BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL FENCE

A beautiful Greek Revival house, built c.1840  on ancestral land for the Glidden family of Newcastle, Maine, owners of an ocean sailing fleet of clipper ships.  edges of the classic New England houses, making this an ever rarer example  Always a pleasure to see this level of architectural integrity—the house is maintained with perfect pitch, ever more rare as changing tastes, the current trend toward heavy-handed ‘improvement’, and modern building conventions slowly eat away at these beautiful structures.  This is the architectural heritage of Maine at its best.

Street view photographs by the Dilettante via phone, portico view via Creative Commons by Taorob, whose Panoramio site of photographs of Maine Architecture is a must-visit.

IMITATION IS THE SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY, #7

This morning’s pleasant distraction was started by an 18th century engraving of the Cabinet de Treillage at the Petite Trianon at Versailles.

I’m something of a geek (I could stop there, but let’s soldier on) for how designs travel and how they are re-invented in each iteration.

In 1799, Samuel McIntire, a self-taught carver, carpenter, and architect in Salem, Massachusetts, was engaged in his largest residential project, one of the grandest houses of its era in America, for the merchant Elias Hasket Derby.  

The program included a summer house for the garden, and this sketch by McIntire, for a Palladian-inspired garden folly, is thought to be a preliminary sketch for that structure.

Photograph of Derby-Beebe summer house by Joel Abroad, via Flickr Creative Commons

However, as built, the garden house had a flat roof with balustrade, ornamented with 8 urns carved by McIntire.  It is a charming structure, with the refined naive elegance and economy of design that typifies the architecture of New England of that era, wood standing in for the stone that would have been used in Europe.  And this is why the engraving electrified me this morning, for it appears that Mr. McIntire had got his hands upon a book of French designs, as in a departure from his usual Palladian and neo-classical inspiration, he seems to have based the design on the Cabinet de Treillage. Or perhaps it’s mere coincidence?

Cabinet de Treillage, Versailles

Coincidence or inspiration, the two buildings have unmistakable similarities of composition.  For your final consideration, I offer up this charming storefront, designed for the Pennel, Gibbs and Quiring decorating firm in Boston in the early 20th century.  By architects doubtless Beaux Arts trained, it takes the idea of the Derby-Beebe summer house and dresses it up in correct Academic orders (the treillage pavilion uses trellised pilasters of no particular order, and the summer house uses Corinthian, properly not for lower floors), but the design still appears to owe a debt to the earlier building in Salem–although a learned friend disagrees with me, I stick by this.  I leave it to the interested reader to draw his own conclusions..

When Elias Derby’s great house fell to the wreckers, not many years after it was built, the summer house was moved to a family farm in Wakefield, later acquired by the Beebe family.  In the 20th century, the summer house was removed from the farm and returned to Salem, to the grounds of the Peabody-Essex Museum. Derby had another summer house designed by McIntire on his Danvers estate, which was spared demolition and traveled to his Granddaughter’s “Glen Magna Farm”, where it remains today..  It is one of the most exquisite buildings of the Early Republic, and spawned its own host of imitators, including wings of a cottage in Bar Harbor.  But that is a story for another day.

PATTERN AND TEXTURE

On a quick  outing with an observant friend to the near Down East (Winter Harbor and Gouldsboro), I particularly captivated by the textures and pattern details of many of the buildings we saw.

Above, the residence hall at the former U.S. Navy Radio and Direction Finding Station on Schoodic Point at Winter Harbor, Grosvenor Atterbury Architect, 1905, commissioned by John D. Rockefeller to replace the old Fabbri Station at Otter Cliffs in Acadia National Park.

Below, the West Gouldsboro Union Church, 1894.  The parquetry work in the ceiling is especially wonderful.

Next door, a the wonderful little Tudorbethan Gouldsboro Library, designed by Fred Savage in 1906.  One of my personal fantasies is a single room private library in the garden.  This one would do just fine.  I’m sorry I couldn’t get photos of the handsome interior.

Above, stonework at the Channing Chapel, Unitarian, in Winter Harbor, built as a gift in 1887 by summer resident David Flint of Boston.  The rocks, a mixture of field stone and beach rock, were transported in winter across frozen ground, and laid by a master mason, whose name is momentarily lost in the files.  The Chapel is now the Winter Harbor Library.

