art Museum

Later that year, Maria founded the Rookwood Pottery Company, named for her family’s Cincinnati estate that was built in 1848 by her grandfather, Joseph Longworth. Rookwood quickly became a force to be reckoned with in art pottery. Within its first decade, Rookwood began winning international awards, attracting talented artists, and capitalizing on its location, which offered plenty of natural resources for the production and distribution of ceramics.

While Rookwood was best known for its art pottery, it also produced fine examples of faience, the colorful decorated, glazed earthenware tiles that were often installed in homes, schools and businesses because they were durable and required little maintenance. This detail of a chimneypiece mantel was designed for a Cincinnati home in 1903.

Cincinnati Art Museum

The Rookwood Pottery Company enjoyed its reign of the art pottery market until hardships caused by the 1929 stock market crash, the Great Depression and World War II finally led the pottery to close in 1967. First, a collector, and then, a group of investors, rescued the Rookwood trademarks, molds and glaze recipes in order to produce a limited number of ceramics. Today, The Rookwood Pottery Company produces art pottery and tile in its studio, in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. The original Rookwood factory still sits atop a hill in Cincinnati’s Mt. Adams neighborhood; today, it’s home to a restaurant

Maria’s brother — Nicholas Longworth III, a politician who served three terms as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, from 1925 to 1931 — was the last Longworth to live at the Rookwood estate on Grandin Road in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Cincinnati. In 1950, his wife, Alice, the oldest daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt, sold the home and 15 acres of grounds to a real estate developer who razed the home to develop a suburb. Alice didn’t like Rookwood near as much as the Long Island, New York home where she grew up, but that’s a post for another day.

Cincinnati Art MuseumTo learn more about how Louise, Maria and Rookwood made Cincinnati one of the most important cities in the world for art pottery, visit the Cincinnati Wing of the Cincinnati Art Museum, where many of Louise and Maria’s creations, together with a large collection of Rookwood art pottery, are on display. Also check out The Ceramic Career of Mary Louise McLaughlin, by Anita J. Ellis; Maria Longworth: A Biography, by Rose Angela Boehle; Rookwood Pottery: The Glorious Gamble, by Anita J. Ellis; “On the Road to Rookwood: Women’s Art and Culture in Cincinnati, 1870-1890,” an article by Nancy E. Owen in the Winter 2001 issue of Ohio Valley History; and Rookwood and the Industry of Art: Women, Culture, and Commerce, 1880-1913, by Nancy E. Owen.

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