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Home > Publications > Historic New England Magazine > Fall 2003 > News New England and Beyond

News New England and Beyond

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A Major Conservation
Project Bright colors and bold contrasts are emblematic of SPNEA's Bowen House in Woodstock, Connecticut. In addition to its startling salmon pink exterior and colorful parterre garden, Bowen House also retains Lincrusta-Walton wall coverings installed in the 1880s, when the house was redecorated. These fashionable decorations are rarely found today in their original settings, due to the decades of upgrades that have taken place at most homes of this era. Lincrusta, an embossed wall covering that imitates tooled leather, was invented by Frederick Walton in England in 1877. The materials, primarily linseed oil and wood pulp, are similar to linoleum, which Walton also invented. Lincrusta was first manufactured in the United States by Frederick Beck & Company, Stamford, Connecticut, in 1883.

Bowen selected ten different patterns for the stairhall, dining room, and double parlor. Over the course of time the metallic colors have oxidized and the Lincrusta has become detached from the walls. With the support of two major grants, SPNEA is about to conserve the wall coverings. An award of $26,355 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services will conserve the patterns in the entry and stair hall, readhering peeled sections and replicating missing areas. A grant of $25,000 from Quinebaug-Shetucket Heritage Corridor will upgrade the climate control system to stabilize the condition of both the Lincrusta and other objects in the house. Both grants require a one-to-one match.

Mystery Photograph
( *see first image of left column )
Sometime in the 1870s this family gathered in front of their substantial mid-nineteenth-century dwelling to have their portrait made. Dressed in their finery, the children and adults posed for the photographer. Even the family's coach and coachman were included in the scene. Who were these people and where did they live?

Several members of the SPNEA community already have tried to identify the wonderful image, a recent Library and Archives acquisition. Trustee Charles Sullivan spent time trying to match the church steeple visible in the photograph with one in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to no avail. Even Library and Archives volunteer Robert Severy, who has identified hundreds and hundreds of views in the collection, was stumped. Now, Lorna Condon, Director of Library and Archives, would like to hear from any of our readers who recognize the building or its location. You can reach her at or at (617) 227-3957, ext. 225.

Watercolors on View
( *see second image of left column )
Painting the Geometry of SPNEA: Shadow and Light, an exhibition of twenty-nine watercolors by Dianne S. P. Cermak is on display through October 12 at the Bowen House, Woodstock, Connecticut, and from Saturday, November 1 through Sunday, November 30 at the Marblehead Arts Association, Marblehead, Massachusetts. Windows, chimneys, roof lines, and building profiles observed from unusual points of view encourage the viewer to notice the drama and excitement of architectural details.

And the winner is...
( *see third image of left column )
The ninth annual SPNEA Book Prize has been awarded to The Allen Sisters: Pictorial Photographers: 1885-1920, by Suzanne L. Flynt. The book explores the lives of Frances Stebbins Allen and Mary Electa Allen, two American photographers who created idealized images of country life at the turn of the century. Flynt follows the course of their career from the time the sisters first explored photography through their participation in amateur exhibitions and involvement in the Arts and Crafts movement in Deerfield, Massachusetts. She traces their first professional acknowledgment at a prestigious art photography exhibition through their access to broader audiences as illustrators of book and magazine articles. More than one hundred examples of Frances and Mary Allen's work are beautifully reproduced in the volume. The Book Prize Committee considered more than twenty-five titles for the award and decided on The Allen Sisters because it makes a significant contribution to the study of photography and the Arts and Crafts movement in New England.

The Highest Honor
( *see fourth image of left column )
Beauport, the Sleeper-McCann House in Gloucester, Massachusetts, has been designated a National Historic Landmark, the highest honor the United States bestows on a historic building, by the U. S. Secretary of the Interior. Noted for its fanciful interpretations of historic themes, Beauport remains virtually as Henry Davis Sleeper left it. From early in its history the house attracted national attention and served as a showcase for Sleeper's career as an interior designer, an expert on Americana, and an early advocate for historic preservation. Beauport was linked to the use of the museum period rooms to interpret American decorative arts and also served as an inspiration for Henry Francis du Pont's Winterthur. Together with the Gropius House, Lincoln, Massachusetts, it enjoys the highest visitation of SPNEA's thirty-five museums open to the public.

With thanks to the McCann family, who donated the house to SPNEA, for recognizing Beauport's national importance to the study of American material culture, interior design, historic preservation, and architecture, SPNEA is honored by the outstanding recognition for the site. It is the fifteenth SPNEA property to receive National Landmark designation and one of five properties in the state to be so recognized this year.

-Compiled by Susanna Crampton,
Director of Public Relations

News New England and Beyond