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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
The 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?”