This post has been swimming around in my mind for a few weeks now, as it has taken me that amount of time to absorb the wonderful events that transpired one glorious, sunny afternoon...
My sister invited my mother and I to come to Connecticut to spend the day and "do lunch"~~she had somewhere special to take us. Knowing my sister and her refined culinary taste, I knew we would not be disappointed. Little did I know there was far more than lunch awaiting us...
Tucked away in Northeastern Connecticut, in the sleepy little town of Brooklyn, is a wonderful place called The Golden Lamb Buttery, opened in 1963 by Proprietors Robert & Virginia Booth.
"Virginia Wagoner Booth, known as Jimmie Booth, studied printing and engineering at Syracuse University. An engineer with Pratt & Whitney during World War II, she entered the fashion world as a bridal consultant at G. Fox in Hartford in 1945.
In 1952 Dorothy Shaver, of Lord & Taylor, hired Booth for the Hartford store and asked her to develop and manage The Country Clothes Shop in the 5thAvenue store in New York. There, Booth collaborated with and promoted such American designers as Clare Potter, Bonnie Cashin, and Claire McCardell. Booth also worked extensively with European designers.
Married to Bob Booth of Hillandale Weavers, Jimmie promoted the use of both American and European hand-loomed fabrics by her designers. She frequently modeled the fashions herself. Her casual, yet elegant, style is the epitome of "the American Look" still popular today.
In 1998, Jimmie Booth, Dorothy Shaver, and other creators of The American Look were saluted in the exhibition, "Designing Women: American Style 1940-1960"at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford.
In addition to her design work, Booth was a violinist with the Hartford Symphony in the 1940s, and later became the chef at the Brooklyn, Connecticut, Golden Lamb Buttery, which she and her husband, Bob, own and operate."
(Courtesy of Archives Center, Smithsonian,National Museum of American History)
(Virginia Booth featured in The New York Times~Courtesy of
The Golden Lamb Buttery)
Robert Booth was the great grandson of William Booth, founder of The Salvation Army. His father was textile mogul Henry Booth (1895~1969).
"In the early 1940s, (Henry) Booth came up with the idea for the PhotoMetriC camera system to be used in the custom tailoring industry. The system consisted of a specially-designed arrangement of nine mirrors. Eight mirrors reflected separate views of the customer and one mirror reflected the customer’s name and other information. These angled mirrors allowed a photograph to be taken which showed the customer from the front, back, side, and top. A slide of this photographic measurement would be sent, along with the customer’s garment order, to the manufacturer. When the order arrived, the tailor would project the customer’s image on a special screen which facilitated the taking of certain physical measurements. With the aid of the PhotoMetriC calculator, the tailor translated the measurements into specifications for a customer-specific garment. When finished, the garment would be mailed directly to the customer’s home. According to testimonials in the collection, the garments fit perfectly the first time, every time. The PhotoMetriC system both saved the tailor money and relieved the customer of the inconvenience of having to return to the tailor again and again for time-consuming fittings, alterations, and adjustments.
The PhotoMetriC system made its debut in two Richard Bennett stores in New York City on May 17, 1948. It was subsequently licensed to other select retailers such as: The Custom Gentleman (Englewood, NJ); Nathan’s (Richmond, VA); The Golden Fleece (Point Pleasant Borough, NJ); and Joseph’s (Terre Haute, IN).
Hillandale, a Brooklyn, CT farm which Booth purchased about 1940, was later used to produce hand woven wool fabrics. These fabrics were used extensively by various PhotoMetriC retail outlets. Henry Booth’s son, Robert (b. 1924), took over farm operations circa 1960 and opened a retail outlet on the premises which featured a PhotoMetriC fitting room which provided custom tailoring until the mid-1970s. "
(courtesy of The Lemelson Center, Smithsonian,National Museum of American History)
(Courtesy of Hillandale Handweavers Farm Estate)
As we walked into the stable, which is the restaurant, my eye was drawn to this:
Please bear in mind I did not have the advantage of the family history I have provided for you, dear reader. As we stroll the length of the stable, the walls are covered with such a variety of art, artifacts, sketches, photographs, and paintings that my Art Gallery OCD begins lurking it's ugly head, I am overwhelmed. I cannot seem to correlate the wonderful smell of horse & hay, the un~even barn board floor, the smell of fresh herbs & simmering pots of deliciousness wafting through a secret doorway, and this constant thread of couture fashion that seems to run through the vast estate.
