Archive for August, 2011

Hello readers,

Tropical Storm Irene is over and Ash and I came out of it relatively well, with just a few downed branches.  Everyone we know is safe and sound, and that is the important part (though my prayers go out to the families that did lose loved ones).

Today’s post will be very quick, as things are in disaster recovery mode here at Old Stuff, Inc., which coincides with tax credit submissions this time around, so things are hectic here to say the least!  I wanted to take a moment to put the spotlight on Vermont.  Vermont suffered worse than any other New England state due to extreme flooding from the storm, and there are some towns that are still underwater, or cut off from everything because of damaged roads and bridges!

They also lost one historic covered bridge (the Bartonsville bridge was swept away by the Williams River) and the Quechee bridge  is barely hanging, on as you can see below:

I’d like to give a quick shout out to blogger (Kaitlin) at Preservation in Pink and many of my Preservation School classmates up there who are based out of Vermont. I was glad to hear that everyone was safe, but I know they have a lot of dehumidifying to do and river sludge to clean up.  Good luck with the long recovery process, you guys! You’re in my thoughts.  I’d also like to ask any of my readers out there to give a hand to the good people of Vermont if they are able.  I know that any kind of support will be well appreciated.

Oh and here is a link to an article on the damage sustained by Vermont’s covered bridges in the Burlington Free Press (where the picture above came from).

Stay dry and be safe, Vermonters and everyone else in states that saw damage from Irene!  If you were lucky to come out unscathed, like Ash and I, please try to help out in any way that you can!



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Happy Friday readers!

Since Hurricane Irene is currently bearing down on my doorstep, I’ve decided to bring you a hurricane edition of Friday Fantasies.  As we don’t get hurricanes a lot where I am, I’ve decided to take you to hurricane central: Florida, and that can really only mean one thing, folks… Art Deco! Yes, that glorious style that was ubiquitous during the 1920s and 30s that brings to mind shiny platinum, zig-zags and aero-planes.  It’s a style that is know for its creative melding of futurist, almost cubist, lines with sumptuous decorative motifs often drawing inspiration from Egyptian and Aztec roots, such as the great photo below from peacfulresources.com.  Here, acanthus leaves are woven into the sleek lines of the door surround along with geometrical designs, beneath a wide cornice, creating the impression of a grand entrance to an Egyptian temple, for a signature Art Deco look.

Now, I know I’ve wandered a little bit and haven’t introduced today’s Fantasy yet, but that’s because I want you to have a little background on one of my favorite styles before I do!  For any of my Preservation friends out there, you may be a little surprised to hear me admit that anything built after the turn of the 18th century is my favorite (as I am  well known for my distaste for Frank Lloyd Wright and other architects that I consider to have designed “new” architecture.  Yes, I realize that it makes me a bad Preservationist, but everyone is a hypocrite in one way or another…) but Art Deco is, in my opinion, the last great style, and  everything starts to go downhill after that, in my opinion. Which is not so say that there were no good buildings built after the 1930s, it’s just that I think they are fewer and farther between.  But anyway, on with the mini history lesson!  We begin post-WWI: Europe, finding itself broken and lacking a lot of architectural stock, as a result of the war that had just ravaged much of the continent, decided it is time to rebuild.  Since they have been known for their design prowess since the early days of the Ecole des Beaux Arts, the French really take the helm.

“Ah, but ‘ow shall we rebuild, mon petite chou?” They ask as they smoke their cigarettes and absently munch on their baguettes (I imagine, because in my head they are sitting in a cafe under the still-newish Eiffel Tower, sipping wine and speaking in an out-ra-geous French ack’sent). The answer? They design a combination of old and new. Neoclassical and Egyptian motifs mingled with sleek lines and bold geometry, in a very Picasso meets Pythagoras way. The biggest boost for Art Deco occurred in 1925, with the International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Art , where Art Deco reached its apex and was reflected in everything from jewelry and graphic art to architecture, as it reflected a change from the flowing, organic lines of Art Nouveau to the sleek lines of the new futurist and cubist styles that were taking hold. All of this culminated to a style that we Americans recognize most readily in the Chrysler Building. Surprisingly, Art Deco also took hold in a rather surprising place: Florida.  This trend brought about the development of blocks of Art Deco buildings in places such as Miami and South Beach, where they still exist to this very day. That brings us finally to today’s Friday Fantasy: The Carlyle Hotel in Miami. Now, to some, a hotel might not seem like much of a Fantasy, but I’m given to believe (from my extensive television viewing and book reading) that some people actually live in hotels (people like Harvey from USA’s new series, “Suits”, and precocious little Eloise from her book adventures).  That being said, why not fantasize about living in a great hotel?

