What’s New at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s Grand Old House?


Your Exclusive First Look at the Gleaming, %26#8220;Green%26#8221; Lora Jean Kilroy Visitor and Education Center
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%26#8226; Plus a Behind-the-Scenes Peek at Seven Museum Rooms Reborn
%26#8226; What%26#8217;s Been Restored at One of America%26#8217;s Greatest Decorative Arts Museums
%26#8226; Texas%26#8217; Premier Organic Garden
%26#8226; What Trees Tower and What Blooms Blossom at One of the Most Beautiful Historical Gardens in the Country
%26#8226; What Are the Very Top Treasures Collected by the Discerning Miss Hogg
%26#8226; How Bayou Bend Began and What Else You Need to Know
%26#8226; Why Now is the Time to Go
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Image: Lora Jean Kilroy Visitor and Education Center, east facade at night
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Just Opened: The Lora Jean Kilroy Visitor and Education Center at Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens 6003 Memorial Drive at Westcott Street Houston, Texas 77007 713.639.7750; mfah.org/BayouBend
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Image: Clio Garden %26nbsp;
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Bayou Bend is open six days a week, Tuesday through Sunday, year round. For information on hours, admission and tours, please visit mfah.org/BayouBend.
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Image: The Chillman Parlor, 1810 %26#8211; 1840
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What%26#8217;s New at Houston%26#8217;s%26nbsp;Houston%26#8217;s Home for America%26#8217;s Treasures?%26nbsp;
At Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, a gleaming18,000-square-foot %26#8220;green%26#8221; building rises as the contemporary Lora Jean Kilroy Visitor and Education Center opens its doors.
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Image: Tulips and azaleas in Bayou Bend Gardens; Photo Rob Muir%26nbsp;
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In the Beginning
Houston, Texas, 1920. It was before the age of air conditioning and three years after the first Great War. The automobile of choice was a Model T. The daughter of a former Texas governor made an acquisition that would shape the course of American decorative art collecting by a single purchase: a Queen Anne armchair. And thus the foundation for a grand house museum was born by this singular philanthropist whose family impacted their hometown and state in ways large and small, expansive and intrinsic %26#8212; from civic endeavors such as facilitating the acquisition of the land that became Memorial Park to helping found the Houston Symphony, as well as involvement in progressive causes including mental health and education.
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Enter the doyenne Miss Ima Hogg (1882 %26#8211; 1975). After spying an 18th-century American chair in the Manhattan studio of portraitist Wayman Adams, she was inspired to begin a lifetime pursuit of fine and decorative art that would culminate in the Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, which she gifted to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in 1957. Emphasizing interpretation and education, the first docent class was trained in 1961; the house opened to the public in 1966 when its founder moved to a high-rise for the final decade of her life. After she left her beloved home, Bayou Bend continued front and center in her consciousness, evidenced in acquisitions of objects as well as land %26#8212; including a choice adjoining parcel that she sagely purchased in 1969, with the intention of eventually creating a visitor center. This fall, her long-deferred dream becomes a reality.%26nbsp;
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Image: Kilroy Visitor and Education Center, south view; Photo Robb Williamson%26nbsp;
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A 21st-Century Gateway to America%26#8217;s History
%26#8220;It%26#8217;s like a machine in the garden,%26#8221; notes director Peter Marzio about the 21st-century steel structure that rises along Memorial Drive near Westcott as a beacon to greet contemporary guests. The new building, which opened to the public on Saturday, September 25, is christened the Lora Jean Kilroy Visitor and Education Center after lead benefactor, philanthropist and avid collector Jeanie Kilroy, who also endowed an accessions fund for Bayou Bend. The Center caps a $25 million campaign that began in 2007 to celebrate the house museum%26#8217;s half-century.
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Striking yet not overblown, the 18,000-square-foot building makes a nuanced nod to the area%26#8217;s natural surroundings. %26#8220;We want visitors to begin in the 21st century, then walk over the suspension bridge to Houston of 1928, then enter Bayou Bend and step into 18th-century Philadelphia,%26#8221; reveals Marzio, who tapped hometown architect Leslie K. Elkins for the commission. %26#8220;We looked at her other projects, such as the Quaker Live Oak Friends Meeting, and she was the perfect choice. Also, Leslie is a Houstonian, which was important.%26#8221;
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The handsome, Silver-LEED-certified two-story structure emits an environmental statement, beginning with its %26#8220;cool%26#8221; roof, which reflects more than 90 percent of the sun%26#8217;s radiation, and the detention pond that becomes a beguiling water element. Kendall/Heaton Associates served as the production architect, with the MFAH%26#8217;s associate director of administration, Willard Holmes, overseeing all construction details as project manager. McDugald-Steele Landscape Architects tweaked the neighboring Hogg Bird Sanctuary, creating a %26#8220;green link from the Visitor Center to Bayou Bend, while presenting a more urban face to the historic presence of the house museum,%26#8221; says McDugald-Steele principal Erik Hanson. The project represented an innovative collaboration between the Parks Department and the MFAH, impacting an impressive 18 inner-city acres, including a new oak all%26#233;e that rims the Kilroy building.
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Besides exponentially raising the visibility of Bayou Bend and turning a beckoning exterior to the visitor, the shining contemporary building %26#8220;makes a segue from today into history,%26#8221; Marzio says. %26#8220;We found, for example, that visitors needed a bit more information before they entered the collection.%26#8221; So the Kilroy Center prepares them by presenting an orientation and information lobby, an orientation gallery, a Hogg Family Legacy Room, a retail shop, a (nonlending) research library and a study center dedicated to American decorative arts history, plus volumes about architecture, painting, works on paper and social history, including many rare architectural and furniture design books, as well as the Hogg family%26#8217;s books on Texas history. Also offered are classroom spaces for meetings and social functions, and an outdoor veranda for receptions.
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About the motivation behind the gift for her namesake structure, lifetime MFAH trustee Kilroy confides: %26#8220;American history will come to life for the children of Houston in new and exciting ways. This matters to me even more as I watch my granddaughter and her friends growing up. I realize that they are our next generation of leaders, and it is important that they have a firm grounding in American history and ideals.%26#8221;
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Image: Robert C. Joy%26#8217;s "Miss Ima Hogg," 1971; Photo Thomas R. DuBrock%26nbsp;
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Who was Miss Hogg?
