2019 Summer Tea & Talk Lecture Series

This series is sponsored by Ventfort Hall board member Lucille Landa and William Landa.

Tuesdays at 4:00 pm
$28 advance registration and members
$32 day of the event

Reservations are strongly recommended as seats are limited. Call us at (413) 637-3206.

June 11, Chateau Higginson: Social Life in Boston’s Back Bay
Former Boston Globe reporter and Pittsfield native Margo Miller is the author of a new book titled Chateau Higginson: Social Life in Boston’s Back Bay, 1870 – 1920, the subject of her lecture.  She will center on Henry Lee Higginson (1834- 1919), founder of the Boston Symphony Orchestra among other major accomplishments.  Family members, friends, the tastes, culture, economics, architecture, society, public health, entertainment and more create a full picture of the times.

June 18,  Egyptomania
Recognized as a foremost Egyptologist, Dr. Bob Brier (“Mr. Mummy”) will examine the fascination with the ancient world along the Nile and the events that fanned the flames of “Egyptomania” including Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign that led to a new decorative arts trend, the Suez Canal Big Dig, the carting of gigantic obelisks to Paris, London and New York and the opening of Tutankhamen’s tomb. The speaker will also present images of the collectibles inspired by this rage.

 June 25, The Tragic Story of the Majestic Normandie Ocean Liner
A child with happy memories of crossing the Atlantic on ocean liners with his parents, author René Silvin will focus on the subject of his latest book the Normandie: The Tragic Story of the Most Majestic Ocean Liner.  The French Line’s glorious and glamorous flagship first set sail from Le Havre on May 29, 1935 and died an inglorious death on February 10, 1942 at a New York dock on the Hudson River, two months after Pearl Harbor and with war raging throughout Europe.

July 2, Posting It, or Networking, Victorian Style
Prof. Catherine Jean Golden will reveal the story of a little-known revolution with her presentation.  It started in early 19th century Britain when the recipient, not the sender, paid to receive a delivered letter. By 1840, the Penny Post was established – a penny stamp for a ½ ounce letter paid for by the sender.  In London by 1860, there were 12 postal deliveries from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm. Stamps and prepayment quickly became the norm worldwide.

July 9, Downton Abbey Style: The Influences on Fashion, 1912 – 1925
Downton Abbey Style: The Influences on Fashion, 1912 – 1925 is the subject behind what historic textile and costume expert Susan J. Jerome calls “the notable evolution of women’s and men’s clothing” – the dramatically social, technological and political developments of the period’s broader world. She will take a look at the work of some of the influential designers and what was fashionable, or not, as a clue to why people wore what they did.

July 16, Lenox Rusticators on the Maine Coast
Historians Cornelia Brooke Gilder and Ronald Epp will join together to present the story of the impact the Berkshires had on the development of the Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island led by George Bucknam Dorr, the legendary conservationist, landscape designer and founder of the Mount Desert Nurseries.  He was also an advisor to gardening friends Beatrix Farrand in Maine and Edith Wharton at her Lenox estate.

July 23, After Emily: The Women Who Introduced Emily Dickinson
Mabel Loomis Todd was the woman who brought to light the work of a reclusive but highly talented poet. Prof. Julie Dobrow will discuss After Emily: The Women Who Introduced Emily Dickinson, the subject of the presenter’s new book. The shadowy and scandal-laced Amherst, Massachusetts surroundings include Mabel’s lover, Emily’s brother, Austin, who was 30 years older, and Mabel’s daughter Millicent Todd Bingham – a complex tale indeed.

July 30, John White Alexander: An American Gilded Age Artist
Considered on a par with John Singer Sargent and William Merritt Chase, the once acclaimed portrait painter John White Alexander is especially recognized for his figure paintings of women striking evocative poses and elaborately arranged in flowing gowns. Art historian and Alexander author Mary Anne Goley will introduce us to the artist’s career and his exceptional talent for movement and gesture. She fortunately had early access to the untouched Alexander estate for her book.

August 6, Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland
Wadsworth Atheneum chief curator Robin Jaffee Frank will take us on a ride with Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861 – 2008. The lead author and editor of the groundbreaking book, Frank will cover “America’s playground,” the world-famous entertainment mecca for the masses and national cultural symbol that has inspired music, literature, paintings, photography and films. Her focus will be the site’s enduring status as inspiration for artists.

August 13, Archer Milton Huntington & the Hispanic Society of America Museum
Historian Francis Morrone will uncover the life of an intensely private personality, Archer Milton Huntington, founder of the Hispanic Society of America Museum. Due to reopen this fall, its collection rivals that of the Morgan Library. Morrone: Huntington is “truly one of the most remarkable Americans” of the Gilded Age, “and his story is almost unbelievable.”  His former home at 1083 Fifth Avenue, for which Morrone is detailing, is one the great New York extant mansions.

August 20, The Grandest Madison Square Garden
There is a cast of fascinating characters in The Grandest Madison Square Garden: Art, Scandal and Architecture in Gilded Age New York by art historian and museum director Suzanne Hinman. Her remarkable story centers on the most beautiful of the Gardens (1890) and the controversial 18-foot nude sculpture of Diana, Virgin Goddess of the Hunt that crowned it. The prominent players are pals; architect Stanford White and sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens.

August 27, New York Exposed: A Gilded Age Police Scandal
Prof. Daniel Czitrom latest book New York Exposed: The Gilded Age Police Scandal That Launched the Progressive Movement reveals several key themes that resonate today: vote fraud and suppression, police brutality, stubborn resilience of partisan politics and anti-urbanism in American life during the early 1890s involving the NY Police Department and Tammany Hall.  Explosive charges and a crusade leveled against them rooted out corrupt cops and crooked politicians.

September 3, George Bisacca, His Life, His Way
George Bisacca: His Life, His Way” presented by Berkshire native and reporter Steve Crowe will renew memories of Eastover Resort’s founder.  The beloved subject – there is an accompanying book – was known for his lavish July 4th parade floats, his herds of bison and longhorn steer, his cannon finales for The 1812 Overture at Tanglewood and his generous support of the community. Crowe’s interview notes, stored in a shoe box for nearly 40 years, were the basis for the memoir.

September 10, Life Along the Hudson:  The Historic Livingston Country Estates
Leading international photographer Pieter Estersohn captures the beauty of thirty-five sublime country estates for his book Life Along the Hudson: The Historic Livingston Country Estates. The houses came from the drawing boards of Stanford White, A. J. Davis, Calvert Vaux, Warren and Wetmore and others, built on land once owned by the Livingston clan. This scenic stretch of properties offers some of the finest examples of American architecture and landscape design.