Beauport, Sleeper-McCann House collection
The Beauport, Sleeper-McCann House collection (MS036), reflects the life and work of Henry Davis Sleeper (1878-1934); Sleeper's social circle at Eastern Point in Gloucester, Massachusetts; and life at the Beauport, Sleeper-McCann House in Gloucester, Massachusetts. A majority of the collection is comprised of photocopied material. The collection is arranged in three series.
In 1942, Historic New England acquired the Beauport, Sleeper-McCann House in Gloucester, Massachusetts, from the McCann family. The papers within the house at the time of acquisition formed the bases the collection: Beauport manuscript collection (now MS036). During the summer of 2001, Timothy Orwig, Historic New England fellow, created a master finding aid for all materials associated with the Beauport, Sleeper-McCann House, which included an inventory for the Beauport manuscript collection (now MS036). Orwig also engaged preliminary processing of the papers, which resulted in five file boxes (approx. 2.09 linear ft.) of material. Each box was roughly arranged by record type (i.e., appraisal report; correspondence; guest books and albums; scrapbooks; and miscellaneous material) and folder titles were provided for most of the papers; boxes and folders were left numbered.
In 2013-2014, through a National Historical Publications and Records Commission grant (Award Number: NAR13-RH-50051-13: "Family Manuscript Collections: Expanding Online Access to New England Heritage Project"), twenty-six Historic New England manuscript collections of family papers were re-evaluated and processed/reprocessed to meet current archival standards and "best practices;" corresponding finding aids were created/updated to be DACS-compliant and converted into electronic Microsoft Word document form; and the finding aids were made accessible/searchable online through the use of the Minisis M2A archival database of the Minisis Collections Management System. The Beauport, Sleeper-McCann House collection (MS036) was part of the grant project.
Prior to the 2013-2014 collection processing, the Beauport manuscript collection (now MS036) comprised four legal-size file boxes (approx. 1.67 linear ft.), which contained all the contents noted by Orwig. During processing, the collection was arranged according to record type; most of the original folder titles were maintained (appropriate headings and folder titles were supplied, as applicable); related folders were combined or rearranged, as applicable; and brief research was engaged to create a biographical/ historical sketch and genealogy. Preservation issues were identified and basic preservation methods were applied, as applicable;papers throughout the collection were removed from envelopes (if applicable), unfolded, flattened, and related pages were noted with corresponding information in brackets ([x-1/3], [x-2/3], [x-3/3]; and oversize materials were interleafed within file boxes, as applicable. Both scrapbooks were interleafed and loose material found throughout the Davis scrapbook was removed and housed accordingly. The collection was rehoused (in acid-free folders and boxes), numbered, labeled, barcoded, and stored accordingly; subsequent accessions were tracked and noted with their corresponding items; restrictions were noted; and related collections held by Historic New England and other repositories were researched and noted. A DACS-compliant, electronic 2010-2013 Microsoft Word document finding aid was created (with corresponding paper finding aid) and entered into the collection record in the Minisis M2A online database.
NOTE: Processing/updating the collection and making the finding aid accessible online were made possible through grants from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (Award Number: NAR13-RH-50051-13), the Bedford Family Foundation, and an anonymous donor.
- Collection Name
- Beauport, Sleeper-McCann House collection
- Collection Code
- 1833-1991, undated
- Correspondence; postcards; photographs; a bound estate inventory; genealogical material; resource material; printed material; inventory lists; scrapbooks (includes dried leaves); clippings; photocopies of legal documents, guest books, and a photograph album; and related papers; relating to the life and work of Henry Davis Sleeper (1878-1934) and his association with the Beauport, Sleeper-McCann House, in Gloucester, Massachusetts.
- Date of Acquisition
- Physical Description
Family papers: 2.04 linear ft. (2 file boxes, 1 half file box, 1 carton)
- Finding Aid Info
An electronic finding aid is available through Historic New England's Collections Access Portal. A paper finding aid is available in the Library and Archives.