The Image Below is an historic postcard of the Carlyle from the Drexel Grapevine:

You may recognize the Carlyle as titular nightclub from the movie, “The Bird Cage” . A number of other movies have also been shot at the Carlyle, and for a list of those movies, you can check out this website dedicated to the Carlyle.

Built in 1939 (admittedly pushing toward the end of the Art Deco era), it took its place among a block of Deco buildings known as Ocean Drive (they have fabulous neon at night).  It’s not anywhere near as isolated as seen above. Another interesting design point on the Carlyle: the condos inside look just as sleek and modern as the outside. Explore the website I linked above for more info.

Here is a more recent photo of the Carlyle from the hotel’s Website. If I am ever in Miami this is where I’d like to Stay:

Well that’s all for today, ladies and gents! Stay Dry!


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Good afternoon readers. I had intended to post yesterday, but then a funny thing happened. Our building starting shaking!  I’m sure that any West Coast readers I may have won’t find this to be a big deal at all, but to someone who is used to the earth NOT moving under her feet, it took me a moment and much Google-ing to realize I had just experienced an earthquake, and not a spell of the vapors.
The Earthquake of course made me think about this little gem:


Still, it also made me think about historic buildings (especially Monticello and Montpelier, which are quite close to the epicenter, not to mention buildings in D.C.) that might be damaged in the wake of natural disasters.  Since I’ve done a post on natural disasters before, I’ll just link to it here, but I do want to point out that Montpelier suffered no lasting damage and leave you with this link. I’m still looking for Monticello articles, but I haven’t found any yet. I assume little damage was suffered there either.
Also, here is a link to an article in the Washington times that details the damage to the National Cathedral.
Oh, and a friendly little reminder that Preservation Brief 41 details seismic retrofitting!
Keep your feet on solid ground.


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Happy Friday, Readers.

In today’s post, I’m going to get a bit ‘ye olde’ on you… True, it won’t really be medieval because, well, I’m keeping it in the US today, but since today’s fantasy is a ‘Castle’, it just feels right to say. So, mount your faithful steed, lower the visor on your helm and prepare yourself for a visit to Gillette Castle in Connecticut.

Gillette Castle originally called Seventh Sister (for the chain of hills the estate occupied) was built by eccentric American actor, William Gillette (probably best know for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes) in 1914.  He died with no heirs, so the State of Connecticut took over the property in 1943. It is now the Gillette Castle State Park, and after an $11 million restoration, it’s open to the public.

This first Photo is of the main facade of the castle. The photo comes to us from the website, “Popular wealth”.

The next photo is a different elevation.  The photo is from the Dupont Castles Website, which is a neat website for all those readers out there who couldn’t get enough of David Macaulay’s Castle as a kid (not just me and Ash, right?)

Below is an interior shot, also from Dupont Castles:

The final interior picture is the grand Arts and Crafts style staircase. This photo comes from the ctrivervalley website.

Hope you enjoyed getting medieval! If you’re in or around East Haddam, CT, make sure you stop by Gillette Castle State Park and check this treasure out.


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Around my office at Old Stuff Inc. and even before, when I was in school, I would often come across the work of a fellow Preservationist or a group and I would be so excited by their work that I would develop what I like to call a “Preservation Crush” on the person or project. Over the years, I have had a number of “Preservation Crushes,”  but on that I think has stuck me through the years is Jane Jacobs. (But really who doesn’t have a Preservation Crush on her?)

Why do I bring this up, you might ask? Well, the other day a co-worker (one that I wouldn’t expect to listen to my silly flights of fancy) came up to me and said, “You know how you have what you call “Preservation Crushes”? “Well, I think I have one.” Then, he proceeded to tell me about a woman who works on a Local Historical Commission in a town that he had recently had a project in. What’s the point, you ask? Well… it’s that I started a trend! (insert evil maniacal laughter here) To continue that trend, I want to know: Who is your “Preservation Crush” and why? Kindly consider this a poll and leave your answers in the comments.

Have a good one!


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Happy Friday everyone! Since it’s beautiful and summery here I thought that today would be a great day to introduce camping into the Friday Fantasies. I know what your thinking… “Tents aren’t really Fantasy Homes, Etta. Maybe excluding Bedouin tents, and Wizard’s tents in Harry Potter, but as far as camping goes, what is there really to fantasize about?” Well, my friends, today I give you Camp Topridge of the Adirondacks: (Photo from AARCH)

Before I give you some background on Topridge, I should first introduce you to the history of the Adirondack Lodges.  Topridge is hardly an isolated gem, but is in fact part of a larger collection of “Great Camps” that are a product of ultra-wealthy 19th century socialites wanting to “rough it” and enjoy a retreat in nature.  What better way to do that than to build a gigantic log and stone compound in the middle of the mountains?

