Women’s Heritage

This Treasure Matters: The Sewall-Belmont House

Posted on: April 14th, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Washington, DC is a city full of imposing governmental buildings, gorgeous embassies and magisterial monuments, and as such, it can be easy to forget that not every building has an edifice as striking as the history contained in its walls. The Sewall-Belmont House is just such a place. A reasonably modest red brick mansion bordered on one side by a neighborhood filled with red brick row houses, and on the other by the Capitol and Senate office buildings, it could easily have vanished from the national consciousness.

This would have been a shame, as it has stood in witness to some very significant history, indeed. From being the only residence in the city to offer armed resistance during the British invasion in 1814 to its early-twentieth century role as the headquarters of the historic National Woman’s Party (NWP) , the Sewall-Belmont house has been on the front lines as America grew and changed.

In recognition of this importance, the Sewall-Belmont House was one of only four initial projects named by Congress in the legislation that established the “Save America’s Treasures” program, along with the U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Star Spangled Banner.

This initial challenge grant, made in the amount of $500,000 in 1999, along with an additional $5 million in private contributions was leveraged over the next five years to complete the massive restoration. Today, The Sewall-Belmont House is one of the premier women’s history sites in the nation, the only major suffrage site that remains intact with an unparalleled collection of original furnishings, documents, photographs, art and artifacts.

Save America's Treasures, Preserve America, and the other programs cut or underfunded by the proposed federal budget do more than preserve our country's rich heritage – they put Americans to work. Learn more about the National Trust's campaign to restore this critical funding.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

 

Thanks to Save America's Treasures, the Homestead is where visitors today can go inside Emily Dickinson's world.

It is easy to think of poets as simply professional people-watchers – incredibly articulate talents who can capture a moment – a feeling – out of thin air and immortalize it on paper in such a way that it can be relived by complete strangers.

However, for one of America’s greatest and most prolific in the craft, understanding and explaining the profound complexity of human emotion did not come from being a tortured lover or an all-around astute observer; it came from a life lived in loneliness and isolation.

Poems without titles; unconventional style and punctuation; recurring themes of death and immortality – this is Emily Dickinson.

Dickinson was born in 1830 at a home in Amherst, Massachusetts known as the Homestead. Introverted and reclusive even in her early years, it is here where she would spend the majority of her life – and where her creativity would flourish. Many of those who study her believe that her quarantine gave her an opportunity to step back and understand the human experience like none before her had. She passed away in 1886, leaving behind 1,800 poems that continue to push the poetic envelope today.

Quite simply, Emily’s story could not be told without her home. Save America’s Treasures realized this, granting $200,000 in 2004 towards the creation of a master plan that would link and preserve the Homestead and the Evergreens (a neighboring home where members of the Dickson family also lived). The federal grant was matched by more than $500,000 in private funds, which ultimately addressed critical exterior restorations and mechanical systems upgrades.

In 2009, some 13,000 tourists and Dickinson enthusiasts visited the homes, known collectively as the Emily Dickinson Museum. According to the site’s executive director, the rising visitation numbers have had a multiplying effect on the local economy of Amherst, drawing thousands of curious visitors into the town where Emily was once known only as an eccentric woman of mystery.

Save America's Treasures, Preserve America, and the other programs cut or underfunded by the proposed federal budget do more than preserve our country's rich heritage – they put Americans to work. Learn more about the National Trust's campaign to restore this critical funding.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.

This Treasure Matters: Taking a Walk With “Little Women”

Posted on: March 10th, 2010 by Jason Clement

 

Summer at Orchard House.

You’d be hard pressed to find a young girl who does not know Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy.

Don’t worry; we’re not talking about some new pop phenomenon or even Dancing with the Stars; we’re talking about four sisters – four little women – that seem to have a permanent place in the lives of American adolescents.

It’s true – whether on screen or on paper, Little Women lives on today. And, thanks to Save America’s Treasures, so does Orchard House – the historic home in Concord, MA where Louisa May Alcott, the author of the beloved series, lived and wrote this story that transcends generations.

