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Archive for the ‘Historic Houses and Estates’ Category

We have just returned from a trip south where we went to a practice round at the Masters Golf Tournament and then on to Savannah and stopped at sights along the way down and back home.  I will be writing about them over the next several blogs.

I always think it is interesting when you learn about the origin of a name. The name Cheekwood comes from the owner of the property, Leslie Cheek, and Mrs. Cheek’s maiden name was Wood.  It is also the house that coffee built.

Leslie Cheek’s brother Joel developed a superior blend of coffee called Cheek-Neal Coffee.  Leslie and members of the Cheek family invested in Cheek-Neal Coffee.  Joel convinced the best hotel in Nashville, the MAXWELL HOUSE, to carry his coffee exclusively, thus the new name of the coffee.  He went on to sell his brand to Postum, which is now General Foods, in 1928.  Leslie Cheek then traded his Postum shares for IBM stock.  Thereby securing his fortune.  Then he and his wife built their dream home known as Cheekwood. We should all make such good investments.

CHEEKWOOD

CHEEKWOOD

 Passing through the main gates gives the impression that this is going to be something very special.

ENTRANCE GATES TO CHEEKWOOD GARDENS

ENTRANCE GATES TO CHEEKWOOD GARDENS

  This 55-acre property and 36- room, Georgian Revival mansion, was completed in 1932.  It was surrounded by luxurious gardens and fountains. 

CHEEKWOOD GARDENS

CHEEKWOOD GARDENS

 The house and garden suffered somewhat from the ravages of time.  The home was lived in into the 1950’s when it was offered as a site for a botanical garden and art museum.  Changes were made and now it is a four season garden, with plants blooming throughout the year.

 The Museum of Art is housed in the mansion and includes world-class collections of American and contemporary paintings and sculpture, English and American decorative arts, and traveling exhibitions. You can get an idea of how graciously they must have lived by viewing some of their collections of silver and dinnerware.  Beautiful spiral staircases take you upstairs to what would have been bedrooms.

SPIRAL STAIRCASE AT CHEEKWOOD

SPIRAL STAIRCASE AT CHEEKWOOD

  What a life this family must have had. To look out one of the mansion windows and think, this is all my land.

It really felt like I had just walked into spring as we walked through the various gardens. 

SPRING FLOWERS AT CHEEKWOOD

SPRING FLOWERS AT CHEEKWOOD

Everything had that beautiful color of spring when the plants are clean and fresh.  On the grounds there were many different gardens such as the wildflower garden and the Japanese garden.

JAPANESE GARDEN

JAPANESE GARDEN

Our next stop was the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, which I will write about in the next blog.

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In  Fodor’s newsletter they listed the top sites for viewing spring flowers, and Washington, D.C. was one of them.  Last spring  we visited Washington, D.C. to see the Cherry Blossoms, between March 31st and April 1st.  We had seen the cherry blossoms before and thought they were spectacular and felt we were really lucky to hit it at the best time.  I don’t usually like to revisit places as they are never quite the same the second time.  However, this year they were more than spectacular – it looked like every branch of every tree was in full bloom.  I just kept exclaiming how beautiful it was, an ocean of pink and white.

cherry blossoms flower tree washington DC spring

CHERRY BLOSSOMS

The cherry trees were a gift from Japan when, in 1912, 3,020 cherry trees arrived in the U.S. as a living symbol of friendship between the two nations.  Ever since,  the beauty of the blossoming trees has enchanted visitors and heralds the beginning of spring.  In 1935 the Cherry Blossom Festival was established as an annual event, and during festival time many events take place, such as parades and lantern walks.  It is said that millions of people come to Washington, D.C. every year to see the blossoms and participate in the many events. It shows the deep appreciation people feel for the cherry blossoms. They are a real natural treasure.

JAPANESE LANTERN cherry blossoms flower tree washington DC spring

JAPANESE LANTERN

There are different varieties of Cherry Trees. There is the Usuzumi Cherry Trees planted in 1999 as a gift of 50 from the people of Neo Mura Village in central Japan, and the Yoshino Cherry Tree is the predominant species in the park. These are the ones you see planted around the Tidal Basin making it look like fluffy white clouds.  There is also a Fugenzo Cherry Tree which is one of the oldest cultivated cherry trees in Japan.  These trees have pink double flowers with curved petal tips. Also there are some Weeping Cherry Trees, which are easy to identify with their cascades of pink flowers.   To identify the other varieties there are signs. The Akebono Cherry Trees are interesting as it is a pinker version of the Yoshino.  The flowers change color during their lifespan-pink buds open and fade to white petals, then turn pink again as they begin to wilt.

