Thursday, September 29, 2011

What Does Wiawaka Mean?

The current mission of Wiawaka is to provide enrichment and revitalization for women at a historic lakefront setting. But shortly after its founding, Katrina Trask (who donated some of the land to founder Mary Wiltse Fuller), wrote the following piece. The original is a beautiful piece done in calligraphy.

Some of the border decoration on the original.
Photo by Megan Springate, June 18, 2011.

What is the meaning of the name Wiawaka. This question echoes from year to year when Holiday House opens its hospitable doors. How may we tell its meaning.

We may give in few words the Genesis of the name. How we found it or rather how we made it.

The last lines of Goethe's Foust are these

All things transitory
But as symbols are sent
Earth's insufficiency
Here grows to event
The Indescribable
Here it is done
The Woman's Soul leadeth us
Upward and On
--Bayard Taylors Translation

The Woman's Souls is Bayard Taylors rendering of a word that has come to be immortal "Ewigweibliche"

As our work is upon the shores of Lake Horicon where the music of the Indian still lingers and where the legend of the Mohawk and the Abenaki still are told it seems fitting to use the Indian tongue.

Bayard Taylor says in his notes on the translation of Foust "I can find no English equivalent of das Ewigweibliche except Woman's Soul which will express very nearly the same idea to those who feel the spirit which breathes and burns throughout the Scene.

Love is the all uplifting and all redeeming power on Earth and in Heaven and to man it is revealed in its most pure and perfect form through woman. Thus in the transitory life of Earth it is only a symbol of its deviner being the the possibilities of Love which Earth can never fulfil become realities in the higher life which follows. The Spirit which woman interprets to us here still draws us Upward there.

If Bayard Taylor found no English equivalent for das Ewigweibliche how may we find an equivalent in the crude language of the Indian? It seems a daring thing to do at yet we have essayed it. WIAWAKA is in truth the very freest rendering. Perhaps we have caught an elemental quality from the elemental language which will compensate for the Literary license.

The exact meaning of WIAWAKA is The Spirit of God in Woman.

All this is simple enough to tell it is quite another thing to express the thought, the hope the ideal that lay back of the meaning.

It is no easy task to put an inward spiritual grace into an outward visible sign, and it is even more difficult to put the subtle grace of a thought into the explanitory words How can we describe the indescribable? Yet something we may try to say.

We have chosen the name WIAWAKA with a high purpose toward our work taking it as the outward symbol of the inward grace of the work.

WIAWAKA implies the though the hope that this work shall not be an organized institution of circumstance alone but that it shall be a work of the Spirit that not merely holiday rest and practical refreshment shall be given to women but that there shall be felt by all within the circle of WIAWAKA the inspiration and consideration of woman's privelege and womans obligation; the noblesse oblige of woman to exalt to uplift to inspire.

May we Founders Associates and Girl Guests all Sisters together finding here more leisure ponder our opportunity and study how we may realize our splendid obligation. We women have a double obligation.

There is the obligation of the life mortal to work to do something which will make us a part of the creative world around us. A great Queen of modern times has taken for one of her mottoes Work.

What better motto could be found? Work is the criterion of character. It makes no difference what that work is whether it is making shirts making collars writing books sweeping the floor tying bundles or painting pictures -- so long as it is well done.

There is also the spiritual obligation of the life eternal to lead Upward and on. Let us remember this. Let us feel a demand within us that every man every other woman and every child we meet must be the purer the better the more uplifted for the meeting.

Let us have a sense of exalted consecration about our influence that will restrain us from doing from saying from seeing from reading things that make more difficult the achievement of the true Ideal of Life.

We have chosen the name Wiawaka that we may by the echo of the word keep before us this ideal.

The great Spirit in Woman

Let us remember my sisters Associate Members and Girl Guests remember the obligation laid upon us by the Most High to lead Upward and On to a finer sweeter saner purer realization of Life to a higher holier concept of Love to a clearer Vision of God.

-- Katrina Trask

Some of the border decoration on the original.
Photo by Megan Springate, June 18, 2011.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Archaeology of the Cupboard: Part II

Last week, in Archaeology of the Cupboard: Part I, I described some of the small plates in use at Wiawaka and how I was able to find out when many of them were made. What can this tell us about Wiawaka?

Syracuse China maker's mark indicating this small Wiawaka plate was manufactured in November (indicated by the dots) of 1961 (indicated by the number 90).(1) Photograph by Megan E. Springate, June 17, 2011.

When I first looked at the hotel ware dishes in the cupboard, I assumed that at least some of them, including the custom Wiawaka plates, would date to the first half of the twentieth century. I assumed incorrectly; a preliminary survey of the makers' marks and date codes on the small plates indicates that they were manufactured in the 1950s and 1960s. The Wiawaka small plates, in particular, were manufactured in November 1961, November 1966, and December 1966. This variation in manufacturing dates on its own is testament to broken dishes having to be replaced; most of the Wiawaka small plates were made in 1966, bought for the 1967 season after the initial order of plates made in 1961.

