Fun Fact Friday – Museum Building

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original location of museum

After our charter was put into place in June of 1930, a lot of exciting plans were made for our property.  As cultivation began on the park, lake, and dam (Lion’s Bridge), plans were also being drawn up for the proposed museum building.

The above image (dated February 27, 1931) shows the spot where the founders had originally intended for the main museum building to placed.  It was a spot on Lake Maury overlooking Lion’s Bridge and the James River.  Several plans and sketches were drawn up showing an impressive, rectangular building.   Read more

Fun Fact Friday – Irma Bentley

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OF35

Back in 1935, the museum purchased a lot of figureheads, including a three quarter length figure of a girl with a carved knotted rope around her waist.  Like the other figureheads, her story was unknown until a chance visitor happened upon her in the late 1930’s.

Upon visiting our museum, Mrs. H.L. Shaw recognized this figurehead as one that had been on a ship built in 1908 by her father, George Edward Bentley, of Port Greville, Cumberland County, Nova Scotia.  The ship was named Irma Bentley after George’s daughter who was a welcome companion on sailing trips as she did not get sea sick.  The figurehead was carved by an Alfred Nichols and was modeled after young Irma.   Read more

Fun Fact Friday

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OF31B

One of the most recognizable pieces of our collection is the USS Lancaster Eagle, carved by John Haley Bellamy.  What many people do not know is how we came to acquire such a treasure.

In the 1930’s, we had a number of buyers roaming around, looking for artifacts for the museum.  A group of them happened upon the eagle while poking around a ship chandler’s shop in Boston (of course, it would be pretty hard to miss).  The owner of the shop was very eager to get rid of the piece; understandable since it was the era of the Great Depression and it took up a lot of space in his shop.  But, as usually happens once someone expresses some interest, the price suddenly escalates.  Because of this, the purchase of the eagle was put on hold.  Thankfully, they did end up coming back to purchase the piece!  It is one of the most important and magnificent pieces in the collection.  And when people walk through the doors of our museum, they tend to head straight to the eagle.  Not surprising since it is very regal and difficult to miss!   Read more

Fun Fact Friday

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OF52

Back in the early days of the museum, several people were sent out to find and purchase items to build our collection.  They would often collect so many things at one time that the objects would fill up their houses until the pieces could be labeled and shipped to the museum.  One such object is our figurehead attributed to the ship William Wirt.

What is most interesting about Wirt’s stay in the buyer’s home is the fact that he sat on top of their refrigerator, watching them as they went about their lives.  They stated that “It was a creepy feeling, especially at night and almost reminded us of the ghastly story of John the Baptist.  Our friends called him ‘Bill’ and he soon became part of the household.”  Apparently they became rather fond of him and were a little reluctant to ship him to the museum.   Read more

Fun Fact Friday

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OF39
St. Paul figurehead, ca 1875-1900

Fun Fact:  After our figurehead of St. Paul was purchased in 1934 and began the journey to the museum, he got in a little bit of trouble.  To travel he was placed inside of the luggage compartment in a small Ford runabout.  As the roads were rather bumpy, the lid of the compartment opened enough for other motorists to see parts of Paul.  Apparently people thought that the buyers were carrying a dead body and the the police were alerted.  Next thing our buyers knew, they had police pull them over and surround them once stopped.  They had to get out of the car and show the police that it was just a figurehead they were carrying and nothing sinister.

Years later Paul once again got into a little bit of trouble.  He and many other figureheads were attached to the walls in our Great Hall and one of the trustees asked that Paul (whose right arm is extended and pointing) be moved because of where he was pointing.  It just so happened that Paul was directly across from our beautiful, but busty and topless mermaid.  So Paul was moved and a Victorian lady was put into his place across from the mermaid.   Read more