Wednesday, March 19, 2008

This is a picture of the Gruetzmacher home at 1910 Avenue N in Galveston, Texas, circa 1975. At that time, it was a rooming house in a crummy part of town. Then again, at that time, most of Galveston seemed to be pretty crummy.

The Gruetzmacher family lived at this address from around 1890. Originally occupied by Paul Louis Hermann Eugen Gruetzmacher and his wife Augusta (nee Altmann), along with their children Clara Elizabeth (1877-1937), Matilda Elizabeth (1879-1963), Augusta 1880-1926, Pauline (1881-?), Emily (1882-after 1950), Otto Henry (1885-1924), Paul (1887-1909), Edward (1893-1900), Arthur (1896-1905), Edith (1899-1974), and Octavia (1905-1953).

Otto and Clara were the last Gruetzmacher's living in the house, in around 1921, according to the Galveston City Directory for that year.

The house was one of the few houses in Galveston that survived the 1900 Storm. Dad always told the legend of his grandfather Paul drilling holes into the floors of the house so as to allow the rising waters to flood into the house rather than raise the house off its foundation, which is what actually did happen to many of the houses in town.

Earlier today I was poring over some pictures of old furniture, mostly what you would call 'rustic' or 'country' pieces. Definitely not the fancy city-made pieces that show up on the Antique Road Show or being offered at auction by Sotheby's. Nope, this stuff is home-made, usually by the homeowner himself or maybe the nearby craftman with a little bit of talent. In many cases, at least in Texas, that would be the Swiss or German emigrant carpenter. The best books on the subject are 'Texas Furniture : The Cabinetmakers and Their Work, 1840-1880' by Lonn Taylor and David B. Warren, and 'Early Texas Furniture and Decorative Arts' by Cecilia Steinfeldt and Donald L. Stover. Sadly, both are long out of print, and rather pricey on the used book market. And luckily, I have copies of both that I picked up when they were still available at rather reasonable prices. (They are not for sale!)

In the other room, I have the old armoire that was supposed built by one of the Gruetzmacher's in Galveston, back before 1900. It went through the Galveston Storm, which may account for its lack of feet, and some other water damage along the bottom edge. Over the years it's lost its cornice, leaving me with a difficult decision of choosing a replacement when I have the piece restored. Hopefully, there's a picture of the piece in one of the old Gruetzmacher photos that Aunt Grace and Elizabeth had, and if those photographs are still extant.

The armoire still has remnants of the various paint jobs over the years, especially that hideous lime green crap from the early 1970's. Over the years, I've removed some of this stuff, but because of the time involved to remove even a small amount, I keep setting the piece aside for another day. But once you get under all the paint, and then remove the original, gone-to-black varnish, you end up with wood that has a warm, mellow patina to it. I'm guessing pine.

One of the front door panels has a piece that has been replaced, a device or technique known as a 'dutchman'. Usually, this technique is used to repair a hole in the wood caused by a mouse or some other critter chewing through, but as this newer panel is much larger (8 or 9 inches square), the reason for replacing it is pure speculation. It may simply be a case of the original panel had a defect that didn't appear until after the armoire was completed.

At the top of the armoire is a series of thin wooden decoration, curving upward into the now missing cornice. This gives an idea of what the original cornice looked like. The inset panels in the doors also have a curved edge, which further suggest the lines the cornice may have taken. Studying the aforementioned books, I have a number of examples of similar pieces that will help in designing a new replacement cornice, when the time comes.

Replacing the missing feet causes another design dilemma. As the originals seem to have been sawed off, I propose to design a petestal for the cabinet to sit on, rather than try to incorporate new feet into the old armoire. I do wonder how high the original legs were. My first thought is that 4 to6 inches would be about right, making the total height of the cabinet about 6 feet, without the cornice. Perhaps the legs were much longer, from 12 to 15 inches, giving the armoire a much greater height, which might be more fitting in the high ceilinged houses of the late 1800's. But because this would make the interior hooks be almost 7 feet high, I think, unless original pictures provide contradictory information, I will use the lower legs, which would be more appropriate for use by a normal-sized person.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Letter from Francisa E. Hutt, 1851

Little Rock Arkansas July 9th 1851

My dear brother [Nathaniel T. Gaines, not found on the 1850 Victoria Co., TX census],

It has been so long since you have gotten a letter from me that I expect you begin to think I never in[tend]* to write again, but the fact is we have had sickness in the family for the last four months, the children have had the mumps measles diahrea & chills, & I have had the chills this Spring and Summer. I have a young baby about four months old which is another hindrance to letter writing. She is a very pretty child by the by - I call her Mary [Mollie Mary Hutt was born March 7, 1851 in Little Rock, AR. She married Edward Cornell Newton and was the mother of Andre' Hutt Newton, Sr.] after an aunt [Probably Mary Mollie Hutt b. 1761 VA; married to James Smith Dozier.] of Mr. Hutt's.

I hope you have gotten rid of your troublesome complaint, if not, do come to Little Rock, I almost know a trip home would restore you to health - come any how, well or sick. I think you would feel better by coming, & we all want to see you so much. Judge Hutt [William S. Hutt 1773-1855, Francisa's father-in-law] told us you had grown a great deal taller, you take after Pa [unknown Gaines] in that respect. I heard him say he did not get his growth until he was twenty five years of age.

