Archive for September, 2011

In honor of the Looking Forward Symposium tomorrow, I thought today’s Fantasy should be a continuation of the Bristol theme from Wednesday  with a post on my Favorite House in Bristol.  Sadly, I was never able to see it in person, due to its destruction in 1962, but it’s still famous among historians and architecture enthusiasts to this day.

I present to you, the William G. Low House.  A huge, sweeping single gable Shingle style home, built in 1886-1887 by McKim, Mead & White for William G. Low. Architectural Historian Vincent Scully once said that the Low house was “at once the climax and the conclusion” for Charles Follen McKim because of evolution in the firm, which tended towards the more classical leanings of Stanford White after the Low house and until his murder in 1906.  Though not well know in its own day, the Low house has since come to be known as one of the best examples of the Shingle style, and perhaps the one that bests embodies the basic tenets of the Shingle style, in other words, a return to a more organic style (far less ornamented than the previous stick and other highly ornamented styles) that was meant to look as if the building had evolved to that state over time rather than having been built as one massive structure.

Luckily the Low House was documented by HABS before it was unceremoniously burned in 1962.

The photo below is from the blog Construction 53

The photos below are from David Boucher’s blog and they are color pictures taken in the 60’s.

The last batch of photos come from the Historic American Buildings Survey

Hope you enjoyed your glimpse of this lost treasure. I may feel a small twinge every time I see it, but I still feel it is worth sharing! Perhaps it will inspire one of my wonderful readers to save an endangered structure dear to them.

Have a great weekend



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This Saturday Ash and I will be returning to our Alma-mater to attend a symposium on the future of Historic Preservation.

The symposium will be put on by Roger Williams University and Historic New England with some other sponsors from around New England including my work. As the symposium approaches I find myself more excited to return to where I first found out what Historic Preservation really meant. I promise I will give you a post on things that were discussed and how I felt about them.

For more information on the symposium go here.

Now I’ll leave you with some photos I found on Google of beautiful Bristol Rhode Island, where Roger Williams is located. Enjoy!

Hope you found Bristol as beautiful as I do!


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Hello Everyone! Today I’m going to talk about something that I have mixed feelings on: Recent Past Preservation, and since I have mixed feelings about the issue I’ve asked Ash to help me out with this post.
Recent past preservation is a growing controversy in historic preservation and architectural history.  Many (myself included, again, mixed feelings…) have derided the movement to look to the recent past (which is commonly accepted as the period encompassing the decades on either side of the National Register-mandated 50 year mark, i.e. 1951-1971 at the present) for cultural resources to preserve.  The argument has been bandied about that this period is too close to home, it’s the domain of nostalgia, and we historians can’t look on cultural resources from this period with objectivity if our view is clouded by fond recollections of our respective childhoods/teenage years/college years.  And what’s more, why should we look to the cultural resources so close to the present, when there are 17th, 18th and 19th century buildings in dire need, as is the case with our 20th century house museums that just can’t sustain the level of maintenance that was established during the halcyon days of the 50s, 60s and 70s, when the American public took pride in traveling around our country to learn of the founding generations?
If you need any proof of this rosy look on our countries founding generations look no further than this photo from Imageof.net
It has been said that a building is never in more danger than during the decades after it has reached 40 years of age.  The generation that builds values its buildings, as they recall the cost and effort that went into an edifice.  The next generation looks on the works of the previous generation with fondness, recalling the pride their parents took in those places, and the memories made during their youth.  By the third generation, many buildings have passed to new owners who don’t have the same emotional attachment, who don’t remember the pride or efforts that went into a building, or possibly even the original purpose of the building.  It may have become run down, it may be showing its age as systems wear out and materials reach the end of their life cycle.  This is the time when a building is often at greatest risk for demolition.
For example… if you didn’t recognize the house below as the Brady abode would you think it worthy of Preservation?
Not to go on at length, but recent past preservationists have considered these issues, and have stepped in to guide our cultural resources forward from questionable old places that are down on their luck to treasured landmarks that can be looked upon with pride for decades and centuries to come.  What’s more, mainstream preservationists are looking to the recent past as the new area for study rather than other periods, since the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries were all the focus of the 20th century, so architectural historians have begun to look back on the 20th century from our 21st century vantage point.  Mind you, I’m not advocating the preservation of every Ranch home and every gas station and every school ever built!  Nor are recent past preservationists.  We preservationists (regardless of period) advocate taking a second look, reconsidering the value of a place, the history of a place, and even the building materials and craftsmanship that could be lost if a fairly recent building is demolished.  What will we remember about the 1950s if every drive-in theater is demolished?
The awesome neon-light display below is from Ohio.com (but the drive-in is actually in California… go figure)
So, I tend to rant about topics.  I apologize.  To make up for my lengthy discourse, here’s an interesting example of recent past preservation ideals in action: Lustron Preservation.  These folks have brought together a community of people dedicated to the preservation of Lustron houses, which were developed in the Post-WWII era as an answer to the housing crisis as GIs came home to start families and needed their piece of the American Dream.
insert photo
Photo courtesy of BFDhD.

