Burning things Down

One of the mysteries of the Hermitage that continues to draw interest is the tale of what happened to the lovely cottage we once had on the shoreline. If you are unfamiliar with this building there once was a rustic log cabin, that housed artists like Harriet Frishmuth and Helen Turner, on the banks of the then non polluted Lafayette river (swimmable, fishable sometime soon). It appears in numerous photographs in our archives and in our recent book.

It looks like this….

The log cabin is on the bottom right. At least it was....

The log cabin is on the bottom right. At least it was….

Well….that thing super burned down.


So what happened to this awesome little shack that would have been perfect for selling beers on a Saturday afternoon in 2015??? Children happened. Specifically an 8 and 10 year old.

Two lovely young ladies decided to have a marshmallow roast on September 4th decades ago and in the midst of their joy for burning sugar they managed to light fire to the cabin (possibly a flung mallow that was aflame). They were unscathed, thankfully, but the little cabin by the river was a goner. Now all that remains are the fragmented steps of what could have been. They are an ever present reminder of all of the cocktails we could have had together. Truly haunting…

Funny enough the Sloanes were reluctant to take children to juvenile court (because they are nice) and instead resolved the situation with some heated letters and I am guessing an exchange of checks.

There is an equation for this situation: c + f = D, which of course is shorthand for children plus fire equals devastation.

Answers to your Questions

Things have calmed down here ish, but there is still plenty happening behind the scenes. We are gearing up for new exhibitions and lots of summer programming that you better come out for…seriously, if you don’t come we will all lose our jobs. Until then enjoy these questions from the wall!

*There was an increased output of inappropriate verbiage that I found to be absolutely hysterical, but have been told by the upper brass that I can’t repeat….bummer*


-Thank you for bringing this to Norfolk – Jen (you are totes welcome)

-You should have music outdoors to accompany the lights. (That would be extra work annnnd nobody feels like doing that)

-One of the paintings is so creep. (my bad?)

-The lights are the bomb.com – celine, phoebe, sam

-I heart y’all

-This house was designed by a crazy person!

-This would be a nice place for something “haunted” during October. Like a artsy pretty ghost walk or scrooge type thing. Not in these indoor parts though. (Great News!!!! we aren’t doing any of that)

-Kick logic out and do the Impossible!! (yes….totally, yes)

-I am Harry Potter. (I wish you were, so bad)

-Theres GHOSTS. (noooope)

-Authentic Floors. (Thanks for noticing)

Q and A:

Q-Whats your deal with Abe Lincoln

A-Our deal is a man named Douglas Volk whose father made the life mask for Lincoln. This made Douglas a big Lincoln fan and a man who idolized his fathers work.

Q-Why dont you put the prices on this stuff?

A-Cause even if I did, you still couldn’t afford it.

Q-What is the meaning of light?

A-Even the universe is afraid of the dark

Q-Can I spend the night here? You should organize a girl scout sleepover.

A-I have a fear of thin mint skid marks all over my floors and walls. We are going to have to think about this one a bit more.

Q-Who in fact let the dogs out?

A-They were never in.

Q-What would you like on your gravestone?

A-It could have been worse

Q- D U Hello?

A- May B

Q-Why do humans think i can never be a mermaid?

A-Because you probably are a poor swimmer who doesn’t like to eat seafood.

Q-Why does it matter what humans think?

A-It doesn’t. We are likely just star dust that managed to drift into these forms for a fleeting moment of galactic time only to be forgotten by the rest of the universe.

Q-Why is the table blank

A-I iz lazy

Q-Ever seen a grown man naked?

A-yes, every single day in the mirror and man does he look gooooood.

Q-How old is this place?

A-107 years old

Q-What is your favorite color?


Q-When were these painting done?

A-between 1850 and 1950. At least most of them.

Q-How many years did it take to carve the room downstairs?

A-Dining room: 3 Drawing room: 2

From the Wall

One day I will write about my thoughts on art and our museum. Until then enjoy these random things people post on our “ask a curator” wall.

*Editors Note* : The spelling you are about to see comes straight off the sticky notes


-V was here

-I Heart (in the shape of a heart) this.

-I like pie!

-The dining room door painting is easily missed. (It is a tough one to work with. We dont want to keep opening and closing the door, so we typically leave it open…we will work on this)

-Very helpful and informative docents at the light show. (they are A mazing.)

-This is going to be my house! (take it…seriously, come here and just plant your flag. I wont fight you.)

-So pretty and detailed

-I think it needs more awesomeness, Barrett. (totes agreed)

-I love that you put your heart into these details. Thank you. From Emma. (Girl, I did this all for you)\

-Small white print on gray – too difficult to read! (I get this one from time to time and can understand your frustration. We will be shifting things around in the new year so new labels should come at that time. Until then be jealous of my 20/20 hawk vision….I can read alllll the fine print!)


-We love the exhibits!

-Love it! I remind me of chinken nugits. (Greatest. Comment. Ever.)

