Art is the Answer? Records of Artists in the National Register of Historic Places

Today’s post is by John LeGloahec, Archivist in the Electronic Records Division at the National Archives in College Park, MD.

President Carter, Andy Warhol
Jimmy Carter with Andy Warhol during a reception for inaugural portfolio artists (National Archives Identifier 175147)

The records of the National Register of Historic Places (National Archives Identifier 20812721) contain multiple properties regarding artists and art museums, including the Pakatakan Artists Colony Historic District (National Archives Identifier 75317253), is “located in Arkville, a rural hamlet in the southeastern corner of Delaware County, New York, is historically and architecturally significant for its association with the Catskill Mountain School of landscape artists and as an extremely well-preserved collection of unusual Shingle style and other wood frame seasonal buildings which provide a physical record of early summer settlement in the Catskill Mountains between 1886 and 1930 . . . The painters of the Catskill Mountain School, which included the Pakatakan group, were prolific and became known for an Impressionistic approach that was characterized by the delicate use of color and light. The artists colony began with a hotel, the Hoffman House, built in 1886, and eventually comprised seventeen primary buildings, including artist’s residences and studios; these buildings reflect the influence of Shingle style design, particularly its organic and informal qualities, which affect a unity of building and nature.” If you would like to know more about the eccentric artist pictured about with President Carter, you could stop by the Hotel Albert in New York City, which is now a “co-op apartment complex known today as “The Albert Apartment Corporation,” at 23 East 10th Street in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, is architecturally significant under Criterion C as a handsome early apartment house design by prominent New York architect Henry Hardenbergh, with additions by the firm of Buchman & Fox, as well as William L. Bottomley working with Suganuan & Hess. The Albert is historically significant under Criterion A in the areas of art, performing arts and literature. Over the course of a century, from the 1880s through the early-1970s, the Albert played a significant role in New York’s cultural life. In its earliest years, the Albert attracted a respectable clientele, and many professional societies held meetings there. It soon became known, however, for artists and writers, and eventually also for political radicals. After World War II, the hotel fell on hard times and gradually decayed, but it was also in those years that the Albert became a haven to writers, artists and musicians. Due to this important last wave activity, the Hotel is considered on the local level to be exceptionally significant up to the early 1970s period . . . Visual artists who spent time at the Albert include painter Albert Pinkham Ryder (brother of the hotel’s manager – his famous painting, “The Race Track,” was inspired by an event at the Albert), photographer Keith Carter, sculptors Philip Guston and Steve Urry, Abstract-Expressionist Bradley Walker Tomlin, and figures associated with Andy Warhol. Jackson Pollock attended dinners at the Albert.”

President Obama in the Oval Office admiring Edward Hopper artwork
President Obama Viewing Two Edward Hopper Paintings in the Oval Office (National Archives Identifier 231363272)

If you are a fan of American artist Edward Hopper, as President Obama is, you can visit Hopper’s Birthplace and Boyhood Home (National Archives Identifier 75321454) in Rockland County, New York, “is historically significant, in the local context, for its association with this noted American artist. The house was the place of his birth and remained his primary residence until 1910 when he relocated to New York City. Edward Hopper’s work is characterized by a stark, realistic approach to his subjects, a dramatic use of light, and an emphasis on native American architecture as a subject base. The naturalistic, nativist movement, as personified by Hopper, which gained acceptance in the 1920’s, continues into the present, notably in the work of Andrew Wyeth. Throughout his career he was attracted to nautical subjects perhaps as a result of his boyhood influences along the Hudson River. Edward Hopper holds a high position in the spectrum of American artists. The house remained in the Hopper family and continued to be owned jointly by Edward and his sister Marion until his death in 1967. The house derives additional significance in the area of architecture as an amalgam of mid and late-nineteenth century architectural tastes. Composed of a largely intact side hall Greek Revival dwelling and a large Queen Anne style addition, the architecture of the house tracks the evolution and prosperity of the Smith-Hopper family as well as the development of the Village of Nyack.”

