Saturday, December 31, 2011

Count Down to the New Year

With the New Year upon us, I thought it appropriate to revisist Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson's essay on the tall case clock that had been in her family most, if not all, of her life. The clock was meaningful to Elizabeth in that it marked time as to what was important to her at particular points in her life. We published this in the July-September 2007 Graeme Park Gazette (newsletter) and it is one of my favorite pieces of her writing. The piece also appeared in Theodore Bean's History of Montgomery County, published in the late 19th century. As you count down to the New Year and reflect back on the old, think of Elizabeth, 214 years ago, also reflecting back on her life to the tick-tocking of her old family clock.

A Woman’s Meditations on Her Old Family Clock

By Mrs. Elizabeth Ferguson

“It is midnight! the inhabitants where I now reside are all locked in sleep, I am all alone with pen, ink and paper before me, and all things around conspire to aid my musing melancholy. The clock in the parlor where I am has just struck twelve. That identical clock has been in the family of my parents and myself above seventy years, and has been a true announcer of fleeting time. I am myself this present year (1797) on the verge of sixty. What various sensations have the sounds of that clock’s stroke raised in the bosoms of my parents, brothers, sisters and my own in a course of years! Three-fourths of a century since it first moved in our house!

“Let me in this silent pause try to retrace some of the effects the sound of this clock has produced on my spirits almost commensurate with any clear recollections of the past. How has my little heartbeat when it announced eight, the hour destined to go to bed! How often with my childish playmates, when keen for the protracting romp, has the dreaded knell stopped us short in full career, or, if permitted by an act of grace to encroach on a quarter of an hour beyond the limits, no entreaties could prevail to obtain a respite to hear the interdicted stroke of nine! When a year or two had advanced me in the juvenile stage, still eight was the well-known hour.

“I see in idea this moment the little round walnut table placed close by a clean hearth and clear hickory fire, my mother and sisters in rotation reading some moral story or dramatic piece, while my good father sat on the other side with his own small mahogany stand reading the paper of the day or some treatise on his own profession. Ah! how I feared the stroke of eight lest it might break the thread of the unfinished journal of the artless Pamela. Perhaps the clock struck in the middle of that excellent comedy, the ‘Journey of London’ where humor and sentiment are so happily blended. ‘Oh, mamma, do let me stay and hear whether Lady Townly repents and makes a good wife.’ ‘No, my child, you shall hear to-morrow; mamma says Betsy must go to bed.’ Shut was the book and shut was the scene unless carried over in youthful dreams. Oh, if any cold-hearted critic should glance over this page and sneer at these digressions, let them hear and know that these are the recollections that make me for a moment forget my age till I reflect I am left alone to make these observations.

“Alas! at those sounds my sensations of pain or pleasure did not terminate with childhood. No, very far from it. How often have I longed to hear announced the hour for the family party, after my sisters had left my father’s home for houses of their own! Nor was my heart bound up alone to connections; nearly equal was the pleasure when expecting to meet some kind, social friend, thy hand pointed when she must be near. How frequently has thy stroke summoned me to preside at the female station, the tea-table, where the conversation has changed in rotation, ‘from grave to gay from gay to grave severe!’ Ah! full well I remember when four strokes preluded the Indian regale; then we young people, beginning a little tonish, pleaded for the patrician hour of five; we were indulged, but five soon became a plebeian hour. Then my clock and its mistress changed our city for a rural abode, where seven and eight took the lead, until six remains to direct the coffee at the worthy gentlewoman’s where I now live.

“Ah! since my clock and I have passed our days in retirement, how frequently, on the evening of a market-day, when expecting a letter from the metropolis filled with wit, sentiment or affection, or all united in one, have I with impatience numbered your strokes, or still more ardently longed for the epistle that had crossed the Atlantic, whose value was appreciated as danger and distance had endeared it to the longing receiver! The evening walk was directed by thee, the wholesome breakfast also, and, to be more serious, how frequently have you warned me to repair to the temple of divine worship! And, now retracing the various effects thy sounds have produced in my too susceptible heart through a long life, would it not be a species of prudery to omit declaring what I well recollect that thy sounds to my ears acquired the softest tones when announcing the hours I was to meet my dear Henry before I met him at the altar which in this day twenty-five years - the fourth part of a century, a large portion of human existence. Yet, thy sounds seemed to change to pensive ones when they preluded to Britain his departure.

