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Archive for October, 2010

  I just finished reading an article about a historic garden in Charleston, S.C.  They were talking about the garden of Sword Gate House, which is named for the grand wrought-iron gates that stand watch over the entrance.

SWORD GATE, CHARLESTON, S.C.

SWORD GATE, CHARLESTON, S.C.

 We saw those gates last spring while we were walking around the historical streets in old Charleston.  The gates were made in 1838 and were originally intended for the Charleston Guard House.  However, they became too expensive for the Guard House and Sword Gate’s then-owner purchased them.  They gave the house its identity and has been known as such for some 175 years.

I first heard about the Sword Gate House  as I was reading the book South of Broad  by  Pat Conroy.  I read it just before we were to leave for our trip to Charleston so it was fun seeing  the sights that were mentioned  in the book. We were only able to see the gates to the house as it is a private residence. 

The article was describing a massive, three-year restoration of the house and grounds. The house had gone through many changes by the various owners and the grounds had been subdivided into three plats.  The current owners decided to bring the original grounds back together, re-establishing one of the largest plots in the old city. I hope that when all is finished  the house and garden will be part of the annual Festival of Houses & Gardens some year. I would love to see it.

If you are interested in doing a wonderful house and garden tour  the Annual Festival of Houses & Gardens in Charleston, South Carolina is a must.  It takes place each year around mid March through mid April. Since we went to the 2010 tour I will write more about it at a later time.

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I had a question about the status of White Pine Camp.  I don’t know who owns the facility; however the cabins are for rent to anyone.  Some have a two night minimum, some a week.  Some of the cabins are available year-round others only in spring, summer and fall.  If you go to www.whitepinecamp.com there is a lot of information.  The site includes a description of each of the cabins that are available to rent.
This sounded interesting, they offer a private chef service where your meal will be provided in your own cabin if you don’t want to go out to eat or cook yourself.   Also for the weekly summer guest there is a complimentary reception in the Great room on Sunday evenings.  They even include a complimentary chair message.  I guess that will help set the mood for a week of relaxing. 

Trip Advisor has reviews from several people on their site and all the comments sounded very favorable.

The camp is open to the public on a limited basis for historic tours, by reservation only.  Also public tours are offered on Saturdays in July & August.  Go to www.aarch.org for more information on the tours.  I just wish we had been there at a time when we could have had a tour. 

I hope this provides some answers for you.

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I just had to take one more picture of my roses.  They are the knock out roses and have been beautiful all summer.  This was just after a morning rain.

LAST ROSE OF SUMMER

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The next estate of Frank Lloyd Wright we toured was Graycliff, which was the summer home of the Martins, built in 1926-1931.

FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT'S GRAYCLIFF

FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT'S GRAYCLIFF

 It is located on a bluff overlooking Lake Erie at Derby, south of Buffalo. This house also was way, way over budget.  I guess they didn’t learn from their first experience with Wright.  I have been in pretty many of Wright designed homes and they all seem too dark for my liking.  Mrs. Martin insisted their summer house be bright and open.  It was said that Mrs. Martin never really liked the house that Frank Lloyd Wright designed for them in Buffalo.  With its broad cantilevered eaves it made the house too dark for her. So the inside of this one was a lot different than most of his.  It is on Lake Erie and Mrs. Martin wanted a view of the lake from any room she was in.  So this house has large windows  and is nice and bright. The house is Wright’s concept of “organic architecture” where there are fresh breezes that flow through and the outside comes in, it is inviting and welcoming.   He even has one of those corner windows that is all glass with no visible means of support.  He did this also in his living room at Taliesin in Wisconsin. So there is nothing to obstruct your view of the outside.

LIVINGROOM AT GRAYCLIFF

This house also is undergoing lots of renovation.  The Graycliff Conservancy rescued the property and it is now a listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There were only a few of the original pieces of furniture.  They plan that in 5 years the restoration will be complete and will be authentically restored as Wright designed. In the 50’s or 60’s, I don’t remember which, an order of priests bought the home and turned it into a boys school. They moved some walls to build a chapel, covered the pine floors with  linoleum, and made several other changes.  So the restoration committee is in the process of restoring it all back to its original design.

