Under Construction At Last!

Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, corporate sponsors, members, and the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust, we are finally under construction!

A few snaps:

The bathroom minus the tub. Once removed it was discovered that there was substantial water damage to the floor, and many of the original granite tiles are loose or broken

A lonely presidential seat sits in the bathroom, now minus the tub. Once fixtures were removed, it was discovered that there was substantial water damage to the floor, and many of the original granite tiles are loose or broken. They will be reset, repaired and polished, and the wainscoting will be restored on the two sides of the bath where it had been removed. Note the original wooden tank cover over the toilet.


"Lathrop's room" with the original clawfoot tub, and sink just behind, awaiting restoration.

"Lathrop's room" with the original claw-foot tub, and sink just behind, temporarily stored and awaiting restoration. The tub will be re-enameled on site, and the marble sink and bowl cleaned and restored. Other than the walls, this room is in fairly good shape.


The main study, getting a new ceiling coat. Painting begins next week, with paper scheduled for the week after.

The main study, getting a new ceiling coat. Painting begins next week, with paper scheduled for the week after. In two weeks the period chandelier and wall sconces will be installed, dramatically restoring the look and feel of this room.


On a a furnishing note, thanks to the craftsmanship of Lary Shaffer, “Lathrop’s” Morris Chair is done, just awaiting cushions. What a beauty!

lb stage2

Will all this construction be done before the 27th?  I’m told so, as long as the new fixtures and paper arrive on schedule. Keep your fingers crossed, everyone!

Third Annual FDR Memorial Lecture and Dinner: Schedule of Events

Hello All!

I’m back from the rainy west, and have received inquiries from a number of you regarding the exact schedule for the FDR Lecture and Dinner on the 27th.

fdr 2010 front cover 700

Curtis Roosevelt and FDR at Mt. Hood, September 1937

Here it is:

• 4:30   Third Annual FDR Memorial Lecture in the Adams House Dining Hall, 26 Plympton Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Our speaker this year is Curtis Roosevelt, author, historian, and Presidential grandson. His topic is:  Past as Prologue – FDR, Obama, & the Perils of First Year Politics

• 5:30   Limited signing of Mr. Roosevelt’s book, Too Close to the Sun, to follow talk; onsite bookstore

• 5:45   Cocktail reception with the author ( featuring a full bar, fantastic hors d’oeuvres,  and, back by popular demand from last year, our raw bar); tours of the FDR Suite, and Coolidge Room murals

• 6:45   Six Course, Black-Tie Dinner Dance, musically counting up the years 1932- 1944 with the Bo Winiker Big Band!

Again, tickets are available online, and are limited, so order now!

3rd Annual FDR Memorial Lecture and Dinner Menu, 2010

FDR diningjpg

Ah, so good to be back here at Harvard and enjoying this lovely white!

Thanks to Donn Leonard, our tireless and talented chef, we’ve turned up this wonderful menu, served on March 4th 1938 at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington DC and hosted by President Roosevelt, which will serve as our guide for the FDR Memorial Lecture and Dinner on the 27th:

Double Strength Borsht

Breast of Guinea Hen
On Smithfield Ham with Cepes Bordelaise, Fresh Asparagus Hollandaise


Baked Halibut with Creamy Dill Sauce

String Beans and Wild Rice

Mixed Spring Salad Provencal

Mousse of Strawberries Chantilly

Stilton, and assorted imported cheeses

All ticket holders will be contacted via email shortly before the event to select a main course.

Bon appetit!

And On An Entirely Unrelated Note

In researching Chet Robinson’s history for the previous piece, I was investigating the private Stone School in Boston which he attended, and came across the following ad in something called “A Handbook of American Private Schools.” I simply couldn’t resist sharing this with you:

rivers school

Now granted, the original idea here was to prevent tuberculosis. But can you IMAGINE sitting day after day in that unheated classroom? As much as we often like to romanticize the past, there are many times that I thank my lucky stars we live when we do!

Interior Design, and Redesign, Harvard 1900

Shortly after last year’s FDR dinner, I received an email from a certain Mr. Dave Robinson in Maine, inquiring as to whether or not we’d be interested in taking a look at some of the Harvard photos and ephemera he’d inherited from his grandfather, Chester Robinson, ’04, a friend and a classmate of FDR’s. I said certainly. Well, one thing led to another, I got busy, Dave got busy, then we made arrangements to get the materials scanned, then there was further delay, then mysteriously the ISB drive Dave sent me arrived empty: you get the general idea. Almost a year passed, and I still really hadn’t had a chance to see the extent of the collection.

The files arrived last week, and I opened them today.

Are we in for a treat!

