“It’s like a time capsule,” exclaimed Mary Meagher and Kyleigh Eyl, student assistants at the college archives. They were first to see the “mystery” collection from Joslin Hall.
Mason Library received a call from Campus Safety about an old, unlocked cabinet full of old papers and photographs in a corner of Joslin Hall. Campus Safety suggested the materials looked important and someone in the archives should come over.
What Meagher and Eyl discovered was a forgotten archive of the history of the Home Economics department and Blake House.
Home Economics became part of the Keene Normal School curriculum in 1920. The program prepared students to teach home economics in fourth grade to senior high school.
Central to Home Economics was Blake House. Purchased in 1926, Blake House served as a home economics laboratory and practice house. The old colonial home was remodeled to include laboratories for sewing and cooking, a classroom, and a laundry. Blake House often entertained official guests of the college. In fact, the Home Economics students were frequently called upon to prepare food and assist at special events.
“When Eleanor Roosevelt came to visit in 1945,” Norma Walker, Class of 1951 said, “it was the home economics students who helped entertain her.”
The archive contains an assortment of correspondence, newsletters, textbooks, photo albums, and scrapbooks, dating from the 1930s to the 1970s.
A portion of the archive relates Nu Beta Upsilon sorority, chartered in 1923, to help “promote more sociability and cooperation among the students of Home Economics.” The members of Nu Beta Upsilon were involved with the care of Blake House, according to Norma Walker.
Numerous thank you letters attest to the hospitality visitors received at Blake House, where guests were not only invited to meals but could lodge.
“I wish to thank you very much for the enjoyable stay at Blake House,” wrote Lila Murphy to Winnie in 1951. “You were a charming hostess.”
The archive includes the guest books for Blake House. Brian Burford, Class of 1972 and former New Hampshire State Archivist was curious to see if his mother, a Home Economics major, and his father appeared in the guest books. Sure enough Burford found his parents’ signatures dated November 1943.
“My mother had invited my father to eat at Blake House,” said Burford. “My father was in Keene training to be a bomber pilot. I have a photograph of my father in uniform together with my mother, standing on the steps of Blake House the day they signed the guest book.”
The archive remains to be organized and digitized. This will be the job of Mary Meagher, who will be working at the college archives during the summer.
“I can’t wait to work on this collection,” said Meagher. “There’s so much school history that I don’t know about, Blake House, Home Economics. I can’t wait to see what else I’ll discover.”
Rodney Obien can be contacted at