Interesting story about the balcony on the house. Wright wanted to put it on and Mr. Martin said he didn’t want it he would never use it and it cost to much.  Somehow Frank got his way and today we can see the balconyonthe left side of the house.

BALCONY AT GRAYCLIFF

From the back of the house you do have beautiful views of Lake Erie with Canada in the far distance. 

BACK OF GRAYCLIFF

We have managed to really luck out today.  We were only back in the car for a short time when it started raining.  So we made it through all our tours today and stayed dry.

Tonight we are meeting a friend for dinner.  She moved to Cleveland some time ago but we manage to see each other every couple of years. It’s always fun catching up.

So all the sightseeing is over.  It was a lot of planning and preparation but worth it as it all worked out so well.   There were mornings we looked at our schedule for the day and wondered what were we thinking.  How are we going to get all that in, but we knew we figured out about how much time each site would take and we had a hotel waiting for us in the evening so we didn’t need to rush. Each day worked out just as we planned.   It has been a very enjoyable trip, we not only saw a lot of fall foliage but also a lot of other fantastic sights along the way.  By the time we get home we will have driven some 3,200 miles and I probably took about that many pictures. 

We have been home for a few weeks now and I am finally getting all my notes posted.  We are still enjoying warm weather with just a hint of fall.  Some trees are beginning to turn but we still have a lot of green.  So this will be the year when we have two falls. I just saw on the news last night that they were having snow in Lake Placid.  So I guess our timing was pretty good.

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We headed back to Buffalo, NY.  We were just here a couple  weeks ago but it seems like a long time ago. We started out sightseeing here so it seems fitting we should finish it here.  After today we just drive and drive and drive.  The Franks Lloyd Wright houses we wanted to see weren’t open on Tuesdays, when we were here at the start, so this worked out just fine.

Our first stop was Frank Lloyd’s Wrights Darwin D. Martin House Complex.  This was constructed between 1903 and 1905. It is his Prairie styling and ranks as one of his finest residential works and I think largest.  It is some 10,000 square feet and was built for Mr. Martin who was a wealthy industrialist and who, over the years loaned Wright a considerable amount of money.  Martin worked for the Larkin Soap Company and when the company was going to build a new headquarters Martin suggested Wright. Larkin met this new young architect when he went to visit his brother in Oak Park, Illinois.  The Larkin Company Administration Building no longer stands but was considered to be one of Wright’s  greatest achievements.   Mr. Martin started out at an early age selling soap door to door and eventually became one of the highest-paid business executives in the country. At this point he thought he needed a house fitting his status and had Wright build it.  As seemed to be the case in all Wright houses this one, when finished, was way over budget.

DARWIN D. MARTIN HOUSE

BACK OF DARWIN D. MARTIN HOUSE

The house is  on about 1 ½ acres and is very recognizable as a Wright house, being his “Prairie-style.” It has graceful sweeping lines and the interior is supposed to be very spacious. Some critics have said it is one of Wright’s greatest works.   Right now you cannot tour the inside of the house as they as doing a lot of restoration and there is asbestos danger in there.  They plan  on having the restoration finished in about a year.  However, the tour guide gave a good explanation of the exterior design, how it sat on the lot, placement of the front door, which is not visible from the street,  and windows, etc.

One thing Mrs. Martin requested was that they have someplace for plants.  To save money the Martin’s told Wright they saw a good atrium in the Montgomery Ward catalog and he could add it to the back of the house. Of course Wright wouldn’t stand for that and told them he would build something.  The result was a covered pergola, leading from the main house to the gardens with a  conservatory at the end.  I liked this walkway and conservatory a lot.  This we were able to go into.  If you know anything about Wright you know he always has pretty low ceilings.  But he relented in here and has a high glass cathedral looking roof.  That was because palms were very popular then and they grew pretty tall.  At the end of the walkway was an over-size statue of the winged victory. Down the walkway of the pergola the openings were  framed to look like windowsand match the rest of the house.

