THE HENSHAW PARLOR
In 1927, Brooklyn Life
magazine carried a photograph of a painting by Stanislav Rembski
portraying the interior of a fashionable Brooklyn Heights home.
Research at the Museum of Brooklyn Art and Culture centered on the
possibility that the interior pictured was that of the parlor of the
home of the Henshaw family on State Street in Brooklyn Heights. Further
investigation affirmed this conjecture. One of the paintings shown on
the wall of the parlor bears a striking resemblance to a portrait by
Rembski of Nancy Middlebrook (Glackens), who was a resident of the
Henshaw home. Current owners of the home confirmed that the
interior of their livingroom corresponded with the structural details
of the one pictured.
Rembski spent a great deal of time with the Henshaws during a four-year
period from 1924 until his marriage in 1927. Besides the portrait of
Nancy, Rembski painted portraits of G. Herbert Henshaw, editor of
Brooklyn Life; Cornelia Gracie Henshaw, Herbert's sister and a writer
for the magazine; Esther Henshaw Middlebrook, Nancy Middlebrook's
mother and sister of Herbert Henshaw who wrote occasional theater
reviews; and George Henshaw Childs, Herbert's nephew and a scientist
with the American Museum of Natural History, all of whom lived in the
State Street house.
After a six-year hunt, MOBAAC located and acquired one piece of
furniture that is pictured in the Henshaw parlor, the site of many
Family tradition as conveyed by an heir has it that the Henshaws and
the Gracies of Gracie Mansion were related, and that this chair was
part of the furnishings of Gracie Mansion. However, a genealogical
study indicates that the Henshaws were related by marriage and adoption
to a different branch of the Gracie family. The Archibald Gracie
associated with this branch died before 1817, while the man of the same
name who built Gracie Mansion died in 1829. Both were wealthy merchants
who lived in close proximity during at least some part of their lives.
The chair is said to have been fashioned by machine after the Civil
War, but whatever its value as an antique, it certainly is an authentic
article that was part of a nostalgic and bygone era during which the
Henshaws lived and flourished.
The Henshaw parlor, above.
Detail of Rembski painting, showing
Henshaw chair as it appears
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