“The New Textiles”, or, Remodeling the Dining Room in 1958

The following is  a paper written by Dorothy Griswold for a women’s club named “Snark” that she belonged to in Yonkers, New York, the city where she and Harlan lived from the time of their marriage in 1935 until their move to Woodbury in 1953. The women were apparently assigned research papers to present to the club. I don’t know whether any of the other members of the club did serious things, but from the material Dorothy left behind, it seems their main aim in the club was sheer nonsense, appropriate to the poem from which they named their club.

“The New Textiles” – Part One

Dorothy Griswold, May, 1958, Publicity Photo, Probably for House Tour

Something is wrong with the title of this paper. Put very simply it doesn’t fit the subject matter. How could it when the subject matter has nothing to do with textiles? And the reason it doesn’t is because the writer knows nothing about textiles. It seems perfectly logical to me, having left Yonkers and the intellectual ambitions it fosters in people, that anything requiring study and research is simply not realistic in the disordered mental atmosphere of what some call the peaceful country.

In Woodbury you are supposed to be artistic or clever but you do not need to be intellectual. My efforts at being artistic have floundered hopelessly but I go with the right people and belong to a proper club – the Garden Club. Fortunately a great deal is overlooked because of my house. In fact, I’m sure that my house is much more a member than I am.

Last year the Garden Club had a flower show and house tour combined. It goes without saying that my house was on the tour. I pleaded with the chairman not to make me do it this time since we still had not done any decorating and it looked frightful – and hers would be much more suitable.

The Parlor Fireplace & Room Before Redecoration. Note White paint & cracks.

The chairman was Doris – and Doris is married to Iggy (short for Ignatius) and, since the subject matter has a good deal more to do with Doris and Iggy than Textiles, I’ll have to take a few minutes out to tell you about this unique couple. Doris is pretty and plump with a hesitant charming smile and a sweet vague manner. The vague manner fooled me at first. I wanted to help her. She seemed rather ill-equipped to deal with any project that required action. And, while getting ready to give her a little push to help her get started, I found she had accomplished quite amazing things in a very practical way. Doris is very artistic, paints extremely well (-I am the grateful recipient of a large picture of my house she did many years ago) – she is an artist at flower arrangements and a gourmet cook to name a few of her talents. She and Iggy are retired innkeepers and I learned much to my surprise, well on in my acquaintance with her, that she had managed and supervised all the cooking at the very high class inn they owned and operated.

Iggy is a large brawny good-natured man apparently as strong as an ox and completely capable in every area requiring tools of every kind. He has a large hearty laugh, is very generous with his time and strength as you will see. Iggy and Doris have two consuming joint passions and those are old houses and antiques. Their auxiliary passion of landscape gardening (on a large scale), painting, flower arrangements and gourmet cooking add up to a passion for perfection. And they have no apparent handicaps to contend with such as children, pets, in-laws, job, lack of money, civic responsibility or church. for one who goes off in all directions at once to tend all of these handicaps, their single mindedness of purpose is a beautiful thing to see.

Naturally, with all these assets, they have the most perfectly restored old home in the area and the furniture and grounds to go with it. It is little short of the perfection we all sometimes rashly dream of. I therefore suggested to Doris that her own house would be more suitable than mine but hers, she said, wouldn’t be finished yet and she became so upset and fluttery at the idea of not having our house, the most beautiful in Connecticut in case you didn’t know, that I capitulated. Iggy and Doris loaned me some furniture for the “slave quarters” for the tour, which gave it its moment of perfection.

We lived through that tour – the fourth in the five years we have been here and I said to myself and anyone else who would listen “that’s the last tour until my house is fixed up” and I really meant it too. I did think that some day, and maybe not too far away, it would get some fixing. But then it seems houses occasionally have to have new roofs and ours was in this year’s new roof category. The roofing people from all over Connecticut had been stopping by ever since we moved in to pass the time of day and remind us of the inevitable approach of doom. They really licked their chops over this one. Finally, to stop the flood and also some leaks, a new roof was ordered.

In a house like ours you don’t just call the nearest Johns Manville office and look at samples of the most becoming color. You get cedar shingles or Iggy comes around and says disparaging things about people who don’t respect the past and the heritage they have been so lucky to acquire. My contention was that since the town had failed to get zoning passed, anything could happen across the street and then we would probably have to sell the house at a terrific loss and what good would our cedar shingles do us then. I didn’t breathe this to Iggy, of course, and was relieved when I was overruled because I really couldn’t have faced him. For about four weeks, six high priced men crawled over our acre of roof throwing down tons of old shingles – (all of which had to be picked up, stacked and saved for kindling), replacing two old chimneys with brand new ones and, in general, creating quite a stir on Hollow Road and U.S. Route 6. Iggy was displeased with us for not using stone for the chimneys. He had some he would have given us but he was pleased with the cedar shingles so we felt we had gotten a passing mark and could hold up our heads in town.

With the new roof, which I hope will last until it is paid for, it looked as if hopes of decorating a room had evaporated again and then, when the furnace went on the blink, I was sure of it.

to be continued


About skgriswold

My love of history and art was nurtured by living in a wonderful significant historical house for much of my life.
This entry was posted in Architecture, Friendship, Historic Preservation, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to “The New Textiles”, or, Remodeling the Dining Room in 1958

  1. Amy says:

    I never knew Dorothy was such a wonderful, insightful and amusing writer.

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