“Ah! when I reflect that I am the sole surviving child of ten brothers and sisters, how does the idea fill my mind! to think what a series of tedious, weary nights must these parents and children have waked and watched through the long gallery of pain to death! Hoping and waiting with exhausted spirits these strokes that announced the pleasing harbinger of day. How many times the dear departed, venerable authors of my being have heard that clock which now strikes two give the sound that was to be no more repeated, while breath drew trembling in bodies dearer to you than your own; your children a part of yourselves! Since first your motion began, what volcanoes have flamed, what battles fought, what families, pestilences and revolutions gone forth! You move, though your maker is no more; then be it known, he lived in London, in 1722, and named W. Tomlinson.”

Elizabeth's clock, which is pictured above, is in private collection and has passed down through generations of the family of the current owner, who were "originally" from Horsham, Pennsylvania. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Teeny Tiny Graeme Park

One of the things we frequently hear at Graeme Park is how much bigger the house seems once you're inside, but did you know that Graeme Park was the inspiration for more than one miniature version?

The earliest we've encountered were models created by architects employed by the Works Projects/Progress Administration (WPA) as part of the Museum Extension Project which loaned the objects out to schools to use as teaching aids. We profiled these models with a bit more information as to their creation in the January - March, 2007 Graeme Park Gazette.

If you've been in the Visitors' Center, you may have noticed the wooden model on display that was created by carpenter Clarence M. Brunner and, like the WPA models, used as a teaching aid - this one in a 4th grade classroom at Simmons Elementary School. The kids painted the stones and did the interior decorating, including creating paintings for the parlor, furniture, and even Graeme family members.

If you want to see some truly amazing detail work, look no further than the Drawing Room of Twin Manor. Seven years of research by William R. Robertson, and construction in conjunction with his mother Esther, culminated in two identical 1/12th scale houses (hence the name, Twin Manor), one of which is on permanent display at the Toy and Miniature Museum of Kansas City. The Robertson's based their dream doll house on some of the finest examples of Georgian architecture from Virginia to Maine, and modeled their Drawing Room on those of Graeme Park and Fairmount Park's Woodford.

There is a definite resemblance in the panelled shutters, the triangular pediments over the symmetrical doors (which open in the opposite direction), the panelling on the side walls, and maybe the entablature (hard to see clearly in the photo) consisting of a simple architrave, dentil molding at the frieze level, and a simple crown molding, but the more ornate elements, particularly the fireplace overmantle, seem to have been taken from Woodford.

Woodford Parlor

Graeme Park Parlor
 For more information on Twin Manor and to see some of the other rooms, go here.

Pink Parlor, Graeme Park was created by Edith Farnum and displayed at the Philadelphia Flower Show in 1977. According to the exhibitors' guide, the creations were to be inspired by a "favorite place."

Other than the simplicity of the fireplace surround, and the standard 6-panel door and lock, I don't see much of a resemblance. Do you? I would like to get a better view of the windows and shutters. We first encountered this model here, and confirmed it with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society who sponsor the show. The room was sold at auction in 2007.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Driving Miss Betsy

If you’ve been by Graeme Park lately, you may have noticed a feral cat or two hanging around. At the beginning of October, Betsy (named for Betsy Stedman or Elizabeth Graeme, who was affectionately called Betsy) started to look pregnant. Our clinic appointment was still a few weeks off, and she was somewhat tame with us, allowing a pet here and there and always first in line for food. I got the brilliant idea to get her in a carrier and take her to a vet I know of who will work with feral cats. To my credit, I did successfully transport a younger feral cat/kitten this way once before with no problems. It was easy enough to put food in the carrier and just push her in and close the door when she started to eat. She didn’t seem too upset by it and continued her meal. She bumped around a bit when we started walking, most cats do. As we began driving down Keith Valley Road she wanted out, and she wanted out bad. She managed to pull the carrier door in towards her and escape. She stayed on the floor for a few minutes, and then began to explore the car. While we were driving. Do NOT try this at home. She was much calmer once she was out, walking in front of me and down my door to look out the back window. There was no way I was going to be able to get her back in the carrier within the confines of the car and I wouldn’t risk her escaping altogether somewhere strange, so we drove back to the park where she rejoined her friends to wait for the traps and her appointment. The next morning I realized she had pooped in my car. The moral of this story is don’t abandon your unneutered (or any) cats for other people to be responsible for. Oh, and it turned out she wasn’t pregnant after all, just a bad case of worms, which she was also treated for.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Into the Cellar

Way back in January of 2010 we took you up the roof access stairs for a quick peek in under the eaves. I'm very belatedly following up on my promise back then to show you the cellar next.

