The only unified themes of today’s post are the season and the necessity of cleaning out the photograph folders on my phone, camera, and computer: everything seems very vivid this time of year so I snap, snap, snap away and now I must purge! There’s always something to see in Salem, and then we ran up to my hometown of York Harbor to escape the heat–but the heat was there too. I am not a beachgoer, so I spent the hot days in the “cottage” (which was supposedly built for precisely such weather) indoors and the cool day (we had three successive days of 95 degree-70 degree-95 degree weather) walking around looking at other cottages. Even though I grew up in York, I still see something new every time I take a walk–as in Salem. I missed the annual vintage car show while up in Maine, but before I left I checked out two of the city’s newest enterprises: Waite and Pierce, the new shop on the grounds of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, and NotchBrewery & Taproom, a beautiful space crafting for drinking in good company, with no obtrusive televisions and bad food (just big soft pretzels, for now).
Mid-August, Salem: the scuttelaria are out in my garden (along with the phlox), Java Head window exhibition at Salem Maritime’s West India Goods Store (curated by an SSU History student who did much more research than I did for my post), goods at Waite and Pierce, and the Notch experience.
In York and York Harbor: gardens at the Stonewall Kitchen company store; antiquing (the watercolor below, which was quite expensive, is supposedly a Salem street scene–not sure where–maybe Sewall Street before it became a parking lot for the YMCA?), York Harbor map (1910) and cottages present and past (on this particular stroll I was taken by the older, smaller, mostly-white cottages on the Harbor side), our family house (brown) and the Elizabeth Perkins House (red) and garden on the York River.
the Samuel Donnell Garrison today and on the left in the older photograph–across from the entrance to the Harbor beach
an ongoing–and ambitious– restoration by a family: it was fun to see them working together……..
goldenrod time at the Elizabeth Perkins House garden
An appendix: While hiding from the heat indoors, I browsed through several old photographic books of York, and became intrigued (for the fourth or fifth time) with “The Comet”, an odd contraption featured at Short Sands Beach in York Beach a century ago, in which tourists were carried out onto the sea on a track: has anyone seen such a thing anywhere else? Was this a contemporary seaside fad or a unique York Beach attraction?
I tend to romanticize architects and the practice of architecture. When I first went to the house of my now-husband, who is an architect, I expected it to be Monticello-like, with a study in which a drafting table took center stage, surrounded by lovely hand-drawn renderings on whitewashed walls. My vision was not realized, and of course he is generally bent over a computer rather than a drafting table. It’s impossible to romanticize his work now that I know much more about it, so while I maintain a wifely interest in his business and projects, I also tend to drift away, back, towards architects who lived in ages past, who can easily engage and distract me. Just yesterday I walked over to take a picture of a Salem house which was built and occupied by a very prominent horticulturist and landscape architect, Harlan P. Kelsey, about whom I wanted to write a post (it is spring after all, even if it is a frigid spring, and so time to turn to gardening). But the more time I spent looking at the house, the less I was interested in its occupant and the more I was interested in its architect. And so I forgot Kelsey (for now–I’ll come back to him because he is pretty amazing), and began to focus on Ernest M. A. Machado, the likely architect of One Pickering Street and a man who is very easy to romanticize because he died relatively young, very tragically, and with much apparent promise.
Fortunately Machado’s life his well-documented: he seems to come from a family that wanted him (and all of its members) to be remembered: there is a nice genealogy and some pictures here, and the family donated his own photographs of completed projects to his alma mater, MIT. Ernest Machado was born just up the coast in Manchester-by-the-Sea to a Cuban émigré father and a North Shore mother who was orphaned but nevertheless connected. Juan Francisco Machado and Elizabeth Frances Jones met and married in Massachusetts, returned to Cuba for a decade, and then settled in Massachusetts permanently to raise their large family, first in Manchester and later in Salem. The Machado house is one of my favorite in Salem: a stunning brick Federal on Carpenter Street. Ernest attended Salem schools and then the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, graduating from its pioneering architecture program in 1890. After working for at least two prestigious Boston architectural firms, he established his own practice in partnership with his future brother-in-law Ambrose Walker, with offices in Salem (on Church Street), Boston and Ottawa (where his brother was an established banker). In the later 1890s he seems to be working feverishly, with commissions in several Boston suburbs, Salem, and all along the North Shore. This pace continued in the new century, all the way up to his death by drowning in Lake Ossipee in New Hampshire in September of 1907: he was 39 years old and had just completed his most challenging commission: the 14,000 square foot brick mansion of Governor Charles B. Clarke on Portland’s Western Promenade.
