The Clara J. Foss Johnston Memorial Federal Parlor at the Oliver Pond House
In 1760, a four room half-house was built on a 2,200 acre parcel of land by Captain Oliver Pond, a thirty-five year old militia officer who owned a grist mill. The land was located in a part of Wrentham then known as Unionville and was part of the precinct which broke away to become the Town of Franklin in 1778. Almost four decades after building the house, Captain Pond and his wife, Anna, gave the house to their son, Goldsbury. He substantially expanded the structure to accommodate both himself and his new wife, Harriett Fisher, the daughter of the first Town Moderator and Selectman for the Town of Franklin, Jabez Fisher.
The additions to the house included a parlor and dining room featuring Classical period architectural details such as Adams brothers inspired moldings around the windows and doors, a chair rail, and a high style mantelpiece of the popular Samuel McIntyre of Salem’s inspired variety. Harriett Fisher Pond, in an effort to enhance the appearance of the home, decorated the room with furnishings similar to the ones featured in the room you see before you. These elegant pieces of furniture of the Federal and Empire periods are made of mahogany and were collected by the Johnston family over a period of many years. All of the items in the Clara J. Foss Johnston Memorial Federal Parlor were generously donated by James C. Johnston Jr. of Franklin in loving memory of his mother. They include the following:
Massachusetts cornucopia-decorated-hand-carved Federal sofa of the High Empire style, c. 1815-1830
mechanical card table with well-developed barley-twist leg and brass-clad lion-paw brass feet with castors in the High Empire style, c. 1825
Pembroke table with barley-twist legs, c. 1825
country Hepplewhite-influenced-secretary desk, c. 1815
set of four sabre-leg side chairs with hand-carved acanthus horizontal splats, c. 1815-1825
Chippendale Mirror with Prince of Wales plumes, c. 1790
tilt-top stand with clover top, c. 1810-1825
The other pieces in the room consist of fashionable higher-style decorations including Sheffield plated candlestick holders, Federal period candlestick holders, an old Paris porcelain tea service, a pair of Derby plates, two Royal Bonn garnitures, a Willard type O-Gee mantle clock, and several early hand-colored prints dating between 1722 and 1839 by artists and printmakers such as Thomas Rowlandson and Charles G. Lewis. The older hand-colored French prints were most likely family pieces passed on by relatives. The largest print, The Melton Breakfast, which depicts a British quorn hunt, would have been a fashionable new addition to the room in the time when the younger Anna Pond owned the Pond House. The presence of the hunting print in the Oliver Pond House would suggest linkage to an exotic and elite aristocratic British world that the Ponds did not know at first hand. Such prints, reflecting the borrowed glory and sophistication of a rustic aristocracy, suggested to casual visitors that the Ponds were a bit worldlier than their neighbors. The room’s furnishings were carefully calculated to impress visitors to the Pond home.
From a much later period is a painting by Tomasso Juglaris known as The Old Stonecutter. It was commissioned by the principal owner of Clark, Cutler, and MacDermot in 1900. Clark’s daughter, Madelaine Wyatt Wallace, said her father admired the character found in the face of the unknown Italian workman and so wanted a painting made that would properly express it. The man had been brought to Franklin by Lydia Ray Pierce and Annie Ray Thayer along with nineteen other highly skilled Italian artisans at the turn of the twentieth century in order to build the Ray Memorial Library in honor of their parents, Joseph Gordon Ray and Emily Rockwood Ray. The reading room of said library contains murals painted by The Old Stonecutter artist. Originally painted nude, the diaphanously clad dancing and celebrating male and female Classical figures gave quite a thrill to the young people of the town, but scandalized their elders so much that Juglaris was recalled back to Franklin by the Ray Sisters to “drape” the cavorting nudes. They can still be found in the library today in their clothed state.