Thursday, July 24, 2014

Veblen Summer Cottage in Brooklin, Maine, Reportedly Found!

Some friends who were visiting Brooklin, Maine, this summer report that they have tracked down the Veblen's cottage, down close to the beach. The Veblens would go to Maine during the summer. Last year I was told that the cottage had probably been demolished to make room for more upscale homes, so the discovery of what may be the original cottage is an exciting surprise. Brooklin is known particularly for its tradition of boat building, and also as the home of E.B. White and the farm he modeled Charlotte's Web after. Veblen is mentioned in the Wikipedia page on Brooklin as one of the local notables.

My friends took some photos, which will be very helpful not only as a portrait of the Veblen's vacation spot but also for comparing with their "cottage" farmhouse that still stands near the Veblen House. Here is Scotia's account of finding the Maine cabin earlier this week. The "Keeping Society" is the group dedicated to keeping Brooklin's history alive and well accounted for:
"We went today to the Brooklin Keeping Society, open one day a week, and met June Eaton, in her eighties, who called in Lorna, in her sixties, from the Town Hall. Lorna drew us a map, and told me that the building where the Veblens lived was very near the water. She said that the people who had bought it kept the original chimney and renovated the kitchen. So Dick and I went back down a lane that we had missed and found what we believe was the the original wood shingle house with an old stone chimney and the view described. The house also has windows with diamond-shaped panes, and a nearby small shed on what is now an adjoining property has the same kind of windows. The house, which has a beautiful garden, has been enlarged with an attractive two-story wing."
The Veblens are said not to have socialized much while up at their cabin in Maine, and the location of the cabin, far from downtown, helps explain that. Here's another quote from Scotia's email:
"June Eaton mentioned that Veblen was simple in his tastes and did not dress up when he was in Brooklin so she was surprised to learn at the time he lived there that he was a "big brain."

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Green Fringed Orchid Blooms

In an uncanny way, the Veblen House and surrounding landscape have time and again rewarded curiosity and optimism. Both the Veblen and Stuart histories have proven richer than they appeared on the surface, so it shouldn't be surprising if a few gems pop up in the plain-looking field next to the house.

This spring, walking through the field, I noticed the first few leaves of a plant that looked out of the ordinary. I put a fence around it, since deer are all too fond of native wildflowers. There were more of the same kind of plant nearby, but I figured they all might be common lily of the valley, so only protected the one.

Once again, I had underestimated the richness of the Veblen site, because the one protected plant grew not into a run of the mill garden plant but a green fringed orchid (Platanthera lacera). It rates 8 out of 10 on the NJ Plant Stewarship Index, which measures the quality of a plant community. Not bad. Without protection, all the others in the field have been eaten down to the ground. Next year, if they still have enough energy in the roots to make another go of it, we'll know to protect them.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Birthday, Sylvia Whiton-Stuart

This evening, on July 4, I happen to be researching Sylvia Whiton-Stuart, daughter of Jesse Palmier Whiton-Stuart, the original owner of what we now call the Veblen House. It turns out that she was born on July 4, 1906. What I've learned thus far is that she eloped at an early age with a writer by the name of Eric Hatch.

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about Eric Hatch: Eric S. Hatch (October 31, 1901 - July 4, 1973) was an American writer on the staff of The New Yorker and a novelist and screenwriter best known for his books 1101 Park Avenue, (which became a hit film under the title My Man Godfrey) and The Year of the Horse (which was adapted as a Disney comedy with the title, The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit).[1]

She later remarried, still at an early age, according to a society article which may or may not have been tongue in cheek, to Lawrence Turnure, who has the same name as a very wealthy businessman from the previous generation. Lots of mysteries to explore.