Notes on a Visit to the Homestead Attic

Label on trunk found in Farnsworth Homestead attic

Among some trunks found in the Farnsworth Homestead is one that may relay a poignant story. Found in the homestead attic during the current inventory and assessments work, and examined by curatorial staff with visiting consultant David Barquist, Curator of American Decorative Arts at the Philadelphia Art Museum, it is a simple wood trunk. It may be that this trunk belonged to William Farnsworth. The label on its interior reads, Nathan Neat, 336 Washington St, Boston est. 1825, a maker or firm which warrants additional research, but it is the label on top surface of the trunk that more immediately may relay a sadder tale. It reads: Jacksonville, FLA  Windsor Hotel.

The Windsor Hotel opened in 1875 just a year before William Farnsworth died in 1876. It was a grand complex catering to businessmen and “posh” visitors to eastern Florida. For adventurers on their way deeper into the less populated, lower areas of the state, it served as a luxurious stopping off point. In spring of 1876 William Farnsworth had taken his ailing daughter Fannie to Gainesville, Florida for her health. The label on this trunk may suggest that the two stayed at the newly opened Windsor Hotel prior to their travel by railroad from Jacksonville southwest to Gainesville, or/and again on their way homeward. Sadly William Farnsworth contracted malaria on this trip, probably in Florida, and died before reaching Maine. Fannie died a year later in the Boston home of her older sister, Josephine.

William Farnsworth with his daughter Fannie who he had taken to Gainesville, Florida for her health

Twenty-five years later the Windsor Hotel burned down in a fire that devastated downtown Jacksonville; it was rebuilt but finally demolished in 1950 to make room for a parking lot.

A Stereograph photo of the Windsor Hotel, as William Farnsworth probably saw it in 1876.