Peonies galore at Hildene, Manchester Center, Vermont

by Sandra Hutchinson

Each June, the formal gardens at Hildene, in Manchester,  Vermont, overflow with an abundance of heirloom peonies. Built at the turn of the 20th century as the summer home of Robert Lincoln, the only child of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, Hildene was saved from development by local residents in the 1970s after the last descendant of the Lincoln family living there died in 1975. The Friends of Hildene purchased the estate in 1978, worked to restore the home and gardens, and then opened it to the public. Here’s a quick history of the property from the Hildene web site.

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Stay-at-home report from northern New York State

By Sandra Hutchinson

I know there’s no shortage of people ruminating on the Web about being stuck at home and the various ways they are trying to cope during the Covid-19 shutdown. I am intensely grateful that I can do my work for our business from home, I don’t often have to venture into public places, and I don’t have young children at home who need help with schoolwork! Above all, I am thankful that most of my friends and family seem to be healthy and weathering the storm.

The line up on our kitchen counter. Grateful to have a can of Lysol spray.

But since we can’t physically travel, and are pretty much confined at home, I haven’t published an article on my blog since January, when I wrote about our visit to Frida Kahlo’s home in Mexico City. So even though I can’t share some wonderful destination, I can share what’s been happening in my house in northern New York State.

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The origins of the term “quarantine”

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One of my “blogger friends,” Janet Simmonds, who publishes an elegant blog called The Educated Traveller, recently posted fascinating material about the origin of the word “quarantine.”

Janet splits her time between her native England and Italy, primarily Venice. She explains that beginning in the 14th century, various “plagues” arrived in Venice, decimating the population. In the early 16th century, the Venetians set aside an island in the lagoon where arriving ships would be isolated for forty days, which was the length of separation believed to be necessary to be prevent the spread of disease through the population. The Italian word for forty is “quaranta.”

I hope you will give Janet’s blog a read. Here is the link to her fascinating article entitled Venice — Health, Quarantine and Santa Maria Della Salute.

Venice – Health, Quarantine and Santa Maria della Salute

Visiting the Frida Kahlo Museum, “La Casa Azul,” Coyoacán, Mexico City

In early January, we made a visit to the home of famed Latin American artist Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), in Mexico City. Also called La Casa Azul (“The Blue House”), the property is operated as Museo Frida Kahlo, and much of the home has been left furnished as it was when the artist died. Judging by the crowds, and the difficulty of obtaining tickets, I would say this is a pilgrimage for fans of the artist.

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Middlethorpe Hall, York, England — a National Trust Country House Hotel

Front entrance of Middlethorpe Hall, York.

This fall, my husband and I had the great fortune to stay at Middlethorpe Hall, one of three National Trust UK’s country house hotels. Middllethorpe Hall is just a few miles outside of downtown York; the other two National Trust hotels are located in North Wales and Aylesbury, the latter being about an hour from London. All three hotels were acquired by the National Trust by donation.

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December Getaway at Stockbridge’s Red Lion Inn

I recently managed a quick, two-night, mid-week, pre-Christmas getaway with my best friend at the historic Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Mass., in the heart of the Berkshires. The Inn is shown at the right of this 1967 illustration done for McCall’s magazine by Norman Rockwell, titled Home for Christmas (Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas). Rockwell’s own South Street home appears at the far right.

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Live like a student at Oxford University: B&B at Christ Church College

This September, I had the privilege of spending a week in Oxford, England, while taking a course on the history of the British/American relationship. The program was a collaboration between the University of Virginia and Oxford University.

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Radcliffe Camera, Oxford.

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Nifty items in new exhibit at Old Fort House Museum, Fort Edward

By Sandra Hutchinson

A newly-opened exhibit at the Old Fort House in Fort Edward highlights significant objects and paintings in the collection, and reveals some surprising information tied to those objects. Click here for the museum’s Web site.

“A Century of Collecting: Treasures from the Old Fort House” was researched by guest curator Jillian Mulder, who serves as curator of the Chapman Historical Museum in Glens Falls.

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Tea Island, Lake George, circa 1882-1892. Helena Dewey Little

“I’m hoping that people recognize that Fort Edward has this terrific collection,” says Ms. Mulder. “Go see it. Take some pride in it. It’s worth valuing.”

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Wiawaka Center for Women, Lake George, NY

by Sandra Hutchinson

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The Victorian, Mansard-roofed Fuller House, is where guests check in and have their meals. There is also lodging on the upper floors.

Nestled along the southeastern shore of Lake George, in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, is the oldest continuously operating women’s retreat center in the United States. Wiawaka Center for Women was founded in 1903, by Mary Wiltsie Fuller (1862-1943), the daughter of an industrialist from Troy, New York, as a place for the female workers in the textile factories and laundries of Troy and nearby Cohoes, to enjoy an affordable summer respite.

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