What were they eating off of during the first half of the twentieth century, and what was going on in the 1950s/1960s that hotel ware plates completely replaced whatever was being used before?

Part of the answer was revealed in the Wiawaka Archives held at the Rensselaer County Historical Society. Minutes of the fall board meetings often described the number and type of dishes that needed to be purchased to replace those broken during the season. A passage in the Wiawaka Board of Director meeting minutes of 28 September 1957 notes that new dishes were needed, "preferably of the hotel type, which will withstand hard usage."(2) Other notes in Board of Director meeting minutes from the 1950s indicate that finances were a problem, and the shift to more economical hotel ware may have been part of cost-saving measures. The presence of a Buffalo China plate in Wiawaka's cupboard made in September of 1954 suggests that hotel wares may have been tried on the site earlier, but that they were not adopted.

The Housemother's Report of 1958 indicates that the board heeded the request, and hotel wares were purchased. Requesting 3 dozen cups and saucers, 2 dozen glass dessert dishes, 6 round meat plates, 4 dozen seven-inch bread and butter plates, 2 dozen 9-inch plates, 2 dozen cereal dishes, and 3 dozen egg cups, the Housemother asked again for "the heavier vitreous china such as was bought last year. It does not chip readily and withstands the rough handling and dishwashing better than the lighter weight."(3) Interestingly, this also suggests that the new hotel wares were being used simultaneously with the earlier dishes.

By the late 1950s, then, the finer china previously in use at Wiawaka was being replaced by hotel wares. Perhaps wishing to appear more upscale than would be indicated by plain and generic-patterned wares, in 1961 Wiawaka's board contracted with Syracuse China to produce custom dishes similar to those found in fancier establishments. Manufactured in November of 1961, these would have been in use at Wiawaka during the season of 1962.

Further research may help clarify the motivations and needs met by changing from finer china to generic hotel ware, and then to custom-printed wares during the 1950s and 1960s. Additional information may come from a review of receipts and other documents in the Wiawaka archives, and archaeology may reveal examples of the types and designs of china used before the switch.

(1) Lehner, Lois (1988) Lehner's Encyclopedia of U.S. Marks on Pottery, Porcelain & Clay. Collector Books, Paducah, Kentucky.
(2) Rensselaer County Historical Society, Wiawaka Papers, Box 5, Board of Directors meeting minutes, 28 September 1957.
(3) Rensselaer County Historical Society, Wiawaka Papers, Box 5, Housemother's Report for the 1958 Season.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Archaeology of the Cupboard: Part I

Founded in 1903, Wiawaka continues in operation. There are both challenges and advantages to doing archaeology at a living site -- one which continues in use. One of the challenges is that things keep changing; the historical and archaeological record of Wiawaka Holiday House are still being created and there is no tidy end date to help organize information. One of the advantages is that the archaeological record is very rich, and is made up of more than just buried and broken artifacts.

Small hotel ware plate made by Buffalo China.
Photo by Megan E. Springate, June 17, 2011.

During my last research trip to Wiawaka, I raided the china cupboard and began documenting the dishes in use at the site. I started by documenting the small, 6-inch and 7-inch plates often used as bread and butter plates. All of these were a style of thick, hard-fired ceramics known as hotel ware or restaurant ware commonly still found in use in diners and other high-traffic restaurants. Wiawaka's cupboard boasted several different designs in the collection of small plates, including plain, green lines (single and double) around the edges, and a set of custom-made plates marked Wiawaka on the front in script.(1)

Small hotel ware plate made by Syracuse China.
Photo by Megan E. Springate, June 17, 2011.

The back of most of these plates are marked, indicating the company that made them. The most common manufacturers of Wiawaka's small plate assemblage were Syracuse China and Buffalo China, both well-known American manufacturers of hotel ware.(2) The marks that these companies used often changed, and the date ranges of use for many of the marks are known. In many cases, the companies actually marked dishes with a date code that allows us to determine the month and year a particular piece was made.

How does this tell us something about the history of Wiawaka? Stay tuned for next week's installment, Archaeology of the Cupboard: Part II...

Maker's mark on the Buffalo China plate shown above. This mark was used from the 1940s through the early 1960s.(3) The O-9 is the date code, indicating this plate was made in September, 1954.(4) Photograph by Megan E. Springate, June 17, 2011.

Notes and Sources:
(1) It was common practice for businesses including hotels, train lines, cruise ships, and restaurants to have dishes that were custom made with their name on them.
(2) The earliest beginnings of the Syracuse China Company were in 1841 in Syracuse, New York. They were still in operation in 1986.  Buffalo Pottery (later Buffalo China) was in operation in Buffalo, New York from 1901 through at least 1986.(5)
(3) Restaurant Ware Collectors Network (2009) Buffalo China, Buffalo, New York [Backstamps].
(4) Restaurant Ware Collectors Network (2009) Buffalo China Date Codes.
(5) Lehner, Lois (1988) Lehner's Encyclopedia of U.S. Marks on Pottery, Porcelain & Clay. Collector Books, Paducah, Kentucky.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Wiawaka Bateaux

Looking west from the Wiawaka dock, a navigation buoy (left) and mooring anchor (right) associated
with the Wiawaka Bateaux are visible. Photo by Megan E. Springate, October 10, 2010.

