Category Archives: Miss Hague

Moving on ….moving outside….

Dateline August 2016:

Rear view from the red house..
Rear view from the red house..

 

 

The red house is now 80% complete. We can wait for winter to unpack boxes, paint, fine-tune, decorate– Turning our attention to the long neglected yard, the gardens and the grass.

 

The gardens and yard had been poorly tended since the late 1990s when the house changed hands, so we knew we had a fairly large landscaping project ahead. The damage incurred digging drainage trenches and foundation work added lots of insult to injury: the marble terrace –chopped up and obliterated, plants–uprooted, stonewalls–knocked over. Old foundation–crumbled walls. What used to be patches of grass, now littered with rocks, gravel, and cement chunks. Oh Boy.

Another big dig- this one for the gas line
Another big dig- this one for the gas line
The  old foundation...crumbled walls and all
The old foundation…crumbled walls and all

 

We often wonder what the yard looked like when it was in its prime.

I have been able to piece together an idea of what Miss Hague’s yard may have looked like from recollections of people who visited Miss Hague and Christina Conklin, the master gardener who nurtured the gardens when she owned and lived on the property during 1975- 1998.

 

“Although I was young, my memories of her and the two cottages are very sharp. Both were that New England red color. There were lovely gardens out back leading to a small stream. Polly and I (the only remaining members of our immediate family) still talk about them. The gardens were like an English country garden, organized beds, but loose flowers without the sort of restrictions found in French gardens. Those gardens were a magical place with paths down to the stream, a little rounded bridge, and paths through the beds. Miss Hague could be seen in the mornings in a straw hat with a tie, snipping away and filling up a shallow basket with blooms from the taller plants.  There might have been some vegetables and a strawberry patch. Not sure.” (Penelope Duffy, daughter of Dr. Alfred B. Starratt who inherited Miss Hague’s house upon her passing in 1971.)

 

 

In the course of all the research I have done about Miss Hague and the red house I stumbled upon a book by Robin Karson, Fletcher Steele, Landscape Architect, An account of a Gardenmaker’s life, 1885-1971 that documents the renowned landscape architect Fletcher Steele designed the gardens for Miss Hague in 1935.

 

Fletcher Steele graduated from Williams College and entered the Master of Landscape Architecture program at Harvard in 1907. Steele created over 700 gardens from 1915-1971. He was widely regarded as the key figure in the establishment of modern landscape design. Steele believed that landscape architecture was an art form, like painting or music. Steele renovated the gardens at Naumkeag for Mabel Choate, one of Marion Hague’s closest friends, which explored early Modernist rethinking of design and materials.

 

I have been unable to access any of Steele’s plans or drawings of the gardens at the red cottage. It certainly makes the mind reel, wondering how delightful and unique they could have been.

 

And this is where we are……………

what was field of grass and tiny narcissus bulbs.....
what was field of grass and tiny narcissus bulbs…..

Holidays and Miss Hague!

 

Grace and Henry and Cooper strolling up Yale Hill on Christmas morning
Grace and Henry and Cooper strolling up Yale Hill on Christmas morning

The red house really is a wonderful place to be in. It is a happy house.  It is full of light and  welcoming energy.  At the end of the day, when Will and I sit down  in front of the fire to catch up on the news,  not one evening goes by without looking at each other and saying,

“Can you believe we live here?” We are indeed so very very fortunate.

It feels good to fill the rooms with friends and family.  I wonder a lot about who lived in the house before us, and if they all felt the same way.

This holiday season we put the red house to the ultimate test and hosted four generations of my family (which happens to span 89 years in age between patriarch and the twins) and everything worked, everything flowed, everything was perfect. Just ask Grace and Henry who figured out how to run in circles around the downstairs, playing peek-a-boo and dissolving us all into gales of laughter.

So yes, a day doesn’t go by when I think I have to get back to posting on the blog- to keep you all updated and to tell you all how all that hard work was worth it.  It is not that I don’t want to, or am no longer interested- I do have a lot to post about- but it is just…. call it Christmas, call it working, call it my new role as airbnb chambermaid…call it too many excuses right?

And then this happened- a comment on my blog that magically appeared and has given me just the reason to start posting again :

I came across your blog about the red house that belonged to Marion Hague. I was doing some research on Marion Hague, who happened to be my great, great aunt. My father, James D. Hague was the last owner of the North Star gold mine in my family. I would love to tell you more about Marion, Eleanor, et al should you be interested.

