The Wentworth Lear Historic Houses invites you to visit “Wallace Nutting and the Wentworth-Gardner House— 100 Years,” a new exhibit that tells the story of the restoration of the Wentworth-Gardner House using before-and-after photographs taken by Wallace Nutting. The house was the northernmost site in Nutting’s “Chain of Five Colonial Picture Houses,” and provided settings for his famed photographs of colonial interiors, many with attractive young women posed to tell the story of early America.
On display are examples of Nutting’s photographs taken in the Wentworth-Gardner House and other Portsmouth houses. Tinted and sold by Nutting, the photographs were frequently given as wedding gifts in the early 1900s. The Wentworth Lear collection of Nutting’s landscape photographs are also on exhibit. In addition, rooms in the Wentworth-Gardner have been staged to look as they did in the Nutting photos, using the same pieces of furniture utilized by Nutting.
When opened, the museum was opened in a then-run-down section of the South End in Portsmouth. Although open for only a few years, Nutting’s museum spurred preservationists to spare many early buildings from destruction. In Wallace Nutting and the Invention of Old America, author Thomas Denenberg writes:
Nutting was the principal authority on early American furniture for much of the twentieth century and played an important role in the development of a colonial revival aesthetic and ideology. He collected, reproduced, and marketed colonial artifacts, and the idealized experiences he offered his middle-class customers promoted his idealized notion of a time and place that he called ‘Old America.’
Curated by Sandra Rux, the Wallace Nutting exhibit runs until October 12th.