My morning distraction was set in motion by an 18th century engraving of the Cabinet de Treillage at the Petite Trianon at Versailles.

I'm something of a geek (I could stop there, but do let's soldier on) about how designs travel and how they are re-invented in each iteration.

In 1799, Samuel McIntire, a self-taught carver, carpenter, and architect in Salem, Massachusetts, was engaged in his largest residential project, one of the grandest houses of its era in America, for the merchant Elias Hasket Derby.  

The program included a summer house for the garden, and this sketch by McIntire, for a Palladian-inspired garden folly, is thought to be a preliminary sketch for that structure.

Photograph of Derby-Beebe summer house by Joel Abroad, via Flickr Creative Commons

However, as built, the garden house had a flat roof with balustrade, ornamented with 8 urns carved by McIntire.  It is a charming structure, with the refined naive elegance and economy of design that typifies the architecture of New England of that era, wood standing in for the stone that would have been used in Europe.  And this is why the engraving electrified me this morning, for it appears that Mr. McIntire had got his hands upon a book of French designs, as in a departure from his usual Palladian and neo-classical inspiration, he seems to have based the design on the Cabinet de Treillage.  Or perhaps it's mere coincidence?

Cabinet de Treillage, Versailles

Coincidence or inspiration, the two buildings have unmistakable similarities of composition.  For your final consideration, I offer up this charming storefront, designed for the Pennel, Gibbs and Quiring decorating firm in Boston in the early 20th century.  By architects doubtless Beaux Arts trained, it takes the idea of the Derby-Beebe summer house and dresses it up in correct Academic orders (the treillage pavilion uses trellised pilasters of no particular order, and the summer house uses Corinthian, properly not for lower floors), but the design still appears to owe a debt to the earlier building in Salem--although a learned friend disagrees with me, I stick by this.  I leave it to the interested reader to draw his own conclusions.

When Elias Derby's great house fell to the wreckers, not many years after it was built, the summer house was moved to a family farm in Wakefield, later acquired by the Beebe family.  In the 20th century, the summer house was removed from the farm and returned to Salem, to the grounds of the Peabody-Essex Museum. Derby had another summer house designed by McIntire on his Danvers estate, which was spared demolition and traveled to his Granddaughter's "Glen Magna Farm", where it remains today..  It is one of the most exquisite buildings of the Early Republic, and spawned its own host of imitators, including wings of a cottage in Bar Harbor.  But that is a story for another day.



On a quick  outing with an observant friend to the near Down East (Winter Harbor and Gouldsboro), I particularly captivated by the textures and pattern details of many of the buildings we saw.

Above, the residence hall at the former U.S. Navy Radio and Direction Finding Station on Schoodic Point at Winter Harbor, Grosvenor Atterbury Architect, 1905, commissioned by John D. Rockefeller to replace the old Fabbri Station at Otter Cliffs in Acadia National Park.

Below, the West Gouldsboro Union Church, 1894.  The parquetry work in the ceiling is especially wonderful.

Next door, a the wonderful little Tudorbethan Gouldsboro Library, designed by Fred Savage in 1906.  One of my personal fantasies is a single room private library in the garden.  This one would do just fine.  I'm sorry I couldn't get photos of the handsome interior.

Above, stonework at the Channing Chapel, Unitarian, in Winter Harbor, built as a gift in 1887 by summer resident David Flint of Boston.  The rocks, a mixture of field stone and beach rock, were transported in winter across frozen ground, and laid by a master mason, whose name is momentarily lost in the files.  The Chapel is now the Winter Harbor Library.

Below, stonework, also a mix of old stone wall salvage and beach stones, on a 1902 private cottage.  A friend has reason to speculate that the stonework may be by the same mason as the Channing Chapel.  I think he may be right.

Stone and shingle, the classic Maine summer combination, at 'Far From the Wolf' the 1892 John Godfrey Moore cottage on Grindstone Neck, by W.W. Kent of New York, one of the finest shingle style cottages,  in a crowded competition, on this remote stretch of coast.



In the year since I last posted, there has been a veritable landslide of demand for my return (at least 3 people and a dog at last count), so I promise, there will be a new post soon---very soon.
"Will the Dilettante ever return?  He'd better bring me a treat when he does"
For those who wonder, I have been kept from writing by life's caprices, as well as other challenges and commitments---as here, where I am seen as auctioneer's assistant at a charity auction last weekend (Vanna White wasn't available).

