A Greenwich Workshop Once Helped Fuel a Renewed Interest in an Ancient Art?

By Dean McKenna

Mr. and Mrs. Francis Bailey Vanderhoef originally became interested in weaving as a hobby and became so involved in the process that Mr. Vanderhoef constructed a loom at their home, Wishing Woods, on Husted Lane. Mrs. Vanderhoef created her earliest pieces on this loom, and they were of such quality that they attracted great interest. Unable to meet the growing demand on her own, Mrs. Vanderhoef moved her burgeoning new business to larger office space and hired skilled European craftsmen to assist in production. In short order, even this new space proved inadequate, so the Vanderhoefs purchased a cottage on the Post Road to house a workshop.

According to a 1916 article about the workshop, Mrs. Vanderhoef wanted to establish “a kind of Golden Age for craftsmen where working people may lead happy lives and enrich the world by the product of beautiful objects under the most liberal conditions.”

In addition to European specialists, the intent was apparently to employ talented people from the Greenwich community. An associate of the family indicates that Mrs. Vanderhoef wanted to train polio survivors who had compromised leg strength to weave tapestries on a loom where this condition would not hinder their efforts.

The workshop also performed skilled repair and restoration work on old tapestries. Many of new and repaired tapestries were colored using dyes prepared on-site. Since the tapestries were composed of multiple types of fiber, the challenge to reproduce the same color faithfully on each was great.

Thanks to a recent donation, the Greenwich Historical Society has vintage photographs of Vanderhoef’s tapestry workshop that illustrate the previously mentioned article. The archives are open to the public on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Christopher Shields is Archivist at the Greenwich Historical Society, 39 Strickland Road, Cos Cob, CT 06807.

By Dean McKenna

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