Little Rock is rather dull now, Mrs. Chase [Rosina Dunn Chase, b. NY, d. 6-14-1851, wife of Luther Chase] died a short time ago, & Mr. Officer [William P. Officer b.10-10-1810 PA, d. 6-21-1851, Married to Mary Eliza Field.] died about a week ago in Fort Smith he had removed with his family there this Spring. Jimmy Finley [probably James W. Finley b. 1837 VA, son of James Finley and Felicity Hutt] has been quite sick with the measles & mumps but is better now, there were some deaths from Cholera, but it was from among strangers - the marriages have been few & far between - Mr Philip Grapnall [unknown] & Miss Sallie Falkner [Sally A. Faulkner b. ca1831 AR, daughter of Sandford C. & Eveline Faulkner] were married this spring. Fitzgerald [unknown] was married to a Miss Stirks [possibly Sophia Stirks b. 1838 NC] - he took the pledge when Father Mathew was here, & looked like a decent man for a while, but I heard the other [-] he had the mania p[-t--]. Mrs Leincoln [probably Mary Lincoln b. 1772 CT, who lived a couple of houses away from the William V. Hutt family] has also had that beautiful disease. Edmund [Edmund P. Gaines, b. 1-14-1817 VA, d. 6-10-1880 AR] holds out very well indeed - I believe it was two years since he joined the Sons of Temperance. He & his family are well at present, their last child they call Nat [Nathaniel H. Gaines b. 2-22-1851, d. 6-6-1924] & is quite a pretty little fellow.

I have not heard from William [unknown, possibly Gaines] for a long time, he was in Havelindvill [Havilandsville] Ky when he wrote last, the first time he ever said anything about his size since he left here. He is very little taller now than he was ten years ago. Poor little fellow. I wish he may do well. I could not help but laugh, when he wrote to me about marrying, he said there were thirteen girls in love with him, but I believe he did did not love any of them enough to marry them.

Uncle William [Uncle William ?Gaines?, b. ca1816] has been in Washington City lately, he has business in the post office department, he mentioned in a letter to uncle Peter, that he had a daughter almost grown, he said he was a great favorite with the ladies there, they would not believe he was over thirty five years of age. & I think his age is forty five, is it not?

Uncle Peter [Uncle Peter ?Gaines?] is rather lonesome now, aunt Elizabeth & Juliet are in Mississippi, she took Juliet down for the purpose of sending her to a better school than we have here. She is now nearly grown, & is a sweet girl, for one that has been humored so much. You would scarcely know Mitty & Lolly [Mitty & Lolly are probably nicknames for Francisa's daughters Sarah and Laura.] they have grown so much. They are going to school or have been until lately. Mitty can read very well & writes quite a good hand, Willie [Willie would be Francisa's son William Spence Hutt b. February 14, 1848 Little Rock, AR; d. May 30, 1901 Little Rock, AR.] is so much like his Pa as he can be. He often speaks of Uncle Nat as if he knew all about you. The children say, Oh, Ma do write to Uncle Nat to come here, we want to see him so bad.

Mr. Hutt [Francisa's brother-in-law William V. Hutt b. ca1807, or Francisa's husband Andre J. Hutt b. 1815] is more fleshy than I ever saw him, he is still merchantdizing & is doing a very good business.

Judge Hutt [William S. Hutt b. 1773 and Constance Villard Hutt b. ca1780] is here he says it is uncertain how long he will remain. The old lady & gentleman look as young as they did ten years ago.

Grand Ma Gaines [unknown] is still living I believe, she is now about nearly ninety years of age & was quite active when I last heard from her.
I d[o not] know of any thing more that would [inter]est y[ou. Y]ou must excuse bad writing [and] mista[kes.] I have put it down a half dozen times [sin]ce I commenced. I hope you will make up your mind to come here as soon as you can. & now farewell.

The children send you a kiss.
Your affectionate sister,
Francisa E. Hutt

[Francisa E. Gaines b. June 1823 Virginia; d. June 17, 1903 Little Rock, AR; m1. Benjamin Linebaugh ca1840; m2. Andre' Joseph Hutt April 27, 1847 Little Rock, AR. She had two daughters, Sarah and Laura, by her first marriage. She had William Spence Hutt and Mollie Mary Hutt by her second marriage.]
Newton's Baby Ointment, Seattle, Washington.

To my knowledge, this company has no relation to 'our' Newton clan, but I thought the label was interesting anyway.

Postcard of New Madrid, Missouri dated 1908. An interesting "Bird's-Eye" view of the residential area of New Madrid. Note the five houses closest to your eyes. I suspect they were designed by the same person, with each built in a 'cross' shape.

Friday, March 14, 2008

This is an old picture of Main Street in downtown Little Rock from around 1860-1868. While I can never be sure, I think that the building below may be the Hutt store.

W. S. Hutt Whiskey Jug

Little Rock, Arkansas. After the Civil War the Hutt Family had a wholesale grocery that sold a little bit of everything. Including whiskey.

Which brings us to this little 3 inch tall jug that I bought on eBay from a antiquarian (nee junk dealer) living just North of Little Rock. When he first found it, the surface had been painted over with tacky colorful flowers. The dealer cleaned off the paint and found the advertising pictured here.
"Compliments of W. S. Hutt & Co. Main St."
Little did he know that William S. Hutt had his store on Main Street in downtown Little Rock. Lucky for me! Had the town been known, I doubt I would have been able to buy it as cheaply as I did. But there was no way I was gonna let this thing slip away.