-I like turtles. (they are pretty dope)

-so nice

-Reese loves rainbows and wants more rainbows. (Reese knows whats up)


Q:Is this house haunted?

A:It is not an official week at the Hermitage unless this gets asked. The answer remains, no.

Q:Is this house haunted?


Q:Is this house haunted?

A:**pulls legs towards chest and begins to sob ever so lightly**

Q:Where is Pocahontas?

A:St. Georges, Gravesend…in England. She remains super dead.

Q:Why do birds sing?

A:They have terrible speaking voices

Q:Would you be able to play period music throughout the house?

A:February and March of 2015 will fill that void. Piano and organ concerts are coming.

Q:Can I live here? (I’m asking nicely), Alisha.

A:Be my guest…

Q:When was it built?

A:started 1907, lived in 1908.

Q:What scale is the model of the construction paper building?

A:I need to find this out. I genuinely do not know.

Q:Mad or nah?


Q:Can I get dis place? the Fresh Prince

A:Anything for you Will Smith!

Q:Across cultures Brown skinned people are oppressed, why?

A:People have been taking advantage of people for a long, long time. You will not find an answer by repeatedly asking the question. Instead, I encourage you to embrace the history and cultures of others and then share that with someone else, and another, then another. Knowledge is power and knowing is half the battle…..G.I JOEEEEE.

Q:Can I come back here? Thank you for letting me come here. (Haley)

A:Come back anytime, ya hear

Q:Hello my name is Conrad and I was just wondering how long it took to put up these lights?

A:Conrad, it took one month to put up everything you see outside.

Q:What was the overall net worth of the Sloane family? Great Tour!

A:Many dollars and some cents.

Q:Where can I get one of those capes Ms. Sloane is wearing in the pic in her dressing room?

A:That is actually William Jr.’s wife and she was the cotton queen in Texas.

Q:How old is this place so I can diside if I want to live her?

A:bout a 106 years old

Q:Why isnt there a scavenger hunt?

A:There is! You just have to ask the lady at the front desk for the paper. recommended ages: 5-10.

Q:Was George Washington here?

A:No, I wish though.

Q:Why is the center display case empty?

A:My Native American basket labels are coming!

Q:What are we here for?

A:Likely to continue the survival of our species via mating and child rearing.

Q:What is my lifes purpose?

A:Im gonna say colonize Mars, or owning a Pita Pit.

From the Wall

Lots of sticky notes on the wall of late. Let us begin with the comments ….

-Ashlyn was here.

-House is really cool! Id live in it.

-Madeline was here.

-The Lights are beautiful.

-I loved the intricate and highly detailed art and features throughout the house. Kaylee A (me too)

-Eleanor was here.

-Awesome. Isabella O.

-That is awesome and cool. Madison

-Awesome! Alex

-Katie is the Best. (ehhhh…not so sure about that)

-This is much cooler than I thought it would be. (glad you dig it)

-Doesnt seem like every room has an info plaque – could use them. (in time….in time)

-Thank you Callie, GOOD NIGHT!

-The lights are cool. T&K

-I cant even…these lights are amazing!

-Hope was here.

Question time!

Q: Where do you get the pieces?

A: I am assuming you mean the artwork inside the museum, which was purchased by the Sloane family between 1901 and 1953. Florence had good relationships with art dealers and artists during her lifetime and they helped educate her as to what she should be collecting.

Q: Do you ever sense ghosts in the house?

A: Been here 4 years, moved the Sloane’s stuff alllll over the place. Bought objects, sold objects, wrote a book about them and none of it has made them mad enough to make an appearance.

Q: Why is there so many religious icons around the house?

A: Florence loved Jesus!….and Buddha, Krishna, Allah, Yahweh, Kannon, Quetzalcoatl and the list goes on.

Q: How dark was the house 20 years ago?

A: A little bit darker if we are talking about the light. If this is a spiritual question then the answer is much darker…we are a much cooler bunch these days.

Q: How did you do it?

A: Jack Daniels, seared tuna and a check.

Q:How are all these lights made? This is cool.

A: Bruce has an elf workshop in England where they work around the clock making lights for exhibitions all over the world. Depending on how good you are, you may get extra lights!

Q: How did the Sloane family get their money?

A: Textiles, then shipping, then banking.

Q: Why are the male brass nudes covered up?

A: 100 years ago some people struggled with seeing penises in art. Come to think of it, lots of people still have that same problem today. #itsjustawiener

Q: How old is the Buddha statue downstairs next to the dog painting?

A: I like how its not the “painting of Mrs. Sloane” but instead it is the “dog painting.” Good Stuff. That Buddha is around 1500 years old.

Q: Awesome! How do you do it?

A: team spirit?

Q: Since I am not allowed to touch, what is this made of? Where the bath room?

A: Thanks for not touching, but I am not sure what you are referring to. Also, there are lots of bathrooms here, but we dont let you use them because the plumbing would struggle with 500 flushes a night.

