Chasing Daffodils

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Chasing Daffodils

The weekend of April 14 and 15 in Granville will be a weekend to celebrate the cheerful harbinger of spring, the Daffodil flower.  Saturday the 14th is Garden Day at Robbins Hunter Museum, coinciding with the annual Daffodil Show at Bryn Du Mansion that weekend and the day’s schedule is full.

Notable to RHM’s Garden Day is the American Daffodil Society’s (ADS) recognition and dedication of the Jill Harms Griesse Historic Garden at 12 noon. Garden Day coincides with the annual Granville Garden Club’s Daffodil Show and Sale at Bryn Du Mansion and activities at both venues have been planned collaboratively, says Christina Gray, chair and RHM board member.

“The Granville Garden Club (GGC) is thrilled that the ADS recognition of the Jill Griesse Garden at RHM is being held in conjunction with this year’s annual Daffodil Show,” added Pam Clements, GGC liaison. “Having the RHM garden recognized for its daffodils and the GGCs ongoing partnership with RHM that includes nurturing and maintaining the gardens, including the many daffodils, is a natural fit.”

The road to garnering this distinguished honor began several years ago when the museum’s garden committee laid the groundwork for a well-planned and designed planting of named varieties of the spring flower. The dedication ceremony is free and open to the public.

The honor is significant in the botanical world, placing the Jill Harms Griesse Historic Garden on a list of only 25 gardens in 15 states to have met the staunch criteria of being recognized as an approved Daffodil garden.  The Griesse Historic Garden joins such highly recognized gardens as Winterthur, in Delaware; Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania; Chicago Botanical Gardens; and Eudora Welty House Garden in Jackson, Mississippi. 

The garden’s namesake, Jill Griesse, who passed away in 2014, had a passion for Daffodils that led her to the presidency of the ADS and a lifetime cultivator of the species, which can feature thousands of varieties. Her own garden, located on the land surrounding her home on North Street, was filled with many of those, some rare, others her own cultivars. On her passing, the museum board, with the encouragement and support of Paul Griesse, Jill’s husband, launched the project. He donated many bulbs from his late wife’s gardens to get the ball rolling.

The garden now features nearly 400 named varieties.

Saturday kicks off with a fun event open to the public. Noted botanist Brent Heath of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Gloucester County, Virginia, will lead a bulb planting workshop beginning at 10 a.m. Summer flowering bulbs and pots are included in the $50 fee. Registration is necessary and can be accomplished through the website or by calling the museum at 740.587.0430.

  One of his greatest joys is sharing his love of all things natural and inspiring people to look at the world around them in different, eye-opening ways. Brent Heath of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Virginia will be in Granville during Garden Day and the Daffodil Show for a workshop and talk.

One of his greatest joys is sharing his love of all things natural and inspiring people to look at the world around them in different, eye-opening ways. Brent Heath of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Virginia will be in Granville during Garden Day and the Daffodil Show for a workshop and talk.

Brent, a long-time friend of the Granville Garden Club and the hybridizer of many of the flowers in the Museum’s collection, is a naturalist, an author, a photographer, a speaker, a daffodil hybridizer and a gardener.  Because of achievements in all of these areas of expertise, he has won many gold medal awards from various organizations in the horticultural industry. 

One of Brent’s greatest joys is sharing his love of all things natural in the world and inspiring people of all ages and experiences to look at the world around them in a different, eye-opening way.  He has helped them understand how to take care of the earth for the next crop and/or for future generations.  He has given lectures and shared knowledge with gardeners in every state except North Dakota and Hawaii.  His plans for the future are to continue to play in his garden and care for the earth while encouraging others to do the same.

Brent will also speak that evening, 7–8:30 p.m., at RHM in a talk titled “Undaunted Daffodils.” Admission is free for RMH and Granville Garden Club members, $15 non-members. Again please register with the museum.

“We already knew of Brent through their bulb business and their association with the Garden Club,” says Christina Gray, board member. “But we had no idea he also had an ADS recognized garden, so it seemed a natural fit to invite him to speak.”

“As a member of the Granville Garden Club and as a trustee of the museum, bringing the Jill Griesse Historic Garden and its wonderful collection of Daffodils to the national stage is tremendously fulfilling,” she said.

All in all, the day will become an enjoyable and easy way to come to the museum, Christina said.

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Roundtables off to a rousing start

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Roundtables off to a rousing start

Editor’s Note: Judith Dann, board member, is an ancient history professor at Columbus State Community College and specializes in the life and work of Victoria Woodhull. She lives in Homer, Ohio, the birthplace of Woodhull.

Following a rousing kickoff with the first of nine roundtable discussions to be held over the next three years, the second in the 2018 series, Scandalous Voices: Journalistic Truth in the Face of False Rhetoric, will be held on Thursday, April 19, 2018 at 7 p.m. at The Robbins Hunter Museum.

Featured panelists for this second discussion session include Mary Yost, editorial page editor for the Columbus Dispatch and editor of Columbus CEO magazine, and Julie Carr Smyth, Associated Press reporter and Statehouse correspondent, with additional panelists added as schedules permit.

The first of the Victoria Woodhull: Phoenix Rising roundtables, Courageous Voices: Organization of Social Reform, in partnership with Denison University, kicked off at The Robbins Hunter Museum on Thursday, Feb. 8 at 7:30 p.m. Over 75 men and women joined us to listen to the panelists and engage in thoughtful and meaningful conversations. 

  Dr. Judith Dann kicked off the evening with a brief history of Victoria Woodhull's life.  Woodhull was born in Homer, Ohio.  Also shown is panelist Rachel Marco-Havens.    

Dr. Judith Dann kicked off the evening with a brief history of Victoria Woodhull's life.  Woodhull was born in Homer, Ohio.  Also shown is panelist Rachel Marco-Havens.

 

Panelists for this event included Rachel Marco- Havens, an artist and activist from Woodstock, NY and three local residents involved in activism, Rita Kipp, Ceciel Shaw and Carol Apacki. These four panelists also conducted a multi-day workshop at Denison.

Each one of the thought-provoking and inspiring panelists led us all into thinking about what organization for social change looks like. Their experiences and backgrounds varied in their approach to activism as they described what drew them into action.  Each advised that every single person could become active in his or her own way and at their own level.

 Questions and comments were raised about how one is drawn into activism- whether they sought out the issue or the issue sought them, how the issue of racism can be approached and effectively eradicated, and how the issue of financial prosperity segregates society and how that issue might be alleviated.

