Traditional Woven Coverlet Symposium 2015 at Historic Hyde Hall

Cherry Valley, NY:  Rabbit Goody and Thistle Hill Weavers are delighted to announce that a special Symposium on Traditional Woven Coverlets will take place May 1-3, 2015, at Hyde Hall in Springfield, NY. Anyone with an interest in coverlets is encouraged to attend. Participants are especially encouraged to bring their own coverlets and images to share and discuss.

“This is a unique opportunity to explore an exciting and important range of woven coverlets not typically available for examination” says organizer Rabbit Goody. “We benefit from shared discussion, and it is always exciting to see what participants bring to share.” The Symposium brings together historians, collectors, curators, and enthusiasts for a lively exchange of ideas and information. Goody will also bring a selection of coverlets from her own extraordinary collection to share with the group.

CategoryCoverletWhat about that lion border? Is this an unusual design or color combination? This Symposium is designed to contribute new understandings of the woven coverlet in America. Goody, a leading expert in the study and manufacture of 18th and 19th century textiles, will lead discussions on the definition of the genre, regional styles and influences, and what we might identify as common to all coverlets.

Participants will also have the opportunity to see the recently installed reproduction carpets at Hyde Hall, and tour this magnificent 50-plus room regency mansion located at the north end of Otsego Lake. One of the finest representations of romantic classicism in America, Hyde Hall is one of the “two or three greatest houses in America,” according to Brendan Gill, architecture critic for the New Yorker. Designed by Philip Hooker and built by George Clarke between 1817 and 1835, Hyde Hall is a National Historic Landmark, on the National Register of Historic Places, and is a New York State Historic Site. The stone mansion sits inside Glimmerglass State Park, a lake front park with 42 campsites, beach, showers, boating, and picnicking facilities on Otsego Lake (1 Mill Road, Springfield, NY 13333).

Rabbit Goody is owner of Thistle Hill Weavers in Cherry Valley, NY. For more than 20 years, Thistle Hill Weavers has been weaving luxurious custom fabrics, carpet, and trim for designers, home owners, museums, and the film industry. Goody specializes in creating accurate historic reproductions, working from surviving examples, documented patterns, and period weavers’ drafts.

The Symposium begins 10:00am Friday May 1 and concludes at 4:00pm Sunday May 3. Registration is $155 and includes lunch all three days and special tours of Hyde Hall. For registration information and questions, see our website ( or contact Rabbit Goody 101 Chestnut Ridge Road, Cherry Valley, NY 13320. Call 518-284-2729 or email


New Carpet

A Glimpse Behind the Scenes

In the fascinating process of choosing designs and colors for not one, but three new carpets for the Great Rooms at Hyde Hall*, we are consulting with a number of well-known experts on period carpets, among them Rabbit Goody of Thistle Hill Weavers, David Luckham of Living Looms, and Dave Hunt of the Vermont Custom Rug Company

Carpet SamplesSamples of period carpet designs provided by David Luckham

In a recent visit to Hyde Hall, Mr. Luckham pointed out that our choice of Drawing Room carpet will depend upon the other two carpets in the Great House—the ones for the Entrance Hall and the Dining Room. “These carpets should not be overly “matched,” he said, “but they should coordinate.”  He said that in the period, a certain contrast was desired—enough to make the transition from room to room interesting but not visually jarring or discordant.

carpet design 3


carpet design 1
Two possible designs from The Grosvenor Wilton Company Ltd., provided by Dave Hunt

Imagine the two carpets above in coordinating colorways and adjacent rooms! The success of this approach depends upon a careful balance of differences and similarities in design and colors.

carpet laid out Grosvenor Wilton sample on floor, showing scale and general appearance in place

George Clarke, as an Englishman of his background and education, understood this implicitly and would most certainly have achieved a correct balance of this kind at Hyde Hall.

* Thanks to several very generous donors

Unsolved Mysteries

Unsolved Mysteries

“You too could help solve a mystery!”

The late Robert Stack used this tag line when he introduced that pioneer reality TV show, Unsolved Mysteries.

At Hyde Hall, we are constantly reviewing and learning new aspects about this fascinating homestead and the five generations of the family who built it and lived here for nearly a century and a half.

This past year our in-house “History Detectives” have been re-discovering a wealth of artifacts ranging from lost wardrobe pieces, the silver plated front door pull cover, the original mahogany coat racks, and the front hall stove pipe. Information about our vast collections is becoming more accessible as old bills are scanned and matched with pieces from corner cabinets to dishware.

