Posts tagged architecture

Kailua-Kona historic sites – January 2018

Welcome to the Big Island of Hawaii! Protestant missionaries (from Boston, of course) first reached Hawaii in 1820. They arrived with Henry Obookiah, an orphaned native Hawaiian, who had attended a missionary school in Connecticut while living with Yale’s president. Read Sarah Vowell’s book “Unfamiliar Fishes” for a fun history.

The missionaries created Hawaii’s first church in Kailua-Kona, the Mokuaikaua Church.  In 1835, the little thatched-roof church was replaced by this structure:

It’s built of black lava rocks, held together by mortar made from coral. The white clapboard steeple adds a touch of New England. Right across the street – Ali’i Drive – is Hulihe’e Palace which became a royal family retreat.

You can see the palace through the church’s gate:

The church has a display about its history, including this plaque honoring Obookiah:

and this one honoring his fellow Hawaiian missionary Thomas Hopu:

We crossed the street and walked around the palace, which has a lot of artifacts inside (no photos):

Can you tell from the signs that the Hawaiian alphabet has only 13 letters? Henry Obookiah created the first written alphabet of this previously oral language, and translated the Book of Genesis into Hawaiian.


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Eustis Estate, Milton, MA – 11/24/17

The Eustis Estate is a Gilded Age mansion on 80 acres at the foot of the Blue Hills in Milton, MA. Now managed by Historic New England, it was designed by architect William Ralph Emerson (cousin of Ralph Waldo Emerson). It’s an 1878 work of art in stone, wood, and glass, part of the Aesthetic Movement which favored art and beauty for their own sake. The home was built for Edith Hemenway and her husband W.E.C. Eustis. It stayed in the family until their descendants sold it to Historic New England in 2012.


I grew up nearby, and we’d occasionally drive by this carriage house which is right on the main road. I remember thinking of it as my princess castle. And that was before I ever saw the mansion on the hill:

The back of the mansion has a large round balcony wrapping around a corner room – must have been a lovely spot to sit in the afternoon:

You can take a guided tour, or visit the estate on your own. We missed the tour, but there were docents on each floor who were thrilled to answer questions and provide more details.

And there are so many details, from this gnarly old tree, a seedling when the house was built, to the intricate tiles around each fireplace:

Stained glass door panel:


to the 2nd story alcove with the Moon window:


Edith had this chair custom made for story-time. She’d sit in the high seat in the middle, and the twins Frederic and Augustus would sit in the lower seats on either side. The wood carving on the back reads “Once upon a Time:”


The Great Hall is 3 stories, open to this trussed peaked ceiling with a half-moon stained glass window, and an intricately carved fireplace with gold leaf:

I especially loved the staircase, which has a double-decker bench – the lower bench faces the room, while the one above it faces the stairs:


One of the surprises in a home like this is they let you sit on the furniture. At most historic homes, the seats are roped off. The parlor has a moon fireplace…


… and a stuffed peacock:


There’s a jewelry exhibit upstairs, including this tiger-claw necklace:

IMG_0812The grounds are lovely, too, for a short stroll. Not a big enough property for a significant hike. The estate was over 200 acres originally, but is only about 80 now – most of the land was taken by eminent domain to create the Blue Hills Reservation. The corner room on the 2nd floor, with that circular balcony, has an exhibit on the history of the Reservation.

This stone powerhouse with an “eyebrow roof” has the year 1902 embedded in the facade with white stones:

IMG_0824Down the hill on your way out, The carriage house/princess castle now houses the administrative offices, with a great view up to the mansion:

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Easton Architecture and Gardens 7/1/17

Easton, MA has a wealth of architectural beauties. The H. H. Richardson district includes buildings designed by Richardson, who created Boston’s Romanesque Trinity Church.

Oakes Ames Memorial Hall

66 Main St.

We decided to explore the area to see The Rockery, a landscaped memorial cairn built in 1882 by Frederick Law Olmstead to honor Easton’s Civil War dead. The Rockery sits on the rotary overlooking 3 of the Richardson buildings.