- Collection Type
- Description Level
- Custodial History
·1942 (December 21): Acquisition of Beauport, Sleeper-McCann House, in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and all of its contents from the children of Helena (Woolworth) McCann (died 1938)
·1980 (April 23): Gift of Constance (McCann) McMullan [2 books; Lizzie M. Davis scrapbook; watercolor of Beauport; a vase; 2 electric fans] (#3.1-3.10, C.1.1-C.1.2)
·1984 (August 2): Gift of Caroline (Sinkler) Lockwood (Mrs. Dunbar Lockwood) [photographs, clippings, correspondence] (#1.1-1.7)
·1985 (January 10): Gift of Philip Hayden [correspondence] (#1.8-1.12)
·1986 (April 18): Gift of Mrs. Thomas "Fifi" Fleming [photographs, postcards, and clippings relating to Beauport] (#1.7)
·1986 (September): Gift of Mrs. Thomas "Fifi" Fleming [letter] (#1.11)
·1988: Subsequent material removed from the Beauport, Sleeper-McCann House [2 scrapbooks] (#1.27-1.29, 3.1-3.10, C.1.1-C.1.3)
·Undated: Gift of Richard Milhender [correspondence] (#1.1-1.12)
- Credit Line
- Acquired from McCann Family, 1942
- Reference Code
Henry Davis Sleeper, also known as Harry by his friends, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on March 27, 1878, the youngest son of Major Jacob Henry Sleeper (1839-1891) and Maria (Westcott) Sleeper (1836-1917). His father served with distinction in the Civil War, and later took over the family real estate business. His grandfather Jacob Sleeper (1802-1889) was a clothier, managed a building and trust at 31 Milk Street, and was one of three founders of Boston University. It was his real estate trust that provided Sleeper with income to collect art and eventually finance Beauport, at least initially. Eldest brother Jacob Sleeper (1869-1930) was a Foreign Service officer who spent time in Venezuela and Colombia before succumbing to an illness which had brought him under his brother's care at Beauport. Middle brother Stephen Westcott Sleeper (1874-1956) was a real estate investor, taking over management of his grandfather's building. He married Eliza H. Cushing (1876-1946) in 1911 and they later joined his younger brother on Eastern Point, purchasing the summer cottage Black Bess, six doors down from Beauport.
Sleeper is said to have been tutored at home due to his frail health, and no trace of any formal education has been found. When Henry reached the age of eleven, the Sleeper family began spending summers in their new home on Marblehead Neck, designed by architect Arthur Little. Henry's father built the home in 1888 and died while summering there three years later. After his mother sold the home in 1902, Sleeper saw that he would have to purchase another summer retreat for his family to escape the city heat. When he visited his friend A. Piatt Andrew's home on Eastern Point in 1906, he was determined that this would be the site of their new refuge.
The social enclave of Eastern Point was created in the 1880s by wealthy Bostonians John and David Greenough, who formed the Eastern Point Associates to purchase farmland in east Gloucester from the heirs of farmer Thomas Niles. They bought the land on November 12, 1887 for $100,000 and began laying out streets and dividing the parcel into building lots. On a map of the subdivision produced for the Associates in 1889, the future site of Beauport occupied the lot designated as number 101. In 1901, the lot was sold to well-known Cape Ann hotel builder George O. Stacey, who already had sites including the Moorland Hotel, the Magnolia Hotel, and the Hawthorne Inn to his credit. One year later, Stacey purchased three adjoining lots and a few parcels across the road for the three-hundred-room Colonial Arms Hotel which opened for the season in 1904. Stacey separated the southernmost lot, 101, and sold it to Henry Sleeper on August 13, 1907. Sleeper began construction in the fall of that year and occupied Beauport by May 12, 1908, when Andrew was his first houseguest.
