My friend Jan is a painter. A very talented painter. She also sews and quilts among other things. But lucky for me she has traded her skills for mine and I've been the recipient of two of Jan's paintings in exchange for quilts.
This is the 2nd painting from Jan that was recently finished in April 2009. Jan had it framed and last week Mr. Hive hung it on the wall in my living room. As you know I'm kind of obsessed with homes and houses. The first painting Jan did was of my childhood Victorian row home. This latest painting is a home on a much grander scale.This Victorian mansion was located on Centre Avenue in Reading Pennsylvania. Frank Furness, a famous Philadelphia area architect, built this home for the Barbey family in the 19th century. The home is no longer there and this painting was created from photos and from a book based on the works of Frank Furness.
The John Barbey (John Barbey owned Sunshine Brewery and began the VF textile dynasty) home is important to me because of the gardener that was employed to take care of the estate grounds. The gardener at the Barbey home was my grandfather, Jacob Breton. He and my grandmother were immigrants from Slovakia in the latter part of the 19th century. My father, Paul, helped his dad occasionally as Jacob tended the gardens around this beautiful home. The home is no longer there now. A city park is now on this property. The old mansions surrounding this section of town mostly still stand with another Frank Furness home across from the park. Frank Furness's talent is seen in many, many lovely buildings in the southeastern part of Pennsylvania.
The home is important to me because it represents my roots and reminds me of the ties to the past in a physical way and it illustrates the value of hard work and the beauty that can come from it. My grandfather worked at the Barbey mansion during the depression when he was the only member of his family able to keep a job and supported my dad, uncles and aunts even after marriage in their meager home on River Road.
My family history is probably not much different than from your family. Many generations had hard times and worked doing whatever they could to take care of their families. But I imagine Jacob liked being out doors. He tried being a coal miner and my dad told me that Jacob didn't last more than a day or so. Jacob needed to be outside.
It is good to feel connected to our past loved ones and in my instance both Jacob and his wife Maria passed away long before I was born. I have a pride in this home even though my family didn't own it. My grandfather contributed his talents to this property and the painting is evidence of the accomplishments he made under his limited circumstances . He walked to work several miles and walked home to the Breton family home on River Road next to the Schuylkill River (that home is no longer there either). I think most of us can appreciate the strength in living that working livestyle, especially right now.
I'm so grateful I have a talent that someone feels is worthy of a trade for an object with this beauty and to create something so meaningful for me. Thank you Jan. I love it.
I just wish there were more ways to trade like that.