Hidden Glensheen

Hidden Glensheen – Helen’s Room

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Helen’s Room is our final room on the second floor. The tour guide script refers to this room as ‘Helen’s Gray Room.’ I suppose that’s true, although the color gray never stood out to me as a defining characteristic of this room. I always thought it was bright and airy. For some people, that’s apparently ‘gray.’ There are theories about how the color scheme was chosen, including that the school colors of Vassar College (more than one Congdon daughter attended Vassar). Another theory talks about lotus flower carvings on the fireplace. The only problem with this theory is that the carvings on the fireplace don’t look anything like lotus flowers (or lotus leaves). The final theory is that the room follows the colors of the mosaic tiles of the fireplace. This seems like the simplest and most likely explanation. 

Here is how the room looks today:

Historic Hidden Glensheen photo from the Helen's Room

And here’s a photo of how it would have looked when it was new:

Historic Hidden Glensheen photo from the Helen's Room

But we can do ever better than that! I was able to unearth this photo, probably from the 60s or early 70s (based on that TV set):

Historic Hidden Glensheen photo from the Helen's Room

Here’s a photo from almost the same position, but looking back toward the windows a bit more:

Historic Hidden Glensheen photo from the Helen's Room

What I find so interesting is that some of the things shown in this photo are now in other parts of the mansion today. And there are even more things that are present in these photos that I haven’t seen anywhere in the mansion.

It’s also kind of funny to see how much ‘stuff’ was cluttered on and around the mantel (just like at my house), especially when compared to what it looks like today:

Historic Hidden Glensheen photo from the Helen's Room

The nice thing about the above photo is that it really does show off the craftsmanship.

Here’s a closer view at the fantastic tile work around the fireplace, and here you can clearly see the grey, pink and green tiles:

Historic Hidden Glensheen photo from the Helen's Room

This carving on the cabinet door next to the fireplace is supposedly lotus leaves (although lotus leaves don’t look like this). Whatever plant this is supposed to represent, I still think it’s beautiful work:

Historic Hidden Glensheen photo from the Helen's Room

Above those large wooden cabinet doors are little glass-doored cabinets, with striking coloration in some of the bits of glass:

Historic Hidden Glensheen photo from the Helen's Room

Here is a view of Helen’s Room’s attached bathroom. You don’t see a lot of bathtubs with the drain in the middle of the long side of the tub. If you look closely, you can see a button above the towel rack. This button controlled the annunciator down in the kitchen, so if you needed help, extra soap, or something else, just push the button and one of the house staff would look to see which room needed help, and make their way up:

Historic Hidden Glensheen photo from the Helen's Room

Here’s a little pincushion:

Historic Hidden Glensheen photo from the Helen's Room

 

I like finding these unimportant items – Sanford’s Fountain Pen Ink and Carter’s Household Indelible Ink. These were a part of life that hardly needed any attention, but today we never see ink for self-filling pens. The ordinary has become extraordinary:

Historic Hidden Glensheen photo from the Helen's Room

I have nothing meaningful to share about this grumpy cat, but it called to me, and how could I resist?

Historic Hidden Glensheen photo from the Helen's Room

This is Evangeline. She’s a German doll, created sometime before 1902. Erin Burke, a former Glensheen art history intern, did some great research on Evangeline, and it’s definitely worth the read. You can check it out HERE.

Historic Hidden Glensheen photo from the Helen's Room

Helen’s Room has two paintings by an influential American painter, Henry Bacon. This is “Tombs of the Kings”:

Historic Hidden Glensheen photo from the Helen's Room

And this one is “The Citadel.” You have to look closely to actually see the citadel:

Historic Hidden Glensheen photo from the Helen's Room

This is a family photo of the Congdons. Many of the photos around the mansion are actually photos and prints of original photos. I suppose that would make this a photo of a photo of a photo:

Historic Hidden Glensheen photo from the Helen's Room

It’s is very clearly a posed photo. The photographer probably told everyone to hold still… hold still… The adults are doing as they’re told, but do you notice that the kids are just having fun?

We assume that this is Helen, shooting a gun. The fun thing about this is that once we get up to the Married Guest Room, you’ll get to see the Congdon’s collection of rifles and shotguns:

Historic Hidden Glensheen photo from the Helen's Room

Okay, finally we get to the wonderful light fixtures. These next couple of light fixtures are from the Quezal Art Glass and Decorating Company. This solitary fixture is between the foot of the bed and the windows. The colors, the hardware, the beautiful feathering… these are indeed beautiful:

Historic Hidden Glensheen photo from the Helen's Room

Against the wall, there is a silver fixture with the delicate glass sconce. If you look closely, you can see roots and a tree on the wall, and the part of the fixture holding the sconces has the same pattern as the carving in the tall wooden doors next to the fireplace (the not-lotus flower). The trees and their roots remind me a bit of the stained glass in the Breakfast Room, although it is clearly a different type of tree:

Historic Hidden Glensheen photo from the Helen's Room

Here is a nice closeup view of the detail in the quezal sconce:

Historic Hidden Glensheen photo from the Helen's Room

The funny thing about these sconces is that, if you zoom into the photo of this room from the late 60s, you can see these sconces sitting on the fireplace mantel, with a light bulb plopped into the top of them. The staff today is so careful with everything, but when the family was living at Glensheen, that certainly wasn’t always the case!

And that’s it for the second floor. Well, sort of. The ‘special collections’ are also housed on the second floor, but we’ll make that a separate posting, since the items in special collections frequently move to different parts of the mansion.

Next room: Infirmary
Previous room: Maid’s Room

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