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Upcoming Events:

  • The Nature of Halloween – A Nature Program at Woodlawn
    October 25, 2014

    Dig up a friend and spirit the family away; spend a moonlit night unmasking the tricks and treats of real owls, bats, and spiders.   Discover how...

  • Holiday Tours
    December 01, 2014

    Tour Woodlawn and see splendid decorations while hearing a special audio tour presentation on the history of Christmas at Woodlawn and New England. ...

View full calendar

Press Room
Woodlawn’s to host 1827 Best Bed Symposium featuring Earle Shettleworth and Jane Nylander

Woodlawn is pleased to present a special one-day symposium, Celebrating an American Treasure: Woodlawn’s 1827 Best Bed: Context & Conservation, on September 26, 2014, from 8:15 am to 4 pm. This program celebrates the recently completed conservation of the 1827 best bed and its original dimity and silk bed curtains.  These extraordinary textiles have been accessible to the public since Woodlawn first opened as a house museum in 1929. Their conservation ensures their continued preservation for decades to come.

 

Featured in the National Endowment for the Humanities’ magazine Curio and in The Magazine Antiques, Woodlawn’s best bed is nationally significant.  It is one of the best documented historic bedsteads in America.  It survives with its original bed curtains and in its original location. Purchased by John Black in Boston in 1827, the bed is complete with all its curtaining, festoons, fringe, and bedding (feather bed, mattress, bolsters and sackcloth) intact.  Well documented by invoices, the bed is especially noteworthy for the drawing sent by the Boston upholsterer who provided instruction for the installation of the elegant bed curtains.

 

The conservation work, conducted over 1 ½ years by Deirdre Windsor, from Windsor Conservation, in Dover, Massachusetts and Jon Brandon, from East Point Conservation Studio in Brunswick, Maine, was generously supported by the Coby Foundation of New York and the Felicia Fund of Providence, Rhode Island.

The program will feature keynote illustrated talks by Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr., Director, Maine Historic Preservation Commission, and Jane C. Nylander, President Emerita, Historic New England, two of New England’s foremost scholars of early Maine culture.

 

Deirdre Windsor, Principal, Windsor Conservation, will discuss the conservation process used to clean and stabilize the twenty-one textile elements that comprised the bed curtaining. Natalie Larson, Historic Textile Reproductions, Williamsburg, Virginia and Laura F. Sprague, independent curator and project manager for the project, will share the bed’s history and remarkable documentation that sets this bedstead apart from any other in America.  As part of the program, special subject tours of the best bed and Woodlawn’s museum collections offer participants a rare opportunity to learn about this unparalleled collection with program speakers and other scholars.  Lunch will be provided.  Registration is $60.00 person ($50 for Woodlawn members). Because space is limited, early registration is recommended. To register or for more program and schedule information, please contact Woodlawn at 207 667-8671 or www.woodlawnmuseum.org.

 
Oudens Ello Architecture selected to develop Woodlawn Master Property Plan

The Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations, governing board of Woodlawn, is pleased to announce it has hired Oudens Ello Architecture to develop a master property plan that will maximize the full potential of the property as both a museum and public park.

Oudens Ello Architecture was chosen after winning a competitive design charrette process. Boston-based, it is a full-service architecture and urban design office specializing in academic, cultural and institutional projects.  Principals Matthew Oudens, AIA, LEED AP, Conrad Ello, AIA, LEED AP, and Paul Schlapobersky, AIA, LEED AP, bring a research-based approach to their projects yielding thoughtful, well reasoned solutions that respond to their unique physical and cultural contexts and reflect a close collaborative relationship with each client. Current clients include the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, Stonington Historical Society (CT), Dartmouth College, Williams College, and the towns of Eastham, Millis, and West Tisbury, Massachusetts.

As part of the master property plan, Oudens Ello Architecture will consider the re-establishment of the estate's carriage barn structure, renovations to the historic kitchen Ell attached to the main historic house, and improvements to the 180 acre landscape, originally divided between the manor house portion of the site with its formal gardens and that of the working farm. The plan will address pressing space needs at Woodlawn including the desire for expanded programming, events, exhibitions, archival storage, organizational support, and research spaces for community use. The plan will also address issues of access, vehicular and pedestrian circulation, parking and facilities to better accommodate current visitor flow and an anticipated increase in the number of visitors to the estate.

“We are thrilled to hire Oudens Ello Architecture for this important project that will map Woodlawn’s future growth and expansion.  As a firm, we felt they understood our needs, and Woodlawn’s unique characteristics, very well. As individuals, we felt their personalities and commitment to excellence would help guide us through this exciting moment in Woodlawn’s history,” remarked Joshua C. Torrance, Woodlawn’s executive director.

“We were immediately taken with the unique qualities of the Woodlawn estate and are honored to play a role in its stewardship as an important heritage site and growth as a vibrant public amenity. As with much of our work on historic properties in New England, we understand the delicate nature of this undertaking and how vital it is to strike the proper balance between delivering a visible, dynamic new facility for the institution, and at the same time respecting and preserving the Black House and its grounds as the primary focus and enduring image for visitors.” remarked Matthew Oudens, principal at Oudens Ello Architecture.

