Early American Valentines on loan to Oatlands for Feb. 15 Tea

From the collection of Gail Adams--used with permission

From the collection of Gail Adams–used with permission

From the collection of Gail Adams--used with permission

From the collection of Gail Adams–used with permission

From the collection of Gail Adams--used with permission

From the collection of Gail Adams–used with permission

From the collection of Gail Adams-used with permission

From the collection of Gail Adams-used with permission


















Oatlands is pleased to feature a display of early American valentine cards at the afternoon tea on February 15.  The display, with cards from 1820-1880, highlights the contributions of Esther Howland, who is called the “Mother of the American Valentine”.  The collection, on loan to Oatlands from Gail Adams, a Howland descendant, includes celluloid, woodcuts, sachet, fringed, and Ivorine valentines.  Paper lace makers include Windsor, Mansell, Buffords of Boston, Meek, Mossman, and Berlin & Jones.  There will also be a display of Civil War era valentine sentiments.

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A Force for Art: Oatlands connection to the Monuments Men

The movie, “The Monuments Men”, is bringing a little known piece of history to the big screen.  The Roberts Commission was created during World War II on June 23,1943 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt with the charter of protecting cultural resources in military areas as long as it didn’t interfere with military actions.  The Commission identified artwork stolen by the Nazis and, with a military program known as the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFAA), worked to recover and return the cultural treasures. The MFAA — the Monuments Men — consisted of more than three hundred men and women from thirteen countries.

David E. Finley played a critical role in the Roberts Commission.  As a young man he worked for Andrew Mellon at the Treasury Department and helped Mellon assemble his extensive art collection. Later he helped Mellon fulfill his dream of establishing a national art museum, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.  Finley became its first director and served from 1938 to 1956. It was in that position Finley met with the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the chairman of American Council of Learned Societies and together they proposed the formation of a commission to protect the threatened art in Europe. The Commission was named for Justice Owen J. Roberts, who served as its first chairman. The Commission met at the National Gallery of Art and Finley is described in a recent Washington Post article as its de-facto chairperson  (http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/museums/monuments-men-are-having-a-moment-thanks-in-large-part-to-robert-m-edsel/2014/02/02/3f74eb26-89c1-11e3-a5bd-844629433ba3_story.)

Although the Monuments Men obviously didn’t save everything from destruction, they located and returned millions of pieces of art and cultural resources.

David Finley was married to Margaret Morton Eustis, the daughter of Edith and William Corcoran Eustis.  The Eustis family owned Oatlands from 1903 until 1964 when they donated the property and collections to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Finley’s continued to reside at Little Oatlands, which remains in family hands today.  Mr. Finley was instrumental in the founding of the Trust and served as its first chairman.  A good source for learning more about this fascinating man is the book, “David Finley, A Quiet Force for America’s Arts”, by David A. Doheny.

At Oatlands, we celebrate the Monuments Men, and David Finley’s crucial role as a “quiet force” for art.

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Oatlands History of Military Service- A special Veteran’s Day Exhibit

In honor of Veteran’s Day, Oatlands is displaying a small collection of items related to the military service of those who lived here.  The items and educational interpretation span a century of service.

Men who lived and worked at Oatlands served in the military during the Civil War, World War I and World War II.  We know something about several of them and their service, and wish to share these stories as we approach Veteran’s Day.  All but one of the men we know about returned home safely.

Civil War (Confederacy)
George Carter II and Benjamin Carter, sons of the builder of Oatlands, served during the Civil War.  Both took the Oath of Allegiance to the Southern Confederacy on 29 June 1861.  Ben went on to join the 8th Virginia Infantry, Company I, under Captain J.R. Simpson.  George was a Clerk for a Quartermaster and mostly ran dispatches between Winchester and Manassas.

On October 21, 1861, Benjamin fought and was injured at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, north of Leesburg.  His injury was minor – a wound to his little finger.  After the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, General Nathan Evans and his staff made Oatlands their headquarters for approximately 10 days.  Troops camped in the nearby fields.  Concerned for her safety, Elizabeth Carter, mother of George and Ben, left Oatlands for Bellefield, one of her family’s plantations near Upperville.  She never returned to live full-time at Oatlands.

George and Ben moved throughout Virginia from battlefield to encampment, frequently returning to first Oatlands and then Bellefield for rest and supplies.  In December 1862, George was one of six Confederates involved in a prisoner exchange at the Federal Fort Monroe, Virginia.  George inherited Oatlands and lived there with his wife and children until it was sold out of the Carter family in 1897.