The current access to the cellar is through the bulkhead doors on the south side of the house. Originally it was from the east end, and the supporting arch is still visible in the stone work. It is not known when or why the access was changed, but a photograph from 1903 shows it in its current position. The architectural historians who prepared the Historic Structures Report (HSR) concluded that it was likely moved before the paneling was installed in the parlor and therefore done by Dr. Graeme as part of his renovation campaign.

Descending the old stone stairs inside the bulk head doors, you may notice the arched brick header or you may be preoccupied with watching your head and your footing.

The cellar has a dirt floor and head clearance for a shorter person to stand. It goes only under the parlor with a crawl space under the office and dining room. Due to our high water table, it floods easily now and most likely flooded then - I can't help but think that that is why they didn't bother to put it under the entire house - it was a lot of digging for a space that most likely couldn't be used for major storage.

To the left you can view the supports for the fireplaces above. People often think that these are fireplaces, and some "working cellars" did have a winter kitchen in them, but there is no flue so this is purely to support and bear the weight of the fireplaces and chimneys stacked above.

To the right you can view more of the support beams that carry the house. According to the HSR, the joists, which run from end to end are the orginal straight-sawn oak, the posts and beams, running from the front to the back of the house, were added for additional support during the state's restoration in the 1960s.

If you look closely, you can see the original up and down straight saw marks on the joists. Saw mills, which made straight cuts (unlike today's circular sawn timbers) were in existence back when the Keith House was built, and often times timbers were pit-sawn on site with one man standing on the timber and another standing in a pit below working a two man saw up and down.

So there you have it. Hope you enjoyed this brief tour of another area of Graeme Park we don't show to visitors.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Support Graeme Park with Your Online Shopping

About four years ago Graeme Park partnered with Shop for Museums, a portal which allows you to link to over 900 online retailers who then donate a percentage of your purchase amount to the museum partner you've designated, which we of course hope will be Graeme Park. A few times a year we receive a check, usually in the $20-$30 range, and the best part is that this money is coming from the retailers as a marketing expense, not the consumer, so it doesn't cost any more to purchase through the site. Registration is easy, you do not give Shop for Museums or Graeme Park your credit card information - this goes straight to the online retailer like any other purchase - and you can choose whether the museum gets notification of your donation amount or you can keep this information totally private too.

So, how can you get involved with making your online shopping make a difference? Lots of ways! Of course try to get in the habit of checking for your favorite retailers before making any online purchase: lots of the big online stores like Amazon and eBay participate. But what about stores like Home Depot, Sears, Target, and Walmart where it is just as easy to go in and pick up what you need? Did you know most of these places will allow you to order online and pick up in the store? How easy is that! Just run in with your order slip and your purchase is ready and waiting, no delivery charges, no trying to find someone on the sales floor to get stock out of the back for you or help you with larger purchases.

Are you in a position to order office supplies for your workplace? Or on friendly terms with the person who does? Staples and Office Max offer free shipping for orders over $50, and many of the online toner companies have great prices AND donate a very large percentage. Corporate/client gifts are another way to get your company involved. Or maybe you plan your company's travel? Car rental agencies, hotels, and airport parking agencies participate, and if the travelers want to load up on music, books, video games or movies for entertainment on the journey, they can do all that through Shop for Museums too.

And lastly, who doesn't need more time at the holidays to get it all done. You can shop online for gifts of course, but you can also have flowers, pet supplies, party supplies, even your Christmas tree delivered. So there you have it, lots and lots of ways to support Graeme Park (or another favorite museum or historic site) and just maybe make your life a little easier in the process.

In case you want to know even more about Shop for Museums and how it works, they've prepared this helpful video.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Before and Afters: Pre-Restoration Photos of the Keith House

Everyone loves a good home improvement project with lots of before and after photos right? In cleaning out some computer files, I came across some old photos of the Keith House at Graeme Park from before the restoration work was done and thought they might be of interest to our readers.

First up is an exterior shot of the south side of the house taken in 1903. This was during the time of the Penrose ownership of the property. You'll notice there are three dormers on this side of the roof, rather than the current one, and the makeshift "transom" over the center door was a 12-light window sash nailed to the outside of the frame. While you can't see the upper slope of the roof, according to the Historic Structures Report (HSR), Abel Penrose installed a new roof on the house in 1879 which consisted of shingles on the lower slope and metal on the upper - this would be the roof pictured here.

