For those unfamiliar, heraldry is the study of family crests and coats of arms, and like anything else deeply studied, it can be a bit complicated. From understanding the rule of tinctures to scrolling through rolls of arms, we at Salisbury House have been doing a deep dive into the crests and coats of arms found throughout the house.
When you walk through the door of Salisbury House, you are immediately transported back in time; this is all thanks to the Kings House in Salisbury, England.
By David Ross, a Salisbury House Foundation Volunteer
If you think that the title of this post is in reference to biblical punishments or the drug culture of the 1970s, you’d be wrong. I am talking about a little known area of Salisbury House called “Friendship Hall.”
There were three distinct aristocracies in Washington. One of these, (nick-named the Antiques,) consisted of cultivated, high-bred old families who looked back with pride upon an ancestry that had been always great in the nation’s councils and its wars from the birth of the republic downward. Into this select circle it was difficult to gain admission. No. 2 was the aristocracy of the middle ground . . . No. 3 lay beyond; of it we will say a word here. We will call it the Aristocracy of the Parvenus—as, indeed, the general public did. Official position, no matter how obtained, entitled a man to a place in it, and carried his family with him, no matter whence they sprang. Great wealth gave a man a still higher and nobler place in it than did official position. If this wealth had been acquired by conspicuous ingenuity, with just a pleasant little spice of illegality about it, all the better. This aristocracy was “fast,” and not averse to ostentation.
The aristocracy of the Antiques ignored the aristocracy of the Parvenus; the Parvenus laughed at the Antiques, (and secretly envied them.)From Mark Twain’s The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today
By 1927, Salisbury House neared completion. The Weeks family had moved in the previous year, although the house would not be fully finished until 1928. During this year’s interim, a photographer captured images of the new home’s interior. These photographs, particularly when paired with exterior construction images, make a fascinating early study of the property.
“It was built on women’s vanity,” Carl Weeks frequently remarked when he discussed the fortune he made in business. More specifically, Weeks amassed his riches in the early twentieth century by selling cosmetics. His million-dollar idea originated in a combination of cold cream, face power, and perfume. Voila! Foundation makeup. By 1915, Weeks began selling his products under the Armand Company label.
Workmen broke ground on Salisbury House almost a century ago. Beginning in 1923, truckloads of brick, mortar, barrels, and beams navigated the steep rise of the hill atop Tonawanda Drive. Over the next five years, the Weekses’ grand new home took shape. Local photographers captured in-progress images of Salisbury House at different stages of the project. These shots were primarily taken at a distance, and typically showcased the building’s stately dimensions. However, closer inspection of these photographs reveals the ordinary, work-a-day experiences of life at a 1920s construction site.
“If Salisbury House does not feel one hundred years old on the day that we finish,” Carl Weeks once intoned, “then we have failed.” Happily, Weeks’ goal was beautifully realized upon the completion of his new home in the 1920s. Certain portions of the house, however, were decidedly modern. The bathrooms of Salisbury House – all sixteen of them – reflected the detailed attention to high-end furnishings that made the Weekses’ home, in Carl’s words, “a harmonious association of the centuries.”