“A Clever Bachelor Girl”

 

Nice old place. Clean as a whistle. Each box and chest and trunk labeled. What fun she and a little girl named Grace Temple had had playing with the big dollhouse in the corner…  To Love and to Honor

I noticed the reference to Grace Temple in Emilie Loring’s novel To Love and to Honor, because it was a full name and sounded like it might have a history.  It did.

West Springfield St
West Springfield Street, Boston

Grace Lincoln Temple was one of several girls who lived near Bessie Baker (Emilie) on West Springfield Street. In 1874, the girls put on a fair at the Baker house.

“The fair was the project of Bessie Baker and Georgie Mayhew, of eight years, and the object the aiding of a poor woman. The central table was in charge of the founders, Bessie and Georgie, assisted by Edith Stevens of about the same age, as were all the attendants. Gracie Temple and Maud Spaulding presided at the flower table; Bertha Cohen and Julia Norris at the doll table… Altogether it was a very pleasing and profitable occasion.” Boston Daily Advertiser

Emilie grew up, married Victor Loring, and moved to Wellesley Hills. Grace studied at Boston’s School of the Museum of Fine Arts and taught for several years before she received a golden opportunity. She and Miss Elizabeth Sheldon of Connecticut were chosen to decorate the 1895 Atlanta Exposition building that was dedicated to the accomplishments of women.

Women's building Atlanta Exposition 1895
Dedicated to the “New Woman’s” industry and intelligence

“The idea of the young ladies is to have a refreshing harmony of colors and decorations that will appeal as well to the ‘untutored eye’ as to artists and the connoisseurs who are ‘up’ on such matters.” Boston Daily Globe 

Three young women came to Washington, D.C. together–Miss Sheldon and Miss Temple to work on the Exposition and Dr. Julia Cleves Harrison, who came to practice homeopathic medicine. Dr. Harrison already had Washington, D.C. ties. Her great-grandfather was President William Henry Harrison, and her cousin was President Benjamin Harrison.  The Washington Post introduced them:

WASHINGTON’S “BACHELOR GIRLS.”

“Washington now boasts of three clever “bachelor girls,” as they call themselves, according to the fad… Dr. Julia Harrison… and her friends, Miss Elizabeth B. Sheldon and Grace Lincoln Temple… The young ladies have brought with them letters of introduction to many of the most prominent families in Washington. During the season they will receive on Saturday afternoons in their studio, in real Boston style.”

Westland Mansion
The Clevelands’ Princeton home

President Cleveland’s wife was so taken with the Atlanta Women’s Building that she asked Miss Temple to help her rearrange the East Room of the White House and then to decorate the Clevelands’ home in Princeton. One thing led to another, and soon, Grace had all the prominent clients she could handle.

A low couch was cushioned in the soft pink of the blossoms of a huge geranium in an Oriental lacquer stand in a corner; its pillows were the lightest shade of the green of the leaves. A flat dark blue bowl on a broad desk of natural mahogany held one mammoth pale yellow dahlia. A bamboo chaise longue was cushioned in aqua; a mass of auratum lilies topped a low black and gold cabinet. Tables at the arm of inviting chairs holding choice figurines or bronzes were reflected in the polished floor like colorful islands in a still pool. A Ming vase lamp at each end of the couch threw a soft pink light. Through the windows of the glassed-in extension of the living room was visible a vast expanse of sky and ocean. To Love and to Honor

Back home, the Boston Globe took note:

CLEVER BOSTON GIRL

Grace Temple Decorated Mrs. Cleveland’s Home.

She has earned a great Reputation at the National Capital.

“Miss Temple is a bachelor maid who doesn’t have to cook her own breakfast or sleep upon the fictitious comforts of a lounge bed. Not a bit of it. She is one whom the gods of fortune hath crowned from the beginning…” 

“O, yes, I have done so well here,” she said, “am kept terribly busy all the time, was going to Europe this summer, but so many orders came in for the decoration of country houses that I have to remain.

“But two especial points worry me in the profession of art…

“It costs not a bit more to have a house beautiful as to have it ugly. It must be furnished some way, and the simplest things are charming if well selected.

“Then of course one must preserve in the interior decorations the architectural harmonies of the house itself, and that is something few women understand.”

“I like the spaciousness and color,” Cindy approved. “It must be the last word in mid-twentieth-century decoration to harmonize with the architecture of the house.”  To Love and to Honor

Arguably Miss Temple’s most important work was for the Smithsonian Castle in Washington, D.C.–which made her one of the first women to decorate a public building in the United States. She supervised decoration of the Smithsonian rotunda and then was hired by Secretary Samuel P. Langley to bring the Children’s Room to life as a room of wonder. Miss Temple obliged with fanciful murals and an enormous length of hand-painted wallpaper border.

 

Less than ten years after her first big commission, Grace Lincoln Temple had become a leading decorator. Again, she decorated a Women’s Building, this time for the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.

“The decorative scheme for the Woman’s Building at the World’s Fair has been announced by Miss Grace Lincoln Temple. Miss Temple stated that the silk draperies and hangings for the salon, while of American make, represent a rich French design and will serve as a background for the furniture of French Renaissance pattern which will be installed in this room..” New York Times

“The person who planned this decoration is an artist. The effect of French eighteenth-century paper panels set in blue-green walls, silk hangings to match, is something to write home about. Where do you suppose they picked up all these fine old pieces of French furniture? If the rug I’m standing on isn’t a priceless Aubusson, I’ll eat my hat.” To Love and to Honor

Did Emilie Loring keep in touch with Grace Lincoln Temple through the years? Did she catch up with her in Washington, D.C. when she visited the Hallet sisters and collected material for Love Came Laughing By?

By the time Emilie Loring wrote To Love and to Honor, Grace’s designs for the Smithsonian Children’s Room had been painted over to prepare an office. How could the painters have done it?!

Thankfully, the roof eventually sprang a leak, caused the offending paint to peel, and revealed the treasure beneath it. Grace Temple’s work was restored in 1987 and can be viewed today when you have the chance to visit the National Mall. (See here.) Her work and collections are also featured at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York City and online. You can see them here.

 

“Everything you learn allows you to see more.”

More goes into an Emilie Loring novel than the casual reader ever suspects. The next time we read this passage, we’ll see it more as Emilie Loring did–and know her better:

Nice old place. Clean as a whistle. Each box and chest and trunk labeled. What fun she and a little girl named Grace Temple had had playing with the big dollhouse in the corner…  To Love and to Honor

 


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