William & Florence K. Sloane
ELM IMP, Block 72, Lots 11, 12 & 14
(1868 – 1940) (1873 – 1953)
The Chrysler Museum of Art
William and Florence Adelia Knapp Sloane were a quiet, driving force behind the arts in Norfolk, particularly as the Norfolk Museum of Arts and Sciences (now the Chrysler Museum of Art) struggled for its existence in its first years. Florence was the epitome of persistence when it came to the museum having loved the arts from the time she was a child. Florence was a transplanted New Yorker when she came to Norfolk in 1895 as the bride of William Sloane, president of William Sloane and Company, a textile manufacturer. William Sloane founded the knitting industry in Norfolk but his civic and business activities went far beyond that. Sloane was one of the organizers and president of the company which constructed the Berkley Bridge. He eventually became president of People’s Bank and Trust Company of Berkley which merged with Seaboard National Bank and in turn was joined with Citizen’s National Bank in downtown Norfolk. Sloane also built one of the finest office buildings in the city - the Wainwright Building - on Bute Street. For many years the building was home of the Seaboard Air Line Railroad as well as Florence's expanding collection of artwork on several floors of the building.
The Sloanes were behind-the-scenes benefactors of many causes which frequently involved service to the area’s military. Mrs. Sloane established a convalescent hospital during World War I in Algonquin Park, and the United Service Club house was temporarily used to store the Chrysler Museum’s artwork prior to the construction and opening of the first wing. Florence Sloane was active during the First and Second World Wars with the Red Cross, YWCA and YMCA. During World War II she served as a gray lady at the Norfolk Naval Base.
Of all the milestones in Norfolk history, one of the most interesting was achieved by Mrs. Sloane. She was selected by the Cosmopolitan Club as the First Citizen of Norfolk in 1932, the first woman to be so honored. The award was given for her cultural achievement and leadership in establishing the Norfolk Museum of Arts and Sciences. Her citation was read by Major S. Heth Tyler at a ceremony held at the Norfolk Country Club. It was the fifth year the award had been given and the four previous winners W.W. Houston, Dr. Southgate Leigh, Charles L. Kaufman, and George H. Lewis were present. Tyler was quoted in newspaper accounts as saying, “In our newer civilization we are apt to be unmindful of this field (cultural atmosphere). The man who has no conception of the beauty of arts is to be pitied, not ensured.”
In her address, Mrs. Sloane asserted that a community effort built the museum paying special praise to the then deceased Dr. Charles R. Grandy for his tireless hours of work in bringing the arts to Norfolk.
Many more people contributed their time and money to make The Chrysler Museum possible but few dispute the quiet and focused effort of the Sloanes. When William Sloane died in February 1940, the Ledger-Dispatch wrote that he “left his mark, monuments of [his] life here... Far more largely than any other man, than any other person except Mrs. Sloane, he built an institution as far removed as possible from his business, any business, and from any other type of building - the Norfolk Museum of Arts and Sciences, a monument in itself.” The museum was a project of the human spirit for William Sloane and his wife and the direction they gave to the museum, the life they breathed into it, was born of devotion to bettering who we were and what we were to become as a city.*
The Hermitage Museum and Gardens
The Hermitage Museum and Gardens consists of an early 20th century historic house museum with a world-wide art collection and contemporary exhibition galleries, surrounded by twelve acres of formal gardens and natural woodlands; educational wetlands; a Visual Arts School; and a Studio Artists Program. It is located within minutes of the largest U.S. naval base, the world's busiest coal pier, and a major East Coast container port. The property is bordered on three sides by the Lafayette River, a tributary of the tidal estuary that threads through Hampton Roads.
The house that was to become the Hermitage Museum and Gardens was built by William and Florence Sloane. Named “Hermitage,” the house began in 1908 as a five-room summer home but soon became the Sloanes’ principal residence. Under Florence Sloane’s active direction, the Arts and Crafts style house was reoriented and expanded to its final forty-two rooms by 1936.
The Sloanes had broad artistic interests and were educated collectors. They were instrumental in the founding of the Norfolk Museum of Arts and Sciences, now the Chrysler Museum, also in Norfolk. Florence Sloane also maintained friendships and corresponded with prominent artists, many of whom are represented in the Sloane Collection.
The Sloanes established the Hermitage Foundation, a non-stock, non-profit corporation, in 1937, as a museum to encourage development of Arts and Crafts and to promote the arts within the community. Ultimately, they contributed the house and its contents, the Hermitage grounds, and all outbuildings on the property to the Foundation. The
Hermitage House Museum opened to the public permanently in 1942, following a short closing after the death of her husband in 1940. Florence Sloane remained in residence at the Hermitage until her death in 1953, while her youngest son, E.K., lived in the house and lead the Hermitage Foundation until the early 1970s.
William and Florence K. Sloane amassed their collection over a fifty year period and assembled it in an informal manner throughout their 42 room home. 5,000 years of art harmoniously blends with the hand carved oak, walnut and teak interior of the galleries. Among the over 2,800 objects in the Sloane Collection are a Neolithic jade cong, ancient Chinese ceremonial bronzes and mingqi (tomb figures), Indian Chola bronze statues, Spanish religious icons and furniture, European ceramics and paintings, hand painted glass windows from Germany, and American paintings and sculptures. The Sloane Collection is truly a celebration of the Arts and Crafts Movement in America.
In continuing with the Arts and Crafts traditions, the Sloanes employed master craftsmen from Europe to complete the building process of their riverside mansion. Most deeply involved was English woodcarver Charles J. Woodsend, who worked on the premises for over twenty years hand-carving and installing the intricate interior paneling. Karl von Rydingsvard, a Swedish artist and master craftsman, collaborated with Woodsend on a variety of projects, including the entire dining room suite. A third artisan, M. F. McCarthy, inscribed several quotations into the lintels of the central house, including St. Thomas Aquinas’ famous definition of Art: “Art is simply the Right Method of doing Things… The Test of an Artist does not lie in the Will with which he goes to Work, but in the Excellence of the work which he Produces.”
During the Sloanes’ lifetime they collected examples of ancient art and served as patrons to contemporary artists. Their home today is filled with the artwork of many of these individuals including: Douglas Volk, Helen M. Turner, Anna Hyatt Huntington, Charles W. Hawthorne, Adolph A. Weinman, Hovsep Pushman, George Wharton Edwards, George de Forest Brush, Edward Francis McCartan, Stephen Reid, Frederick J. Waugh, Nicolai Fechin, Benjamin Eugene Fichel, Edwin Howland Blashfield, Minna W. Citron, Sir. Edward John Poynter, George Gardner Symons, Peggy Somerville, and James Jacques Tissot.
On display to the public since 1937, the Hermitage continues to serve the Sloane’s original purpose: “to encourage the development of Arts and Crafts and to promote the study and understanding of Art as a living and progressive influence in the consciousness of the public.”**
The Sloane’s youngest son, Edwin, is also buried on the Sloane Lot in Elmwood Cemetery.
*”The Chrysler Museum: A Celebration of the Human Spirit” by Amy Waters Yarsinske, Norfolk Community News, Mid-February 1995
Biographical information provided by Norfolk Bureau of Cemeteries.
Visitor Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
Office hours: Monday to Friday 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM
Free parking inside cemetery.
Admission Cost: Free
Address: 238 E. Princess Anne Road , Norfolk, VA 23510
Official web site for more information: www.norfolk.gov/cemeteries
Norfolk Society for Cemetery Conservation Web Site: www.norfolksocietyforcemeteryconservation.org