Born six years after the American Centennial, Miss Hogg grew up in an affluent, high-profile family as the only daughter of a popular Texas governor, Jim Hogg, and his wife, Sallie, who passed away of tuberculosis when Miss Hogg was a young girl. After an Austin and East Texas childhood, she and siblings Will, Mike and Tom ended up in Houston, where they ran Hogg Brothers%26#8217; booming and numerous enterprises encompassing oil, agriculture, real estate, coal, interests in the port of Houston and even shoe manufacturing and gold mining. Their destined-to-be-vast fortunes were jump-started by the discovery of oil on their West Columbia, Texas, property in 1918, which led to the founding of the Texas Company, the forerunner of Texaco.
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Miss Ima%26#8217;s avocation was music %26#8212; she was a classically trained pianist who studied in New York, Berlin and Vienna. An activist for mental health and education, she later served on the Houston School Board. But her greatest civic and cultural legacy is incontestably the promotion of the then-burgeoning field of American antiques, as well as forming important collections of 20th-century works on paper and Southwest Indian art. Bayou Bend%26#8217;s Michael K. Brown, who has been its keen and knowledgeable collection curator since 1980, tells the story of Miss Hogg%26#8217;s first acquisition in his definitive 2007 book, America%26#8217;s Treasures at Bayou Bend: Celebrating 50 Years, published to commemorate the museum%26#8217;s half-century (and stocked at the new Kilroy Center%26#8217;s Shop). %26#8220;She noticed and was engaged by an 18th-century New England armchair. When she learned it was the product of a colonial American craftsman, her interest heightened. She perceived, in what otherwise seemed to be an unassuming object, a tangible link to the American past. It prompted her to query if, through a piece of furniture, one could explore and interpret the nation%26#8217;s history and culture.%26#8221;
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This devotion and connoisseurship toward American antiques, which Miss Hogg developed and honed throughout her life, placed her at the forefront of pioneering collectors and institutions that made a commitment to a then-novel field, decorative art of America %26#8212; versus, say, the more respected and fashionable 18th-century French or English furniture and objects. Towards the end of her life, her well-regarded, discerning eye earned praise from First Lady Jackie Kennedy, who tapped Miss Hogg for advice on the White House Collection.
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Image: Bayou Bend Collection, south facade; Photo Rick Gardner %26nbsp;
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A Storied%26nbsp; House%26nbsp;
What came first? The antiques or the house? While we know that Miss Hogg began her 55-year collecting odyssey in 1920, having a repository for her passion for Americana was important %26#8212; and connected to the booming Houston of the 1920s. She commissioned the then youngish and not yet overly well-known John F. Staub to design a %26#8220;Southern colonial with a Latin flavor,%26#8221; as noted in founding director emeritus David Warrren%26#8217;s Bayou Bend Gardens: A Southern Oasis (also stocked in the new Kilroy Center).
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Poignantly, the home took on a special place in Hogg family history, as outlined again in Bayou Bend Gardens: %26#8220;By 1876, the original land of Mountain Home [in Rusk, Texas] had been reduced to five hundred acres. At that point, with no means of raising cash to meet their obligations, the Hogg children were forced to sell their beloved family plantation ... The pain of losing the family plantation and its land, the most essential southern possession ... remained at the heart of the Hogg family over two successive generations and impacted the conception of Bayou Bend half a century later.%26#8221;
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Bayou Bend was completed in 1928, providing a home for Miss Hogg and her brothers, Will and Mike, as well as a platform (albeit a grand one) for meetings and entertaining to promote the siblings%26#8217; various causes and a center for her increasing focus on building a collection that provided a link to America%26#8217;s past. The estate was originally called Bayou Banks, but the name evolved to its present moniker in 1929. The property%26#8217;s dense, tropical underbrush was resolutely tamed over the ensuing decades to become a showplace for azaleas, camellias and other luxuriant plantings.
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Bayou Bend%26#8217;s Splendid%26nbsp; Museum Rooms Reborn
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Bold Second-Story Redux
Besides the greatly anticipated opening of the Kilroy Center, Bayou Bend itself gets a handsome makeover. The Center provides administrative offices and spaces for the museum%26#8217;s staff, thus freeing up additional rooms on the second floor of the historic home to showcase its stellar collection. This extensive redux marks only the first time in nearly two decades the house has undergone a significant interior redo and restoration. Here%26#8217;s your first peek into a new take on American history via seven reborn Bayou Bend interiors, set to be unveiled this fall:
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Image: McIntire Bedroom; Photo Robb Williamson
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McIntire Bedroom: One of the most serene spaces of the house despite its nonstop patterned wallpaper, carpet and bed coverings, this room reflects its original function as a guest suite. Its name is an ode to the graceful, sophisticated early-19th-century style popularized by Salem, Massachusetts%26#8211;based architect and wood carver Samuel McIntire (1757 %26#8211; 1811). The bedroom is also home to a rare and recent acquisition:%26nbsp;a Rhode Island Sampler from 1793, worked by the young Joanna Maxwell (1782 %26#8211;%26nbsp;1847), with the first letters of her name acronystically spelling out verses. Due to conservation issues, this fragile textile, a gift from the Houston Junior Woman%26#8217;s Club, will only remain on view for a few months at a time.
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Image: Music Room; Photo Phil Grant%26nbsp;
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Music Room: Carriage-class Manhattan circa 1805 %26#8211; 1820 comes alive in this setting, which marries the sublime attitude of the early Grecian style with a piano from the New York shops of Gibson %26amp; Davis, set off by exotic French reproduction panoramic wallpaper in the Hindustan pattern. A pair of just-conserved painted chairs from the Northeast is exhibited for the first time, and touches of the Orient (a China trade bamboo armchair and Chinese export porcelain) complete this intimate room.
