Saturday, October 10, 2015

George Etta Brinkley Cohen


The following information came from Jim Allen of Cheatham County.   George Etta Brinkley Cohen was a cousin on his mother's side of the family.

Photo appeared in the October 1926 edition of the "Peabody Alumni News" with a Headline that read " George Peabody College for Teachers Receives Over Half Million Dollar Gift from Local Philanthropist" 

George Etta Brinkley Cohen, Peabody Alumni News, 1926

The article reads:
"Mrs George Etta Brinkley Cohen of Nashville, has recently deeded to Peabody College certain business property located on Church Street estimated to be worth over $500,000. She retains the income from this property during her lifetime. This is the largest sum of money ever given to a local institution by any Nashville resident. Peabody Alumni are appreciative of the action of Mrs. Cohen, because her gift is in harmony with the Educational Program of Peabody College in seeking to assist the youth of our land to a broader education and culture.

Mrs. Cohen is a native Tennessean. She was born in Cheatham County, and was a resident of Ashland City for a number of years. The major portion of her life, however, has been spent in Nashville. Her gift originated through her own desire and the desire of her lamented husband to be of service to others and to place before their fellow men treasures of art and culture, as well as to advance the interest of education in a financial way.

Mrs. Cohen is a woman of culture, a connoisseur, and a collector of objects of art, as well as a painter and decorator of taste. In her home on Church Street, Nashville, are displayed a wealth of tapestries, vases, rugs, collections of china, silver, bronzes, laces, and furniture of rare design. These objects of art which have been collected by Mrs. Cohen, in addition to many specimens of her own handiwork, the value of which is enhanced by the intimate association with the donor, are included in her generous gift to Peabody College, and will be preserved and made to create the nucleus of an art museum for Peabody. Having a keen appreciation of art, it being one of the consuming interests of her life, it is most natural that Mrs. Cohen should desire to give to others the opportunity for a deeper and more abiding appreciation of art and the culture that is a part of such an appreciation.

The old adage, "Great oaks from little acorns grow," can most fittingly be applied in reference to Mrs. Meyer Cohen and her diversified collection. In her home are found specimens of handicraft and curios from many parts of the world.

Nature herself contributing some wonderful specimens-- all of which reflect the temperament of the master, and the condition, time, and environment while they were being produced, and in a general way help us to feel the progress made through the trend of history. This collection has a twofold purpose--namely, to interest and to inform; hence, it is a teacher in a most pleasant guise.

Mrs. Cohen is naturally a connoisseur, with an intuition for all that is worthy. Hers is the keen perceptibility of selecting a gem each time. She is to be congratulated upon this splendid work, which will always be a monument to her integrity and initiative. She is a brilliant woman and an ingenious collector. She has now reached the autumn of life, and yet evinces no sign of relaxation. While this article is going to press, she is using every effort to secure a long-sought antique of rare design.

In making a gift of this size to Peabody College, Mrs. Cohen has set an inspiring example for the women and men of the South. It seems singularly fitting that a Teachers College should receive this recognition, for there are more women in the profession than in all the other professions combined. The fortune and the talent of a Southern woman will be made available and become a source of pleasure and profit to thousands.

Plans for a new Art Building are already in the hands of the architect. It is to be located on the campus just south of the new Administration Building.

In addition, the youth of the country will be served for generations to come through this gift of buildings and endowment for the benefit of public-school teachers. Mrs. Cohen is a farseeing woman, who has done what she could to emphasize anew the words of George Peabody, who said: "Education is a debt due from present to future generations.""

(Let me add that the many thousands of items that were contributed by Cousin Etta have long since disappeared from the Cohen Museum which still stands on the now Vanderbilt Campus being utilized, on my last visit in 1992, as an Arts building.

The bed of the first governor of the state of Louisiana was included in the collection. The Marble stairway that she had imported from Italy is about all that is left. Rumor has it that Educators as well as Students made off with the treasurers; some of which were pawned locally and never reclaimed. On my visit in 1992, I furnished the administrators with copies of their own publications and articles from the Nashville Banner with photos of the collection. They indicated to me that they had no idea where any of the stuff might have ended up. The administration wanted the photos of the items as there had been some talk, at the time, of restoring the building to Museum status.) (Jim Allen)

Cohen Memorial, Peabody College, Nashville (Jim Allen)

The building was designed by a New York firm, McKim, Mead and White.   George Etta Brinkley Cohen gave the hall to Peabody College in 1926 and occupied an apartment on the second floor until her 1930 death. The building was renovated in 2009 and became home to Vanderbilt’s Department of the History of Art, the Department of Classical Studies, and the Vanderbilt Fine Arts Gallery. (Jim Allen)

From Jim Allen - In 1925, the widow of businessman Meyer Cohen gave Peabody some common stock and valuable business property on Church Street in downtown Nashville.  This gift was worth at least $500,000, but the land would transfer to Peabody only at her death.  She specified that the gift fund a fine arts building and began transferring some of her art collection to the college-an estimated $250,000 worth.  Given her ill health and her expressed desire to see the new arts building, the board took the unprecedented step of funding a building with loans from its endowment. McKim, Mead and White designed the building, north of the Administration Building, and a new contractor completed the relatively small but elegant structure, Cohen Memorial, in 1928 for $254,000.  Page 200  Peabody College: From a Frontier Academy to the Frontiers of Teaching and Learning By Paul Keith Conkin, Vanderbilt University Press, 2002.

The Cohen Building on Church Street in Nashville, was built, about 1890, by Meyer Cohen, husband of George Etta Brinkley Cohen.

Cohen Building, Church Street, Nashville http://cohenbuilding.com/cohen-building/421-church-street-nashville-tn-37219/
 

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