26.3.14

SPRINGTIME DOWN EAST

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.  

27.1.14

MONDAY MISCELLANY

THIS DAY IN HISTORY

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.

video

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


JAMES P. WHITE HOUSE TO BE AUCTIONED



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


16.1.14

FOR SALE

The Bangor Public Library is housed in a handsome Beaux Arts structure designed in 1911, after a devasting fire destroyed much of the downtown, including the previous library building, from which only 29 volumes were saved.   The architects were Peabody & Stearns, one of America's finest architectural firms at the turn of the last century.  After more than a century, the building's copper roof has reached the end of its life and is being replaced, at a cost of millions.


 The showpiece of the building is a skylit central dome, ornamented by stylized acanthus leaf ornaments.  The originals are being replaced by exact reproductions, as originally designed by Peabody & Stearns, and the originals will be sold at a silent auction  by the Bangor Library on January 21st at 5:00 in the lecture hall.  Worth a bid---they are gorgeous, and the funds raised go to a good cause.

Echoes of Florence in Bangor, Maine (Wikimedia Commons)




I

22.11.13

GRAY DAY, DECORATOR'S DREAM, ROOFER'S NIGHTMARE

Probably the world doesn't need another post about Beauport, the brilliant fantasia of early Americana created at Gloucester Massachusetts by the pioneer decorator Henry Davis Sleeper in the early 20th century.  However, on a recent visit, on a gray fall day, I happened to be the ONLY visitor in the 3 PM time slot, and to experience those wonderful rooms, and the collectioins within, free of other tourists, able to truly experience Sleeper's effects of color, light and arrangement, was a superlative experience.  One is not allowed to photograph the interiors, but the high quality of restoration on the exterior and grounds, including a new cedar shingle roof---oh what nightmares the poor roofing contractor must have had---is worth a look.

For those not familiar with Beauport, please visit the website of its owner, Historic New England, HERE

One enteres through a garden house which adjoins the high brick wall separating the grounds from the public lane.

























The new house next door, which replaced 'Wrong Roof', the cottage of Sleeper's friend Caroline Sinkler after it was lost in an explosion, demonstrates all too well that one man's dream house is a neighbor's nightmare





3.10.13

TODAY'S QUIZ: One Degree of Separation


This is Nathaniel Sparhawk, wealthy merchant of Kittery Maine,  son-in-law of Sir William Pepperell, the only American baronet, as painted by John Singleton Copley in 1764 (Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston).


This is a scene from 'Lost Boundaries', starring Mel Ferrer and Beatrice Pearson, which won the award for Best Screenplay at the 1949 Cannes Film Festival.


And these are children of Frederick Woolworth, of those Woolworths, at the former family summer home in Monmouth, Maine, as featured in the August, 2012 issue of Town & Country (photograph by Susanna Howe)


And last, Darryl Hall of Hall & Oates, at his house in Maine (photo via Zimbio)



Do you know the thread that connects these disparate people across the centuries?  No fair using Google if you don't know the answer.

I connect the dots in the October issue of Portland Monthly, beginning on Page 25.  Click HERE for the article.

P.S.  Early on in the article, I use the word bravado.  I meant bravura.  Really I did.  Unfortunately, if I spell my mistake correctly, spell check can't save me from myself...