Sleeper's original Little Beauport, named after Le Beau Port, French explorer Samuel de Champlain's description of Gloucester Harbor, was a relatively small cottage situated on a modest lot. Shortly after Sleeper purchased the lot on Eastern Point, he and Andrew discovered the William Cogswell house in Essex while on their way to visit Emily Tyson, who had recently restored Hamilton House in South Berwick, Maine. Sleeper eventually purchased the interior of this dilapidated eighteenth-century farmhouse and used the paneling and shutters to form the Cogswell's Hall and the Green Dining Room, both on the original 1908 floor plan. It was this purchase that began Sleeper's interest in architectural salvage which he used throughout his summer home, making his new house appear old.
Beauport was the beginning of a fruitful partnership between Sleeper and Gloucester architect Halfdan M. Hanson (1884-1952). Like Sleeper, Hanson did not have formal education but only training from correspondence classes. Together they created a house of risk and ambition and continued to expand Beauport and work on various other commissions until Sleeper's death in 1934.
When Sleeper purchased the lot in 1907, just next door was the massive Colonial Arms Hotel preventing all possibilities of expansion to the north. On New Year's Day of 1908, the hotel burned to the ground leaving only a black cellar hole and open ground. On October 16, 1911 Sleeper purchased an eighteen-foot strip of this land. By December of that year Henry and Hanson completed the Book Tower, Shelley Room, and Pineapple Room. The following year, the Linebrook Parish Room, which become a favorite room for intimate dinner parties and entertainment, the Belfry Chamber upstairs and connected by the secret staircase, and the Chapel Chamber guest room on the first floor were added.
Sleeper's crowning achievement came with his participation in the American Field Service. In 1915, Andrew enlisted him to raise funds for the Field Service in France, a group of American ambulance drivers that transported the wounded from the battlefield during World War I. Sleeper became the AFS's American representative and chief fund raiser, and served as director of its Paris headquarters in 1918-1919. For his efforts he received the Legion of Honor (1918), the Medal of Honor (1919), and the Croix de Guerre (1921).
Sleeper's interest in the decorative arts was well established before World War I. He served as Director of Museums for the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, now Historic New England, and as a founding member and trustee of the Shirley-Eustis House Association. And, in 1914-1915 he assisted in the reconstruction of the Church of Our Lady of Good Voyage (also designed by Halfdan Hanson) in Gloucester. After the war, Sleeper embarked on a professional career as an interior designer and decorator which brought Beauport further attention from the media, friends, and eventually clients.
In 1921, Sleeper opened offices at 50 State Street in Boston, moved to 40 State Street between 1925 and 1926, and finally settled in a building at 420 Boylston Street, which housed a number of other interior designers. His work received attention in a number of important periodicals and monographs, including House Beautiful (1916), Country Life (1929), and in several of designer Nancy McClelland's works. In its early years, he described his business as "Norman and English Country Houses - 17th and 18th Century American Interiors," but later he modified this to "English and French Interiors- 17th and 18th Century American Paneling." He executed commissions for clients including Isabella Stewart Gardner (1923) and Henry Francis duPont (1923, 1925, and 1928) in the East, and in Hollywood, for John Mack Brown (1930), Joan Crawford (1934), and Fredric March (1934). In 1923, he decorated Chestertown, duPont's new summer home in Southhampton, Long Island, New York and five years later he began consulting for the new wing of the duPont family home, Winterthur, in Winterthur, Delaware.
By the 1930s, Sleeper and Beauport were extremely well-known. The house became Sleeper's showroom containing his lifetime collection of glass, ceramics, folk art silhouettes, furniture and so much more. In May 1934, Sleeper received a prestigious honorary membership in the American Institute of Architects for his outstanding contribution to the advancement of architecture and applied arts as "a collector of Americana and protector of the culture of early America." Four months later Henry Davis Sleeper died at the Phillips House of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston on September 22, 1934, from leukemia and was buried in his family's plot at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Upon Sleeper's death, Beauport passed to his brother Stephen. Although he had a modest trust fund from his grandfather and a successful interior design business, Henry Sleeper relied almost entirely on elaborate mortgages and financial dealings to finance Beauport. With Beauport, Stephen also acquired his brother's debt and was forced to sell the house. On October 21, 1935, Mrs. Helena Woolworth McCann (1878-1938), wife of Charles E. F. McCann (d. 1941) of Oyster Bay, Long Island, purchased the house. Mrs. McCann, who collected European art, including her well-regarded collection of export porcelain, understood the charm and historical significance of her new American find and wished to preserve it unchanged, with the exception of remodeling the China Trade Room in 1936.