The event in question was a fundraiser for the 200th anniversary of the Holt House, the beautiful Federal house that is now home of the local Historical Society.  The portrait I am holding is of an ancestress of the auctioneer, and came with a joke whose punchline was "And my grandmother would then alway point at that picture and say "isn't she a handsome woman".

I know there's another joke here....but I'll leave it up to the reader.

"Isn't she a handsome woman"
Inspecting the wares.  I bought the very chic chair at the left.  Never met a chair I didn't like.
This Victorian sofa, rather a fine example of its type, but in a style rarely popular in today's trend-driven markets is still available; proceeds for a good cause.
The Holt House, a grace note in the center of our village for 200 years.



Several people have sent kind emails lately, asking why I've been blogging so little---the short answer is that I have several small projects that require big attention, always a problem for those of us easily distracted by shiny objects.

And then, there's the weather.  A week into Spring, this is the scene from the top of our little mountain today at about noon-thirty.  The blizzard moved out quickly---and by 6:30, all was clear.  And cold.  And windy.

A friend, a man of great scientific and technological abilities (and the common sense to be in Florida for the winter), has a weather station from which Wunderground.com picks up our local forecast (it doesn't get much better than being predicted from 1.5 miles away).  The reports for months have been uniformly dreary.  I emailed said friend, asking him if he couldn't adjust the equipment to predict higher temperatures and sunnier skies.  I knew it wasn't possible (as you can see below), but desperate times call for desperate measures.  He did re-assure me that he understood the temperature would be warmer in June.

That big white patch isn't a snowy meadow.  It's the frozen inner Harbor.  Did I mention that we are a week into Spring?  That in just seven weeks, Lilacs should be opening?

I've recently received a couple of interesting design books to review.  Maybe, if I can stir myself out of this torpor....but first, I have to remove this latest snow from the walks and steps.

Below, the forecast for the first week of April.  




Fifty years ago today, the estimable Margaret Chase Smith, the Republican Senator from Maine who helped bring down Senator Joseph McCarthy's reign of terror with her famous 'Declaration of Conscience' speech, gave another speech, this one at the Women's National Press Club in response to rumors that she might run for President.  Here is an excerpt from that speech, dry, succinct, and deadpan.


Although the event has gone unmarked in the Maine dailies, this excellent story about her campaign appeared two days ago in the Wall Street  Journal  HERE

An interesting online exhibit about the campaign, complete with hats is found HERE

And the Dilettante on the subject of Senator Smith HERE


One of Maine's finest Greek Revival houses, the James P. White house in Belfast, will be up for bank auction tomorrow.  Listed on the National Register of Historic Place, the house is stunningly sited on a triangular plot of land at the intersection of Church and High Streets, with a gazebo at the apex, and the house set well back in grounds that retain a romantic air of the 19th century, enclosed by the remains of a superb cast iron fence utilizing anthemion designs.

Photographs above from The Historic American Buildings Survey.
Architectural historian Earle Shettleworth, the Director of the State Historic Preservation Commission, has traced the likely inspiration for Ryder's design, with its central pavilion and cupola, to a plate in Minard Lefever's Young Builder's Assistant, and that design in trun to a villa by John Nash in Regent's Park in London.

From 'The Young Builder's Assistant', Minard Lefever
Inside, a sweeping staircase curves to the second floor, and carved woodwork echoes the anthemion motif first seen on the fence outside.  

Photos above, all uncredited, are either from White House Inn's Facebook Page, or Sotheby's website.
Literally and figuratively, the house sits at a crossroad, for we can no longer depend, in this era where everyone seems to be driven to 'improve' what doesn't need improving, that the extraordinary integrity of house and site will remain untouched.  The property has been used as a bed & breakfast in recent years, and (and has the decor to prove it---who thought picking out the carving on woodwork in gold was a good idea?), and earlier was for sale for $870,000, before foreclosuRe proceedings. Though the neighborhood is residential, apparently many of the queries have been commercial---and of course, even replacement windows could affect the integrity of the design.  Keep your fingers crossed for a good result at the auction.  More details about the auction HERE