Sunday, December 7, 2014

Theodore Roosevelt Historical Site

Buffalo, N.Y.

We visited Buffalo in September of this year well before the historic November snow fall. It's never been on my list of top 10 cities to visit but in 2012 it was the site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's annual meeting so my interest was piqued.

I did my research before arriving and we went down a check list clicking off some of the city's most impressive architecture and historic sites.

This house has a fascinating story to tell though not about the Ansley Wilcox family who owned the home but instead about one day in history - the day Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in as President of the United States in the first floor library.

On Sept 6, 1901 while greeting the public at the Pan American Expo President Mckinley was shot by an anarchist.  Vice President Roosevelt immediately traveled to Buffalo.  After surgery President Mckinley rallied and the surgeons were certain that a complete recovery would soon follow. Roosevelt decided to join his family for a vacation in the Adirondack Mountains.  Three days later he was urgently called back to Buffalo.  The President was near death.

In his haste to reach Buffalo Roosevelt had not packed his formal attire. For the swearing in ceremony he borrowed clothes from Wilcox, the home's owner and an old friend.

Only one photograph of the day was ever taken and that was outside on the front porch prior to the swearing in ceremony. Once inside the small library the two photographers present got into a scuffle while jockeying for position. Roosevelt threw them out.

This historic site has an unusual tour.  It recreates sights, sounds and smell begining with the apparent carnival like atmosphere of the Pan American Expo.  Then as you enter the dining room you smell the aroma of coffee - a favorite drink of Roosevelt's.

Here's a few photo's from some of our other stops in Buffalo.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Darwin D. Martin House Complex

Prudential(Guaranty) Office Building
Architect Louis H Sullivan
All-Steel Frame with Terra Cotta Veneer
Built 1895

The Mansion of Delaware Ave !
our hotel 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Merchant's House Museum

New York, New York

Now's the time to visit the Merchant's House Museum in NoHo.  According to the Sunday New York Times an eight story hotel is about to go up next door and if the house shifts just a quarter of an inch during construction extensive damage could be caused to the house's plaster moldings.

I thought of visiting several times in the last 3 years but waited because there was always some part of the house closed off for renovation.  Maybe that was the pre-emptive work that the article talks about.

The Merchant's House is one of 23 member sites of the Historic House Trust of New York City.  The Trust's website gives you an introduction to their homes and a link to individual websites.

Take a look at the Times article and if you're interested let me know.  We can visit together before the the ceiling starts falling down.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Hemingway #3

You already know  that the Ernrst Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West, FL is one of my least favorite house museums.  So you won't be surprised that the Dec 23, 2012  NY Times article on the home has not stirred me to action.

The article recounts a nine year losing battle with the U.S. Department of Agiculture over the right to  regulate the cats under the Animal Welfare Act.  While it did conjure up some wild images of under cover agents observing and surreptitously photographing the cats, I'm not inclined to view the museum as a simple house museum forced to run through a bureaucratical maze.  My impression of  it stands : a well run tourist business with it's bottom line well highlighted.

Yet the article does have some great pictures of the house and the cats who live there.

Hildene update

I'm thrilled that the movie "Lincoln"  has found such a wide audience as well as garnered so many accolades.  Such non glossy Hollywood films, especially a historical one, typically create little interest.  Yet who realized that the media buzz around the film would increase attendance at a house museum?

My ever so observant Vermont friend has sent me an article from a local paper about the expected boost in attendance at Hildene, the home of Robert Todd Linclon.  Before you drive up for a visit take a look at my Nov 10, 2011 entry on the home.  And if your interested in a local tour guide with inexhaustible knowledge and the friendliest welcome you can imagine, give Monique a call! 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Perry House

Stratford, CT

As I stepped through the door Pam and  Carole made it as clear as the sunny summer morning,  "The Perry House is not a house museum."  The defining feature most illustrative of that is the fact that here you are encouraged to TOUCH.  The staff prefers the designation of educational center.  And in fact many school children visit the house annually.

