Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Research: Schlesinger Library

The Schlesinger Library. Radcliffe Yard is undergoing major work this summer,
so there are construction fences everywhere! July 24, 2012

I am currently researching at the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, part of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.(1)

In the archives at the Schlesinger are two collections from two other holiday houses: Fernside and Rockport Lodge (click on the names of these places to read the finding aids). Both were in operation at the same time as Wiawaka. Looking at their archives will give me a sense of how alike and different these similar vacation houses were. In the Wiawaka archives are promotional materials from Fernside, so they were certainly aware of each other!

Right now, I am transcribing index cards of visitors to Fernside so I can get a sense of who their visitors were, and can then compare them to those who visited Wiawaka.

(1) This research is generously funded by a Dissertation Research Grant from the Schlesinger Library.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Bunco Party!

Bunco Party, August 18, 1938. Wiawaka Holiday House Archives, Box 1.
Image use courtesy of Rensselaer County Historical Society, Troy, New York.*

In 1938, someone kept "YE OLE SCRAP BOOK - Parties, Teas, etc.." a typescript manuscript detailing the day-to-day entertainments of those staying at and visiting Wiawaka.(1) Spanning the summer, the book was likely kept by a staff member who was on-site all season -- perhaps the Housemother.

One of the games recorded in the book is Bunco, a dice game with origins in eighteenth century England and a history in the US that begins in 1855 during the California gold rush. By the late nineteenth century, Bunco was popular across the US. It remained popular through Prohibition, but largely faded from play by 1940.(2) While I'm not sure what it means, I find it interesting that Bunco was played at Wiawaka during the years it was declining in popularity. Unfortunately, we don't have the games rosters from earlier years to know whether it had a history at the site during its heyday.

One of the Bunco Party entries in Ye Ole Scrap Book, dated August 18, 1938 (and pictured above) reads:
On Thursday evening the Misses Fagans conducted a Bunco Party. Twenty two guests attended and from the noise that prevailed a very happy time was enjoyed by all present.
Miss Caroline Chadwick, from Ohio, won the following prizes:
     1. Door prize.
     2. Dark horse.
     3. Table prize.
Miss Chadwick certainly walked off with the prizes. The seventeenth must be her lucky day.
The prizes were numerous and each guest received one.
The Misses Oliver and Milspaugh assisted in the party preparations.(1)

Traditionally played with 12 to 20 players at tables of four, three dice are rolled and points allocated. Roll three of a kind and BUNCO! Bunco equipment is minimal: three 6-sided dice, one "fuzzy die" (you can substitute a different colored, regular-sized die!), a bell (or you can yell "DING"!), and score paper. A set of complete rules are available at the World Bunco Association website.

1. Wiawaka Holiday House (1938) Ye Ole Scrap Book, Wiawaka Holiday House Archives, Box 1. Rensselaer County Historical Society, Troy, New York.
2. World Bunco Association (2012) Bunco History. www.worldbunco.com/history.html

*  I was using ambient light while taking reference photos of documents. The shadow at the bottom of the page is my head...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Research: Rensselaer County Historical Society

Rensselaer County Historical Society, Troy, New York. June 20, 2012

I spent several days researching Wiawaka at the Rensselaer County Historical Society in Troy, New York. They have a great library and archives, including an extensive Wiawaka Holiday House archive. The Wiawaka archives includes annual reports, receipts and bills, financial statements, guest registers, advertising pieces, and newspaper clippings, to name just a few. Bonus: it's air conditioned.

Just up the street from the RCHS is St. John's Episcopal Church. Founded in 1830, Wiawaka founder Mary Wiltse Fuller was a member of this church. The short history of the church on their website tells of the active involvement of other members, including women, in other areas of reform.

St. John's Episcopal Church, Troy, New York. June 20, 2012

Monday, June 18, 2012

Research: Adirondack Museum

Entrance to the Adirondack Museum, June 18, 2012.

I am doing some archival research at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, New York. It is a gorgeous museum, much larger than I imagined with a variety of buildings and exhibits spanning the various experiences and histories of the Adirondack Mountains. A full day isn't enough to do the whole museum (or the spectacular views from the grounds) justice.

