As the 2020/2021 Summer Olympic Games open in Tokyo tonight, we are looking back at sport here at The House of the Seven Gables. This photo of Helen and Lillian Arey and friends posing with their croquet equipment was taken on the south lawn at The Gables c.1901. The Areys were the granddaughters of Henry and Elizabeth Upton who owned The Gables at the time.
Croquet is a lawn game where players use mallets to hit wooden or plastic balls through a series of hoops, sometimes called wickets, to score points. There are many variations of croquet played all over the world and the game has existed in different forms for centuries. Avid literature fans may know of the game from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women or Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Croquet featured only once in the Olympics in the 1900 Paris games. It was also the first Olympic games with female competitors. Mrs. Brohy and Miss. Ohnier of France, who competed in the croquet competition, were amongst the first women to compete.
The 1900 Olympics were held in conjunction with the Worlds Fair and ran from May 20th to October 28th, a time span that would be unimaginable for our modern games. The Paris games are generally remembered as disorganized and poorly attended. It is said that the games took such a back seat to the Fair that some athletes did not realize they were competing in the Olympics!
The croquet events started on June 24th and play continued every Sunday until August 15th. There were both singles and doubles competitions for a total of four events. France was the only country to enter any athletes in the croquet competition and walked away from the event with seven medals.
While the Areys and friends may not have won any medals, they seem to have enjoyed playing croquet here at The Gables. If you have never played croquet before, consider gathering a few friends and giving it a try this summer!
Sources:1900, croquet, history, house of the seven gables, Olympics, Salem, the gables
This post was written by Holly Watson