Gilbert Stuart Birthplace, Labor Day

The Gilbert Stuart Birthplace & Museum in Saunderstown, RI is a little gem. Stuart was the portrait artist of the Founding Fathers – you’ve probably got his George Washington portrait in your wallet right now.


Stuart was born in this little home in 1755, above the snuff mill, and lived here only until age 6 when the family moved to Newport. His talent was clear in his teens, and he went to Scotland to study, then back to the US, then to England. He was a very popular portrait painter, but always spent more than he earned. He copied his Washington portrait over and over, and sold each for $100 – in 1789 and beyond, but died in debt and was buried in an unmarked’ grave on Boston Common. Stuart painted the first 6 US presidents, and hundreds of others of the era; the paintings hang in the MFA, the Met in NYC, the National Gallery of Art in DC, and London’s National Portrait Gallery.

So the birthplace is more a walk through colonial life than a museum of Stuart’s art.

There’s the gristmill, grinding corn meal:

Here’s a millstone:

IMG_1731They dammed the stream to control the flow through the waterwheel, and build a herring ladder to help the fish get back home.

The snuff mill was in the basement of the family’s red house.


There’s a nice walk around the pond and through the woods to the nearby lake. Plus a couple of old cemeteries. Here’s the millpond:


This was a calling stone in the stream:


Trail and old stone wall:

First cemetery:


There’s also a museum on the grounds, with collection of snuff boxes:


The art gallery on site current has an exhibit of paintings by Edward Mitchell Bannister, a black Canadian American painter of the 1800s. Beautiful work. His “Under the Oaks” won the bronze medal at the the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial, but when he came forward to accept his prize there was outrage – the winner was black.:


Bannister’s wife Christiana worked as a hairdresser and served as president of the Colored Ladies Relief Society which raised funds to care for the Civil War’s 54th Regiment’s widows and orphans:IMG_1755

A 20 minute drive from the Gilbert Stuart site is Narraganset and Point Judith, RI:


Lunch view:IMG_1758IMG_1759IMG_1760IMG_1761IMG_1762IMG_1763IMG_1764

Scuba diver:IMG_1765


Leave a comment »

Massapoag Trail, Labor Day weekend 2018

Hiked the section of the Massapoag Trail from Ames St to Lake Massapoag, Sharon, MA – it’s probably been 10 (maybe 20?) years since we hiked this section. The Trail starts between Hammershop Pond (or Knifeshop, on the Trail map) and the Ames St. Playground. The pond area has been refurbished with a walkway, benches, and repairs to the dam:


Spiderweb on the fence around the dam:IMG_1700IMG_1701


dead tree trunk eating the fence

The trail entrance:


The trail has a lot of poison ivy. This helpful sign and map don’t help:IMG_1703

See? Poison Ivy!IMG_1704

The trail varies from being overgrown to being slightly wider and easier to walk. There are muddy sections, and areas like this with lots of exposed roots:IMG_1705

a nice opening cut through a fallen log…IMG_1706

… and some boardwalks:IMG_1707

Eagle Scout Jacob Archer restored this trail in 2013, IMG_1708

but look how the plants are encroaching:IMG_1709

The trail hugs a nice wide section of Massapoag Brook for a while…IMG_1710

… then gets hemmed in by the overgrowth again…IMG_1711

Don’t know what these plants are growing over the brook…IMG_1712IMG_1713

Here’s a makeshift board for crossing the brook. Doesn’t look too stable to me…IMG_1714

and then you come out to the rotary at Lake Massapoag. The brook comes from the lake, but goes under the roads through a culvert to where we just were:IMG_1715IMG_1716

Hiked back up Pond Street to the parking lot across from the High School, and into the field back to the Ames St. Playground, which still has a patio made up of blocks representing families who supported the reconstruction 20+ years ago: IMG_1718


Leave a comment »

Fuller Craft Museum, August 2018

Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton has some fun exhibits right now, including one about the art of play and another on illusion.

These tree tutus are a piece called “Thistle.”IMG_1685

Sculpture in the courtyard, which was closed for a wedding:IMG_1686

 This room-sized installation is Playtime in the Making:IMG_1687IMG_1688IMG_1689IMG_1690

The next exhibit is Tricks of the Trade: Illusion in Craft-based Media, composed entirely of trompe l’oeil (“fools the eye” in French) pieces. The wooden box of tools? Clay and paint. Same with the “pencil house” and birch tree stump – all ceramic.