I couldn’t be more excited about contacting this person, and finding out more about Miss Hague- I have missed writing about her.

More to Follow!

 

 

The Red House renovation continues

 

DSC_3748When I found Miss Hague’s letters and checks I dropped into the research rabbit hole to find out what I could about her. I came across a considerable amount of information that will make a fun and interesting post one day, but now it is time to get back to writing about all the work we have done on the red house.

There is a lot to document as I  catch up with this blog. The project is not a sprint, but more like a marathon and today I feel our renovation is at the 20 mile marker, so close and yet still so far to go. Kind of like this spring.

I have been scrolling through the hundreds of photographs I have taken and it is an astounding reminder of all the work we have poured into this renovation, and how much progress we have made.

I wonder how to condense it all, without driving everyone, including me, to boredom. Pictures help but…..In my writing workshops with Michelle Gillett I have been working on  a new writing style-condensing a ten year period of time to only two pages using short, three word sentences. I think it is a really cool exercise and thought I would use it to try to capture the renovation progress of three months, October, November and December,into three word sentences, with photos of course.

I hope it works. It should be an easy read.

The renovation continues.

Plaster is removed

Lath is removed.

It is dusty

Insulation is bagged

Bags and bags of old insulation...ick
Bags and bags of old insulation…ick

Windows come out

We could not restore the corner windows in the master bedroom. This is the beginning of reframing and opening up the corner for more dramatic windows.
We could not restore the corner windows in the master bedroom. This is the beginning of reframing and opening up the corner for more dramatic windows.
We could not restore this window in the living room either- too much rot from water damage
We could not restore this window in the living room either- too much rot from water damage

Floors are removed

The original wide plank floor boards in the kitchen are carefully removed one by one so they can be restored.   The opaque white bubbles that can be seen in the photograph are the particles of dust and old insulation flying around- definitely respirator worthy.
The original wide plank floor boards in the kitchen are carefully removed one by one so they can be restored. The opaque white bubbles that can be seen in the photograph are the particles of dust and old insulation flying around- definitely respirator worthy.
These are the original wide plank floor boards stacked and ready for repurpose
These are the original wide plank floor boards stacked and ready for repurpose

 

Basement has dirt

Dig out dirt

The floors removed in the original two rooms of the house. Underneath is a small basement space , but mostly crawl space and dirt which had to be removed.
The floors removed in the original two rooms of the house. Underneath is a small basement space , but mostly crawl space and dirt which had to be removed.

 

Plywood is laid

The kitchen in the red house. Plywood down, and new framing. Note the make shift supports like lally columns to hold up the house.
The kitchen in the red house. Plywood down, and new framing. Note the make shift supports like lally columns to hold up the house.

Walls come down

Writing is discovered

When we broke through the wall separating two bedroom upstairs we discovered writing on the walls...turns out the room had always been one room, but the family who lived in the house put a wall up so each of their daughters would not have to share a bedroom.
When we broke through the wall separating two bedroom upstairs we discovered writing on the walls…turns out the room had always been one room, but the family who lived in the house put a wall up so each of their daughters would not have to share a bedroom. This is Tara’s autograph wall circa 1986

 

Walls are re framed

Framing the new kitchen wall. Before the space looking straight ahead to the door was a make shift laundry room and hallway.
Framing the new kitchen wall. Before the space looking straight ahead to the door was a make shift laundry room and hallway.
Framing in the hallway, bath and laundry, and "gallery" space by front door
Framing in the hallway, bath and laundry, and “gallery” space by front door

New windows are framed

Back to one room- On the far left you can make out the original roof line of the salt box.
Back to one room- On the far left you can make out the original roof line of the salt box.

Tree work begins

photo-54

Then it snows

The front entrance room, plywood down for floors, and new framing
The front entrance room, plywood down for floors, and new framing and snow…………..

We are frustrated

Arborist is undaunted

Caleb Turner getting prepared
Caleb Turner getting prepared

He is fearless

Caleb Turner in the trees
Caleb Turner in the trees

Locust is tall

Holding my camera in two hands, holding my breath watching Cal climb his way up into the tree
Holding my camera in two hands, holding my breath watching Cal climb his way up into the tree

Locust is rotten

Locust is removedIMG_2278_2

Basement is opened

The stairs down to the creepy basement. The foundation now opened to the outside
The stairs down to the creepy basement. The foundation now opened to the outside

Access is easier

The basement access now cleared for oil tank removal, new footings and all kinds of concrete.
The basement access now cleared for oil tank removal, new footings and all kinds of concrete.

