Thursday, April 17, 2014

Raceland (2)

This post is a follow-up to Raceland. Raceland is somewhat fascinating because it's a bit hard to imagine that there was once a place in Framingham (not too far from Stop and Shop on Temple Street) where people would flock en masse to witness thoroughbred horse races. It kinda blows the mind a little bit. It did really happen though as the following scans from the Boston Public Library photostream on Flickr attest. The pictures were taken by Boston photographer Leslie Jones.

This is a picture of Petee-wrack, John Macomber's most famous race horse. The picture was taken in 1928 or 29, which means that we are seeing the stables before the 1930 fire. Copyright © Leslie Jones. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

Here's a nice view of the stables before the fire. Copyright © Leslie Jones. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

The steeplechase racetrack at Raceland with the stables in the background (pre fire). Copyright © Leslie Jones. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

This is John Macomber himself with his two dogs. The picture is dated 1931-05. Copyright © Leslie Jones. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

These are the "new" stables built this time out of brick. The picture is dated 1932-06-18. Copyright © Leslie Jones. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

A nice front view of the "new" stables (that building is of course still standing inside the Macomber Farm compound but the racetracks and the people are gone.) The picture is dated 1932-06-18. Copyright © Leslie Jones. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

This appears to be the other race track, this one flat, at Raceland (although I could be wrong). The picture is dated 1932-06-18. Copyright © Leslie Jones. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

Of course, John Macomber didn't live in the stables with the horses. The stables were attached to the house where John Macomber actually lived (with his beloved dogs). It has been said that John Macomber would sometimes bring a horse from the stables to his living room to show his guests.

The following scans come from the Framingham Public Library Local History photostream on flickr. I hope it's ok for me to put these up here (If it's not, I'll remove them.)

This is the house part of the "new" stables (view from the back).

This looks like the living room of the living quarters at Raceland. I think John Macomber might have been obsessed by thoroughbreds.

This is the same room but viewed from the opposite side.

Reading Susan Gordon in "The Man in the Net", it seems that Raceland was used in the movie "The Man in the Net" with Alan Ladd and Carolyn Jones. Now, I've just watched the whole movie (which happens to be quite enjoyable) and I really saw no evidence of this. Maybe interior or great outdoors shots? All I know is that you certainly don't see the stables in the movie.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ezra Ames

Ezra Ames (1768–1836) was a rather noted and prolific portrait painter active mostly in the beginning of the 19th century in Albany, NY. He was not originally a so-called fine artist (His early painting works involved signs, carriages and furniture, probably gilding and lettering.) but he did become one. At some point, he probably figured out that there was a good market for portrait painting and took it on. It is said that portraitist Gilbert Stuart was his inspiration. His most famous portrait is probably the one of once New York State Governor, George Clinton. Another notable Ames' work is a multi-figured portrait of the Fondey family.

The Fondey family, Ezra Ames, 1803.

He wouldn't be featured in this blog unless there was a connection with Framingham. Well, there is one, a quite obvious one. He was born in Framingham. His parents were Jesse Eames (Why is Ezra Ames not known as Ezra Eames is a bit puzzling.) and Bette Bent (1743-1776). Eames is of course a very famous name in Framingham, especially in South Framingham. Ezra's dad, Jesse Eames (1739-1829), was a dentist right here in Framingham but also a captain in the Army (during the revolutionary war). Jesse remarried in 1777 in Sturbridge, MA to a Dorothy Brown of Sturbridge. He had six kids with Bette and another three with Dorothy. At some point (not sure when but definitely after 1790, they year of the census), he moved to Staatsburg, NY. For the record, Jesse's parents were Henry Eames and Ruth Newton while Bette's parents were John Bent and Elizabeth Reed.

In 1790, Ezra Ames was living in Worcester, MA. In 1793, he settled in Albany, NY, and really made a huge name for himself in portrait painting. He started doing conventional oil portraits in 1792 but was actively painting miniature portraits (miniatures) before that.

