Gloucester outhouses in American paintings – Artists Edward Hopper, Stuart Davis, Mabel Dwight and more (Excerpt 1)

Per reader request, over the next few days I’ll be reposting mini chapter excerpts — primarily illustrations– from a longer read about the evolution of outhouses and public utilities specific to Gloucester, Massachusetts, Privy to Privy History, on Good Morning Gloucester June 6, 2021.

Gloucester Outhouses in American Paintings’ copied below is “Excerpt 1” (stay tuned for some more Cape Ann Museum additions); Excerpt 2 will focus on early 20th century photographs; future excerpts might highlight some of the history mentions such as the bathroom fixtures at the Crane estate; and so on.

Catherine Ryan, Aug. 2021

 

EDWARD HOPPER – gloucester outhouses

Edward Hopper included outhouses in numerous Gloucester vistas. Hopper depicted buildings and worked with watercolor and gouache long before his renowned first sell out show of Gloucester images in the 1920s.

 

Illustrations: Reminder- You can pinch and zoom to enlarge (and select “full size” image if that option shows) 

 

 

Whitney Museum estimates circa 1903

The Whitney Museum of American Art has the largest collection of Edward Hopper art. This small watercolor study the museum dates circa 1900 contains germs of his later work. There is an elusive building, or nestled buildings, front and center. Strong shadows are emphasized. Is the shed attached or not? An entrance, a ticket booth, an outhouse? Is that a circus tent flag squiggle? The pencil line beyond the vertical street light (or railroad signal) might be a train track. Further right, there’s a red dab. Perhaps another structure. The window with yellow has a barn vibe. I did think about the scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid when Katherine Ross looks down from a hay loft to catch the ‘Paul Newman riding a bike for the Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head’ show.

 

early Stuart Davis – Gloucester outhouses

 

Gloucester Outhouses in American Art

Selection of Gloucester scenes with outhouses by various artists: Dennis Miller Bunker; Charles Burchfield; James Jeffrey Grant; Emil Gruppe; Max Kuehne; William Lester Stevens; Paul Bough Travis; and Louise Woodroofe. Stay tuned for more.

 

 

1938 NYC – Masterful Mabel Dwight 

MABEL DWIGHT, 1938

Leave it to Mabel Dwight for a humorous and original take, Backyard, 1938 WPA/FAP lithograph.

Below – New York City images (collection, NYPL) for comparison of the flip view. More photographs featured in Excerpt 2.

 

Privy to privy history: Digging outhouses! GMG reader asks what did people on Cape Ann do back in the day? p.s. Art was flush with it #GloucesterMA

A GMG reader describes area residents as “those on Cape Ann”*, compliments Joey and Good Morning Gloucester, and asks about outhouses:

“Hello Joe, nice to meet ya. I have a Cape Ann question that is a bit strange. When I was younger I used to go on digs to find old bottles on Cape Ann. Recently I saw an article that said in the days of outhouses people would throw their bottles down the hole in their outhouses. I began thinking where on my parents’ property an outhouse might have been located. Then it occurred to me: there isn’t anyplace on my parents’ property that you won’t hit ledge one or two feet down. So what did those on Cape Ann* do about digging outhouses back in the day? I said it was a strange question. All the best,

Bob Condon Jr., February 2021

Thank you for the great conversation topic, Bob. When did your parents live here and can you relay the neighborhood? The address could help describe the specific conditions at that property. Here you go!

TIMELINE: GLOUCESTER OUTHOUSES & Waste management

Outhouses were in use well into the 20th century locally. They were also referred to as: “necessaries”, privies, toilets, loos, thrones, backyard “escapes”, reading rooms, sheds, crappers, fly factories and the office. Newspaper and pages ripped from mail order catalogues worked as toilet paper. Usually they had no window, heat or light. Some were designed with access doors below seat level to clear out the contents.

Which of the following were factored into the history of local outhouse architecture?

The answer is ALL. Water and waste management are the heart of Gloucester’s city planning.

The variable terrain of Cape Ann impacted outhouse design. If one was a farmer or owned enough land with suitable soil, they might opt for a basic “dig, bury & move” or “slide & fill” solution, rotating the outhouse footprint after it filled –faster with a bigger family– like a handheld number slide puzzle.

When digging a deep enough pit latrine was not an option, or the property was solely ledge, mucking out with rake and spreading ashes (later lime) was necessary. Waste and refuse was portable. Compost could be used for backyard gardens. Whether collected from a vault hatch, pail & sawdust, custom cabinet drawer, bucket & lid sanitary ware, or chamber pot, it did not matter. Filth, euphemistically “night soil”, could be dropped off or conveyed (eventually with a license only, and off season dates) to designated collection sites near and far, sold, or even stolen (as late as 1915 – see below!). Those who could afford to hired help or contracted with a subscription company. Municipalities like Gloucester had line items in the budget for waste collection, incineration and plumbing inspectors: These were thriving businesses.

Prior to sanitary reform in Gloucester and all of Cape Ann, the surrounding streams, marsh and ocean were availed as unmitigated dumps. The natural topography of Gloucester — all that water! all those hills! – – was considered an enviable benefit for city infrastructure and street plans, and likely delayed the city’s modern sewer system. (When public water carriage lines were introduced they could flow downhill into the harbor from densely populated areas or directed into the sea anywhere along the coast, whether for public or private owners. Out of sight. Out of mind.) Dilution was the solution.

Efforts to improve municipal services– to manage public and private waste to keep it out of the water table– were increased. Separate water and sewer lines would be regulated; eventually outhouses were a thing of the past and (quality) food scrap or compost value from home garbage was reduced to nil. You have to skip ahead a full century to find the Gloucester Harbor Clean Harbor swim milestone.

Below is a chronology illustrated with famous vs. local American outhouses, and a **selection** of Gloucester’s sewer and sanitation milestones. I’ve written a fair amount about Gloucester art and public works so a few links are provided for those as well.

You have to love Public Works.

1700s– 1800s

Those who were more prosperous had better privies and hired help for cleaning and carting. Everyone used a combination of chamber pot and outdoor toilet combo.

Outhouses for the well heeled – George Washington Mount Vernon

The octagonal outhouse at the George Washington Mount Vernon estate is an example of a high end family bathroom of its time. The custom fancy shape and finished interior convey an air of refinement. The museum describes the wood paneled, “large drawers for ease of cleaning.” (I don’t know if there’s evidence of dig and move pits as well.)

The smaller middle seat was designed for children. Martha Washington, a widower, had four children from her first marriage; two died prior to their union. Their step-grandchildren, the President’s first family, were born in the 1770s. Having suffered the loss of two little ones, and both then caring for her youngest, Patsy, who suffered torrents of seizures until her death at 17 in 1773, health concerns may have informed the bathroom layout. This opulent design could handle a potty queue when nature called family members at the same time, and adults could accompany a child in need of assistance. The museum estimates that there were four on the property.

The Mt. Vernon residence was originally built in 1734 by Washington’s father. Expansions to the main building and outbuildings were completed in the 1750s and 1770s. A century later, the historic property was rescued by a women’s preservation group. A century again, the property’s historic designation status was awarded in 1960. The exterior photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston dates from circa 1894. The interior photograph is 2018.

photo caption: Mt. Vernon octagonal privy in vegetable garden, ca.1894, photo by Frances Benjamin Johnston, Library of Congress collection
photo description: interior view of the octagonal “Necessary”, executive privy restored (original ca. 1770), George Washington mansion, Mt. Vernon – the small middle seat designed for children. photo 2018 by C. King

Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933)

Calvin Coolidge birthplace in Plymouth Notch, Vermont was a more modest farmhouse example.

MONTANA

Restored Western gold rush hotel outhouse

Vintage postcard, 1970s. Two story double decker hotel outhouse, Nevada City, MT, a restored gold rush town

Gloucester | Cape Ann

Still standing – luxury outhouse

Driving around Grant Circle, you might have thought as I once did that the free standing out building on the Cape Ann Museum Babson Alling property was a shed. The fancy roof and architectural details inside and out give this tony privy much character. Years ago, Pru Fish and Peggy Flavin confirmed their hunch as to its original use. (Naturally, after hearing about this hidden history from Prudence Fish, I’ve dubbed this highly visible Mt. Vernon of Gloucester outhouses, “Pru and Peggy’s Privy”.)

Still standing – Rustic models

Whether restored, repurposed or replicated I’m not certain, but there are structures in Rockport and Gloucester that approximate the rough and modest models.

1870 debate about Gloucester owning its own water plant

1879 – “Sewers are a Necessity for Gloucester!”

Chairman of the City’s Highways Committee.