When Benjamin Beach, a ship builder, built the oldest portion of the house in 1680 it was fronted by King's Highway which at that time was one of the busiest roads in the country. During the Revolutionary War General Washington passed by the house many times, once accompanied by the Marquis de Lafayette.  

In 1954 the building was divided up into three apartments and in her 1981 will the owner left the property to the town of Stratford.  At one point while the house was boarded up many of the architectural details were stolen and sold to antique shops.  The house came close to being demolished when the nearby senior center petitioned the town for more parking spaces.

Yet the Perry House Foundation has resurrected the home and created a vibrant learning environment with fascinating building quirks resulting from the home's more than three centuries of use.  You can still see the graffiti scratched by school children into the fireplace mantle when the West parlor served as a school from 1889-1898.

A recent archelogical dig in the back yard identified a privy's round wall.  Evidently that's a rare find as there is only a small number of round walled privies in NY state and almost none in CT.  Musket balls, china and eye glasses were also found.

I don't often get a chance to take photos inside but since the Perry House is not a museum touching and photo taking are allowed.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Campbell House Museum

St. Louis, MO

It's a serious thing though you wouldn't guess from the blog entry's witty title "SAVE OUR (GL)ASS".  The Campbell House Museum in St. Louis, MO was broken into one night last week and the cash box with just less than $100 was stolen.  But that was certainly not the worst of it.  One of the 5 foot by 18 inch panes of etched glass in the front door was broken.

My first thought was how could the museum leave such valuable and memorable glass panes unprotected.  As you can see in this photo, they didn't.

To gain entry the thugs first  jumped over a wrought iron fence, then jimmied the slide lock on these massive exterior wooden doors, and finally threw a rock through the interior glass pane.

I'm not sure when or if I'll ever visit the Campbell House but I'd like to know that the doors have been restored.  Chip in along with me.  Modest donations add up.

To read more visit The Campbell House blog:

And to learn more about Robert Campbell, the renowned fur trader and entrepreneur, as well as the 1851 home he built with his wife Virginia go to :

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Captain David Judson House

Stratford, CT

What's a young aspiring preservationist to do during the dog days of summer?  Those in Stratford, CT attend the annual history camp.   The week long camp for fourth graders through high school teaches kids about life in the 1700's.  The campers learn about butter making, candle dipping, weaving, and herb gardening.  They can become junior docents and on the last day of camp lead family and friends on a tour of the home.

My recent tour was lead by Pam and the junior docent of the day, Emily. They were both very knowledgeable about life in the 1700's and the many tools, farm implements, and household products of the day.  In fact my overall impression of the home was not about the family that lived there but about the many artifacts of the time period.  I  could probably skip camp and go right to the junior docent position.

Highlights for me:

*  The bulls eye glass in the front door was probably made in England.  In the 1750's, due to British Parliamentary regulation not expertise, glass was not made in the US.

*  As your candle burns down it becomes more difficult to read your book or sew but if you have this handy little table/candle holder that twists up and down like a screw you'll hold onto that light a little bit longer.

*  Privacy is something very important to us today.  But that wasn't true during colonial times.  In the Judson House living room is a corner chair or chamber pot chair.  There was no need to clear the room if you needed to "use the facilities".  Just pick up the chair top and then your dress.

*  Candles were made from meat fat so in addition to emitting a distinctive odor they were attractive to mice and thus kept on the wall in a metal candle keeper.

*  The coming and going room.  Love the name.  So simply states its purpose.  Birthing and dying.

*  Tea!  We all know how big a thing that was in the colonies and in the Revolutionary War! Somehow  tea was condensed into rock solid bricks that were shaved to create a small amount of loose tea to use for brewing.  The house has two tea blocks.  One brick was about 1 X 2 inches and the second one was huge at maybe 5 X 8 inches.  Both had an intricate design stamped onto the front.

I'm beginning to see an interesting thread in my tours and reading.  The stories of how buildings are saved and rehabbed are themselves fascinating pieces of history.  In 1925 the Judson House was given by the Curtis sisters to the town of Stratford.  The gift included a stipulation that the town raise $10,000 for upkeep and maintenance.  With an astonishing $13,000 Stratford surpassed the goal and the local Historical Society was born.