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Image: Federal Parlor; Photo Phil Grant
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Federal Parlor: Designed by Miss Hogg in collaboration with architect John F. Staub in 1961, the Federal Parlor is one of the restoration%26#8217;s most lavishly refurbished rooms; it received both new carpet and wallpaper (complete with frieze and border) from, respectively, Grosvenor Wilton of Kidderminster, England, and Adelphi of New York. The biggest surprise of this redux? The discovery of a signature on the neoclassical, circa-1800 mantel, which is now confirmed to be by Philadelphia artisan Robert Wellford. Above Wellford%26#8217;s creation hangs another treasure: a rare circa-1818 landscape painted by Philadelphian Charles Willson Peale, who was best known for his portraits; he also founded the first natural history museum in America, and his progeny were all named after artists. Also, don%26#8217;t miss a delicate 1785 %26#8211;%26nbsp;1815 gilded and painted armchair thought to have been owned by Philadelphia merchant Robert Morris, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and one of the financial backers of the American Revolution.%26nbsp;
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Image: Folk Art Room; Photo Robb Williamson
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Folk Art Room: A new space entirely, the Folk Art Room was carved out of the former Hogg Memorial Room display. While Miss Hogg assiduously collected this art form, the objects were not individually highlighted. Now folk art receives its due, with the leitmotif sounded by a beguiling 2009 addition to the collection: a pair of mid-19th-century doors surmised to have been made by painters Patrick Finney and John Serey, which come from an Odd Fellows%26#8217; Lodge in upstate New York. Other must-sees: an exuberant Berks County, Pennsylvania, painted cupboard that mirrors the affluent rural German culture that created it, and an extraordinary Edward Hicks canvas, Penn%26#8217;s Treaty with the Indians, circa 1830 %26#8211;1840, acquired by Will Hogg in 1922.
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Image: Compote, circa 1850 %26#8211; 1870, attributed to Boston %26amp; Sandwich Glass Co., Sandwich, Massachusetts; Photo Thomas R. DuBrock
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Washington Hall: While always part of the Bayou Bend Collection, glass has usually been exhibited within a room setting. Now a newly minted hallway niche dramatically surveys the glassmakers that furnished tony 18th- and 19th-century American homes. On view in casework compartments to emphasize the unique beauty and brilliance of early American glass, this setting serves up riches including a recently acquired compote, circa 1850 %26#8211;%26nbsp;1870, attributed to Boston %26amp; Sandwich Glass Company of Sandwich, Massachusetts.
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Image: Tankard, 1695 %26#8211; 1711, shop of John Coney, Boston; Photo Thomas R. DuBrock
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Metals Study Room: Spanning three centuries of elegant, innovative endeavors in metal, particularly silver, this new exhibition space provides an opportunity to gaze upon rare objects up close and in perfect lighting. Recommended: an extraordinary set of 70 spoons (tea, table and dessert) associated with the patriot Paul Revere and a robust, late-17th-century/early-18th-century tankard from the workshop of Boston silversmith John Coney.%26nbsp;
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Image: William Boch and Brothers%26#8217; Pitcher, circa 1854 %26#8211; 1857, Greenpoint, Long Island, New York; Photo Thomas R. DuBrock%26nbsp;
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Ceramics Study Room: The final showcase of Colonial-to-Centennial objects is dedicated to ceramics. Originally the exercise area for the Hogg brothers, this space now boasts the most extensive exhibition of Texas pottery in the country %26#8212; including a loan of early masterpieces from the collection of Houstonian William J. Hill %26#8212;%26nbsp;augmented by other intriguing offerings such as a recently acquired ornate porcelain pitcher from the acclaimed mid-19th-century William Boch and Brothers factory in Brooklyn.
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Image: Arabesque Pigeons (detail) from Adelphi in the Federal Parlor; Photo Phil Gran
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A Wall-to-Wall Redo
When selecting wallpapers and carpets for your Georgian-styled manse, where do you begin? If you%26#8217;re a historical residence that boasts a fabled collection of American paintings and decorative arts, the choices become even scarcer. For its historically correct carpets, Bayou Bend turned to storied English firm Grosvenor Wilton. Founded in 1790, the company has an archive of 10,000 patterns, from which two were adroitly chosen by Bayou Bend curator Michael K. Brown. In the Federal Parlor, a genteel brown carpet with a rust Scroll and Leaf motif makes a bold statement, and the revamped Music Room is now home to heraldic Point-of-Honor Medallion. The Gfroerer Co. of Cincinnati, Ohio, meticulously installed both carpets by hand. Among its other clients: the White House. The newly added Folk Art Room%26#8217;s rug is sourced from Cherry Valley, New York%26#8211;based Rabbit Goody of Thistle Hill Weavers. Still crafting historical rugs and carpets by hand, she wove a charming Venetian carpet from worsted wool in a pattern known as The Hartford Figure.
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Nineteenth-century-inspired wall coverings were then commissioned from Adelphi Paper Hangings in Sharon Springs, New York, which continues to hand-block all its papers on cotton fiber. The McIntire Bedroom received a refined Laurel Trellis wallpaper, reproduced from a 19th-century Parisian trousseau package that is bordered by the dignified Otis Federal Chain, which references the landmark Otis House in Boston, circa 1796. A graceful Arabesque Pigeons design ensconces the revamped Federal Parlor, accented by its historic LeBaron border and Garland and Tassel frieze, replicating the combinations of the renowned Lazarus LeBaron House in Sutton, Massachusetts, of 1794.%26nbsp;
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While these sumptuous wall coverings and dazzling (and often dizzying) carpets may appear heady in today%26#8217;s light, they speak to the maximalist reality of yesteryear. Seth Vaughan
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What%26#8217;s Timeless at Bayou Bend?
A Fabled Collection of American Decorative Arts Plus a Lush, 14-Acre Southern Garden %26nbsp;
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Image: Dining Room; Photo Rick Gardner%26nbsp;
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Rooms to Treasure and Top Treasures %26#8212; That Revel in%26nbsp; and Reveal %26#8212; American History
Three centuries of American antiques relay the story of a nation, its people and their art, design and life, 1620 to 1870. More than 20 period rooms and 5,322 objects. Late Renaissance to Rococo Revival styles. A showcase for furniture makers from John Townsend to John Henry Belter and painters from John Singleton Copley to Charles Willson Peale. A project of the great Houston architect John F. Staub. Among the top 10 collections of its importance and scope in America. Not static %26#8212; acquisitions and bequests continue to expand upon the legacy of its founder, the remarkable Miss Ima Hogg.
