New England’s image: Myth or reality?

LYNDEBOROUGH – How do we account for the outpouring of grief when the Old Man of the Mountain fell?

The granite ledges that appeared to be a jagged profile of a face was "glued and bolted together by a father-and-son team every year to keep it from falling," said Edie Clark – yet people from all over the country reacted with "astonished disbelief when it fell" 12 years ago.

The rock formation on Cannon Mountain was part of what people love about New England, Clark – a longtime writer for Yankee Magazine – told a roomful of people at the J.A. Tarbell Library on Monday, Oct. 26.

Stone walls, covered bridges, dirt roads lined with maple trees, sap buckets and sugarhouses are all part of that image of New England.

But is it real or is it a myth – that was the question Clark explored during her hourlong presentation.

A lot of what we think of as uniquely New England is real, she said.

When filmmakers shot Carolyn Chutes’ novel "The Beans of Egypt Maine" in upstate New York instead of Maine, for example, people noticed that "the landscape was glaringly different," Clark said.

That we have preserved some of the landscape despite the visual transformation wrought by runaway development is one of the things people love about New England. There are plenty of malls, industrial parks and condos in New England, but the region has managed to retain its historic feel while functioning as part of the modern world, Clark said.

New Englanders’ sense of thrift helped convert empty mills to living spaces and Victorian homes into doctors’ offices, where the historical character of the exterior is preserved, she said.

Take Harrisville, the town where Clark lives: "It looks like a stage set, but it’s real," she said.

Three artists helped create the New England myth, Clark said: Wallace Nutting, Norman Rockwell and Robert Frost. Yankee Magazine came later and helped reinforce it.

Nutting’s photos of pastoral scenes of "an idealized paradise" are the images that many people see as New England, and he built factories for his colonial reproduction furniture "where nostalgia was pumped out like chair legs."

A generation later, Rockwell cemented New England’s image as "America’s hometown," Clark said, with paintings that "celebrated America in a way that no one ever had."

Frost was a "less willing contributor to the myth," she said, a city slicker who "cultivated an image of himself as a hayseed" and complained that New Englanders were cold. But his poems evoked a dream of New England "real enough to believe in."

And finally there is Yankee Magazine, created by Robb Sagendorph in the middle of the Great Depression with a mission to "preserve the great culture of New England."

Like Nutting, Sagendorph was a thrifty New Englander who wore a muffler inside because he kept the heat down.

On his deathbed, he cautioned not to let the magazine grow too much – "The septic won’t take it."

Clark is the author of several books, and her latest is a collection of essays called "As Simple As That."

Her talk was sponsored by the New Hampshire Humanities Council.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at
673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.

New England’s image: Myth or reality?

LYNDEBOROUGH – How do we account for the outpouring of grief when the Old Man of the Mountain fell?

The granite ledges that appeared to be a jagged profile of a face was "glued and bolted together by a father-and-son team every year to keep it from falling," said Edie Clark – yet people from all over the country reacted with "astonished disbelief when it fell" 12 years ago.

The rock formation on Cannon Mountain was part of what people love about New England, Clark – a longtime writer for Yankee Magazine – told a roomful of people at the J.A. Tarbell Library on Monday, Oct. 26.

Stone walls, covered bridges, dirt roads lined with maple trees, sap buckets and sugarhouses are all part of that image of New England.

But is it real or is it a myth – that was the question Clark explored during her hourlong presentation.

A lot of what we think of as uniquely New England is real, she said.

When filmmakers shot Carolyn Chutes’ novel "The Beans of Egypt Maine" in upstate New York instead of Maine, for example, people noticed that "the landscape was glaringly different," Clark said.

That we have preserved some of the landscape despite the visual transformation wrought by runaway development is one of the things people love about New England. There are plenty of malls, industrial parks and condos in New England, but the region has managed to retain its historic feel while functioning as part of the modern world, Clark said.

New Englanders’ sense of thrift helped convert empty mills to living spaces and Victorian homes into doctors’ offices, where the historical character of the exterior is preserved, she said.

