What’s New at WDS – August 12, 2020

Everyday Living at WDS

In this week’s Everyday Living at WDS: dancing with the 18th-century stars! Did you know George Washington loved to dance? According to Mount Vernon, Washington once described dancing as “so agreeable and innocent an amusement.” First-hand accounts say he was extremely good at it – and always the center of attention. Dancing was one of the few activities where men and women mingled socially. Colonial dances included the minuet, country dance, hornpipes and jigs, reels, allemandes and more.

We believe the front, upper bed chamber in the Silas Deane House was used as a ballroom. Clues include evidence of a sprung floor and the fact that this room has mitered corners, a detail generally reserved for public areas. Musicians would set up outside the ballroom on the second-floor landing where the music would fill the ballroom and drift down the stairs.

In the first photo we see WDS guides Helena Reilly and Sal Carmosino preparing to demonstrate a bit of the minuet in the front parlor of the Deane House during a recent Christmas open house. The other photos show the second-floor landing and the ballroom.

Collections A-Z – “P” is for Prodigal Son!

What does this term have to do with the WDS Museum? The parable of the prodigal son was popular fare for writers and artists in the18th Century. The cautionary tale of the impetuous young man living for the moment, not considering the consequences of his actions, was the topic of many a sermon in many a New England meetinghouse. In the end, of course, the themes of repentance, forgiveness and redemption predominate as the young man, sadder but wiser, returns to his family.

Printmakers issued many versions of this tale, often in sets. Such can be found in the Deane House parlor where a set of six colored engravings depict the this classic story, but set in the 18th century, not biblical times. Though believed produced in France, the set also includes captions in Latin, German and Italian.

Plate descriptions: Plate 1-Son demands his inheritance. Plate 2 – Son takes leave of his family. Plate 3 – Son spends his money on wine, women, and song… Plate 4 – Son is broke and reduced to tending herd of swine. Plate – 5. Son returns home and begs forgiveness from his father. Plate 6 – Father throws big party for return of his son. Yay, happy ending!

Around the Grounds

In this week’s “Around the Grounds” we get a peek at the Public Archeology Survey Team, Inc. crew digging in the courtyard. Their work has uncovered an abundance of 17th and 18th-century artifacts, some of which we will eventually exhibit in the new Education and Visitor Center. Stay tuned for details! Soon, a new ADA compliant ramp and steps will be added, and the entire courtyard will be reconfigured.

The second photo shows a holly bush being moved from the south entrance to a new location along the driveway leading to the Webb Barn. This shrub, as well as Harrison roses and blueberry bushes, were saved and transplanted to other locations on the museum grounds.

The third picture shows a glimpse of the first-floor kitchen, adjacent to the conference room. The window over the sink looks west out onto the backyard. The stove, microwave and refrigerator will be installed straight ahead.