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Posts Tagged ‘National Park Service’

Happy Friday Readers. Sorry for the extended absence but I’m back now.  I was gone for so long because I attended a National Park Service Training event in Baltimore (and then had to catch-up at work). I had a great time and got a lot of valuable information, so I wanted to share some of what I saw and learned in Baltimore with you.  So, in honor of my recent trip, today’s Fantasy isn’t a house, but a National Treasure, which, in fact, noted Architectural Historian Vincent Scully is said to have called “the most perfect church in North America.”  Today, I give you the Baltimore Basilica, America’s first Cathedral.

Built in 1806-1821, the Basilica was designed by Benjamin Latrobe.  Latrobe is often called the Father of American Architecture, or America’s first Architect.  (Also known for the Bank of Pennsylvania,  and The Latrobe gate at the Navy Yard) In addition to Latrobe’s remarkable design work, the construction project was overseen by Bishop Carroll, head of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, who wanted a Neoclassical church (a style he considered to be “American”) to reflect the Neoclassical capitol of this budding nation at Washington, DC. Latrobe was the perfect choice for this project, as he was an admirer of Thomas Jefferson’s architectural views, a fact that is evidenced in his book, Thomas Jefferson: Architect of the Capitol.  Jeffersonian Neoclassicism is clearly reflected in the Basilica, specifically the skylights in the dome ( a design element that Jefferson insisted on for the Capitol Building). Carroll’s initial idea and Latrobe’s design eventually went on to become America’s First Cathedral, and later, a National Historic Landmark.

The Basilica underwent restoration in 2004-2006, in anticipation of the church’s bicentennial celebration.  The restoration work proposed what was called a “return to Latrobe’s vision,” which is somewhat controversial amongst Preservationists, as the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation state that, “Each property shall be recognized as a physical record of its time, place, and use. Changes that create a false sense of historical development, such as adding conjectural features or architectural elements from other buildings shall not be undertaken,” and ” Most properties change overtime; those changes that have acquired historic significance in their own right shall be retained and preserved.” However, since Preservation is a pretty fluid discipline and involves a lot of theory, there are also those who believe that the the Restoration was a success… Still, whatever your stance, no one can deny the fact that the Basilica is a beautiful building and an important part of American Architectural History.

Don’t believe me? See for yourself:

(Photo below from http://www.baltimorebasilica.org)

Image of an historic section drawing of the church from BaltimoreArchitecture.org

Hope you enjoyed the Baltimore Basilica. I will be adding more photos a bit later when I get them off my camera. Check back in for the update soon.

-Etta.

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Happy Friday readers!

In anticipation of the upcoming long weekend and Memorial Day holiday (or the day we honor those who died in our nation’s service, for those non-US readers), I wanted to bring you something that really symbolized the holiday and honored the sacrifice of those who fought bravely for freedom. While there are some pretty amazing monuments out there, none of them really seemed to fit the bill as they are more structure and less dwelling. Then I got to thinking about what we do to celebrate Memorial Day and I remembered that we place flags on the graves of those we honor, which led me to think about cemeteries, and one in particular: Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C.  (The cemetery is located in Arlington,  VA not  Washington D.C., even though people tend to think of it as DC,  but just go with me anyway).  I had the privilege of visiting the National Cemetery during a band trip when I was in 8th grade  (I played the Bass Clarinet which is generally awesome, just FYI). The one thing that stood out most on the tour to me was not the Memorial Amphitheater (though it was beautiful) or the Eternal Flame (which was also something to behold) or even the sacred Tomb of the Unknowns. No, it was the Mansion in the cemetery that no-one seemed to be talking about. As a budding Preservationist, I REALLY wanted to see that house.  Fast-forward a few years and I came to find out that house is Arlington House, the former home of General Robert E. Lee. (Photo Below from  The National Park Service, NPS)

The mansion was built for George Washington Parke Custis, Martha Washington’s grandson and adopted ‘son’ of George Washington, in 1802.  Custis hired English architect George Hadfield to design Arlington House, and he lived in the Greek Revival manse until his death in 1857.  The house was left to George Washington Custis’s only surviving daughter, Mary Anna Custis Lee.  Mary Anna had married Lieutenant Robert E. Lee, a young graduate of West Point, and the rest of his story is history.  Still, General Lee’s history is closely tied to Arlington House, though he never set foot on the property again after the start of the Civil War.  Shortly after the war began, Mary Anna fled from Arlington House, which was quickly occupied by the Union Army.  Three years later, in 1864, the Federal government seized the property on account of unpaid taxes. * History says that this was an intentional insult aimed at the Confederacy to ensure that their guiding General could never return home, nor forget the repercussions of the civil war *<— MYTH!  (Photo Below from NPS)

TRUTH ! —>The US government didn’t aim any kind of ‘dig’ at the Confederacy over Arlington House.  They seized it for unpaid taxes, and Robert E. and Mary Anna chose not to contest the seizure, as he was old and not entirely in good health by the end of the war.  Their eldest son did contest the seizure, though, and won Arlington House back, but he then sold it to the Federal government fair and square…   but today I find that it serves more as a quiet reminded that war effects everyone’s “home-front” if you will and that those who sacrificed their lives for their Nation, freedom and justice will never be forgotten. (Photos Below from the National Archives via  mikelynaugh.com)

Today the Arlington house is Maintained by the National Park Service and you can visit it. Good to their website here.

Have a great weekend everyone

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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:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oxVayUe56U

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.

-Etta

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Ash and I have just gotten back from a quick mini-vacation where we caught up with my best friend, who currently lives in Philly (and re-met her boyfriend who we had met once before for like 6 seconds), so I don’t get to see her very much.  Because of this, I am all out of sorts and haven’t had any time to plan blog material, so I’m going to share some of my photos from past trips to Philly instead.

Congress Hall was constructed between 1787 and 1789.  It is run by the National Park Service and you can take a free tour if you get there early enough.

This is a cool architectural Detail I found on a building. I don’t remember anything more about it than the fact that there were other sea-creatures on the building as well. Anyone familiar with Philly recognize this?

This staircase if from the University of Pennsylvania’s Fisher Fine Arts Library designed by the very cool but slightly off-kilter Frank Furness. It kind of reminds me of the staircase scene in Labyrinth.

Here is a cool building I spotted while we were walking to a used book store.

And last but not least some photos I took at one of my favorite places (and not just because Steve Buscemi narrates the audio tour) Eastern State Penitentiary.


Hope you enjoyed this impromptu tour of Philly!

See you for tomorrow’s Friday Fantasy.

-Etta

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