The Week In Review: A Date With Julia, Washington DC and Finding A Lost Bird

Like the thrill and excitement of watching those horses speed around the track during the Kentucky Derby two Saturdays ago so was my trip racing around Washington D.C.. To follow-up from the post before this one, we did make it to D.C. just in time (with about 3 minutes to spare!) to meet up with friends, watch the Derby AND drink a mint julep. Perfect timing!

Always Dreaming! Photo courtesy of thedailybeast.com

If you missed the race Always Dreaming was the big Derby winner, leading the whole entire way from start to finish on a very muddy track. It was definitely a well deserved victory although I was really rooting for Patch the whole way, who wound up coming in 14th.  It appears as if no one else was dreaming about Always Dreaming as the first-to-line finisher in our blog contest either so the festivities continue on through the Preakness (this Saturday!) and into the Belmont (on June 10th).  Stay tuned this weekend to see if Always Dreaming wins part two of the Triple Crown!

Meanwhile, back in Washington the week fell in three parts…art, Julia and Virginia. The last time I spent more than a day in Washington D.C. I was 10 years old and visiting my oldest sister who lived and worked right in the heart of downtown. This time around I was staying on the Maryland side of the metro D.C. area.

With a view that began and ended each day like this…

Morning on the Potomac!

 

Evening on the Potomac!

it was hard to go wrong from the beginning. Add in the welcome committee…

quaking their way through news of the D.C. day… and it was lovely from day one.

Staying in such close proximity to the Capitol, I had mighty plans to see about 10 different sites throughout the city on this visit which included five museums, the Botanical Gardens, the Library of Congress, the Franciscan Monastery, the National Archives and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  I realize now on my return that this was totally ambitious, but I thought in my pre-trip planning days that if I was fast on my feet and spent only an hour or two at each place I might be able to fit it all in during a three day stretch. After all Charles Dickens did nickname this metropolis the City of Magnificent Intentions. Technically I was right on track.

Of course once I stepped through my first museum and saw all the intriguing things that lay ahead of me I realized that I would never be able to keep up with such a strict and rigorous time schedule. It only took me one museum to realize that Washington D.C. is best digested slow.

There is no room for frenzied pace setting or shy glances in this historic environment. From street to sky, everything in D.C. is fascinating whether you are walking on centuries old cobblestone in Alexandria or admiring architecture on Pennsylvania Avenue time is what you need plenty of in order to ingest the experiences of our past presidents.

This is the house where Lincoln died. It’s located right across the street from Ford Theater.

So that’s exactly what I did. I took some time. I abandoned my wish list of seeing everything fast, and focused on seeing a few things slowly. Highlights from the three museums I managed to get through are as follows…

At the National Portrait Gallery…

This famous portrait of Benjamin Franklin painted in 1785 hangs in the National Portrait Gallery. Because I had seen this picture a zillion times in books and all over the internet I thought I’d pop by, say hi and be on my way. But Ben had other plans. He was a wise 79 years old when he sat for this painting. And you can tell Ben’s got things to say from the second you see him.

The artist, Joseph-Siffred Duplessis translated an expression in Ben’s face that reads “Hey there, I have some interesting stories for you. Stay for a minute and I’ll explain.” And so I did, lured in by a magic painting spell.  All the achievements he accomplished, the foresight he had, the contributions he made to the forming of our country, swirled around in those eyes and that smile, ready to break at any moment. He was captivating in all the right ways.

That experience with Benjamin Franklin reinforced the fact that I couldn’t zoom past everything and expect anything to have an impact. There was so much significance in the air around me that I was going to have to slow down in order to appreciate it all.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery are both connected in the same building so you can cross over long hallways from the art museum to the portrait gallery in just a few steps. On the art museum side I found these favorites in the painting department…golden framed beauties covering two centuries  including a large scale John James Audubon bird painting from 1836…

Clockwise from top left: Angel by Abbott Handerson Thayer, 1875; Washington Sea Eagle by John James Audubon 1836-1839; Round Hill Road by John Henry Twachtman 1890-1900; Our Lady of Guadalupe by Pedro Antonio Fresquis 1780-1830

Downstairs on the ground floor I discovered colorful cafeteria art of the 1940’s…

which was from a series by Gertrude Goodrich titled Scenes from American Life (Beach) and which originally hung in the cafeteria of the city’s Social Security Building. I loved the bright colors and all the commotion going on – each figure in the painting has their own personality. Here are some up close snippets..

It really is a lively improvement from the food diagrams and nutrition charts found in most cafeterias today, don’t you think?

At the National Portrait Gallery – 

Just like my time spent with Ben, I was equally captivated by an exhibit called The Face of Battle: Americans at War from 9/11 to Now which featured intimate glimpses into soldier’s lives… black and white leisure portraits taken in camp, paintings of wounded soldiers in full uniform, photographs of deceased soldiers home-based bedrooms, a creative video piece of a casket returning stateside. As you can imagine it was really moving and very sad. One of the exhibits inside the exhibit was a 5,000+ piece collection of small wallet sized pencil drawings of American servicemen and women who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. This installation was completely hand-drawn by the American artist, Emily Prince. It took up three walls of one gallery and from a distance looked like a big Scrabble board. This is a snippet of one wall…

And upon color inspection…

And an even closer view below. This is just one example of the thousands Emily has hand-drawn. The exhibit is titled American servicemen and women who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, but not including the wounded, nor the Iraqis, nor the Afghans.  Read more about Emily and the project here.

We were visiting D.C. during the start of Police Week so uniformed men and women from all over the world were everywhere. At the airport, teams of officers six or eight to a group met flights as they came in containing passengers whose family had died protecting the country. The officers stood across from each other with arms raised in salute as people walked off each flight.  The officers recognized the families they were meeting either by Hero t-shirts or by camera phones recording the walk from the plane to the gate. It was bittersweet. Sad that people had died but wonderful that the military and our protective services were still honoring their contributions.