Olmstead wrote that memorials of this type were “the oldest and most enduring in the world,” and with “the beautiful plants that have become rooted in them and which spring out of their crannies or have grown over them. . . are far more interesting and pleasant to see than the greater number of [monuments] constructed of massive masonry and elaborate sculpture.” He further explained that plants growing across the rocky buttress would symbolize peace taming war.

You can climb up the stairs or the ramp for an elevated view of the neighborhood:

From the Rockery, we headed to the Trustees of Reservations’ Governor Oliver Ames Estate:

36 acres of easy to meander meadows and ponds, plus the Governor’s mansion and carriage house:

And a garden and cottage with a fabric art piece:

and old, old trees:

and the fish pond:

Another pond, with a bridge to private property, gives a nice view of another Richardson building:

We walk around to Shovelshop Pond – the Ames family founded the Ames Shovel Works in 1803, nationally known as having provided the shovels which laid the Union Pacific Railroad and “opened the West.”

and a duck/goose brigade:

and a brightly colored fungus:

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San Francisco final day – 6/5/17

From Sequoia National Park back to San Francisco, to see the sights we missed before the parks.

Like the Hidden Garden Steps– a volunteer and community-based public art project to create mosaic steps, a public garden and a wall mural on 16th Avenue extending uphill from Kirkham to Lawton.

From art on the steps to art on the walls – the Mission District murals. Throughout the neighborhood, hundreds of walls and fences are covered with colorful works of art featuring themes ranging from cultural heritage to social political statements. It would take hours to walk and see them all! But here are some beauties:

Balmy Alley has some of the earliest murals from mid-1980s. A local museum has paint supplies and walking tour maps to the murals.

A local playground is walled in by murals, with a colorful dragon for climbing.

We drove through the Castro district, during Pride Month:

and walked to the historic Ferry Building:

And finished with a great dinner at Sam’s Grill – the 5th oldest restaurant in the country, from 1867:


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Painted Ladies, Golden Gate Park, Cliff House + 5/29/17

Stopped to enjoy the sights on the way to Golden Gate Park. Look, a cable car! (never rode one – the wait to board was insane, and the bus prices were much better!)

Rode past Japan Town, and waited for a bus by a tree-stump chair (doubleclick any photo for full size):

Victorian homes along the way were impressive, especially the one with giant tree festooned in wind chimes:

Reached Alamo Square, a hilltop park that looks out on the famed Painted Ladies Victorians, built 1892-1896 – well known from the opening credits to Full House.

Another bus, and we reached Golden Gate Park, 20% larger than NYC’s Central Park, at over 1,000 acres – and 3 miles long! Hiked a short way through fuscias to the Conservatory of Flowers:

Inside were all kinds of tropical plants, plus a butterfly den:

Interesting sculptures in the dell outside the Conservatory. Segway tours of the Park are popular:

Golden Gate Park is home to so much:

We walked past the crowds at the Academy of Sciences, and into the DeYoung art museum, which is hosting an exhibit on the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love 1967.

The deYoung, and its special exhibit, were very expensive (and time consuming), so we checked out the lobby, and took the free elevator to the tower’s observation deck. Also experienced our first “All Genders simultaneously” public restroom – no urinals, all private stalls, all genders sharing the mirrors/sinks. And the universe did not implode.

Next stop – the Park’s Japanese Tea Garden – gorgeous!

More sculpture by the deYoung, on our way to the next bus:

Headed towards the Pacific side of San Francisco, walking up the hill along the ocean.

… towards the Cliff House, an historic (1858) restaurant with ocean views.