Candid and respectful comments and questions were voiced from beginning to end. Many young men and women from Denison and OSU-Newark attended and their enthusiasm and focus they gained from this roundtable made the entire program more than worthwhile. This is EXACTLY what the planning committee had envisioned- using Victoria’s voice and spirit as a guide post for continuing her struggle into present day issues.

The conversations that night should be happening all over the world.


Register HERE to be a part of the next roundtable discussion:

Scandalous Voices: Journalistic Truth in the Face of False Rhetoric

Thursday, April 19, 7PM; RSVP requested

Robbins Hunter Museum or location TBD depending on RSVP Response


Victoria Woodhull: Phoenix Rising Speaker’s Series

2018 – The Voices of Women

April: Scandalous Voices: Journalistic truths standing in the face of false rhetoric

September: Dangerous Voices: Women who dare to speak the truth

2019 – Women Advocates

January/February: Social Justice Advocacy: Gender equality and family rights.

April: Humanitarian Advocacy: Populations in Adversity.

September: Child Advocacy: Women supporting children from the womb to adulthood.

2020 – Leaderful Women

January/Feburary: In Politics: Women who lead the charge.

April: In Business/Finance: Women as economic leaders.

September: In Abundance: Is the concept of sisterhood still relevant?

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A Tale of Two Women

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A Tale of Two Women

It was a tale of two women on the evening of Wednesday, Feb. 28, as Granville resident, artist, woman’s rights advocate, and museum friend Joanne Woodyard was celebrated as the 2017 The Victoria Woodhull Woman of Achievement recipient.

More than 150 friends from far and wide gathered to honor Joanne. The awards began with Amy Butler, 2011; Leslie Green Bowman, 2012; Jill Griesse, 2013; Sarah Wallace, 2016.

“Victoria knew that she was born for a greater calling,” Joanne said as she recounted the rise of Woodhull’s from poverty to notoriety,  “My story is very different and very simple,” she continued.

“I have never addressed the U.S. Congress. I have never operated a brokerage firm on Wall Street. I have never run for president of the United States.”

Joanne reminisced that she was nurtured in a family who surrounded her with enduring love every day. Her mother, Joanne said, was the youngest woman in Dayton to solo a plane at 16 years of age, to raise five children and always delight in everything they did.

Despite this cocoon of love and support, there were many highs and lows in her childhood, she said. “One of my sisters was bi polar, another died suddenly at age three, a brother was lost at birth and another was born with cerebral palsy. “Johnny was one of my life’s greatest gifts,” she said of her brother. “He never spoke nor heard a word in his 44 years, but he knew that he could communicate to all of us with his eyes.”

After graduating from Denison University, Joanne taught school in different states around the country. She and her husband David Woodyard returned in 1960 and have lived her since. She has been president of the Granville Garden Club. “I know that they went down the alphabet and had gotten to W before anyone accepted the job,” she laughed. “I learned the difference between a daffodil and a tulip and I forged ahead!”

“In those important years, I not only learned about flowers but also about self esteem and how to give it to others,” she said. “Working with women was so rewarding. I watched women discover their own worth and self esteem and nature became my friend through our earth, our gardens, and our flowers.”

Joanne has had leadership roles in the National Herb Society and the Garden Club of America. She also paints and is known for her attention to detail in paintings and her botanical depictions of flowers and herbs in greeting cards.

Throughout her talk, Joanne drew her audience in with stories and reflections on her life. “When women listen or are challenged, they do great things in their lives. They nurture, encourage, teach, laugh and cry. I am thankful that in a short 84 and a half years, I have had the opportunities that have come my way,” she said.

“Maybe, just maybe, you too will empower someone somewhere.”

 

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New Store to Open Soon

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New Store to Open Soon

The old wood shed on the west side of Robbins Hunter Museum has come a long way over the years. Cobbled onto the west side of the Avery-Downer House sometime between 1842 and 1875, the shed has had many lives. It’s been, among other things, an antique store, a dormitory, a quilt shop, a restaurant and most recently a clothing store.

Now it’s soon to be a store of fine stationery. Just Write opens on Monday, April 9, showcasing fine papers and stationery, greeting cards, areas for on-site work, including a coffee station.

“We want to create an experiential experience,” says store manager Lindsay Salisbury.  “We see that people want to slow down and make connections by returning to letter writing, to discover the lost art of correspondence.”

The space has changed considerably, of course, since its early wood shed days. When the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity bought the house in 1903, they converted the space into a room to use as a dorm. “The fraternity officers lived upstairs, members lived downstairs. None of these rooms were heated,” she noted.

When Robbins Hunter bought the house in 1956, he converted the space into an antique shop. Since Hunter's death in 1979, the room has been home to other ventures. By 2007, it was a reception room for the museum.

More recently, the board decided to lease the space and add handicapped restrooms in the main building. At about the same time, the Counting House was leased to Alfie’s Wholesome Food and the small restaurant operates here still today. 

Just Write will also carry items from the museum as it widens its visibility with retail merchandise. “We love the appeal,” Lindsay said. “It’s a perfect location and we’re so grateful to be here.”

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Yes, Some Pianos are Square

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Yes, Some Pianos are Square

It was the square piano in the parlor that captured the attention of Denison freshman Charlie Dykstal when he visited the museum with his art history class.

He wanted to know more, more about the piano, more about the furniture, more about the history, more about everything at RHM, so he just jumped right in. With the support of the art history department, Charlie now interns here eight hours a week through May. He plans to continue in the fall when he returns to classes.

It’s an Aster piano, Charlie has learned. Built around 1815 in England. His research tells him this was an everyday piano with brass strings that produce a compressed sound, a metallic sound. “Not very pleasing,” he said as he pressed on a key, but perhaps a piano that was used freely by the family for casual entertainment.

A few You Tube videos have led him to Aster owners and he’s tracking them down. He has lots of questions.

Charlie’s curiosity about the museum and its contents segue with his double major in cinema and art history. With his interest in film production, the highly regarded cinema department at Denison drew Charlie to the college from his home in Minneapolis. He’s chosen museum studies as his concentration in art history and that’s what brought him to RHM.

“The museum is beautiful,” he said. “I’ve been enjoying listening to the tapes of Robbins Hunter talking and just seeing the pictures and furniture. It makes great connections.”

Interning and volunteering are important focuses for the museum. If you have an interest in either, please let us know!

 

 

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From the Collection

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From the Collection

Robbins Hunter, Jr., was a collector of many things:  portraits, clocks, card tables, musical instruments, and buildings!  As a young man, growing up in Newark, he developed a fondness for fine things from the nineteenth century, especially those from Licking County. 