Before her death in 1938, Mrs. McCann approached William Sumner Appleton, corresponding secretary and founder Historic New England, with the intention of bequeathing the property. Shortly after this initial discussion Mrs. McCann took ill and the proposed bequest was forgotten. Instead, she left Beauport to her three children, Constance Betts McMullan, Helena Guest, and Fraiser McCann, and they continued to occupy the house for several years. Appleton approached the children with their mother's proposed bequest and suggested the unusual idea of allowing the family to access Beauport after it obtained museum status. On December 21, 1942, ownership of Beauport transferred to Historic New England as a permanent memorial to Helena Woolworth McCann.
Material in MS036
Beauport, Sleeper-McCann House Research Files
"History of Beauport, Sleeper-McCann House," Historic New England, http://www.historicnewengland.org/historic-properties/homes/Beauport/beauport-sleeper-mccann-house-history
The collection is arranged in three series: Series I. Correspondence. Series II. Other papers. Series III. Guest books, photograph albums, and scrapbooks.
*Collection housing/storage code: #x.x=file box (i.e., #1.2= file box 1, folder 2); C=carton; FB=folio box; FF=fragile files; MB=multi-purpose box; OB=oversize box/folder; OV=oversize volume; VF=vertical files/flat files
Sleeper, Henry Davis, 1878-1934
- Other People
Andrew, A. Piatt (Abram Piatt), 1873-1936
Beaux, Decilia, 1853-1942
Buswell, Leslie, 1888-1964
Carryl, Guy Wetmore, 1873-1904
Dana, Richard Henry, 1815-1882
Davis, Lizzie M.
DuPont, Henry Francis, 1880-1969
Gardner, Isabella Stewart, 1840-1924
Guest, Helena Woolworth (McCann)
Hanson, Halfdan M., 1884-1952
Hayden, E. Parker, Jr.
Hayes, Helen, 1900-1993
Hooper, Alice Forbes Perkins, 1867-
James, Henry, 1843-1916
Jay, John, 1745-1829
McCann, Frasier W., 1908-1979
McCann, Helena Woolworth
McMullan, Constance (McCann) Betts, 1905-
Revere, Paul, 1735-1818
Royce, Josiah, 1855-1916
Sinkler, Caroline Sidney, 1860-1949
Sleeper, Henry Davis, 1878-1934
Sleeper, Jacob Henry, 1839-1891
Sleeper, Stephen Westcott, 1874-1956
Stokowski, Leopold, 1882-1977
- Other Organizations
American Appraisal Company
Eastern Point Associates (Boston, Mass.)
Harper & Brothers
Mt. Vernon Congregational Church (Boston, Mass.)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
National Register of Historic Places
Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities
United States. National Park Service
- Descriptive Terms
Washingtonian Celebration of July 5, 1841 (Washington, D.C.)
clippings (information artifacts)
- Material Type
United States. History. Civil War, 1861-1865
World War, 1914-1918
Boston (Suffolk county, Massachusetts)
East Gloucester (Essex county, Massachusetts)
Eastern Point (Essex county, Massachusetts) [point]
Gloucester (Essex county, Massachusetts)
Gloucester Harbor (Essex county, Massachusetts) [harbor]
Milwaukee (Milwaukee county, Wisconsin)
Pembroke (Plymouth County, Massachusetts)
Topsfield (Essex county, Massachusetts)
- Places (Buildings)
Barker House (Pembroke, Mass.)
