Gene Crary’s fashions are on display

The Warren County Historical Society is pleased to present an exhibit of Mrs. Gene Crary’s textile collection. The Crary Art Gallery committed to preserving Mrs. Crary’s textiles last summer, and, before the textiles are to be archived, it was thought that the public might enjoy seeing them. Stop by the Warren County Historical Society through the end of March to view the unique collection of Gene Alden Walker Crary’s personal wardrobe. View an amazing number of dazzling felt, fur, straw, linen, velour and velveteen hats in all styles and colors from the 1940s and 1950s. Also on display is a stunning attire of spring and summer dresses reminiscent of Sunday’s best, dresses tailor-made of silk, lace and satin, several evening gowns, a cocktail dress, multiple soiree ensembles, summer frocks and more.

Gene Walker Crary was an artist, portrait painter and wife of Warren benefactor Clare Crary. She graduated from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and studied under American painters Charles Hawthorne and Terry Farnworth at the National Academy of Design in New York and became a well-known artist who won many awards. Her work is in the permanent collections at the National Academy of Design and Montgomery Museum of Art.

After graduating Gene moved to Warren with a school friend in the early 1920s. She married Clare Crary in 1943. She was involved in multiple organizations in Warren and was good friends with famous sculptress Marion Sanford. In the 1970s, Clare and Gene Crary acquired the Roman Villa style home located at 511 Market Street which they used as an art gallery. After her husband’s death in 1975 Mrs. Crary staged two exhibits, but failing health prevented more openings. Upon Mrs. Crary’s death in 1988, as sanctioned by her last will and testament, the Crary Art Gallery was incorporated and established a trust fund to generate income for operation. In 1990, for the first time in more than a decade, the gallery was opened.

According to Diane DeLarme, former Crary Art Gallery board member, “After many years, the textile collection of 21 vintage dresses and 85 hats belonging to Gene Crary has finally come out of the closet. The exhibit will be on display through March 28 at the Warren County Historical Society. The items are on loan from the Crary Art Gallery where they have been housed for over 40 years. As a former board member of the gallery, I expressed an interest in archiving the Crary wares for preservation. I recruited board member Eileen Bovard to take on the task of staging the clothing and hats for photos and describing the textiles for identification prior to packing them in archival boxes. We were so excited as we examined the one-of-a-kind cocktail dresses and exquisite gowns. My favorites are the white beaded Chantilly lace gown made in France and an apricot chiffon dress with a matching beaded cashmere sweater. Most of the hats were from Saks Fifth Avenue and Paris made exclusively for Mrs. Crary. Others were from Louisville, Kentucky, and one from as far as Austria. Clare and Gene Crary were world travelers. Clare was a photographer and Gene an artist.

“One day when visiting the historical society with some preservation questions for managing director Michelle Gray, she posed the question to me, ‘has the collection ever been displayed?’ My response was that a few dresses were exhibited at the gallery several years ago at the annual Christmas walk, and a few of Gene’s hats had been displayed in a case in one of the galleries for years. We both felt that the collection should be displayed prior to archiving. What a perfect time and place to showcase the lives of Gene and Clare Crary. Crary board president Barb Kersey awarded permission, and, on the same day, hat boxes were delivered to the historical society. Michelle introduced me to historical society board member and dedicated volunteer Debbie Fitzsimmons, who joined in our enthusiasm. Three days later Debbie led a fun-filled day of bringing the Crary’s story to life for the public to experience. The historical society volunteers were very enthusiastic and professional in putting the show together. I was impressed with the outreach of volunteers working to research the Crary’s history, display the exhibit, and title the collection. I hope you have as much joy viewing Gene Crary’s vintage clothing and hats as I had in preparing for the show.”

According to historical society program coordinator Emily Sailar, “As well as being involved in the local art community, Gene and Clare Crary also supported the Warren County Historical Society. The chandelier in the front parlor is a donation in memory of Merle Deardorff funded by Mr. and Mrs. Crary. Also, the Warren County Historical Society’s tri-annual newsletter, ‘Stepping Stones,’ takes its name from the stepping stones leading to the art studio of Marion Sandford and her friend Gene Alden Walker Crary.”

The Gene Walker Crary Textile Exhibit will be on display Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Warren County Historical Society, 210 Fourth Ave., through March 28. For more information, call 723-1795 or visit warrenhistory.org.