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Archive for the ‘Pop Culture’ Category

This isn’t a real post, it is just an observation.

I am sitting here watching the first episode of 666 Park Avenue and the lead actress claims to have her masters in Historic Preservation. At first I think this is pretty awesome, after-all she wants to convince the owner to keep the historic features, and he actually agrees! Now me, I’m going to write an HSR (historic structures report) and possibly push rehabilitation tax credits or at least recommend the use of the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. What does she do? Go to the library…. Historic Preservationists are now library sciences majors… This isn’t entirely fair as a lot of preservationists (myself included) spend a lot of time in libraries, archives, SHPO offices and historical societies doing research but I’m  a bit disappointed that a show with a budget like this wouldn’t at least take the time to find-out what a preservationists really DOES before they go making claims.

File:The Ansonia 1.jpg

Still, isn’t this beautiful? Some basic googling tells me that this is the Ansonia on Broadway (not Park Ave) but there WAS a Drake Hotel on Park Avenue (until fairly recently), and I’ve included  a picture of it below, but I think I may want to do a more in-depth post on this lost treasure and the Ansonia later, so more to come!

Happy Sunday!

-Etta

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Happy Friday readers!  This week’s Fantasy will be especially poignant for all New England residents, people who love New England, people who love baseball, and people who love cheering for the underdog (mostly when the underdog wins in the end).  I’ll leave you to Ash’s tender care, because he begged me for the opportunity to write this particular post.

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the opening of Historic Fenway Park in Boston.  This afternoon, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the opening of our ballpark, doing the thing that we love to watch them do, playing out a rivalry as old as Fenway itself.  This year is even more auspicious, as it will be the first season we’ll watch a game played out in a bonafide historic ballpark that’s listed in the National Register of Historic Places!  Yes, you read that right.  Fenway was listed in the National Register just last month, thanks to the efforts of Fenway Sports Group and their associates, and the Massachusetts Historical Commission.  But what makes it so special?

Construction of Fenway Park began in September, 1911, and the 24,400-seat stadium opened seven months later.  On April 20, 1912, the Boston Red Sox and the New York Highlanders (a team you might recognize better by the name they were given a year later: the Yankees) faced off in a brand-new stadium in Boston’s Kenmore-Fenway neighborhood.  The Sox won that momentous very first home opener, and went on to win the 1912 World Series.  Fenway’s long and storied history has been played out by countless baseball legends, with seasons that brought both joy and heartache, triumph and trials.  From the Green Monster to the Red Seat, the manual scoreboard to Pesky’s Pole, Fenway has become an icon to Sox fans, the holy ground where they go to commune with the heart and soul of America’s pastime, to feel the presence of heroes past and present and maybe walk in their footsteps.  The park has seen its share of renovations over the years, but has remained largely unchanged, even the seating numbers haven’t changed much, with a capacity a little over 37,000.  It’s likely that the parks various quirks, such as its asymmetrical field (like many of the ballparks built during the ‘Golden Age’, Fenway was built on an asymmetrical lot, resulting in an asymmetrical field, measuring only 302 feet along the right field line to the foul pole) and “outdated” systems and features, prompted the former owners to announce a plan for the demolition and replacement of Fenway with a new, modern ballpark.  Due to public outcry, stalled negotiations with the City of Boston and the sale of the Red Sox to more sympathetic owners in 2001, that dreadful plan was dropped, to be replaced with ten years of preservation and renovation projects intending to keep Fenway running for at least 50 more years.

Now, the architecture!  Fenway was built in the Tapestry Brick style, which utilizes a combination of red brick and cast stone laid in decorative patterns to give the building visual interest.  Designed by Boston architect, James E. McLaughlin, the Yawkey Way facade, which you can see below, is an excellent example of the style, and shows how the brick is tilted, pushed and pulled on the facade surface, and woven into an aesthetic tapestry.

In 1933-34, the engineering firm responsible for designing the stands in 1912, Osborne Engineering of Cleveland, designed the expansion that extends toward Brookline Avenue.  Though more Gothic in its styling, the use of red brick, stone and arched windows blends it well with the older portions of the ballpark.

Before I wrap up, I’ll leave you with a view of the field.  After all, what’s a visit to a ballpark without seeing the place where the magic happens!?  There’s the Green Monster, the massive 37-foot left field wall that not only holds the scoreboard, but dashes many a home run hopeful’s hopes and dreams.

