There are many times, in the restoration of Herrontown Woods, when the right person showed up at the right time. The story of the gazebo in particular has instances of uncanny arrivals. As the summer of 2021 wore on, we were starting to wonder, in this pandemic era when so many people are remodeling their homes, how we'd ever find a professional carpenter with time and inclination to work on the Veblen House. It came to mind, though, that builders of theater sets might still be in a lull, and so I reached out to our past board member Perry Jones, who has contacts at McCarter Theater. Word was passed along, ultimately leading to a fortuitous email arriving in my inbox.
Robb has been working on Veblen House for a month now, and he is proving to have a remarkable eye for detail. In the process of rebuilding the east wall, he has been finding lots of clues to how, and how well, the house was constructed.
Googling "Bottum" led to a history of the name's origins in the York area of England, where coincidentally Veblen's future wife, Elizabeth Richardson, had lived before moving to Princeton.
"Bottom", of course, is a memorable character in Midsummer Night's Dream, which we'd love to stage on the Veblen House grounds.
The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man's hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report what my dream was. I will get Peter Quince to write a ballad of this dream. It shall be called 'Bottom's Dream', because it hath no bottom.
And when Peter Quince is done writing that ballad, maybe he'll help us replant quince trees in front of the Veblen House, where they were still growing when I first encountered the house back in 2008.
Another interesting potential clue to the house's history came while Robb was waiting for the traffic light to change, up at the intersection of Snowden and Nassau Street.