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September 6 through February 9, 2009

With our guest curator Colette Marvin of the Smithsonian Associates and Corcoran College of Art & Design, Washington DC.

Visitors were invited to participate in an unprecedented opportunity to view treasures in culture and context from one of Ridgewood’s most community-inspired families and their landmark historic home.  Told through decorative art objects, letters, photographs, journals and personal effects, the story of the Boyd family’s life in Ridgewood at the turn of the century came alive through the rich collection of artifacts saved by four generations of Boyds and Mastins who called Brooklawn, 18 Brookside Avenue, home.

Read more about the Boyd/Mastin exhibit below or see a slide show of our Exhibit.

From Brooklyn to Ridgewood

Brooklawn Thomas Boyd and Grizella McCarroll Boyd, both first-generation Irish immigrants, moved to Ridgewood in 1900. Like many others seeking the fresh air and open spaces promised by real-estate marketing materials at the turn of the century, they moved from Brooklyn, New York, to the beautiful commuter suburb of Ridgewood. They purchased the home at 18 Brookside Avenue from local dentist, Dr. E. F. Hanks. In an especially prudent and unusual real-estate transaction, the Boyds swapped their existing brownstone in Brooklyn for the Ridgewood property, which included over five acres, a lovely Queen Anne, shingle-styled home, a barn and several outbuildings. One of the most distinguishing characteristics of the property was the expansive lawn that sloped down to the creek and several small islands. The original sales advertisement for the home, along with the copper printing plate that was used to produce the ad, are part of the exhibit.

 

A Calling Card Begins the History

Mrs. Boyd's Calling Card

 

One of Mrs. Boyd’s calling cards, ca. 1900, printed on the lovely pale pink paper that was fashionable among Victorian ladies of the time, is included in the exhibit, along with several beautiful, mother-of-pearl, calling-card cases used to carry them.

 

At Home with the Congregation 

A Portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Boyd The Boyds made quite a name for themselves while living in Ridgewood. Active in the First Presbyterian Church, they often held Bible study gatherings and meetings of the Christian Endeavor Society at their home. The Boyd home was fondly remembered by fellow citizens:

. . . a center of hospitable warmth and cheer, not only for members of the Bible class, but for the whole congregation as well, the extensive grounds and charming home being thrown open constantly to affairs in which the people of the Reformed parish were interested. It was an exceptional home, the atmosphere of refinement and old-world Christian fellowship causing it to have hallowed memories for hosts of friends and kinsfolk.

 

Personal Encounters with Grief 

Grizella Clyde Boyd, who was born in Belfast, was the daughter of Reverend William Carroll, a prominent Presbyterian clergyman. She was educated at Queens College in Belfast before coming to the United States at the age of sixteen upon the death of her father. She ultimately made her home in New York, settling in Brooklyn with her older brother, William . It was there that Grizella met Thomas Boyd, most likely at church. They were married in 1879, and went on to have seven children. When the eldest was only five years old, and his sisters three and one, they were struck with dipheria. The two young girls died on the same day in 1885, and the oldest son William, barely survived. The remains of the girls, Lizzie May and Alice Clyde, were ultimately moved and reinterred at Valleau Cemetery in Ridgewood. The portraits and personal effects of the young girls were saved and are included, along with an impressive collection of Victorian mourning jewelry, as part of the exhibit.

 

Devoted Mother and Wife 

Upon their move to Ridgewood, Mrs. Boyd immediately identified herself with the Reformed Church and became active in all the affairs of the church, but was particularly active in missions. Her home was the hub of social activity, serving as the meeting place for the many organizations in which she participated, including the Woman’s Auxiliary to the YMCA. She kept up her affiliations to Brooklyn societies and even continued to support organizations in her native Belfast until her death in 1910. Upon her death, a lovely obituary in The Ridgewood Herald read as follows:

...Few woman have made a deeper impression by unaffected piety, abounding charity and lofty public spirit than did this good woman, who amid all her activities never for an instant ceased to be the charming head of a charming home, devoted mother and wife.

 

Father, Founder and Friend 

Thomas Boyd was also a prominent Ridgewood citizen. Born in Coleraine, Ireland, he assumed leadership of his family when he was a young boy after the death of his father. He came to America in 1870 with his widowed mother, Nancy, in search of a better life. He settled in Brooklyn, New York, and became associated with the Reformed Presbyterian Church, which under the leadership of Reverend John F. Carson, became the Central Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn. Mr. Boyd was one of the organizers and elders of that church from its inception until he moved to Ridgewood in 1900.

During his early years in this country, Mr. Boyd became a associated with pioneer shoe merchant, James Wiggins, in New York City. Mr. Boyd later partnered with Mr. Wiggins to form Wiggins and Boyd, continuing the shoe firm which had been founded in 1839. Upon the death of Mr. Wiggins, the firm was taken over by Thomas Boyd and Company, and was reputed to be one of the largest shoe wholesalers on the eastern shore. Ultimately, Mr. Boyd’s brothers, and later his sons, became involved in the business and continued the tradition. Mr. Boyd was closely associated with several banking institutions, and was one of the founders and directors of the Ridgewood Trust Company. He was also one of the charter members and organizers of the Ridgewood YMCA and served on its first Board of Directors. Mr. Boyd was known to be a staunch Republican. Many of his personal and business records will be on display in the exhibit.

Upon his death in 1926, The Ridgewood Herald had this to say:

...In the death of Thomas Boyd at Brooklawn, Ridgewood loses one of its older and most deeply respected citizens, a man who held a unique place in the hearts and affections of his friends; a sterling public-spirited character, whose influence the community will sorely miss.

 

A Household of Heirlooms 

The Boyd family, and later the Mastins, would continue to occupy the house at 18 Brookside Avenue for almost 100 years—over four generations. As the keeper of the family’s history, the house served as the central storage of the many decades of family heirlooms. The curator of From Belfast to Brooklawn: A Ridgewood Family Odyssey has been able to recreate the Boyd’s years in this home, due to the large quantity of artifacts left behind and saved for generations. Through decorative arts objects, letters, photographs, diaries and personal effects, we can reconstruct their lives in this landmark home at the turn of the century. Many of these objects and ephemera will be on display in this exhibit thanks to the desire of the Mastin family to share this early Ridgewood history with its current residents as a tribute to their late mother, Clyde Campbell Mastin.

 

A Ridgewood Tradition

"Brooklawn" With the death of Mrs. Mastin in 1992, the legacy of ownership came to an end when the family chose to sell the house that same year. The Ridgewood News honored her legacy by stating,

...Mrs. Mastin will always be remembered in Ridgewood for continuing the Ridgewood tradition by welcoming children for sleighriding on the hill of her home located opposite Ridgewood High School.

 

A Ridgewood Treasure

TeapotThe Mastin family has a wonderful collection of silver, porcelain, jewelry, glassware, textiles, clothing, toys and personal effects from the height of the Victorian era. A perfect backdrop for such a collection, the Schoolhouse Museum with it’s current contents stored for the duration of the show, will be soley dedicated to this exhibit. Museum cases and display vitrines will be brought in to properly show the collection to its best advantage. The theme of the exhibit is not only the assimilation and acceptance of an Irish immigrant family into a wealthy New Jersey suburb and the enormous contribution this Ridgewood family made and continues to make to its community, but also the care and consideration the family has taken in saving and preserving objects relating to the history of their family and their beloved town of Ridgewood. There is a strong preservationist message that should resonate with viewers and challenge them to ask, “What would I save?”