Second Floor Center Hallway

The second floor center hall serves several rather practical purposes at once, and yet it is also a uniquely personal space. 

Its clearest role is to provide entries and exists to nearly every other room in the house.  This requirement means eight doors and two staircases are visible from the center of the small space.  Another purpose is to furnish a second central place to talk on the phone (the first is in the Butler’s Pantry downstairs).  There is a phone, fax, rolodex, and address book on a round table and an armchair on which to sit and use them.

Despite these practical necessities, a few easy to overlook items give the room its own sentimental yet sober character.  The blue armchair, in fact, was one Chet Ashbery usually sat in on evenings in the Sodus farmhouse in the 1930s and 1940s.  An inexpensive Popeye trash can tucked under the table is an homage to Ashbery’s beloved cartoon character.  A photograph on the side table commemorates an August, 1940 day when Ashbery and his childhood friends Carol Rupert and Mary Wellington performed “The Princess and the Robber Chief” for a Pultneyville audience.  The grass cloth walls, more visible here than in the downstairs center hall, reference the Victorian and European-influenced decorative tastes of his great uncle Paul Holling (1872-1957), who owned several homes in Pultneyville which Ashbery admired as a child. 

The images on the center hall walls, perhaps inspired by Holling’s attention to translating his European tastes into a distinctly American life, are also a mixture of the two: so, for example, R.B. Kitaj’s ”French portraits” hangs on one wall, a 1915 photograph (one of the earliest) of a train on another, and a classic view of the “Castle of Chillon,” near Montreaux, Switzerland (from his grandparents’ 1926 trip there) is on still another.