Janet Hutchinson, 89, partner of Villager editor
By Albert Amateau
Janet Hutchinson, who wrote for The Villager at various times over a 30-year span and whose free-spirited career included public relations, art galleries and museums, died Sept. 27 at the age of 89 in Stuart, Fla., where she lived since 1965.
She became the devoted friend and business associate of Emeline Paige, a columnist, reporter and editor of The Villager off and on from 1934 to 1967. Paige and Janet Hutchinson shared a house in Stuart from 1965 until Paige’s death in 2003 at the age of 98.
In 1961, Hutchinson, with her son, Jefferson Siebert, then 7 years old, and Paige, spent the winter as caretakers of the Merchant’s House Museum and lived in the historic house at 29 E. Fourth St.
Mary Knapp, historian for the Merchant’s House, recalled that Hutchinson, as a reviewer for The Villager, had become friendly with Provincetown Playhouse actors who would gather round the piano in the mansion’s parlor and sing while Paige, an accomplished musician, played.
“It was great. I loved living in that house,” recalled Jefferson Siebert in a telephone interview last week. “One of the papers, I think it was the Mirror, did a story about me at the time ‘The Boy Who Lives in a Museum.’ Emeline and my mother were on the cutting edge of women doing whatever they wanted to do. They were feminists before the word was coined,” Siebert said.
Janet Hutchinson was 10 years old when her parents, who came to New York from Washington, D.C. where her father, Lewis Hutchinson, was a patent attorney sent her to Paige in the Village for a piano lesson. Although she was not much of a musician, she became a fast friend of Paige, who was 13 years older.
In 1936, Hutchinson organized Hutchinson Associates, a public relations firm, with Paige as a partner. In 1945, she married Harold Siebert, an officer in the Merchant Marine, but they were divorced in 1954.
Hutchinson and Paige went to South Portland, Me., in 1955, where they conducted their public relations business and ran an art gallery. They moved to Camden, Me., 100 miles north of Portland, in 1957 and ran a bed and breakfast with an art gallery.
In Camden, they conducted the public relations campaign for the premiere of “Payton Place,” a major film shot in Camden adapted from a best-seller novel about sexual liaisons in a small New England town.
“My mother knew Bette Davis, who had a summer house in Portland, and asked Bette to come up to Camden for the premiere. She said, ‘Sure,’ and it was a big success,” said Siebert. Davis wasn’t in the film but her presence at the opening in a Maine resort town was a public relations coup.
Hutchinson and Paige would come back to the Village periodically when the Bryants, the husband and wife who owned The Villager, called on Paige to return as editor, with Janet Hutchinson doing reviews and feature articles. It was during one of those sojourns that the Merchant House board of directors asked Paige to suggest a temporary caretaker for the deteriorating historic house in a then-unsafe neighborhood just off The Bowery.
In 1965, Janet Hutchinson moved to Stuart, Fla., where she ran the Elliott Museum, a collection of Americana and contemporary art. Two years later, Emeline Paige joined her. Together they wrote and edited a History of Martin County, the county where Stuart is located.
Her son is her only surviving near relative. Aycock Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.