Wire and bead art:



Leave a comment »

Moose Hill Audubon, Pine Trail 7/21/18

Decided to cross Moose Hill Parkway from the Visitor Center to head down Pine Trail to the Old Pond.IMG_1642

But first, we checked out the new natural materials playground – who needs metal and plastic!



vertical wood xylophone – percussion sculpture?


outdoor toy kitchen/sandbox


stick circle in pine grove

Headed down the Pine Trail


Looking back up at a steep stretchIMG_1648IMG_1649

This is the cement dam that holds in what little water is left in the old pond. You do have take a biiiiiiiiiiiig step over what looks like a tiny gap in the cement.IMG_1650

Pretty lush on the other side:IMG_1651

and some great stone walls:



This old tree – totem pole? space alien?IMG_1658

or just guardian of the forest?IMG_1659

Back at the Visitor Center, the butterfly garden was entertaining butterflies:IMG_1660IMG_1661

And this picnic table at the Moose Hill Day Camp sported table-top artwork in stone and feather:IMG_1662

Leave a comment »

Gropius House, Lincoln, MA

Toured the Gropius House, designed by Bauhaus founding architect Walter Gropius in 1938. Gropius left Germany in 1933, since Bauhaus’ modernist, non-decorative style was considered “degenerate” by the political regime. He joined the faculty at Harvard School of Design, and accepted the gift of land and funding from philanthropist Helen Storrow to build his new home.


The Bauhaus design featured straight lines, horizontals & verticals, and was built with industrial materials because home building materials of the time were too decorative. This is the front of the house, with small high windows to block out more of the street noise. Since it’s also the north side, there’s not much loss of sunlight.


This spiral staircase leads to their daughter’s roof deck and bedroom.


Just across the road is Gropius’ friend, collaborator, and Harvard colleague Marcel Breuer’s home, also a modernist design. Many of the furniture pieces in Gropius House were Breuer designs:


Gropius House’s foyer is dominated by this indoor spiral staircase, all vertical lines, echoed by the white clapboard walls which are hung vertically, instead of the typical horizontal outdoor clapboards.


Walter and Ise’s double desk, design by Breuer:


Living room, with “butterfly” stools and a big wooden Breuer lounge chair. The huge windows are south-facing, bringing in lots of light:


The small galley kitchen includes their clean-lined coffee and tea service:


Upstairs, the master bedroom is separated from the dressing room by a glass wall above Ise’s dressing table/make-up, and a mirror reflecting the master bath:


Here’s the guest room, with twin beds toe-to-toe. Note the prints by artist Jean Miro, one of many notable house guests:IMG_1629

Daughter’s bedroom, with a glimpse of the door to the deck at right. Her desk was her father’s office desk at the Bauhaus in Germany. Note the Breuer desk chair, a revolutionary design at the time:IMG_1630

View of the screened porch off the back of the house from the deck:IMG_1631There’ a concord grape vine growing up and hanging from the deck rafters, with a bird’s nest and bird in it. You can see the bird’s tail sticking out of the nest:IMG_1632

Views from the back yard:IMG_1633IMG_1634

Looking up to the deck:IMG_1635View into the dining room. The glass block wall lets light from the big south windows into the office with the double-desk on the other side.IMG_1636Side view of the spiral stair:IMG_1637

So many of the design elements we take for granted today were pioneered in this home which Gropius used as a showplace for potential clients.

Off to Concord Center for dinner, traditional New England architecture, and a stroll around some of the war monuments:


“The” World War. They did build more monuments to Concord residents who died in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq…IMG_1640

Civil War memorial obelisk:IMG_1641

Leave a comment »

Eldorado Canyon, Boulder, CO 6/25/18

Eldorado Canyon is just outside Boulder, and offers lots of hiking trails, a roaring South Boulder Creek, and lots of technical climbing routes up the sheer sandstone walls of the canyon.IMG_1612

In 2014, we did the longer Eldorado Canyon Trail, which you can see here. This time, We took a short hike across and along the creek.

Can you see the little climber about a third of the way up on this photo??




Climber close-up:IMG_1595

IMG_1611Here’s the cave:IMG_1597



Looking back at the bridge we had crossed:IMG_1600IMG_1602

Ropes are easier to see than the climber:IMG_1603


Climber in red:IMG_1607

Tumbled/eroded boulders make a natural arch:


Hummingbirds outside the visitor center:

Cattle on the road away from the Canyon:IMG_1615

Leave a comment »

Blue Hills Reservation, Milton, MA 6-17-18

Back to the Blue Hills for some “forest bathing” to get a nature fix. This is on a trail off of Hillside Dr, near Houghton’s Pond.IMG_1446

Note the intersection marker #1120 on the tree – you can find this on the map – it’s part of the Breakneck Ledge loop, not that we knew that at the time. I wish there were more markers, on both the trees and the map. We tend to get lost here, not badly enough to be in trouble, but just not on the trail we think we’re on.  IMG_1447

But the woods are just lovely, whatever trail it might be.IMG_1448IMG_1449

Some big boulders, glacial erratics:IMG_1450

A dry stream bed:IMG_1451

Stairs up the the blue-blazed Skyline trail:IMG_1452IMG_1453

Tree canopy. It’s not the giant redwoods of Muir Woods, or the giant sequoias in Yosemite or Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks, but it’s ours! And a shorter commute.IMG_1454

Thanks, Friends of the Blue Hills, for preserving and protecting.

Leave a comment »