Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Items from Bolton Priory in the Collections of The Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture, The New-York Historical Society

The Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture located at The New-York Historical Society headquarters at 170 Central Park West at West 77th Street in New York City contains a number of items from Bolton Priory in its collections. Today's Historic Pelham Blog Posting describes some of those items.

Bolton Priory is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built by Rev. Robert Bolton for his family in 1838. Also known as "Pelham Priory" and "The Priory", the home served for a number of years as a widely-renowned girls' finishing school known as "Pelham Priory" run by members of the Bolton family.

The Pelham Priory Bell

The Luce Center collections include a brass bell that is approximately 12 inches by 16 inches in size. It is a cast bell believed to have been made in Europe. It's description is as follows:

"Cast brass bell with loop at top with three pierces; bell is baned and has inscriptions made from applied square sheet-metal plates with letters and foliate decoration; applied sheet-metal cross on one side, and applied sheet-metal square with cross on hill on other."

The bell was the gift of Mrs. Augustus Van Horne Ellis. Its inventory number is 1940.672. The curatorial remarks for the item state as follows:

"According to the accession records, the history of this bell is unknown, except that it once hung in Pelham Priory, a girls school run by the Boltons (possibly Sarah Knowles Bolton) during the 19th century at Pelham, Westchester County, N. Y. The donor attended this school. The translation of the inscription is as follows: 'Hail Mary from the highest / and her son and the spirit.'"

The curatorial remarks seem to be mistaken. Sarah Knowles Bolton (Sept. 15, 1841 - Feb. 21, 1916) was active in the 19th century temperance and animal rights movements. She was a prolific author. Born in Farmington, Connecticut, the daughter of ZJohn Segar and Mary Elizabeth Miller Knowles, she married Charles E. Bolton, a Cleveland businessman and moved to Cleveland in 1866. She did not run the Pelham Priory in Pelham Manor, New York. That school was overseen by the Bolton Family of Pelham and, more particularly, Ms. Nanette Bolton, daughter of Rev. Robert Bolton. Nanette Bolton served for many years as the head mistress of the famed Priory School for Girls.

The Luce Center catalogue records for the brass bell may be accessed by clicking here.

17th Century Lock and Key

The Luce Center collections also contain an "Iron lock and key with pierced, scrolled border, wrought scrolled handles and key, and grotesque engraved on plate on obverse." A photograph of the lovely lock and key may be viewed by clicking here.

The lock is quite large. It is described as 9 inches by 20 inches by 10-1/4 inches. It also reportedly dates to "1650-1700". The inventory number for the item is 1940.673ab. The Luce Center's curatorial remarks about the item state:

"According to accession records, this lock was given with a 'manor bell' (1940.672) that once hung in Pelham Priory, a girls' school run by the Boltons in the nineteenth century in Pelham, in Westchester County. The donor attended this school."

The Luce Center catalogue records for the 17th century iron lock and key may be accessed by clicking here.

Five 19th Century Stained Glass Windows in Nine Pieces

Finally, the Luce Center collections contain a very intriguing collection of five stained glass windows, in nine pieces, that "may have come from Bolton Priory, Pelham, NY". These are particularly interesting because it is at least possible that they are early examples of the stained glass work by one of the sons of Rev. Robert Bolton: William Jay Bolton. It is widely believed that William Jay Bolton was the first American artist to design figural stained glass windows. His stained glass art has been the subject of much scholarly research. See, e.g., Clark, Willene B., The Stained Glass Art of William Jay Bolton (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1st ed. March 1992).

The Luce Center's principal catalogue record for these items reads as follows:

"Stained glass windows (5, in 9 pieces)

Wood, glass, lead

Gift of Mrs. Augustus Van Horne Ellis

Place made: U.S.A.

Once fixed stained glass window and four stained glass sash windows, the latter consisting of two parts each; all with diamond-patterned lead framework with yellowish glass segments and rose-colored border (some with fleur de lis); 'a' with insignia at center in circular frame.


Inventory Number: 1941.140a-i


Curatorial Remarks: These windows may have come from Bolton Priory, Pelham, NY."

The Luce Center catalogue records for the stained glass windows may be accessed by clicking here.

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