Flashback Friday Archive 2019-20: Flashback Friday: Week of December 11

Henry Varnum Poor
Henry Varnum Poor

December 10, 1870 – 150 YEARS AGO
Rockland County Journal

       Our esteemed friend and occasional correspondent, “A.C.”, at Suffern, furnishes us with the following melancholy intelligence which we lay before our readers:
       A terrible explosion from can of fluid occurred in Suffern on the morning of the first inst., which resulted in the death of the daughter and serious injury to the wife of Reuben Riggs.
       The child, an exceedingly bright and lovely girl of about fourteen years of age, was trying to start a fire in a coal stove, the fire in which she thought had gone out and taking up the can she was in the act of pouring some of the fluid on the coal when an explosion took place from the effects of which she was instantly enveloped in flames. The poor girl, at once, started for the railroad depot which was about 75 yards distant, her cries soon bringing a number of gentlemen who used their utmost exertions to extinguish the flames, but not succeeding until her clothes were nearly burned from off her person.
       Those who saw the sight say that it was heart rending, but the poor child appeared calm and said she “knew she must die in a few hours, but hope she might live to see her pa,” who was in Paterson at his place of business at the time. Her request was mercifully granted for she lingered in this dreadful condition, until five o’clock pm, when she died in peace.
       The mother of this unfortunate girl also her clothes burned by the same accident, but on running into the street, she was caught by RF Galloway who had the presence of mind to wrap his coat around her and hold her in this condition, until the fire was smothered. She was badly burned about the neck and shoulders, but her physician, Dr. Zabriskie, thinks her condition not dangerous.
       The house was also damaged to quite an extent by the explosion of this villainous fluid which Mr. Riggs informed me he had purchased on account of it’s being recommended to him as non-explosive.
       Who is responsible for this sad accident, which has cast a gloom over this whole community?

December 10, 1920 – 100 YEARS AGO
Rockland News

       The members of the Women’s Republican Club of Nyack are invited to attend a meeting to be held on Sunday afternoon, December 12, at 3 o’clock at the YMCA, Garnerville. The speaker of the occasion will be Mrs. Douglas Robinson who will take for her subject “Intimate Reminiscences of My Brother, Theodor Roosevelt.” Mrs. Robinson is considered as one of the leading women orators of the country.

       Under the auspices of the mayor’s committee of Westwood Nanuet painters, comprising the group of artists resident in Bergen and Rockland counties are to hold an exhibition of pictures at Westwood New Jersey Wednesday December 15 to 23rd inclusive Wednesday evenings accepted this association of painters held a successful exhibition at Nanuet last September, which drew very favorable and encouraging comment from the leading newspapers and art magazines. The paintings depict mostly familiar scenes of the countryside here about. The artists who will exhibit are John Costigan; C.A. Burlingame; Frances Keffer; William Howard Donahue; Sara Hess; Daniel Kotz; Albert Inslee; Faith Ivimey, Ottilie Serrell; Walter Bellendonck; K. Ando.

December 9, 1970 – 50 YEARS AGO
The Journal News

       Henry Varnum Poor, 82, eminent American artist, died yesterday at his home in New City. One of the original coterie of artists and writers who settled on South Mountain Road shortly after World War I, he had been a resident of the county for 50 years.
       Mr. Poor was equally famed as a painter, potter, and a designer of homes. “A jack-of-all-trades” is how the artist, a member of the National Academy and the National Institute of Arts and Letters, used to describe himself.
       He said he had taught himself potting to make a living. He came to design homes for others because of his success in designing and building his own.
       Mr. Poor was born in Chapman, Kan., in 1888. His family came originally from Andover, Me., where Mr. Poor’s grandfather had a mill and was a blacksmith.
       Mr. Poor graduated from Stanford University as a Phi Beta Kappa and a four-letter-man in athletics. His training in art was at Stanford, where he later returned to teach, at the Slade School in London and at the Academie Julien in Paris.
       He was a veteran of both World Wars. During World War I, as a member of the AEF, he saw service at the French front and was at St. Mihiel when the armistice was signed.
       Mr. Poor was chief of the Army’s art unit for the Alaskan Theater, with the rank of major during World War II. He later wrote and illustrated the “Artist Sees Alaska,” a book about his experiences.
       After World War I he lived for a time in San Francisco, where he was one of the founders of the California School of Fine Arts.
       He moved to Rockland County in 1920, when he and the late Shakespearean actor-Rollo Peters, bought some 40 acres of land. It was then he built his house from red sandstone, which he himself quarried and hauled from his own pit, and from sturdy chestnut trees he felled and hewed in the front yard.
       Mr. Poor later designed homes for Maxwell Anderson, Milton Caniff, John Housman, and Burgess Meredith. He designed many others, the most recent for the manufacturer, Jules Billig.
       Lucie Glenn, in an article in The Journal-News two years ago, said the houses seemed to be bred from the land around them and described them as “timeless houses so reminiscent of provincial French chateaux.”
       At least one room for each house he designed had a curved outside wall and each had a curving turret staircase, giving the illusion of no support. Mr. Poor told Mrs. Glenn they were inspired by stairways in the Louvre and in old castles. His signature throughout the houses was in ceramic murals and tiles.
       The houses were as much collectors’ pieces as Mr. Poor’s paintings and ceramics, which won him steady acclaim, awards and commissions from museums and private connoisseurs from all over the world.
       During the Roosevelt era, Mr. Poor painted 12 murals in fresco for the Department of Justice building in Washington and a large mural, “Conservation of American Wildlife,” for the Department of the Interior building.
       He painted murals for the rotundas of the Pennsylvania State College administration building and the Louisville Courier-Journal building, and made ceramic murals for Mt. Sinai Hospital, New York, and Deerfield, Mass., Academy.
       Mr. Poor’s paintings hang permanently in the country’s principal museums, among them the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. For his landscapes he often chose Rockland County scenes, such as “High Tor and Haverstraw,” “Spring at Grassy Point,” or a brooding grey “View Over Nyack . . . Winter.”
       His first conspicuous success was as a ceramist in a showing held at the Montross Gallery in New York. The clay he used for his pottery and tiles he had found along the Hudson.
       The book Mr. Poor wrote on pottery, “From Mud to Immortality,&rdquot; is considered a definitive work on the subject.
       In the foreword, he said it was in the self-taught tradition that he started “and have now for 36 years continued in the making of pottery. But not as a spare time or casual avocation. From the beginning, it was a 12-hours-a-day job by which I earned my living to the complete exclusion, during the first ten years, of any serious painting. But not of drawing. I drew constantly the birds, beasts, flowers, fruits, all the things around me, and was constantly occupied with their adaptation to ceramic design.”
       Mr. Poor was one of the founders and the president of the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and a member of the Artists Equity Association. He had been a member of the Federal Commission on Fine Arts and an artist-in-residence at the American Academy in Rome. He was one of the founders of the American Designers Gallery.
       Mr. Poor is survived by his widow, Bessie Breuer, the novelist; two daughters, Anne K. Poor of New City, who is also noted as an artist, and Mrs. Josephine Hoagland of California; a son, Peter V. Poor, a television director and producer in New York, and six grandchildren.
       Services will be held Friday at 11am. at the New City Methodist Church. The Rev. John Paul Griffith will officiate. Interment will be in Mt. Repose Cemetery, Haverstraw.

This Week in Rockland (#FBF Flashback Friday) is prepared by Clare Sheridan on behalf of the Historical Society of Rockland County. To learn about the HSRC’s mission, upcoming events or programs, visit or call (845) 634-9629.


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