The project is expected to last several months and will result in a board approved master property plan.  Consultant firms working with Oudens Ello Architecture on the project include Michael Boucher Landscape Architecture, the James E. Sewall Company, RSE Associates, Altieri Sebor Wieber Engineers, Consigli Construction, and Cosentini Associates.  An anonymous source has provided the funding for the master property plan project.

 
Woodlawn receives $55,000 to conserve rare best bed

Woodlawn is pleased to announce that it has received two major grants that will allow the institution to conserve and preserve its rare best bed.   With elegant festoon drapery curtains, it is widely considered to be one of the most important historic beds in America.  In 1827 Colonel John Black purchased the bedstead and the English cotton dimity curtains and silk fringe in Boston, Massachusetts, for his new house in Ellsworth. It survives as not only a Maine treasure but also a national treasure. Conservation grants were awarded to Woodlawn from the Coby Foundation, Ltd., in New York City, $55,000, and the Felicia Fund, $20,000, in Providence, Rhode Island.

John Black’s best bed is rare and remarkable survival.  The carved mahogany bedstead frame and English dimity cotton dimity curtains with silk fringe remain in the very same room where the bed was first installed in 1827.  Adding to its rarity, the original invoices for the purchase of the bed and its hangings survive, as do other elements of the original bed including: the brass cornice elements, its linen sacking bottom, and mattresses.  Significantly, the bed is documented by a drawing sent by the Boston upholsterer with instructions for how to install it.  Remarkably, the casings for the hair mattress and featherbed also survive.  Even stains on the featherbed cover indicating problems with bed bugs survive, illuminating a common problem in nineteenth-century domestic life that even John Black wasn’t immune too.

These fragile furnishings survived two more generations to inhabit the house, the last being the builder’s grandson, George Nixon Black, Jr. (or Nixon as he was familiarly called). Woodlawn was his ancestral summer home and he ensured its preservation.  His extraordinary textiles, fragile as they are, have been accessible to the public since the house opened in 1929.  Nowhere else in America can one see an original best bed of this quality.  Indeed, Woodlawn’s 1827 best bed is an iconic American artifact.  This is why Woodlawn chose to conserve the textiles rather than replace them.

“We are most grateful to the Coby Foundation and the Felicia Fund for their generous support to preserve one of America’s great historical treasures and for sharing our commitment to ensuring that it remain on view to the public,” remarked Joshua C. Torrance, Woodlawn’s executive director.

Natalie Larson, a reproduction textile specialist based in Williamsburg, Virginia and owner of Historic Textile Reproductions, has help refurnish early American bedsteads in house museums across the country, including many of the presidential mansions.  She observed with amazement and admiration, "Black's bed is the best documented, extant bed known in America. It tells the most complete story of the owner, time, place, and price. It has all of its original components - bedstead, curtains, bedding. It's in the same house and same room. There are bills of sale. It's the only one known with an illustration from the upholsterer who details the order in which the curtains are to be hung. Woodlawn's 1827 best bed offers the most complete story. There isn't another one like it! And we're still learning more about it. Inscriptions found on the cornice have yet to be deciphered so there's still more to learn."

BedBeginning on October 24, 2012 a team of museum and conservation specialists worked for three and one-half days on the methodical documentation and careful de-upholstery of the bedstead. Deirdre Windsor of Windsor Conservation, Dover, Massachusetts, one of America’s leading textile conservators, led the process, assisted by Jon Brandon of East Point Conservation Studio in Brunswick, Maine.  Ms. Larson made scale drawings to document how the twenty-two individual pieces were constructed 185 years ago.  Woodlawn’s Sleigh Barn became an on-site photography studio for J. David Bohl, a freelance museum photographer from Hull, Massachusetts, and formerly Historic New England’s staff photographer, who photographed each of the textile elements as well as the process of de-upholstery in the bed chamber.  Laura Fecych Sprague, an independent museum curator and a leading scholar of Maine’s early material culture, organized the work plan, and executive director Joshua Campbell Torrance facilitated the many detailed steps onaked bedf the process.  Earlier in October Walter Smalling, an architectural photographer from Penobscot, Maine, and Washington, DC, generously contributed a series of photographs documenting how the bed appeared prior to conservation work.

The conservation of the bed and curtains will occur over the next year.  The curtains will be professionally cleaned and stabilized at Windsor Conservation and reinstalled with improved ultraviolet light-filtering materials to ensure their preservation.  East Point Conservation Studio will conserve the bed on site.  Reinstallation will take place during the fall of 2013, accompanied by public programs to explore and celebrate their importance to American social history.  

 


Woodlawn Museum, Gardens & Park
P.O. Box 1478  •  Rte. 172  •  Ellsworth, Maine 04605  •  (207) 667-8671