Saturday, March 30, 2019

Helen Bigelow Merriman

In a previous post we noted the Bigelow/Merriman barn as a remnant of a past era and an example of adapting to changing times. Now, as part of Women's History Month, we will look at one of the woman behind that barn and so many contributions to Conway and beyond that are often ignored or forgotten.

Helen Bigelow Merriman was a remarkable woman. She was an artist, writer, conservationist and philanthropist. She left an important and lasting legacy in the Mount Washington Valley. As the sole heir of her father's Bigelow carpet company fortune, she had the means to support many causes dear to her heart. She founded Conway's Memorial Hospital in memory of her parents and was key to developing the Worcester Massachusetts Art Museum as well as churches and libraries in several towns.

This painting The painting is signed and dated "Abbott H. Thayer 1890" by Abbott Thayer dated 1890 sold by Skinner in 2015, now in a private collection. she is shown in this portrait holding a paint brush. (Image courtesy of Skinner Inc. For more details see this link). 

Helen wrote several interesting books such as What Shall Make Us Whole?: Or, Thoughts in the Direction of Man's Spiritual and Physical Integrity (1888), The Perfect Lord (1891), Concerning Portraits and Portraiture (1891), and Religio Pictoris (1899). Most of these can now be read on Google Books.

The portrait above of Helen Bigelow Merriman once hung at Conway's Memorial Hospital. This painting from 1908 is now at the Worcester Museum of Art. See this link.

Stonehurst was the family home and is now open to the public as an inn and restaurant. You can find more details on there website here.

It has great outdoor views across the intervale to the ledges and beyond to Mount Washington...

...and a wonderful interior.

Stonehurst has had a great write up in Dr. Tolles book Summer Cottages in the White Mountains (click on images to enlarge them or check it out at the library).

Dr. Bryant Tolles remarks that Stonehurst "is the epitome of the English country estate in New Hampshire's White Mountains" and that "In this region it was the supreme statement of rural elegance..." He adds that "Despite physical alterations and changes in ownership and function over the years, the site conveys much the same impression as it did a century ago, and provides important physical evidence of upper-class summer architecture and life in late-Victorian America."

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