When our staff was first tasked with writing this blog, one of the ideas was to provide our membership and social media followers with a behind-the-scenes view of what happens on a day-to-day basis at Lexington Historical Society. Up until this point, most of my posts have dealt with ways that the Society has been improving the interpretation of our historic sites and the many exciting youth programs we’ve been developing. Today, I’m going to veer from those topics and provide a quick glimpse into an aspect of my position that always provides some excitement and learning opportunities, historic house maintenance.
Like in any home, the maintenance of our three historic properties is a never-ending job and I would like to personally thank Lester Savage, our Buildings Committee Chair, for all his help and advice as different issues pop up during the season and off-season. One of the more recent issues I’ve dealt with was a small infestation of yellow jackets at Munroe Tavern. Over the past few weeks, our guides and visitors have been reporting seeing yellow jackets flying around the Washington Room. I personally think they were just trying to view the chair that George Washington sat on while he dined at Munroe Tavern in 1789, but in more likelihood, they were looking for the warmth of the sun that is present in that room during the daylight hours. While walking around the exterior perimeter of the building, I noticed a few yellow jackets flying in and out of a crack in the corner to the eaves of Munroe Tavern. Assuming the space they were flying in and out of led to the attic, I made the ascent to the top region of the Tavern and discovered that the yellow jackets weren’t just flying into the Tavern for a quick visit. On the contrary, they had taken up a residence in the attic.
After consulting with a local beekeeper, Alix Bartsch, to determine what type of bee or hornet we had taking up temporary residence in our attic, I set out on the task of removing the nest from the attic rafters. After borrowing a beekeeper suit from my father-in-law, a beekeeper as well, I donned the suit and planned my battle strategy. Before I began my secret mission, I decided I should check in with Hugh for some last-minute advice on how to remove unwanted pests. Luckily for me, my task was much less dramatic and more successful than the mission the British Regulars embarked on in April of 1775. I was able to detach the nest from the ceiling of the attic and place it into a bag and remove the nest to an outside location. Thankfully the cool, crisp fall weather and the hornet spray I had applied earlier in the week made the yellow jackets a little sluggish because nobody even came to greet me.
As of Monday morning, there haven’t been any signs of the yellow jackets and the Tavern appears to be free of any other curious critters. Hope you enjoyed the behind-the-scenes look at the “other duties as assigned” portion of my job that you don’t normally see!
-Chris Kauffman, Education and Interpretation Manager
In 2013, Lexington Historical Society received a donation from the Whitman family of an Eames molded plywood lounge chair. Simple in design, yet an icon of modern style, the chair is known as an LCW (Low Chair Wood).
It came from the estate of Elizabeth and Robert Whitman. Elizabeth earned her BFA in Interior Design from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1949. Whitman worked as an interior designer for both The Architects Collaborative and Design Research, two widely known modern design firms. Her husband Robert received a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in structural engineering in 1951 and taught in MIT’s Department of Civil Engineering from 1957-1993.
Given the Whitmans’ experience with design and engineering, it is no surprise that they owned such an iconic chair, created by such an iconic couple. Charles and Ray Eames were arguably two of the most prolific and talented designers of the 20th century.
Before teaming up with her husband Charles, Ray Eames worked with Charles and Eero Saarinen in preparing molded plywood furniture designs for the Museum of Modern Art’s Organic Furniture Competition.
Charles and Ray Eames married in 1941 and moved to California. During the Second World War, the couple was commissioned by the United States Navy to produce molded plywood splints, stretchers, and experimental glider shells.
After the war, Charles and Ray continued to apply their creativity with wood to furniture design. This led to the creation of the molded plywood lounge chair, their first mass produced product, in 1946. If you look at the side of our chair, you can see the layers of wood veneer bonded together.
Other forms of the Eames chair became popular, especially their later work with Herman Miller, but the LCW style is the first of its kind in their opus and very recognizable, despite only being produced from 1946-47. We were pleased to receive a fine example of such an iconic object and to feature the chair in our mid-century modern Lextopia exhibit in 2015.
Just as the Historical Society’s 18th century objects help illuminate the story of the 18th century houses for which we care, mid-century modern objects help us tell the story of MCM art and architecture and the “second revolution” of Lexington.
If you are interested in what that might look like, join us for a mid-century modern cocktail party on November 2!
-Stacey Fraser, Collections and Outreach Manager
Featuring the voices of Lexington Historical Society permanent staff and occasional guest authors.