A more recent view of the south side of the house. The current roof, all oak shingles, was put on the house in 1989 and is slated for replacement again in the near future. Two of the dormers were removed in the 1960s because it was not felt that the framing was original and that they may have been added by the Penroses. There is uncertainty as to whether or not this was actually the case and also on whether all the dormer windows were originally 6-over-6 as they appear on the south side or 6-over-9 as they are on the north side. The blue paint on the trim was determined through paint analysis done in 1986 and was the color of the trim during the later part of Dr. Graeme's residency. The analysis also revealed that for a time the window trim and doors were unpainted and the center door below was also painted red (frame), white (stiles and rails) and green (panels) in one of its early incarnations.

Perhaps the more dramatic changes took place inside. This 1964 view of Dr. Graeme's office shows the marks on the wall to the right of the fireplace which indicated a closet had once been present. If you look closely you can see where the 4 shelves had been and the board partition that formed the front of the closet wall. This was the only room in the house missing its original paneling.

The closet and paneling were reconstructed and the fireplace stucco restored. Supposedly the profile of the crown moulding was determined by the shadow marks left behind on the ceiling and a "typical" paneling that would go with that style moulding was used.

Below is the dining room looking towards the north wall and closet and a sample of the wallpaper. I do not have a date for the photo, but the envelope that holds the sample is marked "Keith House Dining Room Wallpaper 1975(?) - July, 1983", so it would appear to be sometime between 1975 and mid-1983. It is a black and white photo so obviously colors are impossible to pinpoint, but it does appear as if the paneling on the fireplace wall was lighter than the chair rail and baseboard. The paint analysis wasn't done until 1986, which determined that the paneling and chair rail should be Spanish brown/red as they are currently.

And here is a slightly wider angle shot of that corner of the dining room as it appears today.

These two 1964 shots of the 3rd floor dormitory are probably the most stunning. Extensive plaster damage from the leaky roof reveals the joists and rafters above and the rafters, remaining lathe, and shingles or sheathing on the side slopes of the gambrel roof. The dormer in the photo below is one of the ones on the south side that was removed because it wasn't felt to be original.

This shows the opposite corner of the room, again, you can see the skeleton of the roof through the extensive plaster damage. The dormer in this photo overlooks what were once the formal gardens of the house. The 6-over-6 window was replaced with a 6-over-9 - I'm unsure as to whether or not the dormers were altered to accomodate the larger window sash - the sills appear to be lower.

The below photos show the same two corners of the room after the plaster was redone and the south side dormer removed.

This 1921 photo by Frank Cousins (NYPL Digital Collection) shows the ceiling in the parlor apparently being supported by a tree trunk. It is unclear what the pile of wood on the left is.

And the parlor, with all of its original paint, as it appears today, really not too much different other than some plaster restoration in the fireplace:

This photo of Elizabeth's bedroom appeared in the 1930 book Colonial Houses by Philip B. Wallace and is marked HLD on the back. It is believed to have been photographed by Herman Louis Duhring, Jr. who was an architect from the 1890s - 1950s with an interest in Pennsylvania farm houses and restoration of historic structures. Notice the hole in the paneling where a stove pipe went through, lack of tiling on the fireplace, lathe showing through the plaster ceiling, and the door appears too short for the frame, which has been rigged with extra trim to fill in the space. The fireback however appears to be the same that is still in place today.

Elizabeth's room as it appears today. Reproduction tiles have been installed, holes patched, the excess trim and too short door removed.

Since we started with the exterior of the house, we'll end there too. This final shot of the west end, also attributed to Herman Louis Duhring, Jr., shows the end wall covered in vines, so much so that the window believed to have been stoned in during Dr. Graeme's tenure, is not even visible.

And again, as it appears today after the overgrowth was removed, trim painted blue as per the paint analysis, and dormers possibly altered to accomodate the 6-over-9 window sash.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

First Friday Fotos

Photographing the same subject - for me that would be Graeme Park - over and over again can pose its challenges to come up with something "new" and "fresh" - and for the most part, in my case anyway, I think it is sometimes a matter of dumb luck that the lighting happens to be just perfect that day to turn the same ol' shot into something special. See the below examples were the stonework in the "winter" shot just seems to pop? "Summer" won me a prize in the PA Trails of History photo contest, but "spring" and (very late) "autum" are just kind of run of the mill.

