Belle’s Table is a family and community history project expressed through an investigation of a single family’s dining, entertaining, and community food & charity work in Holyoke, Massachusetts, New York City, Paris, and Hattonchatel, in the Lorraine district of France

The project, conducted in association with Wistariahurst Museum–the 19th century Skinner family Holyoke residence–focuses on Belle Skinner (1866-1928). An 1887 Vassar College graduate, musicologist, and international philanthropist, Belle Skinner began her charitable work with the Skinner Coffee House in Holyoke which she founded in 1902 with her sister, Katharine, in memory of their father. She divided her time between Holyoke and New York City, during its Golden Age: attending and hosting lectures, parties, community events and family gatherings.

After World War I, Belle turned her attention to France and the needs of its war refugees. She adopted the village and people of Hattonchâtel in the war-torn Lorraine district. She devoted the last ten years of her life and a vast portion her personal fortune to the humanitarian and restoration effort, and enduring legacy.

A forthcoming historical cookbook, entitled Belle’s Table, will summarize the project and illustrate relevant aspects of Belle Skinner’s social and philanthropic life.  Belle’s Table situates Miss Skinner in each of the four significant locations that represent the fabric of her adult life and frame an archival exploration of the cultural and culinary history of the period. Belle’s Table  will support the Wistariahurst Museum mission to inspire an appreciation of local history and culture by offering an inventive, meaningful, and tangible connection to Belle Skinner, a key figure in Holyoke women’s history.

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Belle’s Table author, Elyse Moore, is a Wistariahurst Museum scholar-in-residence, Frances Perkins Scholar at Mount Holyoke College and a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute. The author is deeply grateful for additional support for the project from the Frances Perkins Scholars program, the Barbara Moakler Byrne Fund and Almara Funds at Mount Holyoke College and the American Association of State and Local History. Wistariahurst archivist and city historian, Penni Martorell, has provided outstanding archival and project support since September 2012.

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