“It seems to me strange and very unfortunate for the city, that, by a general vote in 1877, an Independent Board of Health as authorized by the State Legislature should have been discarded. Our want of public sewerage has, in the most densely populated parts of the city, filled the soil with excrementitious matters and, in many places, covered the surface with drainage from sinks and cesspools. Some of our localities are filled with stenches that make the idea of repasts anything but agreeable…the shortest road to reform in this department is ample public sewerage, but if this be found impracticable, I would recommend that both should use all authority invested in it to eradicate or mitigate existing evils.”

Mayor Joseph Garland (1880)
Mayor Franklin Dyer ( Civil War surgeon) died February 9, 1879

Word for the day: “Excrementitious”

1881 Gloucester Water Supply Co. contract

for fire services

1886-87 City sewerage options and well water analysis by harvard

“With the introduction of water into our city comes the perplexing problem of how to dispose of the waste. During the year 1887 the Committee on Highways have extended the main drain to Foster street at a cost of $5800. The public health demands that a system of sewerage be established and built and it can be no longer delayed without serious danger, particularly in those portion of our city in which there is not natural drainage. Our present drain or sewer should have an outlet, approved by the State Board of Health, and permits could then be granted to enter the same and an income derived from these rights, which would go far toward defraying the expense of construction.”

Mayor David Robinson, 1887

“The complaints from foul cesspools and imperfect drainage are increasing from year to year, and with the increased use of water, consequent upon a public water supply, such complaints must continue to increase until some method of sewage is devised. Offensive privy vaults, filthy cesspools and sink drains, stagnant water in cellars and upon the surface of the ground, and decaying vegetable and animal matter in yards and upon vacant lots, are a standing menace to the public health…The disposal of filth and sewage is one problem confronting the city. The connection between public cleanliness and the public heath cannot be too forcibly urged upon the attention of our people. Equally if not more important is the question of the quality of the water used for drinking and cooking purposes. indeed, one great danger, if not the principal danger arising from the privy and sink vaults with which our territory is so thickly strewn, is their contiguity to the wells which so many of our people depend upon for water for domestic uses. The danger is the greater from the fact that the water itself may convey no warning of the hidden germs of disease and death of which it may be the medium. It may be clear and colorless, agreeable to the taste and without objectionable odor, and yet be seriously polluted and dangerous to health.

“Realizing this, the board pursued a liberal policy in the way of obtaining a scientific analysis of the water from wells regarded by physicians and others as open to suspicion.  In a few cases parties desiring the analysis have paid a portion of the expense, but where there were reasons to believe that the water was dangerous, such payment has not been insisted upon. The analysis have all been made by Dr. Harrington, of the Chemical laboratory of the Harvard Medical School…”

Board of Health

Board of Health 1897 sent water samples to Harvard for testing

1888 – high end residential plumbing

Toilet design heyday hit during the Victorian age. Residential plumbing products were promoted in illustrated catalogues. (Kohler porcelain tubs were promoted as early as 1883.)

1889 Worcester built a model treatment plant

1892 Clean beaches, Burnham’s water lines & drains, and NIGHT SOIL

clean beaches

“Every person should have pride in keeping our beaches free from filth…We are especially favored in the matter of fine beaches, and during the summer our own people and visitors resort to them in large numbers for bathing and recreation…Nature has so wonderfully endowed our city in the way of beautiful scenery, that we should not spoil the effect by collections of material objectionable to the eye.”

Burnham’s Field was a vegetable garden, doctor’s pond on Mt. Vernon, and Harbor Swamp

The condition of the region on and bordering Burnham’s Field and Harbor Swamp became such in the summer, that an effort was made to secure better drainage by removing obstructions from the brook which courses through these fields, and which has in Doctor’s Pond, on Mount Vernon Hill. The Board of health personally superintended this work, and when finished, a notable improvement was manifest; …Old residents refer to the time when Burnham’s Field was under cultivation and produced vegetables of marvelous size and sweetness, but the owner died and the field went to waste. In those old days the proprietor personally drained his land by means of trenches and, in the summer time, his vegetables thrived because of the natural dampness of the soil. But the question of placing houses on the field at that time would have been a difficult problem, for the water then was present in sufficient quantity to make fair skating for the children. For building purposes this land could be filled in, but it would seem to be a farce to fill in land so high above the ocean and so near to it; yet each year sees new houses going up on the edges, and last year a tract of the swamp itself was built over, which last caused the immediate appearance of the Board of Health, who immediately ordered the lots filled up, as water had accumulated in the yards and cellars in a manner dangerous to health.

The fact is that this region is highly advantageous from central location for houses or factories, and if it could be drained would doubtless be immediately covered with buildings which would bring into the city taxes to a large amount. There is more water entering the field than in the old days, because the use of city water has added to the amount which formerly was there. If it is dangerous to have vaults full, then it must be so in this region, for water stands in the vaults full, then it must be so in this region, for water stands in the vaults here unless the land is built up above the field.

Various plans have been suggested to improve this region. The extension of the Washington street main drain into this field would be a good idea. It has been suggested that a drain could be built from Burnham’s field to the wharves, through Marchant street, which is a short distance. Other plans have been talked of, but it is sufficient for our purpose to urge the need of looking into the subject. It would be a great deal better to do something permanent than to appropriate money for temporary purposes in sums which would soon amount to more than the cost of a radical improvement.

Board of Health

Night Soil – Ward Two

“Another year has passed, and the question of the disposal of night soil is more serious than ever before. By hook or by crook the contents of the vaults have been disposed of; objections have been made by those near the places used as dumps, and a discontinuance of the practice in ordered in one or two instances. Where will our night soil and sink waste go next year? At present, a farm in Ward Two offers the only available chance; as last year, other places may be used until the objections become too numerous, but what would we do in case of cholera appearing near enough to frighten us? Would anybody want this material which would be suspicioned anywhere near them? There will be difficulty without the cholera, but with it we can only say that something would have to be done.”

There are four methods by which this material may be gotten rid of: The first by dumping on land; the second by dumping in the ocean by means of a scow; the third by cremating it by means of one of the well-known processes, as the Engle, the Simonin and others; the fourth by building a sewerage system.

As to these methods, the dumping on land accommodates many by the discomfort of others.

The scow system is very cheap, and could probably be rendered available here. The cremating process for night soil could hardly be given intelligent discussion just now, and cremation finds its largest use in the disposal of garbage. Sewerage would drain the central and thickly settled parts of our community and, of course, would do that well, and it is probably only a question of time, when sewerage will be introduced here.

GARBAGE – PIGS – SWILL- NIGHT SOIL: Board of Health argues for SCOWS FOR OCEAN DUMPING

The practice of throwing garbage on vacant lots and dumps still continues, but most of the swill is collected at the houses and fed to swine. Considerable material is of little value for this latter purpose, and this finds its way into the stove or to some vacant land. In view of the tendency to discuss the subject of cremating garbage, it seems wise, for all, to inquire how much garbage there is to be disposed of. If a crematory were established, it would by no means indicate that all table and cook-room waste, or even all provisions, fruit and grocery store waste, would be cremated, for then, as now, pigs would be kept in some out of the way places, as there is some profit in it, and it is not to be supposed that sentiment can soon rise to a point where prohibition of the feeding of swill to pigs, or the absolute prohibition of keeping pigs, will be ordered. This, then, leaves only a portion of the garbage of the city to be disposed of, and this could very conveniently be placed in a scow, which being absolutely tight and covered, would not cause an objectionable odor, even though it were mainly used for night soil. If a scow is of advantage for this purpose, then there is no place on the coast so favorably situated for using it as our city. Certainly the cheapness of the method and probable reduction in price per load for removing vault contents would commend it.

1892 Gloucester Board of Health – Murrow, Thurston and Dennen

Boston scenes by Leslie Jones, collection Boston Public Library [tug pulling garbage scow) 1956; and boats and garbage, no date (circa 1917-1934)]

1893 Ocean proximity deemed great for Sewer Plans. Also, Drain Burnham’s Field!

“There is no question in the minds of any of us, but that our city needs a system of sewerage. The proper disposal of sewage is one of the great questions of our age. Our city is favorably situated, being so near the ocean, for sewage disposal. It has already been surveyed for the introduction of some system, and the plans are on file and will be available whenever the action of, or financial condition of the city, will warrant such proceedings. My attention has been called to the necessity of draining Burnham’s Field and vicinity, as a sanitary measure. I would recommend that, if practical, the drain leading there from be cleared from obstruction and the natural outlet to the sea be utilized for that purpose.”

