1866 – 1928
Holyoke ~ New York ~ Paris
Belle Skinner at life’s many tables — pictured here, in Paris during the years she spent commuting between Paris and Hattonchâtel in the Lorraine region. Belle Skinner’s life, however was not about food and dining — she devoted herself to the kinds of charities that enabled people to put food on their family tables. At Hattonchâtel, she financed and directed the restoration of the small medieval Meuse village, one of the many towns in total ruin in the aftermath of World War I. By 1923, Hattonchâtel’s pre-war residents had returned and were actively engaged in the rebuilding of their village —
In September 1923, the town held a great Fête to celebrate the christening of the new church bell and to acknowledge five years of progress since the liberation of the village. French President Raymond Poincare, Verdun’s bishops, Hattonchâtel’s mayor, and five members of Belle’s family joined more than forty guests for luncheon on the terrace overlooking the Meuse Valley after the formal celebration — captured on silent film that Belle Skinner had commissioned to commemorate the event.
Known to the people of Hattonchatel as La Maraine, the “fairy-godmother,” Belle Skinner devoted the rest of her life and much of her personal fortune to the well-being of the people of Hattonchatel and those of her home town of Holyoke, Massachusetts.
Discover Belle Skinner—Vassar graduate, music historian and French scholar, philanthropist, and key figure in Connecticut Valley women’s history—through the tables she set during her lifetime, from 1866 to 1928. Belle’s Table situates Ms. Skinner in Holyoke, New York, Paris and Hattonchatel from the Gilded Age through the Roaring Twenties. Historical context, archival detail from the Wistariahurst Museum Skinner Family Collection, and recipes from the period provide a cultural perspective on the life of Belle Skinner.