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Home > Publications > Historic New England Magazine > Fall 2004 > News New England and Beyond

News New England and Beyond

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Portrait of an architect
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Historic New England recently acquired a c.1806 portrait of the architect Colonel Thomas Dawes (1731– 1809) by celebrated American portrait painter Gilbert Stuart. Known as "Boston's patriot architect," Dawes was a significant figure in Boston architectural and political history. He is known to have worked on Faneuil Hall, the Shirley-Eustis House, both the old and the new State Houses, and several buildings at Harvard University. The artist depicts him holding a book by Andrea Palladio, the sixteenth-century Italian architect whose published works helped disseminate the principles of classical architecture throughout Europe and America. Historic New England Senior Curator Richard Nylander calls the acquisition "a particularly important addition to our holdings, because so much of the collection relates to the history of architecture in New England, and images of early builders are extremely rare." The portrait will be placed on view in the Otis House Museum in Boston, not far from another Stuart portrait, that of Harrison Gray Otis, painted in 1809.

Crowning touch
( *see second image of left column )A pair of columns topped by carved pine cones, which used to frame the long axis of the garden at Hamilton House, South Berwick, Maine, has been recreated and installed there this past summer. During the Colonial Revival era, Emily Tyson's garden overlooking the Salmon Falls River was one of New England's show places. The pergola that surrounded the garden succumbed to harsh winters many years ago, but Historic New England has gradually been restoring some of landscape's key features, including the cottage garden and an elaborate wooden archway. Using a 1923 photograph taken by George Brayton as his guide, Historic New England’s Property Care Manager Mickey Karpa was able to determine the scale of the originals and prepare dimensional sketches to ensure that the reproductions would be accurate. Peter Spadonne of Kennebunk, Maine, carved the pine cones, and the Salmon Falls Woodworks in South Berwick built the columns on which they are mounted.

Book Prize awarded
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The Historic New England Book Prize Committee has awarded its tenth annual prize to The Furniture Masterworks of John & Thomas Seymour by Robert D. Mussey, Jr. (Salem: Peabody Essex Museum, 2003). The scholarly study, based on eight years of archival research and close examination of a key group of documented pieces, explores the work of John Seymour, an English cabinetmaker who emigrated from England in 1784, and his son Thomas. The Seymours made some of the finest furniture in Boston during the late Federal period. The book presents a detailed life story of both men, traces the contribution they made to the development of the Federal style, and considers the social and economic conditions of their time.

The handsomely illustrated 480-page book is a wonderful guide to two of the preeminent cabinetmakers of Federal Boston. Robert Mussey brings an expert's understanding of furniture to his subject. A professional conservator based in Boston, he has published and lectured widely on furniture history and conservation methods. He formerly headed SPNEA's furniture conservation center.

The Book Prize Committee also named three publications as Honor Books: Architecture and the Arts and Crafts Movement in Boston: Harvard's H. Langford Warren by Maureen Meister (Hanover: University Press of New England, 2003); The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home by George Howe Colt (New York: Scribner, 2003); and Wallace Nutting and the Invention of Old America by Thomas Andrew Denenberg (New Haven and Hartford: Yale University Press/Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, 2003).

Square's roots
Historic New England recently acquired an eighteenth-century carpenter's square, made of hardwood and incised with the initials "S.P.," which descended in the Pierce family of Dorchester, Massachusetts. The Pierce family homestead is one of Historic New England's house museums. Colonel Samuel Pierce (1739–1815) lived his whole life in this house. Like most of his neighbors, he was primarily a farmer, but he also engaged in a variety of carpentry projects. His journal, which he kept for almost forty years beginning in 1761, records the buildings he framed for others as well as the addition and improvements he made to his own house. A late-nineteenth century label pasted on the square reads "About 1745," so it is possible that the tool originally belonged to Pierce's father, Samuel, Sr.

For your bookshelf
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Check out the wide selection of books in Historic New England's online Museum Shop. Our most recent publication, A Changing World: New England in the Photographs of Verner Reed, 1950–1972, ( see story, page 2 ) with an essay by photo historian John R. Stomberg, features seventy-six black-and-white photographs printed in rich duotones. It is available in hardcover ($29.95) and softcover ($19.95). Also available is the book prize winner, The Furniture Masterworks of John & Thomas Seymour ($60).

To order, visit Historic New England's online Museum Shop or call (617)-227-3957, ext 237.

-Compiled by Susanna Crampton,
Public Relations Officer

News New England and Beyond