Pasteboard Palace

Being an employee of such an exclusive institution, I was able to tour the A. Everett (Chick) Austin, Jr. House recently. It was the home of the one and only ‘Chick’ Austin, the director of the Wadsworth Atheneum from 1927 to 1944. I think there should be a major motion picture about this character.

The house was built in 1930, modeled after the 1596 Villa Feretti-Angeli in Dolo, Venezia, Italy. It’s only about 18 feet deep! It sticks out among the more traditional mansions on Scarborough Street in Hartford, prompting many people throughout the years to assume it was a facade for a power station, or some sort of odd piece of film scenery.

The dining room feels like a lagoon and features a huge wooden centerpiece originally meant as a surrounding for a bed. Gorgeous fabric wall coverings here; not the original, but based on scraps that were unearthed in the renovations.

That's Chick in the frame on the left. I should've gotten a close-up, since there aren't ANY pictures of him on the internet! Shame.

Not a detail was spared in the design of this home. I especially liked the wallpapers in the upstairs hallways. But above all, I loved Chick’s personal bathroom. The anteroom has hot pink walls, and the actual bathroom itself is all black. The floor in the Mrs. bathroom was black as well:

Spy my sexy little socklets.
Chick's jacket for his character 'The Great Osram'.
With colleagues who seemed less than pleased with my touristy ways.

Supposedly this graffiti discovered during the renovation was from Chick’s children. Someone wrote “Baboon David” and all sorts of slander using the word ‘smelly’. And then there was the lovely steamship.

The best I could do without flash and with the lighting in the foyer.

Another highlight for me was Chick’s artwork. Granted they were digital duplicates, but it was still exciting to see his sketches for costumes for his plays, such as this one for Tis a Pity She’s a Whore, perhaps one of his most controversial projects at the Wadsworth.


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