RISD completes Museum renovation

The Rhode Island School of Design’s Museum of Art has just completed extensive renovations of the Eliza G. Radeke Building, costing around $8.4m.

H.P. Lovecraft attended the grand opening in late April 1926. Probably on Sunday 25th April, the day after the official dedication ceremonies of what was then known as the Eliza G. Radeke Museum of Art. Lovecraft also found that he shared his Barnes St. house with… “an official of the School of Design Museum” (Letters from New York, p.312). This calm new Colonial-style museum must surely have been a Lovecraft haunt in the years after his return from New York. Lovecraft already knew well the RISD Museum’s neighbouring…

Pendelton House” … “sedulously maintained in order to give the visitor a faithful picture of Georgian interiors as they really were.” (Lovecraft letter to Kleiner, 1919).

There were hopes that the new Museum would soon have an accompanying Colonial style courtyard garden, though it appears the garden may not have been realised until 1933/4 as the plans were only drawn up in 1933 — if it was completed, it is possible that Lovecraft also visited the inaugural opening of the garden. Presumably there was then no admission charge for the Museum and Pendelton House, as the impoverished Lovecraft was taking his friends to both as late as 9th August 1936…

Today I shall meet Barlow & de Castro at noon, & we shall do the art museum (only a block down the hill from 66 [College St.]) — which R H B [Barlow] has seen only in part, & which will be wholly new to Old ’Dolph [Castro]. There’s some pretty good stuff in it, even if it isn’t a rival of the Metropolitan in N.Y. Attached to the museum proper is a perfect reproduction of a colonial mansion, containing the finest collection of American colonial furniture in the world.” (Letter to Galpin, 9th August 1936)

gallery1The Eliza G. Radeke Building entrance.

The Eliza G. Radeke Museum of Art, as the Radeke Building was then known, was housed at 224 Benefit St. in Providence. Its frontage suggested only a modest single floor, but visitors found that it dropped ambitiously down the steep hillside at the back for five floors, each housing galleries showing “a permanent collection … from Egyptian and Ancient art through Impressionism to 20th-century art and design”.

gallery2The Eliza G. Radeke Museum Greek & Roman gallery. (Modern photo of the central Roman sarcophagus in colour)

Pictures above from a primarily architectural article in the Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, June 1926.

risd-1935The Eliza G. Radeke Building’s south stairway and landing, seen in 1935. From RISD archives.

Sadly the date of the April 1926 opening puts it ‘over the line’ in terms of copyright, so I can’t find newspaper coverage of the initial opening in the Providence Sunday Journal and the like.

Added to Open Lovecraft

* Kevin Corstorphine (2013), “‘Colors We Cannot See': Invisibility and The Limits of Perception in Weird Fiction”. (Paper presented at the conference “The Weird” University of London, November 2013. Compares key stories of invisible monsters, and their probable influence on Lovecraft. Previously presented as “Invisible Monsters: The Limits of Perception in Bierce, Lovecraft and Machen” at the International Gothic Association meeting, University of Surrey, August 2013)

* Catia Cristina Sanzovo Jota (2013), “Terror and shock in H. P. Lovecraft. (Possibly a class paper?)

The Scotch Bakery on Court and Schermerhorn

Rheinhart Kleiner opened his memoir of Lovecraft, “Bards and Bibliophiles”, in…

a little coffee shop at the corner of Court and Schermerhorn Streets, Brooklyn” (Lovecraft Remembered, p.188)

I may have found a picture of this cafe, titled “Schermerhorn Street looking north to Court Street, 1928″ From Brooklypix

Brooklyn_Scotch_Bakery_court_schermerhorn_1928

Looking at the other available views of Schermerhorn/Court, it seems there were no other corner cafes there in the 1920s. The “Scotch Bakery and Lunch Room” can be seen on the right of the picture, and there is also a sculptural sign for it on the right-hand lamp post.

At the corner cafe Lovecraft and the gang would sup a 1 a.m. coffee and peruse the early morning editions of the New York newspapers, often before setting out for a long night walk.

According to the 1930s Federal Writers Project guide to New York, the opening of the Children’s Court on Schermerhorn in April 1922 had caused a host of children’s welfare charities to locate on Schermerhorn Street. There was also a small Greek community around the corner of Schermerhorn & Court, centred around a Greek Orthodox church there. Possibly the Greeks later took over the Scotch Bakery, as it was a stone’s throw from the church…

[the Greek Orthodox church is] The last vestige of a tiny Greek district; there was, until the late 1990s, a fine Greek bakery at the corner of Court and Schermerhorn” (AIA Guide to New York City, 2010).