Q: Why is this place better then the Smithsonian and closer?

A: **ahhheemmm (clears throat, sits up straight and tightens tie)*** Well me lady, thank you for said kind words. I am glad you feel this way about us. Funny enough, we are an affiliate of the Smithsonian so I will let them know you want to start a relationship with us instead of them.

Q: When will there be an organ demonstration?

A: December, this year.

Q: How did this get made?

A: Long hours and lots of great volunteers with nimble hands.

Q: How do you do it?

A: Blair Athol, 12 year, neat.

Q: Why do we have to wait so long until the lights come on?

A: They are actually on when you arrive. The problem is there is a giant ball of plasma that puts out just a little bit more light than Bruce’s work, so it makes it hard to see when it is in the sky.

Q: Why was Jane Shore shamed?

A: She was making sweet love to Edward IV. When Eddy died Richard III wasn’t all that pumped that Jane was getting so much attention…so he called her out and paraded her around the streets in the nude.

Q: Do you know the muffin man?

A: I dont eat muffins, bro. So no.

Q: Que hora es?

A: tiempo para que usted consiga un reloj

Post Auction Depression

Pepe le Pew 2

We just got skunked, and I mean pepe le pewed, at the auction house this past weekend. I had this feeling things weren’t going to go well, but this was a swift punch to the gut. I shan’t be divulging specific numbers here, however, I can tell you that we placed a good bet only to be royally flushed by the opposition. They actually had enough ones in their bid to create a continental army.

All is fair in the art auction world. I am not devastated to the point of being truly depressed (so don’t worry my three loyal readers). I think shocked is the correct term for this situation. This wasn’t my first rodeo so I have seen some success and some failure when placing bids. This time just proved that the recession is over and all of the lame ducks complaining about money need only look at the auction houses to see how the economy is doing.

Now the person/persons who won may be lovers of this period, genre, etc. and to that I would say, ‘touche.’ With that said I am still under the greater impression that people continue to see art as currency (nothing new, I know) and this is not the way to go about things.

So long as there is money and someone in power art will continue to pass through new hands.


The Waters Edge

You know how you all looooovee to get really close to the edge of the property? Or how you enjoy watching your young child frolic on the bricks overlooking the river?

Then you get mad at me when I tell you please don’t get too close…its dangerous. Well folks, this is what awaits you should you fall over.


No diving, bro.

Questions From the Wall

For the most part you all seem to be enjoying the light show. There are a few of you who have those Grinch sized hearts that are in need of some Christmas cheer. If these inviting, fun lights cant defrost that cold heart of yours then I don’t know what to tell you…bummer, I guess.

Good news is that you all are writing on my wall. Here are some statements and questions.

-For the love (in the shape of a heart) of ART. Thank U!   (you are welcome)

-Love it. (Great)

-Awesome! Job! (I know)

-It smells nice in here Woodsy. mmmm. (that’s the smell of half a forest cut between 1907-1937, sorry earth)

-When we had questions the docents were quick to give us explanations (Happy to hear this. We have some amazing volunteers)

-Colin is great! (I was the first to write on the wall last week. I feel no shame.)


-Fun and Learning! Thank You (you are also welcome)

-The light should directly spotlight the art – especially in stairwell – hard to see dark paintings. (Ohhhh….i’ve had it backwards all this time…my bad.)

-Need more lights inside at night to read info on 1st floor (what is it with you people and needing to see things??? I do have more LED bars coming)

-This so cool. love, lauren. (love you too, girl)

-Aiden loves is (I is love too)

-Love it!

-Love the origami! Wonderful Creation (this is referring to the model of the museum made of paper. it is neat)


Q: Why do I have the only question?

A: Because some people like to leave me positive comments so I don’t hate myself when I go to sleep.

Q: How did Mrs. Sloane come to be interested in international art?

A: Nice question. She began the collection in 1901, but most of her early purchases were centered around home goods. In the 20s and 30s she realized there was very little art in Norfolk from regions like Asia and the Middle East. She got to know several prominent foreign dealers and they helped guide her into the purchases that define our collection. You could even say that as a child in NYC her time spent at the Met inspired her to collect non-American art.

Q: How did you do this?

A: Well, when a man loves a woman very much he asks her to…..ohhhhhh…..the show, right. I gave up my first born child to Bruce’s studio in return for a field of lights.

Q: Do you even lift?

A: Yes, bro…yes.

Q: Are they made out of paper (with adorable flower designs)? Allie Palmer

A: Yes my dear, the little house is made of paper. Thank you for drawing me the flowers, they are very pretty

Q: Are the houses origami? Stevie Palmer

A: Stevie, it is not reallly origami, but it kind of looks like it should be. Instead a talented artist has made some nice folds and cuts to get the shape you see.

Q: When was this?

A: I don’t know.

Shout out to The Groove Record Shop. 401 Granby Street, Suite A. Norfolk, VA 23510. Go see them, they will hook you up with fresh beats.

Keep posting things and I will continue to let you all down!