He was instrumental in seeing to it that many of Newark’s fine old buildings were saved from the wrecking ball including Sherwood-Davidson House and the Buckingham House. He also was proud of saving the A.J. Smith Banking House which once sat on the square in Newark.  Hunter moved the building to Granville and put in on property across from the Granville Golf Course. 

When he purchased the Avery-Downer house, he moved the little bank once again to 221 East Broadway, where it sits today.  It now serves as home to Alfie’s, a popular lunch spot in the heart of the Village.

The following story, written by Robbins Hunter, Jr., himself, was published in the January, 1947 issue of The American Antiques Journal.

One of the oldest bank buildings in Ohio is a two-room structure built about 1845 in Newark, Ohio.  At one time this little bank had deposits reaching $400,000.  It ceased to function as a bank in 1851 and in 1943 was moved to Granville, where it can be seen today across the road from the Granville Inn Golf Course, and is now the property of the writer.  There are two rooms in the bank with eleven foot ceilings.  The original cupboard where the bank records were kept still stands beside the old fireplace.  The front door is faced with tin and studded with hundreds of nails to give added strength.  The old brass chandelier shown in the picture, while not an original feature of the building is of the same period.  Its four oil lamps have been wired for electricity, and about eighty prisms hang from its brass ornaments.  The windows at one time had forged iron bars across them to keep out early bank robbers.  The tile around the fireplace is English and of very fine design.  The building, while small, has real dignity because of its perfect proportions, the design of the front door being especially fine.  But what a contrast the little building is to our modern banks with all their marble and brass.

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From the Director

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From the Director

Volunteers are the heart and soul of the Robbins Hunter Museum and Gardens

There are so many ways to participate as a volunteer at the Robbins Hunter Museum and Gardens.  No matter your interests or your time constraints, I am certain that you have something to offer that will benefit both the museum and you personally.

  • Volunteer Docents are the hosts and hostesses of the Avery-Downer House, greeting guests when they knock at the front door.  Their welcome is followed by a tour, which invariably entertains and educates the visitors.  Our docent team has become a close group of friends enjoying a special field trip and brown bag lunches throughout the year.
  • Committee positions include collections, programs, finance, and building and grounds.  Members of the community, who have special interest in serving on one of these committees with a board member as chair, bring knowledge and expertise far beyond what the Robbins Hunter Museum budget allows and each of the committee members can take great pride in the success of these projects.
  • Interns from our local college campuses are welcomed.  RHM can provide a learning laboratory for young people who may be interested in entering the museum field.  At the same time, they help the museum move forward projects for which we are not staffed.
  • Odd jobs are always waiting to be completed.  Whether polishing silver or stuffing envelopes for special mailing, volunteers are vital to keeping up with everyday tasks.

Are you intrigued?  Do you see yourself in one of the above roles?  I would welcome an email or phone call to answer your questions.

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From the Director...

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From the Director...

As 2017 comes to a close, there is cause for reflection about this amazing year in the life of the Robbins Hunter Museum.

Much of the winter was spent restoring the upstairs offices of the Avery-Downer House. As we celebrated the houses’ 175th birthday this year, the walls and floors received new finishes for the first time since the 1930’s. In April, the popular Mark Twain exhibit opened with the marvelous collection of our board member, Tom Wortham, noted Twain Scholar. The exhibit attracted people from all over the state and enjoyed a full-page feature in the Columbus Dispatch.  Additionally, Wortham’s lectures saw a full house of avid learners who enthusiastically applauded his lessons and either read again or for the first time, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

In June, who can forget the very successful Granville Garden Tour and “It’s All Greek to Me” flower show?  Five generous garden owners opened their property for the benefit of the museum.  The flower show, hosted by the Little Garden Club of Columbus was attended by more than 550 people and was commended by the Garden Club of America.

October brought Scarecrows, this time literary figures in reference to Mark Twain.  A Halloween exhibit on the second floor amazed young and old alike. For the first time, Robbins Hunter Museum was a beneficiary of the Big Give, a central Ohio fundraising campaign.  We were pleased to realize a total of $8,584.

Then an army of volunteers moved in to install Experience the Magic. Record crowds and viewing the decorations for Christmas as well as the newly added Hanukkah display on loan from a local family.  A generous grant from the Granville Community Foundation supports the exterior light display.  The Granville Recreation Commission partners with us to mount the Gingerbread House display and the Granville Chamber of Commerce makes sure that kiddies have the opportunity to visit with St. Nick and Mrs. Claus during the Candlelight Walking Tour.

We look forward to 2018 and to the return of some of our more popular programs.  When spring arrives, daffodils will be spilling over the walls. New garden programming as well as an exhibition of the Oese and Hubert Robinson Underwear Collection is in the works. Stay tuned…..

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Victoria Claflin Woodhull: Phoenix Rising

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Victoria Claflin Woodhull: Phoenix Rising

In 1976, the country was celebrating the bi-centennial of its founding. Robbins Hunter, a passionate Licking County historian, and the namesake of today’s Granville museum, felt strongly that something was missing in this national celebration, a monument to Victoria Woodhull.

Woodhull, you see, had carved out a place in history, but few knew much about the Licking County native or what she had accomplished in a time when women’s activism went largely unacknowledged. Hunter knew, and according to Director Ann Lowder, made it his project to build a memorial to Woodhull in the garden, complete with a statue likeness of her that made an entrance from a clock tower on the hour as bells rang.

 Victoria Claflin Woodhull, circa 1870

Victoria Claflin Woodhull, circa 1870

Perhaps it was the 2016 election where the country might have witnessed its first woman president. Perhaps it’s the passion of volunteers who admire Woodhull and think it’s time for her to be better understood and recognized for her achievements, notable today, and utterly unimaginable for the Victorian times in which she lived.

Whatever the impetus, the museum is taking Hunter’s lead. Thanks to the efforts of board members Judith Dann and Christina Gray, and former board member and Denison University Gender Studies Dept. chair, Gill Miller, along with a planning grant from the Ohio Humanities Council and the partnership of Denison, RHM begins a multi-year project that will focus on the multi-dimensionality of Woodhull’s legacy.  

In a series of round-table discussions over three years beginning in 2018, each session highlights one of the many areas of interest that Victoria Woodhull advocated in her life.

The Victoria Claflin Woodhull: Phoenix Rising series begins on February 8 with a roundtable titled Courageous Voices, an introduction to Woodhull and her historical context as well as to the organization and rise of social reform in the 19th century.

The second roundtable is set for April 19. Scandalous Voices, Journalistic Truths, Standing in the Face of False Rhetoric, is a discussion of women in the media, journalistic truth and “fake news.” And finally, on September 14, the roundtable Dangerous Voices, Women Who Speak the Truth, brings the first year of Victoria Claflin Woodhull: Phoenix Rising to a close. More details on location and how to register will be forthcoming.

