FDR Suite Foundation Receives 50K Pledge


We are delighted to announce that the FDR Suite Foundation, Inc. has received a $50,000 commitment from the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust subject to finalization of the Foundation’s tax exempt status and execution of a proposed grant agreement.

The money, pledged by Amy P. Goldman in memory of her mother, Lillian, is designed to stimulate further giving to complete the Foundation’s approximately $150,000 Suite restoration effort. “It gives me great joy to be able to help you with this wonderful project,” said Amy Goldman.

Lillian Schuman Goldman was born Jan. 17, 1922, in New York City. At 19, she married Sol Goldman, who had purchased his first building at 17. At her urging, Sol Goldman left his family grocery business in Brooklyn and committed full time to the world of New York real estate.

Mrs. Goldman was an active participant in her husband’s business, which by his death in 1987 had become one of the largest private real estate firms in New York City. Always interested in furthering education, especially for women, Mrs.  Goldman wrote poetry and was an avid bibliophile. ”A book is a friend,” she used to say.

After her husband’s death, she turned her attention increasingly to philanthropy, creating the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust to administer her gifts.  Her generous contributions have rebuilt the law library at Yale, helped fight Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and supported family day care centers, among other causes. Mrs. Goldman died in 2002.

Pending speedy IRS approval, we hope to receive the funds and begin construction work on the Suite in early January, with the initial round of restorations completed before the next FDR Memorial Lecture and Dinner on the 27th of February, 2010.


110 Years Later: Harvard Changed? Yes, and No…


This week, one of our student researchers, Nina Ranalli of Eliot House, has the guest columnist slot. Having myself spent a large part of the last two years sifting through a Victorian twilight of  stuffed daybeds, dances at the Somerset, shooting parties in Sudbury, and Brahmin prides and prejudice, I note that I’ve become somewhat accustomed to the gas-lit feel of the age. Nina however, has the fresh perspective of the class of 2010, and I think you’ll find, as I did, that her impressions are quite revealing – both of our times, and FDR’s.     MDW

As a student researcher, I’ve been having great fun perusing student diaries from the month of March, 1900, collected in the Chest of 1900 project. I’m reading them to find the interesting, amusing, and enlightening aspects of student life in 1900. Here are a few of the tidbits I’ve found that show how much the undergraduate experience has changed since then.

The funniest bit so far is from Richard Derby’s (’03) diary. He describes a bit of a food fight at dinner:

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The idea of playfully launching bits of food at our friends wouldn’t be unimaginable to students today– it’s the presence of a tablecloth that seems almost inconceivable!

And continuing on the subject of undergraduate life, I find the last sentence from Harrie Chamberlin’s (’01) dairy entry on March 2th, 1900 more than a little startling:

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Fire? Build? Heat?

I have a fireplace in my room, too, but I take for granted that it’s inoperable, long-since sealed over due to safety or energy concerns. In fact, I imagine most undergrads wouldn’t tolerate the hassle involved with maintaining a fire for warmth! We get up in arms enough about the heating systems in the houses laying dormant when we’re a bit chilly. In this case, it’s the stark difference between daily life in 1900 and in 2009 that shocks us.

Not just structural, but social changes have of course occurred as well.  Mr. Lane, the College Librarian who requested all the diaries, kept a journal himself when a group of Cubans visited Cambridge in the summer of 1900. The anti-Catholic attitude of some people at Harvard becomes apparent from his notes. He says:

“Mrs. Gulick is very much annoyed over the fact (as she states it) that the Catholics are taking to themselves the whole credit of the Cuban summer school and have told people that the President is a Roman Catholic and have spread the impression that the College is practically a Catholic institution… Certain Catholic societies to keep open and provide for a waiting room in Harvard for men and in Phillips Brooks House for women and they have called these places salas catolicas. It has been a mistake, it seems to me, to allow this name to be used, but it can hardly be changed now.”

The obvious tension between Catholics and non-Catholics would seem out of place on today’s campus– student groups and organizations disagree all the time, but generally avoid the adversarial attitude implicit in this quote.

Despite the clear changes in undergraduate life, in another entry Harrie Chamberlin manages to convince me that students in 1900 weren’t so different from us after all. Take a look at a paragraph from his March 9th entry.

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He says, “I find difficultly in deciding whether I am exceedingly busy or only moderately busy and lazy.”

In this case, the similarity between 1900 and 2009 is shocking. I can imagine this very sentence coming from practically any of my friends or roommates. I might even venture to say that packed schedules, deluges of homework, and excessive procrastination are defining characteristics of the undergraduate experience. Furthermore, we love to talk about this busy/lazy dilemma amongst ourselves– how much homework one has and how little homework one has done are probably the most popular conversations on campus.  As much as our day-to-day experiences of College life have changed since 1900, then, perhaps our attitudes haven’t!


