A Pony in the Pony Lot

Ham Pony Field

This is the Eleanor Ham Pony Field on Mill Street; sometimes referred to as the Ham Pony Lot (at least in my book – not literal book mind you). What struck me as nice when I saw this is that horses had a stop-over there one morning as I was heading in to work. Horses and ponies and other farm animals do not frequent this lot much anymore. The land was given to the Nantucket Historical Association about 1979. At one point around Town, there were open spaces that were communally used for grazing. William Mitchell had a plot of land further up Vestal Street near the Quaker cemetery on what is now Quaker Road. There he kept his horse and did a small bit of farming; though the family joke was that he grew more flowers than edibles because he loved bright colors and as a Quaker, bright colors were frowned upon.

JNLF

Painting Has Begun on the Library Wing!

Sanding the porch and steel windows

Sanding the porch and steel windows

Now that the masonry is complete on the MMA’s Former Library – soon to become the EcologyLab – the painters have moved in. The first order of business is the original steel windows. A few will need repairs at a later time but in order to stop the rust from growing, we have gone ahead and painted the windows. The painter, Jim Tyler, and his crew began with a special primer paint for steel. It’s a lovely warm brown color and we all toyed for more than a few moments about keeping the windows brown. But historically, they were white so the crew applied several coats of white to the window sashes and trim. Next up will be painting the gutters and downspouts and finally the stucco. The stucco will be returned to its more grayish brown color which it was originally. The stucco we all see today does not appear to be the original final coating – a new layer of stucco was applied at some point in the mid-20th century. The paint on the stucco will be a mineral paint which is environmentally friendly and will also allow the stucco to breathe and release moisture, not trap it and cause humidity and water issues for the building.

You may have noticed some re-shingling on the east side along the street as well. This was done by carpenter Matt Anderson who works on historic structures. We noted that the building had only been re-shingled one time before on this elevation. Anderson also repaired and replaced gutters and downspouts on the wood portion of the building.

The special steel primer coat on the steel windows.

The special steel primer coat on the steel windows.

So keep your eyes open as you come up Vestal Street and stay tuned because we continue to plan for the interior. We have had the building cleaned by a professional company from off-island in anticipation of the natural science collections moving in when all work is completed. Currently, we are working with Landmark Facilities Group – an environmental engineering group that has worked on Mitchell House and on a system for the Archives and Special Collections – to develop an appropriate HVAC system for the collections and lab spaces. So while there might always be a lot of activity on the building – we are still working on it!

JNLF

Maria Mitchell In Her Own Words

Maria Mitchell, ca. 1865

1875, June 20.

A meeting of the Officers of Congress was called at the house of Mrs. Hanaford, 5 Summit Ave, Jersey City. The weather was intensely cold . . . It was a question who should preside. Mrs. Hanaford thought the Chairman of the Executive Committee should and I had been told that I should, etc. The question was settled by non-arrival of Chairman of Ex. Com . . . . I made many blunders, as I have never presided before, but I continued for 4 hours. We did a few good things . . . . The most serious question in my mind was the looseness in regard to membership . . . . I spoke for a tight rule in this respect, and begged for high-toned character in our papers, and for a very very high toned morality in our membership. I was amused to find myself talked of as so “decidedly conservative . . . .”

Maria Mitchell was one of the founders of the Association for the Advancement of Women and president for a term. Its congresses were held yearly in various places, typically in the Northeast. The Mrs. Hanaford she refers to is the Rev. Phebe Coffin Hanaford, a Quaker daughter of Nantucket, who would become the first woman ordained as a Universalist minister in New England.

I, too, find it amusing that Maria was talked of as conservative but I can also see that as the women’s movement grew that there were more women involved whom Maria would feel were not as “high-toned” or were not as “moral” as others. Schisms occurred within the women’s rights movement and while Maria’s first and foremost push for women was women in education, she did believe and fight for women’s rights. But did you know that she turned down a speaking engagement offered to her by Susan B. Anthony? I would say that well illustrates where Maria’s thoughts and allegiance were at.