Now, a good question to ask is where the young Ezra lived in Framingham. Well, I have no idea quite yet but a good guess would be the famous Eames red house, which started its life in 1721. Let's examine this a bit further since I did write about the house (some time ago though). The Eames red house was built by Henry Eames, grand-son of Thomas Eames whose family was massacred during King Philip's war and father of Jesse Eames, Ezra's very own dad. It looks like the house went to Henry Eames (1725-1772), Jesse's older brother, so I doubt Jesse Eames and Bette Bent lived there. Thanks to [EAMES] Cpt. Jesse Eames of Dutchess County NY 1829 which shows the lineage of Captain Jesse Eames, one learns that Bette Eames, the first child of Jesse and Dorothy (nice to see she was named after his first wife), was born on 12 Oct 1778 in East Sudbury, MA (now, Wayland). We also know from other sources that Bette Bent, Jesse's first wife, died in 1776, but the important thing is that she died in Framingham. I am no Sherlock Holmes but it's relatively safe to say that Ezra Ames lived in Framingham from his birth to his mom's death, that is, from 1768 to 1776. Once Jesse married again, the family moved to Wayland, MA. If you, faithful reader, have an idea where Ezra lived in Framingham, give me a sign because I'd like to know.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller

I remember seeing an exhibition about her at the Danforth museum, and I think it may be a good idea to talk a little bit about her.

Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller (1877-1968) was primarily a sculptor. She's now regarded as a precursor of the Harlem Renaissance movement.

Meta was born in Philadelphia in 1877. After graduating from the "Pennsylvania Museum and School for Industrial Art" in 1897, she went abroad to further her studies and craft. She stayed in Paris for a while (1899-1902) where her mentor was no other than the great Auguste Rodin. Apparently, she was not a student of his but he kinda kept an helpful eye on her, being quite enamored by her works. She came back to Philadelphia, her home city, to open her own studio. In 1909, she married Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller (born in Liberia), a noted neurologist and psychiatrist, and that's how she ended up in Framingham (At the time, the good doctor actually lived at the Westborough Hospital.) In 1910, Meta lost 16 years of work (and her tools) when a fire destroyed the warehouse that housed all her art stuff in Philly (16 years of work). That (material) tragedy put her art career on hold for a while although I am sure her family life at home kept her quite busy. It took about three years for Meta to produce more art. "Spirit of Emancipation" is the piece that brought her back to the art scene (1913). This sculpture can be seen in Harriet Tubman Park in the South End. Up until 1929, she had set up space in the attic of the family home. Upon growing concerns (from her own husband) that the space was not adequate health-wise, she opened a new studio on the shore of Learned Pond, at 135 Warren Road, not too far from the couple's house (and their three children) located at 31 Warren Road. She contracted tuberculosis in 1953, the year her husband died, but recovered after two years of confinement in a sanatorium in Waltham.

She was named after the daughter of Senator Richard Vaux (Meta Vaux), a customer of her mom who owned a hair-dressing parlor. In the 1960s, she sculpted a bronze plaque depicting a doctor and two nurses which is supposed to be at the Framingham Union Hospital (It should still be there.)

The Fuller house (Solomon Carter Fuller and Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller) at 31 Warren Rd, Framingham, MA. Well, it's the right address but I would like to have confirmation that it's the right house. According to Zillow (Framingham), it was built in 1909, which is right on the money.

135 Warren Rd where Meta's studio was supposed to be. According to Zillow, the house on that plot was built in 1930, so that must be it.

A little bit closer to the building at 135 Warren Rd. Looks like a Tudor style house.

Aerial view of the area around 135 Warren Rd. Meta's old studio should be right below the marker.

If you want to learn a lot more about Meta, I suggest reading the Meta Fuller catalog (1984-85) from an exhibition at Danforth during the 1984-85 season. The exhibition I saw at Danforth was in 2008-09 (It was called "Meta Warrick Fuller, Sculptures from the studio".)

If you have info, photos, stories, etc, concerning Meta Warrick Fuller, I would love to see them and I'd be more happy to publish them here (If you let me do so.)