Friday, July 20, 2018

Grover Cleveland papers - Conway to the Library of Congress

This week we installed a small display showing a few examples from the Conway Historical Society’s collection of President Grover Cleveland papers, before they make their move to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Cleveland had a summer home in Tamworth. Tamworth is one of the twenty-seven towns covered by the scope of the Conway Public Library’s Henney History Room as set up by Nella and Keith Henney. In Tamworth can be found one of the most unique Presidential monuments - not a sculpture, not a building, but instead a road and stone wall. Our exhibit features some pages from the fundraising committee for the project (click on images to enlarge them).

We have had quite a good bit of publicity on the project. Brian P. Wiggin has led the charge to preserve the papers and arrange to have them sent to the Library of Congress where all Presidential papers before Herbert Hoover are stored. Mr. Wiggin is a Trustee at both the Conway Public Library and the Conway Historical Society as well as a historian of both local and national history.

Please drop by and visit the display. We would be happy to talk with you about it.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Marvelous History

What's wrong with this picture? 

William Marvel does it again! In yesterday's Conway Daily Sun, he re-attributes the names of the boys in this picture from the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room collection. (click on image to enlarge it and read his argument).

Here is an image of the back of the original photo helping to see how the handwriting could have been misread.

As we reviewed in a previous blog what passes for history can change due to new insights or research such as that done by Mr. Marvel.

We welcome this kind of community involvement in getting our history correct. We invite anyone with an interest in history to join our volunteer group, for a part of a day, or on an ongoing basis. We have a large back log of items to scan, research, and post in our online collection. We have many photographs that have unidentified people in them. Perhaps you could give some of these anonymous faces a name!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Happy Barn Day!

I hope you are all looking forward to celebrating the next National Barn Day this Sunday, July 8th, 2018. As I am sure you all know, it is always the second Sunday in July.

One of the many websites about Barn day suggests you “Celebrate Barn Day by driving out into the country to see as many barns as you can. Really get out there and barnstorm—literally. Take note of the different types of barns you can find. Take photographs!”

If you do take photographs, or have any old photographs or archival materials on old barns, we would be happy to collect or copy it for our collection to preserve and share with future generations.

We can also help you plan your barn day itinerary with books and historic photos from our collection.

If you start on Greenwood Avenue at the Conway Public Library head west to Pleasant Street.

If you look south or west you will see good examples of barns “connected architecture” outlined in Thomas Hubka’s “Big House, Little House, Back House, Barn” available for checkout at the library.

Here is a sketch diagramming the basic layout of these types of buildings, common throughout the Mount Washington Valley.

On the south west of the “four corners” is the old Abbott Dairy barn. You can still see part of the original track for the hay fork. Click on the picture to enlarge it and check out the really cool old truck.

From here you can head up along West Side Road which is like a museum of barns. Soon you will pass the old Allard Farm, once the site of the largest elm tree in New Hampshire.

Further up on West Side Road you will pass the "Smiley Face" barn seen above. You can also see an interesting potato barn built into the ground.

From West Side take River Road over the Saco back to Route 16. You can take a short detour north and check out the  old Whitaker barn at Whitaker Woods. 

A bit further north the old Bigelow barn ...

 ...has been turned into an organic grocery store and restaurant.

This barn has a distinctive style roof treatment called a Jerkinhead. 

 Further down Route 16 you will pass the Red Barn Outlet.

 We explored the photo above in detail in a previous blog here.

 Another barn you can explore is the Merrill Farm barn before returning to the library.

Have fun!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Summer Blockbuster

No... it is not "Jaws" or "Star Wars" or "Jurassic Universe." It is the most recent display from the Henney History Room near the main entrance of the Conway Public Library.

The exhibit focuses on summer traditions. 

In the center of the top shelf is the book "Summer on Foss" by Joyce Blue. This book examines the many summers enjoyed in Eaton on Foss Mountain by Keith and Nella Henney, the founders of the Henney History Room. Adorning the top of the book are noise makers, sunglasses and a patriotic rubber duck symbolizing the Old Home Weeks, bean hole suppers, parades and Ducky Day fundraisers of the summer. 

To the left on the top shelf is a children's book on "Mowing." Children's books provide a wonderful exploration of historical topics. This cover shows the use of "heavy horses" pulling a mowing machine. It is a great insight into changing technology and farming practices. See our previous blog about the changing roles of "old iron." 

Earlier today, as I drove by the Saco Valley Overlook just before heading into North Conway I stopped to view the progress of haying or mowing on a big field across the Saco River.

The river in the middle is now popular for kaying. The beach on the right is for summer sun bathing and picnicking. One can often see a Heron fishing in the backwaters near the beach.

In the far distance you can see the remains of older, now abandoned, fields running up the slope of the Moat Mountains, now grown over and returning to forest. Hidden up on that slope is the nearly forgotten Thompson's Falls discovered by our own local artist Benjamin Champney.

