Resource | Black Craftspeople Digital Archive

Posted in on site, resources by Editor on December 17, 2021

Peter Bentzon, Teapot, 1817–29, Philadelphia, silver and wood (Washington, DC: Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, 2010.14). Born in the early 1780s in the West Indies, Peter Bentzon was a free man of color. He apprenticed as a silversmith in Philadelphia and then traveled to St. Croix where he opened his own silver shop. In 1817, Bentzon returned to Philadelphia and continued to work as an independent silversmith.

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Press release (14 December 2021) from The Decorative Arts Trust:

The Decorative Arts Trust is pleased to announce that the Black Craftspeople Digital Archive (BCDA) has been named the 2021 recipient of the Prize for Excellence and Innovation.

Founded in 2019, the BCDA brings together scholars, students, museums, and archives professionals and the public to collaborate and spread the story of Black craftspeople. To date, blackcraftspeople.org includes archival information and a searchable map with information about 960 black craftspeople involved in 45 trades in the South.

The BCDA originally began as a project by Dr. Tiffany Momon, inspired by her research into John ‘Quash’ Williams, an enslaved and later free Black master carpenter responsible for the carpentry and joinery work on the c. 1750 Charles Pinckney Mansion in Charleston, South Carolina. Tiffany now serves as the BCDA Founder and Co-Director with Dr. Torren Gatson as BCDA’s Co-Director and Publications and Special Projects Director.

Prize funding will support the BCDA Object Database, which will provide scholarship documenting the ancestry, historical timelines, and narratives of these craftspeople within the context of the larger decorative arts field.

The BCDA Instagram account is available here»

In addition to the BCDA’s award, The Trust was able to provide funding to two other finalists. Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens will receive a grant to underwrite the stipend of a research fellowship for the William J. Hill Texas Artisans and Artists Archive devoted to seeking objects that represent a broader range of the state’s cultural history. The Historic Albany Foundation will receive a grant to develop a series of workshops with the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands as part of the preservation and adaptive reuse of the Van Ostrande-Radliff House.

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The Decorative Arts Trust Prize for Excellence and Innovation was established in 2019 to recognize scholarly endeavors to advance the public’s appreciation of decorative arts, fine arts, architecture, or landscape design. The Trust is eager to highlight a broad range of projects–by no means restricted to digital database projects–and encourages institutions pursuing innovative initiatives of all types to submit nominations, which are accepted through June 30 annually.

The Decorative Arts Trust is a non-profit organization that promotes and fosters the appreciation and study of the decorative arts through exchanging information through domestic and international programming; collaborating and partnering with museums and preservation organizations; and underwriting internships, research grants, and scholarships for graduate students and young professionals.

Exhibition | Writing History: Voltaire and the Kings

Posted in exhibitions, on site by Editor on October 16, 2021

Jean César Macret, Réception de Voltaire aux Champs Elisées par Henri Quatre.

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Now on view at the Château de Voltaire:

Ecrire l’histoire: Voltaire et les rois
Château de Voltaire à Ferney, 16 septembre 2021 — 5 janvier 2022

Organized by Andrew Brown and François Jacob

On a parlé, de manière facétieuse, du « roi Voltaire » : sans être roi, Voltaire (1694–1778) n’en a pas moins fréquenté de nombreuses têtes couronnées. On le rencontre à la cour, que ce soit celle de Louis XV ou de Frédéric II de Prusse. Il entretient avec nombre de monarques une importante correspondance. Désireux de se faire apprécier par les souverains, attendant beaucoup d’eux, il met sa plume au service de leur gloire et de leur postérité : n’est-il pas l’auteur de La Henriade ? Ne le considère-t-on pas, avec l’Histoire de Charles XII et Le Siècle de Louis XIV, comme un des fondateurs de l’historiographie moderne ? Ses ouvrages, tout autant que ses amis influents, lui permettent d’être promu « Historiographe de France » en 1744–45 et d’entrer à l’Académie française en 1746.

Château de Voltaire is located in Ferney-Voltaire (Ain) in France, close to the Swiss border and Geneva. It was Voltaire’s home between 1761 and 1778. Acquired by the French State in 1999, it came under the care of the Centre des monuments nationaux in 2007. After a series of restoration projects, including a three-year closure, the house reopened in May 2018 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, 2018).

L’exposition Écrire l’histoire : Voltaire et les rois propose de redécouvrir les relations que Voltaire entretint, tout au long du Siècle des Lumières, avec les cours européennes. Familier des princes, le philosophe utilise en effet sa plume pour servir les monarchies et sa propre renommée dans toutes les cours éclairées. À celle des rois de France, qu’il fréquenta avec les péripéties que l’on connait, sous le Régent, Louis XV et Louis XVI, il connut toutes les situations d’un courtisan, l’intérêt, l’affection, les grandes dignités, la prison, l’exil. Mais Voltaire ne se contente pas d’être conteur, poète ou philosophe : il entretient avec les souverains des relations parfois mouvementées, voire passionnelles. C’est ainsi que si Frédéric II le nomme d’abord Chambellan en récompense de son art et de ses conseils, il rompt ensuite brutalement avec lui.

Le Siècle de Louis XIV, l’Histoire de Charles XII ou l’Essai sur les mœurs et l’esprit des nations connurent des succès d’édition durables : Voltaire fut rapidement considéré comme un des principaux historiens de l’Ancien Régime, celui grâce à qui on a pu repenser l’écriture de l’histoire. Certaines de ses œuvres furent copiées, ou imitées par des opposants : il n’est que de songer à La Beaumelle et à ses Mémoires de Madame de Maintenon.