 

Extricate oil tank

Happy Oil tank removers
Happy Oil tank removers

Snow is slippery

Slide tank out

The snow came in handy- sliding the oil tank down the hill
The snow came in handy- sliding the oil tank down the hill
Safe and sound
Safe and sound

 

 

Concrete truck arrives

The cement mixer arrives
The cement mixer arrives

Concrete is poured

 

December 31, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

Behind Closed Doors series sponsored by the Stockbridge Library – Tonight at 6:30

Red House

 

 

 

I will be speaking about the red house and white cottage tonight at 6:30.

Please come!

http://stockbridgelibrary.org/2015/04/behind-closed-doors-at-home-in-stockbridge-7/

Researching Miss Hague…a peek into American history

“I always called it Miss Hague’s house. She was an old lady who lived there for years. She had one of the first cars in Stockbridge. Her license plate was the number 3.”     

Susan Leroy Merrill, Yale Hill resident.

Miss Marion Hague owned the red house from 1914, perhaps even earlier, until 1971 when the house and contents passed onto the local Episcopal minister upon her death. I was so excited to find the letters and her cancelled checks that it has led me to do a fair amount of research, digging up clues and trying to string together random snippets of information to find out more about her.

Doing the research about Miss Hague has been like slipping down Alice’s rabbit hole and the next thing I know I am somewhere else, my own version of Wonderland-Miss Hague’s world, and weeks have passed and I haven’t posted a word.

Surprisingly this has also become six degrees of separation for my husband Will, who is related in various ways to several of the main characters in Miss Hague’s life that I have stumbled upon,  including the artist Lydia Field Emmett who also owned one of the three plots of land in the deed, Frank Crowninshield who started Vanity Fair, and Joseph Hodges Choate, lawyer and diplomat.

My research into whom Miss Hague’s parents were has become a fascinating look into American history..think gold mines…abolitionism…artists… There is much much more to discover and post.

This is my teaser alert….

Miss Hague’s father, James D Hague, Harvard educated, was a mining engineer in San Francisco, Ca. He purchased North Star Mining Company,Grass Valley California, in 1887. It was the second largest producing gold mine in the country. Miss Hague’s mother was Mary Ward Foote, great grandaughter of General Andrew Ward who served under George Washington in the Revolutionary War, also cousin of Harriet Beecher Stowe, American abolitionist and author, and sister in law of Mary Hallock Foote, an American illustrator and author.

How is that for starters? It only gets better from here.

 

These walls are talking…letters and all

Ever wonder about the people who used to live in your house? Were they happy living there? Were they nice? Did they have a zillion dogs, or a gaggle of happy children? And ever let your mind wander and wonder what you might find left behind in the back of a closet or under a floorboard?

Our tenants, who resided in the red house when we bought it, had been there for ten or so years before we began demolition this fall. They told us that there were two benevolent ghosts, one who smoked and one who turned on the lights and often cooked bacon in the wee hours of the morning, especially near Thanksgiving.

I am sure the number of stories of the red house formed during its six lives spanning two plus centuries are enough to make my head spin.

A few weeks ago we discovered generous clues to the story of one of the owners of the red house, Miss Hague; three letters written to Miss Hague and a fistful of her cancelled checks in the walls of one of the downstairs rooms.

first floor bedroom, used by Miss Hague when the steep narrow stairs became too difficult for her to manage
first floor bedroom, used by Miss Hague when the steep narrow stairs became too difficult for her to manage

 

 

For starters, here is an excerpt of a letter written to Miss Hague from Joseph Choate Jr., dated January 10th, 1896.

Letter to Marian Hague from Joseph H. Choate Jr. January 1896
Letter to Marian Hague from Joseph H. Choate Jr. January 1896

Thursday, January 10, 1896

Dear Marian

   Many thanks for you letter of December twenty seven, which arrived duly, and gave me great and unusual pleasure. I was a little enisled knowing that no letter would come from you for a month of so after your departure, I imagine no one could reach you for a similar period. Which shows what the study of logic will do for me.

 

And now I am off and running, talking to neighbors, scouring the Internet, trying to fill in her story.

 

STAY TUNED