Lustron homes were built entirely from enameled steel, including the interior and exterior walls, the windows, the doors and the roof!  Lustron is one of those unique Post-war ideas amid a sea of bland ranches and Leavitt-inspired Capes and split-levels that eventually flooded the housing market in the 50s, which is what makes them an architectural gem.  Sadly, only 2,680 Lustron homes were ever built, and nearly half of those have since been demolished.  So, intrepid enthusiasts of Lunstron took notice and have brought together info on their favorite historic resources and formed a community for other enthusiasts, Lustron owners and admirers of enameled steel living.

So what do you think? Is there a Lustron home in your future?

-Etta & Ash

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It’s been a good day today. The Transportation Enhancement program will be sticking around for another six months thanks to the Senate.

Read a bit more about it in this Preservation Nation Blog

I thought I’d share photos of these beautiful transportation resources in celebration.  The Keystone Arch bridges in Middlefield, Massachusetts are remarkable, entirely dry-laid stone edifices built to carry the Western Railroad over the Westfield River.  These soaring arches were constructed in 1840 and carried rail traffic for over 100 years.  Today, they stand sentinel over Massachusetts’ first-designated Wild and Scenic River on a bypassed section of the original 1840 railroad grade, which serves as an unbelievable trail for viewing the splendor of nature and man-made marvels side-by-side.  Providing access to natural and architectural treasures like these is what the Transportation Enhancements program is all about, and it can continue to bring the American public closer to our vast and unique country as long as we continue to support it.

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Hello Everyone! Happy Monday.  I apologize for the delayed post, but things were very busy at Old Stuff, Inc. last Friday, and I kept getting pulled away from the computer.  Without any further ado, on with the show (and tell).

Today’s Fantasy comes to us right out of the pages of  the A.J.’s (Andrew Jackson Downing and Alexander Jackson Davis).  Both of the A.J.’s were big proponents of the Gothic Revival style.  A.J. Downing, who is regarded as the father of modern Landscape Architecture in addition to being a prominent Gothic Revival architect, felt that every American has the right to a good, solid and attractive home, and therefore, proceeded to design three types of homes: Villas, Cottages and Farm Houses. These three dwelling archetypes, which appeared in his book, Cottage Residences, were intended to offer a home that could meet anyone’s needs. Villas for the wealthy, Cottages for working class townsfolk and Farmhouses for farmers.  Downing also though that beautiful home design effected the morals and civility of the homeowner, and that beautiful homes would lead to a better citizenry, which would lead to a better America.  A.J. Davis was a noted architect at the time and together the two were practically responsible for the Gothic Revival Movement in America.

Today’s house is Roseland Cottage in Woodstock, Connecticut, which is owned and operated by Historic New England.  It looks so idyllic it might as well be a lithograph plucked from the pages of Cottage Residences. Combine that with its Downing-principled landscape and Roseland Cottage is a dream home for all, whether you’re a steam punk enthusiast, a Poe lover or an Anglophile (and many other categories in between).