Just off Wiawaka's shoreline are seven sunken British ships known as the Wiawaka Bateaux. Bateaux are flat-bottomed vessels ranging from 25 to 40 feet long and pointed at each end, used to transport people and goods. These, and over 260 other British and provincial vessels were consigned to the cold waters of Lake George in the fall of 1758, with the intent of recovering them the following spring.

This occurred during the French and Indian War (1754-1763), a long-running territorial battle between the English and the French and their various Native American allies that extended from Virginia to Nova Scotia. The Lake George/Lake Champlain corridor was a critically important navigable water route connecting the interior colonies to the St. Lawrence River -- a northern route to the Atlantic Ocean and therefore supplies, colonists, and military support from Europe. Both the English and the French wanted control of this route and the territory surrounding it, and several French and Indian War battles took place in the area.

Drawing of a colonial bateau by Mark Peckham. Image courtesy of Bateaux Below, Inc.

In 1757, the English Fort William Henry, located near Wiawaka at the southern end of Lake George, was destroyed. As a result, the British had no safe place to secure their fleet from French raids during the winter months, when the lake was frozen. To save the fleet, the British sank it. Approximately 75% of the sunken fleet was raised the following spring, but several of the boats, including the seven off the shores of Wiawaka, were not recovered. The organization Bateaux Below, Inc. was instrumental in documenting these vessels and continues to be involved in their stewardship.(1)

The Wiawaka Bateaux (also known as The Sunken Fleet of 1758) are one of three New York State Submerged Heritage Preserves in Lake George. The other two are: the Land Tortoise, a floating gun battery that was also sunk in 1758 and never raised; and The Forward Underwater Classroom. The Wiawaka Bateaux were listed on the National Record of Historic Places in 1992. Divers are welcome to explore the Wiawaka Bateaux. This is an intermediate dive to depths ranging from 20 to 45 feet.(2) To access the site from the Wiawaka property, you must contact Wiawaka's Executive Director in advance.

More information about the Wiawaka Bateaux and other vessels sunk by the British in 1758 can be found at the Raising The Fleet Project: An Arts/Science Collaboration Exploring the Underwater Frontiers of Lake George. In addition to the background information and photos of the vessels, the website includes a series of artwork inspired by the project. Additional resources include the documentary Wooden Bones: The Sunken Fleet of 1758, and the book Lake George Shipwrecks and Sunken History.(3)

(1) Bateaux Below, Inc., P.O. Box 2134, Wilton, New York 12831
(2) Information about diving the site, including a map, Lake George conditions and guidelines, can be found on the New York State Department of Environmental Preservation website.
(3) Zarzynski, Joseph W. and Bob Benway (2011) Lake George Shipwrecks and Sunken History, The History Press, Charleston, South Carolina.

Raising The Fleet
The Sunken 1758 Fleet

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Artist Georgia O'Keeffe at Wiawaka

In 1908, Mary Fuller bought several acres of land adjoining the Wiawaka property to the north. This parcel was the location of a two-story Adirondack-style building that Katrina Trask built circa 1905 and used to house visiting artists. Katrina named the property Amitola; the building is now known as Wakonda Lodge. The visiting artist residence is a precursor to Yaddo, the Trasks' artist retreat which remains in operation in nearby Saratoga Springs, New York.

Several famous people are reported to have spent time at Amitola, including the artist Georgia O'Keeffe. In 1998, when the National Register of Historic Places nomination was written, no proof of her visit to the site was known.

During preliminary research for the Wiawaka Project, documentation of Georgia O'Keeffe's stay at Wiawaka was found in an issue of American Art News dated June 13, 1908 (Vol. 6., No. 31). An image of the article is below, with the sections mentioning Georgia O'Keeffe highlighted (click on the image for a larger, readable version):

News about the Art Students' League, American Art News, June 13, 1908 (Vol. 6., No. 31)

In the spring of 1908, Georgia O'Keeffe, then 21 years old, won a general scholarship to the Art Students' League in New York City for her untitled oil painting of a dead rabbit with a copper pot. That summer, she was one of twenty Art Students' League students to spend a month at Wiawaka. That fall, she stopped painting, convinced that she could never compete artistically with others in the realistic style. Four years later, she began painting again after taking a class that introduced her to a more expressionist approach to painting, and she went on to create a spectacular body of work.(1)

Georgia O'Keeffe, Untitled (Dead Rabbit With Copper Pot), oil on canvas, 1908. Collections of the Smithsonian Institution, Control No. IAP 82380053. Photograph of the painting by Peter A. Juley and Son, Smithsonian American Art Museum. (2)

(1) Georgia O'Keeffe Museum.
(2) Search Results: O'Keeffe Rabbit