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Images: Desk-and-Bookcase, 1755 %26#8211; 1800, Newport, Rhode Island; Photo Miguel Flores-Vianna. Great Chair, 1640 %26#8211; 1685, Essex County, Massachusetts; Photo Thomas R. DuBrock.
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A grand southern colonial house in a sublime setting. Fourteen lush acres adorned with heirloom plantings and staffed by a full-time horticultural curator, five assistants and legions of volunteers. Formal organic gardens alternating with wooded paths and ample stands of azaleas, camellias (including the highly rare Duchesse de Caze pink, no longer available in commercial nurseries), gardenias, magnolias and antique roses. One singular vision.%26nbsp; %26nbsp;
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Image: James Peale%26#8217;s "Still Life with Vegetables," 1826; Photo Thomas R. DuBrock
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What are the must sees? An over-the-top desk-and-bookcase, circa 1755 %26#8211; 1800, that is considered one of the finest surviving examples of Newport furniture with its ornately carved shell motif that serves as inspiration for the house museum%26#8217;s logo; canvases by brothers Charles Willson Peale and James Peale depicting, respectively, a self-portrait with family members and a luminous still life of vegetables; the famed dining room with its golden, hand-painted, naturalistic wall covering and cache of late-18th- and early-19th-century furniture; unique Texana including an extensive collection of ceramics by Wilson Potters; Pilgrim-era furniture highlighted by a great chair, circa 1640 %26#8211; 1685; elegant painted furniture including a pair of side chairs, from 1808, designed by the architect Benjamin Latrobe in the Grecian style; the lavish rococo revival Belter Parlor, circa 1855; a gift in her late aunt%26#8217;s honor by Alice C. Simkins, a 1918 pottery vase from Sophie Newcomb College (on exhibit in the Hogg Family Legacy Room at the Kilroy Center) that is indicative of Miss Hogg%26#8217;s desire to extend the collection into the 20th century; and impeccable, inviting formal gardens that form rooms in nature contrasted with less-manicured landscape trails and sublime outdoor features.
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Bayou Bend%26#8217;s%26nbsp; Experts Weigh In
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Image: Woodland Ravine, Bayou Bend Gardens; Photo Rick Gardner%26nbsp;
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Michael K. Brown
Curator, Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens
Please place Bayou Bend in the context of great American decorative arts collections. What are other collections of its caliber?
It is among the top 10. The great collections are Winterthur (H. F. du Pont), the Met and the MFA Boston, in that order.%26nbsp;Others: Yale University Art Gallery (Garvan Collection), Philadelphia Museum of Art, Colonial Williamsburg (Rockefeller), Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (Horton Collection) [in Winston-Salem, North Carolina] ... She [Ima Hogg] recognized the importance of American antiques as early as 1920 ... There are very few opportunities to experience collections of this caliber, and most of them are on the East Coast.%26nbsp;
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Image: East Garden; Photo Rick Gardner
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Bart Brechter
Curator, the Gardens at Bayou Bend
When did you implement the organic initiative at Bayou Bend? How long did it take to make this happen?
2001. When implementing an organic garden, it is all or nothing, so the transition was immediate.
Was Miss Hogg the guiding vision behind the original plantings of the gardens?
Yes, most definitely. Nothing was done without Miss Hogg%26#8217;s vision and approval. The museum has her notes in their archives. When I have a question regarding the historical aspect of something, I will refer to them.
Which landscape gardeners did Miss Hogg work with?
Pat Fleming, Albert Shepherd, Ruth London.
We understand you are an azalea and camellia expert. How many species of each are represented at Bayou Bend?%26nbsp;
There are three species of camellias and only one species of azalea. But there are about 50-plus cultivars of camellias and 45-plus cultivars of azaleas.
Besides your Champion Dogwood, what other top trees are represented in the collection?
White oak, American sycamore, two-winged silver bell, ginkgo, loblolly pine, box elder, sugar maple and Southern magnolia.
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Image: Belter Parlor; Photo Rick Gardner
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Bonnie Campbell
Director, Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens
What are you stocking in the gift shop?
The Shop at Bayou Bend will be a great place for Houstonians to stop in for a special treasure for themselves or a friend.%26nbsp;We will highlight many unique, custom, limited-edition and one-of-a-kind objects that reflect the quality of craftsmanship and elegance found throughout Bayou Bend.%26nbsp;In many cases, the Shop will be the only place these treasures can be found.%26nbsp;Bowls and vases made from trees at Bayou Bend, a signature scent candle (%26#8220;Butterfly%26#8221;), a limited-edition Limoges reproduction of our fabulous green Empire sofa, a chiffon scarf featuring the Dining Room%26#8217;s%26nbsp;beautiful gold wall-covering%26nbsp;pattern, and on and on!%26nbsp;
How will the new Center change Bayou Bend?%26nbsp;
It will make it easier for us to let the public know what has been true for many years but has been hidden down and across the bayou: that Bayou Bend is a major cultural resource and is Houston%26#8217;s home for America%26#8217;s treasures.%26nbsp;
What message can Bayou Bend share with the public?%26nbsp;
That these objects are a tangible link to America%26#8217;s past %26#8212; to the people who made them, used them or admired them, and to the time in which they were made, used and admired.%26nbsp;
What are you excited about in terms of the Kilroy building and the restoration?%26nbsp;
One: That we will be able to share our educational mission in new and increased ways. Two: That wonderful period rooms will once again be open for public touring %26#8230; Three: That we have realized the one dream Ima Hogg had for Bayou Bend she was unable to complete in her lifetime: the addition of a visitor and education center.
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Houston%26#8217;s Home for America%26#8217;s Treasures
Bayou Bend is open six days a week, Tuesday through Sunday, year round. For information on hours, admission and tours, please visit mfah.org/BayouBend. %26nbsp;%26nbsp; %26nbsp;%26nbsp;
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The Lora Jean Kilroy Visitor and Education Center at Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens
6003 Memorial Drive at Westcott Street Houston, Texas 77007713.639.7750;%26nbsp;mfah.org/BayouBend
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Comments are closed.