On a cheerier note…

at the Museum of American History…

a very special face was also on display. I was definitely determined not to leave Washington until I saw this lady and her famous kitchen…

Julia Child!

In an exhibit detailing the transformation of American food from the 1950’s to the 2000’s, Julia Child’s kitchen from her house in Cambridge, Massachusetts sat front and center.

It’s a little tricky to get good photos of it because the whole kitchen itself is sealed in. Small cut-outs covered in plexi-glass serve as viewing stations, so there is a little battle to be fought with glare from the plexi-glass and the fellow visitors who squish in to see. But you can get the idea of a 360 view (in parts!) from the following…

Everything in the kitchen is as Julia left it when she donated the entire room and all its contents to the Museum in 2001. It was full of surprising  little details including lots of cat art, a fridge full of magnets (she was was a fan of the King Arthur flour brand!), family photographs, a rubix cube tucked behind a telephone and all the little odds and ends that you can find in anybody’s kitchen famous or not. She had a junk drawer. She labeled things with masking tape and handwriting. She hung onto favorite pieces of equipment outdated or not.

As revered as Julia had become it is easy to see in this exhibit how normal and ordinary a person she actually was.  Her kitchen reflected that. It wasn’t photo-shoot ready. It wasn’t glamorous. Not everything had a place. Her cookbooks were used. Her counter tops were messy. But it was functional for the way she liked to cook. It was a fun play space for her and in turn it was a fun exhibit for me.  I think that is what still makes Julia Child so admired. She was an unpretentious lover of food and of cooking and her kitchen reiterates all that. The manner in which it is displayed there at the Smithsonian you can easily imagine that she just popped over into another room of the house, perhaps to fetch something for her husband Paul and that in any second she was going to come right back and get to cooking.  Aided by video monitors playing clips from her cooking shows around the exhibit, your imagination does not have to stretch far to picture her standing at the sink peeling potatoes or at the stove flipping omelettes.

There is a fun 5 minute video on youtube that explains how the museum staff takes care of her kitchen. It also gives you some up close behind-the-scenes info on specific items within the display.

Also in the History Museum was an interesting exhibit on the clothing worn by the First Ladies (mostly during inaugural balls or welcome receptions) and the china patterns that each selected for their White House term. The oldest in the collection of both dress and dish belongs, of course, to Martha Washington…

Clockwise from top: The entire display of china starting with Martha Washington and ending with Hilary Clinton. Bottom left: A dress Martha Washington wore from the 1780’s,  and the  banquet china pieces she and George used in their presidential mansions in  New York and Philadelphia.

Most of the china patterns were variations on a theme… gold bands/eagles/jewel tone colors, etc. but Lucy Webb Hayes, wife of President Rutherford B. Hayes commissioned an artist in the 1870’s to design a set of china that incorporated the flora and fauna of the United States. To this day, Lucy’s china pattern still remains the most creative of all the administrations.

That’s Lucy on the far left!

I may not have made it to the Botanical Gardens on this trip but to serious surprise and complete excitement equal to that of seeing Julia Child’s kitchen,  I stumbled into this big beauty in the gardens of the Natural History museum next door…

the passenger pigeon sculpture by Todd McGrain from the Lost Bird Project that we wrote about in 2013! She’s tucked inside a walled garden just off the street so I almost walked right by her. In the busy world of modern day urban life, she sits surrounded in the museum’s Bird Garden by flowers and real-life bird flocks flapping their wings here and there so she’s in a great spot. If you missed the post about the Lost Bird project and Todd’s mission to memorialize extinct birds catch up here.

Moving on from museums and spending time waterside in the fresh spring air, the charmer on top of our whole trip was spending half a day in Alexandria, Virginia. We had lunch on the wharf…

and then spent the afternoon walking around town in George Washington’s footsteps.

The first tenement house George and Martha built in 1797 for investment purposes.

Every street was cuter than the last. I definitely could have picked any one of those houses to live in. I even found my ideal car…

This is where George liked to eat!

We stopped into a local pub and met a local (imagine that!) who gave us a little verbal history tour through his town.

Murphy’s Pub

and we found the house where they filmed scenes from the PBS show Mercy Street…

So pretty! You can access Alexandria by car or ferry – both just a quick trip from D.C.. Like easily imagining Julia in her kitchen it is very easy to picture George and Martha Washington or Ben Franklin or any other early colonials walking down the historic streets. Everything is all brick and cobblestone, clapboard and flower boxes. History plaques make a self guided walking tour easy and your camera won’t stop clicking for all the pretty photo opportunities.

Since I didn’t make it to all the places on my original list that still leaves so much to do on future trips back to the D.C. area. I think you could live in this section of our country for two dozen years and still not see everything! But that’s what’s marvelous about Washington – it’s a never-ending series of new (old) places to discover upon every return.

Cheers to that! Or huzzah as our noble men Ben and George liked to say!

Anna Clellan and the Love Apple Soup circa 1928

Tomato Soup circa 1928

Tomato Soup circa 1928

There has been a lot of talk about recipes here on the blog as of late but so many interesting food-related topics have been popping up recently in the historic land of Ms. Jeannie, it seems a shame not to share them. So here we are back in the vintage kitchen with a newly discovered almost 100 year old recipe that came from Ms. Jeannie’s great -great Aunt.   This week’s post takes us to the heartland of America – a middle state where young newlyweds ventured via covered wagon in the the 1860’s and set up life, spreading their roots so deep in the soil they practically built up the foundation of a small township.

Albert, Martha, their children and grandchildren

Albert and Martha (pictured on each side of the flower arrangement)  in Vinton, Iowa surrounded by their children and grandchildren.

We have talked about the Edwards’ family a few times previously on the blog so if you are a regular reader you’ll remember the adventurous Albert and his wife Martha who married in Johnson County, Indiana in 1865 and then immediately (the very next day in fact!) got into a covered wagon and headed west towards a new frontier. Three months later, Albert and Martha settled in Benton County, Iowa in a small town east of Cedar Rapids.