PERGOLA LEADING TO GARDEN

OVERHEAD DETAIL IN PERGOLA

WINDOWS IN PERGOLA

The interesting thing was that in the stock market crash Mr. Martin lost a lot of his fortune.  Sometime after he died  Mrs. Martin tried to sell the house because she could no longer keep it up.  The person who purchased it tore off the pergola and built apartment buildings on the property.  Eventually the organization to preserve the complex bought those buildings, tore down the apartments  and rebuilt the pergola and conservatory.

Where the complex comes in is that Martin enticed his sister to move to Buffalo by having Wright build her a house right behind his.  There was a long story about how the Martin family was separated and he was always trying to bring them all back together again. We were able to tour his sister’s house. Not a lot of furniture in it and a few of the pieces that were there were from the Dana house in IL. In the dining room was a built in bookcase and china cabinets.  That is because Wright didn’t want any furniture that was not to his liking there and this is the way he assured they wouldn’t be using some other piece. They are also in the process of doing restoration on this house. 

WRIGHT'S SISTERS HOUSE

On the grounds is also a carriage house that served as the chauffeur’s residence.  It has the arts and crafts interior and is well preserved.  The interior has a very warm feeling and is lit by an abundance of leaded glass windows. It was interesting hearing of the problems involved in restoring a house. 

CARRIAGE HOUSE

One being that they are putting in air conditioning and they have to disguise the registers. Another big problem is replacing wood in places.  The type of wood that would have been available is no longer available  Like the molding in the dining room was from a very old stand of  trees and there is none left in the US.  They are having to look elsewhere for replacement wood.

After they finish restoring the house they are going to restore the landscaping and gardens back to the way they were.  Another dispute the Martin’s had with Wright was they wanted to get a greenhouse out of a catalog.  Once again Wright said he could build one but they did put their foot down and get a catalog greenhouse. It is tucked away on the back of the property.

When the Martin’s didn’t want to do something because of cost it seems like Frank had the silver tongue and talked them into it.  Like the concrete design ornamentation he has over the conservatory.  Wright told him they would attract purple martins and keep mosquitoes away.  Our guide said he has never seen any kind of bird use them  However, if you see Wright’s drawing he penciled in birds going in and out.

PERGOLA

SUPPOSE TO BE PURPLE MARTIN HOUSES

It was an insightful tour and I certainly will want to come back again some day when all the restoration is complete. Another interesting way Wright would convince the Martins of something is that he was always talking about the importance of family and how this would help with family unity.  Interesting coming from Wright who left his first wife and their children.  If you read Loving Frank or Frank’s Women you will know what I am talking about.

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After leaving White Pine Camp we headed for Great Camp Sagamore located in Raquette Lake, N.Y. As we drove we just continued to see mile after mile of colorful trees.  We are now in the Adirondack Mountains. There are also lakes all around us.  It makes for some beautiful vistas. Our route took us through several little hamlets.

I just remembered something interesting from last night.  We stopped at a little corner store to get some fruit.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to buy anything to eat there after seeing  on the window they also sold  night crawlers and worms.

But anyway back to today. It looked like it was going to rain all day but when we got here the rain had stopped.  It is cloudy and cool but much better than walking around outside in the rain and juggling an umbrella and a camera.  There is only one tour a day here so we had to time it right.  We got there a little early and went into town for lunch.  By town I mean a very small area, we are really out in the middle of nowhere.  The only thing around was a tap-room. Small place with only four tables and once again the locals come in for lunch and they all know each other.  But a good lunch and then time to get back for the tour.

There are only a few of these great camps left.  We started the tour with a video about how these camps came about.  People living in New York city felt they needed to get away and reconnect with nature.   To refresh the mind and body. In the beginning it was an arduous trip taking 36 hours to reach you destination.  They would come by train, then a boat and maybe another train ride to connect with another boat and then a carriage ride.  Some people complained the ride was so rough it even knocked out their fillings.