“It is our goal to foster, through these roundtables, an educated, thoughtful discussion of her life and ideas as well as create a website of vetted primary sources and scholarship that would be a resource for those interested in studying her,” said Dann.  Dann, Professor and Classics Lead in the Humanities Department at Columbus State Community College, lives in Homer, Ohio, Woodhull’s birthplace, and has taken both a personal and academic interest in Woodhull.  “I have been researching her life for nearly 20 years and giving lectures around Ohio about her.  Also as a board member of the Homer Library, I advocate for her memory there,” she said.

“Scholars and professionals from across the nation are expected to participate in the roundtables in order to exchange ideas and speak on the identified themes from their discipline’s perspective. These will become the platform for discussion on how these issues might inform intellectual pursuits and policy making in our own time,” she added.

Supporting the partnership is English professor Liz Weiser of Ohio State University in Newark. Weiser, who acted as project evaluator for the Ohio Humanities Council, offered the services of an intern from her department to assist the project. Senior Kyle Smith, who is interested in 19th century feminism and women’s rights, will work alongside the committee. “It’s a natural fit,” Gray said.

Thus through combined efforts, Victoria rises again at Robbins Hunter Museum. The original figure of Woodhull disintegrated, the delicate works of the clock sold off, and the shambles of a balcony hanging precariously are now all repaired or replaced. Computer chips perform the clock mechanics, a new statue of Victoria makes her entrance on the hour again thanks to local carver Larry Nadwodney, and the entire façade was repaired and restored, Lowder said.

“Our project seeks to be her next rise from historical obscurity to the center stage where her ideas and reforms can take root again and drive contemporary change to challenges that still plague our society,” Dann said.  “Scholars and professionals from across the nation are expected to participate in order to exchange ideas and speak on the identified themes from their discipline’s perspective which will be the platform for discussion on how these issues might inform intellectual pursuits and policy making in our own time.”

In addition to the support of Denison University, other partners in this initiative are The Ohio State University, Columbus State University, and Capital University. The RHM Board is currently seeking additional funding from corporate, foundational, or individual contributions. Contact Ann Lowder, Director, for more information on how you can help.

woodhull full profile.jpg

 

Who was Victoria Woodhull?

                                                Presidential flyer 1872

                                               Presidential flyer 1872

Victoria Claflin Woodhull is one of the most inspirational and unsung heroes of American history.  Saying that her list of “firsts” is impressive is an understatement: first woman to speak before Congress about woman’s right to vote, first woman stock broker on Wall Street, one of the first women to own a newspaper publishing company, and the first woman to run for President of the United States (1872).  She was born in Homer, Ohio, Licking County.

Victoria seemed to be a phoenix in her lifetime, rising from the humblest of roots and soaring to national fame and influence.  She fell mightily in the 1870's only to rise again to wealth and prominence in England.  Woodhull had been virtually written out of history and her story is more recently finally being told.  Unfortunately, hers was a reputation that suffered due to her “radical” ideas that shook the very core of Victorian era mores.  Her entrance back into the spotlight in recent times is tragically tinged with these earlier vilifications and untruths.  

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, an American suffragist, social activist, abolitionist and a leading figure of the early women’s rights movement, wrote in 1876:

"In her own character and person there is never anything but refinement in word or movement. She has a beautiful face, the idol of spirituality. Victoria Woodhull has done a work for woman that none of us could have done.

 She has faced and dared men to call her the names that make women shudder, while she chucked principle, like medicine down their throats. She has risked and realized the sort of ignominy that would have paralyzed any of us who have been longer called strong-minded. Leaping into the brambles that were too high for us to see over them, she broke a path into their close and thorny interstices, with a steadfast faith that glorious principle would triumph at last over conspicuous ignominy, although her life might be sacrificed.

And when, with a meteor's dash, she sank into a dismal swamp, we could not lift her out of the mire or buoy her through the deadly waters. She will be as famous as she has been infamous, made so by benighted or cowardly men and women."

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More than underwear

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More than underwear

When Elizabeth Miller walked into the Robbins Hunter Museum with her son on a mission to do a little exploration for a school art assignment, little did she know that a treasure trove of vintage undergarments reside just above her on the second floor.

 Elizabeth Miller, textile specialist and RHM docent, shows one of the sleeping caps that is part of a large collection of undergarments. The 2018 season at the museum will open April 4 with a display of the vintage collection.   

Elizabeth Miller, textile specialist and RHM docent, shows one of the sleeping caps that is part of a large collection of undergarments. The 2018 season at the museum will open April 4 with a display of the vintage collection.

 

To most, the closet packed with muslin-covered bundles on hangers and boxes of fabric pockets containing ivory colored hand stitched, hand embroidered sleeping caps, petticoats and all sorts of underclothing women wore in the mid 1800’s might just be old clothes. To Elizabeth, these items, many in pristine condition, are a delightful surprise. 

So taken with the beauty and history of the museum during her visit in October, she volunteered almost on the spot. She joined the ranks of docents and is just finishing up her docent training this month. During that training, she happened upon an upstairs room where the undergarments of two local sisters, the Devenny sisters, who lived on Loudon Street in the mid 1800’s, now reside in bags and boxes.

Now, not everyone gets excited by old underwear, but to Elizabeth, a vintage clothing buff since childhood, a textile engineer by training, and a former design director for Limited Brands in fabric research and development, these bundles and boxes were an amazing, surprising find.

“These pieces are really interesting,” she said. “They’re not particularly rare, but very interesting. They tell a story about how women dressed in the mid 1800’s, wearing six or seven layers of undergarments under their outer clothes. This collection is in good condition thanks to those women who originally owned it and to those who worked to preserve it.” Elizabeth cites RHM volunteer Suzanne Kennedy for taking the initiative to create muslin preservation bags and pockets.

The clothing came to RHM from the former Lifestyle Museum in Granville, when it closed its doors in 2011. The grand old house at 121 S. Main Street, built in 1871, was then the former home of Hubert and Oese Robinson. The Robinsons lived there for the remainder of their lives. When Oese died in 1981, the house and its contents was willed to the village to become a museum. And if you remember visiting the Lifestyle Museum, you will remember that the house and its period contents was so well preserved that it became known as the Lifestyle Museum, an unusual and unique feature of Granville’s history. “She (Oese) kept everything,” Elizabeth said she learned as she began to research this vintage clothing and its origins. The home is now a private residence.

When RHM opens for the season in March 2018, the collection, now under Elizabeth’s hand, will be the opening exhibit. “When the museum closes for the winter in January, I’ll have the opportunity and time to put it together,” she said. ”I want to focus on this, I love doing research.”

