Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mural Displays

New mural located just beyond the circulation desk in Pescosolido Library

In honor of our beautiful new mural created by Joshua Winer and David Fichter, I am organizing a series of displays based upon elements in the mural.  This week's display features two of the oldest parts of the campus landscape: the Mansion House and the Milestone.

Did you know that the Milestone, commissioned by John Dummer and carved by gravestone carver John Hartshorn, was part of a family rivalry in Byfield?  Two dominant local families, the Dummers and the Sewells, were each trying to position themselves as the leading family in the area.  Likewise both were disappointed when a compromise decision was made to name the parish Byfield, after Judge Byfield, rather than name it after their own families.  Dummer wanted to ensure his family's prominence, and so commissioned the milestone on his own property, with a triangle carved in the bottom, which had been established as a family symbol from an earlier carved doorstep.  Since milestones were important guides to travelers, having such a stone on one's land was a sign of importance.

19th century photograph of Mansion House

Mansion House is likewise filled with interesting stories, including several ghost stories.  Perhaps the most fun and most benign story centers on the lore of William and Katherine Dummer's arrival in the Mansion House.  William was bringing his bride to the summer home made for them after their wedding.  They rode his horse up to the house, and went through the door and up the steps to their bedroom while riding the horse!  Legend tells that when there is a blue moon in August, visitors can hear a horse's hooves on the back staircase. 
Since the school's birth, Mansion House has been part of the academy's history, housing not only masters such as Master Moody himself, Charles Ingham, Ted Eames, and others, but also serving as home to boarding students for many years.  Before the dining room was added to Commons in the 1880s, boarders were fed in the Mansion House dining room by local widows who took on that job. 

Mansion House has also been subject to a variety of renovation projects, the most recent of which took place in the 1960s when the Governor's Room was added onto the side of the house.