L’exposition débutera dans le circuit de visite ordinaire du château, les appartements de Voltaire et de sa nièce, Madame Denis, où sont conservés des portraits royaux ayant appartenu à Voltaire : Catherine II, Frédéric II, Marie-Thérèse. Elle se poursuivra dans les salles d’exposition du rez-de-jardin pour évoquer Stanislas, le Sultan et bien d’autres.

Exposition présentée par le Centre des monuments nationaux, en partenariat avec les Associations voltairiennes de Ferney-Voltaire.

The Georgian Group Architectural Awards 2021

Posted in on site, today in light of the 18th century by Editor on October 10, 2021

From The Georgian Group:

The Georgian Group Architectural Awards
Presented 5 October 2021

The annual Georgian Group Architectural Awards, generously sponsored by Savills, took place at the RIBA on 5 October this year. The awards, now in their seventeenth year, recognise exemplary conservation and restoration projects in the UK and reward those who have shown the vision and commitment to restore Georgian buildings and landscapes. The awards ceremony was presented by Dr John Goodall, chair of the judging panel and Architectural Editor at Country Life, with certificates handed out by the Georgian Group’s President, the Duchess of Argyll. The winning schemes were chosen from over thirty entries, with shortlisted projects encompassing a broad range of building types.

Re-use of a Georgian Building

Winner: Cobham Dairy, Kent
Client: The Landmark Trust
Architect: Purcell

The Dairy on the Cobham estate, Kent, was designed by James Wyatt in 1794 for the 4th Earl and Countess of Darnley. It served both as an ornamental eye-catcher in Humphry Repton’s parkland and as a working building, complete with accommodation for the dairymaid. Abandoned for more than a century, it was rescued from collapse in the 1980s by the SPAB. The Landmark Trust has since taken a 99-year lease of the dairy and restored it as a self-catering holiday cottage for two. Work has included the restoration of the external slate cladding and the re-instatement of the vaulted ceilings.

Highly Commended: The Old Church, Lowick, Northumberland
Client: Dean Keyworth, Armstrong Keyworthy Interior Design
Architect: Paul Hales, Robert J. Hales Ltd

One of only two Church of Scotland churches built in England, the building was deconsecrated in 1821 and has lain empty for much of the time since. The present owners have converted in sympathetically, making ingenious use of the spaces below and above the Victorian gallery, and adding rooms in the roof space, so preserving the volume of the double-height interior—a space too often subdivided in church and chapel conversions—which successfully serves as the principal reception room. This approach has left an uninterrupted view of the stained glass windows, which were restored as part of the project.

Restoration of a Georgian Garden or Landscape

Winner: Gunton Park, Norfolk
Client: Ivor Braka, Kit and Sally Martin, Lady Suffield
Landscape Architects: John Phibbs, Debois Landscape Survey Group (Phase 1); Patrick James, The Landscape Agency (Phase 2)

The 1,200 acre park and garden that surrounds Gunton Hall—itself designed in the 1740s by Matthew Brettingham and later altered by Samuel Wyatt—evolved under the ownership of several generations of the Harbord family and with the involvement of successive landscape architects: Charles Bridgeman, Humphry Repton and William Sawrey Gilpin. By the 1970s, following decades of decline, much of the estate had been sold and ploughed-up for arable cultivation, while hundreds of mature parkland trees and those in its woodland belts had been felled. The restoration of the park has taken nearly thirty years and has seen acres of new woodland planted, avenues, carriageways, clumps and individual parkland trees re-instated, and the establishment of a herd of deer.

Restoration of a Georgian Building in an Urban Setting

Winner: Buxton Crescent Hotel and Thermal Spa, Buxton Crescent, Derbyshire
Client: Buxton Crescent Ltd.
Architect: Curious Architecture and Interior Design

The Crescent, designed by John Carr of York for the 5th Duke of Devonshire and built between 1780 and 1789, was with the adjoining Natural Baths and Pump Room, the centrepiece of the planned Georgian spa town. Since the 1990s it has lain empty and in an increasing state of disrepair. This major project initiated by the Borough and County Councils, and supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Historic England, set out to return all three buildings to use and to help in the economic regeneration of Buxton as a spa. This heroic and transformative project has taken more than two decades to come to realisation and combines conservation and new work.

Highly Commended: Private townhouse in Kennington
Client: Fabian Richter
Architect: Robert Birbeck
Master Builder: Stephen Bull

This project has seen the painstaking, comprehensive conservation, over a seven year period of a run-down terraced townhouse of 1792. The works have involved, re-roofing and repointing, the replacement of gypsum plasterboard with lime plasters on lath, the repair of Georgian joinery and the restoration of the servant’s bell system, as well as full re-servicing. Externally, York slabs have replaced cement steps and new iron railings have been installed. The work has been underpinned by thorough historical research and reflects a conservation ethos that is more commonly the preserve of large public or charitable bodies that private houses.

Highly Commended: Frogmore House, Watford
Client: St William Homes LLP, Berkeley Group
Architects: Giles Quarme Architects

A merchant’s house built in 1716 to the south of Watford high street, the building had been on Historic England’s Buildings At Risk Register for some years. Divided into flats in the 1950s, it fell into gradual dereliction from the 1970s and suffered extensive vandalism. As part of the redevelopment of the wider site the building has been restored and structural failure, water ingress and dry rot have all been tackled. Historic joinery—windows, doors, staircase balusters and panelling—has been repaired or where necessary re-instated, and the doorcase, stolen in 2009, recovered and put back. The building is now in use as an office.