What’s New at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s Grand Old House?


Your Exclusive First Look at the Gleaming, %26#8220;Green%26#8221; Lora Jean Kilroy Visitor and Education Center
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%26#8226; Plus a Behind-the-Scenes Peek at Seven Museum Rooms Reborn
%26#8226; What%26#8217;s Been Restored at One of America%26#8217;s Greatest Decorative Arts Museums
%26#8226; Texas%26#8217; Premier Organic Garden
%26#8226; What Trees Tower and What Blooms Blossom at One of the Most Beautiful Historical Gardens in the Country
%26#8226; What Are the Very Top Treasures Collected by the Discerning Miss Hogg
%26#8226; How Bayou Bend Began and What Else You Need to Know
%26#8226; Why Now is the Time to Go
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Image: Lora Jean Kilroy Visitor and Education Center, east facade at night
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Just Opened: The Lora Jean Kilroy Visitor and Education Center at Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens 6003 Memorial Drive at Westcott Street Houston, Texas 77007 713.639.7750; mfah.org/BayouBend
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Image: Clio Garden %26nbsp;
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Bayou Bend is open six days a week, Tuesday through Sunday, year round. For information on hours, admission and tours, please visit mfah.org/BayouBend.
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Image: The Chillman Parlor, 1810 %26#8211; 1840
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What%26#8217;s New at Houston%26#8217;s%26nbsp;Houston%26#8217;s Home for America%26#8217;s Treasures?%26nbsp;
At Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, a gleaming18,000-square-foot %26#8220;green%26#8221; building rises as the contemporary Lora Jean Kilroy Visitor and Education Center opens its doors.
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Image: Tulips and azaleas in Bayou Bend Gardens; Photo Rob Muir%26nbsp;
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In the Beginning
Houston, Texas, 1920. It was before the age of air conditioning and three years after the first Great War. The automobile of choice was a Model T. The daughter of a former Texas governor made an acquisition that would shape the course of American decorative art collecting by a single purchase: a Queen Anne armchair. And thus the foundation for a grand house museum was born by this singular philanthropist whose family impacted their hometown and state in ways large and small, expansive and intrinsic %26#8212; from civic endeavors such as facilitating the acquisition of the land that became Memorial Park to helping found the Houston Symphony, as well as involvement in progressive causes including mental health and education.
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Enter the doyenne Miss Ima Hogg (1882 %26#8211; 1975). After spying an 18th-century American chair in the Manhattan studio of portraitist Wayman Adams, she was inspired to begin a lifetime pursuit of fine and decorative art that would culminate in the Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, which she gifted to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in 1957. Emphasizing interpretation and education, the first docent class was trained in 1961; the house opened to the public in 1966 when its founder moved to a high-rise for the final decade of her life. After she left her beloved home, Bayou Bend continued front and center in her consciousness, evidenced in acquisitions of objects as well as land %26#8212; including a choice adjoining parcel that she sagely purchased in 1969, with the intention of eventually creating a visitor center. This fall, her long-deferred dream becomes a reality.%26nbsp;
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Image: Kilroy Visitor and Education Center, south view; Photo Robb Williamson%26nbsp;
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A 21st-Century Gateway to America%26#8217;s History
%26#8220;It%26#8217;s like a machine in the garden,%26#8221; notes director Peter Marzio about the 21st-century steel structure that rises along Memorial Drive near Westcott as a beacon to greet contemporary guests. The new building, which opened to the public on Saturday, September 25, is christened the Lora Jean Kilroy Visitor and Education Center after lead benefactor, philanthropist and avid collector Jeanie Kilroy, who also endowed an accessions fund for Bayou Bend. The Center caps a $25 million campaign that began in 2007 to celebrate the house museum%26#8217;s half-century.
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Striking yet not overblown, the 18,000-square-foot building makes a nuanced nod to the area%26#8217;s natural surroundings. %26#8220;We want visitors to begin in the 21st century, then walk over the suspension bridge to Houston of 1928, then enter Bayou Bend and step into 18th-century Philadelphia,%26#8221; reveals Marzio, who tapped hometown architect Leslie K. Elkins for the commission. %26#8220;We looked at her other projects, such as the Quaker Live Oak Friends Meeting, and she was the perfect choice. Also, Leslie is a Houstonian, which was important.%26#8221;
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The handsome, Silver-LEED-certified two-story structure emits an environmental statement, beginning with its %26#8220;cool%26#8221; roof, which reflects more than 90 percent of the sun%26#8217;s radiation, and the detention pond that becomes a beguiling water element. Kendall/Heaton Associates served as the production architect, with the MFAH%26#8217;s associate director of administration, Willard Holmes, overseeing all construction details as project manager. McDugald-Steele Landscape Architects tweaked the neighboring Hogg Bird Sanctuary, creating a %26#8220;green link from the Visitor Center to Bayou Bend, while presenting a more urban face to the historic presence of the house museum,%26#8221; says McDugald-Steele principal Erik Hanson. The project represented an innovative collaboration between the Parks Department and the MFAH, impacting an impressive 18 inner-city acres, including a new oak all%26#233;e that rims the Kilroy building.
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Besides exponentially raising the visibility of Bayou Bend and turning a beckoning exterior to the visitor, the shining contemporary building %26#8220;makes a segue from today into history,%26#8221; Marzio says. %26#8220;We found, for example, that visitors needed a bit more information before they entered the collection.%26#8221; So the Kilroy Center prepares them by presenting an orientation and information lobby, an orientation gallery, a Hogg Family Legacy Room, a retail shop, a (nonlending) research library and a study center dedicated to American decorative arts history, plus volumes about architecture, painting, works on paper and social history, including many rare architectural and furniture design books, as well as the Hogg family%26#8217;s books on Texas history. Also offered are classroom spaces for meetings and social functions, and an outdoor veranda for receptions.
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About the motivation behind the gift for her namesake structure, lifetime MFAH trustee Kilroy confides: %26#8220;American history will come to life for the children of Houston in new and exciting ways. This matters to me even more as I watch my granddaughter and her friends growing up. I realize that they are our next generation of leaders, and it is important that they have a firm grounding in American history and ideals.%26#8221;
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Image: Robert C. Joy%26#8217;s "Miss Ima Hogg," 1971; Photo Thomas R. DuBrock%26nbsp;
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Who was Miss Hogg?
