Thursday, March 21, 2013

The House in St. Michaels

My sister, Liz Donovan, has been gone for two years now. Her husband has found a buyer the house they shared in St. Michaels, Maryland, a carefully restored oasis of late Victorian comfort and charm. It's time to clear everything out, so he invited me to come down and take away whatever family objects their kids hadn't taken.

The pictures of our parents, tiny little Daddy at the photographer's studio in a Lord Fauntleroy getup, ten-year-old Mom looking unhappy to be photographed, as she always was.

The silver-plated tea set my mother got for a wedding present. I was forced to polish it every month when I was a child, along with the brass. The bits of pressed glass my mother saved from Ma's barn in Vanceboro the time Ma invited my father to clean it out. In the years when my sister was painting still lifes all these things went into her work, transformed and glorified.

I took photographs of the inside of the house. Here are a few of them. My sister was an artist, with a wonderful eye. She put this house together as a work of art. She had the wallpaper imported from England. She and Dick found the perfect antique corner cupboard for the dining room right here in Lambertville, a big-time antique capital, at Lovrinic's.

The bed in the guest room came down in the family from the 1830s. The rope-and-acanthus foot posts and footboard are solid Honduran mahogany, probably carved abroad and brought to St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada, by some forgotten sea captain. Our great grandmother died in that bed. Our maternal grandfather was probably born in it. Dick spent a small fortune to make it into a comfortable, modern place for guests to sleep. It's going to his granddaughter.

My sister called the guest room the Lincoln Bedroom. Check out the wallpaper. Her daughter-in-law made that quilt.

All over the house are beautiful little places you can just stare at.

I remember when she painted this darling toy chest for her visiting grandchildren, inspired partly by the Irish fiddling of my husband, Harold.

See how the tiny little bunny is step-dancing.

So that's the house. Then there's Liz's studio, full of her exquisite watercolors and her later work, plein air oil paintings, some of them unfinished but still lovely. So many lovely things. Such a huge body of work, not even counting the many things she sold, or her work in Florida.

I think it's a crime that she was cut off in the middle of creating all this beauty. If you think so too, consider a donation to the Sarcoma Foundation of America.

Kate Gallison


  1. Love this! Greetings from the Lincoln BR, can't believe that I missed you. These pics are fabulous, the last of their kind because tomorrow we start packing. Thanks for posting! Kelly

  2. Your sister was certainly a talented artist! I have personally fond feelings for St. Michael's, as this is where the Director of the CIA in my current series of cime novels lives with her two cocker spaniels! Thelma Straw in Manhattan

  3. One beautifully restrained appreciation of your sister through the objects she created and lived with!
    Thank you.

  4. I hope the things you took away help you keep her close. I am so sorry you lost her so soon.