Mayor Benjamin Cook, 1893

1893 Disposal of Night Soil and Sink Waste. Burnham Field Development as one option proposed.

“The Board of Health is often obliged to order the discontinuance of dumping in certain places when too great a nuisance has been caused, while the owners of the land sometimes do the same for various reasons. It seemed in the spring as if there was no available place, and the Board appealed to the City Council, which appropriated two hundred dollars, to be used in relieving the difficulty (no pun intended). None of this money was expended for that purpose, as places were secured without the interference of the Board of health. There is a great deal of objection made to the dumping of night soil on land, and wherever it is done it generally annoys somebody. If sewerage is not soon adopted, the city must resort to some method less objectionable than the present method of disposing of night soil and sink waste…”Burnham’s Field and Harbor Swamp: It seems that there has been some disposition to investigate this region during the past year, on the part of the City Council. The presence of such a large tract of swamp land in the heart of a city must be a menace to health. Buildings are being put up all around it and even in it, and this fact must cause some attention to be given, as it increases the amount of filth which finds its way into it. Objection to acting on the score of the land being private property, would hardly seem to be altogether reasonable, as the benefit arising would be shared by the whole city. To deepen the “brook” which flows through it, or to continue the “main drain” into the district, while it would not probably be a complete system of drainage, would furnish an outlet which could be utilized by the abutters at some expense, for the purpose of draining their land. At present there are two ledges in the course of the “brook” which should be removed by the Boston & Maine Railroad Company or in some other way. The water in the swamp will not fall much below the level of these ledges. After their removal the “brook” might be deepened. The people of this region should have some way of relieving their premises from the natural fall of water and the volumes of “City water,” which must find its way into it from the surrounding houses. At present no sink or privy vault can be dug in this region.”

Charles H. Morrow, S.S. Thurston, and Wm. H. Dennen, BoH 1893

1895 residents vote to buy gloucester water supply but it’s not a done deal

$1,500,000 for “22 miles of cement lined pipes, pumping station, reservoirs and their property acquired for storage and distribution throughout the city.”

$1,500,000 for “22 miles of cement lined pipes, pumping station, reservoirs and their property acquired for storage and distribution throughout the city.”

“Percy Blake places the cost of the entire plant at not over $269, 977. He further states that the average length of satisfactory life of this kind of pipes is from 15 to 20 years, and that Somerville, Manchester NH, Fitchburg and Worcester and other places have for some time been replacing the same kind of pipe with cast iron…”

“We must undertake a system of sewerage, but a full consideration of the matter must be deferred until a settlement of the water question. We can, however, begin in a small way…

excerpts, Mayor Robinson

1895 Gloucester Ordinance – waste management

House drains, water closets, cesspools, and grease traps

An ordinance relative to the licensing of Plumbers and the Supervision of the Business of Plumbing”

  • House Drains. The portion of the house-drain which is outside of the building and more than four feet from the foundation walls shall be constructed of extra heavy cast iron pipe or of the best quality vitrified drain pipe; that portion of the house drain which is within four feet of the foundation walls, under the buildings or inside the walls, shall be constructed of iron pipe and shall have a fall of at least one-fourth of an inch to the foot; shall be securely fastened to the cellar wall or suspended from the floor in iron hangers; but when a portion is necessarily laid beneath the basement or cellar floor, that portion shall be construed of extra heavy cast iron pipe and shall be laid in a trench having brick or stone walls, of sufficient width and otherwise so arranged as to give free access to all joints.
  • The house drain shall have a hand hole for convenience in cleaning; if the trap be inside the cellar wall, the hand hole shall be on the house side of the trap (at discretion of Board of Health)…
  • When a water closet or other fixture is to be placed in a house, the house drain shall be changed to conform…
  • No cesspool shall be within twenty feet of any cellar wall except at discretion of the Board of Health
  • Suitable Grease Traps shall be constructed under sink of every hotel, eating house, restaurant or other public eating place so arranged as to be easily accessible and with suitable provision for its proper cleaning…

Sect. 15 WATER CLOSET SUPPLY

“That the regulations of governing plumbing are in the interest of public health, no better exemplification can be given than by calling your attention to the large number of jobs of plumbing and house drainage found defective by your inspector. Having examined some 200 houses where there had been contagious diseases, I found 90 percent without traps or ventilation, the gases from cesspools, escaping into the house, through the sink wastes, some houses with leaky waste pipes passing directly over cisterns, containing drinking water; and in one case all sewage matter deposited into a brick cesspool (formerly a rain water cistern), placed directly under dining room.  The water closets located in cellar directly under parlor without flush of water wand all deposits on ground with very imperfect ventilation. This was was in an outlying district. In my experience of some 35 years, I never saw a case in a more unsanitary condition…”

Plumbing Inspector for the City of Gloucester, 1895

Late 1890s – Thai delegates

From Gloucester archives – Thai delegates summer in Gloucester as early as the late 1890s. (Skip to 1916 and 1921 for more about Prince Mahidol , “Mr. Songkla”) – research by City Archives members

Gloucester – Victorian Age outhouses

Gloucester housing stock (and hotels) included luxury homes with bathrooms and water closets as well as modest solutions. Rough outhouses were common, too. Can you spot the outhouses downtown and in East Gloucester? (Reminder: you can pinch and zoom to enlarge and right click for descriptions. Some media offers option “increase file size”.)

Then (below the garden) | Now

1900 Board of Health is frustrated about the city’s sewer managment

“Sewerage is a much mooted question, which the Board of Health have tried to bring to the attention of the city council, but so far have been unsuccessful in calling their attention to a much wanted service to the city.”

Budget appropriations include two additional contractors:

  • J.A. Dennen, cleaning sewer
  • George A. Reed & Son, sewer gratings

“Dikes’ Meadow and Wallace Pond reservoirs are the only sources of supply now used…”

“Average daily use is 900,000 more than two reservoirs can supply…”

“New water plant necessary…there is water enough in West Gloucester. To supply the city a hundred years….go to Chebacco lakes and (Dikes , Wallace Lily Pond and pumping station become worthless, money thrown away)—a new pumping station at lakes (would be an)  arrangement satisfactory to town of Essex…”

“As far as purity of water all agree Haskell’s Pond stands first…” – Haskell dam to come.

1902 haskell dam construction

For a deep dive into Gloucester’s water utilities, read about Haskell Dam history here

1905 Board of health presses its case

“…menaced, by contagious diseases which threaten to become epidemic…resources at the command of this board, very largely inadequate, would be materially strengthened by a suitable building for the detention and isolation of contagious diseases*, such as diphtheria, scarletina and measles…

Very many nuisances have been investigated and abated during the year and the number has been augmented by the foul odors arising from catch basins along our principal streets. After thorough investigation by its Agent, it is the opinion of the Board of Health that such foul odors arise from the contents of sink and privy vaults which empty into said basins. This condition, deplorable indeed, is unavoidable so long as the present unsanitary condition, due to lack of sewerage, obtains.

And again the Board repeats its annual recommendation to the City Council to take immediate steps to remedy this condition and thus thwart the danger with the absence of a proper system of sewerage in a city approximating 28,000 inhabitants persistently presents…”

Board of Health, Gloucester, MA, 1905-

*see Gloucester’s 1918 Flu epidemic (resulting Braewood purchase)

The Mayor lobbies for dredging Annisquam and for more playgrounds for children.

1910 – a better year for the city’s waste management. Centennial dump plans

”Wherever a vacant lot is found, it is liable to be used by the neighborhood for a dumping ground for rubbish, tin cans and other unsightly objects and sometimes animal and vegetable refuse; the owners of these lots are often unable to prevent such use of the property. The Board of Health has paid especial attention to these places and a great improvement has been made. If Gloucester could establish a reputation for cleanliness, we believe it would be of great financial value to the city. The city dump on Centennial Avenue is available for all kinds of ashes and rubbish and is well cared for; in time this land will be available for public use, but large quantities of good filling material will be needed; however, satisfactory progress has been made and a large quantity of material has been already deposited.”- Board of Health

collection: c. ryan

Walter Cressy’s land on Bond’s Hill was taken for a new reservoir.

1911 Sewage outfall report

1911 Modern plumbing catalogue

1912 Richard T. Crane, Jr. builds a summer cottage in ipswich

(see 1925 – Crane Jr. expanded his family’s industrial frim, booming throughout the Gilded Age, into a global powerhouse by the 1920s. They manufactured ironworks, cooking stoves, bathroom fixtures product lines.)

1915 – water commissioners report- hotel & Summer resident impact (more bacon)

Gloucester population was estimated to be 24,478 in 1916 and to increase up to 36,000 in summer. The estimate of residents on the city’s pipe line, “including summer takers”, was 35,000 and water consumption 46.2 gallons per inhabitant (479,370,834 gallons total per day).