Roseland Cottage was built in 1846 as a summer cottage for Henry and Lucy Bowen. Henry Bowen, a native son of Woodstock, made his fortunes in New York City as a purveyor of silks, ribbons, lace and other fancy goods.  Once he had established himself in business, married, and started a family, Bowen sought to create a retreat from the summer heat, while also renewing his ties to his childhood home.  Bowen commissioned English-born architect Joseph C. Wells to create the cottage and landscape, and Wells gave him this Gothic Revival style masterpiece, complete with a naturalistic landscape straight from Downing’s books, and a boxwood parterre garden the likes of which would be more commonly found on a French estate.

The house and grounds were enjoyed by three generations of the Bowen family before Historic New England bought it from them, in order to preserve this 19th century treasure.

Much more info can be found at Historic New England’s website, along with more photos.

Have a Great Week!


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Hey everyone.

This post is a quick PSA.

It seems that funding is being cut everywhere you look in the current economic climate. However, Preservation doesn’t get much funding to begin with, and it seems even more of our funding is now in jeopardy.  The Transportation Enhancements Program may be on the chopping block and we Preservationists and Preservation enthusiasts need to speak up to save it!  This program has helped to preserve historic roads and bridges, to enhance historic downtown streetscapes, to maintain scenic and historic parkways and byways, and to rehabilitate and revitalize historic transportation resources that would have otherwise been abandoned or demolished.  It is the single largest funding source for historic preservation in the country, and has helped to save countless resources, from historic railroad stations and freight sheds, to stone arch bridges, to the acquisition of scenic easements to preserve our historic battlefields.  Examples of the great things that Transportation Enhancement funding has accomplished can be found at the National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse

For more information and a handy link to email your Senator, please visit this Preservation Nation Blog.

With so few jobs in our relatively small field, and with museums and historic interest groups reeling from the recent loss of funding to programs like Save America’s Treasures, the Preservation field desperately needs to save what little Federal funding remains, to keep professionals at work.  In a field that has been working over the past 40-plus years to gain the trust and assistance of state and local officials and the general public, working to ensure the preservation of our national, regional and local identity, and striving to be seen as more than the group of crazed anti-progress zealots often referred to as the “hysterical society”, we need all of the professional guidance and funding available.  Don’t get me wrong, volunteers are wonderful people and can often be the difference between a Preservation project succeeding or languishing indefinitely, but Preservation in this country can’t be accomplished by volunteers alone, and the sort of funding that keeps people in our field working is disappearing rapidly!

So, please get in touch with your Senator and let them know that the Transportation Enhancement Program is one that our country needs!


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Hello Readers.

If you are anything like a lot of Preservationists (or Old House enthusiasts, if you don’t feel you fall under the Preservationist label), chances are, you like to look at historic houses for sale. Whether or not you’re actually in the market, sometimes it’s just nice to dream!

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has a great page where they list historic homes for sale,  They even have a  weekly blog that features some of the properties.  Here’s a recent post.

Now that you know of a couple of ways to kill an hour (or more) day-dreaming about what life would be like in these gorgeous homes, I’m going to feature something a bit closer to home for me, because I like to daydream. Fair warning, though!  I’ve been on a First Period/Georgian jag recently and this affects my choices…. Oh, and another warning…. please don’t hate me if you fall in love with this house immediately and start scheming up ways to sell your firstborn child in exchange for the amazing Samuel Davis House. Just in case you have an extra $800k lying about and you promise to at least give me a tour (or you want to get me an early Christmas gift….), here is a proper listing for the house. This listing is where many of these pictures are from, but there are more for you to ogle, if you actually go to the listing.

The Davis House was built in around 1680. It’s a fabulous Salt Box (have I mentioned my love of salt-boxes before?) and appears to be in pristine even “museum quality” condition… if you speak Realtor.

Can’t you just see your replica pewter tankards and redware in that corner cupboard? (Okay… maybe Ash and I are some of only a handful of people with replica pewter and redware… but you get the point)

Wallace Nutting called, he wants his photo-shoot back! Still though… Check out that hearth, even the gun seems “quaint” (again I’m channeling my inner Realtor).

And just in case you want to go fully Authentic, there is plenty of room on the grounds for you to plant your cuttings garden, so you can practice natural dying for your homespun textiles, flower and herb drying and midwifery!
Well, that’s all for today everyone, and I sincerely apologize for any drooling that your day-dreaming may cause!
Have a great weekend!

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