Tag Archives: travel

Too Much @Terrain

I’m ashamed to admit that a relatively large part of my paycheck goes to Anthropologie each month or season, so as I became aware that I was in the vicinity of one of their rarer garden stores as I passed through Connecticut last week, I had to make a slight detour for the Westport Terrain. What a store–I was a bit overwhelmed, which doesn’t often happen to me in a shop scenario. Actually, it’s a combination nursery/garden store/ housewares store/gift shop/bar-restaurant–there was a lot going on when I arrived, too much for me! I certainly hadn’t planned on getting any plants as I was on the road (and I like nurseries to be a bit more dirty) but I thought I might get some planters–as I had never really replaced the ones that were stolen last summer. But there were too many planters to choose from! And too many watering cans, baskets, and vessels of all kinds–along with candles and lanterns and wreaths and everything else. Sensory overload–though I plan to return, better prepared, in the not-too-distant future.

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Boscobel (American)

A few more road-trip posts—then it’s back to Salem and work: I’m prepping for two summer courses and have several scholarly projects on the back burner. Every time I am in the Hudson River Valley visiting my brother, I go to see one or more of the grand estates in the region. On this particular trip, I was looking forward to seeing two Gothic Revival houses in the southern part of the Valley: Washington Irving’s Sunnyside, and nearby Lyndhurst. However, I presumed too much; I happened to be passing through on a dreaded Monday when most museums are closed, these two house museums included. Next time. Proceeding north toward my brother’s house in Rhinebeck I passed by the grounds of another estate which I had not seen–and the gate was open, so to Boscobel I went. I have to admit to a certain snobbiness on my part regarding Boscobel; it’s never been high–or even on–my “must visit” list for several reasons. First of all, it’s a Federal house, built between 1804 and 1808 by Loyalist  States Dyckman (actually he died just after the foundation–his wife Elizabeth oversaw its completion). Now of course I love Federal architecture, but being from Salem I always assume that we have the best Federal houses right here: it’s Samuel McIntire or nothing for me! And as an English historian, the word “Boscobel” means only one thing to me: the English house where Prince Charles/Charles II hid out from Cromwell’s troops following the Battle of Worcester in 1851. So this Boscobel could only be a pale imitation–of either McIntire or the original. I also have a slight prejudice against historic houses that are transplanted, as this American Boscobel was:  it was originally built in the slightly-more southern Hudson hamlet of Montrose, but moved to its present location in Garrison in 1961 (in pieces!) after it was threatened by demolition by a Federal construction project. But all of these “reasons” were stupid: Boscobel is well worth seeing: it has been meticulously reconstituted and its present site is simply stunning, with beautiful grounds and one of the most striking Hudson views I have seen–just across from West Point.

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Boscobel: front, back (entrance from street), views from the house and river’s edge; herb garden and orangerie.

The interpretation of the house was also interesting–how it came to be and how it was reconstituted–particularly in regard to its furnishings. As a Loyalist, Mr. Dyckman had spent the Revolution in England and had bought lots of pieces while there, but Mrs. Dyckman seems to be have been more devoted to American furniture makers–including Duncan Phyfe. As all the furnishings were dispersed when the house went into decline from the late nineteenth-century on, its recreators had to either find original pieces or choose appropriate substitutes. It has been an ongoing process, but the house’s interior certainly gleams in perfect Federal fashion. I couldn’t take any pictures but the website seems to feature all of the rooms. The grounds were adorned with sculptures, the herb garden (though decidedly not in the right place) was in full bloom, and I got some more clues for my evolving research into in the relationship between English Royalists of the seventeenth century and American Loyalists of the eighteenth: altogether a very enlightening visit.

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Boscobel in pieces, c. 1960; the grounds today.


Hudson Picturesque

I drove into one of the most distressed small cities in America this past Monday, and was both assaulted and astonished by: rows and rows of brick townhouses from the nineteenth century and before, many gone to rot, manifest poverty, amazing elevated Hudson River views, a historic district of restored Gilded Age mansions saved from a sweeping program of urban renewal and by their courageous owners, and a fisher cat. Perhaps I would not have ventured into Newburgh if I had known that it was “The Murder Capital of New York“, but then I would not have seen the deterioration or the restoration (or the fisher cat, which is not a cat at all but a rare weasel-like creature–it fled into an abandoned wooded lot before I could turn on my camera, but I knew immediately that that’s what it was). I went to Newburgh to see Washington’s Headquarters, but came away seeing a whole lot more. I’m going to refrain from including images of Newburgh’s distress–but let me assure you that its surviving restored structures are all the more picturesque because of the contrast.

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Along Montgomery Street in Newburgh, New York; villas and a foundation garden. The influence of Calvert Vaux (1824-95) and Andrew Jackson Downing is very apparent. There is a park named after Downing in Newburgh, and this last house is clearly based on “Design no. 14″ in Vaux’s Villas and cottages. A series of designs prepared for execution in the United States.

