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Interview with Helen Babington

Babington, Helen
White, Jane
Date of Interview: 
Gaston County Art History Museum; Gardening; Historic buildings - Gaston County
In this interview, Mrs. Babington discusses her house and garden and her interest in the Gaston County Art History Museum. Mrs. Babington has served as a trustee and vice president on the board of the Museum.
Gastonia, NC
Interview Setting: 
Interviews in this series were conducted at either the downtown public library or the Midtown Shopping Mall.
WSOC-TV Oral History Project
Collection Description: 
The Oral History Project of 1979, headed by Dr. Edward Perzel, was an effort to gather and preserve spoken recollections. Interviews were conducted with older citizens, primarily over the age of 65, who were encouraged to share their memories and stories.
JW (Jane White): Mrs. Babington its nice to have you here at, partake of WSOC Oral Histories. I'll let you take it right from here and you can tell us anything that you would like to tell us.
HB (Helen Babington): Thank you so much. I am delighted to be here at the insistence of my daughters. I'm Mrs. Robin Benjamin Babington, Jr. and was named Helen Pearl Howe before I was married. I lived in Gastonia all my life. I am 69 years of age but don't feel it.
HB: [Laugh] Still I have a very, very full life and I am involved in great many things. My main interest is the Gaston County Art History Museum, which I'm a trustee and vice-president. And this is situated in the old, old courthouse at Dallas, and its on the National Register now as well as about six other buildings on the square in Dallas. And we're very interested in restoring and preserving these buildings. And have just had the chance to buy the famous old Hoffman Hotel. It has 44 rooms and a ballroom on the third floor. And up until now we've had only the top floor of the old courthouse. And have had to have revolving shows but now we'll be able to have rooms for every facet of, a, Gaston County life, such as old doctor's offices and old fashion kitchens and Victorian rooms and a, just anything. And I'm head of acquisitions and of course I hadn't been able to find much because we had no place to store it.
JW: Um-hum.
HB: And but we have gotten quite a few very interesting things. Beautiful old square inlaid piano that Harold Lambert Belmont gave us and we have a spinning wheel and a hmm, I can't think of the word but you make quilts,
JW: Really?
HB: Not quilts but woven things.
JW: A loom?
HB: Loom. A big loom. Yes, I just couldn't think of that. And so I'm, I'm, I've been very interested in it. In fact, the original idea was mine. I started working on this in 1965 and writing archives and histories about how to go about preserving Dallas.
JW: Um-hum.
HB: And so when the Bicentennial Commission was formed, why we had a museum committee. And this all came out of that during the Bicentennial
JW: Well good. Can you tell us how old the building is that your going to be using?
HB: 1840, I think. And the courthouse is older than it. And being the county seat you see the a, the lawyers all came there and stayed. And this, this one lady who lives there now on the bottom floor, she has an apartment there. And she wants to retire and go into a nursing home or a retirement home. And so she's willing naturally to let us have it rather reasonable price and we're thrilled to death. And then I'm very interested in flowers . I belong to the Four Seasons Garden Club. And I have hundreds of azaleas and camellias and wisteria arbor and just almost anything you can think of in my garden. And my house is very, very interesting. I wish you were old enough to be on National Register because everything in it is old. It is English style on three floors. And has the balcony and the living room and all. But the main interest is that its made out of old hand made brick. And these were from the first mill in Gastonia, the Gastonia Manufacturing Company. And we just asked if we could have them and so they said, "Yeah." And so we had bought this old fourteen room mansion, where the present day post office is. Bought it at auction and we used so many lovely things out of this mansion. Mantels and floors and doors and
JW: Anything you, you just you tore just the mansion down ?
HB: Yes, uh huh
JW: And started over with all these interesting building materials
HB: Uh huh, yes, yes Oh, many, many stained glass windows. I've given all my four children stained glass windows. And my architect wouldn't let me use but one in the house and now they're all the rage.
JW: And do you know where those windows came from?
HB: They, they were that old Crab mansion.
HB: Oh, I'm not sure. I have one that is so beautiful. My favorite, I have hanging in the sun room on chains, so I can see the morning sun through it.
JW: Um-hum.
HB: And it has robin's egg blue in the middle with fruit. And then out from that is grapes and all kind of beautiful things. I'd love to have that appraised and see if it is a Tiffany. It is so utterly beautiful.
JW: Um-hum.
HB: But a . . .
JW: You don't know whether they were made in this country?
HB: No, I've really never known the history you see.
JW: Okay [pause] Um-hum.
HB: And then. But another thing of interest was there was a lot of cut glass windows that were so beautiful. And I did incorporate some of them. I have two on each side on my living room mantle. And it has the fluer-de-lis in it so I adopted the fluer-de-lis as the motif of my home.
JW: I see. ( )
HB: And uh-huh. Carried it out not too flamboyantly but you know and different things. And everybody knows me for that emblem. They say they always think of me when they see that.
JW: Um-hum.
HB: And then I use there big oak door at my dining room door. It's the fluer-de-lis cut glass on each side of it. And I had some stored and I had gone around that house everyplace trying to see if I could find a place to put them. But I think I am just going to have to hang them, in the sun room, like I did the stained glass . . . (Tape is damaged and ends here.)