Civil War (Union)
A man linked to the Carters through his enslaved father enlisted on the Union side in 1863 soon after African Americans were allowed to serve. Martin VanBuren Buchanan was born in 1844 to Mahala Jackson, a free black woman, and Robert Buchanan, an enslaved man owned by Elizabeth Carter.  Martin enlisted in Company G, 2nd Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry. He came back to Loudoun County after the war ended in 1865 and married, built a home, and raised a family.

World War I
Prominent Washingtonians Edith and William Corcoran Eustis bought Oatlands as a summer retreat in 1903.  William had been born in France and spoke French fluently.  In October 1917, William was commissioned Captain of Infantry in the National Army of the United States.  He served under General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing with the American Expeditionary Force headquartered at Chaumont, France.  Captain Eustis’ duties included French and German interpretation. He completed his military service in January 1919 and returned home.

World War II
Morton Eustis, son of William and Edith, served during World War II.  A member of Company C, 82nd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Armored Division, Lieutenant Eustis was leading his reconnaissance patrol when he was killed in action on 13 August 1944, near Domfront, France, following the invasion of Normandy.  He is buried in the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, France.

Oatlands honors all those who have served in our military, and we give our gratitude to those who serve today.

Veteran's Day exhibit at Oatlands 2013

Veteran’s Day exhibit at Oatlands 2013

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Oatlands and Washington Post shared owner in 1897

Last week the Washington Post made history by announcing the sale of its flagship newspaper to Jeff Bezos, best known for his founding of Amazon.com.  Here at Oatlands, we have a connection to the Washington Post’s history. The newspaper was founded in 1877 by Stilson Hutchins, who had started the Saint Louis Times eleven years earlier.  In 1897 the Carters of Oatlands were preparing to sell the property, no longer able to keep it in the family. Mr. Hutchins purchased Oatlands, which included the mansion and 50 acres.  It is likely that he bought it as a real estate investment because he never lived here.  Six years later, in 1903, he sold the property to Edith and William Corcoran Eustis. Their stewardship preserved the property and the family generously donated it in 1965 to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Read more about Mr. Hutchins at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stilson_Hutchins

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Give him just a little more time…Oatlands Tortoise nominated #VATop10

Tortoise Sundial in garden at Oatlands

Tortoise Sundial in garden at Oatlands

“Give me just a little more time,” sings Oatlands’ tortoise sundial. “My column has come loose from my base and I need a little conservation work.”

The historic sundial is a favorite picture-taking spot in the garden. It was brought to Oatlands after Edith and William Corcoran Eustis purchased the property in 1903 as their country home. Made of pink marble with the tortoise at the base, the sundial platform is bordered with raised oak leaves and acorns. Mrs. Eustis’s passion was gardening and she placed the sundial prominently in her terraced garden.

Oatlands has nominated this iconic collection piece to the Virginia Association of  Museum’s (VAM) annual Top 10 Endangered Artifacts program. Visitors to Oatlands and other historic properties may not realize that preservation includes not just the buildings and the grounds but also the collection pieces in the buildings and on the property. Artifacts require regular care, often daily, and sometimes at significant expense. In the case of the tortoise sundial, its column has come loose over the years and needs to be repaired. The bronze blade on the sundial is weathered and needs to be cleaned and coated to preserve against the elements. Oatlands is raising funds to have a conservation assessment done and then the proper restoration work.

This photo shows Mrs. Eustis in 1960 standing next to the sundial.

This photo shows Mrs. Eustis in 1960 standing next to the sundial.

Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts program is part of the Virginia Collections Initiative, which is a statewide collaboration to ensure the ongoing safety and stewardship of collections held by museums, libraries and archives in Virginia and D.C. The “Top 10″ program raises awareness about the need for collections care while showcasing the importance of Virginia’s diverse history, heritage, and art and the role that objects play in telling those stories. From letters and books, to furniture and trains, items held in the care of collecting institutions are significant to telling the stories of our local communities, state, as well as the nation. This fun and educational project enables all citizens to take part in supporting the institutions that are entrusted with caring for our communities’ treasures.

Voting starts today and runs through midnight August 29 at http://www.vamuseums.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=56 There is no limit to the number of times voters may cast their ballot so vote early and often for Oatlands’ sundial! The final “Top 10” honorees for 2013 will be selected by an independent panel of conservators and collections care professionals and announced in mid-September.