One city budget line item for 1916 that became obsolete was (extra) waste removal help.

  • Union Water meter company- waste stops (like bus stops)
  • Arthur G,. Osboro – oil and waste
  • Royal Mfg. Co. – waste
  • Lewis E. Tracy Co, – waste

“DUMPS: The practice of using the nearest vacant lot for the dumping of paper and filth continues; this is often done at night to prevent detection. People should place such materials in barrels or other receptacles and have them removed, as it would prevent a good deal of ill feeling in neighborhoods.

VAULTS (night soil): Neglect to clean out privy and sink vaults is a common cause of complaint. It is unfortunate that owners of them cannot enter suitable drains, but it not excusable to neglect them until they overflow or emit a foul odor, which vaults are apt to do in the summer months.

Summer residents increased concerns.

SWILL: “The large quantity of house waste in summer due to the influx of summer population at hotels and the relatively small quantity in winter creates trouble. If all swine could be slaughtered at the end of the vacation season, much trouble would be saved; but, as it is, swill is often not collected in the center of the city in summer and so numerous are the collectors in winter that complaints of swill stealing are frequent. The Board of Health has little power to correct these conditions, as only under a contract system can the collection of house waste be controllable.”

1916

As of 1916, Gloucester residents were still encouraged to fill the public dump on Centennial for a future playground. (A generation later, this repurposed transformation would receive national recognition as a WPA project. See 1930s.) The City’s Plumbing inspector lobbied for a modern sewer. DPW was praised.

“The streets of the city have greatly improved in appearance and cleanliness and the chairman of the highway committee should be highly commended for the great interest he has displayed in street cleaning.”

Mayor John Stoddart reviewing 1916 and a shout out to DPW

Appropriations detail that the Union Water Meter company made waste stops and Arthur G,. Osboro oil and waste; Royal Mfg. Co. waste; Lewis E. Tracy Co, waste

1916 boston globe prince mahidol

Prince Mahidol of Siam enrolls at Harvard to study public health.

“The Prince, or “Mr. Songkia,” he prefers to be known in this country, has been staying at Gloucester for some weeks.”

read the article: “Brother of King Mahidol…” Boston Globe, September 1916

While studying in Cambridge he stayed in the house where “Robert Lincoln, son of Abraham Lincoln, was living when the news of his father’s assassination was broken to him.” The Prince continued to spend his breaks and summers in Gloucester (Bass Rocks) which inspired his public health thesis.

1917 Art studios

Scattered throughout Cape Ann, converted outbuildings for art studios likely included outhouses.

“One day we were motoring through Gloucester and, always interested in art, were going from studio to studio to see what the artists were doing and to purchase some pictures for our home on Chebacco Island. We found many of the artists tucked away in dark little lofts, old outhouses, chicken coops, stables, tiny rooms, poorly-lighted and unattractive makeshift places such as one might find in an old-time fishing village–little spaces that had been discarded by the fishermen. We were inconvenienced by the difficulty of seeing the pictures and thought others might be. We felt in this active summer colony there might be many like ourselves who would welcome an opportunity to see what the artists were doing. Here was our chance — beautiful pictures, a leisure public anxious to see them. We would provide the place.’ ” 

Emmeline Atwood quote, 1917 Boston Herald article by Gustav Kobbe – about Atwood’s Gallery on the Moors published on the occasion of its 2nd annual season

1916+ Outhouses in early Stuart Davis

1919

US Public Health Service illustration example

US Public Health Service- 1919 view of a single seated sanitary privy (rough bucket & lid ware)

1919 City Sewerage Plan

“The most important matter that this city faces in the immediate future is the question of sewerage. The action of one of the leading fishing firms of the city, who own a large part of the business water front, in notifying all persons who have had the privilege of the use of their docks for sewerage, that such privileges will cease within five years, will undoubtedly be followed by similar action by the owners of every other dock in the city. This action was to be expected, and the wonder is that it has not been taken before. But such action brings to a head the question of what Gloucester and its inhabitants who have had such privileges so long, will do, and that question can only be answered by saying that Gloucester will now have to do something that it can no longer delay. Five years will quickly pass, and before that time something tangible will have to happen. It is a big question, the question that involves the expenditure of a large amount of money, and requires far-sighted action.”

Mayor Brown

1920 Sewerage Question is a matter of public heatlh

“We must meet this sewerage question this year. I recommend that an entrance fee of $1 per front foot on all property on the line of any public sewer be collected and used for the extension of sewerage, or for the payment of the interest on a sewer loan. This should give us perhaps $15,000 for this purpose this year. But no sewerage plan which does not provide for the cleaning of the dead water of our inner harbor should be considered. This is a growing menace to our health, and to our future as as summer resort, for in July and August our inner harbor is filthy. I am glad to say that one of our summer residents, a man of great wealth and knowledge, has written me a fine letter of congratulations on my election and offered his assistance in working out a plan without much cost to the city. I have great hopes of something good from this. ”

Mayor

1921 – Sanitary Survey of the City of Gloucester, Massachusetts

“Sanitary Survey of the City of Gloucester, Massachusetts”, 1921 by M. Songkla | Prince Mahidol

He concluded the city’s sewer management and all those outhouses very much still in use were the primary source of disease, not summer residents and tourists.

See Sarah Dunlap’s research, Gloucester Archives, to learn more about Prince Mahidol.

“He himself went to many schools to survey their heating, food, health and toilet facilities, — he went to the Lane, Sawyer, Collins, Western Avenue (Parsons) schools and the High School at the time (the brick building just across the street), and he went to the Haskell Reservoir in West Gloucester. He also brought in his personal knowledge from staying in East Gloucester hotels and the Sherman and Way cottages in East Gloucester…

“He had photographs of the sewer outfalls into the ocean, including one from the Bass Rocks Hotels that flowed into the ocean just below the Sherman and Way cottages, where the Siamese legation often stayed. In downtown, outfalls were at docks in the inner harbor. And he not only described the existing system and numerous problems in public health, but he had recommendations for solutions to each problem.”

Sarah Dunlap on Mahidol’s thesis, 2016

See also Harvard, T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Preserving Thai History the King of Thailand Birthplace Foundation, Harvard Medical School. Celebrating the legacy of His Royal Highness Prince Mahidol of Songkla: a century of progress in public health and medicine in Thailand, 2016.

And “Celebrating Thailand Father of Public Health and Modern Medicine”

1924 East Gloucester residents PUSH FOR sluiceway at smith cove – THE FISHING INDUSTRY IS DEAD

“PLAN FOR CLEANSING WATER MEETS OPPOSTION

The Municipal Council was well filled last night by persons from the East Gloucester section interested in the hearing relative to the petition of John L. Lorie and others that a tide runway be cut from Smith’s Cove at Rocky Neck, connecting with the outer harbor at Wonson’s Cove. Mr. Lowrie, in advocacy of the project said that the matter was one which had agitated the people of the locality for many years. they thought if the proposed cut were made it would cleanse the stagnant waters and materially clean up the waters which had become polluted by fish offal and sewage. Since the fish business had left the locality the place had become a Summer colony and something should be done to remedy the situation. In response to his request about a dozen people arose who favored the proposition. Carle T. Tucker, Nathan McLeod, Capt. David F. Mehlman, assistant city marshal, and others, property owners on the other side, opposed the plan. Mr. Tucker said that in the event of such a sluiceway being constructed the sewage and offal would run into the outer harbor and be deposited on the rocks where the summer residents congregate and spoil the place for bathing purposes. It was the only beach in the locality and should be preserved in a cleanly condition. Capt. Mehlman said he had rowed to and fro on the place through the harbor on his way to the Police Station for 40 years and thought he had a a knowledge of conditions. He strongly opposed the proposition which would convert the only white sand beach in the locality used for bathing into a muck deposit. Deputy collector of Customs Albert H. McKenazie, a property owner in the locality, Mr. Brown, whose wife owns a tea house, and Nathan McLeod, owner of a summer hotel, opposed the proposition. A letter was received from George O. Stacy strongly condemning the plan and stating that if it were undertaken he would oppose it by litigation…”

Boston Globe, 1924

1925 Sewer not fish “Odor drives summer residents away” – bill for state funding

Dr. Kelly Blames Gloucester sewage.

