If you have visited the Hermitage then you might know that we have a wall you can write on! Kind of…well, actually, this wall is a separate board that has no structural relevance to the museum, but hey…it is the thought that counts. In fact it is exactly the place for your thoughts, questions and general love of all things Herm. You have taken to the sticky notes with great enthusiasm and it is now time for me to field some of your questions. So, here we go…….
Q: Was the house built with lighting?
A: Yes, it was. The city of Norfolk was preparing the region just north of us for the 1907 Jamestown exposition when this neighborhood was started. While they were working at that site they made sure to set up a few additional electrical lines for the Lochhaven neighborhood. Interestingly enough they did not have a city water source for the first few years.
Q: How did Mr. and Mrs. Sloane get rich?
A: Textiles, specifically long john underwear for soldiers in World War I. Of course Mr. Sloane’s mills made more than just undies, but a very large contract with the U.S. government during the war helped pave the way for even greater success after.
Q: Who died here? (I am a big fan of this one)
A: Nobody, meaning …(drum roll)… there are no ghosts, goblins, or Native American spirits. Now before you go on to blast me with stories of Civil War soldiers and girls in dresses please note that in my three years, countless hours and far too many late night lockups I have not once encountered anything otherworldly. So save your Christmas Carol apparition tales for Colonial Williamsburg.
Q: Secret passages? Where do they go? Why are they there?
A: Besides being entrances to Narnia these ‘secret doors’ are actually functional stairwells and entrances to various rooms. There are doors that, if opened, go absolutely nowhere. This was not always the case though. In the 1930’s the Sloanes decided to shift the orientation of the home to accommodate additional gallery space. When this occurred they did not want to destroy the woodwork that their carvers had worked so hard on. This led them to place various segments of walls and doors in random locations, such as our main staircase.
Q: Why are there so many signs that say “DO NOT TOUCH?”
A: The entire house is an artifact and the oils in those Cheetos laced fingers of yours are damaging to all of it.
Q: How old is the house?
A: 1908-2012 = 104
Q: What were the names of their pets?
A: They had soooo many dogs here that I can’t even begin to tell you them all. With that said Zanozza was Mrs. Sloane’s favorite wolfhound
Q: Why is the house so big?
A: Rich people need space for their art
Q: How many sons did they have?
A: Two, William Jr. born in 1903 and E.K. born in 1906
Q: Why the ‘Hermitage?’
A: A hermitage is a place for reflection. Mrs. Sloane wanted you to do exactly that…reflect.
Do not be sad if your question was not answered. There will be plenty more of these posts and you can always contact me if you are just dying to know something.