Monthly Archives: July 2014

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.


Fabric for the Fouth

I’ve been rather casually researching how the Fourth of July was commemorated on its Centennial in 1876, and while all the attention is generally focused on the great Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, I have come to appreciate all the special fabrics that were produced that year, material girl that I am. Textiles are key to this celebration: as the United States was in the midst of its industrial revolution, machine-made fabrics were featured prominently in the Exposition’s displays, and it also had a special focus on the “women’s sphere” and the domestic arts. Of course textiles are always a central feature of Independence Day celebrations: even more than fireworks, the Fourth is all about flags, swags, and bunting. As I write, I’m looking at the flag runner on my dining room table, a flag pillow on a nearby chair, and flags flying outside. In 1876, I think they were much more lavish–and much more creative–with patriotic displays of fabric. On the way home from my recent road trip, I passed through the northwest corner of Connecticut and the pretty town of Litchfield, where the Historical Society was featuring an exhibition on the Colonial Revival called “The Lure of the Litchfield Hills”. I enjoyed seeing all the items in the exhibition immensely, but was particularly taken by a child’s drummer costume for the Litchfield Centennial parade. So this would be the first item in my own little collection of Centennial textiles, followed by a banner made for Salem’s 1876 celebrations, a beautiful Centennial coverlet from the amazing inventory of Jeff. R. Bridgman, Antiques, and two Centennial quilts from the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. You can see the centrality of the Philadelphia Exposition; the custom of the time was to incorporate souvenir handkerchiefs into memento quilts, as Mary Stow and Esther Cooley evidently did. To round out my collection I must have one of these very handkerchiefs (from the Metropolitan Museum of Art), and of course, a Centennial Flag (from the New York Historical Society).

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Fabric Salem Banner

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Fabric Centennial Quilt Smithsonian

Fabric handkerchief 1876 MET

Fabric Flag NYHS 1876

 


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!


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