Below, stonework, also a mix of old stone wall salvage and beach stones, on a 1902 private cottage.  A friend has reason to speculate that the stonework may be by the same mason as the Channing Chapel.  I think he may be right.

Stone and shingle, the classic Maine summer combination, at ‘Far From the Wolf’ the 1892 John Godfrey Moore cottage on Grindstone Neck, by W.W. Kent of New York, one of the finest shingle style cottages,  in a crowded competition, on this remote stretch of coast.

RETURN OF THE DILETTANTE

RETURN OF THE DILETTANTE

In the year since I last posted, there has been a veritable landslide of demand for my return (at least 3 people and a dog at last count), so I promise, there will be a new post soon—very soon.

“Is the Dilettante ever going to return?  And he’d better bring me a treat when he does”

For those who wonder, I have been kept from writing by life’s caprices, as well as other challenges and commitments—as here, where I am seen as auctioneer’s assistant at a charity auction last weekend (Vanna White wasn’t available).

The event in question was a fundraiser for the 200th anniversary of the Holt House, the beautiful Federal house that is now home of the local Historical Society.  The portrait I am holding is of an ancestress of the auctioneer, and came with a joke whose punchline was “And my grandmother would then alway point at that picture and say “isn’t she ahandsome woman”.

I know there’s another joke here….but I’ll leave it up to the reader.

“Isn’t she a handsome woman”
Inspecting the wares.  I bought the very chic chair at the left.  Never met a chair I didn’t like.
This Victorian sofa, rather a fine example of its type, but in a style rarely popular in today’s trend-driven markets, is still available; proceeds for a good cause.
The Holt House, a grace note in the center of our village for 200 years.

SPRINGTIME DOWN EAST

Several people have sent kind emails lately, asking why I’ve been blogging so little—the short answer is that I have several small projects that require big attention, always a problem for those of us easily distracted by shiny objects.

 
And then, there’s the weather.  A week into Spring, this is the scene from the top of our little mountain today at about noon-thirty.  The blizzard moved out quickly—and by 6:30, all was clear.  And cold.  And windy.
 
A friend, a man of great scientific and technological abilities (and the common sense to be in Florida for the winter), has a weather station from which Wunderground.com picks up our local forecast (it doesn’t get much better than being predicted from 1.5 miles away).  The reports for months have been uniformly dreary.  I emailed said friend, asking him if he couldn’t adjust the equipment to predict higher temperatures and sunnier skies.  I knew it wasn’t possible (as you can see below), but desperate times call for desperate measures.  He did re-assure me that he understood the temperature would be warmer in June.
 
That big white patch isn’t a snowy meadow.  It’s the frozen inner Harbor.  Did I mention that we are a week into Spring?  That in just seven weeks, Lilacs should be opening?
 
I’ve recently received a couple of interesting design books to review.  Maybe, if I can stir myself out of this torpor….but first, I have to remove this latest snow from the walks and steps.

 

Aside

27.1.14


MONDAY MISCELLANY

 
THIS DAY IN HISTORY
 
Fifty years ago today, the estimable Margaret Chase Smith, the Republican Senator from Maine who helped bring down Senator Joseph McCarthy’s reign of terror with her famous ‘Declaration of Conscience’ speech, gave another speech, this one at the Women’s National Press Club in response to rumors that she might run for President.  Here is an excerpt from that speech, dry, succinct, and deadpan.
 
 

Although the event has gone unmarked in the Maine dailies, this excellent story about her campaign appeared two days ago in the Wall Street  Journal  HERE

An interesting online exhibit about the campaign, complete with hats is found HERE

And the Dilettante on the subject of Senator Smith HERE

JAMES P. WHITE HOUSE TO BE AUCTIONED

One of Maine’s finest Greek Revival houses, the James P. White house in Belfast, will be up for bank auction tomorrow.  Listed on the National Register of Historic Place, the house is stunningly sited on a triangular plot of land at the intersection of Church and High Streets, with a gazebo at the apex, and the house set well back in grounds that retain a romantic air of the 19th century, enclosed by the remains of a superb cast iron fence utilizing anthemion designs.
 