Wallpaper Redux


So, long story short… Before we committed ourselves to a final decision on the study wallpaper, I thought it advisable to check one more time behind the massive radiator where I discovered the initial fragments. This time though, rather than just investigating with camera and flashlight, thanks to the kind offices of our superintendent, Jorge Teixeira, we actually removed the 400 pound beast – with the help of three men! And this is what I found:

wallpaper1

Uh oh… See that little leaved bit in the upper left-hand corner? Another fragment of the pattern had come to light.

Here’s an expanded view:wallpaper2

So now, what to make of the pattern? It turns out we were only partially correct on our first version, but fortunately, thanks to the little dot at the 0-inch mark at the lower left hand corner of the first view, we were finally able to determine the repeat with accuracy by flipping and overlaying the detached pieces I found with those still on the wall. That little section really was a lifesaver, because if it hadn’t been for this single bit in situ, there would have been no way to determine the repetition.

Here’s what the pattern looks like, matching extant bits on the wall with recovered fragments:

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And voila! Our interpretation:

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Note that I say “interpretation.” Given the the poor condition of existing fragments, there’s no way (within our budget, at least) to really determine the original color palette of the paper with absolute accuracy. Though the fragments read mostly red now, they are heavily faded, covered with paint and mastic, and have been subjected to 110 years of heat and light. Originally, the various bands were most likely some other complementary color such as olive green, brown or dark burgundy.  Kari Pei, the Director of Design at Wolf-Gordon, whose company is donating the paper for the Suite, sifted through a large number of Victorian paper samples, and proposed several probable color schemes based on patterns of the period. Like so many other things in a project lacking direct photographic evidence, we simply have to make a best guess in keeping with our mission to invoke the period. Of the various options, the one above proved the favorite. The paper’s exact hues by the way, are not yet set. (And how you see them will vary greatly depending on your computer monitor.) The overall final effect should be burgundy/olive green, and we’ll be working with interior designer Kai Chao to coordinate the final shades of the bands with the fabric for draperies, the Morris chairs, as well as the paper for the bedrooms and hall.

And speaking of Kari, she deserves a special word of thanks. Not only is her firm making a substantial donation to our efforts, but she herself put in dozens of hours, handcrafting the design you see above. In fact, she produced over 20 different versions of the FDR paper, each time tweaking and adjusting the pattern as new information came to light. I’m particularly pleased with the way she was able to recreate the loose informality of the original fragments. Her careful eye noticed that the loops in the fleurs de lys, as well as the leaves, varied in sequence, and if you scroll quickly over the design above, you’ll see she was able to replicate that hand-drawn appearance. Quite a feat to replicate on computer!

And one final note: thanks to your generosity – several of you at the Trustee level, bravo! – we’ve acquired the piano! A very special round of applause goes out to Michael Silver, Dean LeBaron, Richard Mayer, Gilbert O’Connell and Pam & Elmer Grossman. Pam, by the way, is the granddaughter of FDR’s roommate and life-long friend, Lathrop Brown. During their visit here in September, she and Elmer provided us with a wealth of fascinating material which I’ll be sharing with you over the next few weeks.


Hotel Packages for the FDR Memorial Lecture


Hello Everyone!

As promised, I wanted to give you advance notice of the two special hotel packages I was able to arrange for those wishing to come to Boston to attend the Third Annual FDR Memorial Lecture:

LobbyLongfellow1) The Charles Hotel, Cambridge is offering a Deluxe King Room for $269 (plus tax) which includes breakfast at the award winning Henrietta’s Table (famous for its farm-to-table menu) as well as a personally signed copy of Chef Peter Davis’ Cookbook “Fresh and Honest”. The Charles is located right in Harvard Square, and is surrounded by several great restaurants, including Legal Seafoods and Jody Adams’ spectacular Rialto, which has consistently been voted one of the 20 best restaurants in America. (Jody’s a friend of mine, and I’ve cooked with her on TV, so I can personally attest this is true!)