If you are familiar with Little House on the Prairie and are up on your John Travolta movies you’ll know Vinton, Iowa for two reasons. It is where Mary Ingalls  attended the Iowa School for the Blind (also known as the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School) between 1881-1889 and it is where they filmed many scenes of the movie, Michael, (including the final courthouse scene) starring John Travolta, Andie MacDowell, William Hurt and Oliver Platt.

Vinton, Iowa is faomus for these faces and places.

Vinton, Iowa is faomus for these faces and places.

Known primarily for its burgeoning agricultural opportunities in the mid-1800’s, Martha and Albert had two goals when they moved to Vinton – farming and family. In true pioneer spirit they  got down to business right away working out their farmplace and starting a family dynasty that would eventually produce 11 children and 45 grandchildren.  Their first baby, Anna was born during the crispy days of October 1866 just 19 months after their arrival in Iowa.

As the oldest of her 10 brothers and sisters, Anna learned a  lot about farm life, babies and family relationships. By the time she was 4 she saw the birth of two brothers  and then the sad death of one those brothers who was in her life for just 7 short months. The next five years brought three new sisters and then the death of her remaining brother Cornelius. So by the time Anna was nine years old she had already witnessed the death of two of her siblings.

When Anna turned 18 in 1885 and married Selmon T. Whipple she had six sisters in total ranging in age from 2-14. Immediately following their wedding Anna and Selmon set up their own farm in Benton County and got to work on their own family. At this point  in the late 1880’s and early 1890’s, babies were coming into the family from all directions.

Anna’s mom, Martha was still having her own kids and Anna was just starting to have hers, which means mom and daughter were preganant and giving birth at the same time.  So the the first few years of Anna’s marriage went something like this… a baby boy for Anna, and then a baby brother for Anna, a baby girl for Anna and then a baby sister for Anna. It’s a whirlwind of confusion and name sharing where all the aunts and uncles are close in infantile age to their nieces and nephews but brothers and sisters have almost two decades between them. And then add in the fact that Anna’s six sisters were starting to marry and have their own families and it was just kids everywhere.

 

 

Selmon and Anna's house in Vinton Iowa, built in 1906

Selmon and Anna’s house in Vinton, Iowa.

Basically for the first twenty years of Anna’s marriage she was pregnant and raising babies. Her fifth son Frankie died the day he was born but all the other little ones made it through to adulthood.  A year and a half  after her last baby, a little girl named Nellie, was born, Anna’s husband Selmon fell off a shed and became paralyzed.  For three long months he lay immobile at home before he died  leaving Anna, aged 45, the entire responsibility of managing the farm, twelve kids and her large house.

Death notice printed in the Vinton Eagle, 1912

Selmon’s death notice printed in the Vinton Eagle, 1912

But Anna was a strong woman and she came through this tragic circumstance with courage and a loving heart still intact. In addition to all this newly placed responsibility she even managed to take on the  care and raising of her infant grandson, whose mother (Anna’s daughter-in-law) died from tuberculosis.

As the wife of a farmer with over a hundred acres in crop production and the mother of thirteen children Anna knew her way around the vegetable garden and the kitchen. In 1928 she submitted a recipe to the Vinton Cook Book which was compiled by the First Division Pastor’s Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. With a little help from the ladies at the Vinton Historical Society, Ms. Jeannie was able to acquire a copy of the recipe that Anna submitted.

cookbook

cookbook2

cookbook3

The recipe is for tomato soup. It is a very simple one with few components but it does contain one unusual ingredient – baking soda. Today in the vintage kitchen we are recreating this 89 year old recipe to see what cooking in the 1920’s tastes like and to see if it still appeals to our modern palettes.

Tomato Soup circa 1928

Tomato Soup circa 1928

Most likely Anna would have used previously canned summer tomatoes from her garden in this recipe or she would have made it fresh during the summer months and possibly canned the soup for winter consumption. Either way, it is February and Ms. Jeannie does not have any leftover summer tomatoes on hand nor does she have any fresh in the garden. So instead we are relying on fresh hot house tomatoes that were grown in Chile. Ms. Jeannie did not have high hopes for flavor with these guys even though they looked absolutely beautiful in the grocery store.

soup2

But she was very pleasantly surprised at both the sweetness and firm fleshiness of these traveling love apples. Anna served her soup topped with a sprinkle of crushed crackers, which most likely would have been soda crackers or saltines. But Ms. Jeannie wanted to pair her soup with something a little more exciting so she made rustic Caprese-style toast to partner. Look for that recipe following the soup. She also added 1/3 cup tomato paste at the end, which is not in Anna’s original recipe (as you’ll notice from the picture above) –  an explanation for that addition follows the final step. Other than that, the recipe was made as-is.

Anna’s Tomato Soup (circa 1928)

1 quart tomatoes (about 4 -5 cups)

1 pint milk (about 2 cups)

1 pint water (about 2 cups)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 pint beef broth (about 2 cups)

2 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup tomato paste

4 crackers (optional- see second recipe)

Salt & pepper to taste

soup3

  1. Remove seeds from tomato (Note: there is no mention as to whether the skins of the tomato should be on or off – most likely they would be skinless, but Ms. Jeannie left them on and they rolled themselves into thin toothpicks which added a little bit of texture to the overall soup in the end. Next time she will try making it with the skins removed. So it is your preference on this aspect.)
  2. Add the tomatoes and water to a large pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
  3. Add the baking soda and stir – like those lava volcanoes you used to make in third grade science class, this tomato /baking soda combo does foam up quite a bit, so keep stirring it until it comes to a boil. Then add the milk, butter and beef broth and bring to a boil again.