 A sleeping cap up close, hand stitched and hand embroidered.

A sleeping cap up close, hand stitched and hand embroidered.

Elizabeth talks nostalgically about her childhood in Wilmington, CT as the beginning of her passion. “I have been collecting vintage clothing and textiles since I was 13,” she said. “My first job was at the town library and the wonderful ladies I worked with who loved antiques. They would give me 1920’s and 1930’s clothes because they were so small in size and I could wear them. I started wearing them and researching them and have been hooked ever since.

Elizabeth was accepted into the Parsons School of Design and moved to New York after high school. She then continued her education at the Philadelphia College of Textiles. “I worked at the Paley Design Center, now The Design Center at Philadelphia University in their costume and textiles collection while earning my textile design degree.”

She also did an internship at the Allentown Art Museum in their textile collection for a summer. “I have continued to collect vintage garments and love the fabrics and history. I hope this explains why I was very excited to see a closet of muslin covered hangers and boxes!” Elizabeth now lives in Granville with her husband Jeff, and her three children.

“Museums everywhere have collections, but to be able to tie it a local family that lived here on Loudon Street, is special,” she said.

She can’t wait to get started.

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Heyer Marks History of Avery-Downer House in 175th year

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Heyer Marks History of Avery-Downer House in 175th year

Editor’s Note: the full articles noted in this story are archived on this website and can be read in their entirety. Thanks to the author and friend of Robbins Hunter Museum, William Heyer, for his research and interpretations of earlier days when grand homes like the Avery-Downer house were conceived and constructed.

 

The Avery-Downer House, home to the Robbins Hunter Museum, celebrated its 175th year this year and thanks to nationally recognized classical architect, William Heyer, we learned much about the history of the building, its creators, and the culture that permeated the times.

Heyer, who is from Columbus, has long been actively involved at the Robbins Hunter Museum. As a member of the Board in the early 2000's, he created measured drawings of the interior and exterior of the building and researched appropriate finishes. More recently, he designed the Knobel Folly, an appropriate addition to the Jill Griesse garden.  On May 5, he led a walking tour of downtown Granville with emphasis on the Avery-Downer House and St. Luke's Church.           

Over this year, Heyer wrote a three-part series of extensive and in depth articles for this newsletter, articles that are now archived here.

In the first article, published in April 2017, Heyer wrote about the fasciation of temple design and the unusual habit of building temples in the 1840’s as homes.

The notion that a young family would live in a Greek temple in America is quite reasonable and beautiful, actually. These young Americans in the first half of the 19th century prided themselves on their new democratic republic—a form of self-government that had its origins in ancient Greece. These young Americans also believed in individual rights quite apart from any monarchy, aristocracy, or other system of oppressive government. Hence, man was a special creature, endowed by the Creator with rights and value above and beyond royalty.”

Then he talked about Albert Avery.

Alfred Avery began his entrepreneurial career in Granville as a drover taking livestock to eastern markets like his future business partner and brother-in-law Lucius Mower. On their travels, they would have seen some of the stately Greek Revival mansions being built and possibly had come in contact with other businessmen who were commissioning their own temple houses. Further, they quite possibly would have been introduced to the architectural pattern books of Asher Benjamin, John Haviland and others that were widely disseminated in the early 19th century. From all accounts, the tradition of grand domestic architecture was something any young aspiring entrepreneur like Avery would have been interested in at this time….Avery came to acquire the double lot at 221 E. Broadway about 1837, about the same time he helped organize and complete a building campaign for his own church, St. Luke’s Episcopal.”

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The second article, published July 6, explored the fascinating symbolic meanings behind entrances, in particular the front entrance.

“Since ancient times, the entrance to houses, temples, mausoleums, and civic buildings has symbolized an engagement with the world, the cosmos, the other side of death, the body politic. ‘Crossing over’ has intense meaning for us. It is a transformation in one way or another, a progression into the future, a conversion, a symbol of freedom or welcome, and a way forward to things previously unknown and unseen.”

Heyer acknowledges the classical inspiration behind the frontispiece of the Avery-Downer house, and recognizes its uniqueness.

“In 1842 when Alfred Avery was planning and designing his home on East Broadway, he certainly had in mind a timeless and yet personal sense of entry. The frontispiece surrounding the main north door is a masterpiece of Grecian design. It might seem redundant, interestingly, that a temple house should have an especially decorated doorway when it has the power of the Ionic temple speaking so clearly to the public. In reality, the two are quite opposite each other because the Ionic temple projects in an active way to engage the public while the frontispiece seems to fold inwards in a passive and receptive way. They both balance each other with their distinct purposes. One is strong and active, the other gentle and receptive. This is a brilliant showcase of the refined classical tradition in American architecture.”

And in the third and final article, published November 3, Heyer turns to the men who inspired each other and who shared a love for the architecture: Granville’s great entrepreneur and philanthropist Alfred Avery, celebrated architect Minard Lafever, and gifted builder Benjamin Morgan, builder of St Luke’s and Avery’s own house at 221 E. Broadway.

“We know that Avery, Lafever, and Morgan were instrumental leaders in the building of St Luke’s and we know that Alfred Avery was a major player in the financing and building of the Ohio canal system.

…Alfred Kelley was the celebrated first Mayor of Cleveland, a State Representative, and the genius behind Ohio’s canal system. He had been “pushing for canal bills through the state legislature, had personally surveyed land, signed contracts, and kept diligent records.” He was one of the most important figures in 19th century Ohio. Alfred Avery of Granville, also a canal financier, was almost certainly present that day having held a large sum of money in contracts to build the canal and would have wanted to see the beginning of his investment with all the fanfare and celebrated personalities present.

…The beauty of the new temple house of his acquaintance Alfred Kelley and the beauty of the new church of St. Luke’s most certainly influenced his decision to rely on Minard Lafever and Benjamin Morgan for the design of his own Ionic temple at 221 E. Broadway.”

And so, this year we have celebrated the history of our house, the Avery-Downer House.

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From the Director...

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From the Director...

A New Look for an Old Space

The offices at Robbins Hunter Museum have recently undergone a complete renovation.  Floors have been sanded and finished, walls patched and painted, and abundant lighting installed.  Furniture has been repaired and restored and pictures brought out of storage for display.

 This bookcase chest, made in Newark, c. 1850, according to Robbins Hunter, Jr.,was loaned to the first exhibition of midwestern furniture in 1964.  The exhibit, “The Arts and Crafts of the Old Northwest Territory: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota,” was mounted at Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn.  The piece is pictured in The Magazine Antiques’ article on the exhibit.