“It is the odor caused by poor sewerage, not the odor of fish that drives summer residents from Gloucester,” said Dr. Eugene R. Kelley, State Commissioner of Public Health (For more about Kelley see 1918 Flu Pandemic), before the Legislative Committee on Public Health, appearing for his department relative to the question of the disposal of the sewage of Gloucester. “This is purely a local matter and a matter which must be attended to immediately,” he added. Dr. Kelley said that Gloucester had the worst waterfront conditions of any city or town in the Commonwealth. “Gloucester is a great food center advertises cleanliness,” he said. “how can Gloucester continue such advertising with sanitary conditions as they are?” N.N. Goodnough, chief engineer of the State Department of Public Health, said that tests had been made of the currents and tides about Gloucester Harbor and conditions were found to be satisfactory. He added that he felt this was an immediate necessity and would cost about $331,000. Alden Roberts, official representative of Gloucester; Carl Philips, President of the Gloucester Chamber of Commerce; William J. McGinnis, ex-Mayor; Alderman Smith and Representative John Thomas also spoke in favor of the bill. There was no opposition.”

1925 Crane estate – plumbing magnate Richard T. Crane, Jr. builds a new Castle Hill mansion.

Richard Crane (1832-1912) was born in New Jersey and working at the age of 10 to support his family after his father died. In his twenties, he made his way to an uncle in Chicago and set up a small contracting outfit. His younger brother joined him and they cofounded Crane Bros. They manufactured plumbing fittings, expanding the product line and reincorporating as they grew into a major American company. The estate and business was passed to Richard’s heirs, the two sons, Charles and Richard, who fought over the helm. The Trustees attempted to settle the matter by voting the eldest to lead, Charles, who agreed. Richard did not. The litigation that ensued was not drawn out. Within a couple of years, the younger brother bought the older one out.

Richard Crane, Jr., took the company global. Florence Higinbotham and Richard Jr. were married in 1904. (Her father cofounded Marshall Field & Co.) Legend “blames” Florence for the stunning Crane estate we see today, designed by architect David Adler. Florence, so the story goes, loathed the presumably equally stunning 60 room Italianate style of the first mansion. Her husband promised to rebuild it for her if she felt the same way in 10 years. Conveniently for the global leader in convenience designs, she did. The new one featured Crane’s modern bathroom and systems designs.

Crane Estate completed 1928. photograph: Catherine Ryan, 2016

1920s-1926 City’s Modern Sanitation system construction Completed

1927 Stacy Boulevard pumping station

1928 – sewer concerns bubble up related to controvertial cottage Development on Eastern Point

Eastern Point: Smith Cottage Sewer Plan Menace to Health | Complaint by Archbishop Against Site Near St. Peter’s Chapel

GLOUCESTER, March 29- The controversy that arose last Fall between the Eastern Point Summer colony and Arthur W. and Herbert E. Smith who seek to build 45 small cottages on their property at Eastern Point came up today before Starr Parsons of Lynn, appointed by the court as master. This case, fought out in the Municipal Council last Fall, involving personages of prominence, attracted widespread notice. The bill of complaint was filed by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston against the Smith brothers to prevent the building of the camps and to cause the removal of a tea house, dance hall and roadside stand already erected under a permit from the Municipal Council. Dist. Atty. Fred H. Tarr and Henry V. Cunningham of Boston were the lead counsel assembled for the objectors and Carlton H. Parsons and Dist. Atty. William G. Clark Jr. appeared for the Smith brothers.

The morning was spent in an inspection of the premises at Eastern Point. The first witness of the afternoon was Arthur W. Smith, who testified as to the general construction of the camps and especially the method of sewage disposal, either by septic tanks or cesspools.

Prof. George E. Russell of MIT testified that the terrain at Eastern Point is rocky and ledgy, covered with pulverized and rotten granite with a slight topping of humus, and that neither septic tanks nor any forms of underground sewage disposal were feasible by nature of the soil but would create a menace to health.

A regular water-flushed sewerage system to the sea would be prohibitive in cost, from $10,000-$100,000.

Prof. M.P. Harwood of MIT corroborated Prof. Russell’s testimony.

The proposed site of the cottages is Farrington Ave near St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Chapel (St. Anthony’s) built by Mrs. Margaret E. Farrell of Albany, one of the wealthiest owners of show places at Eastern Point.”

Boston Globe March 1928
1930 Alice M. Curtis chapel photo printed archivally from original 5 x 7 film negative
© FREDERICK D. BODIN

Margaret Ruth Brady Farrell (1872–1944) was not in Gloucester in 1928, in case you’re wondering why her philanthropy and voice were missing. Margaret married James Charles Farrell. Their primary residence was Albany. Her famous financier father, Anthony N. Brady, was born in France to Irish parents, “practically penniless”. At the time of his death in 1913 the magnate had amassed a great fortune estimated to be worth 100 million, “one of the few men in New York State whose fortune was discovered to have been much greater than the estimates made of his riches when he was alive.” Their philanthropy in Gloucester may have been greater but tragedy kept them away. Although the estate was split equally, some of her siblings fought bitterly and long. Margaret likely had no energy or inclination for objections, nor held the reins. The year before her father died, four of their family died in a train wreck, burned alive. Her sister. Her sister-in-law. Two aunts. Her husband died in 1918.

1931 Babson Reservoir and Sanctuary

There are examples of land preservation, but featuring a watershed in 1931? Isn’t it wonderful!

1930s New Deal Sewer work

By 1938, W.P.A. workers (Massachusetts) laid close to 200 miles of new water mains and even more miles of new sewers. They built 15 new sewage disposal plants, thousands of manholes and culverts, tens of thousands of roadside ditches & culverts, and miles of curbing.

1933 crane (plumbing) company – a sponsor and featured at Chicago World’s Fair

excerpt from the official guide book to “A Century of Progress International Exposition in 1934, the World’s Fair at Chicago” The guide book

“contains the fullest and most accurate information possible for the purpose of directing our visitors how to find everything in the Exposition and how to make use of the Exposition’s facilities for their comfort and convenience.

“Crane Co. Station 134 had its own pavilion Display of bathroom fixtures and plumbing, also the “World’s Largest Shower”—Crane Co. Station. Home and Industrial Arts Group.

“A 45-FOOT SHOWER bath is a refreshing attraction. The shower is a giant reproduction of the company’s shower bath equipment. At the base of the tower is seen, in contrast, a bathroom used in 1893. Here, also, is seen a modern, de luxe bathroom. Display of antique and historical plumbing fixtures includes a “chaise longue” French bath tub of 100 years ago, a French lavatory 150 years old, a bath tub shaped like a hat that was in vogue in this country after the war between the states, and a bath tub of the type used by Queen Victoria in England.”

“Home and Industrial Arts Group. The NEW possibilities of the ideal small house are demonstrated at the Exposition in the Home and Industrial Arts section , by a group of completely finished, furnished and equipped homes, ready to live in. The new methods of building with new materials and with prefabricated units for rapidity and economy of construction are shown.”

1933-34 “Century of Progress” Chicago World’s Fair

gLOUCESTER OUTHOUSEs in American PAINTINGS

Selection of Gloucester scenes with outhouses by various artists: Dennis Miller Bunker; Charles Burchfield; Stuart Davis; James Jeffrey Grant; Emil Gruppe; Edward Hopper; Max Kuehne; William Lester Stevens; Paul Bough Travis; Louise Woodroofe.

Artists and photographers cropped outhouses out.

Let me know if there’s a favorite you’d like to add. Once you notice them, you’ll find more.

Reminder: You can pinch and zoom to enlarge (and select “full size” image if that option shows)

EDWARD HOPPER – gloucester outhouses

Edward Hopper included outhouses in numerous Gloucester vistas. Hopper depicted buildings and worked with watercolor and gouache long before his renowned first sell out show of Gloucester images in the 1920s.

The Whitney Museum of American Art has the largest collection of Edward Hopper art. This small watercolor study the museum dates circa 1900 contains germs of his later work. There is an elusive building, or nestled buildings, front and center. Strong shadows are emphasized. Is the shed attached or not? An entrance, a ticket booth, an outhouse? Is that a circus tent flag squiggle? The pencil line beyond the vertical street light (or railroad signal) might be a train track. Further right, there’s a red dab. Perhaps another structure. The window with yellow has a barn vibe. I did think about the scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid when Katherine Ross looks down from a hay loft to catch the Paul Newman riding a bike for the Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head show.

Whitney Museum estimates circa 1903

1930 – 1941 American outhouses – cross county photos

photographs outhouses across America – Library of Congress

  • Cincinnati row houses with backyard outhouses, 1930s
  • privy plant pre cast base, Missouri, by Lee Russell, 1938
  • Placing concrete in form for privy slab, MN, by Shipman, 1941, Library of Congress (collection FSA Office of War Info)
  • South family’s shaker style privy, Harvard, Worcester County, MA 1930s
  • General Israel Putnam Privy, Brooklyn, CT after storm
  • Arlington, MA, Walker Evans 1930s
  • Privy Monterey, Delaware, circa 847
  • Washington DC “slum” privy, Carl Mydans, 1935
  • “old six hole privy, Wiggins Tavern”, Northampton, MA, Lee Russell, 1939

photographs Indoor bathrooms residential and public – New York Public Library

Cincinnati backyard outhouses

1938 NYC – Masterful Mabel Dwight

MABEL DWIGHT, 1938

Leave it to Mabel Dwight for a humorous and original take, Backyard, 1938 WPA/FAP lithograph. Outhouses were shared; doors were left open. Rear window… (last pun!)

