AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR THE BLIND
15 west 16th Street
New York, N.Y. 10011
May 11, 1972
Dear Mr. Keller:
Thank you for your letter of May 2, and especially for the biographical sketch of Mr. John Hitz. We are fortunate to have a large folder of correspondence between Miss Keller and Mr. Hitz. She used to call him “foster father”. He was a most influential person in her life and oriented her toward the religious philosophy of Emmanuel Swedenborg. She was one of the last persons to see Mr. Hitz before his death on March 24, 1908.
We have in our Library the “Helen Keller Souvenir No. 2”. It is a 60 page account of the entrance exam required for her admission at Radcliffe. Unfortunately we not have “Souvenir No. 1”.
There is no additional news concerning the fire at “Ivy Green” and we must content ourselves with the report of the Helen Keller Property Board, and independent body which administers the estate. I am sure that they are eager to see the place restored promptly as it is one of the major touristic attractions of the state of Alabama. In addition, during the summer months “The Miracle Worker” is produced by local talent in the actual area where the original “Miracle” took place. In 1971 the Lions Club dedicated a Memorial Garden on the grounds. My direct superior, Mrs. Patricia S. Smith, with whom you have corresponded in the past, attended the dedication and was much impressed by the handsome appearance of the property. The enclosed brochure is fairly old but I know that more recent booklets an post-cards showing the interior as well as the exterior are available from the Helen Keller Property Board. I have only one set purchased by Mrs. Smith, and wish that I had a second one to send you.
Hearing from you, dear Mr. Keller, was as always a distinct pleasure.
Marguerite L. Levine
Mr. David Keller
3720 Georgia Street
San Diego, California 92103
May 10, 1972
Dear Miss Keller: (Lillian)
I have intended writing you for some time but things have been rushing since April 8. The main house was heavily damaged by fire but enough of the east side of the upstairs was left where the restoration workers can follow the roof line without any difficulty. The west upstairs was completely destroyed but you would be amazed at how much of the furnishings were saved.
Let me begin with our good fortune – Sears Historic Preservation program was to paint the interior and exterior of all the buildings, make a movie commercial for TV and it was the painting contractors employed by them – who were responsible for the fire. They had been working on the interior for three days and on Friday afternoon, which was a warm day, when the painters quit for the day failed to remove a drop cloth laying on the furnace and during the night the temperature dropped to about 35 and the furnace came on and that is where the damage started. We had carried all breakable items from the dining room, hall and museum room upstairs and these of course were destroyed. An antique dealer came to our rescue with furniture feeder and with her help and volunteers all of the furniture that was water damaged polished out real fine. The painting contractor was required to carry heavy insurance and when the building contractor finishes his work on restoration, Sears will continue the painting and what is so great about that they will maintain their work for three years.
We have been stunned by this misfortune but hopefully the restoration work will be completed in 90 days, weather permitting, then we will look forward to placing the furniture back in place and we are planning to furnish the upstairs and have it open for the public.
The smilax vines are still intact and we hope the workmen won’t trample them too much.
On your next visit to Ivy Green we hope you can say it looks as it always did.
Members of Board:
D.L. Wilson, Chairman Mrs. Loren Gary, Jr. Rea Mills