The Lodge House is preparing for some upcoming room renovations.
If you’ve visited the Lodge House, you’ve likely seen the row of dormitory rooms on the upper floor. These beautiful rooms are currently somewhat sparse as far as furnishings are concerned, but we’re hoping to change that, staging the rooms as we’ve staged the majority of the other rooms in the house. By the end of the year, our goal is to obtain original vintage room furnishings so that we can represent these rooms as they would have appeared in the house’s most active years.
“There has always been discussion and disagreement on what the dorm rooms were actually used for,” Hilary noted when discussing the project. “The oldest Vincent daughter, Dorothea, noted in her memoir that in the early years, various chefs and their wives lived in the dormitory, along with some unmarried test drivers and mechanics. But that was short-lived, according to her.”
But Hilary’s commitment to the research process doesn’t stop at anecdotal evidence. Instead, she dug in deeper: “I wanted more in the way of solid documentation and I found it in the 1930 census,” she reported. Her research revealed that in addition to the Vincent family, three additional individuals resided in the Lodge House during that year. Confirmation of this fact came from multiple sources, in addition to Hilary and the census records. Dorothea and Roberta Vincent provided first-hand accounts of these residents, and PPG volunteer and photograph digitization expert Carolyn Connell undertook an addition research project to uncover the biographical details recounted below. No photographs of these persons have been reliably identified, but here’s hoping that they might turn up someday, so we can have some faces to go with these names!
Beatrice W. Bittman
Aged thirty-six at the time of her residency, Beatrice Bittman’s history in the Lodge House is somewhat nebulous. The census records suggest that she was a “servant” in the Lodge House, and Roberta recalled that Bittman “was the cook to help Mom [Lucile Vincent] with the Packard meetings. I don’t think she was there long.” Carolyn’s research, however, unearthed some interesting personal details about this resident’s life.
Bittman was new not only to the Lodge House in 1930, but to the United States: she emigrated from Canada. Her husband also emigrated to the States, but he traveled out west while his wife came to Michigan; presumably to be near her sister, who lived in Washington Township at the time. The couple later divorced. “She had a nursing degree from Canada which probably was not honored here in the US,” Hilary stated regarding Bittman’s education and work experience. “But we are assuming that she was hired as a housekeeper/cook and her medical experience may have been put to use as needed by the family during Lucile’s pregnancy with Roberta [note: Lucile Vincent would have been pregnant with her third and youngest daughter Roberta during this time]. I’m sure having a nurse around at the time, whether registered in the US or not, was a good thing.”
As of now, nothing is known of Bittman’s exact role in the Vincent household, when she departed the Lodge House, or her life thereafter.
Raymond G. Heinrich
The only long-time gentleman boarder (that we know of), Raymond Heinrich lived at the Lodge House in 1930 when he was thirty-five years old. Like Bittman, Heinrich’s personal life and history are vague as of this writing. Born to a father from Pennsylvania and a mother from Michigan, it’s unclear where Heinrich was born or what his early life entailed before his time with Packard. Conflicting reports of his relationships exist, as well; it’s believed that Heinrich was between marriages in 1930, but remarried later in the decade. After his marriage Heinrich moved to Utica, Michigan, but remained employed at the PPG.
In addition to being listed as a boarder, Heinrich is also noted as the chief mechanic on staff at the PPG. “Ray Heinrich was one of dad’s [Charles Vincent] men,” Robert recalled. “I believe he was in the office and was with him [until] the Proving Grounds was handed over for tank testing during the war.” (For more information about tank testing at the PPG, click here to read the blog post.)
Happily, we may have some photographic evidence of Heinrich’s time at the PPG! We’re not absolutely sure, but it’s possible that he appears in the group photo of the PPG workers that’s currently on display in the Loge House dining room. Next time you visit the site, take at look at the photo and see if you can find him!
Sophie B. Smolinski
Sophie Smolinski, age 21, was born in Michigan to Polish parents. Her work at the Lodge House was multifaceted, and the census notes that she served as housekeeper, laundress, and potential caregiver to the Vincent children. Smolinski was unmarried during her tenure at the Lodge House. It’s possible that she may have married later on in the 1930s and left the house to begin her domestic life with her spouse, although she continued working for the Vincents.
Carolyn has identified a women in the Vincents’ family photos that she believes may be Smolinski. Fingers crossed that we can confirm this (or that we’ve uncovered another relevant figure associated with the Lodge House’s history)!
A project this big necessitates a wishlist.
We’re on the lookout for original, vintage, historic pieces that will correspond with the intended designs of these dormitories. Although the vision for each individual room is not finalized yet, we’d like for three rooms to represent the inhabitants discussed here, with the fourth room staged as a guest room. We’re hoping to procure the following items to assist in the staging process:
- 4 single (twin) beds, one for each room; preferably circa 1920s
- 3-4 small dressers; preferably circa 1920s
- Relevant furnishings appropriate to the period (e.g., small lamps, bedclothes, rugs, etc.)
If you’re willing and able to support us in this endeavor, please reach out to the PPG (contact information is available at this link). Any donations, tips, or other assistance would be gratefully appreciated!
Want to read more about our research and renovation efforts?
There’s always a game afoot at the Packard Proving Grounds! Our dedicated volunteers work tirelessly to bring context and currency to this historic space. Click on the links below to check out a few more blog posts about our historic research efforts and renovations to the Lodge House.
- A Look Through the Glass: Albert Kahn’s Redesigned Windows
- A Team Effort: The Search for Packard Motor Car Company Employees
- Gems From the Vault: A Famous Find!
- Lights Out, Curtains Closed: Preservation Preparations in the Radio Room
- Small-Scale 20th Century Design: The Singer Sewing Machine
Do you have original Packard documents, photographs, publications, or memorabilia that might be of value to the Packard Proving Grounds Library and Archives? Contact the site for information about our collection focus and donation policies.
A big thank-you goes out to PPG volunteers Carolyn Connell and Hilary Davis for providing the topic and research for this post!