I could still see some patches of snow on Mount Washington and bits of the ledges with long forgotten, but once popular tourist attractions of caves and cathedrals, now popular for hiking and rock climbing.  

The overlook was established in 1973 by the Pequawket Foundation in memory of Robert H. Kennett in honor of Mrs. Harvey D. Gibson (click on pictures to enlarge them).

The hay cut from these fields will be stored in barns along West Side Road on the other side of the river. To get to West Side Road from the Conway Public Library you can pass through a covered bridge and picnic in another nearby one. Yesterday I drove along West Side Road watching hay and strawberries being harvested. You can check out our previous blog about strawberries at this link.

Above the mowing book is a picture of folks swimming under a covered bridge.

We will be doing more research on swimming holes near covered bridges for an upcoming WMUR Chronicle program.  Another part of the display celebrates the patriotic fever of the Fourth of July. A miniature rustic bench reflects a popular motif used by T.E.M. White and Chase in their photography.


Historically, summer was the key to growing food for New Englanders to survive the rest of the year.
Sweet corn for example supposed to be "knee high by the Fourth of July."

Settler's Green outlet stores now occupies what was once the White Mountain Airport where Wylie Apt would provide aerial tours of Conway and the White Mountains. The next shelf displays three summer related books by the late Donald Hall (September 20, 1928 - June 23, 2018).  

In the foreground is an assortment of images used to promote farming and tourism.

 Below are some illustrations from a tourist brochure

Pictures include Echo Lake and the ledges (now part of a State Park). The location of Cathedral cave and Pitman's Arch rock formations are known to only a few now.

On the bottom shelf, is a map known as the Idler map. It is a wonderful resource with many interesting details.

It shows the location of "White Photographer," and the Whitaker Bros house and barn. The house is gone, but the barn remains. On the map you can see the foot paths that are now Whitaker Woods. 

The bottom shelf also shows the old Drive-In Theater, now a housing development and the once famous Wizard Birch that was in Cathedral Woods near the Abenaki Gift Shop.  For more details on summer in the Conways and the White Mountains please visit the Henney History Room at the Conway Public Library.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

History Happens Every Day

Oh brother! ...

... history can be a mysterious and messy endeavor.

A local history center recently used the slogan “History Happens Everyday” on their website. There are several ways to look at this statement.

First, there is the idea that events happen everyday and that historians should keep a record of this "history" for future generations. On a daily basis we review local newspapers and magazines to clip and preserve in our vertical files by subject or family name so that your children's children's children can find them easily. We are always adding today's news for tomorrow's history. 

However, that is only part of the story. Doing history is more than just collecting and filing away stuff. A second way of looking at it this statement is that history is an interpretation of primary sources. While we do our best to identify the people and places seen in archival items and photos, the complete or accurate truth is not always obvious. The photograph above is a case in point and a useful “object lesson.”

History is not always clear even with 20-20 hindsight. We don't always have all the information we need to make the proper conclusions. Sometimes we make mistakes.

In his book The Conways published in 1995, curator David Emerson wrote a caption (p. 96) that identified this building as "The William Palmer House."

Last week, historian William Marvel challenged that attribution, (Conway Daily Sun, “Then and Now” article, Thursday May 31, 2018 p. 6) (click on image to enlarge it and/or see the paper at this link)

Using the same photo as a primary document, Marvel attributed the house to William's brother John then ipso facto, everything that derived from that original assumption is now suspect. With the house now tied to John rather than William Palmer new threads of history open up and Marvel weaves a wonderful story of social upheaval and cultural tensions into the picture.

We will look at these issues later, but first let's take a look "behind the curtain."

While the records are a little murky, according to our PastPerfect software it seems the photo was accessioned in 2010. Below is an image of the record with the old information before updating and here is a link to that item accession # 2010.500.366 with some of the new information. More updated information will be posted online soon. It takes a while to fact check everything and input the new data.

There is no documentation about where the photo came from. We often get donated items left on our "doorstep" with no contact info about who or where it came from. However, on the back is a handwritten notation reading "Wm Palmer House So Conway" so that explains the original identification. The number 230 and "Moses Drown?" and"Tun or r..?" are enigmatic. The number B-9-5 is our location code, box B, folder 9, item 5.

The type of paper and angle of the image tells us it is not an original print but rather a copy of a copy. 

We will also be adding more information to our records from maps from 1860 and 1892, family history research from Ancestry. com and Nellie M. Carver’s 1971 book on Goshen, including this picture of the John Palmer house from the gable end (p. 91).

With the picture she includes a romantic poem about old houses by Isabel Fiske Conant and info on some of the previous owners. In the same chapter she explains some of the fascinating connections of the “summer residents” as Nellie Carver called them.