At this point, Anna mixed in some salt and pepper, called it done and ladled the soup into bowls, topping each with some crushed crackers. But the soup at this stage was very thin and tasted rather plain and uneventful so Ms. Jeannie added 1/3 cup tomato paste and let it simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes. By adding the paste it gave the soup a much more tomato-y flavor and thickened it up a bit. The purpose of adding the baking soda was to neutralize the acid in the tomatoes, which it did beautifully. By the time it was ready to serve this soup had a gorgeous, silky consistency, bright flavor and a rusty orange hue.

soup4

Garlic, Basil Cheese Toast (makes two slices of toast)

1 clove garlic, roughly chopped

6 fresh basil leaves, chopped

2 mini mozzarella balls, sliced thin

2 slices of multi-grain braed

2 teaspoons olive oil

dash of red pepper flakes

  1. Slice bread and smother each slice with one teaspoon of olive oil.  Add the cheese  in a polka dot style fashion and intersperse the garlic. Sprinkle the basil leaves, red pepper flakes and a dash of salt on top.
  2. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 8 minutes and then broil for  1-2 minutes until edges of crust start to brown slightly.

soup5

Back in the late 19th century and early 20th century farm meals were big because family members and workers needed sustenance to get them through their chores. Apple pie was often served at breakfast alongside eggs and bacon and fried chicken and casseroles and  fresh bread. Most likely this soup would have accompanied many other dishes on the table, which is why it is not made of heartier stock. In our modern world, this makes a lovely light lunch or quick snack if you are pressed for time. And like any good foundation recipe it can be augmented with lots of other elements including onions and fresh basil, garlic, sour cream, Parmesan cheese… you get the idea. It is quite lovely on its own but Anna wouldn’t mind at all if you wanted to add your own creativity to the mix.

After Anna’s husband died in 1912, she managed the farm for another 9 years growing corn and oats and reporting regularly in the newspaper as to their qualities and quantities. She raised her kids and grandkids and kept her house bustling with love and care. Eventually she said goodbye to farm life and moved into town to live with one of her daughters.  Active in various community organizations and  her local church  she was referred to as being noble, generous and kind. When she passed away in the 1940’s at the age of 81, she left behind a family dynasty that included 10 children, 31 grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren and one great recipe.

Unfortunately this tiny photograph is the only identifiable image of Anna. Pictured on the far left, she is posing with her sisters in front her farmhouse when she was in her 70’s. Anna also appears in the family portrait at the top of this post but she is unidentifiable along with all the other women. One day soon hopefully we can place a name with a face!

Cheers to family cooks, the recipes they make and the love they pass on!

*** UPDATE 2/24/2017 *** One of our readers sent a question regarding measurements of pints and quarts and how many tomatoes actually made up one pint. Ms. Jeannie used all the vine-ripened tomatoes you see in the photos (12 in total) which were each roughly the size of a plum. If fresh tomatoes aren’t an option in your neck of the woods, substitute them with 4-5 cups of canned tomatoes (make sure the seeds have been removed).

Also to make things simpler, ingredients calling for pints and quarts have been measured out into cups as well (see ingredient list), since that is a more common unit of measurement in today’s world of cooking. These new updates will take out all the mathematical guess work making this recipe even easier and faster to make!

 

Where Are They Now? 29 Historic Houses 60 Years Later…

historichouse_collage2

Coming home for the holidays in this 1950’s era post means coming home to some of the finest examples of American architecture ever presented in the United States. Richard Platt, the architecture and garden editor of Ladies Home Journal from the 1930’s- 1960’s, spent his entire 30+ year career studying the anatomy of our country’s great homes from the modest barn beginnings of 1600’s New England to the Gatsby worthy mansions of late 19th century Rhode Island.

He and his wife Dorothy compiled the most noteworthy examples in their 1956 coffee table travel book A Guide to Early American Homes and invited readers to see for themselves, in person, the true majesty and ingenuity of  American home design. Over 900 houses appeared in the guide in total, and while many were museums already open to the public, a great number were private residences in which Richard and Dorothy managed to secure appointments for readers to tour on their own schedule.

In today’s picture post, we are catching up with a few dozen of these old houses to see what has been going on with them since 1956. With our tricky economy, the recent trend towards downsizing and deep budget cuts slicing through the hearts of our cultural resources how have these century old houses fared over the past six decades?  Let’s look…

(The black and white photos are Richard and Dorothy’s taken in the mid-1950’s, the color photographs are recent present day images). 

1. 1704 House

1704 House

Built in 1704. Located in West Chester, PA. In 1956 it was house museum available to tour for $0.50. Today it is still a museum although admission prices have increased to $5.00.

2. Longfellow House

Longfellow House

Longfellow House – Built in 1759. Located in  Cambridge, MA. Previously managed by the Longfellow Memorial Trust, this house has recently been renamed renamed Longfellow House – Washington Headquarter’s and  is now owned and operated by the National Park Service. It used cost $0.30 to tour the house in the 1950’s. Today it is free!

3. Col. Jeremiah Lee Mansion

Jeremiah Lee

The Jeremiah Lee Mansion – Built in 1768. Located in Marblehead, MA. Continued to be operated by the Marblehead Museum since the 1950’s (previously known as the Marblehead Historical Society) the mansion is still open for tours in warm weather months. Admission prices changed from $0.50 in the 1950’s to $10 today.

4. Josiah Coffin House

house3_josiah

The Josiah Coffin House – Built in 1723. Located in Nantucket, MA.  In the 1950’s it was a private residence. Still owned by the same family, today it is available for weekly vacation rentals priced between $5,500-$6,000/per week.

5. Sanford House

Sanford House

Sanford House – Built in 1847. Located in Grand Rapids, MI .  In the 1950’s it was a private residence most noted for its exterior Doric columns and fine Greek Revival craftsmanship. Today the house is helping people internally as a drug and alcohol treatment center for women.

6. Headley Inn

headleyinn

Headley Inn – Built in 1802. Located in Zanesville, OH. Originally this house served as a tavern and inn in the early 1800’s. By the 1950’s it operated as a seasonal 9-5 restaurant. Today it is back in business, newly opened as a bed & breakfast.