We first arrived in the evening and drove and walked around some to see the blossoms and monuments illuminated.

JEFFERSON MEMORIAL cherry blossoms flower tree washington DC spring

JEFFERSON MEMORIAL

WASHINGTON MONUMENT cherry blossoms flower tree washington DC spring

WASHINGTON MONUMENT

Parking can be a real challenge; you just hope you are in the right place at the right time, when someone is leaving.  After driving around a few times we did find a parking spot.  We walked over to the Tidal Basin area. Here we had great views of the Jefferson Memorial lit at night.  It was beautiful and I just couldn’t stop taking pictures. Thank goodness for digital. We returned the next day and walked around the Tidal Basin with the hundreds of other people.

TIDAL BASIN cherry blossoms flower tree washington DC spring

TIDAL BASIN

It is just such a beautiful sight.  You can see it in pictures but it just isn’t the same as being there.  Around the FDR Memorial is another good place for viewing and also by the Washington Monument.

WASHINGTON MONUMENT cherry blossoms flower tree washington DC spring

WASHINGTON MONUMENT

At one point we saw a newly married couple having their wedding pictures taken under the trees.  To add to the color there was a monk walking around in his saffron robe.

buddhist monk orange robe cherry blossoms flower tree washington DC spring

MONK

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 With all the interest in the upcoming royal wedding I got to remembering our visit to Althorp last summer.  Althorp is Princess Diana’s family home.  It has been in the Spencer family for 500 years, 19 generations. It was built in 1508 by Sir John Spencer.  Diana’s younger brother Charles Edward Maurice Spencer, the 9th Earl Spencer,  lives in the house which is only open to the public in July and August.

 It is located about 1 1/2 hours driving time outside of London in the countryside. To get there we had to first take the tube to the train station.  We had booked our train tickets on line before we left.  When we got to the train station to pick up our tickets it was all very easy.  It is just like picking up your movie tickets that you booked ahead of time.  You use your credit card and out come your tickets.  Of course it took a lot of advance research to find out how to go about all this.

 You take a train to the Northampton train station and then you can take a public bus to the main gate.  We had picked our train departure time  to get us there in plenty of time to catch the bus.  However, when we got to Northampton no one knew anything about a bus or where to catch it. Then someone else said the bus had already left so we took a cab.  On the return trip we thought we would try the bus.  We found out where to catch it and the estate’s mini-bus took us to the entrance gate and pointed out where to go.  We were told you would have to flag it down because this wasn’t a normal stop.  So there we are standing on a desolate corner out in the countryside waiting for a bus.  They only run every couple hours and we didn’t want to miss it because we needed to get back to catch our scheduled train.  The bus did finally come and we made it in time to catch the train back to London. It all went well and we made it.

 Diana wasn’t a commoner by any means. The Spencer family has been at the center of social and political life in England over the centuries. Touring the house we found it to be fabulous with many priceless paintings, furnishings, porcelain, etc. We were able to tour 19 rooms in the house, including some of the Spencer Family’s private apartments. Unfortunately photography wasn’t allowed inside the house. The Spencers began as sheep farmers, coming to prominence in the 15th century.  

Spencer Family Sheep Farm

Spencer Family Sheep Farm

The estate now covers 14,000 acres of beautiful countryside and emcompasses cottages, farms, woodlands and villages. At the time a conservation project was in progress as much needs to be done to maintain the house.  A lot of the house was covered in scaffolding

Conservation work in progress

Conservation work in progress

but there were pictures showing how the exterior looked.

ALTHORP -Spencer Family Home

ALTHORP-Spencer Family Home

 The stables are in the palladium style and far larger and fancier than most houses. 

STABLE AT ALTHORP

STABLE AT ALTHORP

 They now hold a display commemorating Diana, pictures from childhood, home movies, and best of all her wedding dress and several other dresses she wore.

 After touring the house and having lunch in the courtyard we walked to the lake to see the island

ISLAND

ISLAND

on which Diana is buried and the memorial they have to her. 

MEMORIAL TO DIANA

MEMORIAL TO DIANA

 

It is a very beautiful and peaceful setting.