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Currently Blooming in Oatlands Garden July, 2013

blooms on the walk to the tea house July 2013Crepe Myrtle
Russian sage
Sea Holly
Bee Balm
Joe Pye WeedParterre in bloom July 2013
Baloon Flower
Butterfly Bush
Coreopsisherb garden in bloom July 2013
Black Eyed Susan

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The Musical Carter

Robert “Councilor” Carter III: The Musical Carter
by guest blogger and Oatlands Director of Programming and Education, Lori Kimball

Robert Carter III was the grandson of prominent and wealthy Robert “King” Carter, who owned approximately 330,000 acres in Virginia and hundreds of slaves. King Carter’s descendents inherited his vast wealth; by the time Robert III came of age, he had received 65,000 acres and over 100 enslaved people. Because of his service on the royal governor’s council in Williamsburg, he came to be called Councilor Carter. Among his properties was a large white house on the green next to the Governor’s Palace. It is still standing, although no longer open for tours at Colonial Williamsburg.

Like other prosperous gentlemen of his time, Councilor had the time and wealth to pursue his interests in reading, music, science and philosophy. Unlike his contemporaries, his belief in the institution of slavery changed over time and in 1791 he filed a deed of emancipation that would gradually free his 500+ slaves. It was the largest private emancipation in American history. This topic will be the subject of a future newsletter article.

According to a recently published book, Changing Keys – Keyboard Instruments for America 1700-1830, Councilor was considered to be a “skilled amateur musician” and “musical theorist.” He owned and played a harpsichord, piano forte, German flute, chamber organ, guitar, and an armonica, an invention by Benjamin Franklin that consisted of a series of glass bowls played by rubbing one’s fingers along the rims. The book describes Councilor as a “true product of the Enlightenment” who “considered his piano, one of the first in the colony, to be both a musical and a scientific instrument on which to experiment as much as to play.” Carter experimented with the sounds of his instruments and created a tuning device for his piano.

While living in Williamsburg during the tenure of Governor Francis Fauquier, Councilor often performed in weekly concerts that included notables such as Thomas Jefferson, fifteen years his junior. Councilor played the harpsichord or German flute. At one point, Jefferson tried unsuccessfully to purchase Councilor’s chamber organ.

The book, The First Emancipator, states that Councilor “…played his harmonica [another name for the armonica] in public, immune to the headaches its impossibly high, beautiful tones produced in many listeners.”

What is Councilor’s connection to Oatlands? His son, George, inherited several thousand acres in Loudoun, Prince William and Fairfax Counties, including part of the Goose Creek Tract. On this tract in 1804, he began construction of his house which he called Oatlands.

George inherited many of his father’s personal belongings, including a large library of Colonial-era books. He might have inherited the musical instruments, too. A May 5, 1818 advertisement in the Genius of Liberty, a Leesburg newspaper, announced lessons on the piano forte, German flute and clarinet. The ad stated: The principles of musick are imperfectly taught, in many parts of the country, for want of capable teachers. – It ought to be the wish of every lover of musick to understand it perfectly. A professor now offers to teach the fundamental rules of this science in 8 lessons so as to enable those who are taught by him, to pursue their studies by themselves, until they may attain a perfect practical knowledge of musick. Those who may choose to receive lessons upon either of the above mentioned instruments, will please to address their applications to G. Carter, Oatlands near Leesburg.

Research thus far has not determined if George was as passionate about music as his father or, successful businessman that he was, if he saw musical instruction as a business opportunity. Regardless, he offered the science and beauty of musical instruments to the Loudoun community.

For those interested in learning more about Councilor Carter’s musical interests and contributions, see the following publications: Changing Keys – Keyboard Instruments for America 1700-1830 by John R. Watson; The First Emancipator – Slavery, Religion, and the Quiet Revolution of Robert Carter by Andrew Levy (available in Oatlands’ gift shop); and John Randolph Barden’s master’s thesis, “Innocent and Necessary: Music and Dancing in the Life of Robert Carter of Nomony Hall, 1728-1804”, at the College of William and Mary.

Oatlands honors its musical heritage by incorporating, when possible, music into its programs. During last December’s candlelight tours, performers provided musical enjoyment in the Drawing Room. Country music will be the focal point of the Harvest Festival on October 20. Small performances are planned for the Drawing Room. Stay tuned (pun intended) for more information.

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