The construction of the  Great Camps first started shortly after the Civil War, with the construction of W.W. Durant’s Pine Knot on Raquette Lake.  It was intended to blend in with its surrounds by being constructed of local lumber and stones, and incorporating decorative branches and natural elements to reflect the beauty of the natural landscape and enhance the rustic feel, rather than relying on the elaborately carved details popular with high-style architecture during that period.  In addition, when more space was required, it was decided that rather than adding another wing to the Main Lodge, smaller ancillary buildings should be added a short distance away (so they would be easy to get to in bad weather), creating a compound rather than just one huge log home. This had the added benefit of fire protection and a community feel, that also offered privacy.

Now that you know a bit about the ideas behind the “Great Camp” style, we will move on to a bit of history on Topridge, which exists as it is today thanks to the daughter of  C.W. Post (yes, that C.W. Post, the creator of Grape Nuts), Marjorie Merriweather Post. Marjorie bought the property in 1923  and worked with architect Theodore Blake and local builder Ben Muncil to enlarge it and turn it into what it is today. Originally, the house could only be reached by water (though Post later built a road) and once you reached land, you had to take a funicular (or incline railway) to get to the Main Lodge at the top of a ridge.

Because Funiculars are so cool (and the word is awesome) here is a picture of one I found on google:

And while the main lodge at Topridge is amazing, I’m quite fond of some of its smaller buildings, such as its boathouses and guest houses, like those seen below: (Also from Wikipedia)

Sadly for us, Topridge is privately-owned by a Real Estate mogul from Texas. But there is a bright side!  There are many Great Camps in the Adirondacks that are open to the public. In fact, Adirondacks Architectural Heritage (AARCH) has preserved the Great Camp, Santinoni, and offers a number of great tours that you should check out the next time you are in the Adirondacks! Check out AARCH’s website.

Well that’s it for today. Have a great weekend everyone!


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I’ve been reading a lot about the London riots, and as a Preservationist I have to say I’m concerned not only for the social implications but also for the repercussions of the rioting on the UK’s built heritage, and so I got to thinking….

Once upon a time, I went to England to participate in a British National Trust working holiday. On this working holiday, I worked on an island off the coast of Devon (Lundy Island to be exact) rebuilding dry-laid stone walls and digging ditches (seriously) and various other maintenance tasks that needed to be done on Lundy. During this week long holiday, I met some great people and got an interesting prospective on how Preservation works in a country that has what many would consider “ancient” heritage. For example, part of our job was “Rhodie” Bashing (and no I don’t mean making fun of the state of Rhode Island), a task that consisted of eradicating century-old rhododendron bushes that were as big as trees and would be considered historic treasures in this country, but there, all the Rhodies managed to do was choke out an endemic species of plant that was the only food source for a species of beetle, and therefore, they had to go.  Plus, there’s a 13th century castle and the remains of an Iron Age settlement on the island.  Ancient heritage.

Below is a photo from my trip. It’s a view of the local pub and the church can be seen behind it. This is “down-town” Lundy.

I realize I’ve digressed a little, but the point is, I got to know a bit about the British National Trust and some of the great work they do, and that got me thinking… I wonder what the British National Trust is doing in light of the rioting. Then it dawned on me that they could provide a unique solution to part of the problem over there, which, as I understand it, is young people rioting because they are poor. Well, wouldn’t it be great if some of these poor kids could get some skills and then they could work to better their situation? Since they’ve caused all this damage to businesses and homes all over London and other cities, shouldn’t it stand to reason that they should be responsible for cleaning it up and fixing what they’ve damaged? I think so… so here is my big idea. The arrested “hoodies” or “ASBOs” or whatever you want to call them, could be given some sort of probation arrangement, provided that they attend trade classes for technical Preservation and Restoration (put on by the Trust… or an entity similar to the Trust) and then they use those skills to restore and rebuild the damage they caused.  Then, after it’s all done, they have a marketable skill to use to earn some money and improve their place in society.

I know that there are myriad of niggling little details that would need to be worked out for this plan to succeed, but it’s an interesting premise anyway. So, to my reading audience across the pond… What do you think? You’re in my thoughts.


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