Restoration of a Georgian Structure or Interior

Winner: The Bath Stone Bridge, Halswell Park, Somerset
Client: Edward Strachan
Architect: Architecton

The Bath Stone Bridge is thought to have been designed by Thomas Wright and was a key element of the water gardens known as Mill Wood, laid out by Sir Charles Kemeys Tynte in the second half of the eighteenth century, as part of the Halswell Hall landscape. Since 2014 the owner has begun the on-going task of reconstituting and restoring the park. The current project has involved the full restoration of the bridge, which has been on the local authority’s ‘at risk’ list since 2005, and the repair of the associated dam and leaking pond. Many missing parts of the structure were fished out of the water, where they had fallen, but some lost elements had to be recut, as in the case of a missing herm. The new ornamental carving playfully includes some twentieth-century details in evidence of its date.

Highly Commended: The State Drawing Room, Stowe, Buckinghamshire
Client: Stowe House Preservation Trust
Architect: Purcell

The State Drawing Room at Stowe was created in 1778, and balances the State Music Room to the other side of the central Marble Saloon. Both interiors were designed by Vincenzo Valdrè. Following rigorous research, the decision was taken to return the room to its decorative appearance in c.1800. New orange hangings, based on a guidebook description, were commissioned in a durable fabric, while paint research revealed that the ceiling had been painted in three shades of pink with both gold and silver gilding to its plaster enrichments. This striking scheme has been reinstated following cleaning and repair. In addition, a painted, timber copy of the marble Piranesian chimneypiece sold from the room in the 1920s has been made from a scan of the original and a new oak floor was laid to the pattern of the historic boards.

Restoration of a Georgian Country House

Winner: Radbourne Hall, Derbyshire
Client: Trustees of the Radbourne Settlement
Architect: Peregrine Bryant Architects

Radbourne Hall was designed in 1739 by William Smith of Warwick for German Pole. From 2017 to 2020 the house has been subject to far-reaching repair and conservation work. This has included slate and lead repairs to the roof, which have now also been fitted with firebreaks and breathable wood fibre insulation. Internally, damage done by a 1950s structural steel has also been remedied and out-dated electrical and mechanical services have been replaced, while the enfilade on the piano nobile has been re-instated and a John Fowler decorative scheme of the 1950s retained and conserved. A striking new set of cantilevered steps, structurally independent from the house, have been constructed to the rear.

Highly Commended: Sheringham Hall, Norfolk
Client: Paul Doyle and Gergely Battha-Pajor
Architect: John Simpson Architects

Sheringham Hall was designed for Abbot and Charlotte Upcher by Humphry Repton and his son John Adey Repton between 1813 and 1819. Having bought a 99-year lease of the house and garden from the National Trust, Paul Doyle and Gergely Pattha-Pajor have undertaken various works to restore the building’s intended plan and room functions thereby sympathetically and brilliantly recreating the Regency elegance of the interiors. The original dining room has been re-instated, while appropriate neo-classical statuary once more fills the staircase niches. Associated works in the garden include the restoration of glass houses and the erection of an openwork pavilion designed by John Simpson.

Restoration of a Georgian Church or Chapel

Winner: All Saints Church, Newcastle
Client: All Saints Presbyterian Church
Architect: Doonan Architects

All Saints Church was completed in 1796 to the design of David Stephenson, the first Newcastle architect to study in London; it is unique in being the only church in England with an elliptical nave. Although one of the finest buildings in the city, it has long been on the Georgian Group’s casework radar due to its poor condition and it has been listed on Historic England’s Heritage-at-Risk register since 2011. Under new guardianship, a project of restoration began in 2019 which saw repairs to the roof, gutters, windows and walls. Internally, redecoration has been undertaken in an appropriate Georgian palette. A new marble pavement, allowing for an efficient under-floor heating system, has been laid, unifying the concrete floors in the entrance hall and ‘school gym’ floor in the nave. Additional facilities—including a kitchen, WCs and an office—have been sensitively incorporated within the space. The church has now been removed from the At Risk Register.

Highly Commended: St Alfege Church, Greenwich
Client: St Alfege Church PCC
Architect: Richard Griffiths Architects

St Alfege Church, designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, was built between 1712 and 1714, with the upper part of the steeple added by John James in 1730. This project, which built upon previous restoration work, was designed to extend to the south and north elevations, repair the leaking roof and make the church fully accessible and welcoming to a wider public. A long wooden ramp has been installed at the north entrance, historic paving has been repaired and an ironwork arch designed by Albert Richardson has been rediscovered and re-instated over the high-street entrance to the churchyard. Internally changes include additional WCs in the wells of the staircases, while water ingress issues have been resolved allowing for the full internal redecoration of the church. In addition, the crypt has been opened to hard hat tours.

Giles Worsley Award for New Work in the Spirit of the Georgian Era

Winner: Nithurst Farm, West Sussex
Client: Adam and Jessica Richards
Architect: Adam Richards Architects

Built in open fields, on the site of a farmworker’s cottage in the South Downs National Park, Nithurst Farm is conceived as a Roman ruin wrapped around a modern concrete house. The building rises in steps from a single-storey entrance on the north side to a three-storey tower at the south, inspired by Vanbrugh’s belvedere at Claremont. The house is symmetrical in plan, tapering out along its axis to the large light-filled south-facing sitting room, and its main ground floor space is inspired by the sala found in those of Palladio’s villa designs, such the Villa Barbaro, which incorporate box-like secondary rooms against the exterior walls.

