Posts tagged Garden

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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Bodega to Napa to Yosemite – 5/30/17

Headed into to the town of Bodega, CA, where Hitchcock filmed that scene of the schoolchildren being attacked in The Birds:

The Potter School (1873) is still there, a private residence:


Back on the road, with a stop for fruit at a market, right next to the Guayaki Yerba Maté factory – we’ve had that!

One of the great things about racking up miles on the rental car is that we get to search out places to check out to break up the long drives. Santa Rosa is a great stop, where we toured the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens, a national historic site. Burbank (1849 -1926) was born in Lancaster, MA but settled in Santa Rosa and spent his 50 year career as a horticulturalist. He worked to expand the world’s food supply, and introduced more than 800 new varieties of plants — including over 200 varieties of fruits, many vegetables, nuts and grains, and hundreds of ornamental flowers – including the Shasta Daisy. The gardens are free, and lovely:


Next stop, The Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone campus, once the largest stone winery in the world. Gorgeous building, with oranges growing in front, and a crazy corkscrew collection on display:



Back on the road through Napa Valley, surrounded by grape vines climbing hills or filling fields.


The town of Napa has a nice riverfront park, and lots of restaurants – but we hit the supermarket for sandwiches to go.


From grapevines to windfarms, until we’re climbing higher:


And then Yosemite as the day is waning:

We’re just driving through on a long, winding road to get to our hotel in Mariposa, and stop at an overlook. An overwhelming, my cup runneth over overlook:

The winter’s heavy snows have turned the Merced River and waterfalls (or is it just snowmelt?) high, fast, and wild:


Drove through a tunnel to a waterfall at Cascade Creek:


An info panel showed this early 20th century ad for 36-hour wagon trip to Yo Semite:

Can’t blame them for enduring a 36-hour drive to see this place – What a planet!




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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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Alcatraz Evening tour 5/28/17

Alcatraz Island, a mile out from San Francisco, became a military fortress in 1858, then a Civil War prison in 1861. The island is home to the oldest operating lighthouse on the west coast, first built in 1854. Alcatraz served as the notorious federal penitentiary from 1934 until 1963. While the national historic site is free, the ferry ride will cost you – and they book up early! These are from the waiting-to-board area. Doubleclick any photo for full size.

Views from the ferry:

Approaching Alcatraz:

This “Indians Welcome” graffiti is from the 18-month occupation by the Tribes of All Nations group from 1969-1971, protesting The Indian Termination Act, which forced Native Americans to move to cities and assimilate, in an attempt to end the special relationship between the U.S. government and Native nations. They also demanded reparation for the many treaties broken by the US government and for the lands which were taken from so many tribes. During the occupation, President Nixon rescinded the Indian termination policy, and established a new policy of self-determination, in part as a result of the publicity and awareness created by the occupation. Graffiti remains, and is regularly repainted by relatives/descendants of the occupiers, to preserve this piece of the island’s history.

Some buildings are in disrepair; others are being renovated.

Alcatraz has some lovely gardens on its slopes:

More Native graffiti:

The tour includes a free audio-guide, told by a narrator and by actual former inmates and guards. Chilling and fascinating. No attempt at rehabilitation, only punishment. “Break the rules and you go to prison; break the prison rules and you go to Alcatraz.”

The hallways between cells are named for famous streets, like Broadway and Michigan Avenue. The cells housed some famous prisoners, like Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly, Robert “The Birdman” Stroud, and even Whitey Bulger ’59-’62.

We learned about a lot of escape attempts. If you could dig your way out of your cell, you faced the most dangerous challenge – swimming the frigid choppy waters to San Francisco. A total of 36 prisoners made 14 escape attempts, two men trying twice; 23 were caught alive, six were shot and killed during their escape, two drowned, and five are listed as “missing and presumed drowned.” One escape used this spacer to spread the uncuttable bars apart:

Inmates did take up hobbies to pass the monotonous time – including crochet (pink!) and painting.

Here’s the guards’ uniform:

Most prisoners were assigned to work in various jobs on the island – laundry, factory, etc, and did get some recreation time outdoors:

Prisoner accounts said that when the wind was right, they could hear the sounds from the city in their cells, especially the sounds of celebrations on New Year’s Eve.

A dummy was used to hide one escape, made through that tunnel carved under the sink through the ventilation grate:

Prisoners did go to the mess hall for meals; the kitchen knives were stored on this rack with outlines, so guards could tell immediately if a knife was missing:

Prisoners who broke the rules at Alcatraz were placed in The Hole, a block of bare cells, secluded in total darkness for 23 hours/day. Birdman spent 6 years in solitary in The Hole.

“Its size was approximately that of a regular cell-9 feet by 5 feet by about 7 feet high. I could just touch the ceiling by stretching out my arm… You are stripped nude and pushed into the cell. Guards take your clothes and go over them minutely or what few grains of tobacco may have fallen into the cuffs or pockets. There is no soap. No tobacco. No toothbrush, The smell – well you can describe it only by the word ‘stink.’ It is like stepping into a sewer. It is nauseating. After they have searched your clothing, they throw it at you. For bedding, you get two blankets, around 5 in the evening. You have no shoes, no bed, no mattress-nothing but the four damp walls and two blankets. The walls are painted black. Once a day I got three slices of bread-no-that is an error. Some days I got four slices. I got one meal in five days, and nothing but bread in between. In the entire thirteen days I was there, I got two meals… I have seen but one man get a bath in solitary confinement, in all the time that I have been there. That man had a bucket of cold water thrown over him.” – Henri Young testifying his experiences in “The Hole” at Alcatraz during his 1941 trial.