 
Photographs above from The Historic American Buildings Survey.
Architectural historian Earle Shettleworth, the Director of the State Historic Preservation Commission, has traced the likely inspiration for Ryder’s design, with its central pavilion and cupola, to a plate in Minard Lefever’s Young Builder’s Assistant, and that design in trun to a villa by John Nash in Regent’s Park in London.
 
From ‘The Young Builder’s Assistant’, Minard Lefever
Inside, a sweeping staircase curves to the second floor, and carved woodwork echoes the anthemion motif first seen on the fence outside.  
 

 
 
Photos above, all uncredited, are either from White House Inn’s Facebook Page, or Sotheby’s website.
Literally and figuratively, the house sits at a crossroad, for we can no longer depend, in this era where everyone seems to be driven to ‘improve’ what doesn’t need improving, that the extraordinary integrity of house and site will remain untouched.  The property has been used as a bed & breakfast in recent years, and (and has the decor to prove it—who thought picking out the carving on woodwork in gold was a good idea?), and earlier was for sale for $870,000, before foreclosuRe proceedings. Though the neighborhood is residential, apparently many of the queries have been commercial—and of course, even replacement windows could affect the integrity of the design.  Keep your fingers crossed for a good result at the auction.  More details about the auction HERE
 

Aside

16.1.14


FOR SALE

 
The Bangor Public Library is housed in a handsome Beaux Arts structure designed in 1911, after a devasting fire destroyed much of the downtown, including the previous library building, from which only 29 volumes were saved.   The architects were Peabody & Stearns, one of America’s finest architectural firms at the turn of the last century.  After more than a century, the building’s copper roof has reached the end of its life and is being replaced, at a cost of millions.

 

 The showpiece of the building is a skylit central dome, ornamented by stylized acanthus leaf ornaments.  The originals are being replaced by exact reproductions, as originally designed by Peabody & Stearns, and the originals will be sold at a silent auction  by the Bangor Library on January 21st at 5:00 in the lecture hall.  Worth a bid—they are gorgeous, and the funds raised go to a good cause.

Echoes of Florence in Bangor, Maine (Wikimedia Commons)

 

 

TODAY’S QUIZ: One Degree of Separation

This is Nathaniel Sparhawk, wealthy merchant of Kittery Maine, and son-in-law of Sir William Pepperell, the only American baronet, as painted by John Singleton Copley in 1764 (Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston).

This is a scene from the film ‘Lost Boundaries’, starring Mel Ferrer and Beatrice Pearson, which won the award for Best Screenplay at the 1949 Cannes Film Festival.
And these are children of Frederick Woolworth, of those Woolworths, at the former family summer home in Monmouth, Maine, as featured in the August, 2012 issue of Town & Country (photograph by Susanna Howe)
 
And last, Darryl Hall of Hall & Oates, at his house in Maine (photo via Zimbio)

 


Do you know the thread that connects these disparate people across the centuries?  No fair using Google if you don’t know the answer.

I connect the dots for you in the October issue of Portland Monthly, beginning on Page 25.  Click HERE for the story.

MAINE STYLE: FASHION ADVICE FROM HENRY DAVID THOREAU

“Red-flannel shirts should be worn in the woods, if only for the fine contrast which this color makes with the evergreens and water”

—-Henry David Thoreau, The Maine Woods 1864

It has ever been thus

Statue of Paul Bunyan, Bangor ,Maine
L.L Bean’s Maine Guide Shirt.
“Red is the great clarifier – bright, cleansing, revealing. It makes all colors beautiful. I can’t imagine being bored with it – it would be like becoming tired of the person you love. I wanted this apartment to be a garden – but it had to be a garden in hell.”
Thoreau and Vreeland—Who knew?

