A few weeks ago, I went up to Kennebunkport for brunch with my husband and son. We rarely get to go up into Maine because of our busy schedules – but this Sunday was gorgeous and the weather was perfect. When we had finished brunch, we went for a drive out on Ocean Avenue – which rides along the coast. I saw an estate sale sign, about 3 houses down from the Bush Compound. I quickly remembered that my friend Kathy, who has an estate sale company – had called me a few days before and told me about a sale she was having, where there were some vintage clothes for sale. I was excited and told my husband and son that we were making a quick stop. We parked and the boy stood at the car, while I walked up to the house.
I was greeted by Kathy and she told me that most of the clothes had sold – but that there was a wedding dress in the house. I walked into this adorable little Cape Code house, that has a huge barn with horse stables and an apartment upstairs. From the front of the house, there is a perfect view of the Bush Compound. I walked up the front steps and into the foyer. There was barely anyone there, but then again, it was also 1pm. In the foyer, the walls were covered with gorgeous wallpaper from the 50s and there stood a dress form with a lovely satin wedding gown with a veil and train. The price on it was quite a bit out of my price range, and the dress was also very damaged but I looked down on the floor and saw a brown box. I opened the box and saw a silk satin and Brussels lace 1920s wedding dress. As I was taking it out, Kathy told me, “Oh! That was the mother of the bride dress” – I looked at her confused and said, “I can guarantee you, that this brides mother did not wear this to her wedding.” – And then after closely inspecting the train and veil that were on the 1950s wedding dress, I realized that they belonged with the 1920s wedding dress! The lace matches up perfectly and the silk satin is the exact color of that on the dress.
I asked Kathy what the price would be, with the veil and train and she told me. I was a bit taken back – it was a heavy duty price. So I ask her if I could make an offer and that if the dress didnt sell – she would consider my offer. She said yes. So I put a very reasonable but still high offer in on a piece of paper and gave it to Kathy. I took a quick look around the rest of the house (which IS GLORIOUS I might add!) and went back to the car to meet the boys.
Here is a photo of the home – a bit in disarray, but oodles of charm.
The following week, I got a call from Kathy. The dress was MINE! This past Monday, I drove up to Maine and picked up the dress at the house – Kathy told me that there was a photo of the bride and groom, but it had been purchased the week prior at the sale. I gathered up the veil and train, and put them into the box with the dress. I wrote Kathy a check and went back home. When I finally was able to sit down and look at the box – there was a pretty neat label on it, along with some penciled writing. Helen (who we will talk about later) took the veil out in 1953, I assume to wear it at her own wedding) Here is a photo of the label that is on the box:
So this is where it gets tricky. At first, I thought the name of the bride was Mrs. Nathan Taylor. I did an insane amount of research and came up with nothing. But then I remembered that Kathy had told me the brides last name, Purves. And if you look at the top of the label, you can see written, “MTP wedding dress and veil” – That was my cue. So, after about 6hrs of research and some serious brain draining, I came up with history and timeline of Marjorie and her family – and the best part: The amazing amount of American history that this family has. I think the best way to give this information is in outline form, so here we go!
1904: Robert Curtis Ogden purchased the home at the corner of of Ocean and Summit Avenues. There was a main home, “The Billows” along with two other cottages and barns. (The green home above, where the dress was found, was one of the cottages)
(Robert Curtis Ogden was a crusader for the education of emancipated slaves after the Civil War. He was the first of three generations to summer there who tirelessly championed the work of the Hampton Institute in Virginia.- More on Robert Curtis Ogden, as written by a Southern Maine Newspaper – with a photo of RCO and Booker T. Washington)
1926: Robert Ogden Purves (Robert Curtis Ogden’s grandson) marries Marjorie Taylor, of Philadelphia. Robert O. Purves was the treasurer at the Hampton Institute, the school that his grandfather worked at.
1953: Robert O. Purves and Marjorie Purves daughter, Helen ” Hoppy” Purves marries John Barnard. (John Barnard passed away last year, and his wife Hoppy is still alive – the house where the dress was found was being sold by the son of Robert and Hoppy.)
1973: Robert O. Purves sells the cottage (not the one where the dress was purchased, its the one in front of it) to the Future President of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush. Robert O. Purves passed away in 1976. I believe that Marjorie passed away in the early 1980s.
So, now – there are a 100 other little details in between and Im sure they would bore you, but this dress comes from such an amazing philanthropic family that is rich with well documented history. I had to share it with you.
Here are some more links to the Purves family:
Newspaper Article from Hampton Institute with a photo of RCO’s daughter
Now, onto the dress – which is in remarkable condition, I might add!