7. Field House

Field House

Field House – Built in 1807. Located in Belfast, ME. Originally a private residence, this house contains over 7,000 sqf. It has changed physical house numbers on High Street since the 1950’s and for a time between then and now operated as a hotel. It was recently on the market for $395,000.00

8. The Mansion of Eleazar Arnold

Arnold House

Now known as the Arnold House – Built in 1687. Located in Lincoln, RI. This rare example of early Rhode Island architecture featuring a massive wall fireplace once served as a tavern. In the 1950’s it was available to tour for $0.25. Now it is managed by Historic New England and is open year round with an $8.00 admission fee.

9. Dell House

Dell House

Dell House- Built 1800. Located in Nantucket, MA. This sea captain’s house was a private residence in the 1950’s painted yellow with white trim. In the 2000’s this house, still private, underwent extensive renovation and remodeling.

10. Harlow-Holmes House

Harlow Holmes

Harlow-Holmes House – Built in 1649.  Located in Plymouth, MA. In the 1950’s the ninth generation of the Holmes family lived here surrounded by antiques that dated back centuries in the family’s heirloom collection, including the original Captain’s table from the Mayflower. At some point between the 1950’s and now the house was added onto in the back. See more photos here. 

11. Callendar House

Callendar House

Callendar House – Built in 1794. Located in Tivoli, NY. A private residence in the 1950’s, this  grand house including 35 acres, outbuildings and river views, just sold recently, continuing the grand tradition of private ownership. For more pictures click here.

12. Moffatt-Ladd House

Moffatt Ladd

Moffatt-Ladd House – Built in 1763. Located in Portsmouth, NH. Since 1912, this Georgian – style house museum has been open to the public during seasonal hours. Once the home of William Whipple, a signer of the Declaration of Independence it used to be $0.50 to tour the house, now it is $7.00.

13. Ocean Born Mary House

Ocean Born Mary House

Ocean Born Mary House – Built in 1760. Located in Henniker, NH. Part of pirate folklore this house has been associated with a colorful heritage that still captivates sea storytellers to this day. Always a private residence, it was open for tours by the owner for $0.25  a person in the 1950’s.  Today it remains private with no tour options, however people caught up in the legend of Ocean Born Mary still drive by the house. Read more about the legend here…

14. Lady Pepperrell Mansion

Lady Pepperrell

Lady Pepperrell – Built in 1760. Located in Kittery Point, ME. In the 1950’s, this elegant Georgian house was open for tours by The Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities. Now it is a private home, still retaining all the original features (at least on the front facade!)

15. Dutton House

Dutton House

Dutton House – Built in 1782 . Located in Shelburne Village, VT. Throughout its colorful life, this house has been an inn, a tavern, a museum and mixed use office space. Since the 1950’s it has been part of a museum collection of historic buildings comprising a typical Vermont village of the 19th century. In 1956 admission was $1.75, today it is $24.00.

16. General Nathanael Greene House

Nathanael Greene house

Nathanael Greene House – Built in 1770.  Located in Coventry RI. In the hands of the Sons of the American Revolution and the Nathanael Greene Homestead Association since the 1920’s, this house was built and designed by Nathanel – one of George Washington’s most trusted general’s. Recently the Association held a fundraiser to build a replica barn on the property that was torn down in the 19th century. The house is open for tours and special events.

17. Bonnet Hill Farm

Bonnet Hill

Bonnet Hill Farm – Built in 1670. Located in Darien, CT. Originally built in Stamford, CT this stately farmhouse house was moved in the 1940’s to Darien after private owners rescued it from its then shabby circumstance serving as a glue factory.  In the 1950’s it was painted pumpkin with white trim and was available for tour by appointment only. Today it has again undergone extensive renovation and remodel including additions and expansions and is now a private residence.

18. Webb House

Webb House

Webb House – Built in 1752. Located in Wethersfield, CT. Operating as a museum since the 1950’s, the Webb House recently got an exterior makeover in the form of a fresh coat of paint – in red – which brings the house back to it’s original color.

19. Thompson House

Thompson House

Thompson House – Built in 1709. Located in East Setauket, NY. By the 1950’s Thompson House had been faithfully restored by its owners and then passed on to the care of a Trust ensuring that everyone has the chance to see and appreciate the splendid salt box style architecture of this 300 year old structure.

20. Dey Mansion

Dey Mansion

Dey Mansion – Built in 1740. Located in Wayne, NJ. Property owner Dirck Dey worked alongside his slaves and various craftsmen  in the mid-18th century to erect this eight room manor house. In the 1950’s, it was renovated to serve as  a house museum with utmost attention being paid to each historic detail to make it as authentic as possible. Tours were available then for $0.35, today they are $5.00.

21. Powel House

Powel House

Powel House – Built in 1765. Located in Philadelphia, PA. Under the care of the Philadelphia  Society for the Preservation of Landmarks since the 1930’s, this handsome city house museum welcomes visitors and special events. Other than the tourism plaque out front the exterior is virtually unchanged since the Pratt’s visited in the 1950’s.

22. Upsala

Upsala

Upsala – Built in 1798. Located in Philadelphia, PA. in the 1950’s you could tour this beauty as it evolved through renovation and restoration projects for just $0.10. Today you can buy the whole house for $499,000. That’s right, dear readers Upsala is for sale! Now is your chance to buy a 218 year old architectural  gem. Find more info here. 

23. Keith House

Keith House

Keith House – Built in 1722. Located in Horsham, PA. Now a part of Graeme Park Historic Site, the Keith House in the 1950’s was a private residence, but today it is owned and operated by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and open for tours throughout the year. As the last surviving residence of a Colonial Pennsylvania Governor, it’s historical importance is significant.

24. Thompson Neely

Thompson Neely

Thompson Neely – Built in 1701. Located in Washington Crossing, PA, this pre-revolutionary house was available for tours in the 1950’s and continues to be offered today. Just before crossing the Delaware, George Washington held a meeting here, and reenactments of the event are held each year on Thompson-Neely grounds on Christmas Day.

