Archive for November, 2011

It’s time to play the music, it’s time to light the lights, it’s time to meet the Muppets on the Muppet Show tonight. This is a familiar tune to anyone who grew up in the 70s, 80s or even the early 90s. I have always been a Muppet fan, whether they’re on the Muppet Show or one of the movies I watched during my childhood. Heck, I even watched the Muppet Babies cartoon (and wondered why Scooter’s twin sis, Skeeter, was never actually made into a real live Muppet, and just what exactly was above Nanny’s striped stockings?), so it comes as no surprise that I was among the first in line to see to check out the newest in Muppet offerings (along with Ash, our dear friend Meems and her Mom).

The project was spear-headed by my new favorite leading man, Jason Segel (who I now want to be friends with… so Jason if you are reading this we should become friends! I promise that I’m not a freaky stalker… just a nerd who enjoys old buildings, Muppets, and travel). The best part of the whole thing? The movie was about Preservation! Oh man, can you imagine my geeky pleasure when I came to find that out? The Muppets reunites the whole brightly-colored gang to save their theater from an evil oil baron bent on claiming the black gold beneath the Muppets’ property? Now I don’t want to spoil this great film for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, but I DID want to tell you all to go out an see it soon! Not only is it good for Preservation, but it is good for the kid in all of us.

Enjoy the show.



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Hello Readers! Today’s Fantasy is a bit different, as the inspiration came to me from a Cartoon! This house is a bit of a twofer because it is Frank Lloyd Wright’s Storer House, AND the home of The Monarch and Dr. Mrs. The Monarch in the Venture Brothers, episode 304 “Home is Where the Hate Is”. In this episode, the show’s principal “villains” move to a new home in Malice, a gated community for super villains that is described as being “like Boca Raton on Halloween”. Check out the great sign for Malice, picture from AOLtv.

The moment I saw this house, I immediately saw that it was based on one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Textile Block Houses, built in the very obscure Mayan Revival style. However, there are not really any still shots of the house that are readily available, so we will look at the Storer House, one of the most famous Textile Block homes Wright designed, instead. But first, check out this still (from Adult Swim) of The Monarch looking out the window of the house, and anyone familiar with FLW will see why I was able to recognize it as a Wright House.  Great Job Venture Creators Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer for conveying that in a cartoon!.

Now, on to the Storer House. The Storer House was built in Los Angeles in 1923 for Dr. John Storer, a homeopathic doctor. It seems very appropriate that a homeopathic doctor should choose Frank Lloyd Wright as his architect, as Wright’s Modus Operandi was to create houses that were a harmonious feature of the landscape rather than a structure that dominated or subjugated the surrounding landscape, very much in line with the natural remedies and balance within the body sought in homeopathy.  Wright used precast concrete blocks with molded patterns to build his textile block houses, and could easily form the building to follow the landscape, stacking the blocks like Legos!  Add to that the fact that this is the only textile block house with four varied textures on the blocks, created by FLW with sledgehammers and other manual means, and it becomes even more intriguing and organic.
With the textures of the home, the typical Wright leaded glass windows and the great common areas with lofty ceiling heights and you’ve got a pretty great home, even though the Storer House is small for Hollywood standards (only about 3,000 square feet.) (Photos below from wikipedia, designmuseum.orgwaymarking.com and a Franklin and Marshall College webpage.)

Oh, and on a really cool side note, film producer Joel Silver (of Die Hard and The Matrix fame) purchased the home in the 80’s and did a complete restoration with the assistance of FLW’s grandson, Eric. He also added in the pool that was originally planned for the house, but never built.

Home you enjoyed this example of cartoon living inspired by Architectural History.

Happy Arching!


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Everyone has felt the effects of the recession that we’re mired in.  Add to that the rising costs of everyday necessities, including gasoline, fuel oil, clothing and food, and we have a crisis that is straining small businesses located in our historic downtowns to their limit (and sometimes, beyond their limit to the point that they’re forced to close their doors forever).  What’s more, it isn’t just small businesses feeling the pinch (look at Borders, for one).  But take heart!  There are ways to find that toaster or those tube socks or that snow shovel you’ve needed for so long without turning to the local big box store.  Consider what the townspeople of Saranac Lake, New York, have done to remedy their shopping needs:
Nestled high in the Adirondack Mountains, this town of 5,000 residents turned down the advances of WalMart, opting to establish a community-owned department store instead.  The Saranac Lake Community Store was built on shares sold $100 at a time to the same people who will be walking the aisles to find a new sweater or some aspirin, and since its interests lie exclusively in offering services to Saranac Lake, it won’t be sold up the river when an investor makes an attractive offer, or close down when its parent company gets too deep into debt.  This business model will help to keep money in the community it supports, which will help to preserve Saranac Lake as a vibrant, viable place for generations to come.

I’d like to send out an emphatic, “Great thinking, folks! Keep up the good work!” to Saranac Lake.  Here’s hoping that other small towns around our great nation that have been struggling might look to the model set by the Saranac Lake Community Store as a fresh, new idea that could breathe new life into their downtowns.

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Hello everyone. Today I wanted to share another bit of our Virginia trip with you: our stop at Barboursville.

For those who might not know, Barboursville is a ruin. The house was designed for Virginia Governor James Barbour by Thomas Jefferson. Many architecture buffs will be able to guess that this means it has an octagonal feature to it. Indeed, Barboursville had an octagonal drawing room.

Tragedy struck Barboursville on Christmas day in 1884.  The house was consumed by fire, leaving only the masonry walls, chimneys, columns and foundations.  The ruins remain today as a point of interest for Jeffersonians, architectural historians and folks who visit the vineyard established on the rolling hills surrounding the house. You can enjoy a nice wine tasting and take a small stroll around the ruins when you are done (Ash recommends their barrel-fermented Chardonnay).

I highly recommend visiting both the ruins and the vineyards for a destination which has broad appeal (not just for us architecture geeks).  You can find Barboursville Vineyards wines in many places near Barboursville, including Monticello!

Here are some photos that Ash took of the Ruins on his iPhone. Enjoy!

Have a good day.


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