Also at the Adirondack Museum is an impressive library and archives documenting the history of the Adirondacks. It is tucked away, and you need to make an appointment to do research, but your visit will be rewarded with a collection of maps, books, manuscripts, and photographs. What am I looking at? Their trove of Seneca Ray Stoddard images of the Crosbyside Hotel, various histories of the Lake George area, clippings files and historic maps that include Wiawaka/the Crosbyside.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

New York State History Conference Schedule

The schedule for the 33rd Conference on New York State History has been posted, and is available online (click here for a .pdf version). Over 60 papers and presentations are scheduled between June 14 and 16, 2012. There are some really fantastic sessions and papers on offer; choosing which to attend will be difficult.

Our panel on the Reformative Power of Women's Leisure, which includes a presentation on Wiawaka, will be on Saturday, June 16 from 10:30am to 12:00 noon. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Who Were These People? GIS and Wiawaka's Visitors

Back in January, I introduced GIS as a tool to help understand Wiawaka's history.  I will use this post to give some concrete examples of how this works.

Last summer, when I had the opportunity to do preliminary documentary research, I recorded some of the guest books. I wanted to explore who the visitors to Wiawaka were, and the guest books include information like the person's name, address, religion, how much they paid for their room, and how long they stayed. This information, coupled with information available in the census for their home-town (who they were living with, age, color, occupation, whether they owned or rented their home, whether they were literate or not, etc.) can paint a fairly detailed image of who visited Wiawaka. I used the sample data I collected to see what sorts of information GIS would reveal. Click on the images to make them larger and make the data easier to read.

The data I had to work from was a sample of one hundred guests who visited Wiawaka in 1931 (see Figure 1). Unfortunately, although the 1930 census has recently been made available, it has not been completely indexed for searching. New York is one of the states that has not yet been indexed, and I did not have time to manually search the census for individuals living in larger cities like New York City! So, I could not incorporate the census data in my trial run.

Figure 1: Sample entry page from a Wiawaka guest book. Courtesy Wiawaka Holiday
House Archives, Rensselaer County Historical Society, Troy, NY

Loosely using Fyfe and Holdsworth's (2009) study of small-town hotel guest registers from other locations in New York state, I ran analyses of the home residence data of 100 of Wiawaka's 1931 guests. The very limited sample that I used provided some interesting suggestions about Wiawaka's guests in the early years of the Depression. Please note: these results are extremely preliminary! More in-depth analysis is needed to draw any conclusions, but I did see enough with this data to convince me that I will be using GIS in my analysis. Here are a couple of examples of the analyses I looked at.

Using GIS, I mapped the location which each of the 100 sampled 1931 visitors listed as their home residence in the guest book. While each location shows up only once on the resulting map, each location may (and often does) represent more than one visitor.

Figure 2: Where visitors came from, and their 1931 "Center of Gravity"

1) Measuring the visitors' "center of gravity." I asked the GIS program to calculate a value known as the central feature of the points, or locations, that I mapped (see Figure 2). This shows the average location of all the points, taking into account both distance from each other and the number of individuals from each place (a location with many Wiawaka visitors, therefore, would have more influence or "pull" on the central feature than a location with only one Wiawaka visitor). The central feature for the sample of one hundred 1931 visitors was located just south of Troy. This, in and of itself, is not terribly interesting. However, by calculating the central feature for many years worth of Wiawaka visitors will show if, and how, the geographical demographic changed. For example, if the central feature for the 1920 visitor data is located further south than that for 1930, it will indicate that, in 1920, more people visited Wiawaka from New York City and vicinity than from Troy. To me, this data is interesting if it shows shifts and if it shows no shifts -- the implications of a changing demographic or one that stays the same are equally interesting.

Figure 3: Proximity of visitor residence to Wiawaka.