New Building in a Georgian Context

Winner: Wolverton Hall Folly, Worcestershire
Client: Nicholas Coleridge CBE
Architect: Quinlan Terry Architects

The inspiration for the design of Wolverton Hall Folly was taken from the Picturesque tradition with its many variations of follies in a controlled landscape. Among a number of possible small garden buildings, the Banqueting House at Long Melford, built in 1550 with sash windows added in the 1730s, became a source of inspiration. The design was prepared with the proportions adapted considerably to provide a large study on the first floor with the addition of ogee arches to the stone window surrounds terminating in stone acanthus leaf finials and a central cupola to assist the requirement for a staircase and chimney. The result is a building that can express in classical terms the different moods of time and place with an underlying seriousness and humour.

Highly Commended: The University Arms Hotel, Cambridge
Client: CUA Property Ltd
Architect: John Simpson Architects

The University Arms Hotel, Cambridge, was established in the 1820s and is the oldest hotel in the city. The present building, however, was substantially constructed in 1903 and extended in the 1920s. Its 1833 west entrance facing onto Regent Street was demolished in 1965 to make way for a Modernist block by Feilden and Mawson. John Simpson Architects were commissioned to transform the hotel, adding 60 rooms to it, a terrace overlooking Parker’s Piece, and a new entrance façade. The latter comprises a Doric porte cochère of Ketton stone, wittily referencing Ledoux’s Parisian Barrières of the 1770s as heralds of the city beyond. Meanwhile, the western section of the south front was remodelled by adding a three-storeyed bow, and to the east a four-bay verandah on the first floor.

Diaphoros Prize

Winner: The Cons Club, Framlingham, Suffolk
Client: Paperhouse Properties Ltd
Architect: Hoare Ridge and Morris Architects

Built c.1810, Church House, as it was originally known, was a prominent townhouse owned by the Edwards family of bankers and doctors. In 1910 it became the Framlingham Constitutional Club and later renamed the Framlingham Conservative Club. The club closed at the end of 2018; threatened with being carved up as flats, it was purchased by the architects Mark Hoare and Ted Ridge the following year with the hope of turning it into a public space. ​The new vision includes a café, gallery space, studios, youth club and meeting rooms for public hire, with the creation of separate offices for Framlingham Town Council in a semi-independent part of the building. Re-activating the street frontage was key and the café can now be accessed by the Georgian front door which had previously been blocked.

Foundation of One of the Oldest Black Churches in U.S. Unearthed

Posted in films, on site by Editor on October 8, 2021

Brick building foundation of the Baptist Meeting House, ca. 1800–18, Nassau Street, Williamsburg, 16 × 20 feet; the building was destroyed in 1834 by a tornado, with a new building being built on the site in 1856 (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation).

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From the press release (7 October 2021). . .

After a year of excavating the site of one of the nation’s oldest Black churches, Colonial Williamsburg’s archaeologists believe they have found what they and members of First Baptist Church have been searching for: the church’s first permanent structure dating to the early 1800s. The announcement—shared earlier this week with the descendant community—coincides with the church’s community-wide 245th anniversary celebration this weekend.

“The early history of our congregation, beginning with enslaved and free Blacks gathering outdoors in secret in 1776, has always been a part of who we are as a community. To see it unearthed—to see the actual bricks of that original foundation and the outline of the place our ancestors worshiped—brings that history to life and makes that piece of our identity tangible. After 245 years, this is a reason to truly celebrate,” said the Rev. Dr. Reginald F. Davis, pastor of First Baptist Church.

An 1817 penny and a group of straight pins recently unearthed at an archaeological dig at the site of the original First Baptist Church of Williamsburg in Williamsburg, Virginia (Photo: Jason B. Copes/Colonial Williamsburg Foundation).

Colonial Williamsburg archaeologists have been digging since September 2020 at the site of the church’s original structure near the intersection of Nassau and Francis streets in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area. The newly-identified 16 × 20-foot brick building foundation sits alongside a brick paving and on top of a layer of soil that dates to the early 1800s. Additional archaeological evidence, including an 1817 coin and a straight pin discovered under the paving, indicate that the foundation was constructed sometime in the first quarter of the 19th century. Tax records suggest that by 1818, the congregation was worshipping on the site in a building known as the Baptist Meeting House—in all likelihood, the congregation’s first permanent structure.

“We always hoped this is what we’d find,” said Jack Gary, Colonial Williamsburg’s director of archaeology. “Now we can move forward to better understand the footprint of the building. Is it the only structure on the site? What else was around it? What did it look like? How was it being used? This is really only the beginning.”

In addition to the original structure, Colonial Williamsburg’s archaeologists have discovered at least 25 confirmed human burials at the site. A community meeting is scheduled for October 30 for the descendant community to discuss next steps and make decisions regarding the investigation of the burial sites.

The physical remains of First Baptist’s original structure have been buried for 165 years, first under the foundation of a brick church building constructed in 1856 after the first church was destroyed by a tornado, and later under a parking lot that all-but silenced the remarkable history of the church. Over the past five years, that silence has been broken through an ongoing collaboration between the church and Colonial Williamsburg.

“Colonial Williamsburg is committed to telling a more complete and inclusive story of the men and women who lived, worked and worshiped here during our country’s formative years,” said Cliff Fleet, president and CEO of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. “The history of this congregation is a story that deserves to be at the forefront of our interpretation and education efforts, and we are honored to play a part in bringing that story to light.”

First Baptist Church, which relocated in 1956 to 727 Scotland Street, partnered with Colonial Williamsburg in 2016 to renovate the church’s historic bell, allowing it to ring that year for the first time since segregation. Now known as the Freedom Bell, its remarkable journey is recounted in the Let Freedom Ring Foundation’s new documentary film History Half Told is Untold, premiering Saturday, October 9, at 2pm and 6pm at the Hennage Auditorium as part of First Baptist Church’s 245th anniversary celebration. Tickets are free but must be reserved online.