JNLF

Our First Astronomer’s Family

Harwood Siblings

In mid-May, the great nephew and great-niece of our first MMA Astronomer and Director of the Observatory, Margaret Harwood, came to Nantucket for a visit. They had not been here since she was our astronomer and then they were young teenagers. I gave them a tour of the Observatory and chatted with them about what I knew of Miss Harwood – known as Marnie to her family and close friends – and they regaled me with some stories of their own. It was a nice visit and it was amazing to see just how strong genes are – Miss Harwood’s nephew looks just like her! At the end of his visit, Miss Harwood’s nephew pulled an envelope from his pocket and presented to me a sterling silver bracelet that belonged to her and which will now become a part of the MMA collection. I suspect it was given to her upon her retirement – I need to go back and look in the annual reports to see. Engraved on the small plate is: M. Harwood/ Observatory/ Nantucket, Mass. Coupled with her Radcliffe Graduate Chapter Medal and all her papers, astronomical glass plates, and other pieces, this makes a wonderful collection to better represent Miss Harwood, her time at MMA, and all she did fir this organization and Nantucket. Thank you to her nephew and niece!

JNLF

Masonry Complete!

MMA Library Masonry Complete

For the first time in many, many months, we can finally see the Library/EcologyLab building without any sort of scaffolding or tenting! The masonry work is now complete! A huge thank you to island mason Wayne Morris and his mason tender daughter, Andrea, for their wonderful work. Steel was replaced, cracks filled, a large area of the southeast corner rebuilt. It was much more complicated and required much more work then I just mentioned here but I have detailed much of it in previous posts. The carpenter is wrapping up some re-shingling and gutter and downspout replacement and repair. Next up, the painting of the stucco portion, the original steel windows, and the original gutters and downspouts on the building. Island painter Jim Tyler and his crew will be painting the building with a mineral paint – environmentally and stucco friendly building.

And we are currently at work on planning the interior work so stay tuned!

JNLF

The Power in This Child’s Hand

Atheneum Card

In this child’s hand, he holds power. The power to unlock doors, worlds, and the universe. At age one, he got his first library card. A card that will unlock many doors for him throughout his life – those that are real, those that are imaginary, those that someday could be.

At this library, our Atheneum, Maria Mitchell was the first librarian. It saw the first anti-slavery convention on Nantucket. Its Great Hall and attendees witnessed Frederick Douglass’ first speech to a mixed race audience. Numerous other luminaries came before Douglass – from island-born Lucretia Coffin Mott to Emerson, Thoreau, and William Lloyd Garrison. It was a space filled with books that opened the door and the world to Nantucket’s daughters and sons – always thirsty for knowledge. It was a repository for fantastic finds from around the world brought back by island whalemen, travelers, visitors, coastal traders, merchant ships, and fishing vessels.

He may not remember when he got his library card since he is so young. I acquired mine a few years older but remember that day. I still have my paper Atheneum card from when I was a child and when the children’s room was down in the basement. People screw up their faces remembering that dank space – I remember the wonder it held – and the orange/red carpet and being closed if it flooded. But that didn’t stop me – we were there several times a week. I also still have my library card from the town I grew up in in Connecticut – another place we were always visiting. As the daughter of a former English teacher who is also a voracious reader, books have always been a part of my world and have let me escape to other places and learn about new things. Now, my son will know the wonder of a book – the wonder of a library – and the treasures it holds and the history the Nantucket Atheneum has witnessed as well.

JNLF

Maria Mitchell In Her Own Words

Maria Mitchell, ca. 1865

May 27. {1857} There is this great difference between Niagara and other wonders of the world, that is you get no idea from descriptions or even from paintings. Of the Mammoth Cave you have a conception from what you are told, of the Natural Bridge you get really a truthful impression from a picture. But Cave and Bridge are in still life, Niagara is all activity and change. No picture gives you the varying form of the water of the change of color; no description conveys to your mind the ceaseless roar. So too the ocean must be unrepresentable to those who have not looked upon it.

Maria Mitchell would tour the Mammoth Cave and the Natural Bridge during her trip to the southern United States as Prudence Swift’s chaperone – I have written of these travels and Prudence before. Niagara Falls is a place she likely saw on her way to visit her younger sister Phebe Mitchell Kendall, who once lived with her husband in Pennsylvania. I was a bit surprised that she feels the way she does about the Cave and Bridge being well-represented by images but I do kind of see her point. However, Niagara, the ocean, any moving body of water – she is right. You don’t fully comprehend it until you hear it, touch and taste it, see its colors, and feel it splash, sprinkle, or mist across your face. Niagara certainly mists across your face – sort of like a breezy day at the beach and the salt mist that slowly builds across your face and coats the beach grass so that it shimmers in the sunlight.