Next to the Cliff House are the ruins of the Sutro Baths (1894-1964), a massive public bath house, and freshwater swimming facility. It included 6 saltwater swimming tanks of varying sizes, shapes, and water temperatures, tiers of bleachers seating thousands of spectators under glass and steel. This is all that’s left:

There are delightful hiking trails from this Lands End visitor center, down to the ruins or along the cliff:

Then you round a bend in the trail, and get this:

Next bus – past another interesting church:

Back downtown to Union Square :

… and the historic St. Francis Hotel, which was badly damaged in the fire following the 1906 earthquake. The staff provided meals to the people displaced by the 1906 catastrophes right in Union Square, bottom photo on right:

Classy lobby, bar, and a famous grandfather clock, admired by Shirley Temple in the photo. The plaque describes the hotel’s history of washing guests’ coins so they wouldn’t soil their elegant gloves. And they still provide that service. Really.

Finally, found Maiden Lane, which houses the only San Francisco building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It had been an art gallery, shop, many things, but is currently unoccupied. It has a curved stairway/ramp, similar to his design for NYC’s Guggenheim Museum:

I think that’s enough ground covered for one day.

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San Fran’s Beat Neighborhood and Coit Tower 5/28/17

Where it all began – visited North Beach to see City Lights Bookstore, founded by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti in 1956, who published Alan Ginsburg’s Howl which led to the landmark obscenity trial (poetry = not obscene). Scenes from City Lights:

Scenes from the neighborhood:

Then off to Coit Tower, with its impressive WPA-era murals and even more impressive views. The hills, the stairs, even some streets are just named staircases!

View from the hill – Golden Gate Bridge:

Coit Tower and its murals:

And the views:

From here, you can see how squiggly Lombard Street is:

Walked down from Coit Tower through hanging gardens:

And we found ourselves in Levi Strauss Square – went in to see their little history display in the headquarters, including Albert Einstein’s leather Levi’s jacket:

Then we walked along the waterfront to Pier 39 – a crazy crowded outdoor kitchy mall, plus sea lions!!

I think the sea lions come to watch the crowds of tourists:

Dinner was clam chowder in a sour dough bread bowl. Loved the chowder, not a huge fan of sourdough. It’s sour!

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San Francisco Downtown – 5/28/17

Walked down to the government center area to City Hall – passed a lot of street art on the way:

Lots of beautiful churches:

And witty businesses (happy to serve ogres and krakkens):

The city is celebrating light-based art installations throughout the city. This is one, where the wind moves the squares- they light up at night, but it’s just wind patterns by day: doubleclick any photo to enlarge

City Hall is spectacular, with a dome modeled on St. Peter’s at the Vatican. City Hall’s history is powerful – from the ire-hosing of protesters objecting to the House UnAmerican Affairs Committee holding their commie-hunting hearings there to the murder of Harvey Milk:

The cultural district is right next to the government buildings – opera, symphony:

Another light installation – Caruso’s Dream – shows illuminated pianos up above the sidewalk, where Enrico Caruso had performed and was awoken by the rumbling of the 1906 earthquake:

More murals and public art- The ornate building houses the city’s Human Services Agency, while the giant swirling Venus is blocked by private apartment towers under construction:

Next we come to museum-central. The Contemporary Jewish Museum, construction for the Mexican Museum, and the striking SF Museum of Modern Art:

These museums are adjacent to Yerba Buena Gardens the centerpiece of which is a stunning fountain in memory of Martin Luther King Jr. Waterfalls cascade over a walkway with panels of Dr. King’s quotes – some well-known, some surprising. A powerful monument, very moving and inspiring:

The gardens are lovely, too.

Another fountain:

A few blocks away is the Museum of the African Diaspora, with giant collage of photos which blend together to create a portrait of a little girl:

We stumbled onto the California Historical Society, which was featuring an exhibit on the movements that led up to San Fran’s Summer of Love, which is being celebrated for its 50th anniversary.

Janis Joplin, folk singer

Folk singers Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter, 1962

Grateful Dead

Alan Ginsburg!

The Historical Society Stairs are name in honor of:


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