Brandywine River Museum
Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway – Brandywine River Museum at Historic Grist Mill (National Archives Identifier 7717453)

If you would like to know more about the Naturalistic, Nativist Movement and the Wyeth family, you could next visit the Pennsylvania NHL Wyeth, N.C., House and Studio (National Archives Identifier 71994165) in Chadds Ford, Delaware, where “the Golden Age of Illustration as a chapter in the history of American art is uniquely interpreted . . . The buildings and idyllic setting give form to the life and career of one of the period’s most successful illustrators. Despite national recognition for his easel paintings (he was elected to the National Academy in 1941) and for public and private mural commissions, the fame N.C. Wyeth enjoyed was largely due to his illustrations for books and magazines. Like other great painters who worked as illustrators—notably Winslow Homer, Frederick Remington, and John Sloan—Wyeth was able to infuse many of his illustrations and paintings with an extraordinary sense of the American spirit. His best paintings are those subjects he knew best, many depicting the rural farm scenes that surrounded his home and anchored his life. So deeply did N. C. Wyeth plant his roots in Chadds Ford that a family of American artists—three generation of Wyeths spanning the twentieth century—has been nourished by this site.”

Laura Bush, Andrew and Betsy Wyeth
Mrs. Laura Bush with National Medal of Arts Recipient Andrew Wyeth and His Wife, Betsy Wyeth (National Archives Identifier 7431315)

“The Newell Convers Wyeth House and Studio Historic District is composed of three buildings, five structures, and one site located within an 18 acre property just east of the Brandywine Creek near Route 100, in Chadds Ford Township (formerly Birmingham Township), Delaware Co., Pennsylvania. The principal resources are the Newell Convers Wyeth (N.C. Wyeth) house and studio. The house is a two-story, ell-shaped building constructed in 1911 and expanded and remodeled in 1926. The studio is a one-story, ell-shaped building, also constructed in 1911. Additions were constructed in 1923 and 1930-1. The two other resources on the property are a dam, built in 1912, and a pump house (counted as a structure), built in 1923. The property’s buildings are linked thematically by the presence of several architectural elements such as broad clapboard siding, large overhanging eaves, white paint, and an all-header brick pattern. Some of these elements were specified by Wyeth. The remaining four resources are the remnants of Wyeth’s clay tennis court (c. 1926 but counted as noncontributing due to the loss of integrity), just west of the house, the brick entrance gate posts, probably constructed in 1911, a stone and concrete retaining wall in front of the house, c. 1911, and a split rail fence on the front lawn south of the house and bam, which replicates the original (counted as noncontributing). The grounds of the property are counted as one contributing site because of the importance the setting played in Wyeth’s work.”

You can visit the home of Grant Wood in Iowa, where Wood came up with many ideas for his artwork, including “American Gothic.”  “This house was the home of American regional artist Grant Wood (1891-1942) from 1936 until his death. Although Wood began painting during his childhood, and exhibited in Paris in the 1920’s, his early impressionistic style brought little notice. In 1928, Wood went to Munich, and while there became interested in European primitive styles, particularly in their use of the artists’ own environments as vehicles for expression. Out of this experience. Grant Wood produced first “Woman With Plant” (1929) and “American Gothic” (1930), the latter work winning him the Norman Wait Harris medal at the Chicago Art Institute and immediate national recognition. In 1932 Wood co-founded the Stone City (Iowa) Colony and Art School, and in 1934 was appointed lecturer, later associate professor, in art at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

“During the last years of his life, while he lived in the brick house he had restored himself. Wood experimented with lithography, producing “Seedtime and Harvest”, “January”, “December Afternoon”, and other prints. He made four lithographs in color during 1938, small studies of vegetables and flowers. Among the paintings completed by Wood here were “Portrait of Nan” (1938),”Haying”, “New Road”‘, and “Parson Weems’ Fable–Washington Cherry Tree” (1939) and “Adolescence”(1940). Also during this period, Grant Wood wrote Revolt Against the City, in which he discussed the enormous potential of the rural Midwest landscape and people to provide “the richest kind of material for a truly indigenous style” of painting. The work was a direct statement of his personal belief in -the value and importance of regionalism in art, and expressed the sentiments of several of his friends and fellow artists, including Marvin Cone (also of Iowa) and the great Missouri regionalist painter, Thomas Hart Benton.