An interesting thing is that I always thought Winston Spencer Churchill that Spencer was a middle name but it turns out it is a family name and there is some connection with Diana’s family.

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The Eugene Field House is a unique Historic House Museum.  Visiting it during the Christmas Season was a special treat since there was much festive décor through the house. One of the special Christmas decorations they have is a feather tree, actually 2 of them.  The large one in the living room of goose feathers

LIVING ROOM WITH GOOSE FEATHER TREE

LIVING ROOM WITH GOOSE FEATHER TREE

and a smaller one of turkey feathers in his office upstairs.

TREE  MADE OF TURKEY FEATHERS

TREE MADE OF TURKEY FEATHERS

They even allow you feel it to prove it was made from feathers.  The guide told us these trees are rare finds as they are very fragile and hard to preserve.  You will notice the wide spacing between the branches. This is because candles were attached to the branches and they needed plenty of space so the flames wouldn’t touch the branches.

The Field House is now a National Historic Landmark and a City of St. Louis Landmark. 

EUGENE FIELD HOUSE

EUGENE FIELD HOUSE

Our guide explained why being declared a National Historic Landmark was a very good thing for them.  She said the city would like nothing more than to tear the house down and build a bar or restaurant there.  It is in an area near the Cardinal baseball Stadium, so it is prime property.  They have their own parking lot which is also very beneficial to them.  They can gain extra revenue during ballgames by charging a fee for parking.

The house was Eugene Field’s boyhood home, and during the time he lived here his father Roswell M. Field served as the Attorney who took Dred Scott’s freedom lawsuit into the Federal Courts, leading to the infamous Supreme Court decision in the Dred Scott Case. However, the house became famous not for that but because Eugene Field lived there.

Eugene Field was born in St. Louis in 1850 and became known as the “Children’s Poet”. He wrote such poems as Wynken, Blynken and Nod and Little Boy Blue.  He also worked for many newspapers and became known for his light, humorous articles. Some were reprinted in out-of-state newspapers.  Making him the first syndicated columnist.

DINING ROOM OF EUGENE FIELD HOUSE

DINING ROOM OF EUGENE FIELD HOUSE

BEDROOM OF EUGENE FIELD HOUSE

BEDROOM OF EUGENE FIELD HOUSE

OFFICE IN THE EUGENE FIELD HOUSE

OFFICE IN THE EUGENE FIELD HOUSE

The flat screen TV, above the fireplace, is not of the time period.  It is there to show programs to school groups. 

 The Eugene Field House  is also a toy museum having toys from the 1790’s to present.  Eugene himself was a collector of toys and the home contains many of his personal possessions. Imagine a time before toys required batteries and multi page instruction manuals. The museum exhibits such beloved toys as board games and dolls from yesteryear. 

PART OF THE TOY COLLECTION

PART OF THE TOY COLLECTION

Once again I found in a Museum toys from my childhood or toys that I still have in my basement from when my children were young. It is a stroll back in time.

TOYS IN THE EUGENE FIELD HOUSE

TOYS IN THE EUGENE FIELD HOUSE

TOYS IN THE EUGENE FIELD HOUSE
TOYS IN THE EUGENE FIELD HOUSE

The house was part of 12 row houses built  in 1845. Today the Eugene Field house is the only remaining house of the 12. Because of Eugene Fields popularity the house was spared when the rest of the Row was demolished in 1934. I am always  thankful that someone has the foresight to preserve these pieces of history for all of us to enjoy.

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BOK TOWER

BOK TOWER GARDENS, LAKE WALES, FLORIDA
Bok Tower Gardens is acres of ferns, palms, live oaks and pines creating many shades of green. This must be a beautiful background for the azaleas, camellias and magnolias when they are in bloom. The camellias had lots of buds on their branches but only a few flowers in bloom. The landscape was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr., the son of the planner of New York’s Central Park. Although it is a lot of green plants it is by no means placed haphazardly. You can tell that it is all placed with a design in mine.

The neo-Gothic and art décor Singing Tower Carillon houses one of the world’s finest carillons with 60 bronze bells. The tower is the focal point of the garden.

BOK TOWER

 Twice a day there is a 25 minute concert of the bells and we were lucky enough to catch one. There are benches scattered about so you can sit and listen. However we walked around the area enjoying different sights and looking up at the tower as we listened to the music. It is a pretty site with a Great Brass Door

BRASS DOOR

and covered in pink, white and gray marble.  The Tower is situated at the highest elevation in Florida. It was designed so that the entire tower would be reflected in the lake in front ot it.