2) Proximity of visitor residence to Wiawaka. I used the GIS program to draw rings around Wiawaka at 50-mile increments so that I could see how far people were traveling to visit (see Figure 3). While Fyfe and Holdsworth found that most of the visitors to their hotels came from within a 50 mile radius (2009), this was true only for 30% of the sampled Wiawaka visitors. Curiously, there was a concentration of visitors coming from the ring representing a distance of 150 to 200 miles from Wiawaka, including people from New York City and northeastern New Jersey; Scranton, Pennsylvania; and Ithaca and Rochester, New York.

Figure 4: Mapping Wiawaka visitor residences and railroad lines.

3) Influence of the Railroad? Changes in transportation routes and technology have been used to explain changes in visitor patterns at sites, including hotels. These include road improvements, railroad lines, canal access, and later in the twentieth century, changes in automobile technology. To see if transportation routes may have played a role in the pattern of visitors to Wiawaka (especially perhaps to explain that large group traveling between 150 and 200 miles) I plotted the home residences of Wiawaka visitors on a map showing rail lines (see Figure 4). Interesting: all of the 100 visitors sampled from the 1931 guest register lived in a town or city along a railway line. The 150 to 200 mile distance from Wiawaka may represent the distance/travel time that visitors are willing to travel by rail to spend a few days at Lake George.

Fyfe, David A. and Deryck W. Holdsworth (2009) Signatures of Commerce in Small-Town Hotel Guest Registers. Social Science History 33(1): 17-45

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Reformative Power of Women's Leisure

The Reformative Power of Women's Leisure in Progressive-Era New York State, a session organized by Monica Mercado, a PhD candidate at the University of Chicago and myself has been accepted for the upcoming Conference on New York State History. The conference will be at Niagara University, near Buffalo, New York June 14-16, 2012.  We don't know when our session will be, yet, but here are our participants:

"Summer School for the Soul: Women at the Catholic Summer School of America"
Monica L. Mercado, Co-Organizer and Presenter
PhD Candidate, Department of History, University of Chicago

"Girl Guests and The Spirit of God in Woman: Retreat and Reform at Wiawaka Holiday House, Lake George, New York"
Megan E. Springate, Co-Organizer and Presenter
PhD Student, Department of Anthropology, University of Maryland

"Appropriating Sherry's: Gotham, Space, and the Early Suffrage Movement"
Lauren Santangelo, Presenter
PhD Candidate, Department of History, The Graduate Center, CUNY

Nikki Mandell, Commenter
Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater

This session will explore places and spaces across New York State where women have spent time outside the bounds of their ordinary day-to-day lives. From rural summer getaways to fashionable urban amusements, what can re-examining these places of leisure offer historians of women?

Lauren Santangelo's paper, "Appropriating Sherry's," examines the early woman suffrage movement's approach to spaces of commercial leisure in New York City from 1870 through 1910. using sources ranging from literature to diaries to suffrage newsletters, she argues that by the early twentieth century, suffragists were strategically mobilizing Gotham's most prestigious venues -- including restaurants, theaters, and even amusement parks -- in an effort to gain support, attention, and respectability. In the process, she suggests, they made suffrage entertaining.

Monica Mercado's paper, "Summer School for the Soul," uncovers the experiences of women attending the Catholic Summer School of America at Cliff Haven, in Plattsburgh, NY. Modeled on the Chatauqua movement, the Catholic Summer School functioned, Mercado suggests, as a co-ed site that allowed women to temporarily participate in a new upper middle-class American Catholic intellectual and cultural life during the 1890s and early 1900s.

Megan Springate's paper, "Girl Guests and the Spirit of God in Woman," explores the experiences of woman at Wiawaka Holiday House in Lake George, NY during its early years, beginning with its founding in 1903. Springate explores the intersections and contradictions of leisure, reform, religion, and class at the oldest continuously operating women's retreat in the United States.