1942 Boston

1942- photo: Leslie Jones, BPL collection

1963 North Shore Sewage a threat to beaches

Boston Globe North Shore News- “Town Sewage Problems Pose Threat to Beaches” by Anthony Romano –

“Is pollution posing a threat to the recreational facilities of the North Shore’s coastal communities? Local officials from Marblehead to Gloucester thinks so–as evidenced by the closing of beaches at various times during the past few years because of sewage carried shoreward by winds and tides. The possible corrective solution rests with the Legislature which has been asked for an appropriation of $15,000 to investigate and study the pollution problems in the affected harbors and tributaries. There is considerable anxiety among North Shore officials who point out that conditions will worsen with each passing year because of the increasing influx of industries and new residents.”

1978 CRACK DOWN AT THE QUARRIES

Litter and parties – Read  Crackdown at the quarries 

1980 Gloucester Clean Harbor Swim

The Federal government sued Gloucester for dumping raw sewage. Before it was celebrate Gloucester Harbor it was clean it. Read more about the gains 1970s and 1980s.

1981-1984 New sewerage treatment plant construction

Dedicated to George P. Riley


2019 – Bacon grease, “flushable” wipes and fatbergs – NOT Gloucester

In 2019, Mike Hale, Director of Public Works, explained that this diaper wipe fatberg issue was not a crisis here as it was in the municipalities featured in the viral London video.

During the pandemic, stories increased about sewers clogged by even more wipes, protective wear and disposable masks. Again that was not overly remarkable here.

bacon grease poured into can not drain ©c ryan.jpg

My grandparents never wanted a dishwasher. They collected the food scraps (all the wet garbage) by the sink until they tossed it outdoors in the backyard garbage pail. A metal bin was inlaid underground roughly in line with a flagstone path. The heavy cover was raised with firm stomp on a foot pedal, a novel chore for us because our home did not have one. I don’t remember it smelling, but it was just the two of them. The garbage collectors took care of pick ups from there. My husband’s grandparents raised pigs, so it was direct deposit there.

2021 Water pollution Control

Author Note related to original question from GMG reader

*What’s in a name? I’m perplexed about a convivial nickname for “those on Cape Ann” myself. Cape Anners, Cape Ann-ites, other capers? Nope. Nope. Nope. I’m told Cape Cod natives may say “islanders”, though I’ve never heard that from my relations there. Maybe it’s Massachusetts? Massachusetts-ite is so awkward. Bay Stater- a marketing stretch too far. Bostonian works!

Here’s a look at iconic art inspired by #GloucesterMA for sale at the big auction houses November 2018

For sale at Sotheby’s November 2018

WINSLOW HOMER Yacht in a Cove Gloucester Harbor_ca 1880_wc_Sothebys Nov 2018 American pre sale auction estimate 200000 to 300000
WINSLOW HOMER Yacht in a Cove Gloucester Harbor_ca 1880_watercolor_upcoming Sothebys Nov 2018 American sale. Pre-sale auction estimate is $200,000 – $300,000

Last spring a Homer image of Gloucester boys in a dory fetched $400,000. Relatable, though not Gloucester: Life Brigade is expected to fetch 4x that amount at Sotheby’s; another classic motif , Gathering Wild Blackberries, is estimated to sell for $150,000-$200,000. There is a smashing Marsden Hartley of Dogtown.

 

EDWARD HOPPER_Two Comedians_ upcoming Sotheby's American sale Nov 2018_from Sinatra collection est 12 mil to 18 mil
EDWARD HOPPER_Two Comedians_ upcoming Sotheby’s American sale Nov 2018_from Sinatra collection_The pre-sale estimate is 12 million to 18 million. (Not a Gloucester Hopper- there are no Gloucester Hoppers in these November sales)

For sale at Christie’s November 2018

c STUART DAVIS_Private Way_(Gloucester MA)_1916_ oil on canvas_Christies Nov 2018 presale auction est 60 to 80,000
STUART DAVIS Private Way, 1916.oil on canvas. Christies Nov 2018 presale auction est 60,000 to 80,000

Besides Stuart Davis, artists featured include Jane Peterson, Martha Walters, Hayley Lever, and George Bellows. There’s a classic Nahant work by William Stanley Haseltine and a marine themed WPA mural study by Lyonel Feininger.

c EDWARD HOPPER _Chop Suey_32 x 38_ 1929 oc_Christies presale estimate 70 mil to 100 million
EDWARD HOPPER Chop Suey, 1929, 32 x 38 inches, oil on canvas, Christies steep presale estimate 70 million to 100 million (from Barney A. Ebsworth collection) There are no Hopper works featuring Gloucester in these sales.

Click on thumbnails to enlarge the photo and see descriptions. I’ll post results after the sales. 

 

 

Edward Hopper at Oxford and T S Eliot at Turner Contemporary

Several European museum shows in 2018 contain examples or are devoted to American 20th century artists and modernism like the ones curated for the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, the Royal Academy, Tate Modern and British Museum.

Massachusetts loans boast the Edward Hopper painting Manhattan Bridge Loop from the Addison Gallery of Art collection, Phillips Academy, Andover, selected for America’s Cool Modernism at Oxford. Three Hopper etchings (The Cat Boat, Night Shadows, and The Railroad) are on the checklist. Hopper depicted Gloucester in over 110 works of art. Besides Hopper, notable artists and writer with various Gloucester connections selected are: Stuart Davis, Marsden Hartley, e e cummings, and Louis Lozowick.

Edward Hopper Manhattan Bridge Loop Addison Gallery of American Art Phillips Academy Andover MA.jpg

 

Forgot the cry of gulls and the deep sea swell

 

 

Upcoming at Turner Contemporary – “Journeys with ‘The Waste Land’   a major exhibition (Sat 3 Feb – Mon 7 May 2018) considering Eliot’s watershed poem through visal arts, and Margate. I hope they turn to Gloucester and Cape Ann, unspoken in the final poem yet approachable (and specified in excised iterations). From the museum’s press release:

“Presenting artworks from the 19th century to the present, including film, photography and artefacts, the exhibition explores how contemporary and historical art can enable us to reflect on the T. S. Eliot poem, The Waste Land, and its shifting flow of diverse voices, references, characters and places.

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If Not, Not (1975-6), R.B. Kitaj, National Galleries of Scotland

In 1921, T.S. Eliot spent a few weeks in Margate at a crucial moment in his career. He arrived in a fragile state, physically and mentally, and worked on The Waste Land. The poem was published the following year, and proved to be a pivotal and influential modernist work.  Building on Turner Contemporary’s extensive experience in participation and engagement, the exhibition is being co-curated with a research group of 30 volunteers from the community, supported by the programme team at Turner Contemporary and external curator Professor Mike Tooby. Journeys with ‘The Waste Land’ is being funded by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and the John Ellerman Foundation.”

Finding Fall: bound into exquisite Rockbound art exhibit at Cape Ann Museum before Oct 29!

CLOSING SOON

The blanketing New England autumn is stronger on the walls at Cape Ann Museum than the fall landscape all around us just now. (When I saw this ravishing exhibit at the beginning of June, I had that same feeling about ‘summer’.) Though the seasons of color may disappoint us one year to the next, the impact of these paintings only intensifies with close observation. This is a show for anyone with an interest in painting. Rockbound at Cape Ann Museum features a terrific variety of  iconic Cape Ann seacoast scenes and artists. There’s an added urgency to see the show in person: most are on loan from private collections, shown together for the first time. Come fill your eyes and heart before this exclusive opportunity passes by.

Rockbound:  Painting the American Scene on Cape Ann and Along the Shore closes October 29th.The Cape Ann Museum “gratefully acknowledges the many collectors* who lent to this exhibition and the following individuals: Mary Craven, Margaret Pearson, John Rando and Arthur Ryan.”  *anonymous private lenders, Endicott College, Roswitha and William Trayes, JJ and Jackie Bell, and others

(The wonderful Fitz Henry Lane exhibition that just opened will be on view through March 4, 2018.)