Beauport (Gloucester, Mass.)
Black Bess (Gloucester, Mass.)
Red Roof House (Gloucester, Mass.)
Wrong Roof House (Gloucester, Mass.)
·Researcher(s) must obtain permission from Peter Buswell of Gloucester, Massachusetts, son of author Leslie Buswell (1888-1964), prior to publishing any of the correspondence exchanged between author Leslie Buswell (1888-1964) and Henry Davis Sleeper (1878-1934) (#1.8).
·Researcher(s) must obtain permission from the Winterthur Library, Winterthur Museum and Gardens, Wilmington, Delaware, prior to publishing any of the correspondence exchanged between Henry Francis duPont (1880-1969) and Henry Davis Sleeper (1878-1934) (#1.10).
·Researcher(s) must obtain permission from the Library and Archives prior to publishing any of the correspondence exchanged between economist Abram Piatt Andrew (1873-1936) and Henry Davis Sleeper (1878-1934) (#1.12).
·Researcher(s) must obtain permission from the Cape Ann Historical Association, Cape Ann Museum, Research Library and Archives, Gloucester, Massachusetts, prior to publishing any of the 1908-1921 Beauport, Sleeper-McCann House guest book and the 1936-1949 Beauport, Sleeper-McCann House guest book (#2.1-2.14 and 2.17).
·Researcher(s) must obtain permission from Peter Buswell of Gloucester, Massachusetts, son of author Leslie Buswell (1888-1964), prior to publishing any of author Leslie Buswell's (1888-1964) ca.1923 photograph album (#1.26).
·Researcher(s) must obtain permission from Peter Buswell of Gloucester, Massachusetts, son of author Leslie Buswell (1888-1964), prior to copying any of the correspondence exchanged between author Leslie Buswell (1888-1964) and Henry Davis Sleeper (1878-1934) (#1.8).
·Researcher(s) must obtain permission from the Winterthur Library, Winterthur Museum and Gardens, Wilmington, Delaware, prior to copying any of the correspondence exchanged between Henry Francis duPont (1880-1969) and Henry Davis Sleeper (1878-1934) (#1.10).
·Researcher(s) must obtain permission from the Library and Archives prior to copying any of the correspondence exchanged between economist Abram Piatt Andrew (1873-1936) and Henry Davis Sleeper (1878-1934) (#1.12).
·Researcher(s) must obtain permission from the Cape Ann Historical Association, Cape Ann Museum, Research Library and Archives, Gloucester, Massachusetts, prior to copying any of the 1908-1921 Beauport, Sleeper-McCann House guest book and the 1936-1949 Beauport, Sleeper-McCann House guest book (#2.1-2.14 and 2.17).
·Researcher(s) must obtain permission from Peter Buswell of Gloucester, Massachusetts, son of author Leslie Buswell (1888-1964), prior to copying any of author Leslie Buswell's (1888-1964) ca.1923 photograph album (#1.26).
·This collection is available for research.
·Unrestricted except for #1.20 which contain fragile material and requires handling by Library and Archives staff only; and #C.1.1-C.1.3, which require handling with care.
·Allergy note: #3.1, 3.3, and 3.7 contain dried leaves.
- Location Note
- Related Items
Halfdan M. Hanson (1884-1952) architectural collection
- Accruals Note
Accruals are not expected.
- Conservation Note
See Scope and Content note.
- Language Note
Materials in English; some in French and Portuguese
- Preferred Citation
[Item identification.] Beauport, Sleeper-McCann House collection (MS036). Historic New England, Library and Archives.
- Processing Information
·2001 July: Originally inventoried and preliminary processing by Timothy Orwig, Historic New England fellow
·2014 May: Originally processed by Megan E. Gallagher, volunteer; with assistance from Bridgette A. Woodall, project archivist; and Jennifer Pustz, museum historian
- Rules and Conventions
Finding aid is DACS-compliant.
Use the links below to browse up and down the collection hierarchy from the current record.