Additional anniversary events include a ‘behind-the-fence’ tour of the Historic First Baptist Church archaeology site on Nassau Street on Saturday, October 9 from 10am to 4pm and an outdoor service on Sunday, October 10 at 11am, featuring Rev. Dr. Gwendolyn Boyd, the Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra String Ensemble, and the First Baptist Church Chamber Choir. All events are open to the public.

“This discovery could not come at a better time,” said Connie Matthews Harshaw, a member of First Baptist Church and president of the Let Freedom Ring Foundation. “We are so excited to welcome both our church community and the local community back after a difficult year of closures, and the discovery of the original site of our church is such a beautiful reminder of the power of public history to tell stories that inspire and unite us.”

Excavation of the Nassau Street site will continue weekdays 9am to 4pm, weather permitting, as part of a multi-year project seeking information needed to accurately reconstruct the earliest version of the church’s first permanent structure, surrounding landscape and topography; to locate burials; and to learn about the worship experience of the church’s early congregants. The project is supported by generous gifts from the Lilly Endowment Inc., The Ford Foundation, the Richard S. Reynolds Foundation and multiple individual donors, including a $100,000 anonymous gift from Two Friends of History.

For more information on the history of First Baptist Church and details of Colonial Williamsburg’s previous work with the community on this archaeological project, read the 25 August 2020 press release announcing the project and the 14 January 2021 update.

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First Baptist Church was organized in 1776 by enslaved and free Blacks in defiance of laws of the day forbidding the congregation of African Americans. First led by the Rev. Moses, a free Black itinerant preacher, they built a brush arbor at Green Spring Plantation several miles from Williamsburg to gather secretly in song and prayer. Organized as Baptists by 1781 under the Rev. Gowan Pamphlet, an enslaved man in Williamsburg, worshipers moved to Raccoon Chase, a rural area just outside the city. Moved by their stirring hymns and heartfelt prayers, Jesse Cole, a member of the city’s White Cole family offered the congregation use of a building on property that is now part of the Historic Area on the northwest corner of South Nassau Street and Francis Street West. By 1818, a structure referred to as the Baptist Meeting House stood on this property and may have existed here as early as the late-18th century.

In 1834, a tornado destroyed the Baptist Meeting House along with several other structures on the Cole property. The African Baptist Church, as it became known before the Civil War, dedicated a new brick church on the site of the earlier building in 1856. Several years later, in 1863, the congregation was renamed First Baptist Church.

In 1956, Colonial Williamsburg acquired the land on South Nassau Street from First Baptist Church and tore down the 19th-century building. Payment for the Nassau Street property covered the land and construction costs of the congregation’s current church at 727 Scotland Street, which opened the following year.

October Is Virginia Archaeology Month

Posted in on site by Editor on September 21, 2021

From Monticello:

Archaeology Open House at Monticello
Charlottesville, Virginia, 9 October 2021

Help celebrate Virginia Archaeology Month. Monticello’s Archaeology Department hosts its annual open house, featuring displays on recent discoveries in the field and the lab, walking tours of the vanished Monticello Plantation landscape, and lightning-talks about current research. Archaeology staff members will be on hand to answer questions. Displays and exhibits are found in the Woodland Pavilion and the Visitors Center. Lightning talks begin at 10.30am, 12.30pm, and 2.30pm.

This year’s walking tours will visit Site 6, an archaeological dig that revealed important information about enslaved agricultural laborers at Monticello and, following a visit in 2018, proved deeply impactful for Ta-Nehisi Coates’s novel, The Water Dancer. Walking tours leave the Woodland Pavilion at 11am, 1pm, and 3 pm. Be prepared to walk over uneven terrain; sturdy (preferably waterproof) shoes recommended. The walk roundtrip is approximately one mile with one steep hill.

Addressing Colonialism and Historic Slavery at the National Trust

Posted in books, on site, teaching resources, today in light of the 18th century by Editor on August 25, 2021

Illustration by Michael Kennedy for Sam Knight’s article in The New Yorker (23 August 2021), p. 31

The National Trust released its Interim Report on the Connections between Colonialism and Properties Now in the Care of the National Trust, Including Links with Historic Slavery in September 2020. Sam Knight’s recent article, “Britain’s Idyllic Country Houses Reveal a Darker History” from The New Yorker (23 August 2021), pp. 30–41, explores the wider context of the report along with its British reception.*

The article is, to my thinking, immensely instructive, usefully framing the scale of the problem (historically) and the magnitude of work now to be done (both professionally and societally). As Knight writes, “The National Trust, more than any other institution, helped to create the idealized version of the English country house. Almost every historian I spoke to supported the charity’s decision to reinterpret its properties, but many also observed that it did not have a choice. . . . Given Britain’s changing demographics and the weight of recent decades of colonial history, the elisions of the past were no longer tenable. The National Trust has been forced to explode a myth of its own making. But many English people preferred the myth as it was” (34).

As for the report itself, much of the attention has been directed to its listing of National Trust properties. In fact, taken as a whole, it provides an excellent guide to crucial historic institutions—with essays ranging from compensation for slave-ownership to the East India Company—along with relevant bibliographies (I can imagine lots of useful teaching applications). CH

* In the same issue of The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik writes of ‘What the French Make of Lafayette,” pp. 66–70, observations occasioned by two recent biographies Mike Duncan’s Hero of Two Worlds: The Marquis de Lafayette in the Age of Revolution (Public Affairs, 2021) and Laurent Zecchini’s Lafayette: héraut de la liberté (Fayard, 2019).

Penrhyn Castle in Wales, Clandon Park Gardens in Surrey, Speke Hall in Liverpool, and Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire (National Trust); all four properties are included in the report’s “Gazetteer.”

