Social Studio postcard - GSchmidt collection

Social Studio postcard – GSchmidt collection

Wouldn’t it be nice if Portsmouth had a place where young and old could gather for social, artistic and cultural events?  There could be drawing and painting classes as well as craft and sewing lessons.  There would be stage where musicals and plays could be performed.  It would be a space for art exhibits, lectures and writing and reading.

Portsmouth residents have been looking for such a space in the past few years, but we used to have it.  The Social Studio on Bristol Ferry Road was such a spot a hundred years ago.

Magazines at the time describe the studio as “a large room for assemblies, one end of which is occupied by a small stage, is furnished simply and artistically.  Potted plants, a pianola, a huge open fireplace, oil painting on the wall and a good library-all lend great charm to the big room which is a delightful retreat for the young people who flock there from adjoining farms.  Lectures, readings, musicals and social gatherings are frequently held.  Classes in pyrography, drawing, water color painting and raffia are conducted by competent teachers, a nominal fee being charged for instruction.” (The Common, Vol. 10 – 1905)

The Social Studio was founded by Sarah J. Eddy.  This remarkable lady was a talented photographer, author, painter and sculptor.  She came to Portsmouth in the early 1890’s and lived in Portsmouth until her death at age ninety-three in 1945.  Sarah had a passion for the humane treatment of animals and was among the founders of the Rhode Island Humane Educational Society.

You can find out more about the Social Studio when you come to the Portsmouth Historical Society Museum for the “Lost to Time” Exhibit for 2014.  The Exhibit will be up and running at the museum (on the corner of East Main and Union St.) from Memorial Day weekend to Columbus Day Weekend.  On display will be s a large painting of a cook preparing vegetables for Thanksgiving dinner which was painted by Mrs. Eddy.  You will also be able to see animal books for children written and illustrated by Mrs. Eddy.  A Good Housekeeping Magazine article on the Social Studio and a series of postcards of events at the studio help us to understand the activities that took place there.  Newspaper clippings alert us to the various sales and lectures held at the site.  Even Julia Ward Howe came to speak and socialize. The Social Studio building still exists today as a private home.

Our research into Sarah Eddy in Portsmouth continues.  Look for future blogs on Sarah as artist and photographer

Classes at Social Studio:  collection of GSchmidt

Classes at Social Studio: collection of GSchmidt

and Sarah’s many causes (abolition, women’s suffrage, humane treatment of animal).