Bush Bluff Lightship Monday, Sep 9 2013 

Your random photo of the day.  The Bush Bluff Lightship in the summer of 1909.  Anchored at the Elizabeth River in the Chesapeake Bay. http://cheslights.org/bush-bluff-lightship-2/  Taken on a trip south by the yacht Mavourneen

Bush Bluff lightship

From the Guestbook Saturday, Aug 24 2013 


“This diagram is intended to convey a faint idea of the manner in which Mr. Carleton’s bedroom door was barricaded on the morning of July 31. The Besieging parties being Miss Nellie Rounce and her fellow conspirator Miss Nellie Yale.” July 1876

We don’t do that to our guests these days!  Mr. Carleton was Julie’s publisher and frequent summer guest.  I suspect that the ‘Miss Nellie Yale’ is Helen Yale Smith, not her namesake Helen Yale.  The latter was a close friend, but was not referred to as ‘Nellie’.  So, two teenage girls cheerfully making Mr. Carleton welcome!  It is the plethora of bottles that I find most interesting in that sketch…

Note that the door trim matches the Little Parlor, nice confirmation that the trim on that room was not modified when the fireplace was redone at the turn of the century.  The trim also suggests that Carleton probably had the long vanished bedroom where the main hall now is (as the only other possible bedrooms upstairs have plainer trim).  The main hall and the north end would not be built for another 17 years.

Note too our mysterious bird signature once again.

Morris Smith Thursday, Aug 8 2013 

There is a tendency, because of who wrote what, to concentrate on the women in the history of Esperanza.  Julie, seen as the driving force behind the house’s creation, tends to overshadow her husband Morris.  This is unfortunate, since it is clear from her letters that they were definitely partners.  Furthermore, Morris was a consummate businessman and active in the business politics of New Orleans from the 1850’s through the 1890’s.  The New Orleans chapter of the family’s history is largely opaque, and we know very little about it or about Morris’ various businesses.

Here is part of a description of him written by his daughter Fanny Morris Smith:

“My father was an important member of the number (the Boston Club, which was the New Orleans club through which many northern businessmen maintained contacts). His opinions on business matters were sought far and wide. I am proud to write that when the Mafia undertook to seize and loot the city by terror of assassination he was one of the men who decided to hang the proved murders. Always M.W. Smith & Co., Cyrus Yale & Co., Seymore & Stevens, stood for absolute rectitude in their business dealings.*

My father and mother were both readers. Their tastes were so similar that he often brought back from New Orleans the book she had purchased in New Hartford…He was very sensitive; absolutely without a sense of humour; fond of his family; my mother’s lover till she died; a man whose inner life never was told except to my mother.”

*The Yales and Seymours were close friends and business partners with Morris.  It was the Yale family that first introduced Julie and Morris to the Esperanza area; as they owned the neighbouring house.

Garden Flowers circa 1925 Tuesday, Jul 30 2013 


I haven’t happily identified the woman yet, someone connected with Bradford Ellsworth, possibly his first wife Juliet Inness?

Nice dress….

I do know the picture was taken in the big garden, and those are probably classic New England/New York asters.  Clearly, the plant breeders have been had at work making them smaller.

The photo by the way is actually a scanned negative, aren’t computers wonderful?

Esperanza on July 4th, 1913 Thursday, Jul 4 2013 


A parade by the various children visiting the house at the time. This was followed by a reading of the Declaration of Independence, and a short bit on it and the Constitution’s importance by William Webster Ellsworth.
I could probably, by process of elimination, figure out most of those children, but if any of the Amistad group reads this…I’d love a hand, since it is possible that they were here that summer?

Nothing like that here today. But still, give those documents a read if you have a chance.

On Spinning Wheels Thursday, Jun 27 2013 

A delightful excerpt from some recollections by Fanny (Frances) Smith, one of Julie Smith’s daughters, written around 1900-1910. Here she is talking about her paternal grandmother (mother of Morris Smith), Lucy Morris in the mid 1800’s, Hartford.

“I remember her very well, after dinner she used to come out of her bedroom in her grey silk dress and lace cap with purple ribbons, and bring out the dainty knitting she loved. There is a chair with a red knitted seat in the Esperanza keeping room I saw her work on. When she died there were linen sheets among her things which she had spun and woven. She said her mother was never satisfied unless there were three spinning wheels going in the house at once.”

I can’t think of what chair that might have been, unfortunately. And I don’t think the spinning wheel has any direct connection. Still a lovely picture.

Untold Stories Tuesday, Jun 25 2013 

Sometimes one hits a set of photographs and would dearly like to know more, such is the case with these two from summer 1909.

Image one: a group of children who appear to be determined to sink a canoe. The children are mostly unidentified, the location is somewhere in Long Island Sound. I think that one of the women in white is Lucy Morris Creevey.


Image two: a rowboat has appeared, manned by George Creevey (complete with ever present pipe and tie), the man in the water is probably Perry, all-round deckhand on the Mavourneen. The children appear to be being scolded, the canoe is nowhere in sight. However, it is clear the photo is taken only shortly after the other one, judging by the positions of the people on the diving platform (complete with slide, can you imagine the splinters!?)


And then what? And what is Perry standing on???

Gardening circa 1909 Friday, Jun 21 2013 


Or how to grow pole beans properly. A photograph taken of Esperanza’s then garden. Remember, it supplied the tenant farmer, his family, and Aunt Carlotta (pictured at the far end of the row) over the winter; it supplied all the guests at Esperanza, ranging from a constant 5-8 with spikes of close to 20 for weekends throughout the summer.
The garden shown is no longer part of the property, that section was sold off in the 1960’s and is now a winery.
My pole beans don’t look like that. Not only are poles not big enough, but this time around in addition to the turkeys, there was a nice young doe taking a nap….they are now netted.

From the Guestbook: 1878 Tuesday, Jun 18 2013 

I am not sure exactly who ‘Zenobia’ and ‘La Belle Peppermint’ are, but I do know that the latter was derived from a summer dress, striped red and white, at least judging by another cartoon of ‘La Belle’ showing a tall, slender woman dressed in a most remarkable dress of big diagonal stripes. Our clothes are very boring these days!

Chores Friday, Jun 7 2013 

Keeping up with a landscape of this nature requires a fair bit of work. This is made easier these days with an ever increasing armada of power equipment. And a modification to the types of gardening/landscaping. (I like shrubs for a reason)
In the 1870/1880’s it was a bit different. At that time there were a number of children around during the summer, usually six or seven.*
In addition to summer schooling and exploring all of the surrounding area, going as far as several towns away and hitching a ride back on a train, they were kept busy.
“There were chores which we were expected to do, and so we did them….On Saturday we were also required to rake the driveways and the many winding paths so as to have them look neatly cared for when Papa came up from New York on the evening train. We earned very good wages for that. Ten cents a week. And we had an extra privilege of earning more by digging dandelions from the lawn at ten cents a hundred, and nice long roots mind! Grandfather made us this offer and we were tremendously busy at it at every spare moment. But one day Wallace, who was the busiest digger of all of us, presented Grandfather with a heaping bushel basket full of thousands of dandelions. That was the end…as the suspicion that Wallace had gone far afield for those flourishing dandelions was strong…”
*The Ellsworth children: Helen Adelaide, Lucy, Bradford, Elizabeth; their cousin, Carl Davis; and the two Rood children, Wallace and Nan. The Roods were the family in charge of the farm.

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