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From the NT:

The National Trust cares for places and collections on behalf of the nation, and many have direct and indirect links to colonialism and historic slavery. We’ve released a report examining these connections as part of our broader commitment to ensure that these links are properly represented, shared and interpreted.

The buildings in our care reflect many different periods and a range of British and global histories—social, industrial, political and cultural. As a heritage charity, it’s our responsibility to make sure we are historically accurate and academically robust when we communicate about the places and collections in our care.

The Interim Report on the Connections between Colonialism and Properties Now in the Care of the National Trust, Including Links with Historic Slavery details the connections 93 historic places in our care have with colonialism and historic slavery. This includes the global slave trades, goods and products of enslaved labour, abolition and protest, and the East India Company.

It draws on recent evidence including the Legacies of British Slave-ownership project and the Trust’s own sources. It also documents the way that significant Trust buildings are linked to the abolition of slavery and campaigns against colonial oppression.

It has been edited by Dr Sally-Anne Huxtable (National Trust Head Curator), Professor Corinne Fowler (University of Leicester), Dr Christo Kefalas (National Trust World Cultures Curator), and Emma Slocombe (National Trust Textiles Curator), with contributions from other National Trust curators and researchers around the country. Some of the research has already been used to update our digital content and supports visitor information and interpretation at relevant places.

Sally-Anne Huxtable, Corinne Fowler, Christo Kefalas, and Emma Slocombe, eds., Interim Report on the Connections between Colonialism and Properties Now in the Care of the National Trust, Including Links with Historic Slavery (Swindon: National Trust, 2020).


Authorship and Acknowledgements
Foreword, Gus Casely-Hayford

Introduction — Sally-Anne Huxtable, Tarnya Cooper, and John Orna-Ornstein
1. Wealth, Power, and the Global Country House — Sally-Anne Huxtable
2  Trade in Enslaved People — Jane Gallagher
3  Abolition, Resistance and Protest — Christo Kefalas
4  Compensation for Slave-ownership — Elizabeth Green, Christo Kefalas, and Emma Slocombe
5  Merchant Companies — Rupert Goulding
6  The East India Company — Lucy Porten
7  Banking and Bankers — Frances Bailey
8  The British Raj in India after 1857 — Rachel Conroy
9  Industrialisation and the Import of Cotton — Emma Slocombe
10  Research — Sophie Chessum

Gazetteer of National Trust Properties

Appendix: Next Steps
Further Reading

National Trust Awards Grants to 40 Sites to Help Preserve Black History

Posted in on site by Editor on July 23, 2021

The Montpelier Descendants Committee was one of 40 sites awarded grants in 2021 from the National Trust. From the MDC’s website: “On June 14, 2019, the Montpelier Descendants Community convened to establish an organization to honor the sacrifices, resilience, and brilliance of our ancestors who contributed immeasurably to the founding of this nation. On June 16, 2021, The MDC achieved structural parity with The Montpelier Foundation (TMF), establishing itself as an equal co-steward of the historic site. This milestone is the culmination of two decades of contributions by descendants to the Foundation’s research and program development, and a year and a half of intense negotiation in a polarized environment following the murder of George Floyd.”

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Press release from the National Trust:

On July 15, 2021, the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced more than $3 million in grants to 40 sites and organizations through its African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. Over the past four years, the National Trust has funded 105 historic places connected to Black history and invested more than $7.3 million to help preserve landscapes and buildings imbued with Black life, humanity, and cultural heritage. This year’s funds were awarded to key places and organizations that help the Action Fund protect and restore significant historic sites. Grants are given across four categories: capacity building, project planning, capital, and programming and interpretation.

The latest grantees include:

Fort Monroe has commissioned a memorial honoring the humanity of the first captive Africans who were enslaved by the Portuguese and then taken by English privateers to the British Colonies at Point Comfort in 1619. The grant will assist Fort Monroe and its partners to design an interpretive plan that contextualizes the people and events of 1619 from a global perspective.

The Montpelier Descendants Committee will create a master project plan for their Arc of Enslaved Communities project, a descendant-led framework for the research, interpretation, physical discovery, and promotion of sites and projects centered on the contributions of the enslaved in Virginia during the Founding era.

Learn more about the full list of grantees here»

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An example of the sort of work undertaken by the Arc of Enslaved Communities project comes from the Montpelier Descendants Committee’s website (and, if I might interject, the nails provide an interesting example to use in talking about style with students CH) . . .

Finding and Dating the Sites of Labor at James Madison’s Montpelier

Plantations were much more than the main house and surrounding slave quarters and outbuildings. They consisted of fields, stables, barns, tobacco houses, granaries, and work areas that today, for the most part, are long gone and grown up in woods. Montpelier, like many 18th-century plantations, has witnessed its fields and work areas return to woods beginning in the 1840s. The archaeology department at Montpelier is seeking to locate these sites of labor that bear witness to the millions of hours of unpaid labor of those Americans enslaved by James Madison. . . .

Today there is little visible trace of the farm complex in Montpelier’s 500 acre East Woods. Most of the buildings were log structure set at grade with no foundation and all that remains are nails below the forest floor. The fields are completely grown over and only subtle linear mounds of plow furrows and field lines still exist in the woods today. To locate these nail clusters we use gridded metal detector surveys and the linear mounds are located through LiDAR surveys. These two data sources (metal detector surveys and LiDAR) are the physical legacy of the capital that was stolen from the Ancestors. . . .


Conserving Beckford’s Tower in Bath

Posted in on site by Editor on July 21, 2021

From the press release (via Art Daily) . . .

Henry Goodridge, Beckford’s Tower, 1827. The tower stand 154 feet tall.

