The front entrance to Castle Hill Inn in Newport, Rhode Island.
I do hope Castle Hill Inn will not be disturbed by approaching Hurricane Sandy. It has weathered many severe storms in its 138 years and even lost its turret back in the early 1900s. An exact replica of the original turret has recently been built, and it would be a darn shame if Frankenstorm were to destroy it.
Castle Hill Inn was built as a summer residence in 1874 for the renowned scientist and explorer, Alexander Agassiz. There’s not much information about the house’s architecture history, but there’s plenty of information on Agassiz. From what I learned touring the earlier Newport mansions, I would say this building’s design is a good example of shingle style architecture with the interiors influenced by the English Aesthetic style which was very much in vogue during the mid to late 1800s. I’ve had to do some homework since I’ve returned to understand these movements. The Aesthetic Movement in the decorative arts could be considered a sub category of the Arts and Crafts movement. My explanation may be a bit over simplified, but researching and understanding all the nuances gave me a major case of tired head.
Agassiz decorated his house with the best of Chinese and Japanese art and furnishings—all of which were elements of the Aesthetic style. Today Castle Hill Inn’s interiors still adhere to this style with elements such as William Morris wallpaper and fabrics; ebonized wood with gilt highlights; far Eastern influence; a prominent use of nature, especially flowers, birds, ginkgo leaves, and peacock feathers; and blue and white porcelain and other fine china.
Update: On Thursday, November 1, Brian Young, the General Manager, left a comment saying “Hello, and thanks for your kind words and well wishes. I’m happy to report that, although we suffered some beach erosion and landscape damage from the effects of Sandy, we had no lasting damage and are open for business as always. We look forward to welcoming you back soon.”
The entrance to the cloister of San Francesco Church in Gargnano on Lake Garda.
The San Francesco Church and Cloister in Gargnano on Lake Garda. Recently I wrote about the monks of the San Francesco Monastery introducing lemons to the Lake Garda area in northern Italy during the thirteenth century. But what I forgot to mention in that post was that their monastery and church, which were built in 1289, still exist today, and it was a happy accident when I stumbled upon them. For more photos of this peaceful sanctuary, click on the link below.
The oak tree has fully leafed out, and it was the perfect time to take this photo. I am in the process of finishing a newly designed website which will include this blog, and this photo was needed for the landscape section. Keep in mind that what you see in the photo is an ongoing work in progress and some items are still missing. I am currently looking for a very large pot to place on the brick terrace in front of all the electrical boxes, and of course, I intend to plant something in it. I just don’t know what until I have the pot. And we’re waiting on the zexmenia to become available, which will be planted against the foundation under the screen porch. Expect the new site to be up and running by the end of next week, but before then I will post photos of my just completed front garden.
Architectural history that is. The one essential book for anyone interested in the history and architectural fashions of American domestic architecture is A Field Guide to American Houses by Virginia and Lee McAlester. Through this book and Virginia McAlester’s website, I have learned that my home’s style is neither “distinctive” nor is it noteworthy. Nevertheless, it is an unadulterated example of what was the norm for the homes built in my neighborhood back in 1938. Ms. McAlester refers to my home’s style as “minimal traditional”. Sounds pretty boring, doesn’t it? She even gives it another term on her website, “bankers’ modern”. So what is minimal traditional? Below is how it’s described in her book:
Minimal Traditional (ca. 1935—50). With the economic Depression of the 1930s came this compromise style which reflects the form of traditional Eclectic houses, but lacks their decorative detailing. Roof pitches are low or intermediate, rather than steep as in the preceding Tudor style. Eaves and rake are close, rather than overhanging as in the succeeding Ranch style. Usually, but not always, there is a large chimney and at least one front-facing gable, both echoing Tudor features. In fact, many examples suggest Tudor cottages with the roof line lowered and detailing removed. These houses were built in great numbers in the years immediately preceding and following World War II; they commonly dominate the large tract-housing developments of the period. They were built of wood, brick, stone, or a mixture of these wall-cladding materials. Although most were relatively small one-story houses, occasional two-story examples are also seen. More commonly, two-story houses of the period have extra detailing and represent late examples of one of the traditional Eclectic styles, usually Colonial Revival or Monterey.
Click on the link below for some super interesting tidbits on the various factors that influenced the architects and builders, e.g., the Federal Housing Authority beginning its mortgage insurance programs.
Revisiting my past travels through my digital library has been a small respite from my current daily grind which now includes cleaning, purging, organizing, packing, moving, and dispersing my mother’s effects. Four thousand square feet and eighty years of memories need to be carefully and thoughtfully dealt with. And at times it has been overwhelming. So here’s my latest jaunt down memory lane.