Sold at Auction: Glen Farm Herd

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Photo from auction catalog.

A  Newport Mercury  account in 1949 provides the story of the end of the renown Glen Farm herds. The entire herd of 89 cows were dispersed in one auction for over $36,000. The herd, one of the oldest in Rhode Island, had been established in 1889 by H.A.C. Taylor and had been continued by his son Moses. Moses Taylor’s wife, Edith Taylor Nicholson had continued the herd, but she made the decision to sell in 1949.

Glen Farm Guernseys were known for high quality breeding and an outstanding record for being disease free. The original stock came from the Island of Guernsey, but the Taylors continued to selectively breed and improve their herds.

Among the buyers at the auction were Francis Taylor, the grandson of Glen Farm’s founder.  Francis, who is listed as being from Seekonk, bought a cow (Frolic of the Glen) and a calf (Gold of the Glen).  Local buyers were former Governor William H. Vanderbilt who purchased four of the better known cows for his Massachusetts farm, Hugh D. Auchincloss (Jacqueline Kennedy’s stepfather), and Mervin Briggs (who had Fairholm Dairy in Portsmouth). Most of the herd went to Pennsylvania and Delaware.

The week before the cattle auction, Edith Taylor Nicholson disposed of all the Glen Farm sheep  and some years before the bred horses had been dispersed as well.  After the auction there was still cattle on Glen Farm. Sixty head of Angus beef cattle were still being bred in the last years of the farm.

Portsmouth Landmarks: Glen Manor House.

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Glen Manor House in the 1920s

The Glen Manor House is a Portsmouth jewel. We will share some of what we know about the history of the building and what it was like when the Taylors lived here. Even though the Taylor family began Glen Farm in 1882, construction did not begin on their home until around 1920. The Taylors had a Newport summer home, but they preferred the countryside of Portsmouth to the high society of Newport. They hired famed architect John Russell Pope to design their new home. Moses Taylor and his wife Edith had lost a son in World War I in France. There are stories that the French chateau style and the broad grass steps of the house were designed to remember the place where their son died. The house was completed in 1923.

Architect Pope encouraged the Taylors to hire the famed Olmstead firm to do the landscaping. Mrs. Taylor was involved in the details of the landscaping. The gardens were designed to be at their best in July and August when the Taylors would be in residence. The Taylors relished their privacy and the home is situated away from the road to give them that privacy. Moses Taylor died in 1928, but Edith Taylor continued to spend more time at the Glen. She opened the gardens to the public to benefit the Civic League and hosted dog and horse shows on the farm. She remarried and became Mrs. G. J. Guthrie Nicholson, but continued to come to the Manor House until her death in 1959.

In 1960 the Manor House and 43 acres around it were sold to the Elmhurst Academy of the Sacred Heart. The house served as a dormitory for boarding students. When Elmhurst Academy closed in 1972, the Town of Portsmouth bought the house and the property. Portsmouth citizens still own the house and the Glen Manor Authority and the Friends of the Glen Manor House constantly strive to restore the house and gardens.

Some added information:

  • We call it the Glen Manor House, but the Glen Farm families called it “The Big House,” and the Taylor family called it simply, “The Glen.”
  • Taylors had a permanent Garden staff that took care of the gardens while the Farm staff took care of the farm.
    Some of the trees were grown in the glen nursery or brought from Long Island, “Vanicek delivered thirty four trees and shrubs.”
  • There was a house staff of over ten individuals, a garden staff and a person whose full time job was bringing in and arranging fresh flowers in the Flower Room.
  • Taylor used to enjoy sitting in the verandah watching the river. She enjoyed sailing and there was a dock and boat house at the Manor House . Her 24 foot sailboat (named the “Nieuport”) was anchored off the dock.
  • The boathouse by the dock had showers and changing rooms so they could freshen up after sailing or enjoying the beach (Sandy Point).
  • The stone boathouse that was cut into the hill was where they stored small boats and there was a skeet range on top of this structure. The skeet range was built by Guthrie Nicholson, Mrs. Taylor’s second husband.

The Boathouse and Dock

The Glen: Elmhurst School Days

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Principal Bob Ettinger greets students on the first day of school 2009.

Happy children on the Big Toy during recess, 2009.

As Portsmouth children go back to school, my thoughts turn to the excitement of the first days of new years at Elmhurst School.  As sad as the school building is now, I have great memories of Elmhurst Elementary School.  When Elmhurst Academy closed in 1972, the Town of Portsmouth purchased the property primarily because the school rooms were needed.

The fourth grade class of 1995 worked with me to write an oral history of the school.  We interviewed teachers who remembered the first days in 1973 that Elmhurst served as a public school.  Richard Donnelly was the first principal and Ruth Sears remembered that opening day was so hot that Mr. Donnelly wore shorts!  Students were coming from Hope and Anthony Schools and later Coggeshall School.   The faculty and students had to create the culture of a new school.

There were many problems to be solved.  Eileen Lacazette shared that one of the first problems was that there were no bathrooms for the boys.  They had to be created and they didn’t quite look like typical bathrooms.  Music teacher Susan Woythaler remembers that the original classrooms for the private school were tiny, but the classroom size for the public school didn’t fit well.  They made the best of the small rooms the first year, but later walls had to be removed to create more efficient space for an elementary classroom.

After shepherding the school through its first year, Mr. Donnelly went back into the classroom.   Mr. Crudup became the first long-term principal followed by Al Honnen.  There were many physical changes in the building during Mr. Honnen’s leadership.  Classrooms were added, the chapel was made into a cafeteria and gymnasium.  Mary Foley, Dennis Silva, and Hathaway’s principal Robert Ettinger were all Elmhurst School leaders.  All the principals leaned on School Secretary Ruth Ziegler.  She kept the school running efficiently.

It was a joy to come to work at Elmhurst.  The school setting was beautiful, the staff was dedicated and the parents were so supportive.  Elmhurst traditions added to the school culture.  Third grade teachers introduced “Egg Drop” day where students had to invent designs they hoped would protect their raw eggs when they were dropped from the roof by custodians (beginning with Mr. Augustus).  Market day for kindergarten and first grade grew out of a project for including the arts into subjects like science and math.  We turned the library into a market and watched third grade students make presentation of plays about seeds.   Field day was one of the oldest events when fourth grade students ran sports games for the other students.  Even Elmhurst Academy had a field day.

Piano Day, Colonial Fair, Immigration Day, Gingerbread Houses, Family Math and Science Nights, Arts for Life Week were all well loved traditions for a while.   As librarian, Reading Night was dear to my heart.  Themes of Arthur, Magic School Bus, Where in the World is Mrs. Foley, drew families for after school fun.

When the decision was made to close Elmhurst in 2010, I felt fortunate that I was retired and did not have to take my library collection apart.  It was a good school and it is sad to see it closed and vandalized now.  It would be good to see children playing in a new park if the school building is torn down.