Quick Reference

Time Period:
1932 - '33

Off Jacksonville Stage Rd., facing
east in West Halifax, Vermont

Oil on Canvas


Halifax House

25 X 30

"generally", though we have no
no record of it in the Exhibit list

Mrs. Basil P. Babcock



"One of the first paintings (after N. E. Heritage) which I made of the Halifax House, before Mrs. Harris bought it." RSW

Related Links

Featured Artwork: Forgotten New England

RSW's Diary Comments

New England Heritage
New England Heritage, 1932
Second overall prize winner, Boston Art Club. The
elm to the right of the image above is a favorite
subject of the property. Even in Forgotten New Eng-
, it looms large over the house. RSW, in general,
had a great appreciation of an elm's aesthetic. Its
crazy spread of its branches and the shadows it cast.

"Painted in 1931 or 2. One of the first paintings ( after N. E. Heritage) [ to the right ] which I made of the Halifax House, before Mrs. Harris bought it. Exhibited generally and bought the year of the fire when I was at the Buell house by Mr. and Mrs. Basil P. Babcock, 24 Hawthorne Ave., Auburndale, Mass."

Comments in a notebook by RSW:

"Sold. October 29, 1934: to Boston Mass, by my motor car."

Editor's note on Woodward's diary comments:

The diary entry for this painting appears to be quite informative. It indicates that New England Heritage is the first of at least fourteen Hailifax House paintings. A majority of the paintings were made between 1935 and 1937. New England Heritage won second prize at the Boston Art Club's "Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting" in February of 1932. Given the scene of New England Heritage- the leafless elm tree and hints of dry yellowed grass- suggest it was probably painted in November/December of 1931.

Forgotten New England was started in October of 1932. According to his 1932 personal diary, Woodward was traveling quite frequently to the Wilmington, Whitingham, and Jacksonville areas of southern Vermont, just north of Heath, MA, throughout the year. But it is not until, Sunday, October 2nd, he specifically mentions the Halifax House:

Sketchbook Dooryard Elm #5
Sketchbook Dooryard Elm #5, date unknown
We have a number of sketches of the Halifax house
made by RSW, however, none of them are from this
perspective! There are also two unfinished chalks.

"Fair, lovely day ...At 1:30 took parents and Miss Cowles to Halifax house where we had lunch and I made drawings."

Then his entry for the next day states:

"Warm and semi-cloudy. With Julia and little Phil and Miss Cowles went to Jacksonville to begin painting from yesterday's drawing..."

At this time, Woodward has several paintings in various stages of completeness. He is trying to finish up a painting of the Moor's place in Heath, a "Red Elm" behind the Griswold place, the Red Barn painting he started a month before, and is still finishing two paintings from the Whitingham area he began in July. He does not get back to Forgotten New England until the 11th and does not mention it again for the remainder of the year. In fact he starts two other paintings, one of which is another Heath painting.

Additional Notes

The only painting close to this perspective is At Haying Time, 1936, to the right.

We imagine Woodward saved a number of scenes to paint over the winter for days when he can't travel, despite Winter being his most prolific season.

We hope you noticed that Woodward traveled with people when he went out to paint. It was a surprise to us. Frequent companions where his cousin, poet, and educator, Flora White and her sister Edith Storer Rhoades, his mother, Mary Strong, as well as his long time nurse Miss Cowles.

Grace of Years
Grace of Years, 1935
This painting of the Halifax house from 1935 shows
clearly the eastern portion of the annex with fewer
roof shakes, sinking and on the verge of collapse.
RSW's reference to "grace" in its name says it all.

The list above does not include his driver, which in 1932 could be any of four different men, including his long-time handiman, Fabian, or the husband of his cousin Florence, Robert Haeberle. "Julia" is a reference to his cousin, Julia Rea, (at the time time still Julia Wells. She would marry in 1933). She worked a number of years for Woodward, as did Florence who often handled the business end of his exhibitions, particularly ones RSW did not attend.

It is fascinating to have the documentation of a life cycle of the Halifax house. If Woodward first paints it in 1931, an examination of what follows those years before Mrs. Harris buys the property illustrates the dire circumstances of the house.

Woodward discovers the property. He learns it has been abandon for a LONG time, possibly a decade or more. Abandoned farms are a serious economic crisis in New England since the 1890s with the mass exodus of people heading west during the nation's expansion as well as the industrial revolution that draws more people to the city. It is during this time that the country is in the midst of a cultural revolution when more people now live in urban areas than rural ones. People would literally up and leave their farms burdening towns with the loss of tax revenue, not to mention, leaving the town with plighted properties to sell. Franklin county, according to a 1894 published report by the state of Massachusetts, had the most abandoned farms per capita in the state (26) making it a very personal subject to Woodward. Franklin county includes, Buckland, Heath, Deerfield, Greenfield, Colrain, and Charlemont, MA. This would make most of the Halifax house paintings a study of the plight New England is experiencing for decades and continuing during the years of the Great Depression. in general, the 1930s are Woodward's most prolific years of painting rural, aged and, worn New England homes.