25. Matthews House

Matthews House

Matthews House – Built in 1829. Located in Painseville, OH.  Rescued and restored by Lake Erie College, this federal style Greek Revival house had just been moved to campus a few years before Richard and Dorothy Pratt visited in the 1950’s. Today it stands proudly among the faculty and administration buildings serving as academic offices and a guest house for visiting alumni.

26. Mead Hall

Mead Hall

Mead Hall – Built in 1833. Located in Madison, NJ. Also in the hands of academic caretakers, Mead Hall is located on the campus of Drew University. In the 1950’s the brick was painted white and the building was used for social functions as well as offices. Tragedy struck in 1989 when a fire destroyed the roof, attic and second story of the house. Now fully renovated and rebuilt, Mead Hall once again stands at the heart of campus and serves as classroom space and faculty offices.

27. Octagon House

Octogon House

Octagon House – Built in 1854. Located in Watertown, WI. In the 1950’s, this house was open daily for $0.40 tours given by the Watertown Historical Society. The narrow exterior balconies were removed in the 1920’s for safety purposes but the Historical Society had always wanted to bring them back to secure the original design aesthetic of the building. In 2006 an anonymous donation made that possible and the balconies were added again. The house, one of only about 3,000 of its shape in the country is open seasonally for tours ($9.00/per person).

28. Varnum House

Varnum House

Varnum House – Built in 1773. Located in East Greenwich, RI. In the late 1930’s the Varnum Continentals, a local non-profit, purchased the Varnum House and restored it as a  museum open to the public. In the 1950’s it was painted white but has since received a fresh colorful makeover of yellow and green shades. Inside, the museum is full of period appropriate furniture and antiques ranging from the 1700’s to the 1900’s and offers tours by appointment.

29. Woodside

Woodside

Woodside – Built in 1838. Located in Rochester, NY. Serving as headquarters for the Rochester Historical Society from 1941 to 2016, this house recently sold to private owners. Over the course of 70 years the Society outgrew the space of this three-story mansion and weren’t able to keep up with structural repairs. New owners are currently renovating and restoring it for use as a private family home.

You’ll notice that other than the fire at Mead Hall, tragedy has eluded these remarkable buildings from our nation’s history. None were torn down or abandoned, burnt to ashes or left to deconstruct on their own. It’s wonderful to know that despite changing economic times and shifting design aesthetics these beautiful old houses are still being cared for by understanding hands. Perhaps with this same level of care and commitment, passion and resourcefulness, fortitude and perseverance they’ll be able to survive another 100, 200 or 300 years. If luck remains on their side they’ll be able to ensure that the story of our country can continue on in a touchable, tangible way for generations to come.

It is said of people that buy old houses, that they are not owners, but instead, stewards.  Not of ships or of planes or of trains as the original definition suggests,  but stewards instead of houses and history and the humble human spirit who built the heart that beat our country. Cheers to old houses and to the humans who love them!

Do you have a favorite among this batch of houses? If so, share your likes in the comment section below. Ms. Jeannie’s favorites are #2, #4, and #13!

 

 

History Hitting Home: Franklin and the Four Faces

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Clockwise from top left: Fountain Branch Carter, his wife Polly Carter, Albert Thornton Edwards, Albert’s wife Martha Jane Brewer

In late November of 1864 bullet holes riddled the house of Fountain Branch Carter and his wife Polly. The shots were fired by thousands of men in a little known but significantly bloody battle that took place in Franklin, Tennessee during one of the final fights of the American Civil War.

One of the men on the firing side was Albert Thornton Edwards, Ms. Jeannie’s great great grandfather. At the time of this battle he was a young Union soldier of 24, serving in the Ohio cavalry.

The Confederate army was on their way to Nashville to recapture their state capitol. The Union Army was coming up from Atlanta to stop them from capturing the city. The small rural town of Franklin, and the plantation of Fountain Branch and Polly Carter happened to be on the way and consequently in the way.

Photo courtesy of franklintrust.org

The Carter House – home of Fountain Branch and Mary Armistead Atkinson “Polly” Carter. Photo courtesy of franklintrust.org

It was early morning on November 30th, 1864 when Union General Jacob Cox  knocked on the front door of Fountain Branch’s house, walked in and declared his intentions to set up headquarters. He told Fountain Branch that he and his family were free to go about the house as they liked and continue their usual activities of the day. He then laid down to take a nap in the front parlour while his aides shuffled in setting up field camp materials in the two front rooms of the house.

Union General John Jacob Cox

Union General John Jacob Cox

No one expected that a battle would take place that day in the backyard of this pretty plantation. Not General Jacob Cox, not Fountain Branch Carter and certainly not any of the residents of the peaceful town of Franklin. But of course, war has a way of surprising everyone.

By nightfall, Union soldiers would attack the Confederate soldiers and the Confederates would fight back. Within a five hour time time span from mid-day to sundown over 10,000 casualties would be sustained and 3,000 soldiers, both Union and Confederate, would lose their lives right there in the yard including one son of Fountain Branch and Polly.

Backyard of the Carter House where most of the fighting took place. Photo via pinterest.

Backyard of the Carter House where most of the fighting took place. Photo via pinterest.

When bullets were blazing fast and furious Fountain Branch took his family, house servants and some neighbors down to the basement where they waited out the warring in a dark, cold room made of brick and stone. On the outside, in the yard, Albert fought his battles for the Union cause on horseback, a select skill that took so much training the military almost deemed it pointless for the amount of  time it consumed and experience it required. As night crept across the sky it became harder and harder for  the soldiers to see who and what they were shooting at. Mayhem set in and men fell on both sides. Some piled two or three bodies high all around the plantation.

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Ms. Jeannie toured the Carter House last week unaware of the fact at the time that Albert had participated in the fighting there. Her sympathies that day definitely lay with the Carter family and the horrific hours they had to endure as the war raged all around their home. She was especially struck by the haphazard splattering of bullet holes still evident in the clapboard on the back porch.