The Kelsey House on Pickering Street & Machado family home at 5 Carpenter Street.
Machado’s mark on Salem is not hard to find. Besides the Kelsey house and a few other residences in the McIntire Historic District and the Phippen house on the Common, he supervised substantial renovations to the Salem Club and the Bulfinch Bank on Central Street. He rebuilt the Salem Lyceum on Church Street, and as a testament to his versatility, designed both a commercial building on Washington Street for the dry goods retailer Charles W. Webber and the Blake Memorial Chapel in Harmony Grove Cemetery. Yesterday I trudged over through driving rain to contemplate the chapel, and then walked up the hill to his grave, part of a family plot of elegant markers which apparently he also designed (and unfortunately very wet by the time I got there).
Machado in Salem: 16 Beckford Street and Four Carpenter Street; his own photograph of the Webber store on Washington Street, from the MIT Machado Archive; The Blake Memorial Chapel at Harmony Grove Cemetery and the (very wet) Machado grave(s) at Harmony Grove.
Looking at his Salem work as well as the portfolio of North Shore commissions (lots of residences and clubhouses for both the Salem Country Club and the Manchester Yacht Club) in the digital archive at MIT, it’s hard to discern a distinct Machado style: there are Colonial Revival houses in both the classical and Tudor traditions as well as lots of Shingle residences reflecting contemporary trends. But remember, he was a young architect, just establishing his practice and business and no doubt catering to the desires of his clients. Who knows what he would have achieved over the next thirty or so years of his working life? He could have maintained and expanded his practice as a Gold Coast residential architect, or he could have rebuilt Salem after the Great Salem Fire of 1914. Or both.
Machado’s photographs of his own work at the Machado Archive at MIT: the Agge, Allen, R. Wheatland, and Sanden houses, and two unidentified houses (one of which looks just like a house in my hometown, York Harbor, Maine); a Tudor house in Lynn, from American Architect and Building News, 1906.
Appendix: you can stay in Machado’s recently-restored Clarke “Manor” (below) in Portland via airbnb; My Machado-obsessed day ended appropriately with a birthday party at one of his buildings: the Salem Lyceum, now Turner’s Seafood.
We spent Thanksgiving up in my hometown of York Harbor, Maine, which is only about an hour north of Salem. When we arrived York looked very different than still-green Salem, coated in icy snow. Many people in the southern counties of Maine and adjacent counties of New Hampshire lost their power due to a Thanksgiving-eve snowstorm, but we were fortunate to have light and heat and lots of food and drink. While waiting to eat on Thanksgiving Day, we took a drive around the grey town: York (encompassing York Harbor, York Village, York Beach and Cape Neddick) is a summer town and it always looks strikingly stark to me in the winter. I’ve also got some pictures of my stepmother’s Thanksgiving table here–before we messed it up. When we returned to Salem, all was icy and white but today is forecasted for the 50s so the terrain is returning to that golden brownish-green hue so characteristic of November.
This cat o’nine tail exploded before we left; the rest burst while we were away (just one day and night!) Impossible to clean up all this fluff.
Thanksgiving table: Della Robbia plates and Shaker chairs.
Fifty shades of grey off Nubble Light.
White on white: one of my favorite houses in York, and the gargoyle outside my parents’ house.
