I finally fulfilled my goal of visiting Historic New England’s Codman Estate by attending the intriguing “House of Mirth – House of Codman” program on October 16. The program featured two illustrated lectures and an abridged house tour. Originally built around 1740, five generations of the Codman family inhabited this home and referred to it as “The Grange.” This particular program focussed on Ogden Codman, Jr., an architect and interior designer, and his siblings. Ogden Jr. befriended Edith Wharton in Newport, RI and contributed to the design of both her Newport and New York homes. Together, they wrote The Decoration of Houses, in 1897.
The first lecture familiarized the group with the plot of Wharton’s House of Mirth before going on to describe three major themes linking the novel with the Codman family and The Grange. Following was a brief lecture to acquaint the group with the history and members of the Codman family. Through the lens of high society in the Gilded Age, we were then able to explore the house and learn more about the pursuits of Ogden Jr’s generation. This property was left to Historic New England upon the death of Ogden Jr’s youngest sister, Dorothy, in 1968. Dorothy kept the rooms and their contents as her family members had left them, only adding to them when she sold her Boston townhouse. As a result, the collection is amazingly intact and illustrative of life as a Codman. For me, the highlights were the extensive collection of family portraits and the watercolors by Alice Codman, Ogden Jr’s other sister. Unfortunately, the Codman Estate is already closed for the season, but I urge you to visit next spring for a full tour or one of their wonderful programs.