“Architecturally, the Oakes-Wood house is an interesting mixture of the elaborate and the plain. To a straightforward, basic American house plan were added the complicated brackets and long windows, which foreshadowed a future American mania for elaborate, structurally useless decoration and high ceilings, which at the extreme reached 15′ or more in height.  The house was built in 1858 by Nicholas Oakes, who established the first brickyard in Iowa City in an adjacent lot. Oakes also manufactured drain tile, possibly the first to do so in Johnson County.”

Boat on the Hudson River
New York – Hudson River (National Archives Identifier 68145093)

In New York, the “father” of the Hudson River School of Painting, lived in a home overlooking the Hudson called Olana, which “is perched on a hilltop 500′ above the east bank of the Hudson River, just south of Hudson, New York. Built in two stages, from 1870-72 and 1888-89, Olana, which means “Our place on high” in Arabic, was designed primarily by Church himself, with the practical aid of Calvert Vaux. Despite its many Eastern details and exotic appearance, the house is basically a two story Italian villa dominated by a square, three story tower with a steep Second Empire roof, on the southeast corner. Built of a local reddish-brown slate in rubble masonry, the house’s exterior is richly embroidered with colored tiles, polychrome brickwork, and limestone Moorish arches, to produce a tapestry effect. The roof is similarly ornate as it utilizes red, green and black slate tiles in geometric patterns. A great variety of asymmetrically placed windows and doors, some protruding in rectangular bays and others recessed under pointed Moorish arches, or treated as Gothic lancets, contribute to the composition of an exceptionally fine example of the eclecticism and exoticism which was characteristic of the Victorian era. The wealth of Oriental detail, which reflects Church’s fascination with the Near East, is generally labelled “Persian,” and

indicates a general tendency to utilize various elements for a picturesque effect without regard for an historically correct usage.”

In the American southwest, the seminal artist of the region is Georgia O’Keefe.  Her home and studio in New Mexico are listed on the National Register, “located in Abiquiu, New Mexico, an unincorporated village situated on a mesa overlooking the Chama River Valley roughly 50 miles northwest of Santa Fe. The artist Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) purchased the property from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe in late 1945, after eyeing the house and grounds—and attempting to buy them—for some ten years. The artist’s house, a detached studio, and a large garden, all on about 4 acres, are of historic significance. The property also includes a bomb shelter that O’Keeffe had constructed north of the studio in the late 1950s. A fourth building on the property—a storage shed built by the Foundation in 1994—does not have sufficient historic association or integrity to be declared significant.

“O’Keeffe discovered the house in the early 1930s during one of her frequent visits to northern New Mexico. While driving by the walled grounds of the property on her way through Abiquiu, the artist happened to glimpse a rambling adobe structure and the remnants of a garden through a

break in the adobe wall. Once she determined that the house was unoccupied, she climbed the wall to explore the grounds. She found that the property had its own well and a system of acequias, or irrigation ditches, which could provide for the cultivation of crops, trees, and flowers not otherwise found in the high desert. The source of the water was a natural spring located above the town on the mesa. As part of the original Spanish land grant that had established Abiquiu in the 1730s, each property in the village collective had access to the water from the spring.

“In 1940, after repeated attempts to buy the Abiquiu property had failed, O’Keeffe bought another property 12 miles north of Abiquiu. This property comprised a small adobe house and 8 acres located within the 30,000-acre confines of a dude ranch known as Ghost Ranch, an area that O’Keeffe had been visiting since the early 1930s (during the same period in which she was exploring Abiquiu and its environs). Situated at the base of spectacular pink and yellow cliffs that O’Keeffe frequently painted, the house at Ghost Ranch became a place of artistic renewal and a yearly retreat from the pressures of the New York art world and the social demands generated by the activities of her husband, Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946), the pioneer photographer and modem art impresario.”

