Helen Temple Logan’s Chautauqua home. Courtesy of Chautauqua Institution Archives.
Logan Dormitory fronts Bestor Plaza at the end of the Brick Walk.
The two-toned yellow and slate-green Queen Anne with its Colonial Revival attachment sits at the corner of Pratt and Miller, arguably Chautauqua’s center. In 1965, Helen Temple Logan donated the former YWCA Hospitality House to the Institution in honor of her husband Harry A. Logan. It would be a dormitory for student singers.
Fifteen years later, she donated $115,000 for its renovation. So it remains today, with an additional tenant: The Chautauquan Daily now resides on the first floor.
Logan Dormitory, today more frequently called “Logan,” is the most visible of Helen Temple Logan’s contributions to Chautauqua. She was a trustee, a benefactor of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra and a contributor to the Arts Quad renovation and several art and music prizes. When she died at age 90 in 1985, Chautauqua president Daniel L. Bratton wrote, “The first thought of many Chautauquans, myself included, upon hearing of Mrs. Logan’s passing is that an era ended here.”
Her Chautauqua life slowly unfolds in the Daily from 1960 to 1995, and the memories her daughter-in-law Kay Logan shared suggest that Helen Temple Logan would impact any era.
Before she was Helen Temple Logan she was Helen Temple, an English singer and actress. In the July 12, 1976, Daily interview she described her stage and movie career. She studied at the Royal College of Music, performed for two years with the Horniman’s Manchester Repertory Company and appeared in four silent movies. Her final London stage performance was opposite Ronald Colman in The Little Brother.
Romance intervened in the person of American businessman and United Refinery Company owner Harry A. Logan.
Helen said in the 1976 article that the two “fell in love at first sight, somewhat uncharacteristically for both of them.” They met aboard a ship traveling from Australia. Wed in London, they came home to Warren, Pennsylvania. They had two children, Harry A. Jr. and Marian. Kay said that despite the contrast between London and Pennsylvania, Helen never looked back. She became a pillar of the community, participating in the local Shakespeare Club and the Garden Club
Helen and Harry came to Chautauqua frequently, attracted by the music and arts programming so close to home. When Harry died in 1957, Helen began painting “in an effort to keep herself busy and challenged,” according to the article.
Painting became more than a diversion; in a way it became the center of her Chautauqua life. But her love of music perhaps trumped everything. Helen did not perform, but her presence, in the form of support, was most certainly felt by the Chautauqua Symphony and the Chautauqua Opera.
Helen Temple Logan delivering the deed for Logan Dormitory in 1965. From left: Henrietta Campbell, Mary Frances Bestor Cram, Logan and Chautauqua Institution President Curtis Haug. Courtesy of Chautauqua Institution Archives.
“I really came to Chautauqua to live during the summers because of the painting and music,” she said in the 1976 article. She bought her home at 8 Prospect — now Kay’s home — in 1958. The long, low modern home sits on the hill overlooking the lake, diagonally situated across from the Arts Quad, where she painted almost daily. Two of her paintings hang in what Kay referred to as “Helen’s office.”
Age and health worries did not deter her. She was still crossing oceans, albeit metaphorical ones, at age 80. She agreed to a two-week exhibition of her paintings at the Athenaeum in 1975.
“I’m 80 years old and I have cataracts, but for me painting is a great hobby. I said yes to having a show in hopes it would encourage other people to try painting or at least try some kind of hobby,” she said in the 1976 Daily article.
Kay said that her husband used to say that his mother “came on as the grand dame she was.” The Daily photos affirm that description, but the pages of print also form a portrait of a woman who had a flair for friendship and a concern for the young artists who came here.
Karl Menninger and his wife, Jean, spent many summers with Helen. After her death, he wrote of their long friendship: “We became fast friends. Being almost the same age, we laughingly called each other brother and sister.”
Two other longtime Chautauqua friends were Revington Arthur, Chautauqua Art Center chairman of painting and drawing, and the Rev. Ralph Loew, director of the Department of Religion.
Speaking of the Logan Dormitory renovations, Helen was quoted in the Daily as saying: “When I learned what needed to be done, I said, ‘We must make it safe and useful for students. I am always so interested in children and youth and I hope now that the restoration is complete. We will take care of it from year to year.’”
Visual artist Richard Ozanne returned to Chautauqua in 2004 to speak about his art. He described Helen as one “of the many talented people” he met during his Chautauquan youth.
Her most important influence may have been her son Harry A. Logan, Jr., who served as a trustee and was a generous benefactor to the CSO and Chautauqua Fund.
The finest accolade, however, may come from Helen’s daughter-in-law.
“She was wonderful, witty, a woman of spirit,” Kay said.