(a quiet table for two, the most requested in the house)
Suddenly Katie, granddaughter of Mr. & Mrs. Booth, arrives. She escorts us to the veranda for cocktails...a delightful idea.
The view from the veranda.
The aromas coming from the kitchen entice us to our table...the menu is simple but wonderful. Zucchini Bisque and Duck Salad for me, my Mom and sister try the chilled fresh berry soup (which looks like a delicious dessert!), the Shrimp Salad & Crepe Du Jour...divine.
Long, leisurely lunching is encouraged, if not required. A wonderful change from the harried restaurant experience that has so sadly become accepted today. So linger we did. Just as we finished our lunch, the delightful sous~chef Betty arrived at our table, and the story telling began...
It was from her we learned all about Mr. & Mrs. Booth and their fascinating love story. Mr. Booth's father (of Hillandale Handweavers) made frequent trips to NYC for business and it was there his path crossed with Ms. Virginia Wagoner. He returned from NY and told his son "There is someone I want you to meet." The rest is history. Ms. Wagoner became Mrs. Robert Booth, left the big city and moved out into the beautiful, but very quiet town of Brooklyn. She went straight to work in the haberdashery with her new husband and father~in~law; her experience in the fashion/clothing industry proved extremely valuable to the family business. Bespoke suits were the order of the day~~clients arrived from all over . . . and would return multiple times a year, either for fittings or for something new.
As time passed, Mrs. Booth, being of an engineering mind, realized that if their clients were willing to travel from all over to this quiet country town, they would need a place to dine. Alas, there was no such place for miles and miles in any given direction. In 1963 The Golden Lamb Buttery was born. She renovated part of the barn across the street into a quaint restaurant, where weary travelers could find refreshment. The menu was simple but with fresh ingredients from the farm & prepared by Mrs. Booth's loving hands~delicious! Visitors were encouraged to linger and relax, to enjoy the beautiful view and the peaceful serenity of the farm which stood in stark contrast to the cities from which most had come.
This wonderful marriage of bespoke tailoring and gourmet food continued into the 1970s. In 1971, The Golden Lamb Buttery began offering dinner... just as the custom tailoring part of the business was slipping away. Ready~made clothing & synthetic fabrics had become the more fashionable choice for the masses and this wonderful old~world haberdashery eventually closed it's doors for good.
In 2008, Mr. & Mrs. Booth's granddaughter, Katie Bogert, accepted her role in the family legacy and began as hostess & proprietor of The Golden Lamb Buttery. A large order, but one I greatly admire & respect. To have such a young lady (perhaps in her late 20s, of course I couldn't ask!) realize the wonderful heritage she has been granted and to do her part to keep it alive is practically unheard of today.
Well advanced in years, Mr. & Mrs. Booth have since retired, but their presence is strongly felt everywhere, from Mrs. Booth's beautiful sketches to her hand~written recipes still used in the kitchen. Some of the very first patrons are still coming to "The Lamb" some 40 years later to enjoy the experience. Paul Newman, Glenn Close, Carol King & Alec Baldwin are just a few of the celebrities who made the journey to this quiet little corner of New England.
That day will be a day I will always treasure...being just 15 miles or so from my grandparents dairy farm tugged at my heartstrings...how very much Mrs. Booth reminded me of my grandmother in so many ways. The only thing which could have made this day any more perfect would have been the privilege of meeting this fascinating couple, Mr. & Mrs. Robert & Virginia Booth.
At The Golden Lamb Buttery, you don't have to decide between a table or "Booth"~~you can enjoy both at your leisure...just be prepared to linger.
Post Update/20 July 2011:
The Golden Lamb has also added a new country gift shop called "The Primitive Creek". Staying within the country decor, the gift shop carries local artisans with items such as hand knitted scarves, knitted and felted wool purses, pottery, jewelry and Gourmet Chocolate Truffles just to mention a few. For the folks with a taste of more modern flare they also carry Murano, Italy Glass, vintage/antique window glass in every color of the rainbow and much, much more. Tami Hamel, a Folk Artist of acrylic painting, is the owner/operator of this wonderful gift shop added to the already enchanting establishment. (See comment thread for more information provided by Ms. Hamel.)
This post is dedicated to
the Memory of
Virginia Wagoner Booth
20 June 1922 - 9 January 2011