One wonders if the owner of the Scotch Bakery had once told Lovecraft and the gang a story of a former regular cafe customer, a millionare recluse who lived in the cobwebbed “Haslett mansion”, part of which faced Clinton St., and who had once visited the bakery twice daily. Shades of Suydam in “The Horror at Red Hook”…

HERMIT DYING IN HOME … On Tuesday night the old man was only lightly clad and he suffered from cold. Both his feet froze and he tumbled unconscious into the areaway of Lord’s home [his lawyer]. It was through this accident that the Remsen Street [138 Remsen Street] mansion was opened … The moment physicians and nurses, who had been summoned, stepped into the place they swooned from the stifling atmosphere that rushed out to meet them. It seemed as if the house had never been opened, and the dust rose from the floors, in clouds that filled the nostrils and lungs.The gas was not turned on, and the little party of invaders had to light their way with candles. Passing through the great, dirty rooms, they found a chamber on the third floor in which the millionaire hermit had sealed himself, as if in a cave, for the last quarter of a century. It was the only room, it seemed, that he had set foot in after the body of his wife had been carried to the cemetery. After exploring the interior of the mildewed and dust-heaped mansion. It was decided to assign the task of cleaning it to a vacuum cleaning concern, and before this was done it was necessary to go through the rooms with a rake and collect the coin and bills that were scattered everywhere. In some of the dust heaps were found bonds and certificates of stock, bundles of letters and time-yellowed manuscripts. For years Samuel Haslett has lived on rolls and milk. Once each day he had journeyed to a bakeshop at Court and Schermerhorn streets and bought a package of rolls and three 10-cent milk [bottles]. (NYC wire report in the Sunday Oregonian, February 1912) (my emphasis).

hermit

Like Haslett, Suydam also foils an attempt to seize his estate. It seems there are further points of comparison with Lovecraft’s Suydam. Like Suydam, Haslett made a sudden remarkable recovery. He was miraculously rejuvenated and lived on for a few years, before his eventual death in January 1920.

haslett-rejuvenated

From a New York newspaper 1912-06-20, sadly I am unable to get the title as the scanning has obscured the title header. The case was widely reported across the nation in 1912, as it involved a senator and a nurse who had allegedly conspired to defraud the old man of his million.

He is the only survivor of the Haslett family, which in the days before the Civil War was one of the wealthiest and best-known in the city of Brooklyn” (The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 16th February 1912)

The similarity to Suydam even extends to mysterious visits to Europe…

“Occasionally [after Haslett's wife's death] he closed up the old house and disappeared on a trip abroad [to "odd corners of Europe"] for, apart from his interest in real estate, he was intensely concerned with the collection of curios of all kinds” (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Sunday June 7, 1914)

The location of “Juan Romero”: update

New ending for my short topographical note of September 2013, titled “The location of “Juan Romero”: Area 52″. Scratch the couple of sentences speculating on how Lovecraft might have learned of the area, and replace with…


How did Lovecraft come to know of the area? He appears to have been inspired in his choice of a desert setting by reading an amateur journalism author he named in a letter as ‘Phil Mac’ (Prof. Philip B. McDonald), who had apparently used a similar desert / mining setting, but for a “commonplace adventure yarn” (Lord of a Visible World, p.69). It seems Lovecraft had copied out a “dull” and “commonplace adventure yarn” sent to him by McDonald, intending to send the copy to his correspondence circle with a detailed critique of his own. But then he decided to just spend a day writing his own story based on the same or similar setting, and he then sent out both… “Youze gazinks have seen both Mac’s and my yarns.”

Philip B. McDonald graduated M.E. (Master of Engineering) from Michigan College of Mines. In Lovecraft’s The Conservative, McDonald was stated to be “Assistant Professor of Engineering English, University of Colorado” in July 1918, though he later moved to New York to become assistant professor of English, New York University. It appears he was the husband of the noted amateur journalist Edna Hyde McDonald (“Vondy”). McDonald’s desert story was not used in Lovecraft’s The Conservative and seems not to exist today, nor any of his fiction. So we don’t know how closely Lovecraft used, or not, what he called “the richly significant setting” of McDonald’s “dull yarn”.

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