Poster of Norman Rockwell's Four Freedoms
THE FOUR FREEDOMS (National Archives Identifier 515596)

In Massachusetts in the Elm-Maple-South Streets Historic District, you can visit the neighborhood where Norman Rockwell maintained a home, “the Tidmarsh / Edwards / Rockwell House . . . the two story hip-roofed house resembles the large Federal houses of Main Street more than other houses in this neighborhood. Nearly square in footprint, the house has a five bay front, deep two bay sides, and a two-part gabled two-story ell. Two rectangular interior chimneys emerge from the side planes of the low-pitched roof The white clapboarded house has a finely dentillated roofline, elaborate fascia moldings, 6/6 windows with blinds, and an enclosed front porch. The panelled door is framed with four-paned sidelights, pilasters, and a three-part transom. Two transom lights are over the door, and single panes above the sidelights. (This arrangement of lights is consistent with an image of the house on a map of 1855.) The porch, added since 1855, has a dentillated cornice and doors on two sides. Doors and porch windows are multi-paned. Comer pilasters with lancet-shaped panels suggest a porch construction date during the mid- to later 19th century.’ The foundation is made of large blocks of cut stone. Added after artist Norman Rockwell bought the house in 1957 is an appended south side one story hip-roofed sunroom. On the south side the ell extends sideways beyond the main block of the house. On the ell’s indented north side is a shed-roofed open porch and garage door. External stairs to a second floor door are located on the back of the ell. Though it stands close to South Street, the house’s facade is difficult to see through a dense stand of hemlocks. The plantings reflect Rockwell’s desire for privacy during his years of ownership (1957-1978). The artist’s studio, a remodeled carriage bam that stood in the rear yard, was moved to the Norman Rockwell Museum at Linwood near Glendale in Stockbridge. Molly Punderson Rockwell’s photographic studio, a former ice house, remains near the driveway in the back yard, a low, front-gabled, shingled building with wall dormer. Southwest of the house near the edge of the terrace, the Rockwell “Escapebo” (1971, photo 20), formerly attached to the artist’s studio which lay to its north by a shielding fence, is a wood-walled complex framing an outdoor sitting area, a retreat from the public gaze. Composing the Escapebo are connected walls and sheds with pitched roofs of one plane that together create an asymmetric enclosure opening to the west, a shield from the view of the street and other buildings. The structures, designed by Stockbridge architect Starbuck Smith, have solid, pale gray walls of vertical flush boarding.”

You can also visit the Back Bay Historic District, an area of Boston, closely associated with the artist John Singer Sargent, “the consummate physical manifestation of Boston in her intellectual and economic maturation. “In a word, it was in the Back Bay that Boston first established herself as one of the centers of world culture in the arts and sciences.” The original Museum of Fine Arts, the Boston Public Library, the Museum of Natural History, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and many of the city’s famed clubs and private institutions settled here. Writers and philosophers – Oliver Wendell Holmes, William Dean Howells, George Santayana, Henry and William James, and many more of international renown—lived; and worked in the Back Bay; and artists like John Singer Sargent, William Morris Hunt, and Henry Hobson Richardson are inseparably associated with it. Finally, the Back Bay was home for the rich and elite of the city. “Old Order” families and those but recently “arrived” made the Back Bay the center of city fashion and shared in their patronage of the artists and architects who created it. “The abode … of legendary brahmins and ambitious Silas Laphams, the Back Bay has a thousand associations with American thought and action of the later nineteenth century. In brownstone and brick, it symbolizes its epoch in a way that words and figures alone cannot.”