This bookcase chest, made in Newark, c. 1850, according to Robbins Hunter, Jr.,was loaned to the first exhibition of midwestern furniture in 1964.  The exhibit, “The Arts and Crafts of the Old Northwest Territory: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota,” was mounted at Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn.  The piece is pictured in The Magazine Antiques’ article on the exhibit.

When Sylvester Spelman died in 1873, he left his second wife Mary and unmarried daughter Charlotte alone in the large home. This prompted daughter Martha and her husband Edward M. Downer to move from their home on Elm Street with their four children.  They would have filled the second floor rooms with laughter, tears, toys, games, and books.  One can imagine.


The Downers sold the home in 1903 to Denison’s Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, and for the next 50 years,  the second floor occupants and caregivers were young men ages 18-22 who lived, studied, played, and slept here.  Once Denison required fraternities to return to campus, Robbins Hunter, Jr. bought the house which he had long admired for its outstanding Greek Revival architecture.  He lived on the first floor, using the second floor rooms to store his massive collection of antiques.  Needless to say, there was not a lot of decorating on the second floor during the twentieth century. 

 The black and gold leaf signs were used to advertise the law office of Robbins Hunter, Sr. and his father Samuel Hunter, in Newark, both lawyers and judges.

The black and gold leaf signs were used to advertise the law office of Robbins Hunter, Sr. and his father Samuel Hunter, in Newark, both lawyers and judges.

Two years ago, board member Gill Wright Miller, designed a renovation to enlarge the second floor bedroom to be used for exhibition space. During the beginning of 2017, the board authorized the renovation of the two bedrooms used as offices by the Director and the Office Administrator.  Floors that had not been refinished since the 19th century were sanded, revealing beautiful old hardwood.  Plaster walls had cracks and peeling paint which were patched and painted.  A soft tan color was chosen for the walls with the palest of blue to add interest to the ceiling.  Recessed can lights brighten the spaces and create a pleasing and comfortable work environment.  Special pieces from the collection have been brought out of storage, dusted off, restored when needed, and are proudly decorating the rooms.

Special thanks to Marge King and Jack Burris for volunteering their decorating expertise, and to the board of trustees, especially Kevin Kerr, having the foresight for prioritizing this improvement to our facilities.

 According to Robbins Hunter, Jr., this walnut desk, c. 1840, was used by Luke Warner in his office on the Ohio Canal in Newark.  Pictured above the desk are Luke and his wife Sarah, c. 1860.

According to Robbins Hunter, Jr., this walnut desk, c. 1840, was used by Luke Warner in his office on the Ohio Canal in Newark.  Pictured above the desk are Luke and his wife Sarah, c. 1860.

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Connecting the dots...

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Connecting the dots...

For part three of this series, we’re off to find the missing link between Granville’s great entrepreneur and philanthropist Alfred Avery and celebrated architect Minard Lafever along with gifted builder Benjamin Morgan, builder of St Luke’s and Avery’s own house at 221 E. Broadway. How did these three men come to know each other? We know that Avery, Lafever, and Morgan were instrumental leaders in the building of St Luke’s and we know that Alfred Avery was a major player in the financing and building of the Ohio canal system. These two facts present a reasonable solution to the missing link in an important story for the history of Granville and the Avery family, so hang on for a ride through exciting conjecture!

On July 4th, 1825 construction began on the Ohio and Erie Canal. That day the Canal Board of Commissioners, settlers, mounted cavalry, a marching militia, and a large crowd gathered east of Newark to dedicate the first shovel of dirt. Among the many present were Governor Morrow of Ohio, Governor Clinton of New York State, and Canal Commissioner Alfred Kelley. Alfred Kelley was the celebrated first Mayor of Cleveland, a State Representative, and the genius behind Ohio’s canal system. He had been “pushing for canal bills through the state legislature, had personally surveyed land, signed contracts, and kept diligent records.” (http://touringohio.com/profiles/alfred-kelley.html). He was one of the most important figures in 19th century Ohio. Alfred Avery of Granville, also a canal financier, was almost certainly present that day having held a large sum of money in contracts to build the canal and would have wanted to see the beginning of his investment with all the fanfare and celebrated personalities present.

Not long after the canal was completed in 1833, Alfred Kelley began planning for his stately residence on East Broad Street in Columbus (just east of the current Franklin County Building by Frank Packard). He had recently relocated from Cleveland to serve the state legislature. His new home was to be built entirely of Berea sandstone in the Grecian Ionic style, one of the few entirely stone Grecian buildings west of the Appalachian range. It showcased three in-antis (recessed) two-story porches on the north, west, and east facades, and one pro-stylos (projected) two-story portico on the south side facing Broad Street. Each of these was accomplished with signature Illisus Temple Ionic columns, just like those on the Avery-Downer House except in stone.

 The Robbins Hunter Museum in the Avery-Downer House, 2016

The Robbins Hunter Museum in the Avery-Downer House, 2016

All records indicate that Kelley was his own architect on the project. Grecian pattern books were readily available and Kelley did see much Grecian architecture on his travels. But the sophistication of this design is from the hand of a trained architect. For one, the square plan with in-antis porches was uncommon and only found at the time delineated by British architect James Gibbs in his 1728 “Book of Architecture” (plate 67). The unique plan is found in some country houses of England, France, and Palladio’s 16th century Italy, but it was not utilized in domestic architecture in the United States in the 18th or 19th centuries except in one 18th century house of Benjamin Latrobe. The point being that a 19th century layman—even with all the time and architectural interest at his disposal—would have relied on a classically trained architect to propose and develop such a unique plan. The classical details of the house, including the Ionic porches, happen to be signature elements of none other than St Luke’s architect Minard Lafever who had the sophistication to develop such a plan as well. At the time, he was in practice in New York, had just published his Grecian pattern book “The Modern Builder’s Guide”, and was all the rage. He had many resources (Ithiel Town’s immense architectural library was at his disposal in NYC) and would have been familiar with all the European precedents. Did Alfred Kelley meet with Lafever in New York and discuss plans for his new house? Abbot Lowell Cummings, who wrote a brief history of Alfred Kelley and the Kelley Mansion (The Alfred Kelley House of Columbus, Ohio, 1953), implies that both Nathan Kelly (Ohio Statehouse architect) and Minard Lafever did influence the design.

 The Kelley Mansion: courtesy of Ohio History Connection, image OM1902_1984372_001

The Kelley Mansion: courtesy of Ohio History Connection, image OM1902_1984372_001

Kelley’s house was well-known in Columbus. It was just blocks from the Statehouse and was frequently the site of gatherings during campaigns, conventions, speeches, and rallies. Mr. and Mrs. Kelley hosted many guests, some of whom were linked to Mr. Kelley’s interests including the canal system.