REFLECTING IN LAKE

The creator of all this was Edward Bok, a Dutch immigrant born in 1863 and came to the U.S. when he was 6. His motto was that he wanted to make America more beautiful because he lived here. The gardens were established in 1929 as a gift to the American people. At the age of 26 he became editor of the Ladies Home Journal and held that position for 30 years. He also collected autographs and letters in response to his questions. He had autographs from such people as Helen Keller, Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Mark Twain. Many of these are in the Library of Congress.

Pinewood Estates is also on the property.

PINEWOOD ESTATE

 Unfortunately it was closed when we were there but we were able to walk around the garden surrounding the house and peek into the windows. The home is a Mediterranean style, 20 room mansion. It was originally the winter home of C. Austin Buck, vice president of Bethlehem Steel.

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The day we toured the  Golden Isles of Georgia was sunny and pleasant.  We started in Brunswick, founded in 1771. It is a port city named for Brunswick, Germany,  ancestral home of  the Hanover kings of England.  The streets are named for various members of English royalty and nobility. Such names as Prince, Gloucester, Norwich and Newcastle give the Old Town a decidedly English flavor.

It is proclaimed as the Shrimp Capital of the World and is home of the world-famous Brunswick Stew. It is in the subtropical zone so flowers bloom nearly every week of the year. Their courthouse, erected in 1907, was our first stop. It is surrounded by many old moss-hung live oaks.  The building just would not look the same if it didn’t have all the live oaks framing it.

COURTHOUSE, BRUNSWICK, GEORGIA

Several streets in the Old Town are lined with old homes that have beautiful and interesting turn-of-the-century architecture.  Opposite the courthouse was a fine example of High Victorian architecture.

VICTORIAN HOUSE, BRUNSWICK, GEORGIA

We drove around the town and admired the homes and I especially loved the large, wrap around porches many of them had.

We found Lovers’ Oak, a 900-year-old tree. It was just amazing. According to local legend, Native Americans braves and their maidens would meet under the majestic spreading limbs. It was situated on an island in the street with its limbs going across the street and over the lawns of houses.

LOVERS' OAK, BRUNSWICK, GEORGIA

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Now that we have had a killing frost and all the flowers in my garden are wilted, except for the mums, it reminds me of our trip last fall to Bellingrath Gardens in Mobile, Alabama.   Here is the nation’s largest outdoor display of cascading chrysanthemums.  There are four foot long cascades of mums on bridges, balconies, in baskets and in flower beds through the garden.  All the cascades are grown at Bellingrath and it takes over nine months to grow a single crop.  I can just imagine what an effort it must be to move the cascades to the various places in the garden. This was my first time to see cascading mums and what a magnificent sight it was. There are over 8,000 bedded, potted and cascading chrysanthemums spread out over 65 acres in the garden.

CASCADING MUMS AT BELLINGRATH GARDENS

MUMS CASCADING OVER BRIDGE

CASCADING MUMS OVER WATERFALL

Bellingrath was originally the home and garden of Walter and Bessie Bellingrath.  Walter was the original owner of Mobil’s Coca-Cola bottling company. The home, built in 1935,  is a museum and time capsule where you can see how the truly  rich lived.  It features the complete furnishings once enjoyed by its original occupants.  The 15 room mansion is furnished with antiques and personal effects but seemed very livable.  When we were there it was decorated for Christmas, which made it extra special to tour.

CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS AT BELLINGRATH

BELLINGRATH HOME

POOL AT BELLINGRATH

SOUTH TERRACE

Besides the beautiful mum displays it was also delightful to walk under the  towering live-oaks draped in Spanish moss. On the grounds there is also  a rose garden, a conservatory, chapel, even an oriental garden with a moon bridge. A boardwalk allows you to enjoy the peaceful bayou that is home to fish and wildlife. It is a beautiful garden to walk around enjoy.

ORIENTAL GARDEN

BAYOU AT BELLINGRATH

When Walter Bellingrath was 80 he publicly announced the creation of a foundation to assure the continued existence of his beloved gardens and give credit to his late wife’s tireless efforts in creating the Gardens. What a lovely memorial to his wife.  There is something to see every season in this garden. At Christmas the whole garden is decorated with Christmas lights.  They were starting to put the lights up when we were there so we got a little preview of  their Christmas display.

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