The last week of July was full of contrasts and transitions for me: we spent most of it in York Harbor, but I traveled back every other day for my evening class, we left for Maine on a dark rainy day in which a tornado swept down in a town just to the south of Salem (very unusual for Massachusetts) and enjoyed clear sunny days thereafter, the late-summer flowers are of course also a study in contrasting color. For the most part, we’ve been so fortunate this summer to have beautiful weather: often sunny, never too hot, with rain occurring often enough to keep everything green. I hope this continues throughout August but the dog days do threaten……anyway, here are my favorite photographs from the week, mostly of gardens and flowers. I have included a photograph of the best ice cream stand in the world, Brown’s in York Beach, my father’s prized Swiss chard, and the gardens at Stonewall Kitchen’s company store in York, which are always inspiring–even the vegetables look beautiful (actually my father’s Swiss chard looks pretty good too). There are “soft” spots in nearly every picture so I apologize in advance: my camera lens got a bit smudgy when I was trying to take the first picture in the rain, and I never noticed until just this morning.
Today I have another Victorian fad: sword canes or “sword sticks”: harmless-looking walking sticks with blades concealed inside, one of several variations of “novelty canes” produced in the nineteenth century. Yesterday I drove up to York to celebrate my father’s birthday accompanied by my stepson, who has long had a singular obsession on the sword cane (or cane sword) that has leaned in the mud room alongside more mundane umbrellas and tennis rackets since I was a little girl. It’s the first thing he went for when we got there–what? why? and most importantly, who will inherit it? I don’t know much–all I could think of was the recent Sherlock Holmes film, in which Jude Law’s Dr. Watson wields a sword stick, and John Steed in The Avengers, who utilizes the umbrella variation. I checked out some auction archives, and they don’t seem to be particularly valuable. I can imagine that it ceased to be respectable in genteel society to walk around with a sidearm in the nineteenth century and so sword sticks emerged, but they seem to have been more fashionable than utilitarian. Ours looks like a simple cane made with a curved handle, but the steel blade inside has interesting markings: I think I might take it to an appraisal event at some point in the not-too-distant future.
Our family’s sword stick (alternatively called swordstick, sword cane & cane sword) and 19th century examples from the American Textile History Museum and Skinner Auctioneers.
There are a few cultural references to sword canes and I’d be grateful for more! Besides Watson and Steed, there is Bob Dylan (Yourgrandpa’scane, itturnsintoasword, “On the Road Again”, 1965, thanks to Cheryl Beatty at the American Textile History Museum, which is also the source of the image above) and Lord Byron, who apparently used his sword stick for more than prop. The recent Byron exhibition at King’s College, London features several references to and images of swordsticks: no doubt they amplified his dashing demeanor.
Jude Law as Dr. Watson with cane; drawing of Lord Byron, by AlfredGuillaumeGabrield‘Orsay, 1823, Victoria & Albert Museum; Lord Byron’s sword stick, from the online exhibition Byron & Politics: ‘Born for Opposition’, King’s College, London
Before the park and the rusticators, there were the painters, most notably those identified as belonging to the Hudson River School who seem to have been similarly inspired by Mount Desert Island. I’m leafing through this lovely book by John Wilmerding, The Artist’s Mount Desert. American Painters on the Maine Coast (1995), and am particularly drawn to the paintings of Frederic Edwin Church, who came to the island in the 1850s after Alvan Fisher and Thomas Cole “discovered” it for the artistic community in the 1830s and 1840s. Church captures the drama and the contrast of the island’s terrain, and its weather. On Mount Desert, it’s not “wait a minute” for the weather to change as in the rest of New England, but “wait a second” for the fog to roll in (on little cat feet).
Frederic Edwin Church, Fog off Mount Desert (Collection of John Wilmerding), 1850, and Coast Scene,Mount Desert (Sunrise off the Maine Coast) Wadsworth Athenaeum, 1863.