Post Script:When Thoreau made this foray into fashion advice, on his journey to the Chesuncook wilderness in 1853,he stayed variously in log cabins like the one below, in a Stereoview titled ‘Palace of the Pioneer, Chesuncook’, and at a public house, whose unexpected presence led him to observe:

‘Palace of the Pioneer, Chesuncook’
“Before our companions arrived, we rode on up the Moulton Road seven miles to Molunkus, where the Aroostook road comes into it, and where there is a spacious public house house in the woods.  There was no other evidence of man but this huge shingle palace in this part of the world; but sometimes even this is filled with travelers.  I looked off the piazza round the corner of the house up the Aroostook Road, on which there was no clearing in sight. There was a man just adventuring upon it this evening in a rude, original wagon, a mere seat with a wagon swung under it.  Here, too, was a small trader who kept a store in a box over the way, behind the Molunkus sign-post. I saw him standing in his shop door. His shop was so small, that, if a traveler should make demonstrations of entering, he would have to go out by the back way and confer  with his customer through a window about his goods. 
11 years later, in 1864, the year in which the above description was published in The Maine Woods, the hotel  described by Thoreau had been supplanted by a new tavern, the Chesuncook Lake House.  In 1882, another traveler, Thomas Sedgwick Steele traveled up for the fishing, and in his book about the journey, Paddle & Portage: From Moosehead Lake to the Aroostook River, he left his own impression of the accomodations:
“There is a farm upon this lake It consists of a wilderness of ground and a collection of rickety sheds clustered like barnacles to a major pile which you suspect to be the homestead There is nothing pretentious about the architecture It is of a rather complex order and the span of life never seemed to me so short as at the moment I attempted to determine it Such a view of angles horizontals and perpendiculars never before greeted my eyes It was simply distracting The designing genius must have suffered with a cast in his eye or a mind disordered through indigestion   These farm buildings stand alone in a large open tract.of country.  The sight of them strikes you instantly as strange and unaccountable At first you wonder and half believe yourself in the vicinity of Ararat and a debilitated ark Then you shudder and give thought to a terrible suspicion a small pox hospital perhaps Finally unable to reach a plausible conclusion you forget you are in Maine and in generous sympathy with the glory awarded to all the super dilapidated buildings of the lower states declare at once that the pile must be the old headquarters of General Washington “
The Chesuncook Lake house still operates today.  The population of Chesunccook village, in the last census was 10 (Ten), all of whom, we hope, wear red flannel shirts.

A TEMPLE FOR THE ARTS

Note: this longer-than-usual post first appeared as an article on New York Social Diary, 01.14.2013

Summer Society has always needed its amusements, and Gilded Age Bar Harbor was no exception. Golf came first, as it often does. With the founding of the Kebo Valley Club in 1888, Bar Harbor was in the vanguard of the newly popular sport in America. The new club, with six holes designed by H.C. Leeds, was stated to be “cultivation of athletic sports and furnishing innocent amusement for the public (or at least that segment of the public listed in a new publication called The Social Register) for reasonable compensation.” Or at least that segment of the public listed in a new publication called The Social Register, begun only two years earlier. With this, the transformation of Bar Harbor from hotel resort to fashionable summer colony had begun in earnest, and Society was–literally—off and swinging.

The first Kebo Valley clubhouse, designed by Wilson Eyre

The new clubhouse was designed by the Philadelphia architect Wilson Eyre in a suitably picturesque style — the marble splendors of Newport were not for Bar Harbor yet. The separation of hotel visitors and the new cottage society, in their large and elaborate villas, was well underway, and by June 1890, The New York Times was able to report:

Fifth Green, Kebo, c. 1915

“Kebo Valley aims to lead in things social, and is certainly in a way a sort of focus, though its claim cannot be said to be generally acknowledged yet. The transient people do not take kindly to it, as it tends to take away from the prestige of social affairs in the village. Nor are the cottage people by any means unanimous in its favor. It is for one thing,a bit away from the centre of things …”

Horse show at Kebo
Whatever aversion the summer colony may have had to traveling a mile from town soon forgotten, and in addition to golf, Kebo offered tennis, hosted Bar Harbor’s early horse shows, and contained a theater suitable for dances and performances, including the amateur theatricals and tableaux so loved by Society of a simpler time.
The club lawns and verandas also served an all important function as a place to be seen in the afternoon, just as the Swimming Club on the West Street shore provided a morning promenade as the members of the colony swam to music from the Boston Symphony Players.
Society on parade at the second Kebo clubhouse (Maine Historic Preservation Commission)