So, here is the conjecture and we can just leave it at that. But it is very interesting. It is reasonable to assume that from 1830 Alfred Kelley and Alfred Avery met on more than one occasion to review the on-going operations and success of their mutual interests in the Ohio and Erie Canal system. Alfred Avery and Alfred Kelley shared another common interest in classical architecture and might have engaged in long discussions about architecture, architects, and craftsmen, looking through pattern books and contemporary Grecian designs. Kelley might have shown Avery the plans for his new Grecian home. The names of Minard Lafever and Benjamin Morgan might have been presented, for Alfred Avery was just starting his building campaign at St Luke’s and needed a good architect and builder. Benjamin Morgan was already working on the new Statehouse in 1835 (around the corner from Kelley’s house) when he accepted Alfred Avery’s invitation to build St Luke’s. The beauty of the new temple house of his acquaintance Alfred Kelley and the beauty of the new church of St. Luke’s most certainly influenced his decision to rely on Minard Lafever and Benjamin Morgan for the design of his own Ionic temple at 221 E. Broadway.

 St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Granville, OH

St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Granville, OH

In the end, it is notable that both of these great houses project similar themes. The Alfred Kelley House sports a two-story Grecian Ionic temple portico in sandstone, the Alfred Avery House sports a portico almost identical to Kelley’s but in wood. The Alfred Kelley House incorporates a unique centralized floor plan found only in obscure precedent, the Alfred Avery House incorporates a unique temple arrangement with Doric, Ionic, Corinthian assembled like no other in the US. Both houses point to the sophistication and talent of Minard Lafever. Both houses celebrate the intellect and brilliance of two Ohioans who had the foresight to do great things for our state and leave us with the gift of beautiful architecture. Unfortunately, the Kelley House was demolished in 1961 and its stones are gathered on the grounds of Hale Farm and Village near Peninsula, Ohio. We are so grateful that the Avery-Downer House stands and continues to inspire the world with its beauty.

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Volunteer Spotlight

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Volunteer Spotlight

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” — Winston Churchill

 “We have to do what we can to help wherever and whenever it is possible for us to help.” — Jackie Chan

 “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.” — Muhammad Ali

 “Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.” — Elizabeth Andrew

 Kim Vohs, RHM Volunteer

Kim Vohs, RHM Volunteer

Over the decades, the efforts and results of volunteers have been noted and honored. Take these words to heart and step up to volunteer at the Robbins Hunter Museum.

Kim Vohs has done just that. Kim retired from Boeing two years ago and took her interest in organizing to RHM. She has happily, she says, reordered the kitchen, Ann’s closet and other areas of the museum. Follow in Kim’s lead and give us a call to find out how you, too, can help out.

Current needs are for docents Wednesdays thru Saturdays from 1 – 4 p.m. Learn about the museum and share our interesting history with visitors. Call Director Ann Lowder to find out more about volunteering.

 

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Don Gunnerson, Board Member Emeritus

 Don Gunnerson, Board Member Emeritus

Sadly, Don Gunnerson, board member emeritus, Robbins Hunter Museum in the Avery-Downer House, passed away on October 21. Don put his architectural skills and artistic sense to work as he oversaw the restoration of the Octagon Room.  Don spent countless hours working with contractors to stabilize Robbins Hunter’s favorite room.  As a finishing touch, Gunnerson used old photos to size the replacement “quatrefoil” that tops the domed roof.  Don was a devoted friend of the museum. We will miss him. 

Read his full obituary HERE

 

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From the collection...

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From the collection...

Mirrors seemed to captivate Robbins Hunter as his collection has many.  One of the favorites at the museum today is this Federal example made c. 1820.  Called a tabernacle mirror by some, by others a pier mirror, its wooden frame is covered with gesso and gilded.  The top panel is eglomise, or reverse painted on glass, a technique attributed to China.  The actual mirror frame would have been made somewhere on the East Coast of America.           

The mirror tells the story of a naval battle between an American and a British naval battle. No original labels, however, confirm the precise ship or battle.  We know that Granville sent a company of men to fight at Lake Erie.  Among them was George Avery, older brother of Alfred (who built the Avery-Downer House).  Alfred, only 15 at the time, began a career as a drover of pigs and other livestock to sell to the troops. Probably because of Granville’s and the Avery family’s involvement in the War of 1812, we have interpreted the scene as Commodore Perry’s Victory at Lake Erie. 

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On September 10, 1813, an American fleet commanded by Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry defeated the British fleet in Lake Erie, just off Put-in-Bay.  It was much celebrated as the victory put Americans in control of Lake Erie and much of the Northwest Territory.  It marked the first time an entire British fleet was captured.

At daybreak on that long ago morning, Perry’s lookout sighted the British fleet of six vessels.  They were under the command of Captain Robert H. Barclay.  As the battle began, the wind, in front of Perry’s fleet of nine vessels, shifted to their backs and made it easier to approach the enemy. Perry’s plan was for his two ships, the Lawrence and the Niagara, to engage the two largest British ships, the Detroit and the Queen Charlotte.  His smaller gunboats would take on the smaller British ships.

At noon, the battle began.  Perry, aboard the Lawrence, engaged the enemy.  The ship was badly damaged to the point of being disabled.  Four of every five men aboard were either killed or injured, but Perry escaped and transferred to the Niagara which had remained out of range of the enemy guns.  With the crew of the Niagara, he challenged both the Queen Charlotte and the Detroit.

Captain Barclay was severely wounded. The riggings of the two British ships became entangled.  Perry raked the ships with his heavy guns until the British lowered their flag in surrender. Americans suffered 27 killed and 96 wounded.  British casualties included 41 killed and 92 wounded. Soon after the battle, Perry wrote his famous note to the US commander in the region, William Henry Harrison, “We have met the enemy and they are ours:  two ships, two brigs, one schooner, and one sloop.”

Stop by for a tour of the Avery- Downer House to learn more stories about the people who lived here and interesting items in the collection.

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From the Director...

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From the Director...

Victoria Woodhull, born and reared in Licking County, was an advocate of social reform that continues to be relevant today.  When Robbins Hunter constructed a clock tower dedicated to Woodhull on the side of the Avery-Downer house in Granville, his intention was to memorialize her as his tribute to the nation’s bicentennial.  During the 2016 election, the museum mounted a highly successful exhibit, “Celebrating Victoria,” accompanied by a series of speakers. We concluded that public interest in her 1872 Presidential bid in the midst of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign was long deserved. However, her story reaches far beyond presidential politics to lessons of American values, humanitarian concerns and sheer fortitude in the face of adversity and their relevance on contemporary society.