We had great weather during our trip but it was foggy most mornings and evenings. One day I traveled from a very sunny, almost hot Southwest Harbor to a very foggy (northeast) Bar Harbor in the space of a half-hour. The fog does amazing things to the island’s mountains, coast, and offshore islands, which you can see by the sequence of photographs below, particularly those taken from the deck of the Margaret Todd, a replica cargo schooner moored in Bar Harbor, on which we took a sunset cruise. There’s also a few buildings below, but not many; I’ve got to go back to Mount Desert for houses and gardens without (most of) my camping companions. I would not presume to characterize the (remaining) architectural landscape of Bar Harbor, for three reasons: 1) there was a devastating fire in 1947 which leveled much of downtown (67 summer cottages, five hotels, 170 year-round homes); 2) I didn’t really have enough time for an assessment, due to the demands of camping; and 3) this is the territory of the Downeast Dilettante. However, I will say that it’s a little sad to walk along the Shore Path and see only one Gilded Era “cottage”, the Breakwater or Atlantique estate of John Innes Kane, great-grandson of John Jacob Astor. I grew up along a similar path far to the south but still in Maine, lined with many similar contemporary cottages.
Breakwater from the Shore Path and the deck of the Margaret Todd, a Seal Harbor chapel and cottage, houses and bridge in Somesville:
And now for the fog: rolling into various Mount Desert harbors, and engulfing one of the Porcupine (I think it’s Bald Porcupine) islands in Bar Harbor in a matter of moments. And then it dissipated just as quickly.
I’ve returned from our camping trip to Mount Desert Island off Maine, home to America’s oldest, and most eastern, federal park: Acadia National Park. Mount Desert is more than the park: its dramatic landscape, characterized by the close encounter of sloping coastal mountains and sea, also includes several pretty towns and villages (Bar Harbor, Northeast Harbor, Southwest Harbor, Somesville, Tremont) but this was a camping trip dictated by nature. Nevertheless, Acadia, like all national parks, is a product of both private and public initiatives, and few people in the former sector contributed more than John D. Rockefeller, Jr., son of the founder of Standard Oil, who donated more than 11,000 acres to the park and financed and oversaw the construction of one of its most notable features, the network of crushed-stone carriage roads topped by quaint cobblestone and granite bridges and lined with broken boulders, occasionally referred to as “Mr. Rockefeller’s teeth”. To me, these roads are the perfect blend of human achievement in harmony with nature–and they also afforded a welcome escape from camping.
Mount Desert Island: harbor, coastline, and the view from Mt. Cadillac.
Mr. Rockefeller designed, financed, and oversaw the construction of 57 miles of carriage roads between 1913 and 1940, using local labor, local materials, and the island’s landscape as his guideposts. The roads run through fir forests, around glacier lakes and mountains, and over streams and chasms, offering perfect vistas at every opportunity. To stand on one of his 16 bridges, several of which have built-in viewing spaces, is literally to be served up nature: they represent multidimensional access. No cars (which Mr. Rockefeller apparently detested): only feet, horses and bicycles. I remember walking down one of these roads a few decades ago when they were not in such superlative condition; now they are pristine.
The Jordan Pond Gate Lodge, commissioned by Mr.Rockefeller and designed by Grosvenor Atterbury, and several bridges of Acadia; Mr. Rockefeller’s teeth along the road.
My affection for history was fostered by places and buildings; it’s very material. And while I appreciate and am often awed by nature, I find the built landscape more accessible–and instructive. I’ve been an ardent preservationist since my teens, and am just passionate (geeky) enough to actually anticipate the release of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s annual Most Endangered Places list every year. Yesterday brought the big announcement of this year’s list, which includes two New England properties with which I am familiar and nine more which I’m eager to see (most of them anyway, before they disappear). I have helped to create similar lists for our local preservation organization, Historic Salem, Inc., and if our deliberations are any indication, this list is the result of an intensive process: you have to choose places that are threatened but are not too far gone, that possess the potential for recovery, there are always political factors involved, and historical and/or cultural significance has to be readily apparent. I’m sure the National Trust also has to take into account regional representation, as their Most Endangered Places are generally spread all over the U.S. map.
New England Most Endangered Places: Gay Head Lighthouse, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and the Abyssinian Meeting House, Portland Maine.