In 1899, the clubhouse at Kebo burned. A new clubhouse was built, but lacked the performance space of the old, and by 1905 a few leaders of the summer community decided that the time had come to build for the Arts—Music, Theater, Dance— the same quality of facility as those already already available for the Amusements—Yachting, Golf, Tennis and Alcohol.
The site for the Arts Building was secured on Eagle Lake Road, at the very edge of one of the Kebo Valley Club’s putting green, which doubled as an outdoor amphitheater.
Five prominent members of the summer colony stepped forward with funds Mrs. Henry Dimock, sister of W.C. Whitney, George W. Vanderbilt, George B. Dorr, who would become a founder also of Acadia National Park, Fifth Avenue Hotel heir Henry Lane Eno, and Mrs. Robert Abbe, wife of the pioneer radiologist.
Plan of the Building of Arts
The architect chosen was Guy Lowell, a fashionable country house architect who also designed the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. With the usual logic of a committee, it was decided that a Greek temple under the pine trees would provided the most appropriate setting for the high culture they envisioned for the rocky island. 

The newly completed building of Arts, as published in Architectural Review
This temple was built not of stone, but stucco plastered over wood, “finished to represent Parian marble,” and the red Venetian tile roof was supported by “the largest wooden columns ever turned in Maine.” Copies of the Parthenon Friezes, imported from Paris, were mounted on the facade. Inside, the walls and ceiling of the stage adapted the principles of the sounding boards of the great German concert halls, and the natural lighting was provided “from the top after the manner of the ancient Greek shrines.”

The interior of the Building of Arts (Maine Historic Presevation Commission
A proscenium curtain of golden English damask, specially woven for the building and elaborately embroidered, was donated by Mrs. John Inness Kane and George Vanderbilt. The building immediately attracted national attention, an article by Owen Wister in Century Magazine, as well as a large photographic spread in The Architectural Review.

Rendering of the Building of Arts by Jules Guerin, from Century Magazine

The opening concert on June 13, 1907 featured Emma Eames, then one of the world’s leading lyric sopranos. She was followed over the years by many others of the world’s greats including the violinists Kreisler, Zimbalist and Kneisel, singers Alma Gluck and Roger de Bruyn, pianists Paderewski, Schelling, and Iturbe,conductors Damrosch and Stowkowski, and monologists Ruth Draper andCornelia Otis Skinner. Acting troupes such as the Washington Square Players and The Theatre Workshop performed Bar Harbor seasons, as did local stock companies like the Surry Players, sponsored by Mrs. Ethelbert Nevin, whose numbers included the young Henry Fonda.

Matinee at the Building of Arts (Maine Historic Preservation Commission)

High Culture was not the only venue at the Building of Arts, and flower shows, including the Bar Harbor Sweet Pea competition were held there, as well as well as ‘serious’ lectures and art exhibits. 

The Greek Tableau, as published in Architectural Review

And of course, Society has always loved dress up no costume too silly,, and in the early years many amateur tableaux were featured, including a 1909 Greek pageant arranged by the artistic Mrs. Albert Clifford Barney, mother of Natalie (click HERE for more about her) featuring members of the summer colony, including assorted Endicotts, Schieffelins, Gurnees, de Kovens, Pinchots and Welds traipsing about the grounds in diaphanous garb, acting the story of the love of Egeria for the mortal Strephon. At another, in 1915, members of society recreated favorite portraits.

The Greek Pageant (Architectural Review)

The young widow Mrs. John Jacob Astor was a Reynolds beauty in picture hat, a Miss Maull balanced Mrs. Astor as a Gainsborough, Miss Mary Canfield andJohn J. Emery, Jr. were a Watteau Shepard and Shepardess, Mrs. Ernest Schelling reenacted a Polish Farm scene with costumes she’d brought from Poland, and family proud Albert Eugene Gallatin portrayed his own grandfather in a Gilbert Stuart Portrait. It was simpler time.

