Enduring

Last weekend (last month, as you’re reading this), a dear friend and I met over morning cups of cocoa and tea, caught up on family news, and shared a farewell hug before she headed out of state to visit relatives. An unremarkable encounter pre-COVID, that brief face-to-face meeting takes on a special sweetness as I—and so many others—look forward to some semblance of post-vaccine normalcy.

We’re starting to see encouraging signs. Museums are opening up, promoters are scheduling artisan shows and re-enactments, people are planning vacations. We traveled ourselves, returning to Philadelphia to view the newly restored and re-opened galleries at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

We give you a brief glimpse of how the museum rearranged iconic objects and newly acquired pieces of American art in the Robert L. McNeil, Jr. Galleries, part of the Core Project directed by award-winning architect Frank Gehry within the 1928 landmark building.

As the architecture underwent renovation, the curatorial staff delved into immigration, colonialism, trade, and underrepresented narratives in American art from 1650 to 1850 to re-imagine its development through a geographically broader and more culturally inclusive lens.

While in the City of Brotherly Love, we also spent a day at Cedar Grove, built in 1750 as a summer retreat by the Paschall family. It’s now one of the six Park Charms— second homes built by the city’s wealthy merchant class to escape the overcrowding and yellow fever epidemics of the city.

All six grand mansions stand in Fairmount Park overlooking the Schuylkill River, although Cedar Grove didn’t join them until the 1920s, after the family moved the house and donated it to the city’s residents for all to enjoy. Expanded and remodeled during five generations of family ownership, Cedar Grove provided formal, personal, and utilitarian rooms in which to photograph the work of today’s best heritage artisans.

Happily, our Directory continues to highlight the best work of new makers as well as sublime objects made by the artisans who set the bar for superb reproductions and interpretations of early antiques. As you look through these pages, note how well these newly created objects fit with the originals at Cedar Grove.

Another notable collection—featuring Chippendale and Federal furniture, Hudson River School paintings, and weather vanes acquired by Robert and Mary Ann Peter over six decades—finally found a suitable home in national landmark. The Peters, who consider themselves the latest caretakers of the 1772 Nash-Hooper House in Hillsborough, North Carolina, invited us to share the home of early patriots and prominent officials as well as the couple’s glorious gardens.

This issue also examines the emergence of American democracy as practiced in the town meeting. Brought to America by the Pilgrims, the idea of personal representative government quickly spread throughout New England. Even today, thousands of small towns hold annual meetings, where every adult resident is invited to express his or her views and vote on the budget, road maintenance, and local ordinances that impact their daily lives.

We hope you’ll soon have a chance to visit a museum, attend a show, or participate in a local cause as a way of emerging from stasis and rediscovering your passions.

Jeanmarie Andrews

Executive Editor

Click here to post a comment about this letter.
Subscribers Partners Advertisers About Us Contact Us
EarlyAmericanLife.com Copyright © 2021 Firelands Media Group LLC