I love to Google us and look on Flickr for other peoples' takes on things I see all the time and I find in my own shots I'm drawn to certain angles and views that I photograph often. I thought it would be fun to do a weekly or monthly shot of the same view to see how it changes with the seasons and the light. Then I thought 52 shots of the same thing might bore the pants off of everyone, so I'll be doing a monthly "foto", on the first Friday of every month, and posting it here. I'll be back on January 6, 2012 with the first installment but here are a few more examples of what I have in mind.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

2012 Events Calendar

Wow, this sure got overlooked in the past year. With all we had going on here at Graeme Park in 2011 it just wasn't a priority, but I would like to remedy that in the upcoming year. We've pared our calendar down a bit and will be focusing on our best and most successful events in order to be able to devote more time to doing them well and to give our volunteers a break from the rapid succession of events we had last year. We're also hoping our new partnership with Open Aire Affairs will begin to come into fruition and with fewer events, that leaves us with more open weekends available to rent the site for weddings and private parties which take place on the grounds in the new Open Aire Affairs tent which went up this past July.

As it looks now, our 2012 events will include:

Colonial Valentine's Day Tours - In the past these have been reservations-only candlelit tours in the evenings. This year we decided to change it up and offer them during the day since the weather can be a bit dicey in February and committing to coming out on a cold, dark night doesn't work for everyone. The format will be the same - a guided tour with costumed actors presenting scenes throughout the house that relate the story of Elizabeth Graeme's loves and loses and other important history of Graeme Park.

Charter Day - This is the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commissions annual give-back to the community where most of the state historic sites are open free of charge. While Graeme Park is currently being operated by the Friends of Graeme Park, we plan to participate anyway, so if you're one of the locals who's driven by here countless times and never knew what we were about, please stop in and find out; and if you're a history or architecture buff who makes an annual pilgrimage traveling around to see as many sites as you can on this day, we'll be here to show you around.

World War II Encampment - This is still in the planning stages - we held the first one just last month, but we're kicking around the idea of doing it in the spring instead. The group in charge of hosting the Civil War Encampment this year will be doing it at a different locale, so that leaves us with an opening in April or May. We'll let you know details when we have them.

Celtic Heritage Festival - This is our main fundraising event of the year, so we'll be back doing it again. Vendors, music, dancers, food, Celtic clans and non-profits, it's always a great day of entertainment, shopping and fun.

Shakespeare in the Park - The venues are totally up to Theatre Horizon, the professional theater group who puts on the show, but we're game if they are. In the past they've presented As You Like It and Much Ado About Nothing. Whatever the play, it's always a fun time enjoying one of the Bard's lighthearted comedies in a beautiful outdoor setting.

Colonial Adventure Camp - A week long program for elementary aged kids to enjoy colonial games, crafts, cooking, and other activities. The activities vary from year to year so there is always something new and exciting for kids to do, but old favorites also make reappearances, and of course there are old friendships to renew and new ones to be made.

Yellow Fever Living History Theater - This is another guided tour of the Keith House where you encounter costumed actors along the way doing scenes related to the Yellow Fever epidemic that raged though Philadelphia in 1793. A perhaps little known fact about Elizabeth's history is that she didn't remain at Graeme Park until her death. Shortly before the epidemic she had sold the property to her niece's husband and his second wife. They remained in Philadelphia and allowed her to stay at Graeme Park until the fever broke out, at which point they came to the country to escape the disease. Elizabeth stayed with them for the time being, but once they decided to make Graeme Park their permanent residence, she did not wish to remain as a guest in the home she had for so long been mistress of, so she moved out.

Homeschool Day - This annual day for homeschoolers features tours of the Keith House and various activities around the grounds, including a hearth cooking demonstration, military drill, colonial games and activities.

Dog Faire - Elizabeth loved her dog Fidele, and we love our four-legged visitors. The park is dog-friendly at any time of year with lots of open fields and nature trails to explore - heck we usually even have homemade dog biscuits for sale in our shop. During the annual dog faire, we have vendors and rescues to shop from, games and activities to participate in and free drawings for lots of great raffle prizes.

Haunted Moonlight Tours - Graeme Park has been called the most haunted house in Horsham, and stories of Elizabeth's ghost have been circulating since very soon after she died. Our own volunteers, staff and visitors often report strange smells, sounds, and happenings in the house. These evening candlelit tours take you through the house where you'll encounter costumed actors presenting scenes related to the history of Graeme Park and Elizabeth, and hear stories about some of the experiences we've had ourselves or that have been reported to us or passed down through the ages.

We'll of course bring you more details on events as they approach and as we know more with specifics on dates, times, costs, vendors who will be joining us and more. If you haven't made time to come to a Graeme Park event in the past, we hope you'll join us and see what a beautiful and interesting place this is and of course if you have a favorite event you attend every year, we're glad to have you back, and hope you can bring along some others to share in a great time.
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