In each example -- be it rural summer getaways or fashionable urban amusement -- these scholars suggest that women transformed spaces of leisure into potential sites of political action and intellectual and cultural development.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Toolkit: GIS

GIS stands for Geographic Information System. GIS uses computer programs to view and analyze geographic data ranging from landforms to demographic information. You can use GIS to look at differences in population statistics (age, occupation, ethnicity, gender) across regions ranging from census tracts to nations; to create buffer zones in areas being developed that will protect endangered species, waterways, or archaeological sites; to take spot measurements and create a topographic map... there are an almost endless amount of possibilities.

In archaeology, GIS is often used to predict the locations of archaeological sites. Pre-contact and early historic sites, for example, are often found on relatively flat land associated with certain soil types and within a certain distance of fresh water. Using topographic, hydrologic, and soils data downloaded from the web, archaeologists can tell the program to identify these high-sensitivity areas. For historic sites, early maps can be pulled into GIS and overlaid on the modern geography to see where early buildings were located.

Thinking about Wiawaka using ArcGIS 10. The spidery lines on the map are railroads.

I'll be using GIS a few different ways at Wiawaka. These include: mapping site features (using location data taken by GPS or using a total station); overlaying historic maps and aerial photographs to look at how the character of the property changed over time; soils analysis for drainage and productivity for agriculture to think about the farming and location of buildings and utilities; and looking at who the visitors to Wiawaka were using the guestbooks and census data (where they lived, occupation, age, etc.). More on this last example in my next post!

One of the most commonly used commercial GIS programs is the ArcGIS suite by ESRI. It's expensive, though they do offer a free 60-day trial if you want to check it out (or use their tutorial to learn some of the GIS basics). There are open source (free) options, however, including GRASS which I will be checking out soon!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Presentation at the Society for Historical Archaeology Conference

This past weekend, I presented a paper about the Wiawaka Project at the Society for Historical Archaeology Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. It was part of a session on the Archaeology of American Hotels. More about the conference, including a link to the full program with abstracts, is online here.

A copy of my paper, "Resorts and Reform: Archaeology at the Wiawaka Holiday House, Lake George, New York" is available online here, if you are interested in reading it. I look forward to any comments!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Noted Architect Linked to Wiawaka

In researching individuals associated with the Wiawaka Board of Directors, I found mention that Mr. Charles S. Peabody helped design the new boat house that was completed during the 1916-1917 season.(1) This boat house is still in use at Wiawaka; with it's bright red color and curved entryways, it serves as a recognizable landmark both from the lake and overlooking Lake George from high up on Prospect Mountain.

Wiawaka boat house, designed by Charles S. Peabody. Photo by Megan E. Springate.

Charles S. Peabody was an American Architect born April 8, 1880 in Brooklyn. He graduated from Harvard University in 1903 and enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, graduating in 1908 the second highest in his class of three hundred. Peabody worked for the architectural firm of Ludlow & Peabody of New York, well known for public buildings including churches, hospitals, and college buildings as well as skyscrapers. Charles S. Peabody was decorated by the Greek Government for his work designing a Temple of Youth in Athens, Greece commissioned by the Greek Government, the Greek Church, and a group of American philanthropists.(2)

Other buildings designed by Charles S. Peabody (several of which are on the National Register of Historic Places) include:
The Lake George Club
The Royal C. Peabody Estate (Wikiosco), Lake George
A "daring" plan for Brooklyn's Civic Center
Sheldon Jackson College in Sitka, Alaska

I don't have a full run of Wiawaka Annual Reports, but the ones I do have show Charles S. Peabody serving on the Advisory Board between 1923 and 1933. His wife served on Wiawaka's Board from at least 1913 through 1940.(3)

Charles S. Peabody died on September 10, 1935 at his summer home on Lake George.(4)

(1) Wiawaka Holiday House (1917) Wiawaka Holiday House Annual Report 1916-1917. Wiawaka Papers, Box 2, Rensselaer County Historical Society, Troy, New York.
(2)  archINFORM (2011) Charles S. Peabody.
(3) Wiawaka Holiday House (various) Wiawaka Holiday House Annual Reports 1913-1940. Wiawaka Papers, Boxes 1 and 2, Rensselaer County Historical Society, Troy, New York.
(4)  archINFORM (2011) Charles S. Peabody.