A Happy Return: Back with ACE and the OCLP!
By: Anna Tiburzi
Hello everyone and welcome!
Briefly, my name is Anna Tiburzi and I’m a graduate student pursuing a Master of Landscape Architecture degree at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF).
This will be my second official summer working with American Conservation Experience (ACE) and the Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation (OCLP), as well as SUNY ESF’s Center for Cultural Landscape Preservation (CCLP) and I’m excited to be back and working on a new project!
Some of you may be familiar with my project from last summer (or not, that’s okay!), where I spent my internship working on graphic modeling for the Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island. It was an amazing project where I really got to flex and strengthen my digital visualization skills and delve into the details of the island’s landscape in a really visual and immersive way.
I’m excited to say that this year I have the chance to do something completely different and get to explore a whole other side of OCLP’s work with Cultural Landscape Reports (CLRs).
This summer will be focused on the Elizabeth Cady Stanton House and Chamberlain House properties – both part of the Women’s Rights National Historical Park – in Seneca Falls, NY.
I received my B.A. in Geography from SUNY Geneseo; the evolution of landscapes has always been my first love and the relationship between people, cultures, and landscapes is what forms the foundation for my interest in Landscape Architecture. The opportunity this summer to delve into research and explore the history and story behind the landscape at the Stanton House is something that feels both refreshingly new and comfortably familiar all at once.
The name of the game right now is data collection, organization, and synthesis, starting with going through existing files and documentation and then delving into as many physical and digital resources as I can find to round up documentation, images, and maps of the properties during the period of significance (1847-1862, the years of Stanton’s occupancy and ownership at the site) and through to the present.
Already I can tell one of the major challenges of this project is going to be staying on task. There’s a wealth of information about the Women’s Suffrage Movement and Elizabeth Cady Stanton herself that’s so interesting and distracting – I could easily fall down a rabbit hole of tangential research that isn’t directly relevant to the project’s scope.
But that’s a risk I’m more than willing to take.
I’ve already delved into some of the available digital resources and one of the first documents I started to create myself was a Chronological Landscape History, where I’ve begun to sort the information I’ve learned by year, creating a timeline for the Stanton House lot and Chamberlain House properties, both of which are located in Seneca Falls.
The period of significance for the site is 1847-1862, the years when the Stanton family lived at the house after leaving Boston and before moving to Brooklyn. The house that stands onsite now is actually about half the size as it had been during the period of Stanton occupancy. Missing its historic east and north wings, the structure would have been much larger, and more symmetrical in its Greek-revival style. Though their foundations remain, these wings are lost and have not been rebuilt due to a lack of sufficient evidence and documentation.
This house is where Elizabeth Cady Stanton lived during the planning and holding of the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, which was held at the nearby Wesleyan Chapel. Here, Cady Stanton would birth four of her seven children, host her friends and allies in both the anti-slavery and women’s reform movements, and would pen her letters, speeches, and writings to papers.
I’m reading through many of those writings now, courtesy of the Library of Congress’ digital archives. Their Elizabeth Cady Stanton Papers Collection includes letters, speeches, clippings, and other forms of writing relating to Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her associates. Most of these letters are hand-penned and, as I’m a little rusty when it comes to reading script, the flourishes can sometimes make it a little more difficult to discern the message.
My favorite letter so far is actually written by Elizabeth’s father, Daniel Cady, who wrote to his grandson, Daniel, while the Stantons were living in Seneca Falls.
It seems young Daniel, who would have been about 8 at the time, as far as I can tell, wished for a pony. Though his grandfather recommended against the venture at the Stanton House, since they lacked both a pasture and stable (And did Daniel consider the cost of what it would take to own a pony? Or horses?, his grandfather asks.), he told young Daniel that he’d let him farm on his property in Canaan if that’s what Daniel decided he wanted to do. Daniel Cady also tells Daniel that he’s impressed he writes so well, though in the future, he should consult a dictionary to improve his spelling and then pen a clean copy of his letter, free of “blots and erasures” before sending it.
While this doesn’t give any direct landscape information – as that’s the focus of this project – many of the letters don’t. What they do give us is an idea of Elizabeth’s life while she was at the Stanton House. Her own writings are more focused in nature, generally speaking about the anti-slavery or women’s rights movements, though she sometimes mentions her housekeeping or the birth of one of her children. Her husband, Henry, covers a variety of subjects, from dinners he’s attended, friends he’s seen, and topics that are being discussed at assembly. He also inquires after her and the children, asks for letters from her, and mentions he’ll be sending money her way. He often addresses these letters “My Dear Elizabeth” or “Dear Love”. On one occasion, he left a postscript, “Love to Babies”.
As sweet as these are, they’re also very telling. Henry spent a fair amount of time away from the Stanton House in his pursuit of a political career; Elizabeth was responsible for maintaining the household and raising their children. She was frustrated by the duties of domestic housekeeping and, used to the bustle of Boston, the town of Seneca Falls left her feeling a distinct lack of intellectual and mental stimulation – a feeling which she addressed when she began devoting her time and energy to the Women’s Rights Movement.
“Your servant is not dead but liveth. Imagine me, day in and day out, watching, bathing, dressing, nursing and promenading the precious contents of a little crib in the corner of my room. I pace up and down these two chambers of mine like a caged lioness, longing to bring to a close and housekeeping cares. I have other work on hand too.
– Elizabeth Cady Stanton, in a letter to Susan B. Anthony, June 10, 1856. From the Library of Congress digital archives, the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Papers Collection.
From Cady Stanton’s letters, you can get a feel for how strongly she felt about the movement and her sentiments come across so clearly in her writings to family, friends, and associates.
In the next update, I’ll start with an introduction to Lot No. 6, the property that the Stanton House has historically sat on, and how it’s evolved over time.
Thanks for reading and see you next time!