From My Desk...

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From My Desk...

Fall has been as colorful at the Robbins Hunter Museum as the glorious display of autumn color was on Village trees and the surrounding countryside. Giant spiders and pumpkins invited visitors inside to see the incredible collection of Halloween ephemera belonging to George and Jeanne Johnson of Logan, Ohio.

Vintage Halloween costumes and jack-0-lanterns attracted record crowds at the museum during October.

Vintage Halloween costumes and jack-0-lanterns attracted record crowds at the museum during October.

  Mid-month, sixteen scarecrows invaded the garden, each made by a student at Welsh Hills School depicting a president or first lady. In addition to Halloween, Victoria Woodhull is prompting much interest as we get closer to election day.  Talks by Jeff Gill and Sarah Wallace, the 2016 Victoria Woodhull Woman of Achievement recipient, drew enthusiastic crowds.  A full page article in USA Today about Woodhull was reprinted on the front page of the Newark Advocate.  One man came to see the exhibit with his copy of USA Today in hand!

Between now and the end of the year, focus will shift to the exhibit, Glorious Christmas.  Thousands of white lights will illuminate the house and this year we will add lights to the Knobel Folly.  Our members are invited to view the bedecked mansion at our annual Christmas Gala on November 12.  Gingerbread Houses as well as Santa and Mrs. Claus will be featured at the Candlelight Walking Tour on December 3.  This year for the first time, we will be open on Thursday evenings in December for “Nights Before Christmas,” an intimate evening in the candlelit house, by reservation.  We have also added open hours for the last week in December.

In January, the Board of Trustees will hold a full-day retreat to examine our strategic plan, scheduled for completion next year.  The coming year will also mark the announced completion of the Jill Griesse Historic Garden as well as the 175th anniversary of the Avery-Downer House.  So we look forward to another year with many possibilities for celebration, with plans for exciting, enlightening, educational events.  

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The Glorious Holiday

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The Glorious Holiday

When we think of “glorious” we might conjure images of amazing sights we’ve seen in our lives. We might use accolades to describe them as “magnificent,” “delightful,” “wonderful,” and even “illustrious.”  But when we say, “Glorious Christmas,” we know we mean Christmas at the Robbins Hunter Museum.

This memorable season at the museum officially opens on Saturday, Nov. 12 for the annual Member Preview and then to the general public through the end of the year. Extended museum hours for the first time will find the house open longer, closing only December 24, 25 and 31.

 Special evening events for the first time this year, Nights Before Christmas, are scheduled for Dec. 8, 15, 22, and 29 where special tours and refreshments offer the personal touch. Cost is $5 and the first Night Before Christmas is already sold out.

Indeed, Christmas at RHM has become an art form, sketched over time through decorated trees, mantles, lights, and the stories told of past times and customs by holiday aficionados who volunteer time, talent, and material.  In the life of the museum at Christmas time, few are more devoted to the art than Jean Jankowski.

Jean Jankowski puts the finishing touches on the WWI tree.

Jean Jankowski puts the finishing touches on the WWI tree.

Jean brought her fervent love for theme-based Christmas trees to the 1800s house museum some five years ago and she and others have nurtured it from there.

This year with the help of a cadre of volunteers, seven theme trees, each sitting in one of the museum’s lovely rooms, will tell their stories . A suffragette tree, for example, will stand tall in the Ladies Parlor and speak through photos and inspiring quotations, punctuated with sunflowers, the emblematic symbol of the woman suffrage army, bright yellow flowers that turn their face to the light and righteousness.

Another tree, playful with push pin ornaments, will greet visitors in the Long room. A 1950’s tree tells the story of a past generation in the beautiful Octagon Room, delighting visitors with its bubble lights and shimmery lead icicles.

For Jean and her co-chair, Rebecca Dungan, who oversees the program committee for the RHM Board, it’s all about remembering the past through images and symbols of the times in a season where we are able to take time to remember.

When Jean joined the ranks of volunteers who bring Christmas in the 1870’s to life at RHM, she brought her love for the Christmas tree. And like Jean’s own house of trees, the trees each tell their own story. In Jean’s Granville home, she has an all-glass tree with a family collection of handmade glass ornaments dating back to the late 1800’s, an all Santa tree, a gingerbread tree, and more.

The first theme tree at the museum was the Civil War tree. “We really started the themes then,” Jean said. And for the first years, “we just moved that tree around,” Becky added.

“The Civil War Commemorative tree touched our visitors last year and will be followed this year be a WWI Commemorative tree honoring the Licking County soldiers who lost their lives in that war,” she added.

So then the idea caught on and the art of gathering original ornaments and crafting authentic reproductions took off. Becky herself, for example, has made virtually all of the ornaments for the 1870’s tree.

Others in the community contribute talents as well. Joanne Woodyard’s complete set of cut out Santas for the tree in the Hunter Room is here on loan while Nancy Eucker made blown eggs with pressed flower designs for the Egg Tree. “And the dried flower tree in the Doctor’s office is breathtaking,” Becky said.