Great Camp Sagamore was bought by Alfred Vanderbilt, the great-grandson on Cornelius Vanderbilt. By the time he came here it was a nine-hour trip in his private rail car and then a carriage ride.  Roughing it meant different things to different people.   To the Vanderbilt’s and their contemporaries, it meant heading into the woods and setting up camp in luxurious estates.  They had all the comforts they had in their New York homes.  But the buildings were built in a very rustic looking style to give the illusion of camping. At Sagamore they had a 27 building retreat.  They could accommodate about 24 guest at a time.  The buildings consist of a dining room, entertainment hall, main lodge, game room, guest rooms and even a 2 lane bowling alley.

It was built in a manner that the guest could not see where any of the help lived or anything ,like a laundry and hen house, could be seen. They wanted to believe they were being self sufficient.  It made them think they were roughing it.  However, the amount of help outnumbered the guest. The idea of all the separate buildings was that you would at least get out and walk between buildings. 

It is in a beautiful location on a peninsula so wherever you are you can look out of the lake.  Actually the original builder didn’t think the lake was the pristine lake it should be, it was swampy in places, so he dammed up some areas and changed it to make it the perfect lake.  And today it is a beautiful sight.

Now it is a resort where  you can stay.  Guests are lodged in one of three lodges. There are no telephones in rooms, no cell service, and no TV so that your relaxing is assured.   A bell calls everyone for communal meals. There are 20 miles of hiking trails, you can play lawn games or go canoeing.  According to their brochure they also encourage porch-sitting and relaxing with a book.  Being fall there are leaves covering the ground and the air is heavy with the scent of balsam.

The main lodge is very rustic inside with animal skins hanging on the walls. There is a gigantic stone fireplace.  In the Vanderbilt’s time they wanted it to look like the stones just fell into place there.  They did this by putting moss between the stones, to make it look very natural.  Of course being indoors, by heat, this isn’t the natural environment for moss.  They had the help spray the moss several times a day to keep it alive. Also several of the buildings were covered with the bark from the tree to carry out the rustic theme.

After this we had about a four-hour drive to Henrietta, N.Y. where we have reservations for the night. After a while we drove out of the lovely fall foliage and on a normal interstate where the sights were not as interesting.  At least dad could drive without me constantly saying stop, turn around, I see something I want to take a picture of.

MAIN LODGE

ONE OF THE BUILDINGS AT SAGAMORE

BUILDING AT SAGAMORE

BARK ON EXTERIOR OF BUILDING

GATHERING AREA IN MAIN LODGE

BOWLING ALLEY

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We are in the Adirondacks and it looks like the rain is going to stay with us today. We headed off to Paul Smiths, New York where we wanted to see White Pine Camp. This was the summer white house of President Calvin Coolidge. There are many “camps” in the Adirondacks built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They spanned countless acres of forest and were beautifully crafted buildings that provided all the necessities such as indoor plumbing and hot water. Here camping & roughing it means different things to different people.  To the Vanderbilts,  where we visit next, it meant heading off into the woods and setting up camp in absolutely luxurious estates.  Several of these camps are still standing today, while only remnants of others can be found.

To get to the main camp it was a couple miles of pine needle covered road off the main road. Tall white pines on either side of the road and one very narrow, one lane bridge. The main camp is a very rustic setting. There was one larger cabin with one door marked President and another marked Mrs. Coolidge. We saw maybe 5 or 6 smaller cabins all of them painted a very a dark green.

We could see a Japanese tea house from the boat house. It was out on a little island and seemed to be the perfect setting. With the rain and mist it looked very serene. There were various woodland and lakeside paths you could take. I read that there was a tennis house and bowling alley there also, but we didn’t see them. We just walked around to see things as we weren’t really supposed to be there since there was a sign at the entrance that said for guest only. They do offer public tours in July and August.

I’ll write about Great Camp Sagamore, which was the Vanderbilt camp, in my next entry.

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JAPANESE TEA HOUSE

CABIN AT WHITE PINE CAMP

CABIN AT WHITE PINE CAMP

There was a photograph of when the President stayed there and it looked like it was furnished very comfortably. Today it is open to the public to rent the cabins. It looked like the kind of place you would go to for solitude, to sit and relax and look out over the water. Also fishing and boating would be something you could enjoy.

PRESIDENTIAL CABIN

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