Bath Preservation Trust has announced that architects Thomas Ford & Partners and quantity surveyors Stenning & Co have been appointed to lead the design work for the £3.3 million ‘Our Tower’ project. The plan, funded by Historic England and The National Lottery Heritage Fund, will address urgent repair and conservation works required to the almost 200-year-old Grade I listed Beckford’s Tower, which stands above the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bath. Beckford’s Tower and Museum is the world’s only museum dedicated to William Beckford (1760–1844).

Beckford was a colourful and controversial character. At just 10-years old he inherited his father’s fortune, which included the Fonthill estate and several sugar plantations in Jamaica. His wealth gave him the freedom to pursue his interests in art, architecture, writing, and music. In 1782, Beckford undertook a Grand Tour that inspired his travel writing and passion for collecting, which continued throughout his life—especially when exiled to Europe for ten years following the exposure of his relationship with William Courtenay in 1784.

In 1826 Beckford commissioned an extraordinary landscape back home in Bath: a garden between his Lansdown Crescent home and the retreat now known as Beckford’s Tower, where he could escape from the city within the natural environment. The Tower was created to house his library and art collection, and every day he would ride up from his home, accompanied by his pack of spaniels. This expanse became known as Beckford’s Ride, a mile of interlinked gardens.

Beckford’s Tower stands in an exposed location, and—like many historic buildings—almost two centuries of exposure to weather, pollution, and the challenges of climate change threaten the fabric of the building. There is now an urgent need for repair and conservation, particularly to address water ingress at high level within the belvedere and lantern. Beckford’s Tower was added to the Historic England ‘Heritage at Risk’ Register in October 2019.

‘Our Tower’ will bring new parts of the tower into use, and upgrade services and visitor infrastructure. BPT will also use the project as an opportunity to develop the visitor experience, engage wider audiences, and reconnect the Tower with its lost landscape, through new experiences, interpretation, and access. A development grant awarded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund is also enabling Bath Preservation Trust to re-examine the way in which they share the story of William Beckford’s links to the transatlantic slave trade [a glimpse of that work is available here.]

The project is scheduled to complete in winter 2023.

London based conservation architects Thomas Ford & Partners are led by Clive England, who brings over 30 years’ experience to the project. Clive is Surveyor of the Fabric to Ely Cathedral, and Cathedral Architect to Sheffield Cathedral. Stenning & Co—who are located in Bath—are led by Quantity Surveyor Adrian Stenning. Experts and specialists in building conservation work, Adrian has worked extensively with organisations including the Landmark Trust and the National Trust.

BPT Capital Works Director Simon Butler said: “We are delighted to welcome Thomas Ford & Partners and Stenning & Co to the project. Both bring huge conservation experience to this nationally important building, and we look forward to securing an exciting new future for this Bath landmark.”

Clive England said: “We are delighted to be involved with BPT’s ‘Our Tower’ project. Beckford’s Tower is a unique building, in a spectacular setting, with a fascinating history—exactly the type of project that every conservation architect dreams about!”

Adrian Stenning said: “I am very pleased to continue my relationship with the Bath Preservation Trust and in particular Beckford’s Tower with which I have been involved for over 20 years. I look forward to this opportunity to not just repair the Tower, but to also open up and show its story for a wider audience.”

Securing the Design team is just the start of this project, with urgent fundraising now needed to ensure vital conservation work to the building and landscape takes place, to ensure today’s visitors and future generations can continue to explore and enjoy this iconic Bath landmark.

Hôtel de la Marine Opens after €132m Restoration

Posted in on site by Editor on June 16, 2021

Located in Paris on the Place de la Concorde, the Hôtel de la Marine was designed by Ange-Jacques Gabriel in the 1750s and completed in 1774. It opened to the public earlier this month. (Photo by Jean-Pierre Delagarde for Centre des monuments nationaux).

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From The Art Newspaper:

Sarah Belmont, “Paris’s Landmark Hôtel de la Marine Opens to Visitors—and Co-working Offices—after Four Years of Restoration,” The Art Newspaper (14 June 2021). The 550-room palace has undergone a €132m makeover by the Centre des Monuments Nationaux.

France’s Centre des Monuments Nationaux (CMN) has unveiled a new-look Hôtel de la Marine in Paris after a four-year restoration project costing €132m. The 18th-century state apartments, 19th-century reception rooms and a shop opened to the public on 12 June, with a gourmet restaurant and new displays dedicated to the private collection of Qatar’s Al-Thani dynasty to follow this autumn.

Located on the Place de la Concorde between the Champs-Élysées and the Tuileries gardens, the Hôtel de la Marine was designed in 1758 by Ange-Jacques Gabriel, the chief architect to King Louis XV. The 550-room palace served as the Crown’s furniture storage unit, the Garde-Meuble, before becoming the headquarters of the French navy for more than 200 years. It is where is where the Crown Jewels were stolen during the Revolution in 1792, where the decree that abolished slavery in France and its colonies was signed in 1848, and where sumptuous balls were held throughout the 19th century. . . .

The full article is available here»

Additional information and photos are available at a posting by Heather Clawson, for her blog Habitually Chic (6 June 2021).

An courtyard of the Hôtel de la Marine has been covered with a new glass roof designed by Hugh Dutton in collaboration with Christophe Bottineau, the chief architect of French historic monument (Photo by Cedric Berieau for the Centre des monuments nationaux).

NMWA’s Comprehensive Renovation To Begin in August

Posted in museums, on site by Editor on May 21, 2021

National Museum of Women in the Arts, Exterior, 13th Street and New York Avenue sides, Washington, D.C.
(Photo by Thomas H. Field, September 2008)

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From the museum’s press release (17 May 2021) . . .