Take Harrisville, the town where Clark lives: "It looks like a stage set, but it’s real," she said.

Three artists helped create the New England myth, Clark said: Wallace Nutting, Norman Rockwell and Robert Frost. Yankee Magazine came later and helped reinforce it.

Nutting’s photos of pastoral scenes of "an idealized paradise" are the images that many people see as New England, and he built factories for his colonial reproduction furniture "where nostalgia was pumped out like chair legs."

A generation later, Rockwell cemented New England’s image as "America’s hometown," Clark said, with paintings that "celebrated America in a way that no one ever had."

Frost was a "less willing contributor to the myth," she said, a city slicker who "cultivated an image of himself as a hayseed" and complained that New Englanders were cold. But his poems evoked a dream of New England "real enough to believe in."

And finally there is Yankee Magazine, created by Robb Sagendorph in the middle of the Great Depression with a mission to "preserve the great culture of New England."

Like Nutting, Sagendorph was a thrifty New Englander who wore a muffler inside because he kept the heat down.

On his deathbed, he cautioned not to let the magazine grow too much – "The septic won’t take it."

Clark is the author of several books, and her latest is a collection of essays called "As Simple As That."

Her talk was sponsored by the New Hampshire Humanities Council.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at
673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.

New England’s image: Myth or reality?

LYNDEBOROUGH – How do we account for the outpouring of grief when the Old Man of the Mountain fell?

The granite ledges that appeared to be a jagged profile of a face was "glued and bolted together by a father-and-son team every year to keep it from falling," said Edie Clark – yet people from all over the country reacted with "astonished disbelief when it fell" 12 years ago.

The rock formation on Cannon Mountain was part of what people love about New England, Clark – a longtime writer for Yankee Magazine – told a roomful of people at the J.A. Tarbell Library on Monday, Oct. 26.

Stone walls, covered bridges, dirt roads lined with maple trees, sap buckets and sugarhouses are all part of that image of New England.

But is it real or is it a myth – that was the question Clark explored during her hourlong presentation.

A lot of what we think of as uniquely New England is real, she said.

When filmmakers shot Carolyn Chutes’ novel "The Beans of Egypt Maine" in upstate New York instead of Maine, for example, people noticed that "the landscape was glaringly different," Clark said.

That we have preserved some of the landscape despite the visual transformation wrought by runaway development is one of the things people love about New England. There are plenty of malls, industrial parks and condos in New England, but the region has managed to retain its historic feel while functioning as part of the modern world, Clark said.

New Englanders’ sense of thrift helped convert empty mills to living spaces and Victorian homes into doctors’ offices, where the historical character of the exterior is preserved, she said.

Take Harrisville, the town where Clark lives: "It looks like a stage set, but it’s real," she said.

Three artists helped create the New England myth, Clark said: Wallace Nutting, Norman Rockwell and Robert Frost. Yankee Magazine came later and helped reinforce it.

Nutting’s photos of pastoral scenes of "an idealized paradise" are the images that many people see as New England, and he built factories for his colonial reproduction furniture "where nostalgia was pumped out like chair legs."

A generation later, Rockwell cemented New England’s image as "America’s hometown," Clark said, with paintings that "celebrated America in a way that no one ever had."

Frost was a "less willing contributor to the myth," she said, a city slicker who "cultivated an image of himself as a hayseed" and complained that New Englanders were cold. But his poems evoked a dream of New England "real enough to believe in."

And finally there is Yankee Magazine, created by Robb Sagendorph in the middle of the Great Depression with a mission to "preserve the great culture of New England."

Like Nutting, Sagendorph was a thrifty New Englander who wore a muffler inside because he kept the heat down.

On his deathbed, he cautioned not to let the magazine grow too much – "The septic won’t take it."

Clark is the author of several books, and her latest is a collection of essays called "As Simple As That."

Her talk was sponsored by the New Hampshire Humanities Council.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at
673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.