Born six years after the American Centennial, Miss Hogg grew up in an affluent, high-profile family as the only daughter of a popular Texas governor, Jim Hogg, and his wife, Sallie, who passed away of tuberculosis when Miss Hogg was a young girl. After an Austin and East Texas childhood, she and siblings Will, Mike and Tom ended up in Houston, where they ran Hogg Brothers%26#8217; booming and numerous enterprises encompassing oil, agriculture, real estate, coal, interests in the port of Houston and even shoe manufacturing and gold mining. Their destined-to-be-vast fortunes were jump-started by the discovery of oil on their West Columbia, Texas, property in 1918, which led to the founding of the Texas Company, the forerunner of Texaco.
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Miss Ima%26#8217;s avocation was music %26#8212; she was a classically trained pianist who studied in New York, Berlin and Vienna. An activist for mental health and education, she later served on the Houston School Board. But her greatest civic and cultural legacy is incontestably the promotion of the then-burgeoning field of American antiques, as well as forming important collections of 20th-century works on paper and Southwest Indian art. Bayou Bend%26#8217;s Michael K. Brown, who has been its keen and knowledgeable collection curator since 1980, tells the story of Miss Hogg%26#8217;s first acquisition in his definitive 2007 book, America%26#8217;s Treasures at Bayou Bend: Celebrating 50 Years, published to commemorate the museum%26#8217;s half-century (and stocked at the new Kilroy Center%26#8217;s Shop). %26#8220;She noticed and was engaged by an 18th-century New England armchair. When she learned it was the product of a colonial American craftsman, her interest heightened. She perceived, in what otherwise seemed to be an unassuming object, a tangible link to the American past. It prompted her to query if, through a piece of furniture, one could explore and interpret the nation%26#8217;s history and culture.%26#8221;
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This devotion and connoisseurship toward American antiques, which Miss Hogg developed and honed throughout her life, placed her at the forefront of pioneering collectors and institutions that made a commitment to a then-novel field, decorative art of America %26#8212; versus, say, the more respected and fashionable 18th-century French or English furniture and objects. Towards the end of her life, her well-regarded, discerning eye earned praise from First Lady Jackie Kennedy, who tapped Miss Hogg for advice on the White House Collection.
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Image: Bayou Bend Collection, south facade; Photo Rick Gardner %26nbsp;
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A Storied%26nbsp; House%26nbsp;
What came first? The antiques or the house? While we know that Miss Hogg began her 55-year collecting odyssey in 1920, having a repository for her passion for Americana was important %26#8212; and connected to the booming Houston of the 1920s. She commissioned the then youngish and not yet overly well-known John F. Staub to design a %26#8220;Southern colonial with a Latin flavor,%26#8221; as noted in founding director emeritus David Warrren%26#8217;s Bayou Bend Gardens: A Southern Oasis (also stocked in the new Kilroy Center).
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Poignantly, the home took on a special place in Hogg family history, as outlined again in Bayou Bend Gardens: %26#8220;By 1876, the original land of Mountain Home [in Rusk, Texas] had been reduced to five hundred acres. At that point, with no means of raising cash to meet their obligations, the Hogg children were forced to sell their beloved family plantation ... The pain of losing the family plantation and its land, the most essential southern possession ... remained at the heart of the Hogg family over two successive generations and impacted the conception of Bayou Bend half a century later.%26#8221;
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Bayou Bend was completed in 1928, providing a home for Miss Hogg and her brothers, Will and Mike, as well as a platform (albeit a grand one) for meetings and entertaining to promote the siblings%26#8217; various causes and a center for her increasing focus on building a collection that provided a link to America%26#8217;s past. The estate was originally called Bayou Banks, but the name evolved to its present moniker in 1929. The property%26#8217;s dense, tropical underbrush was resolutely tamed over the ensuing decades to become a showplace for azaleas, camellias and other luxuriant plantings.
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Bayou Bend%26#8217;s Splendid%26nbsp; Museum Rooms Reborn
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Bold Second-Story Redux
Besides the greatly anticipated opening of the Kilroy Center, Bayou Bend itself gets a handsome makeover. The Center provides administrative offices and spaces for the museum%26#8217;s staff, thus freeing up additional rooms on the second floor of the historic home to showcase its stellar collection. This extensive redux marks only the first time in nearly two decades the house has undergone a significant interior redo and restoration. Here%26#8217;s your first peek into a new take on American history via seven reborn Bayou Bend interiors, set to be unveiled this fall:
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Image: McIntire Bedroom; Photo Robb Williamson
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McIntire Bedroom: One of the most serene spaces of the house despite its nonstop patterned wallpaper, carpet and bed coverings, this room reflects its original function as a guest suite. Its name is an ode to the graceful, sophisticated early-19th-century style popularized by Salem, Massachusetts%26#8211;based architect and wood carver Samuel McIntire (1757 %26#8211; 1811). The bedroom is also home to a rare and recent acquisition:%26nbsp;a Rhode Island Sampler from 1793, worked by the young Joanna Maxwell (1782 %26#8211;%26nbsp;1847), with the first letters of her name acronystically spelling out verses. Due to conservation issues, this fragile textile, a gift from the Houston Junior Woman%26#8217;s Club, will only remain on view for a few months at a time.
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Image: Music Room; Photo Phil Grant%26nbsp;
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Music Room: Carriage-class Manhattan circa 1805 %26#8211; 1820 comes alive in this setting, which marries the sublime attitude of the early Grecian style with a piano from the New York shops of Gibson %26amp; Davis, set off by exotic French reproduction panoramic wallpaper in the Hindustan pattern. A pair of just-conserved painted chairs from the Northeast is exhibited for the first time, and touches of the Orient (a China trade bamboo armchair and Chinese export porcelain) complete this intimate room.
