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Collections Cameo, May 2013

Schedule of Furnishings for the home of Mr. and Mrs. Donald R. McLennan, May 1913

In 1912, Howard Van Doren Shaw designed a house on Lake Road for Donald R. McLennan and Katherine Noyes McLennan, called Stornoway by the family. In May of 1913, once the home was set up, decorated, and lived in, the McLennans hired Lem E. Hendee, an appraiser from Milwaukee, to come down and compile this Schedule of Furnishings, probably for insurance purposes. Mr. McLennan, co-founder of the insurance brokerage firm Marsh & McLennan, would have been particularly attuned to the benefits of having such a document. He and partner Henry Marsh help to pioneer the concept of risk management in their firm.

Created exactly 100 years ago, the McLennans’ Schedule of Furnishings is 120 pages long, and inventories all furniture and other items in every room of the house. It’s a fascinating historical document, providing a glimpse into how a family like the McLennans lived and arranged their home, as well as some clues as to what the day-to-day existence may have been like for those working in service in the household.

The Schedule includes sections for the first floor (hall and stairway, living room, south porch, reception room, dining room, butler’s pantry, kitchen, servants’ dining room); the second floor (hall, south bedroom suite, four bedchambers, and a linen closet); the servants’ quarters on the second and third floor; the attic (trunk room and sewing room); and the basement (play room, laundry room). There are also sections that list the family’s collections of silverware, china, glassware, table linen, and books.

The document features seven photographs, each with an overlay of onionskin paper that labels the furnishings pictured with a number so they can be easily identified.

As an illustrative example, here are the images of the dining room, both with and without the overlay. According to the schedule, the McLennans had, in their 1913 dining room:

  • 2 two-tone pearl grey heavy pile Axminster rugs
  • 1 mahogany set dining room furniture, marquetry striped and edges in ebony, moulded rectangles on rails, including:
    • 1 dining room table [77]
    • 11 dining room chairs [72/78]
    • 1 sideboard [74]
    • 1 service table
    • 1 china cabinet [81]
    • 1 cellarette [79]
  • 1 mahogany jardinière
  • 1 teakwood taboret [70]
  • 1 light green mat glaze pottery jardinière [71]
  • 1 woven green stained willow jardinière
  • 6 pair figured green damask door and window hangings
  • Tiffany bronze six-light electric fixture over dining table, art glass copper set conical shade, morning glory design [75]
  • 4 Verdi bronze side wall fixtures, conical wall plate and 2 scroll arms terminating in electric candles [73]
The odd number “11” for dining room chairs stands out here – for one reason or another this seems to have been an incomplete set. There are plenty of other items of interest in this inventory. The McLennans clearly embraced some of the latest technology in household appliances to assist in the running of their house. The kitchen contained 2 Shirk’s Polar Star Ice Boxes, opal lined. Downstairs in the laundry room were a Chicago Francis 4 rack clothes dryer and a Chicago Rapid electric washer and dryer.

 

Perhaps my favorite thing in the Schedule was stored in the upstairs hall closet, which housed “1 lot vacuum cleaner attachments,” including:

  • carpet and rug Renovator, bent swivel, rubber edge
  • bare floor sweeper, plain ends, felt, swivel back
  • floor brush, swivel back
  • standard wall duster
  • book brush
  • upholstery cleaner
  • tuft cleaner, rubber
  • radiator brush
  • 48” long handle
  • 12” short handle
  • arm handle with cut-off valve
  • 50’ of Richmond Vacuum Rubber Hose in 2 25’ lengths with two slip joint couplings

No stone was left unturned and no crevice left unvacuumed in the cleaning of this household!

Donald R. McLennan died at age 71 in 1944. At the time his three daughters were living in Lake Forest, and two of his sons serving overseas in the Navy. A third son, Lt. George Noyes McLennan, had recently been lost at sea. His wife, Katherine Noyes McLennan, passed away in 1973. When the book Two Architects and Their Clients, about Frank Lloyd Wright and Howard Van Doren Shaw, came out in 1971, Mrs. McLennan was one of only two original occupants still residing in their Shaw-designed home.

The Schedule of Furnishings came to the Historical Society from the Lake Forest Library. The Library received it in 1988 from Jane M. Ober, granddaughter of Mr. and Mrs. Donald McLennan.