Besides artifacts, we have been exploring the many connections between the Clarkes and the notable figures with whom they interacted. While members of the family may not have been famous, they were well acquainted with significant historical figures such as Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr (attorneys for George “the Builder”), Samuel Morse, Juliette Gordon Low, both President Roosevelts, and assorted Rockefellers – and they witnessed great events from the building of the Erie Canal to the sinking of the Titanic.

Yet for every new clue or discovery, another mystery crops up. Here’s where we present some of our latest mysteries to see if any of you might help us with that “missing link” – a photo or document, a witness or a newspaper account – that will add to the impressive heritage of Hyde Hall.

F.D.R. at the Hall

This Hyde Hall “mystery” involves one of the Hall’s most distinguished visitors: Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

We now have ample documentation from both Clarke family oral tradition and a local newspaper article, that then-Governor Franklin Roosevelt along with his wife Eleanor, two state police officers, and an entourage of reporters and staff paid a visit to Hyde Hall in August 1930.

FDR was enroute to Cooperstown to deliver a speech – he was running for his second two-year term as governor, and only two years away from winning the White House. Interestingly, when I contacted the FDR Library at Hyde Park, they had no record of this event.

FDRAbove: FDR in the fall of 1930 – leaning on his car and using a cane. Normally when walking, due to his bout with polio, he would be aided by one or more state police officers; that summer he traveled to Hyde Hall with both a captain and a sergeant.

The real mystery: In the Cooperstown newspaper report, the future president made a comment about coming here 25 years earlier (or thereabouts?). What would have occasioned his visit circa 1905?

Three theories:

• Might he (and Eleanor?) have been guests at the 1907 wedding of Anne Hyde Clarke and Arthur Choate? Contemporary newspaper accounts of the Choate wedding do not list him among the more prominent guests, but in 1907, the 25-year old FDR was hardly prominent. Choate-Roosevelt connections: The Delano’s (and Roosevelts) and Choates were connected, all part of New York’s relatively insular upper crust.

A few years earlier, Arthur Choate’s uncle, Joseph Choate Sr., Teddy Roosevelt’s ambassador to Great Britain, had been approached by Sara Delano Roosevelt, Franklin’s mother, to see if he would take young Franklin back to London as a secretary at the embassy. Her thinly-disguised aim was to put an ocean between her son and his then-fiancé, Eleanor (there would remain a life-long antagonism between Sara and Eleanor). Fortunately, the ambassador firmly said NO, as Franklin, fresh out of Harvard, had no experience or qualifications for the post.

As president, FDR would appoint Arthur’s cousin Joseph Choate, Jr. to the key post of chairing the post-prohibition Federal Alcohol Control Administration. Joseph Jr.’s wife was photographed as a wedding guest of Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter Ethel in 1913 (below). Eleanor Roosevelt and Anne H.C. Choate both served together for many years on the Girl Scouts National Council.

• Or might he (and Eleanor) have attended Anne’s debutante party in 1905?
• Or stopped by in 1908 when he was in the area with “Cousin Teddy.” That summer, then -President Theodore Roosevelt (Eleanor’s uncle) dedicated the new town library in nearby Jordanville, N.Y. His sister Corinne Roosevelt Robinson had a summer home there and provided a major endowment for the library. Recently the Jordanville library staff kindly copied for me their guestbook for that dedication day, showing signatures of both Roosevelts and other luminaries.

TRAbove: President Theodore Roosevelt at the Jordanville Library dedication, 1908

The Choate’s and Clarkes associated with leaders of both parties (Democrats FDR, Averill Harriman – a distant Clarke cousin through Mary Gale’s family – and Hyde himself ran unsuccessfully for the state legislature as a Democrat; and Republicans Teddy Roosevelt, Nelson and Laurence Rockefeller). Party lines and ideology in their time were not as clearly drawn as today, and perhaps a few degrees more civil, at least publicly and among the leadership.

The family tradition of Teddy Roosevelt visiting Hyde Hall will be considered in an upcoming “mystery” column. From his youth (seeking remedial help for chronic asthma in Richfield Springs and visiting his sister), Teddy was in the area often, and he spoke in Cooperstown on various occasions. But we lack that photo or letter to give us substantiation. More later!

Back to FDR – if you have a clue, suggestion or documentation – please let us know!

-Randy Lamb

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