Bullets holes in the walls of the back porch. Photo via pinterest.

Bullets holes in the walls of the back porch. Photo via pinterest.

It wasn’t until Ms. Jeannie was back at home herself going through the service records of Albert (one of her only ancestors to fight in the Civil War) that she discovered his involvement there at the Carter House. One of those back porch bullet holes could have come from Albert.

It is startling to know that an ancestor witnessed such a tragic day but even more so knowing that he actually played a hand in making it tragic.  Of course Albert was just doing his job – trying to be a  good soldier two years into fighting a war he believed in. But there he was nonetheless, shooting at a house with innocent people inside.  In looking back on that event and these two men of history who faced each other on opposites sides, Ms. Jeannie couldn’t help but think how similar they really were.

Fountain Branch and Polly were long-time loves, married for almost 30 years and had 10 children between them. Albert following the Battle of Franklin would muster out of the military 8 months later and head home to Ohio so he could marry his bride Martha and move west via covered wagon to Iowa. Albert and Martha would go on to have 11 kids and celebrate 56 years of marriage. Neither spouse in either family remarried after their significant other passed away. Both families knew the loss of young children, both were farmers, both revered citizens in their communities and both of course survived the horrors of the Battle of Franklin. Albert sustained eye injuries somewhere between Franklin and Nashville which he carried with him for the rest of his life. Fountain Branch lost his 24 year old son Tod in Franklin who had insisted on joining the fight that day to defend both his family’s land and the ideals of the Confederacy.

The one main difference of these two men living in 19th century America was their philosophies on equality for all people. While Ms. Jeannie isn’t excited that Albert could have potentially destroyed someone’s home and family she is proud that her great great grandfather was fighting for the very freedoms that she enjoys today, 150 years later. She’s also thankful that the Carter House has survived all these years so that she can see first-hand her family’s impression on history and walk in the footsteps of a man who lived four generations before her.

Read more stories about Albert and Martha here, here and here including pictures of Albert’s civil war inkwell and Martha’s honeymoon quilt handmade on her wagon trip west just after she was married. Read more about the Carter House and the Battle of Franklin here.

If you have any surprising stories in your family history, please share them in the comments section. You just never know what we might discover!

 

Hello From The Other Side!

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Honk! Honk! Ms. Jeannie has arrived! The move from rural country to big city has been made at last! From her new vantage point in her new city she sends you the very biggest of the cheeriest hellos. Can you guess from the following photos what city and state she now calls home?

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To give you some hints… there are guitars everywhere, a river that runs the length of downtown, and a marvelous marquis heralding the history of the early newspaper industry.

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The architecture is a mix between very old and very brand new.

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The overall aesthetic could best be described as reclaimed rustic meets greek revival meets industrial modern. And centuries of creative arts can be seen, felt and heard around every street corner…

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It’s a city of riverboats and romance…

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statues and songs…

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flowers and fountains…

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It’s world-famous, most famous and always will be notoriously famous for its music scene. On the food front it is most known for a curious array of culinary creations including… hot chicken, peddle bars, whiskey slushies, and the first combination candy bar in the country.  If you drove from Chicago it would take you about 7 hours, from New York 13, and from Los Angeles a whole entire day plus five more hours. If you biked your way in the peddle bar it would take forever.

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It’s a bike and a bar! Peddle you and your pals around town on the hop on/hop off peddle bar!

There’s a beautiful waterfront lined with brick warehouses and lots of shops, restaurants, galleries and museums to explore.

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On the national history front, it’s officially been a city since 1779 and is home to one of the oldest working capitol buildings in the country. It was also home to three U.S. Presidents and one Vice President.

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The Capitol Building!

Last put not least, even though this is an urban environment there is still plenty of the wild and wooly to enjoy. Groundhogs run around the riverbank, rabbits live at the baseball stadium, and the open year-round farmers market provides all the farm freshness a city girl could ever crave!

 

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So there we have your clues: hot chicken, music, groundhogs, riverway, history, green space, peddlers and whiskey. Could you guess it dear readers? Could you guess where exactly this beauty of a metropolis is?

If you said Nashville, Tennessee you are correct!

In the month that Ms. Jeannie has been here she knows this city for its friendly faces, creative energy and gorgeously diverse architecture. She looks forward to exploring and sharing all the little nooks and crannies that make up this marvel of a place. There are many adventures to be had, so please stay tuned!

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In the meantime, Ms. Jeannie is hoisting her glass to stars newly aligned in what feels like a most important and influential chapter about to unfold. Cheers, cheers and cheers to new beginnings! And thanks to Adele for loan of the blog title:)

 

 

 

All Aboard: Your Adventure Awaits {Part Two}

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The date is April 27th, 1964.  You are standing among the crowd in front of the Unisphere, the largest globe ever built by man. It contains 470 tons of stainless steel and is considered “one of the most outstanding achievements in structural sculpture in the past decade.”  The New York World’s Fair has you dizzy with excitement!

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It is Day 5 of your travel adventure and you marvel at just about everything you set your eyes on.  There is an edge and an urgency to see, taste, hear and explore all the situations around you. You are bouncing from exhibit to exhibit on a natural high, guided by curiosity and surprise. Part New York frenetic energy and part endorphin rush you are bombarded in the best possible way with ideas that are new and thrilling and coming at you from all directions.

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If you wanted to see all 150 pavilions and attractions at the Fair it would take 30 full days of sightseeing. But you only have a week so you have to make a list. With your trusty 300 page fair guide…

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purchased for $1.00 at the concession stand you highlight the specific places and pavilions you want to see first.

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Among your not-to-miss moments are the: House of Good Taste, the Rheingold, Walter’s International Wax Museum, the Clariol Hair Color Exhibit, the Avis Antique Card Ride, the Transportation and Travel Hall, France, Switzerland, Indonesia, Africa, the Space Park, the Garden of Meditation and the Pool of Industry plus 27 others. It’s an ambitious schedule but you are determined to make the most of it.