In those days before Tanglewood and the Pops, the Boston Symphony lay idle in the summer, and members of the orchestra, as the Boston Symphony Players, would spend the summer in Bar Harbor, playing at the Swimming Pool Club during the morning swim, and popular tunes at parties and dances in the evenings (This franchise was to receive serious competition when a young bandleader named Meyer Davis broke onto the Bar Harbor scene and his eventually became the orchestra of choice from Bar Harbor to Palm Beach.)
The Washington Square Players in costume for their performance at the Building of Arts (New York Times)
Meanwhile, golf and art continued to merge at the edge of the Kebo Greens, and the Symphony Players even provided background music for a ladies putting tournament.
For all the glamour of the featured performers, the most extraordinary performance at the Building of Arts there was not seen by the public. In 1916, Meyer Davis was playing for the evening dances at the Malvern Hotel. In her memoirs, Mrs. Davis recounts watching the orchestra through a glass door behind the ballroom stage when she suddenly witnessed a most extraordinary little scene. A compact man, dapper in a pearl gray suit, entered the back of the room, and rather than taking a seat, as she expected, he suddenly, unseen by the others focused on the band, broke into a little gavotte. Entranced, she made inquiries, and to her astonishment, the man proved to be the great dancer Vaslav Nijinsky.

Njinsky (in costume for til Eulenspiegel, left)

As World War I raged in Europe that summer, Serge Diaghelev instead sent Nijinsky to spend the summer at the Malvern, where it was hoped the fresh air and relative isolation of Bar Harbor would inspire the dancer to complete his new (and as fate had it, last) ballet, “Till Eulenspiegel.” Rest and isolation were relative concepts with Nijinsky and his wife, after one evening’s round of argument, took a car and drove aimlessly for two hours in the middle of the night, returning at dawn.

Robert Edmund Jones’ costume designs for til Eulenspiegel
A fashion columnist ponders Till Eulenspiegel’s effect on fashion
There is no record of a public performance by Nijinsky in Bar Harbor that summer, the Building of Arts became his rehearsal space, and there the ballet was choreographed for its opening in New York that winter. He was joined there by set and costume designer Robert Edmond Jones and by Paul Magriel, who wrote that “invitations to the great houses of Bar Harbor showered upon me like gold,” in the hope that the great dancer could be lured along with him, but Nijinsky rarely went out in society, instead rehearsing by day and working on the production designs by evening.
After the 1929 stock market crash, the Building of Arts soldiered on for a time. New patrons were found, impresario Timothee Adamowski continued to book important performers, but the clock was running out. The Surry Players performed Aristophanes’ ‘The Birds’ in the outdoor amphitheater in July of 1935.

The coverage in the New York Times the next day was far more concerned with the quality of the audience than of the play. Notably absent from the impressive listing of names—among them Mrs. Reginald de Koven, Mrs. John D. Rockefeller Jr., Mrs. J. West Roosevelt, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Mrs. Gerrish Milliken, Mrs. Shepard Fabbri—were the husbands, who may have been back at the office in New York, or more likely, on their yachts or the golf course next to the amphitheater, where one assumes that the occasional cry of ‘fore’ punctuated the Greek chorus
In 1941, as America entered World War II, an exhibit was held at the Building of Arts for benefit of the American British Art Center, featuring Cecil Beaton’s then unpublished series “London’s Honorable Scars,” recent London war posters, and 25 sketches by J.M.W Turner. By the next season, Bar Harbor gas rationing had made remote Bar Harbor difficult of access, and the colony was a virtual ghost town, with many cottages shuttered, as some had been since the Depression.
John D. Rockefeller, Jr. had been among those who had quietly made up the Building of Arts deficit for years, and he had now taken stronger action, as the structure was about to be sold by the town for tax liens. Through his agent,Serenus Rodick, whose ancestors had built the largest of Bar Harbor’s early hotels, Rockefeller quietly purchased the building for $500, hoping to secure its future as a center for culture on the island.
By 1944, Rockefeller decided that adequate support was not forthcoming from the community, and he disposed of the building. It was acquired by Consuella de Sides, a pupil of Baba Ram Dass, who intended to make it once again a center of performance. In October 1947, the great forest fire that swept Bar Harbor in that driest of seasons swept across the Kebo Greens, destroying both the clubhouse and the Building of Arts. Bar Harbor’s temple for the high arts had lasted but forty years.

President Taft, not attending a performance at the Building of the Arts.

Kebo Valley Club survives, its golf course the eighth oldest in the country. The ‘Elbow Hole,” where President Taft carded 27 in the shadow of the Building of Arts, where he was not attending a performance, is now the 17th green, and nearby at the edge of the woods the broad steps of the lost temple lead nowhere.

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