Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Grand Re-Opening

GRAND RE-OPENING! That's a phrase customarily used in reference to restaurants, retail stores, and car dealerships. House Museums- not so often.

But there it was advertised in the local Cape newspaper.

1736 Josiah Dennis Manse Museum
Grand Re-Opening Celebration
Saturday, June 25,2011
Ribbon Cutting 1:00 pm

Wish we could have made it but we left the Cape one day short of the grand re-opening celebration.

Another house moved to next year's list.

You can make it though. The house is open until August 30th on Tuesdays 10-1, Thursdays 1-4 and some Saturdays. The address is Nobscussett Rd, corner of Whig Street, Dennis Village, MA.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

America's Kitchens

For a year now I've been looking at a bookmarked site called "America's Kitchens". When I first found the reference I was fascinated by the idea of a serious study of the kitchen. But for many many months I've rarely visited the site. Yet there it sits very near the top of my long list of bookmarks.

The site referenced is a page on the Historic New England website
(www.historicnewengland.org). It refers to one of the traveling panel exhibitions sponsored by the association. In 2010 the exhibition was in its inaugural site and there was a year long list of programs associated with it. I tried, several times really, but could never quite get up to the Massachusetts where the mostly evening programs were being held.

But to my surprise it has resurfaced on Cape Cod at the Heritage Museum and Gardens in Sandwich, MA and is on display from April 1 - October 31, 2011. Historic New England describes the exhibit as: "America’s Kitchens traces the role of the kitchen in people’s lives from the seventeenth century to today. Six vignettes (New England Hearth, Plantation Kitchen, Southwest Kitchen, Victorian Kitchen, Efficient Kitchen, and 1950s Kitchen) are created with a combination of room-size graphic murals, artifacts, such as a 1920s Hoosier cabinet, photographs, and personal stories. "

Lucky us. We on the Cape in late June. And while there was no special lecture we were able to view the exhibit. My favorite vignette is the turquoise kitchen. It was originally the second kitchen, used only on special occasions, in an Italian American family's home.

The website lists 7 traveling exhibitions that can be rented and set up around New England in various museums. My favorite title is "From Dairy to Doorstep: Milk Delivery in New England, 1860 - 1960". That's no doubt due to my fond memories of Brownie our milkman. Whoops he was our wonderful Wonder Bread delivery man not milkman. Well neither of them lasted once the supermarket moved into the neighborhood.

The dairy exhibition is the only one of the seven traveling exhibitions that can be viewed on line.
Go to http://www.historicnewengland.org/collections-archives-exhibitions/online-exhibitions/From_Diary_to_Doorstep

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Mount - Revisited

Back in the fall of 2008 when I visited Edith Wharton's home, The Mount in Lenox, MA, the board of directors and staff were quite alarmed at the dire financial straights that the home was in. In my blog entry's closing I suggested a donation to insure the continued existence of the home as a house museum open for public tours.

Well I doubt it was my donation that did it but The Mount has reduced its overall debt by nearly 50% since the spring of 2008! They met a significant May 2011 note repayment and feel that momentum is growing.

Bravo! Well done!

Time for another visit? Perhaps. I love the area. There's so much to see within a small radius.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

California Houses

On June 19th my man, Andrew Ferren, added another NY Times article to my essential list of house museum resources. As you no doubt recall from my January 3, 2011 blog entry, he has written two others, one on London, England and an earlier piece on Washington, D.C.

His articles pull together a handful of interesting house museums in one locale. This latest, "California Houses as Celebrities in Themselves" is on the Los Angles, CA. area.

Homes featured in the article include:

Gamble House 1907-1909 : Pasadena: Charles and Henry Greene architects

VDL II House 1932 : Hollywood: Richard Neutra architect

Schindler House 1921-1922 : West Hollywood: Rudolf Schindler architect

Eames House 1949 : Pacific Palisades: Charles and Ray Eames architects

I was reminded of Ferren's London article last night as we watched the 1960 movie, The Grass is Greener with Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr, Jean Simmons, and Robert Mitchum. In that article Ferren compares house museums with street lights, citing that they are equally ubiquitous in London. That's true in Great Britain in general as well.

The movie is about an earl and countess who live in a "stately house" in the English countryside. Stately house is one of several expressions used for house museums in England.

According to Cary Grant or rather the Earl's calculations, there are 400 stately homes in England. The count is now up to 500, an increase of 100 in 51 years. I found some interesting websites and plan to do further research. I certainly would like to do that over there in person but I'll have to opt for an on line effort first.

By the way we were sort of tickled with the movie. It had house museums and fly fishing. Not often you see those two topics tied together. But even with that I wouldn't rate the movie too highly. It was originally a play and apparently they did little rewriting for the film. We fast forwarded through 25 minutes of straight dialogue that had one scene change and no costume changes. Talk about SLOW pace!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A House Museum By Another Name

I spent my early morning hours on Saturday reading portions of the Sunday N.Y. Times and the local Connecticut paper. I found two inspirations for this blog.

The first is an article entitled "An Immigrant from France is Welcomed to New York. It's about a 1955 Citroen Traction Avant. Yes an automobile! The personal stories, historical focus, and "noteworthy features" reminded me of the house museum tours that I so love.

With a few changes this could be a description of a house museum.

"The Traction Avant - the name is French for front-wheel drive, has the look of an old time mobsters car. Made from 1934 to 1957, it was quite innovative by prewar standards. While it wasn't the first car with front drive, it popularized the layout in Europe, and its unibody structure was considered advanced."

A similar passage in my blog might read:

Taliesin West - Welsh for Shining Brow- has an an idiosyncratic modern look. Built from 1937 onward, it was quite innovative for its time. While it's not Wright's most famous construction, he designed many of his well known buildings, including the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, at the compound while living here during the winter months.

And doesn't this part sound like the description of a some kitchen innovation that proved over time to be a poor solution to the problem it was invented to address?

"The hinged windshield opens at the bottom with a push of a lever on the dashboard. It's useful on rainy days when the windshield fogs up. But you get your trousers wet."

Pictures accompanying the article show dashboard instruments with an art deco flair, personalized pillows, and the badge of the French owners club. In house museum language this might be an art deco vase, embroidered sofa pillows, and a portrait of the family patriarch.

The second article of note that morning is from the local paper, a newspaper so bad it shall go unnamed. There was an article on the only Frank Lloyd Wright designed skyscraper that was ever built. The Bartlesville Oklahoma building was once a corporate headquarters but has been transformed into the Price Tower Arts Center and Inn at Price Tower. The 8 upper floors are now an intimate 21-room hotel.

While the journalist's description of the hotel was most intriguing and her claim that Bartlesville has many more "historic museum-mansions" spurred my interest, Oklahoma is quite a distance from CT and it's way down on my list of places to visit. But here's a few web references to file away. You never know.