A Shenandoah Savant: Kate Glass Greene (1867-1948) and the Fort Loudoun Seminary

by Curator of Collections Nick Powers

May 7 marks National Teacher Appreciation Day, an opportunity to celebrate and honor educators of all types who make lasting contributions to our communities. Teachers change the lives of millions of children every day, inspiring a lifelong love of learning and molding young minds in a positive direction.

To celebrate America’s teachers, this month I want to highlight a prominent figure in the MSV Collection: educator, historian, and author Katherine Rebecca “Kate” Glass Greene (1865-1948), the aunt of MSV benefactor Julian Wood Glass Jr. (1910-1992). For two decades—from 1905 until the school closed in 1925—Greene educated young women at the Fort Loudoun Seminary in Winchester.

Fig 1.Portrait of Katherine Rebecca Glass Greene (1865-1948) by Edward Caledon Bruce (American, 1825-1900), Winchester, VA, probably 1880s. Signed lower right: “E. C. B.”. Oil on canvas. Collection of the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, 2001.0001, gift of Mollie Glass Pamplin. Photo by Ron Blunt.

Born at Rose Hill only a few months after the Civil War concluded, Kate was the daughter of Colonel William Wood Glass (1835-1911) and his second wife, Nannie Rebecca Campbell (1842-1930).[i] Like other members of the Glass family, Kate Glass Greene was a direct descendant of Winchester founder James Wood (d. 1759).

Fig 2.Portrait of William Wood Glass (1835-1911) by Edward Caledon Bruce (American, 1825-1900), Winchester, VA, early 1860s. Oil on canvas. Collection of the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, Julian Wood Glass Jr. Collection, 0265. Photo by Ron Blunt.

Fig 3. Portrait of Nannie Campbell Glass (1842-1930) by Edward Caledon Bruce (American, 1825-1900), Winchester, VA, about 1865. Signed: “EB”. Oil on canvas. Collection of the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, Julian Wood Glass Jr. Collection, 0024. Photo by Ron Blunt.

From an early age, Kate developed a passion for learning that likely influenced her decision later in life to open a female seminary. Her earliest documented education began at the Fairfax Hall girl’s school in Winchester (today’s 112 S. Cameron Street), opened by Rev. Silas Billings in 1869. As with many girls’ schools of the Victorian area, art education was a regular part of the curriculum for Fairfax Hall students. Kate graduated from Fairfax Hall in 1880, but ever the lifelong learner, she continued her studies with courses at Harvard University, Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Virginia.[ii]

Fig 4. Students and teachers assembled outside of the Fairfax Hall girl’s school in Winchester, 1878-1885. Courtesy Stewart Bell Jr. Archives, Handley Regional Library, Winchester, VA. Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society Collection, 69-23 wfchs.

At some point—probably during her twenties—Kate took the “Grant Tour” of Europe. Where exactly she travelled in Europe is unknown, but a painting by Kate gifted to the MSV several years ago by a Glass family descendent might offer some clues.

Fig 5. Untitled landscape attributed to Katherine Rebecca Glass Greene (American, 1865-1948), probably Winchester, VA, late 1800s. Oil on artist’s board. Collection of the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, 2014.07.1, gift of Mary Glass. Photo by Nick Powers.

The central focus of the oil painting is a woman riding a mule or donkey, dressed in costume traditional to the Dutch Lowlands. Strapped to either side of the mule/donkey are crates. Crates and baskets like these have been used all over the world with pack animals, but they were particularly common on farms in Ireland up through the 1930s.

Called creels—or sometimes a bardog creel if it was hinged—these containers served multiple purposes. They could hold turf or manure for spreading on land as fertilizer, or they could also help carry goods to market as depicted in this painting. We may never know if the painting depicts a scene Kate saw in rural Europe, or if it is simply a blending of the people and events she encountered there. The latter is more likely.

Fig 6. Bardog creel, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, early 1900s. Collection of the Fermanagh County Museum, Enniskillen Castle Museums.

Kate returned to America sometime in the late 1800s and turned her attention to educating the next generation. With her business partner and fellow educator Laura Washington Gold, Kate opened the Fort Loudoun Seminary in 1905. The Seminary was an outgrowth of a music school Kate had conducted on the site a few years before.[iii]

Fig 7. Laura Washington Gold (later Crawford), early 1900s. Courtesy Stewart Bell Jr. Archives, Handley Regional Library, Winchester, VA. Elizabeth Engle Collection, 112-7 wfchs.

Fig 8. View of Fort Loudoun Seminary on North Loudoun Street, early 1900s, Winchester, VA. Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, Archives Collection.

The Seminary building sat on the ruins of Fort Loudoun, a French and Indian War-era fort constructed by a young George Washington starting in 1756. Playing on the history of the site and in keeping with the “Colonial Revival” style popular at the time, Kate and Laura Gold decorated the seminary’s interior with Windsor chairs, spinning wheels, yarn winders, brass candlesticks, and the like.

Fig 9. Entry hall at the Fort Loudoun Seminary, about 1911-1912, Winchester, VA. Illustrated in Fort Loudoun Seminary Catalogue 1914-1915. Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, Archives Collection.