The Robbins Hunter Museum is pleased to announce that it is the recipient of a planning grant from the Ohio Humanities Council to develop a three-year project that will focus on the multi-dimensionality of her legacy and her ability to drive social change.  We plan to host round-table discussions three times per year for three years, each time identifying one of the many areas of interest that Victoria Woodhull advocated that continue to be relevant in the 21st century.  Scholars, professionals, and knowledgeable lay individuals will be invited to exchange ideas concerning and speaking to the identified themes from their discipline’s perspective.  The main point of the discussions is to provide a platform to advance conversations stimulated by her intellectual work and to bring better recognition and understanding of Woodhull and her modern relevance to the broader public.

Beginning in 2018, we will explore her history, her role in bringing a woman’s voice to journalism, and her employment of spiritualism for oratory and rhetoric.  The second year will bring discussions of humanitarian issues, child welfare and medicine, as well as abolition.   The final year, 2020, will focus on women as leaders in business and finance, gender issues, and finally politics and suffrage.

The goal in planning this larger project is simply to bring Victoria Woodhull’s uniquely significant life back into the public’s focus, not just as a Presidential candidate but as a remarkable, laudable, and genuinely American woman whose foresight was far ahead of her time.

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Welcome to our house

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Welcome to our house

Editor’s Note: This article is the second of three articles on the Avery-Downer House and its architecture by William Heyer, Architect

What is so special about the front entry at the Avery-Downer House? And oh, how it is special. Let’s jump into this one! First, we must ask: what is the purpose of entrance? What does that purpose signify?

 Builder, Benjamin Morgan, copied the Tower of the Winds in Athens as the entrance to the Avery-Downer house.

Builder, Benjamin Morgan, copied the Tower of the Winds in Athens as the entrance to the Avery-Downer house.

The front entrance primarily allows an engagement with the world: with friends, relatives, neighbors, police, enemy troops, etc. There is a story about the front entry at Belle Meade plantation outside of Nashville. During the Civil War, the owner, General William Giles Harding, was captured by the Union army and sent to prison in Michigan while Mrs. Elizabeth Harding maintained this stately Grecian mansion. At one point during General Harding’s distant captivity, a Union troop approached the house. Mrs. Harding stepped out of her front entry onto the covered, columned portico with shotgun in hand. She warned the troops not to move an inch closer and then fired a warning shot. She gained the respect she needed from the troops and managed to keep the moral reputation of her family intact, eventually allowing only a field hospital to be set up in the house. The front entry is where we engage civilization beyond our family in peace and war.

Since ancient times, the entrance to houses, temples, mausoleums, and civic buildings have symbolized an engagement with the world, the cosmos, the other side of death, the body politic. “Crossing over” has intense meaning for us. It is a transformation in one way or another, a progression into the future, a conversion, a symbol of freedom or welcome, and a way forward to things previously unknown and unseen. The great pylons of ancient Egypt were the gateway to the netherworld and the eternal memory of the pharaoh. The propylaea of Hellenistic Greece were gateways to the precinct of the gods, a symbolic threshold to the divine world. Tombs, government buildings, houses all carried on this symbolism in ways that reflected the timeless beliefs of humanity and its ultimate goals. That is why house entries are so powerful, and so decorated. We welcome the visitor with a symbol of who we are as a family and invite others over a threshold to a world that is not their own.

During the first half of the 19th century, a new emphasis on the front entry was at work. The Grecian movement, through the talent of young architects like James Dakin and James Gallier, produced amazing frontispieces for churches and houses throughout the country. They utilized the classical language through the newly discovered architectural traditions of ancient Greece. James Dakin’s drawings for frontispieces appeared in builder’s guides by Minard Lafever and were disseminated widely revealing a mastery of the classical language that was at once both ancient and new, recognizable for its precedent and exciting for its unique compositions. The frontispiece of the Avery-Downer house is clearly modeled on one of the designs by Dakin but is a unique interpretation of the classical frontispiece.

In 1842 when Alfred Avery was planning and designing his home on East Broadway, he certainly had in mind a timeless and yet personal sense of entry. The frontispiece surrounding the main north door is a masterpiece of Grecian design. It might seem redundant, interestingly, that a temple house should have an especially decorated doorway when it has the power of the Ionic temple speaking so clearly to the public. In reality, the two are quite opposite each other because the Ionic temple projects in an active way to engage the public while the frontispiece seems to fold inwards in a passive and receptive way. They both balance each other with their distinct purposes. One is strong and active, the other is gentle and receptive. This is a brilliant showcase of the refined classical tradition in American architecture.

 The exquisite lotus flower foliage is picked out with gold leaf paint

The exquisite lotus flower foliage is picked out with gold leaf paint

Morgan and Lafever used the Corinthian order as found at the Tower of the Winds in Athens to celebrate this gentle, welcoming frontispiece. The ancient water clock at the center of Athens was documented by James Stuart and Nicholas Revett in their 1762 landmark publication The Antiquities of Athens, but it was not widely utilized for new designs in the Greek Revival Movement, at least not like the Parthenon or Temple of Athena Nike or Temple on the Illisus. Its unique placement here makes the entry to the Avery-Downer house even more beautiful. The gentle acanthus capitals and shaft fluting, the feminine antae (the side piers that flank the columns), and running palmettes in the frieze, and the soft acanthus tendrils in the transom above the door all welcome the visitor to a wonderful Eden to be enjoyed inside. The garden motif is certainly intentional and likely had personal as well as religious connotations for Avery and his family.

The Grecian Movement is seen today by some architectural critics as the worst kind of architecture—copying ancient monuments blindly to signify a past that is no longer relevant to our world. The enduring beauty of the frontispiece of this house is but one small example of why these critics are so out of touch today with the timelessness and beauty of the human spirit.

 

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Garden Day 2017

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Garden Day 2017

Summer sun, verdant green, and the pleasure of gathering all marked this year’s Garden Day at Robbins Hunter Museum. Preview night brought people together around a Garden Fair for socializing on the east lawn where vintage garden stonework, historical house replicas as birdhouses, Victorian Tussie Mussies and other unique and exquisite gift items were available. Inside, a sanctioned garden show delighted browsers who viewed plant specimens, photography, and floral designs, all cast with a Greek flair. More than 500 people attended the fair and the flower show. The next day, nearly 250 people toured four pristine local gardens to see natural environments enhanced by plants, stone, wood and flowers.  The weather cooperated, the visitors wore broad smiles under summer garden hats, and the flowers bloomed all around. Garden Day 2017 was a success.

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