The Hudson River Valley is, of course, picturesque in both natural and man-made ways: and when they come together they really grab hold of you! The whole region is dotted with romantic structures, large and small, alone and in assemblages like Montgomery Street. On the other side of the river, I captured a few more romantic structures, and, for contrast, the USS Slater (the last World War II destroyer afloat) on its way up the river to Albany.

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On the other side of the river: houses (actually I don’t think this first structure is a house–some sort of chapel?) in Cold Spring and Rhinecliff; the USS Slater on the Hudson.

 

 


In Asbury

As my husband’s family had a long association with Asbury Park–operating a sporting goods store downtown at the turn of the last century and amusement concessions on the boardwalk for most of the twentieth–we always visit there when we are on the Jersey Shore. In the past this has not been a particularly pleasant experience: brown concrete towers loom over rather tired remnants of the city’s prosperous past, downtown buildings are boarded up, and one of the “anchors” of the boardwalk, the Casino (where my husband’s grandfather installed a carousel in the 1930s), appears to be on its last legs. And while this is all still true to a certain extent, things were looking up last weekend: there was more activity and fewer boards in the very clean downtown, and the boardwalk and beach appeared to be almost as busy as they would have been a century ago. The rise, decline, fall, and resurgence of Asbury Park are much bigger topics than I can pursue here, but this was the first time, as an occasional outside observer, that I sensed energy in the city–and Ocean Grove next door seems to be positively booming!

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Asbury Park this past weekend: the past-and-present images are a family picture of my husband’s great-grandfather in front of the Cookman Avenue sporting goods store with his customers (he’s in the center with arm akimbo) and the current storefront.

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On the boardwalk: semi-motion picture of the Casino, the Carousel, brought to Asbury by my husband’s grandfather in 1932 and removed in the 1980s–it showed up on ebay a couple of months ago (photograph from Helen Chantal-Pike’s Asbury Park’s Glory Days: the Story of an American Resort); the view from the Casino, a container concession.

APPENDIX: apparently the other Asbury carousel–housed in the adjacent Palace rather than the Casino –is the ebay listing (see comments below); the Seger/Casino carousel is in Myrtle Beach, but you can now download an app to recreate its ride!


Anniversaries All Around

I’m on a road trip but still can’t shake historical anniversaries: they are following me! Traveling down to visit my husband’s family on the Jersey shore on Friday, I made several Connecticut stops (I was on my own, so I could stop), including one in the coastal town of Guilford, which was in the midst of celebrating its 375th anniversary: banners flew all around Guilford Green, and the stores were stocked with calendars and other commemorative wares. I arrived just in time to view the original Guilford Covenant and Land Agreement, on loan from the Massachusetts Historical Society and on its last day of display at the Town Hall. It was a perfectly beautiful day, and after lunch I strolled around taking pictures of Guilford’s historic houses, each and every one in seemingly perfect pristine condition. Sometimes certain Connecticut villages strike me as too pristine, but Guilford’s perfection seemed appropriate on this glorious day! Back in the car–stuck in traffic almost all the way to Jersey, I heard multiple retellings of another big historical anniversary story on the radio: the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary and his Duchess by Bosnian nationalist Gavrilo Princip on June 28, 1914, the event that triggered World War One. And when I woke up yesterday, the first local story I heard was about the anniversary of the Battle of Monmouth on June 28, 1778: not an American victory, but certainly a draw which demonstrated that the colonial forces could hold their own against the British. Of course I had to run over to the battlefield site in Freehold: it is beautifully preserved but was quite devoid of Colonials or Redcoats, as the battle re-enactment had been staged last weekend. There were, however, a few “Molly Pitchers” walking around.

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Guilford, Connecticut, June 27, 2014: the Griswold and Hyland houses, Guilford Green, and private residences around town.

 

 


Gone Camping

I’m off camping in the Maine woods for the next week, so no posts for a while. IF I survive, I should have some nice pictures next weekend………..

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Paper Dresses

When I visit my brother in the Hudson River Valley I head for downtown Rhinebeck and one of my favorite shops, Paper Trail, as soon as it is politely possible: this is a destination shop. It’s not only the merchandise, it‘s the merchandising, and the paper creations that are in the windows and scattered about the store. Every time I go there there’s always a dress or two, shoes, and other works of art that make this shop a gallery. This time, there was a beautiful paper wedding dress (with butterfly back) in the window, fashioned by local paper couturier Linda Filley of upcycled materials. And much more inside:  Filley’s “windblown girl” dress made of recycled craft paper and shoes, paper chandeliers, flowers, birdhouses, map art, and even not-so-mundane cards.