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While so many exhibits are enormous, some in particular really catch you off-guard by their sheer size like Sinclair’s Dinoland where nine life-size replicas of dinosaurs stand hovering over the fair-goers.

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It is one of the most popular spots for photographs so you have to squeeze in quickly to get a few snaps. The dinosaurs were made by artists in upstate New York and were in fact so big they couldn’t be transported by truck or trailer, so they had to be floated down the Hudson River via barge. In the anticipation leading up to your trip, your friend Gene took a photo of the big guys heading down river and sent it off to you in the mail…

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Other incredible sightings so far have included the steel and plastic Liberty Tree with leaves made of historic documents in the New England pavilion…

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…and the scale model of New York City, which measures in total 180′ feet  x 100′ feet. Each building is scaled at 1 inch to 100 feet which means that the Empire State building is 15″ inches tall. Amazingly,  this model includes every building in Manhattan.

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You soak up all the sun and and all the fun at the very first live Porpoise show courtesy of the Florida State Exhibit…

before heading over to the Hollywood Pavilion where you soak up celebrity and have your autograph book signed by Joan Crawford and Kirk Douglas.

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With heart pounding you fly like a bird through the air courtesy of the Monorail, the Observation Towers, the Brass Rail Snack Bar, the giant Royal Tire ride and the Parachute Jump…

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Part of the reason why you are feeling so giddy and alive is because there is so much positivity and potential floating around. Words and wonders like Carousel of Progress, Futurama and Tomorrowland greet you both in person and in print at every turn…

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and you can’t help but feel a sense of overwhelming optimism for the progress that is sure to come in the next 5, 10, 15 and 20 years.

You have been at the fair for five days. You have traveled 1000 miles from New Orleans to New York City to get here. But in reality you have gone much further. You have circumnavigated the globe. You have seen zebras in Africa, enjoyed coffee in Lebanon and arranged flowers in Japan.  You have explored planets in outer space and dived deep into the inky depths of the sea. You feel like a true globetrotter, a jet-setter and a time traveler all wrapped into one. You are crossing continents and centuries in the blink of an eye. This is by far one of the most exciting vacations of your life. You don’t want to leave but you also can’t wait to share your trip with all your friends back home. You mail off a litany of postcards every day… your words running off the cards because there is just so much to say.

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You look for a souvenir that can encapsulate this experience of a lifetime in one item. You search through many stands and stalls before it hits you…

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You find a book that symbolizes all the magic of the moment that is the World’s Fair. You purchase a souvenir copy of the story of Michelangelo’s Pieta, which is on display in the Italian pavilion. The 15th century sculpture stands 6′ feet tall by 5.5′ feet long and contains three different elevated viewing platforms. You walk onto each one to gather a sense of the sculpture’s size and scope.

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The sculpture fills you with emotion. It is a combination of history, stone and craftsmanship.  It contains story, self-expressionism and symbolism. It conveys love and tenderness, majesty and gift-giving. It is passion magnified in a portrait of faith and future.  It represents past accomplishment and future hope. It is the New York World’s Fair personified. This art, this souvenir book, this incredible Fair represents a moment in time, in life, in history destined not to be forgotten.

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Happy 4th!

Goodness gracious! Is it scorching hot here in the South!

Everything is either wilting or dripping. The garden has been wind-whipped by hot dry dust storms almost everyday, and that is after we went through an almost tornado storm on Sunday with 60 mph wind gusts, thunder and lightening. The garden is starting to show some wear and tear.  Pictures will come later this week.

In the meantime… the heat of the summer always signals the start of Ms. Jeannie’s movie marathons. There is nothing more decadent then curling up by a fan and losing yourself in the lengthy plot lines of seasonal tv shows, mini series and movie epics.  That’s how she was first introduced to Mad Men, the Tudors, Empire Falls, Castle, The Godfather, Good Neighbors…

So it is with that in mind, if you are experiencing a horrendous heat wave in your neck of the woods as well, that Ms. Jeannie recommends a most patriotic mini-seies for this holiday week… the HBO mini-series John Adams.

This came out a few years ago(2008), but the more Ms. Jeannie talks about this movie, the more she realizes a lot of people never saw it. If you fall in that boat, here’s the trailer…

Delightfully, it starts out in the winter with John Adams (played fantastically by Paul Giamatti) riding his horse through a blizzard in 1770 Boston.  Just watching that scene alone instantly cools you off and makes you forget about the temperature outside.

John Adams – Opening Scene

The mini-series is based on the thoroughly researched book John Adams by David McCullough.

A New York Times Bestseller! John Adams by David McCullough

Like the book, the mini-series painstakingly brought every single detail of colonial life alive in the production. Tom Hanks, a huge history buff, was one of the executive producers. It stars in addition to Paul Giamatti, Laura Linney (Abigail Adams), Tom Wilkinson (Ben Franklin) and David Morse (George Washington). The production team was dedicated to making the film look and feel exactly like life would have been in 1770’s America.

Official Poster. Such a smart tagline…He united the states of America.

They even aged the teeth of John and Abigail so by the end, they were pretty decayed. Exactly what people’s teeth would have looked like at the time! The whole production is a visual feast for not only the eyes but the imagination as well.

The opening theme delighted Ms. Jeannie.  Simple yet so dramatic and full of emotion. You can’t help but feel inspired by just watching that!

Since Ms. Jeannie used to live in Philadelphia it was equally fascinating to look at the sets and then remember the city as she knew it. Of course she has the done the history tour of Philadelphia many times, but now after watching the movie and reading the book she feels like she understands that time period, the city and our early government so much better now.

So if you want to fall in love with America all over again, Ms. Jeannie highly recommends losing yourself in this eight hour marathon. She guarentees you will walk away with a different perspective on our forefathers struggle to create our nation of independence.

“Let us tenderly and kindly cherish, therefore, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.” – John Adams

Have 4th of July dear blog readers!