In closing, there’s Pesky’s Pole, the right field foul pole named after Red Sox legend, Johnny Pesky.  You can also pick out the Red Seat in the center field bleachers among a sea of blue.  That seat marks the longest recorded home run, a bomber that Ted Williams launched back in 1946 that went a distance of 502 feet! I hope you enjoyed your virtual tour of Fenway, but I highly recommend making a trip sometime, especially if you’re a baseball fan.  It’s awe-inspiring to step into a place where so much baseball history has taken place.  Have a great weekend!  Go Sox!

-Ash and Etta

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Hello Readers. Just wanted to explain my long absence in case you’ve missed me terribly.

I’ve been having some weird computer glitch-y things going on between writing, posting and editing (which has nothing to do with wordpress and everything to do with the way I  go about writing in fits and starts, but as work is busy and this blog is a spare-time thing, that is the way it goes) so as soon as I get the glitches worked out I’ll post the most recent Friday Fantasy that I have written. I do think that this will probably alter the time of day at which I post, but I don’t think it will result in anything major otherwise.

In the meantime I’m going to leave you this this little Preservation Mystery, which doubles as a pretty amazing Art Nouveau piece. The more I look at it the more I think it was designed this way….  but feel free to chime in because I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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I think it is pretty well established that I love Thomas Jefferson. I have written plenty of posts on his architecture (if you want a recap you can find them here, here and here ), so imagine my surprise when I found out that Thomas Jefferson is alive and well in Chicago, along with some of his founding father friends.

For those of you who might not know what I’m talking about, let me introduce you to my new favorite thing (I have a lot of favorite things. It’s something I have in common with Oprah… well, that and we have the same birthday). That thing is the website I Made America. “I Made America” is a website dedicated to the modern-day exploits of George Washington, John Adams, Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton,Thomas Jefferson and James Madison (who isn’t well after his trip to the here and now) and how these paragons of America are dealing with life in 2012 after being transported forward in time. Who could ever have imagined that paying an electric bill would be a task beyond the grasp of the Father of modern banking, or that Pop Tarts would hold such allure to a former French ambassador?

Here is a taste by way of the first episode.

I Made America Ep. 1

Though it’s more comedy than history, I hope you enjoy this as much as I do!

-Etta

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Good day readers and sorry for the long absence.  Are any of you as obsessed with Downton Abbey as I am? I started watching it from the very beginning, after years of being a quiet Masterpiece Theater fan, but then it just exploded this season! People are having Downton parties, dressing in 1910s fashion to hold discussion groups and mention of it has been on everyone’s lips wherever you go, so I thought that I would hop on the Downton train and give you guys the scoop on the Estate that we all know and love (though, if you haven’t watched the show yet, I forgive you). I now present to you the real-life Downtown: Highclere Castle.

Highclere Castle, like many homes belonging to English Gentry, sits on the site of a medieval palace (funny how that often seems to happen).  The earlier edifice was the residence of the Bishops of Winchester, later passing to the Carnarvon family in 1679, who have owned it since (and if you know anything about Egyptology, yes THAT Carnarvon). The house as we see it today, if one can really call it a house, was created in the 1840s. It was designed by Sir Charles Barry, the architect for the English House of Parliament. He called the house “Anglo-Italian” because he felt that it represented a melding of English and Renaissance architecture, but today we just call it Jacobethan, and it represents a style that represents a hybrid of Elizabethan and Jacobean architecture, incorporating both Renaissance Revival and 16th century English elements.

The grounds and gardens actually predate this current iteration of the house.  They  were designed by one of my all-time favorite landscape architects, Capability Brown (no offense, Fredrick Law Olmsted, you’re still my favorite American landscape architect).  Though his name wasn’t really Capability.  His given name was actually Lancelot and he was just known as Capability… but still, either one is pretty awesome, you must agree! Capability Brown was the landscape architect to have if you were in the market to build an estate. He actually relocated the village to design the grounds of Highclere, you can still see the remains of the 1689 church at the Southwest corner of the manor.

Now on to the photos, which are from Wikipedia and a blog called Friday flowers.

Well I hope you enjoyed your tour of the real Downton Abbey. A fun bit of trivia for any British TV fans out there, Highclere also served as “Totleigh Towers” the home of the Bassetts in Jeeves and Wooster, starring Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry.

Have a great weekend and enjoy Downton on PBS on Sunday.

-Etta

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Hey Readers. TGIF! Today’s Fantasy is one of the most famous homes in the country ( in the fields of Architecture, Architectural History and Historic Preservation), so I thought it might be a change of pace to share a relatively well-known house with you. Let’s take a look at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House.