In 2000, Alcott’s Orchard House received a $400,000 federal Save America’s Treasures challenge grant, which was met with an additional $150,000 in private contributions. This much-needed funding addressed a variety of structural damages and abnormalities that had come to plague the iconic home where Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy came to life. And the restoration didn’t just save a place that our country simply couldn’t stand to lose – it created 31 local and regional jobs for individuals within 14 different trades and professions.

Today, the proof is in the eyes of the thousands of visitors who come to walk through the home where Little Women came to be – this treasure matters, and this program works.

Save America's Treasures, Preserve America, and the other programs cut or underfunded by the proposed federal budget do more than preserve our country's rich heritage – they put Americans to work. Learn more about the National Trust's campaign to restore this critical funding.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.

 

Written by Bobbie Dolp

Edith Schryver and Elizabeth Lord

Edith Schryver and Elizabeth Lord, two of the first professionally trained women landscape architects in the Northwest. (Photo: Lord and Schryver Conservancy)

In 1929 Elizabeth Lord (1887-1976) and Edith Schryver (1901-1984) founded the first professional, woman-owned landscape architecture practice in the Pacific Northwest. Their coming together in what was to be a lifelong personal and professional partnership marked an important milestone in the history of Northwest garden design.

Lord and Schryver met each other serendipitously on a 1927 European garden tour sponsored by their alma mater, the Lowthorpe School of Landscape Architecture, in Groton, MA, an institution devoted to training women in landscape design. Finding that they had a shared vision of garden design, Lord, an Oregon native, asked Schryver to join her in Salem to establish a business. Lord later observed that, “We joined forces, desiring to try out a new venture of real garden designing and planting, domestic and park planning.”

In their 40 years of practice, Lord and Schryver designed more than 250 gardens in the Pacific Northwest for individual, civic and institutional clients. As a design team, Lord and Schryver cultivated a style known as “informal formality,” using subtle, creative plantings and combining east coast and native Northwest species. The importance of their landscape design work is underscored by the honor of being the only Oregon firm recognized by the National Park Service in their publication Pioneers of American Landscape Design.

Lord and Schryver also worked tirelessly to raise the profile of landscape architecture in the public eye. Lord had a keen sense of Salem’s history, as well as its potential beauty, and advocated for preservation of historic landscapes and improvement in public spaces through her work with the Salem Parks Advisory Board, Salem Tree Committee, and the Capitol Planning Commission. Schryver taught landscape design at Oregon State College (now Oregon State University) throughout her career. Both women’s professional lives included speaking on a regional radio broadcast called The Garden Home Hour, writing for local and regional newspapers, and lecturing.

In 1932, Lord and Schryver collaborated with prominent Salem architect Clarence Smith on what was to be the center of their professional and domestic life for over thirty years: their personal home and garden at Gaiety Hollow. The garden they composed at Gaeity Hollow is the tour de force of their life’s work and an essential piece of the continuum of Northwest landscape design. Unfettered by client restraints, Lord and Schryver exhibited their individual skill and taste, designing their home garden in a remarkably refined and personal way. Since Edith Shryver’s death in 1984, the house and garden have been carefully tended by one family.

Deepwood Estate, designed by Lord & Schryver

Deepwood Estate, designed by Lord & Schryver (Photo: Lord & Schryver Conservancy)

Concern about the ultimate fate of Lord and Schryver’s masterwork was the catalyst for the formation of the Lord & Schryver Conservancy in 2005 with a mission to preserve and interpret the legacy of Lord and Schryver and to promote a greater understanding of their contributions to Northwest landscape architecture. The Conservancy has worked with the current owners of Gaiety Hollow to secure a right of first refusal on the property with the goal of restoring the garden and bringing it into the public domain. Our current project, a cultural landscape report on the home garden, has been generously supported by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Conservancy has also been active in the historic rehabilitation of the Lord and Schryver gardens at Deepwood Historic Estate, now a Salem city park, and collaborated with Friends of Deepwood and the City of Salem to develop an Interpretive Center in the Carriage House at Deepwod which tells, in part, the story of Lord and Schryver’s work. The Conservancy has also established an archive of oral histories, digitized and catalogued slides, and documentation of surviving gardens, developed an internship program for landscape architecture students, and published articles and monographs on Lord and Schryver’s work.