Over the next few weeks I’ll be showing you more of the incredible treasure trove of material that the Robinson family has been kind enough to share with us, but let’s just say we’ve taken a major step forward in locating specific items to purchase or replicate. For now, I wanted to share with you these six photos, of Chester (Chet) Robinson’s rooms. They show Robinson and his roommate Goodhue’s bay-windowed corner suite in the old Russel Hall, a Claverly like building that stood where today’s Russell (C-Entry) now stands. What’s fantastic about these photos, (and to my knowledge unique in the Harvard collection) is that they show the same room from three views, with two different decorative schemes. Somewhere during their four years, the pair decided to redecorate, in keeping with the shift in taste that was occurring right around the turn of the century. Ornate Victorian styling was moving out, and what would become Arts and Crafts, and eventually, neo-Colonial, was beginning to take hold. What’s critical about finding these pictures, just as we are about to paper the FDR suite, is what it reveals about the wallpaper: we’ve been wondering whether or not our selection of solid silk papers for the bedrooms, as we had seen in the Vanderbilt Suite, was typical of the time, or merely the product of Vanderbilt’s elevated design aesthetic. No longer:


Here’s the window seat before. Note the rather frilly drapes, and the striped wall paper. Two Morris chairs, similar to those coming to the FDR suite, and again, all those Harvard pillows we see in many of the photos. Heaven knows where we will find or recreate those! And how’s this for bizarre coincidence: the view out the windows reveals Westmorly, and the windows of the FDR suite!


Now look at this: a much more distinguished arrangement, with a solid, silk like material on the walls, almost identical to what we were guessing for the FDR Suite bedrooms. YES! The name placards, by the way, are another typical element of Harvard student rooms of the period, though generally they are located over the individual’s bedroom door.

hearth before

A view of the hearth before. Note the Meerschaum pipes (present in almost every room photo) and the beer mugs (another ubiquitous student item.)


Here’s the hearth view after: you can tell it’s years later from the medals now hanging from the pictures: these are club and sports member medallions, and Dave’s family still has many of them, as well as the picture of dear old John the Orangeman, just visible on the mantle behind the mugs to right.


The doors to the bedrooms before: the curtains over the doorways appear in many of the room pictures of the period, and seem very odd to modern eyes. Most bookcases had curtains as well, as shown in the picture two above this one – to keep out coal and wood dust from the fires.


The door view after: a much more civilized arrangement than the ad hoc day bed previously. Note the Crimsons hanging from a hook on the wall. In general, it’s surprising how much the decor has matured over the interval. One (or both) of these gentlemen had a very good eye!

All in all, these six pictures provide a wealth of invaluable leads as to what kind of items we’ll need to acquire for the Suite, and as well as confirming both our reproduction of the printed study paper, and use of solid silks elsewhere. They also remind us what we often forget: the past is not static, locked at a single point and place the way we tend to view it from photos. It changed and moved, just like the present. Something to keep in mind when re-creaeting a set of rooms occupied for four years by two men of maturing times and taste…

We are all hugely grateful to Dave Robinson and his family for sharing this amazing time capsule with us, and I look forward to sharing more of it with you, our readers, over the next month.

Curtis Roosevelt Topic Announced, and an Update

Curtis Roosevelt, eldest grandson of FDR and our guest speaker for the Third Annual FDR Memorial Lecture and Dinner has announced that he will be discussing Past as Prologue: FDR, Obama, and the Perils of First Year Politics. This looks to be a fascinating topic, and we are absolutely thrilled to have Mr. Roosevelt come all the way from France to address our gathering this year.

In terms of updates, tickets are now on sale online. Click HERE to order. Tickets to the Roosevelt table can only be obtained by calling the HBO at 617.496.2222. Announcement to the general alumni population, and to the population at large, will begin next week, so remember all tickets are first-come, first-served, and only 180 are available for the dinner.

Also, both the Charles Hotel and the Mandarin will close our their special rates the 27th of January, so anyone looking to make a night or weekend of it, please book now by clicking HERE

Finally, for those of you who know of, or perhaps even remember, how bad the food was at the FDR White House, and have expressed some concern on this matter, rest assured we’re cooking up a fantastic 5 course menu of Nouvelle American Cuisine, themed to State Dinners, past and present. This will be the one and only part of FDR’s past we’ll let sleep, and if the food is anywhere near as good as the fantastic meal last year, you won’t ‘be disappointed.

On a personal note, I’ll be heading off on a lecture tour next week until early February (yes, I do have a day job, lol) so things may be a little quiet here for a bit, and your correspondence may take longer to answer. But rest assured, preparations are well in hand, everyone at the Restoration is working away, and we are totally excited to welcome you all to Cambridge in February.