The Gay Head Light, Aquinnah, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, is threatened by erosion: it’s about 10 feet away from falling over the cliff. It’s wooden predecessor was faced with the same threat in 1844, and this brick structure, outfitted with a first-order Fresnel lens, dates from the 1850s.
The Abyssinian Meeting House in Portland, Maine was built in 1828 to serve as a school and assembly house for Portland’s African-American community, and it also served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. It is the third oldest African-American meeting house in the country, which is amazing to me given its northern location. If you visit the Abyssinian Restoration Project website, you will see that an intensive preservation effort is ongoing; all they lack is resources.
Properties threatened by Development: The Village of Mariemont, Ohio, and the James River, Virginia.
The Village of Mariemont in Ohio, a Tudor Revival planned community built in the 1920s, is threatened by highway construction. Of all the threats to historic structures, infrastructure development bothers me the most, because it is often short-sighted. Salem was faced with the threat of a road running down its historic center in the 1960s which was fortunately averted; I thought Urban Renewal had ended.
The historic places that line its shores–Jamestown, Williamsburg, and a host of plantations–have given the James River the name “America’s Founding River”. Apparently “inappropriate development” threatens this region now. I’ll take the National Trust’s word on this, but I wish they were a bit more specific about the threat.
Most of the places on the list are quite modern, including Houston’s Astrodome, the Worldport at JFK Airport in New York, and several mid-twentieth-century buildings–all of which face demolition. By contrast, the oldest building on the list and one of the oldest buildings in North America, the San José Church (1523) in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, is threatened by the deterioration that comes with time. The notes on its Historic American Buildings Survey record indicate that it was “in need of extensive repairs” in 1935, so you can imagine its condition now.
The Church of San José in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, built by the Dominican Order in 1523. Black and white photographs from the Historic American Buildings Survey (1935), Library of Congress.
Even before I read a nice little article yesterday on how the holidays obtained their color themes, I was already planning to focus on red: it’s been a dreary week and I needed a little cheering up. The red that we now associate with Christmas comes from an amalgamation of historical and cultural forces: iconic images of St. Nicholas of Myra wearing red robes, holly berries and the apple props of medieval mystery plays, the Victorian poinsettia craze, the colorful depictions of Santa Claus by nineteenth-century cartoonist Thomas Nast, and the Coco-Cola Santa Claus of the early twentieth century. I’ve already covered Saint Nicholas in a lengthy post a week or so ago, so this perspective is going to be structural. Here are some of my favorite red houses, tastefully decorated for the season in typical understated New England fashion. I’m starting up north, in my hometown of York, Maine, where I happened to be last week before our weather turned dreadfully dreary, and then I’ll work my way home to Salem via Newburyport.
Two of the Historic House Museums of Old York: the 1719 OldGaol (Jail) and the 1754 JefferdsTavern. As you can see, the gaol is situated on a little hill that overlooks York Village below. There is a large new barn-like structure attached to the tavern which I don‘t really care for (despite the fact that it is named after my wonderful high school guidance counselor) so I‘m showing a vantage point that excludes it.
Heading south, I stopped in Newburyport–a city of white houses for the most part–and found two adorable colonial side–shingled houses on side streets in the south end.
Back in Salem, where there are not a lot of red houses, really. But there is venerable Red’sSandwichShop downtown, and the Manninghouse in North Salem, which was once in the midst of one of the most famous orchard nurseries in Massachusetts. This was the home of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s uncle, Robert Manning, a famous “pomologist” (an expert in the cultivation of fruit trees) and according to the sign, also a stagecoach agent–news to me. The last picture in this group is a rare red GreekRevival on Essex Street: you seldom see a house in this style painted red, as they are meant to mimic stone. From these pictures it appears we like our red houses with white trim in Salem.
Finally, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s c. 1750 birthplace, moved to its present location adjacent to the House of the Seven Gables on the harbor in 1958 from downtown. A rather gnarly tree seems to be threatening it! And last but not least, a wonderful old (fishing?) shack on the other side of the Gables: a little worse for wear maybe, but still red and picturesque–it does seem to be crying out for a wreath at this time of year.