All in all, the finished portrait of Christmas at Robbins Hunter Museum promises to live up to its name. Visit often during the season and take time to explore each and every tree.

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Scarecrows bring leaders to life

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Scarecrows bring leaders to life

Bicycle wheels, a handmade dress and blue-stitched eyes became the stuff of presidents and first ladies this fall as students from Welsh Hills School brought this country’s leaders to life…as scarecrows.

For the second year, the lawn of the museum was sprinkled with their creations in celebration of Halloween. Sixteen puffy headed, stiff armed, fully dressed and straw stuffed scarecrows represent either a president or a first lady in this presidential year. The invasion began on Oct. 14 and ran until the 31st. It was part of a museum-wide celebration of the fall holiday with collector George Johnson’s Halloween through the ages displayed inside.

The students of Licking County’s only independent school, located in Granville, delighted in telling the stories of their presidential pick and all they learned and created in this hands-on learning adventure. Three of them are here:

 

Avery Swartz, age 10, of Granville

Avery Swartz with Franklin Roosevelt

Avery Swartz with Franklin Roosevelt

Avery’s inspiration for his choice of Franklin D. Roosevelt might have begun with stories about handicapped children overcoming life’s obstacles. The film, “Annie,” and the story of Helen Keller, are two that Avery cites as important to him. “Roosevelt managed to do all that he did when he was paralyzed,” he said.  And that impressed Avery.

To portray the reality of Roosevelt’s life, Avery needed a wheelchair. “I wanted to make him look smart and attractive in the chair,” he said. So he used bicycle wheels and a regular chair to fashion the wheelchair for his Roosevelt scarecrow. “It took me about nine days to make him,” Avery said. “He’s now my favorite president.”

 

Nora Catherine Carrington, age 10, Newark

Nora Carrington and Martha Washington

Nora Carrington and Martha Washington

Nora went farther back in time to honor the very first, first lady, Martha Washington. Her Martha scarecrow was one of four first ladies represented this year with Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for president, as the fifth woman to stand on the lawn.

Nora is fascinated with the life of Martha. She learned that Martha was married twice and had four children, none of whom survived childhood. Martha was a learned woman from a well-to-do family. “Learning about Martha was very fun,” Nora said. “When I first started I thought it would be too challenging, but then I found ten facts that were very helpful and said to myself, ‘I can do this.’” And she smiled.

Special for Nora is a dress that her grandmother had made for her mother when they lived near Williamsburg in Virginia and that now dons scarecrow Martha. “She made it for my mother to represent the women in colonial Williamsburg.  It has a shawl and an apron.”

In all, Nora was very pleased with her Martha. “I needed to repair an eye and the smile is a little thin, but I like it,” she said.

 

J.J. Herro, age 11, Granville

J.J. Herro with Teddy Roosevelt

J.J. Herro with Teddy Roosevelt

J.J. chose the other Roosevelt for his scarecrow. Teddy Roosevelt’s love for the outdoors and his Rough Riders persona captured JJ’s imagination. “He’s my favorite president,” JJ said. “And he was the youngest president at age 42.”

J.J. laughed when he began to talk about creating Teddy’s face where mouth, nose and eyes are stitched. “I’m not very good at sewing,” he said, “and then I realized that I sewed his eyes blue in the place where they should have been white!” But J.J. took the broader view and with a deadline to meet, he decided that was OK after all. His president when stuffed with straw and dressed is quite personable, J.J. agrees, and he is proud of his work.

 

All three students enjoyed the research component of this learning project as well as the construction part and were eager to share what they learned. The project was part of their language arts class under the direction of teacher Shelli Drumm, “The students looked over the list of presidents and first ladies, eliminating any selected last year. After they made their choice, they talked with the librarian about getting facts,” she said. “Each student then wrote and typed a biography.”

Drumm said she believes one of the most important parts of this project was their preparation to make a public presentation. When the scarecrows were installed, each student spoke about the life of these impressive men and women who have impressed them, in scarecrow form.

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From the collection...

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From the collection...

Sometime in early July, the phone in the office rang and the caller said he and his wife had purchased a piano at the auction of Robbins Hunter’s antiques in 1980.  The auction was held to raise money to restore the building for use as a museum.  They had kept the piano all these years in their home in Baltimore, Ohio, but were downsizing and moving to Maine.  A nineteenth century upright grand piano did not make the list of items to include in the move.  Would the museum like to have it back?

After some research about Broadwood pianos as well as the story of the 1980 auction, the collection committee agreed that indeed we are thrilled to make room for its return to Granville.