The Robie House is the quintessential example of the Prairie Style, and probably the best representative of the style that Frank Lloyd Wright created in the early 1900s. The Prairie Style is characterized by an open, spacious interior layout, long horizontal lines like the landscape of the prairie, low pitched hipped roofs and long banks of windows. The goal of a Prairie building (like any FLW building) is to add to its natural setting rather than dominating it, with an emphasis on craftsmanship.

Built between 1908 and 1910, the Robie house was built for Frederick C. Robie, the 28-year-old Manager of an excelsior  supply company. Shortly after Robie and his family moved in, they had to sell the house due to financial trouble. The house was sold and re-sold several times in the following years, but Wright furnishings stayed with the house when it was sold, fortunately.  Eventually, the Chicago Theological Seminary bought the house with plans to expand their campus.  It narrowly escaped demolition twice at the hands of the Seminary, the final time in 1957, when several vocal advocates for the home, including Wright himself who was 90 years old by then, turned out to protest the demolition. The building was ultimately purchased by a friend of Wright in 1958, who donated it to the University of Chicago.  The University eventually turned over operation of the Robie House to the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust (FLWPT).  The FLWPT undertook a massive restoration that costs over 10 million dollars to bring the home back to its original understated grace and beauty.  They continue to give tours of the house and grounds weekly, Thursday-Monday.

Now for some pictures of the Robie House. (Pictures from Wikipedia)

I hope you enjoyed your architectural history lesson for the day. Have a great weekend.

-Etta

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Happy New Year Readers! Today’s Fantasy is about The Winchester Mystery House and new beginnings. It’s also kinda creepy, but that’s the way I roll so I hope you enjoy it.

The Winchester Mystery House (a huge Queen Anne Mansion in San Jose, California) is actually not as much of a mystery as it is the sad story of a grieving woman driven insane by an unscrupulous “spiritualist”, who preyed upon her pain and fears. It still makes for an interesting little architectural oddity, as well as presenting a great muse for Stephen King as the basis for the story of Rose Red ( a vampiric house that kept building itself even after its owner died by feeding on psychic energy). Being a Mainer, I love me my Master of Horror! Now onto some background!

Sarah Winchester was the wife of William W. Winchester (ya know, the one that made all the guns). In the early years of her life, Sarah was known as the “Belle of Hartford”, but after she married her life took a sad turn. Sarah gave birth to a daughter who died shortly after she was born, then her husband died of tuberculosis. Both deaths took a significant toll on Sarah, so her friends encouraged her to seek guidance from a medium and spiritualist (spiritualism was all the rage in the late 1800s, after all). So, Sarah went to a medium in Boston and was told that all of the misfortunes in her life were caused by spirits of the people who had died at the hands of men who wielded Winchester guns (naturally, instead of the easily explained high infant mortality rate of the time and the fact the there wasn’t a cure for tuberculosis yet). The medium told Sarah that the Winchester curse might be after her next!  However, there was an alternative to her demise…. If she went west to the setting sun and built a house for the vengeful spirits, then she would live a long life in peace. That’s exactly what she did without delay. Sarah moved to the Santa Clara Valley and purchased an unfinished farm house and began to make additions.  And more and more and more additions.  She continued building for the next 38 years without ceasing (that’s what a 20 million dollar inheritance would get you in the Victorian era), and she left behind what is know as the Winchester Mystery House today.

Why is it called the “Mystery House” you might ask? Well, other than the vast size of the mansion… which the New Englander in me cringes at, but it’s in California so heating it can’t be THAT bad right? The house also has some peculiar spirit confounding features such as staircases that end in walls and doors and windows that lead to nothing (except possibly to your death, if you weren’t careful). And if all those crazy architectural features weren’t enough, it is also said that Sarah slept in a different room every night just to further confound the spirits, lest one try to off her in her sleep.

Now for some pictures!There are some great photos of the quirkiness that is the Winchester Mystery House mine came from(from top to bottom): Wikipedia, Prairieghosts.com, Petticoatsandpistols.com and The Poison Forest.com,

This first photo gives you a good idea of what the house looks like today.

This next image gives you a sense of the overall scale of the house.

This next photo I call the “stairs to no-wheres”

Watch that first step, it’s a killer!

Hope you enjoyed Mrs. Winchesters “new beginning” and this bizarre tour of the Mystery house! For more information check out the Mystery House website. Have a good weekend!

-Etta

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