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New Year’s in New Jersey

This post is going to be a study in contrasts. We’re on the northern New Jersey shore visiting my husband’s family, hearing storm stories and seeing lots of storm damage. Superstorm Sandy is very much in evidence, two months after its arrival. Some areas in this region emerged relatively unscathed, while others were hit hard:  two cases in point are Allenhurst, where my husband’s family home is located, and Sea Bright, where our niece lives. These boroughs are located just a few miles from each other on the shore, but their present environments could not be more different.

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Crossing over into New  Jersey on the George Washington Bridge on a stormy day.

Allenburst is a wealthy little enclave right next to the storied Asbury Park. The train to New York runs right through its little village center, offering wealthy urban dwellers an escape from the sweltering city a century ago and a relatively easy commute now. In some ways Allenhurst reminds me of my hometown, York Harbor, Maine, which also developed as a summer community, but there are notable differences:  the village is laid out in a grid pattern, the architecture is on steroids, and of course, this being the Jersey shore, there is a boardwalk.  The cabanas of the Allenhurst beach club (they build these private clubs right on the beach here; I don’t really understand how that can happen on a supposedly-public beach, but there it is) were washed away by Sandy, and a little section of its boardwalk, but I couldn’t find much more serious damage in evidence. The houses of Allenhurst, are stately: grand Victorians, Tudors, lots of Spanish-styled, tiled-roofed mansions from the teens and twenties. From my New England perspective, I notice an absence of the simple Shingle style, and the presence of lots and lots of stucco. I am sparing you the huge tacky modern houses that have been built right on the ocean; the more charming houses are on the side streets of Allenhurst.

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Shots of Allenburst:  an oceanside mansion and  “smaller” houses along the side streets, one closed-off street section, pink iron deer!

Traveling up the coast to Sea Bright through Long Branch I stopped by the Church of the Presidents, which is undergoing a major renovation. Seven Gilded Age presidents, Ulysses Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield, Chester Arthur, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley and Woodrow Wilson, vacationed in this area and attended this church; James Garfield died just across the way after several months of suffering after he was shot in the early summer of 1881.

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You can see piles of wood and sand and boarded-up houses along this road, although major development has occurred in this area and the large multi-story buildings (which have wiped out any trace of those associated with the seven presidents) look like they could withstand any storm, but maybe not.

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Among the melee, these column sections certainly give one a “fall of the Roman Empire” feeling–not quite sure where they came from.

And then to Sea Bright, a barrier beach town that was really devastated and remains so. Displaced residents, boarded-up storefronts, condemned buildings, and what many say is an unrecognizable beach constitute the aftermath of Sandy, but also a very vibrant spirit focused on recovery. The municipal government seems very responsive, there’s been all forms of outside help, and an organization called Sea Bright Rising seems poised to will that to happen in the New Year.

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Sea Bright, New Jersey, two months after Sandy: the pictures speak for themselves except for the last one, which is of an island in the Shrewsbury River behind the borough, where all the boats from a nearby mainland marina ended up.


Streets of St. George

We just returned from a quick visit to Bermuda, where we spent most of our time at the eastern end of the archipelago in the town of St. George and its environs.  The English first settled this part of Bermuda in the early seventeenth century, after a shipwreck in 1609 established its potential as a way station en route to Virginia.  Paradoxically, both Bermuda’s strategic location and its relative remoteness seem to be central factors in its history.

St. George is named after Sir George Somers (1554-1610) and the archipelago was briefly referred to as the Somers Isles.  Somers had been an admiral in the ongoing Anglo-Spanish wars and was working for the Virginia Company in charge of a fleet sent to aid the struggling and starving Jamestown Colony when his ship the Sea Venture  foundered on the rocks of Discovery Bay.  Somers and his fellow castaways, about 150 people (and a dog), remained onshore for 10 months, during which they built two ships and several buildings which established the town of St. George and the colony of Bermuda.  After proceeding to the mainland to complete his mission and replenish Jamestown, Somers returned to Bermuda where he promptly died, apparently leaving instructions to bury his heart on his island and return his (pickled) body to England.  The Somers saga might have been one of the inspirations for Shakespeare’s contemporary play The Tempest, in which the hypothetical island setting is called the “Bermoothes”.  Below is Somers’ portrait, from about 1605 by an anonymous Dutch painter, which I have always admired not so much for its technique but for its projection; Somers seems like such a forthright man of the moment, a real maritime adventurer with no aristocratic airs.


And now for some of my views of St. George:  a storm coming into the harbor, steps along Somers Wharf, some street scenes and St. Peter’s Church, the oldest Anglican church in North America.

Some fauna and flora:  cats on a scooter, a chameleon-like lizard, a chartreuse plant whose name I do not know, and rosemary in the seventeenth-century garden of the Bermuda Perfumery:

And finally, the “Unfinished Church” at twilight, Fort St. Catherine and its beach, and a “Bermuda sloop” in an 1831 painting by John Lynn and off the fort on Sunday.


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