Upgrades to historic building will enhance exhibition galleries, programming, scholarship, and accessibility and improve visitor experience.

The National Museum of Women in Arts (NMWA), the world’s only major museum solely dedicated to championing women artists, announces a plan for the comprehensive renovation of the museum’s historic building at 1250 New York Avenue, NW, in Washington, D.C. State-of-the-art upgrades to the museum’s home, a 1908 Classical Revival structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places, will expand NMWA’s exhibition space and enhance its programming, strengthening its work for years to come. The plan requires the building to close to the public beginning 9 August 2021. Construction will commence on 1 September 2021 and will be completed in approximately two years.

The building’s first full renovation since 1987, the $66 million project will honor the structure’s history while improving its interior spaces, mechanical systems, and exterior envelope. The long-planned updates include enlarged gallery space to showcase historic and contemporary artworks and installations; a new destination for researchers and education programs; and enhanced amenities and accessibility for visitors. Infrastructure and storage upgrades will bolster the long-term conservation and security of the museum’s collection of more than 5,500 works.

“From its home in the nation’s capital, NMWA has given deserved prominence to groundbreaking women artists of the past and present for nearly 35 years, but the goal of equity for women through excellence in the arts has yet to be achieved,” said NMWA Director Susan Fisher Sterling. “This renovation will ensure that the museum continues to promote the contributions of women artists in ways that engage audiences and advocates of tomorrow. Thanks to our founder Wilhelmina Cole Holladay and her husband Wallace—whose bold and ambitious vision led them to collect art by women and create a museum for its permanent display—our building is the center of a worldwide movement that champions women in, and through, the arts.”

Beginning in 2015, NMWA undertook a rigorous assessment of the historic building and created an extensive plan for renovations that apply recent advances in engineering, building codes, and sustainability. The Baltimore-based architectural firm Sandra Vicchio & Associates was chosen to lead the project.

“It is a majestic structure—timeless and beautiful,” said Vicchio. “To protect the collection and enable NMWA to educate and engage the world more effectively, we must upgrade the building’s envelope, improve the performance of its systems, and make better use of its interior space. Revitalizing the building is all about positioning the museum for a triumphant future.”

Learning Commons, National Museum of Women in the Arts Renovation Project
(Rendering by Sandra Vicchio & Associates, LLC, with Marshall Craft Associates, Inc.)

The renovation project at NMWA will include
• Transforming the building to provide easier access for all visitors, with upgraded technologies and amenities as well as improved ADA accessibility
• Dedicating a new orientation gallery in the Great Hall that welcomes visitors, introduces the museum’s mission, and tells stories of women artists
• Renovating and enlarging galleries to accommodate historic and contemporary artworks and multifaceted installations
• Creating a new Learning Commons that features a major exhibition gallery, a state-of-the-art Library and Research Center, Reading Room, and an Education Studio for hands-on workshops, curated conversations, and classes, as well as flexible space for rehearsals and other museum events
• Improving wireless and touch-screen technology in galleries, which will enhance visitors’ experiences and learning opportunities with additional connectivity
• Updating the Great Hall and Mezzanine to preserve these iconic spaces while improving their functionality for museum events and facility rentals
• Installing new lighting, climate control, and security technology to support long-term conservation of the art and the overall comfort of visitors
• Enhancing collection storage space to store art more efficiently and care for works of art more effectively
• Improving signage to provide better wayfinding and easy-to-follow pathways throughout the museum
• Restoring the roof, historic cornice, and the building exterior in accordance with the D.C. Historic Preservation Office

During the closure, NMWA will continue to offer a robust slate of online programs and events, virtual exhibitions and digital content. Plans are also underway to present off-site exhibitions and special events.

In less than two years, NMWA has raised over $50 million towards a capital campaign goal of $66 million. With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and rising costs in the construction industry, the renovation project costs have grown. Building on the campaign’s robust beginnings, NMWA will continue to solicit gifts throughout the life of the campaign.

“This renovation was the dream of our founder Wilhelmina Cole Holladay, who died on March 6th at age 98,” said Winton S. Holladay, Vice-Chair of the NMWA Board. “In the campaign’s quiet phase, donors and friends have stepped up in wonderful ways, putting us within sight of our campaign goal. With Billie’s passing, we are honored to carry her vision forward by completing this campaign and restoring our building for future generations.”

The museum’s capital campaign is directed by a steering committee of NMWA trustees, advisors, and senior museum staff and is currently supported by gifts from individuals, foundations, and corporations. In addition, the museum has received federal and city funding through competitive grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (Museums for America Grant) as well as a first-ever 2020 Cultural Institutions grant from Events DC, a semi-public company supported by D.C. taxpayer funds.

For more information, the capital campaign website displays renderings, tracks project progress, and offers ways to get involved.

About the Historic Building

Designed by the architecture firm Wood, Donn & Deming, the museum’s Classical Revival-style building was completed in 1908 as a temple for the Masons, an organization that did not allow women members. The 78,810-square-foot main building is listed on the DC Inventory of Historic Sites and the National Register of Historic Places. The exterior façade incorporates Tuscan and Mediterranean design elements in addition to Masonic symbolism.

In 1983, Wilhelmina and Wallace Holladay purchased the property to establish a museum dedicated to women artists. The building was refurbished in accordance with the highest design, museum and security standards. After the extensive renovations, which won numerous architectural awards, the National Museum of Women in the Arts opened to the public on 7 April 1987. In 1993, the museum purchased 5,300 square feet of adjacent property, and, following further renovation, the Elisabeth A. Kasser Wing opened in 1997, making the entire facility 84,110 square feet.

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