George Washington (after Gilbert Stuart)
George Washington, After Gilbert Stuart (National Archives Identifier 135798097)

While on your artistic tour of New England, be sure to visit the birthplace of Gilbert Stuart in Rhode Island, “the environment that young Gilbert Stuart knew as home two centuries ago, remains relatively unchanged and removed from modern intrusions. The woodland and river-fed streams surrounding the house are quite undisturbed by man-made development. The original Stuart house, with a working replica of its water wheel and millstone for grinding snuff have been carefully preserved by local efforts . . . The gambrel roofed, clapboarded Stuart Birthplace, today painted dark red, was built sometime prior to 1751. It was built into a hill, on the fall line beside the waterfall which propels the mill’s water wheel, and therefore, the land to the north of the house is higher, and the entrance to the north side of the house is on the second story.

“Gilbert Stuart, perhaps the most famous American portrait painter, was born and spent his early childhood in this tranquil spot at the junction of the Mattatoxet stream and the Pattaquamscott tidal river in southern Rhode Island. The gambrel roofed house was built between two streams, beside a waterfall which propelled the waterwheel on the east side of the house . . . On December 3, 1755 Gilbert Stuart was born in this house and he lived here until 1761, when his father sold his share of the unsuccessful snuff producing venture and moved his family to Newport.”

Finally, take in the studio of Winslow Homer in Maine, a “small wooden building located at Prout’s Neck in Scarborough, Maine . . . An artist of rare talent and integrity, Homer is noted for his Civil War scenes, landscapes, genre works, and particularly for his powerful paintings of the sea. Though his formal training was limited largely to lithography, Homer mastered oils and watercolor, and his works rank with the best in both media. Among the notable works which he completed at Prout’s Neck are “The Life Line,” “The Fog Warning,” “The Herring Net,” and “Eight Bells.”

“Homer’s Studio was originally a carriage shed on his brother’s property, which the artist moved to its present location and converted for his own use in 1884. Though the studio was altered somewhat and enlarged by subsequent owners (1938-39) the painting room and the unchanged view from the second floor balcony of Saco Bay and the Atlantic Ocean are still highly evocative of Homer and his work.”

“The Winslow Homer Studio stands on the south side of Winslow Homer Road above the shore of Prout’s Neck in Scarborough, Maine. Winslow Homer Road is a private way serving a number of substantial summer cottages which appear to date from the late 19th through the mid-20th centuries. The small lot on which the Homer Studio is located is bordered on the east, south, and west by a second, undeveloped lot covered with grass and mature flowering shrubs; both parcels are owned by members of the Homer family and the two are maintained as a single unit. The view south from the Studio toward Bluff and Stratton Islands, about a mile offshore, and the Atlantic Ocean beyond remains relatively unchanged from the time of Homer’s residence there.”

The New Year, Winslow Homer
The New Year (National Archives Identifier 135797386)

One can also visit any number of art museums that are also on the National Register, as President Obama did with his family, above, including the Portland Art Museum (National Archives Identifier 77850646), the “first of nationally prominent Pacific Northwest architect Pietro Belluschi’s buildings to come to national attention. In particular, his use of monitor lighting in the upper galleries was hailed as a novel and appropriate solution to the problem of providing good light without glare. The museum and another Belluschi building, The Finley Mortuary of 1937, were included in a 1938 list of the 100 best buildings done in the United States in the preceding 20 years . . . The design of the Portland Art Museum has stood the test of time and changing tastes. Over forty years after its construction, it continues to stand with easy dignity, and is expected to grace Portland’s Park Blocks for some time to come.”

President Obama and family at the Smithsonian
The President, First Lady, and daughter Malia view a portrait of Abraham Lincoln while visiting the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. (National Archives Identifier 178330893)

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring records from the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and National Historic Landmarks Program Records, 2013 – 2017 (National Archives ID 20812721), a series within Record Group 79: Records of the National Park Service.

One thought on “Art is the Answer? Records of Artists in the National Register of Historic Places

  1. I am in need of research assistance.
    I need to know who can help me find the purchase and sales records for Winslow Homer’s studio between 1880 & 1920.
    I need Information about a relative’s purchase of a painting from this studio.

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