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Sign for the Windham Inn
1783
Paint on wood, probably pine, gold leaf, iron, metal alloy
Other (height x width of sign only): 69 3/4 x 43in. (177.2 x 109.2cm)
Credit Line: Collection of Morgan B. Brainard, Gift of Mrs. Morgan B. Brainard
Description: Images: On both sides, the arms of Scotland. Text: On both sides, on the pediment, "1783", on the skirt, "1891". Construction: Two or more boards, grain oriented vertically, with flat horizontal rails and vertical stiles. The signboard is set within channels on the inside edges of the rails and stiles. Rails are tenoned into the stiles and secured with double pins set on a diagonal. The inner edges of these framing members are molded and cut to miters at the corners. Rails and stiles have additional moldings nailed to their faces, along the outer edges. Split turnings, cut to fit over the hanging hardware, are nailed to the outer edges of both stiles. The pediment and skirt are made of separate boards, grain oriented horizontally, which are nailed to outer edges of the rails. The pediment is cut to a triangular "broken" pediment profile, with molding caps nailed to the top edges. The skirt is cut into a decorative profile with two large central lobes borderd by two smaller lobes at the outer corners.
Technique Note: Surface notes. The unicorns are executed in gold leaf on a blue background. The frame is painted white with black trim. The painting of the two unicorns and the cartouche has been strengthened since the publication of the sign in a photographic postcard about 1909 (CHS, Graphics Collection). Dates and some decorative trim have also been repainted. No evidence of an earlier image has been observed, although the blue backround appears to contain remnant deposits of smalt. Historical Note: Original location. A series of panoramic photographs of the Windham Green, dating to the 1890s, depicts this sign in situ, hanging from the branch of a large tree growing near the corner of the Windham Inn, a white-painted brick house at the northeast corner of the Green. A hotel had operated continuously on this site, along the main road from Hartford to Providence, Rhode Island, from at least 1849, passing through a series of proprietors. An earlier inn, possibly in a previous structure, had been operated from circa 1755-1807, by related members of the Fitch and Carey families (John Fitch, Jr., active circa 1755; his widow; Mercy Lathrop Fitch, active 1755-67; her second husband, Eleazer Carey, circa 1767-82; and again by Mercy Lathrop Fitch Carey and her son, John Fitch, circa 1783-1807). George Challenger acquired the property about 1886 from the widow of the previous hotelkeeper, B. S. Wilbur. He made extensive renovations, including piping in spring water. In 1920, the Windham Inn was described as drawing "a liberal patronage from city people during the heated months of summer." It continued to operate until 1942, but by 1950 it had become a convalescent home.
Inscription: On both sides, on the pediment, "1783", on the skirt, "1891".
Object Number: 1961.63.52
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