Maria Mitchell’s Attic
Work Has Begun at the Mitchell Lot at Prospect Hill Cemetery!

It will take quite a bit of time but happily, on August 26th, the stone work was begun at the Prospect Hill Cemetery to restore the wrought iron fence at the Mitchell family lot where William and Lydia Mitchell, along with Maria, her oldest brother Andrew, her oldest sister Sally, and her aunt and namesake Maria Coleman are all buried. Neil Patterson and his crew will be re-setting the granite stones so that DeAngelis Ironwork of Boston can restore the wrought iron fence that once ringed the lot. It likely fell into disrepair in the early twentieth century and went for scrap metal, perhaps for the war effort. Many of the lots, if not all of them, were surrounded by fences at Prospect Hill.

Using a historic photo that was found in a Maria Mitchell scrapbook, we are restoring the fence to the best of our ability – the image is a little grainy and blurry so some details have been lost. This work is all funded by a Community Preservation Act grant that Jascin Leonardo Finger, Curator of the Mitchell House, Archives and Special Collections wrote for Fiscal Year 2013. The grant included restoration of the fence at the Hadwen lot at Prospect Hill, as well as the conservation of the wrought iron fence at the Coffin School on Winter Street. Since the same ironwork and stone masons would be used, a collaborative ask was created. For approximately a decade, the Mitchell House curator has been collaborating with Prospect Hill and its historian, Paula Lundy Levy, offering stone cleaning workshops for the public that illustrate hands-on how to properly clean historic gravestones. The restoration of the fences and the collaborative grant were a natural progression of their work together and long overdue – the family’s deserve to have their resting place restored to what it once was. Stay tuned as we bring you more information and images as the work progresses! And thank you, to the Community Preservation Committee, Neil Patterson and Crew, and DeAngelis Ironwork!


Winter Hush

Overnight, Nantucket received about six inches of snow.  Mitchell House sparkles this morning and there is a hush on Vestal Street that only snow brings.

It makes me wonder what is must have been like for the Mitchells.  Being inside Mitchell House while the snow is falling transports me to another time and I like to think about what it must have been like for them.  Cold I am sure but even quieter than a normal day.  William Mitchell was what one might call a mischievous Quaker – his children got away with things that most Quaker children did not.  So I wonder if there were snowmen built in the backyard.  Or what about snowballs being flung about by Andrew or Henry or snow angels or eating fresh crisp snow maybe with molasses or syrup on it?  I am sure just as children of today, the snow provided the opportunity for expanded play albeit quietly and discreetly for the Quaker Mitchells.

But I go back to the snug, quiet, hushed calm of the Mitchell House in winter.  Snow falling and piling up quietly outside, fire in the 1825 Kitchen as Lydia cooks the noonday meal, fire in the Sitting Room where the family spends much of its time in winter, and the calm and peace over Vestal Street as Mother Nature makes a wondrous quilt of white.