Fig 10. A “Studio” at the Fort Loudoun Seminary, about 1911-1912, Winchester, VA. Illustrated in Fort Loudoun Seminary Catalogue 1914-1915. Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, Archives Collection.

The school operated for the next twenty years with Kate as President. At first, the majority of students came from the surrounding area. But as the years passed, young women from across the country and even the world swelled its ranks. The goal of the Seminary was not to produce housewives, but to cultivate young women who would take their education into the wider world. Many of the Seminary’s students earned college degrees and became educators themselves.[iv]

Fig 11. Older Fort Loudoun Seminary students on a picnic near Winchester, photograph possibly by C. Frederick Barr, 1913-1915. Courtesy Stewart Bell Jr. Archives, Handley Regional Library, Winchester, VA. Phillippa Grover Collection, 1363-1 thl.

Art education was a key component of a young woman’s course of study at the Seminary. According to one of the Seminary catalogues from the 1914-1915 academic year, instructors—presumably including Kate Glass Greene herself—covered topics including “Elementary Drawing, Charcoal, Pen and Water-color; Figure Drawing and Painting, History of Art; Historic Ornament; Principles of Design; Painting in Oil, Still-life Groups; Practical Perspectives; Sketch Class; and Practice of Art.”[v] Several images survive of students outside at their easels, using the hilly landscape of North Loudoun Street and the seminary building itself as inspiration.

Fig 12. Fort Loudoun Seminary students paint with easels outside of the seminary building, early 1916-1917. Courtesy Stewart Bell Jr. Archives, Handley Regional Library, Winchester, VA, Fort Loudoun Seminary Records, 66 THL/WFCHS, Box 1, Catalogs, 1908-1917.

How exactly Kate’s own artwork fit into the Seminary curriculum is unknown. At minimum, it adorned the walls of the building and served as decoration. The Dutch Lowland painting discussed earlier appears in one image labeled “In the Office,” alongside other prints, engravings, and paintings on the wall. Without doubt, Kate’s artwork served as inspiration to which the students could aspire.

Fig 13. Image “In the Office” at the Fort Loudoun Seminary, about 1911-1912, Winchester, VA. Illustrated in Fort Loudoun Seminary Catalogue 1910-1911. Courtesy Stewart Bell Jr. Archives, Handley Regional Library, Winchester, VA, Fort Loudoun Seminary Records, 66 THL/WFCHS, Box 1, Catalogs, 1908-1917.

Kate’s landscape is not the only object from the Fort Loudoun Seminary to enter the MSV’s collection. Museum benefactor Julian Wood Glass Jr. inherited numerous family heirlooms directly from his Aunt Kate. He also purchased other pieces from Kate’s estate after her death in 1948. Many became fixtures at Glen Burnie during Julian’s lifetime.

Pictured below and to the left of the farming scene in the “Office” photo is a burl-walnut grand piano. Kate purchased this piano, made by John Broadwood & Sons in England, in 1905 from a Washington, D.C. auction company for use at the Seminary. The purchase price: $150.

Fig 14. Receipt from C. G. Sloan & Company to Miss Katherine Glass, July 9, 1905, Washington, D.C. Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, Archives Collection.

Julian Wood Glass Jr. acquired the piano after Kate’s death. The piano found a new home in Glen Burnie’s Drawing Room, completed in the 1950s. Julian Glass and R. Lee Taylor utilized the piano at parties and gatherings spanning the next few decades, making it a central component of that space. In fact, it is still there today, where it sees occasional use during concerts and other programs.

Fig 15. Julian Wood Glass Jr (1910-1992) playing Kate Glass Greene’s Broadwood piano in the Drawing Room at Glen Burnie, probably 1960s or 1970s. Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, Archives Collection.

In 1925, Kate closed the Fort Loudoun Seminary due to ill health, but not before she had graduated 137 women over the school’s twenty-year history. Public schools in Winchester and the wider United States were also on the rise, lessening the need for private school alternatives.[vi]

Today, the legacy of Kate Glass Greene and the Fort Loudoun Seminary survives through objects in the MSV Collection. While the piano was conserved several years ago—returning it to playing condition—other objects like Kate’s landscape painting need your help! The landscape has suffered damage over time, and requires the careful attention of a conservator. Are you interested in helping preserve this important piece of Valley women’s history? Please contact Curator of Collections Nick Powers at [email protected]

 

 


[i] Garland R. Quarles, Some Worthy Lives: Mini-Biographies, Winchester and Frederick County (Winchester, VA: Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society, 1988), 111.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Sara Marie Boppe, “The Fort Loudoun Seminary for Young Women in Winchester, Virginia,” Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society Journal 22 (2011): 87-88.

[v] Fort Loudoun Seminary Catalog, 1914-1915, Box 1, Fort Loudoun Seminary Records (66THL/WFCHS), Stewart Bell Jr. Archives, Handley Regional Library, Winchester, VA.

[vi] Boppe, “The Fort Loudoun Seminary,” 92-93.

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Wednesday, May 1, 2019
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