In 1963, due to the costs of maintaining/repairing Alcatraz, the prison was closed:

We stayed for a presentation on Shivs & Shanks – the weapons prisoners made and how they used them – usually to intimidate other prisoners:

The final presentation was on the revolutionary design to the cell doors – guards could open/close them from a contraption at the end of the cellblock. No more standing in front of cell juggling keys and getting attacked by an inmate.

In the dark, our docent explained the doors and treated us to the intimidating sound of the cells slamming shut:

Fascinating – highly recommend the evening tour. And still shaking my head at the inhumane treatment.

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Prescott Farm, Middletown, RI 12/31/16

Just up the road from Newport is Prescott Farm, site of a Revolutionary War raid that captured British General Prescott without a shot fired. This site has a number of restored farm buildings, including a windmill used for grinding grain.




This is the guardhouse, which didn’t do too good a job of guarding General Prescott:



The windmill has two huge mill stones, doubling its productivity. This coastal region relied on wind power while inland mills dammed streams to harness water power. img_9450

The farm does have a little stream:

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There are demonstration gardens showing the typical 18th century gardening techniques. The walkways around the beds use broken seashells for gravel:


The stream empties into a pond where ducks struggled to climb onto the ice:


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Frank Lloyd Wright’s Zimmerman House, Manchester NH 12-18-16

The Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, NH gives tours of their Zimmerman house, one of just a handful of Frank Lloyd Wright designs in New England, and the only one open for public tours. It’s a gem, built using 4 materials – glass, cypress wood, brick, and cement.

The two-bedroom, 1 level home is built diagonally across the lot, with a steeply overhanging roof, high cement-framed windows on the front, all enhancing privacy. The back wall is nearly all glass, bringing the gardens and yard into the design, so that the small “Usonian” home feels expansive.

This is the model of the house, inside the Currier Museum, where you gather for the tour:

And this is the house itself:


The carport is well-shielded from the snow:



The front glass door opens on a brick wall – privacy! Turn right and the brick hallway leads you to the open floor-plan living room, with Wright-designed built-in furniture:


The back glass walls of the house – too bad we visited on a gray, snowy day, and couldn’t experience how the sun lights up the house.


Here’s the Museum’s photo of the back of the house, from the garden on a sunny day:


And the Museum’s photos of the interior:


dining area

Wright designed this 4-person wood music-stand and uphoulstered stools for the Zimmerman’s musical gatherings. The vertical slot wood piece in the corner hides their stereo speakers – and the open floor plan allows the music to fill the house.


music alcove


master bedroom


galley kitchen

The design is a work of art, architecture, and arithmetic! Windows and floor (radiant heat underneath) are 4′ squares. Horizontal surfaces – seating, shelves, are in increments of 13.”

Down the street is another Wright-designed home, not open to the public. This one is a study in concrete, as seen from the tour van:

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Now onto the Museum itself, and its exhibit on Mt Washington, with lots of paintings by artists of the Hudson River School:


cog railway

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The Museum also has galleries of glass, like this Tiffany collection:


And this lovely Childe Hassam piece:


The Cafe is in what used to be the courtyard of the original entrance, with amazing mosaics framing the doorway:


The opposite wall features 2 pieces reminiscent of a colorful mosaic, by Sol Lewitt:img_9431

The ladies’ room floor ain’t bad, either:


And we cross the Merrimack River on the drive home:


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Westport, MA 6/18/16

Oh boy, is Westport a great place to visit. On the ocean, between Fall River and New Bedford, its most famous landmark is Horseneck Beach. But the lesser-know spots are delightful, and much less crowded.

We started our day at the Westport River Winery, a stop on the Coastal Wine Trail of southern New England, where the climate and soil are ideal for vineyards. Fascinating free tour of their Champagne-making process, using the old French Methode. Lovely spot, and they host Friday evening concerts, too. Doubleclick to enlarge any photo:

This is how they graft new vines – covered in wax to protect the grafting wound. They’re already sprouting leaves.

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After lunch from a fancy food truck at the vineyard, we headed over to the Allens Pond Audubon Sanctuary – one trail along the ocean, others along the pond. Perfect weather, perfect vistas, even wildlife. Audubon with waves – what a treat!

The loop back from the beach skirts the piping plover nesting area, and takes you along Allen’s Pond.

The big rock island in the middle of the pond is a resting spot for seagulls, cormorants.

Looped back onto another section of beach:

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A different section of Pond trail led us to an egret, and, in a shallow stream, fish and crabs:


Crabs! and a bird with blue on the wings.

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This was one of those joyously-moved-to-tears-everything’s-a-miracle moments.

And the beauty just kept on coming. Another section of trail skirts more of the Pond, with stone walls, viewing platform, boardwalk.

Rainbow grasses:

rainbow grasses

We had some time to spare, so headed to Gooseberry Island.


The whole reason for the daytrip to Westport was to attend the Log Cabin House Concert with Greg Trooper, my 2nd favorite singer-songwriter from NJ. The hosts of the house concert are long-time Sharonites, so lots of connections, lots of folks we’ve met (or should have) on the house concert scene. The home and gardens are another treat:

And to cap off the day, Greg Trooper:


Absolutely perfect day and night – every moment was just right. Easy drives, easy parking, free samples in the liquor store, never got lost or even took a wrong turn. Every sense had a great time!

My cup runneth over.

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