Learn more:

Bobbie Dolp is president of the Lord & Schryver Conservancy.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

"Saving and Celebrating" the Treasures of Women's History

Posted on: March 1st, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Dwight Young

In recognition of its significance, then First Lady Laura Bush chose Louisa May Alcott's Orchard House as the site for her 2002 debut appearance as Save America’s Treasures’ honorary chair.

Have you joined our campaign to save the Save America’s Treasures program? I hope so – because it’s worth saving, believe me.

Created more than a decade ago, SAT has been cut out of the proposed federal budget for next year. That’s bad news – really bad news – because this program, in addition to boosting the economy in communities all over the country and creating thousands of jobs, has helped preserve more than 1,100 important places, documents, collections and works of art. Quirky and wonderful, inspiring and surprising, beautiful and not so much, these things link us with the people, events and ideas that shaped American history and culture. In a very real sense, they’re us – and if that’s not worth preserving, what is?

Now that Women’s History Month is upon us, it’s worth noting that SAT has played a key role in saving and celebrating a great many treasures associated with women. Some of them involve bona fide icons: the Alabama birthplace of Helen Keller got an SAT grant, for instance, as did the Massachusetts house where Louisa May Alcott and her family lived; the long-forgotten Washington, DC, office once occupied by Clara Barton; the archives of legendary dancer Martha Graham; a collection of clothing that belonged to Dolley Madison; and the homes of reclusive poet Emily Dickinson and the decidedly un-reclusive (and famously unsinkable) Molly Brown.

Other SAT-funded projects evoke names that are, well, less familiar. Josephine Wright Chapman, for instance, is not exactly a household name – but she was one of America’s earliest female architects, and an SAT grant went to a building she designed in Worcester, Mass., that is now a popular venue for civic events and performances. Grants were also awarded to the Madame C. J. Walker Urban Life Center in Indianapolis, a living memorial to the life and achievements of the entrepreneur and philanthropist who became the nation’s first black female millionaire; the Washington home of Mary Church Terrell, the first African-American woman to sit on an American school board and the founding president of the National Association of Colored Women; and a Delaware estate called Gibraltar, which boasts a garden designed by pioneering female landscape architect Marian Coffin.

I can’t claim to have seen all of these treasures – but I have visited Val-Kill a couple of times, and it always blows me away. Eleanor Roosevelt is one of my personal heroes, you see, and Val-Kill is the place that evokes her personality most clearly. It’s a grandmotherly sort of place with mismatched chairs in the dining room, a narrow wooden bed on the sleeping porch, and framed photographs everywhere – a place that was obviously lived in by someone who cared more about life than about decor. Val-Kill offered Mrs. Roosevelt, for the first time in her life, a place that was truly her own, and she made it a retreat where she could enjoy the company of close friends – and offer simple meals and stimulating conversation to the world leaders who came to call in a steady stream. It’s a wonderfully engaging place, and Save America’s Treasures has provided major funding over the years to help keep it intact and alive.

You want treasures? I got your treasures right here. We’ve all got them, in fact. They’re in every part of the country from Hawaii to Maine, ready to welcome and inform and inspire us – thanks in large part to this program that’s WAY too good to lose.

Save America's Treasures, Preserve America, and the other programs cut or underfunded by the proposed federal budget do more than preserve our country's rich heritage – they put Americans to work. Learn more about the National Trust's campaign to restore this critical funding.

Dwight Young joined the staff of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1977. He currently serves as senior communications associate and writes the regular 'Back Page' feature in Preservation magazine.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.