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Image: Federal Parlor; Photo Phil Grant
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Federal Parlor: Designed by Miss Hogg in collaboration with architect John F. Staub in 1961, the Federal Parlor is one of the restoration%26#8217;s most lavishly refurbished rooms; it received both new carpet and wallpaper (complete with frieze and border) from, respectively, Grosvenor Wilton of Kidderminster, England, and Adelphi of New York. The biggest surprise of this redux? The discovery of a signature on the neoclassical, circa-1800 mantel, which is now confirmed to be by Philadelphia artisan Robert Wellford. Above Wellford%26#8217;s creation hangs another treasure: a rare circa-1818 landscape painted by Philadelphian Charles Willson Peale, who was best known for his portraits; he also founded the first natural history museum in America, and his progeny were all named after artists. Also, don%26#8217;t miss a delicate 1785 %26#8211;%26nbsp;1815 gilded and painted armchair thought to have been owned by Philadelphia merchant Robert Morris, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and one of the financial backers of the American Revolution.%26nbsp;
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Image: Folk Art Room; Photo Robb Williamson
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Folk Art Room: A new space entirely, the Folk Art Room was carved out of the former Hogg Memorial Room display. While Miss Hogg assiduously collected this art form, the objects were not individually highlighted. Now folk art receives its due, with the leitmotif sounded by a beguiling 2009 addition to the collection: a pair of mid-19th-century doors surmised to have been made by painters Patrick Finney and John Serey, which come from an Odd Fellows%26#8217; Lodge in upstate New York. Other must-sees: an exuberant Berks County, Pennsylvania, painted cupboard that mirrors the affluent rural German culture that created it, and an extraordinary Edward Hicks canvas, Penn%26#8217;s Treaty with the Indians, circa 1830 %26#8211;1840, acquired by Will Hogg in 1922.
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Image: Compote, circa 1850 %26#8211; 1870, attributed to Boston %26amp; Sandwich Glass Co., Sandwich, Massachusetts; Photo Thomas R. DuBrock
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Washington Hall: While always part of the Bayou Bend Collection, glass has usually been exhibited within a room setting. Now a newly minted hallway niche dramatically surveys the glassmakers that furnished tony 18th- and 19th-century American homes. On view in casework compartments to emphasize the unique beauty and brilliance of early American glass, this setting serves up riches including a recently acquired compote, circa 1850 %26#8211;%26nbsp;1870, attributed to Boston %26amp; Sandwich Glass Company of Sandwich, Massachusetts.
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Image: Tankard, 1695 %26#8211; 1711, shop of John Coney, Boston; Photo Thomas R. DuBrock
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Metals Study Room: Spanning three centuries of elegant, innovative endeavors in metal, particularly silver, this new exhibition space provides an opportunity to gaze upon rare objects up close and in perfect lighting. Recommended: an extraordinary set of 70 spoons (tea, table and dessert) associated with the patriot Paul Revere and a robust, late-17th-century/early-18th-century tankard from the workshop of Boston silversmith John Coney.%26nbsp;
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Image: William Boch and Brothers%26#8217; Pitcher, circa 1854 %26#8211; 1857, Greenpoint, Long Island, New York; Photo Thomas R. DuBrock%26nbsp;
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Ceramics Study Room: The final showcase of Colonial-to-Centennial objects is dedicated to ceramics. Originally the exercise area for the Hogg brothers, this space now boasts the most extensive exhibition of Texas pottery in the country %26#8212; including a loan of early masterpieces from the collection of Houstonian William J. Hill %26#8212;%26nbsp;augmented by other intriguing offerings such as a recently acquired ornate porcelain pitcher from the acclaimed mid-19th-century William Boch and Brothers factory in Brooklyn.
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Image: Arabesque Pigeons (detail) from Adelphi in the Federal Parlor; Photo Phil Gran
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A Wall-to-Wall Redo
When selecting wallpapers and carpets for your Georgian-styled manse, where do you begin? If you%26#8217;re a historical residence that boasts a fabled collection of American paintings and decorative arts, the choices become even scarcer. For its historically correct carpets, Bayou Bend turned to storied English firm Grosvenor Wilton. Founded in 1790, the company has an archive of 10,000 patterns, from which two were adroitly chosen by Bayou Bend curator Michael K. Brown. In the Federal Parlor, a genteel brown carpet with a rust Scroll and Leaf motif makes a bold statement, and the revamped Music Room is now home to heraldic Point-of-Honor Medallion. The Gfroerer Co. of Cincinnati, Ohio, meticulously installed both carpets by hand. Among its other clients: the White House. The newly added Folk Art Room%26#8217;s rug is sourced from Cherry Valley, New York%26#8211;based Rabbit Goody of Thistle Hill Weavers. Still crafting historical rugs and carpets by hand, she wove a charming Venetian carpet from worsted wool in a pattern known as The Hartford Figure.
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Nineteenth-century-inspired wall coverings were then commissioned from Adelphi Paper Hangings in Sharon Springs, New York, which continues to hand-block all its papers on cotton fiber. The McIntire Bedroom received a refined Laurel Trellis wallpaper, reproduced from a 19th-century Parisian trousseau package that is bordered by the dignified Otis Federal Chain, which references the landmark Otis House in Boston, circa 1796. A graceful Arabesque Pigeons design ensconces the revamped Federal Parlor, accented by its historic LeBaron border and Garland and Tassel frieze, replicating the combinations of the renowned Lazarus LeBaron House in Sutton, Massachusetts, of 1794.%26nbsp;
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While these sumptuous wall coverings and dazzling (and often dizzying) carpets may appear heady in today%26#8217;s light, they speak to the maximalist reality of yesteryear. Seth Vaughan
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What%26#8217;s Timeless at Bayou Bend?
A Fabled Collection of American Decorative Arts Plus a Lush, 14-Acre Southern Garden %26nbsp;
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Image: Dining Room; Photo Rick Gardner%26nbsp;
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Rooms to Treasure and Top Treasures %26#8212; That Revel in%26nbsp; and Reveal %26#8212; American History
Three centuries of American antiques relay the story of a nation, its people and their art, design and life, 1620 to 1870. More than 20 period rooms and 5,322 objects. Late Renaissance to Rococo Revival styles. A showcase for furniture makers from John Townsend to John Henry Belter and painters from John Singleton Copley to Charles Willson Peale. A project of the great Houston architect John F. Staub. Among the top 10 collections of its importance and scope in America. Not static %26#8212; acquisitions and bequests continue to expand upon the legacy of its founder, the remarkable Miss Ima Hogg.
