It makes sense to me now why Mary Louise Curtis left the music room of her family home standing when she donated Curtis Arboretum to Cheltenham Township. Music was a passion of hers. Not only did she play the piano and marry the famous violinist Efrem Zimbalist, she also founded the Settlement Music School and the Curtis Institute of Music.
This view of Curtis Arboretum shows the original balustrade that was once just outside the doors of the great house of the Lyndon Estate, built by Mary Louise's father, publishing magnate Cyrus H. K. Curtis. Mary Louise grew up in that house. I painted her (as an adult) under the great elm tree planted at the heart of the old house. It was after her father died that she demolished most of the house and donated the estate for public use. Today, I wonder if the ornate moldings of the remaining music room (known as Curtis Hall) inspire the attendees of the township meetings that take place there. I know they inspired me on a most important day in my life...my husband and I rented the hall for our wedding reception 17 years ago.
It seems fitting that I learned about the life of Mary Louise Curtis in the course of my research for the body of work I am creating as the resident painter at the Cheltenham Center for the Arts this year. I have been so grateful for this place I have known most of my life, now I know who to thank for it.
Click here if you would like to see a portrait of Mary Louise Curtis by Norman Rockwell.