In his article, Marvel has made an important contribution is these local history connections to stories of scandal, betrayal and decay.

There is a type of aesthetic that appreciates the rustic taste and the romance of ruins. It can be seen on the cover of Carver's book and in her description of how the summer folks enjoyed picnics at the "Stoney Chimneys," as they called an old fireplace left standing when the house was gone (pp. 90, 123, 124).

According to Marvel part of the appeal of Goshen was the opportunity for the summer people to go "slumming among the northern country folk" and to rusticate "among the amusing provincials of northern New Hampshire."

He tells the story of the Fenollosa family. Other famous summer residents in the area included interesting internationally known interlopers such as Glackens, Greely, Kirk, Baird and Nesmith. We will explore more on these folks in future blogs. 

Speaking of research based on primary sources, if you look closely at a detail of the cover of Emerson's book ...

... here is proof positive that Tom Hanks used to rusticate in Conway (just kidding, but it sure looks like him).

You see, it is all in how you use the evidence.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Aes Cyprium

In previous blogs we have reviewed various stages of the Conway Public Library's construction from cellar to shingles from the excavation of dirt, to the rough split foundation wall stones, to the brick work, and carved stone work. Now we ascend above all that to the copper clad roof.

By comparing the current building with the original concept rendering...

... and an early photo of the building as built, we can see what remains, what is missing, and what was recently rediscovered.

But first a bit of history.

In the Roman era, copper was principally mined on the island of Cyprus. According to wikipedia, the name copper derives from the old English cuprum which in turn was derived from the Latin Aes Cyprium or metal of Cyprus.

Now, let's look at a detail of the photo above that focuses on the balustrade that once encircled the edge of the roof. The balustrade was removed around 1960.

Here is an even closer view.

And here is a sketch of the components of a balustrade system.

Recently our Library Director, David Smolen, risked life and limb and lung to recover three of the original pressed copper newel panels from the original balustrade that had been stored in the attic. They can now be studied as part of the Henney History Room collection.

The overall measurements of these copper panels are 26.5 inches wide, 38 inches high, and 7 inches deep. The entire surface of each panel is slightly corrugated adding strength to the thin sheet metal as well as providing a decorative texture to the finish.

The shape of the Newall panel cornice approximates the classical arrangement of the ionic order, including a simplified but recognizable cymatium and corona.

While the outside of the panels have been exposed to the weather and acquired a green verdigris patina, the interior of the panels retain their original reddish orange copper color.

These fragments of original artifacts enable us to quiz out construction details.  A close examination of the forms reveals the use of overlapping folds and flaps bent over, riveted and sealed with lead solder.

While most rivets are copper, there is also evidence of brown rust indicating ferrous or iron elements, perhaps a repair? or mistake?

Testing my hunch with the magnet on my handy name tag confirms it is ferrous. (Copper does not attract a magnet).

Now we return to our original primary source materials, the concept rendering or sketch and the historic photos to look at some other missing elements of the balustrade.

The sketch and early photo confirm that...

...the balusters changed from vase to oval shaped in the front section over the entrance.

While dentils are shown in both the concept sketch and the photo above, these images also show the limitations of primary source documents. These archival records do not reveal what the actual artifact, the library building itself, can show, that the dentils change from being made of carved stone to copper sculpted along the facade.

Detail that stone to copper transition.

A decorative copper finial can be seen at one corner of the roof.

Between the finials was a decorative fretwork or cresting that added an ornamental touch to the roof ridge...

...which can still be seen in some places on the roof today.

In the picture above you can see the many small circular snow guards installed on the slate part of the roof. (Click on the image to enlarge it).

Now to the clock tower itself.

Now look at the elements of the copper clad clock tower. In a previous blog looked at how this was documented for fire insurance purposes on Sanborn map.

Today you can still see many of the original decorative motifs, including dentils, quoins, arabesques, modillions and the greek key (see our previous blog meandering around the library).  The early photo of the building shows a series of interesting vase shaped items surmounting the balustrade around the clock tower.

There are at least six missing "genie" shaped bottle shaped elements missing.

Of course, everyone knows that Jeannie's favorite activity while in her bottle is to read books checked out from the Conway Public Library.

But seriously, who was behind all of this decorative copper work at the library. Well, as before the answer can be found in our "red" reading room in the northwest corner of the library. There you will find a photo of the copper and slate contractor Frederic S. Hicks and a caption explaining his role.

A quick internet search on him and his company leads to an interesting display they did at a trade show in Boston.

This pavilion display won them a silver medal.

In this somewhat aerial view of the library before the expansion, you can see that the copper part of the roof only is exposed along the edge, and then turns to slate. We will explore the work of the slater in a future blog. We will also leave it to a future blog to examine the weathervane in more detail.

Until then, let me say CU later (that is a chemical copper joke - look it up).