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Images: Desk-and-Bookcase, 1755 %26#8211; 1800, Newport, Rhode Island; Photo Miguel Flores-Vianna. Great Chair, 1640 %26#8211; 1685, Essex County, Massachusetts; Photo Thomas R. DuBrock.
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A grand southern colonial house in a sublime setting. Fourteen lush acres adorned with heirloom plantings and staffed by a full-time horticultural curator, five assistants and legions of volunteers. Formal organic gardens alternating with wooded paths and ample stands of azaleas, camellias (including the highly rare Duchesse de Caze pink, no longer available in commercial nurseries), gardenias, magnolias and antique roses. One singular vision.%26nbsp; %26nbsp;
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Image: James Peale%26#8217;s "Still Life with Vegetables," 1826; Photo Thomas R. DuBrock
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What are the must sees? An over-the-top desk-and-bookcase, circa 1755 %26#8211; 1800, that is considered one of the finest surviving examples of Newport furniture with its ornately carved shell motif that serves as inspiration for the house museum%26#8217;s logo; canvases by brothers Charles Willson Peale and James Peale depicting, respectively, a self-portrait with family members and a luminous still life of vegetables; the famed dining room with its golden, hand-painted, naturalistic wall covering and cache of late-18th- and early-19th-century furniture; unique Texana including an extensive collection of ceramics by Wilson Potters; Pilgrim-era furniture highlighted by a great chair, circa 1640 %26#8211; 1685; elegant painted furniture including a pair of side chairs, from 1808, designed by the architect Benjamin Latrobe in the Grecian style; the lavish rococo revival Belter Parlor, circa 1855; a gift in her late aunt%26#8217;s honor by Alice C. Simkins, a 1918 pottery vase from Sophie Newcomb College (on exhibit in the Hogg Family Legacy Room at the Kilroy Center) that is indicative of Miss Hogg%26#8217;s desire to extend the collection into the 20th century; and impeccable, inviting formal gardens that form rooms in nature contrasted with less-manicured landscape trails and sublime outdoor features.
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Bayou Bend%26#8217;s%26nbsp; Experts Weigh In
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Image: Woodland Ravine, Bayou Bend Gardens; Photo Rick Gardner%26nbsp;
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Michael K. Brown
Curator, Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens
Please place Bayou Bend in the context of great American decorative arts collections. What are other collections of its caliber?
It is among the top 10. The great collections are Winterthur (H. F. du Pont), the Met and the MFA Boston, in that order.%26nbsp;Others: Yale University Art Gallery (Garvan Collection), Philadelphia Museum of Art, Colonial Williamsburg (Rockefeller), Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (Horton Collection) [in Winston-Salem, North Carolina] ... She [Ima Hogg] recognized the importance of American antiques as early as 1920 ... There are very few opportunities to experience collections of this caliber, and most of them are on the East Coast.%26nbsp;
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Image: East Garden; Photo Rick Gardner
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Bart Brechter
Curator, the Gardens at Bayou Bend
When did you implement the organic initiative at Bayou Bend? How long did it take to make this happen?
2001. When implementing an organic garden, it is all or nothing, so the transition was immediate.
Was Miss Hogg the guiding vision behind the original plantings of the gardens?
Yes, most definitely. Nothing was done without Miss Hogg%26#8217;s vision and approval. The museum has her notes in their archives. When I have a question regarding the historical aspect of something, I will refer to them.
Which landscape gardeners did Miss Hogg work with?
Pat Fleming, Albert Shepherd, Ruth London.
We understand you are an azalea and camellia expert. How many species of each are represented at Bayou Bend?%26nbsp;
There are three species of camellias and only one species of azalea. But there are about 50-plus cultivars of camellias and 45-plus cultivars of azaleas.
Besides your Champion Dogwood, what other top trees are represented in the collection?
White oak, American sycamore, two-winged silver bell, ginkgo, loblolly pine, box elder, sugar maple and Southern magnolia.
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Image: Belter Parlor; Photo Rick Gardner
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Bonnie Campbell
Director, Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens
What are you stocking in the gift shop?
The Shop at Bayou Bend will be a great place for Houstonians to stop in for a special treasure for themselves or a friend.%26nbsp;We will highlight many unique, custom, limited-edition and one-of-a-kind objects that reflect the quality of craftsmanship and elegance found throughout Bayou Bend.%26nbsp;In many cases, the Shop will be the only place these treasures can be found.%26nbsp;Bowls and vases made from trees at Bayou Bend, a signature scent candle (%26#8220;Butterfly%26#8221;), a limited-edition Limoges reproduction of our fabulous green Empire sofa, a chiffon scarf featuring the Dining Room%26#8217;s%26nbsp;beautiful gold wall-covering%26nbsp;pattern, and on and on!%26nbsp;
How will the new Center change Bayou Bend?%26nbsp;
It will make it easier for us to let the public know what has been true for many years but has been hidden down and across the bayou: that Bayou Bend is a major cultural resource and is Houston%26#8217;s home for America%26#8217;s treasures.%26nbsp;
What message can Bayou Bend share with the public?%26nbsp;
That these objects are a tangible link to America%26#8217;s past %26#8212; to the people who made them, used them or admired them, and to the time in which they were made, used and admired.%26nbsp;
What are you excited about in terms of the Kilroy building and the restoration?%26nbsp;
One: That we will be able to share our educational mission in new and increased ways. Two: That wonderful period rooms will once again be open for public touring %26#8230; Three: That we have realized the one dream Ima Hogg had for Bayou Bend she was unable to complete in her lifetime: the addition of a visitor and education center.
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Houston%26#8217;s Home for America%26#8217;s Treasures
Bayou Bend is open six days a week, Tuesday through Sunday, year round. For information on hours, admission and tours, please visit mfah.org/BayouBend. %26nbsp;%26nbsp; %26nbsp;%26nbsp;
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The Lora Jean Kilroy Visitor and Education Center at Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens
6003 Memorial Drive at Westcott Street Houston, Texas 77007713.639.7750;%26nbsp;mfah.org/BayouBend
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