W Lester Stevens Hilltops Gloucester ROCKBOUND installation Cape Ann Museum ©c ryan 20170602_120926 (1)

3 works by W Lester Stevens

 

EXHIBIT MYSTERY

I think that the “Unattributed decorative mirror for over mantel” may be the hand of artist Frederick Stoddard. Perhaps it’s from a series or the “Morning Mantle Decoration by Fred L. Stoddard” that’s listed in the 1923 Gloucester Society of Artists inaugural exhibition.

UNATTRIBUTED over mantel view of Good Harbor Beach ca1920 ROCKBOUND installation Cape Ann Museum 170602_110624

INSTALLATION highlights

Ptown printmaker goucache by Margaret Patterson Motif Number One Rockport Harbor collection Roswitha & William Trayes RROCKBOUND installation Cape Ann Museum 20170602_110133.jpg
Margaret Patterson, Motif Number One Rockport Harbor, ca.1920, goauche, collection Roswitha & William Trayes, installed at Cape Ann Museum 2017 Rockbound exhibition

Artists include Yarnall Abbott, Gifford Beal, George Bellows, Theresa Berenstein, Hugh Breckenridge, Stuart Davis, Marsden Hartley,  Aldro Hibbard, Max Kuehne, Emma Fordyce Macrae, Margaret Patterson, Lester Stevens, Anthony Thieme, and more (hover over image to see artist information)

 

photos pairings below: Finding Cape Ann Museum Rockbound color/mood inspiration just outside in Gloucester October vistas (not literal place/time pairings but that could be done as well!)

Can major Gloucester paintings by Edward Hopper and Winslow Homer come back home? Appealing to Bill Gates and private collectors: please remember Gloucester!

Legions of fans visit local, national and international museums to see icons of American 20th century art by Edward Hopper and Winslow Homer. Some of this art was inspired by Gloucester, MA. One more Hopper or Homer Gloucester scene in any collection would be welcome, but in Gloucester it would be transformative.

The City of Gloucester boasts a world class museum that would be the ideal repository for a major Hopper and Homer of Gloucester. It hasn’t happened, yet. It should! I feel not enough of a case has been made for having originals right here in the city that inspired some of their most famous works and changed their art for the better.

Edward Hopper Captain’s House (Parkhurst House), one of the few original Hopper works remaining in private hands, is slated as a promised gift to Arkansas’s Crystal Bridges Museum of  American Art. Crystal Bridges opened in 2011 and will have acquired 4 examples of Hopper’s art — 2 paintings, 1 drawing and 1 print–with this gift. (I think Arkansas would have been ok with 3.)

Edward Hopper Parkhurst's House Captain's House 1924 watercolor private collection 100+ Gloucester homes and vistas inspired Hopper

 

The only known Winslow Homer seascape painting still in private hands is a great one inspired by Gloucester. Bill and Melinda Gates own Lost on the Grand Banks, 1885.  I saw it at the auction house back in 1998 just before the sale.  What a fit for Gloucester and Homer if it found its way back here!

 

Winslow Homer Lost on the Grand Banks 1885

 

Edward Hopper’s Gloucester Street also went to the west coast, purchased by Robert Daly. I’d love to see this one in person! The corner hasn’t changed much since 1928 when Hopper painted the street scene.

 

Gloucester Street edward hopper painting

Gloucester street painted by Edward Hopper TODAY.jpg

 

Hopper’s downtown Gloucester scene, Railroad Gates, is not on public display.

Edward Hopper Railroad Gates Gloucester MA

I’m surprised and hopeful that there are paintings of Gloucester by Hopper that could be secured. There are tens of drawings including major works on paper. I saw this Gloucester drawing, Circus Wagon, by Edward Hopper at the ADAA art Fair back in March 2016.

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Davis House (25 Middle Street) was sold at auction in 1996.

Edward Hopper Davis House, Middle Street Gloucester MA.jpg

I’m keeping tabs on most of them. The only way they’re going into any museum is through largesse. Why not Gloucester?

Homer and Hopper watercolors in private collections can’t be on permanent view due to the medium’s fragility. (Exciting developments in glazing and displays are being developed that go beyond the protective lift.) The Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester, MA, cares for works of art as well as any institution.

 

 

Boston Globe on Cape Ann Museum Gloucester MA Rockbound art exhibition!

Here’s the link (plus some installation photos) to the Boston Globe Cate McQuaid review of Cape Ann Museum’s wonderful exhibition “Rockbound: Painting the American Scene on Cape Ann and Along the Shore” (on view through October 29) and “The Importance of Place: A Sketchbook of Drawings by Stuart Davis”. 

I’ve included some installation shots of the show that I took in June, and will write more about this must see exhibition. The paintings are superbly displayed and most were generously lent from private collections else we wouldn’t have a chance to see them!

Boston Globe Cate McQuaid review Cape Ann Museum Rock Bound 2017

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IMG_20170602_121612

 

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Today’s Wall Street Journal: Stuart Davis and Gloucester – masterpiece art and to this day a fishing port

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Bill Agee is an art historian and esteemed professor at Hunter. He completed the acclaimed Davis catalogue raissone (Yale University Press, 1991). His most recent book is Modern Art in America. Here he is on Stuart Davis (1892-1964) and Gloucester in today’s Wall Street Journal.

“Swing Landscape (1938)  is surely one of the greatest paintings of modern American art, a glorious summation of all Davis had been and was still to be. Swing Landscape, one of nine Davis mural projects was commissioned by the WPA. It was intended for the Williamsburg Housing Project in Brooklyn. But for reasons still unclear it was never installed, and in 1942 it was acquired by the Indiana University Art Museum, in Bloomington. Because of its intended location, over the years the mural has been misread as based on views of that bustling borough.

Rather, it depicts the boats, docks, houses and landscape of Gloucester, Mass., to this day a fishing port. Davis had spent summers there since 1915, and the subject was the culmination of a favorite motif that had appeared frequently in his art since at least 1924. Davis could be contrarian–for example suggesting a painting was about one thing when it was really about something else–and  here he turns these picturesque vistas, the subject of so much tourist art, into a serious, complex and ambitious mural. “

I wish this Agee excerpt was published  long before the September 25th closing of the Whitney Museum show, Stuart Davis in Full Swing. Back in June, WSJ published a couple of reviews including one by Karen Wilkin.

From the Whitney exhibit:

Using sketches he made of the waterfront in Gloucester, Massachusetts, he transformed masts, rigging, lobster traps, ladders, and striped poles into a vocabulary of overlapping, brightly colored shapes, all of equal intensity. To Davis, the result portrayed the “new materials, new spaces, new speeds, new time relations, new lights, and new colors” of modern America.

James Wechsler describes Davis subjects as triple distilled.

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Recent William Agee book

Today’s NY Times: Holland Cotter reviews Stuart Davis art exhibit at the Whitney Museum

Stuart Davis on mural
Stuart Davis, 1939, Sol Horn, photographer. Federal Art Project, Photographic Division collection, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian. 

Pulitzer prize winning critic, Holland Cotter, gives the Stuart Davis (1892-1964) show at the Whitney Museum a mostly glowing review in today’s New York Times. One thing is a given. If the art of American modernist Stuart Davis is mentioned, Gloucester will pop up somewhere in the text.

“Place was important to him, but the modern world was increasingly about movement and he wanted to picture that. A 1931 painting, “New York-Paris No. 2,” put us in both cities simultaneously, with a Hotel de France set against the Third Avenue El.

In the exuberant “Swing Landscape” of 1938, a mural commissioned by the Works Progress Administration for a Brooklyn housing project but never installed, we see bits and pieces of Gloucester — ships, buoys, lobster traps — but basically we’re in a whole new universe of jazzy patterns and blazing colors, a landscape defined not by signs but by sensations: sound, rhythm, friction…”

 

Sometimes big shows bring art to market. Last fall the Stuart Davis 1960 painting Ways and Means, 24 x 32,  sold at auction for $3,189,000 at Christie’s.

2 mil to 3 mil ways and means 1960

the 1940 Composition June Jitterbug Jive for $689,000,

composition june jitterbug live.jpg

and the Autumn Landscape Rockport, 1940, 8 x 12 for $905,000.

30050 500000 stuart davis autumn landscape rockport

Meanwhile, Sotheby’s sold New York Street, 1940, 11 x 16, $490,000.

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This month, Sotheby’s sold a 1960 Gloucester harbor scene for $100,000 on  June 9th, and the 1919 “Gloucester” painting measuring 24 x 30 fetched $51,000.

