Helen Gamwell Budd, c. 1920 [Photo courtesy of The Trustees archives]

Helen Gamwell Budd, c. 1920 [Photo courtesy of The Trustees archives]

The official history of Notchview accords pride of place to Col. Arthur Budd, a much-decorated veteran of World War I (he even has a street named after him in France) who is credited with acquiring and uniting the many parcels of Windsor land that eventually became the Budd estate, aka Notchview.

 Less well-known is the soft-focus figure of Helen Gamwell Ely Budd, described in accounts from Notchview staff and others as a chatty woman always dressed in white outfits that she sewed herself. She seems not to have merited much attention.

 But in fact, the grand outlines of Helenscourt, a central piece in the Notchview property puzzle, were created with her money and her drive to create an elegant home reflecting her taste for European domestic architecture and landscaping. She and Budd had not even met when she oversaw the creation of Helenscourt from the old Norman Miner Homestead.

 She was a college-educated career woman before women in the U.S. had the right to vote. And she sacrificed deeply in World War I, losing her only son, 1st Lieutenant William Ely, in 1918…a tragedy that led to her meeting Budd, who accompanied the body back to Rochester where he met Helen. They married in 1920, after the war.

 Born Helen Gamwell, she attended Smith College, graduating in 1887. She trained as a registered nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital, and rose to the role of superintendent of Rochester City Hospital. Here she met her first husband, Dr. William Ely, head of the hospital medical staff – a Civil War veteran, who was at Antietam as a surgeon in the Union Army. After the war he became a noted expert on tuberculosis.

 In 1909, Helen bought the Norman Miner property in Windsor. Dr. Ely died in 1912. It was as a widow that Helen undertook the renovations in Windsor, though she was mostly living in London. Helen and Arthur Budd spent a lot of time in Europe after their marriage but made their home at Notchview after Arthur’s retirement in 1932. She died there in 1958 at the age of 93.

 I am left wondering why she wore white. Was it the white of a nurses’ uniform (which became common in the late 1800s)? Or was it the white of the suffragettes, who finally won women the right to vote in 1920, the year the Budds were married? Further research indicated…stay tuned!

Susan Phillips, co-editor Friends of Windsor with assistance from Rachel Niswander, Terra Corps Community Engagement Coordinator