While skimming our collection of old photos for images of roof details, we made a remarkable discovery. Two photos record a group of city children visiting Stonehurst in 1904, first posing on the terrace with croquet mallets and baseball gear and then sitting around the dining room table in dress clothes with a servant in attendance. We had to know more!
Beginning in the 1890s, the Paine family opened up their country estate to students in industrial (or early vocational) schools founded and run by Robert Treat Paine. Adult students from his Wells Memorial and People's Institutes in Roxbury had field days at Stonehurst every June. We've just discovered that children from the Boys Institute of Industry (now the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Boston) or St. Andrews Mission of Trinity Church were also given opportunities to escape city life and enjoy the countryside.
Thanks to a Scholar in Residence grant from Mass Humanities, Dr. Jennifer Pustz will conduct research on Paine's industrial institutes, libraries and clubs for youth and adults, the people who attended them, their outings to Waltham, and the broader context of social reform during the Gilded Age that led to the Progressive Era. This aspect of Stonehurst's history, which is unusual and perhaps unique in historic house museums, raises timeless questions of class relations and social obligation.
Stay tuned for preliminary findings in an upcoming Spring program, "The First Field Trips: Institutes, Outing Clubs and Working-Class Perspectives on Stonehurst, the Robert Treat Paine Estate."
Our project is funded by the Friends of Stonehurst and Mass Humanities, whose grants inspire thoughtful conversations and civic engagement throughout Massachusetts. See more about what Mass Humanities does here: http://masshumanities.org