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Continue reading “Today’s NY Times: Holland Cotter reviews Stuart Davis art exhibit at the Whitney Museum”

WHAT’S THE ART DISPLAYED BEHIND GOVERNOR BAKER? Here’s a tip for all those political handshake photographs: please add the artist and art to the list of names

Cat Ryan submits-

Joey, Good Morning Gloucester is really something! After my post about local artists and art displayed in City Hall and the White House Collection, the artist, proprietor, FOB, and fun Pauline Bresnahan sent me a picture with a note. She was thinking about art at the State House:

“Yesterday the Mayor was sworn in at the State House (for the Seaport Economic Advisory Council) and she put some photos on FB and I was wondering who did the painting over the Governor’s shoulder in the photo that I attached and am sending to you?”

Here’s Pauline’s attachment

https://gm1.ggpht.com/IZ4fCXxXy5iDiwitCBA6o4aiYEYFLJCY9BJ6UJwJab3A_x2Gs4GH7NUEhuv_jA5918aM6XUN-Agrsxmjimt9mMImZe46sKYWXmBVwWFkt7X1yOPPL8Js5oKSzftP4BTz0sWaFWNPXGvyt430nFCURL127FAXMkfQfl_siBB45jqf6lgMz0ltD6vcEsT0c6WQoBIrhgFVhoVvW1IKq5rYWJwQ6mhgfP8qP9ktyS2oXMtMIygPFnhptDCOn5uJnASwaOMRE1lEShCrJ4aVBm3fFrNOIJRTe7Pj1RrQ5nRWasDLnnP4ETcHuksc3v4HD19LBZXeKoTUe7u1D8SV25IRb7a4xfuYh2VkJhb1z0JGKS3-vvl3YVo1HyWsJN4KJcIio_y3YF4h790jI_RzU1c2T8Fq9TdrIGg-pmrCmhbxJSE5h96iTbuOcavv9_BhNpd9kitlRt4QfhRZh8ExAcf7swcIzpR2_8HtcZ2em3GmmiVXqErUh8RA_gIQuhZOvwQgOvXdviEYjtxf8Ei3vGvy2kgQP0ZIF1VI7jSgX2MUeBCm1OtP8NhF8MxT6fMbkP0SctKI4h2UUwjnw1gEkavFqalKSES9YmnJ_EOLCOenYIEtqo0Vw5Ar3R6oJzIn=w480-h640-l75-ft

The dramatic harbor scene is on loan from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and was created by JONAS LIE (1880-1940), The Fisherman’s Return, ca.1919, John Pickering Lyman Collection, Gift of Miss Theodora Lyman.

You read that correctly. His name is ‘Lie’. I know, located in the State House—the state capitol and house of government—the symbol of the Commonwealth of MA, politics and its people—it may seem at first an unfortunate selection when you read the surname.

Not to worry, his painting skills and life story are a great fit for the State House.

Lie was a well-known early 20th century painter and his peers considered him a master. One example of his stature and connections: Lie, Stuart Davis and Eugene Speicher were charged with the selection of paintings as members of the Central Arts Committee for the legendary exhibit, American Art Today at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Holger Cahill was their Director. Artists John Gregory, Paul Manship and William Zorach selected sculpture. John Taylor Arms, Anne Goldthwaite and Hugo Gellert selected the prints and drawings.

Is there a Gloucester, MA, connection? You bet –and one you can see in many of Lie’s works. He was a summer traveler to Cape Ann before WW1 along with other New England locales through the 1930s because he was a mainstream American artist of his time. He had a studio on Bearskin Neck and lived on Mt. Pleasant in Rockport. Later the studio was Max Kuehne’s. 

Lie was born in Norway to an American mother, Helen Augusta Steele of Hartford, Ct. His Norwegian father, Sverre Lie, was a civil engineer. One of his aunts was the pianist Erika Lie Nieesn and he was named after an uncle, the major Norwegian writer Jonas Lie. After his father died in 1892 he went to live in Paris with family, before joining his American mother and sister in New York City the following year. They settled in Plainfield, NJ. After art studies, Lie found work as a shirt designer, took more classes, exhibited and received prizes. William Merritt Chase bought two works in 1905. In 1906, he traveled back to Norway to visit family and again to Paris. He was deeply inspired by Monet. When he returned he resumed his art career. He admired the Ashcan artists and their American style. Another trip in 1909 to Paris, Fauvism and Matisse. 

Lie painted the engineering project of his time, the building of the Panama Canal. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Detroit Institutes of Art acquired a work from this series. The rest were eventually gifted to West Point in 1929 as a memorial to US Army Corps of Engineers Colonel George Washington Goethals, Chief Engineer of the building of the Canal. Goethals was credited with having the forethought to ensure that a record of the project was preserved in art. Art form(s) actually. Leave it to the engineer to appreciate the art and beauty in industry. Right?

Lie was invited as a guest of General Goethals along with Joseph Pennell who created the gorgeous etching portfolio The Building of the Canal, 1912. Goethals also selected artist William B Van Ingen to paint 4 large murals, mounted on site in the rotunda in 1915. The Panama Canal opened softly the preceding year, on August 15, 1914 as World War 1 eclipsed any coverage.

Lie was involved with the installation of the famous Armory show of 1913, and 4 of his works were exhibited. In the printed matter, his name shows up alphabetically between Fernand Leger and George Luks. See the 1914 journal advert. Charles Hawthorne urged summer students to Provincetown while the New York School of Fine and Applied Art hoped that students would paint with ‘Jonas Lee, one of America’s foremost painters’.  He was quite active in the arts community. He organized the Society of American Painters in 1919. He purchased a home in the Adirondacks to be near the hospital where his wife sought treatment for and eventually succumbed to TB. In 1933 he gave Amber Light, a painting of FDR’s yacht to the President, his friend.

Lie is known for his vivid color and impressions of New England harbors, boats and coves, painted during summer visits, his New York City scenes, landscapes, seasons, Utah copper mines, and the Panama series.

What about the Governor’s suite, the historic restoration, the Governor’s portrait, protocol and tradition?

The Massachusetts State House includes the state legislature and the offices of the Governor. The 1798 building was designed by Charles Bulfinch and was designated as a National Historic Landmark* in 1960. This magnificent landmark needed an overhaul and major renovations. Restoration has been happening throughout the structure, mostly for the first time in a century.  It’s difficult to invest in heritage and modernize facilities without public criticism. Years of research span terms. The Governor suite in particular came under fire for its historic restoration. It was expensive.

“The executive office now looks like it did in 1798, Petersen said. It cost $11.3 million to renovate and restore these 19,000 square feet of the State House, including the lieutenant governor’s office, constituent services on the second floor, and what will soon be an emergency response room on the fourth floor. The executive offices now have temperature control, wireless Internet capability, sprinklers, blast-resistant storm windows, security cameras, including some with facial recognition, and sensors that can detect if a room is occupied.”

Daunting! I can understand why Governor Baker selected the former Chief Of Staff’s office for his everyday office. “I want a regular office where I can spill a cup of coffee and not worry about it,” the governor said.

The Jonas Lie painting is prominent in nearly every ceremonial signing and photograph because it’s hung directly behind the Governor’s desk. It is difficult to find any mention of the artist and painting. When staging formal photographs if there is a featured artwork in the frame, it is my recommendation and hope that credit to the artist and artwork are listed along with people featured in the photograph.

The State House is working on their website and there’s a great virtual tour. Visit https://malegislature.gov/VirtualTour

So what does the Governor see from his vantage of the signing seat during ceremonies and meetings? More tradition, history, and art. Each incoming Governor selects a portrait of a former Governor which is installed above the mantel and across from the desk.  Former Governor Patrick’s choice was John Albion Andrew, Massachusetts 25th Governor. Governor Baker selected former Governor John A. Volpe, a North Shore Wakefield native, who served 1961-63 and again 1965-69, the first 4-year term in MA. He resigned midterm in his final year to accept President Nixon’s appointment to head the Department of Transportation. You can read more about it here http://www.nga.org/cms/home/governors/past-governors-bios/page_massachusetts/col2-content/main-content-list/title_volpe_john.html

The incoming Governor selects this portrait fairly quickly. Volpe’s national policy led to Amtrak. With the winter and MBTA crises at hand, comparisons can be drawn…I will ask! I haven’t been in the Governor offices. But Fred Bodin and I had a great look around earlier this year and Senator Tarr gave us a brief impromptu tour. Ask him about the Cod. There was an installation of local artists in the hall outside the Senate Chamber. 

*Boston has 58 properties with National Historic Landmark designation. Gloucester has 2: Schooner Adventure and Beauport. City Hall should/will have this designation.

Link to yesterday’s post https://goodmorninggloucester.wordpress.com/2015/08/11/this-is-what-gloucester-looks-like-at-the-white-house-and-city-hall-its-all-local/

Also find it at Joey_C’s twitter http://t.co/upEgxcTajq