Label for Broadway and Sons

Label for Broadway and Sons

The piano bears the label of John Broadwood and Sons/Maker to His Majesty and the Princesses/Great Pultney St./Golden Square/London.  It is made of mahogany with Empire style legs and trim. The upright front is covered in red velvet.  But the really interesting part is the importance of the Broadwood  Company in the history of musical instruments.  Started by Burkat Studi, the company, since 1740, has made instruments for every British monarch.  In 1729, they made an instrument for Handel.  And in 1740, Studi made an instrument for Frederick, Prince of Wales (now in Kew Palace).  Twenty-five years later, nine year old Mozart, visiting London, played a Studi piano.  In the 1770’s John Broadwood married Studi’s youngest daughter and the name changed.  During that time, Broadwood supplied pianos to painters Reynolds and Gainsborough and to Josef Hayden in Vienna.  The company was exporting to Russia, Denmark, Portugal, Italy, France, West Indies, and America (where its agent was John Jacob Astor).  In 1785, records show that Thomas Jefferson visited Broadwood to discuss musical instruments.  In 1796, a grand was made as a present for the Queen of Spain with a case designed by Thomas Sheraton with Wedgewood medallions (now in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts).  An upright grand style was introduced in 1795 and two were sold to the wives of Nelson and Wellington.  After the Napoleonic wars, in 1817, Thomas Broadwood toured Europe and visited Beethoven in Vienna.  The next year, he sent the composer a six octave grand which is now in the National Museum of Hungary, Budapest.  It was later owned by Liszt.

In 1840, Queen Victoria married Prince Albert, who brought a Broadwood piano to Buckingham Palace where the young couple made music with Mendelssohn.  By 1842, 2500 pianos a year were being produced at the Broadwood Company, one of twelve largest employers of labor in London. 

In 1848 Chopin was provided with three Broadwood instruments for his British tour:  one for his lodging, one for his London concerts, and one for his Scottish concerts. 

At the Paris exhibition in 1867, Emperor Napoleon presented a Gold Medal to Henry Broadwood.  In 1981,  one of their pianos was accepted as a wedding gift by the Prince and Princess of Wales for Kensington Palace.  Production continues today.

The Broadwood now back in the collection of Robbins Hunter Museum is installed in the Hunter room, just opposite Hunter’s portrait.  He appears to be once again watching over it.  We do not know of anyone famous or royal who ever played this instrument.  In fact, we do not have a record of how it came into Hunter’s possession.

Full view of the piano.  Note Empire style legs and trim.

Full view of the piano.  Note Empire style legs and trim.

We are so grateful for the generosity of Barbara and Richard Sellers, who not only donated this fine instrument, but made arrangements and paid for piano delivery specialists to place it in the museum.

Be sure to ask to see it the next time you visit the Robbins Hunter Museum.

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Edward Mott Downer and the Electoral College

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Edward Mott Downer and the Electoral College

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Jean McDaniel, former director of the museum, uncovered a bit of history about Edward Mott Downer, namesake of the Avery-Downer House, when she took a look at the Electoral College in 2004. Following are excerpts from an article she wrote in 2004 of the day Downer cast his electoral vote for William McKinley, who won the hotly contested national election for president in 1896, running against William Jennings Bryan.

 

“The day of the electoral vote, Edward Downer probably boarded a train for Columbus at the T & OC Stations where the Parker Realty is today, or at the long gone Union Station at Kylesburg just south of Granville. Arriving at Union Station in Columbus, he would have hired a hack (horse and buggy cab) to take him to the Statehouse.

There he would have met the other 22 electors – all party faithfuls. I am sure they lunched together as did the GOP Electors of 2004, probably in the dining room of the Neil House right across from the State Capitol. The Neil House was also the home of Governor McKinley and his wife during his term of office.

Granville’s Bicentennial history honors Edward Mott Downer (1826-1914) who stepped forward to fulfill a citizen’s role in the United States of America’s free election process which followed the same format that was implemented in 1804 and has not changed to this day.”

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From My Desk...

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From My Desk...

"Visitors from all parts of the globe have toured the Avery-Downer House this summer...The exhibit, Celebrating Victoria, has sparked a lot of interest."

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RHM Celebrates anniversary and the future

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RHM Celebrates anniversary and the future

With the 35th anniversary of the Robbins Hunter Museum and the dedication of the garden folly as part of the Jill Griesse Historic Garden jointly celebrated on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 26 and 27, history has been made and so noted.

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A look back to 1981

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A look back to 1981

Thirty-five years!  An achievement for any institution to celebrate….and Robbins Hunter Museum is!  My thoughts have turned back the clock... 

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Celebrating 35 Years!

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Celebrating 35 Years!

Thirty-five years ago, thanks to the generosity of Robbins Hunter, Jr., the doors of this magnificent house opened to the public. Plan now for multiple visits to Granville's architectural jewel, the Robbins Hunter Museum.  

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Watch Us Grow!

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Watch Us Grow!

It is said that a garden is never so good as it will be next year. How very true! More than 5,000 Daffodils of many sizes and shapes will soon burst into bloom this spring for the Granville community and its visitors to enjoy as the museum kicks off its "Watch us Grow!" theme this spring.

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From My Desk...

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From My Desk...

We invite you to be among the friends who will visit the Robbins Hunter Museum during this holiday season.  After several days and many hours of volunteer help, the rooms are dazzling and sure to inspire the spirit of the season. The Museum has never looked better!

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