JNLF

Got Spores? Portrait of the Curator as Darth Vader Redux

Mold cleaning

Maybe a year or so ago I posted a similar image of myself while cleaning the Special Collection books. Bet you didn’t know I tend to wear a mask and goggles more often and in the Mitchell House to boot. This is my “Mitchell House rite of spring.” Cleaning mildew off the ceiling in the front sitting room and on occasion – such as this year – the sitting room.

I am bundled up because even though it was April 28th, it was about 45F in the Mitchell House. I wear a mask and goggles for two reasons. 1. I should not be breathing in the rubbing alcohol, and, 2. I should not be breathing in any spores. (Is my life GLAMOROUS or what?!) I use three parts water to one part rubbing alcohol. This not only kills the spores on the top but below the surface as well. Bleach just gets the spores on the top and then opens the lower ones, allowing the spores to continue to grow.

So, my first thing in Mitchell House is always this task as for the winter all the furniture is covered with sheets and plastic and gathered in the middle of the room allowing easy movement and protecting the historic artifacts.

JNLF

Busy As Beavers!

East side of building with new lintel on lower level.

East side of building with new lintel on lower level.

Things are speeding along at the MMA Library – soon to be the EcologyLab!

Mason Wayne Morris and his crew (daughter Andrea) are working on replacing the steel lintels over the windows on the main floor and handling the cracking and damage to the southeast corner of the exterior. The carpenter has brought the new wood gutters to the site and applied the first coat of primer. I have ordered mineral paint samples, painted them onto the building, made the color selection, and handed in the Historic District Commission application for a paint color change – though really we are returning the stucco to its original color when it was built in the 1930s. And, the remediation crew is here to get rid of any mildew or any other contaminants in the building. The environmental engineers have made a site visit and completed their recommendations. Next, we will be designing a new HVAC system for the interior – since we will have collections in the building – and once the mason has completed his work, Jim Tyler and his painting crew will paint the stucco and the trim and windows of the Wing. The exterior work is moving along and now the interior is getting under way. We have some preliminary schematics for the interior as well with more to come – and to share – in the next few weeks so stay tuned!

Mineral paint choices based on original stucco.

Mineral paint choices based on original stucco.

JNLF

The original terracotta tiles and damage that is being repaired.

The original terracotta tiles and damage that is being repaired.

Maria Mitchell In Her Own Words

Maria Mitchell, ca. 1865

April 2. {1857} New Orleans. This morning we went to the French market. The French character of the city was shown in the narrow streets through which we passed intended only for foot passengers, very narrow. The sidewalks meeting in the middle of the street except for the separation of the gutter . . . . The French market was not clean enough to suit us . . . We passed through Jackson Square and saw the monument and looked at the flowers, then went on to the Spanish Cathedral . . . .

Maria Mitchell’s description of the Vieux Carré (French Quarter) still seems true to what it is today. Having lived in NOLA for about three years – my husband was stationed there with the US Coast Guard – we lived Uptown in the Riverbend area– where the mighty Mississippi River makes a bend around the area know as Carrollton. That arch that the river makes and where the city of NOLA was carved out also gives the city its name of the Crescent City. The Vieux Carré was laid out very much like an old European city with the streets in a grid pattern – all right angles to one another but the rest of the city as it developed lost such a pattern which makes for confusion for some. Having worked for a flower and antique garden ornament shop I have the privilege of entering many private homes and driving streets in a delivery van. The one requisite for anyone going into the Vieux Carré for a delivery was they much return with beignets and café au lait from Café du Monde – even the NOLA natives requested that. But NOLA still resembles the place that Maria once visited as a young woman’s chaperone – just as her home of Nantucket still looks like it once did. There are of course all manner of new buildings, signage, risqué clubs and more that did not exist in her time. But the sidewalk street with gutter – those still exist – such as Pirate Alley. Jackson Square and the monument – still filled with flowers. The French market – still there too. And she comments on dirtiness – yes, that exists too. In fact, early in the morning they still come through to hose out the streets. And trash pick-up? Don’t be surprised if you see a garbage truck at 9PM – and don’t be surprised if you cannot find a garbage can! Somehow though, they keep it relatively clean.

JNLF