Mandarin_Oriental_Boston-view2) The second pacakage is at Boston’s newest luxury hotel, the Mandarin Oriental. Nestled in the heart of Back Bay, it’s minutes from almost anything: Boston Common, Newbury Street shopping, the Museum of Fine Arts, and loads of fine dining. (And a quick taxi hop to Cambridge.) The Mandarin also hosts one of Boston’s most luxurious spas: at 16,000, sq. feet, you can while the day away to your heart’s content. (Just don’t miss the lecture!) The Mandarin has offered us a special rate of $295.00 per night (plus tax) for their Deluxe accommodations, which will include breakfast.  As an alternative, you may also consider a special rate of $370.00 for an upgrade from a Deluxe room to one in the Mandarin room category (essentially a suite) with breakfast included each morning, and a special $100.00 credit to be used in The Spa. (Rooms at the Mandarin, and the Charles, can be viewed online at the hotels’ websites.)

Both these packages represent a considerable savings off the normal room rates, and are for a limited time only. Reservations must be made by phone before January 25th, 2010. After that date, both hotels will release their reserved rooms back into the general pool, and will honor the rate only on an availability basis. Identify yourself as part of the FDR Suite Restoration when you call to make your reservations. Reservations may be made for one or two nights. (Personally, I recommend coming for two, and enjoying yourself; besides, we all know what winter travel is like, so come early and relax.)

Also, we are still in the process of costing out the Lecture and Gala evening, but it looks like ticket prices will be the following:

Lecture Only: $20 (10 for students)

Lecture and Cocktail Reception Only ($45)

Full Package, including lecture, cocktails, dinner and dancing: $165; seating at the President’s Table with Curtis Roosevelt (limited to 8 on a first come, first served basis) $275

This will be a black-tie event.

I’ll be confirming these prices in the next two weeks, and tickets will go on sale, most likely through the Harvard Box Office, beginning in December. Remember, if you are a Restoration member, there are considerable discounts (and freebies) associated with each membership level, so please consider joining!

That’s all for now. Our next post will get back to FDR scholarship, with Nina Ranalli, one of our student researchers, reporting on her impressions of College life in 1900 through the eyes of a member of the class of 2010.


Curtis Roosevelt to Speak at Harvard’s FDR Memorial Lecture & Dinner


too close to the sunCurtis Roosevelt, FDR’s eldest grandson, will give the Third Annual FDR Memorial Lecture at 4 PM, February 27, 2010, at Adams House. His topic will be his new book, Too Close to the Sun: Growing up in the Shadow of My Grandparents, Franklin and Eleanor. Mr. Roosevelt, now 79, will be traveling from his home in Provence to speak to us.  First -grandchild “Buzzie,” as he was known, was quite a celebrity in his own right, having spent a large portion of his formative years in the White House, and this will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear FDR history from someone who knew FDR intimately.  Dr. Cynthia Koch, Director of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum, will also be joining us for the festivities, and will be introducing Mr. Roosevelt.

Some other plans still in the formulation stage:

• a pre-dinner cocktail reception and book signing with Mr. Roosevelt.

• a live auction to benefit the FDR Suite Foundation.

• a gala dinner dance with the Bo Winiker Orchestra, Boston’s premiere big-band. This year’s theme will be “FDR’s White House. ” The dinner will be based on a State Menu from the 30s, and we’ll be counting up the years musically from 1932-1944, so get out those dancing shoes! Plans call for current Adams House students to join us for dancing from dessert onwards, and we’ll be doing ballroom refresher classes at the House on several nights prior for those of you (like me) who may want to get those foxtrot and swing steps in shape.

For non-resident guests, or for locals who simply would like a romantic weekend in town, I’m arranging two special packages: one at the Charles Hotel (a few blocks from Adams),  for those of you who prefer to be nearby, as well as at Boston’s newest luxury hotel, The Mandarin Oriental, for anyone who might want to come a night early, catch a show, shop Newbury Street, or simply indulge in the Mandarin’s 16,000 square foot spa. I hope to have details on all this, with pricing and reservation information,  here on the blog within the next two weeks.

So, in short: save the date for a real bit of history!  SATURDAY 27 February, 2010, starting at 4 PM


Piano Found! Donors…. still at large.


We’re thrilled to announce we’ve found the perfect piano: a pre-1900 Ivers and Pond, about an hour and half west of Boston:

piano

This old girl is in wonderful shape for 110! Cabinet lovingly restored. Ivories all perfect. Quite a grand dame, in fact. She was played daily by a little old lady (I kid you not) on the North Shore until her death in 1990, and since that time has sat used, and untuned, in West Brookfield, MA. Thanks to the generosity of Harvard Piano services, who’ve donated their time to vet the instrument, we have a clean bill of health and can proceed to purchase. To date, we’ve had pledges amounting to $1250 towards the $4500 total required to buy & transport the piano to Cambridge, as well as to repair some minor damage to the mechanism.

Any takers for the remaining amount? I’ll throw in a free serenade in my best PBS baritone next time we meet for anyone who helps us close the gap.