Meghan W

Posts Tagged ‘history’

~{Abandoned…}~* A Flair for the Dramatic and A False Interpretation of Our Architecture. 

In Uncategorized on July 18, 2016 at 11:50 pm

I work at a house museum. So, when work is slow, I have a little down time to play on my phone–I mean, tweak yet another job application and read intellectual stimulating books. Okay, when I need to take a break from that, I go on Pinterest. There, I can browse through hundreds of pictures of everything I’m interested in–home decor, places to travel, clothes I like, tips and tricks for living in the real world  (I need extra help with that).

Recently, I’ve been on a kick where I am pinning pretty much all Italianate houses in any condition. Though the Queen Anne style has been my favorite for years, I’ve grown to appreciate the long, angular, and austere architecture style of the mid-19th century. You can get a huge range of design within the Italianate style. Some are embellished with brackets over every aperture. Some have impressive and imposing eaves that would make some of the Greek Revivals look like vernacular cottages. Others, though, are simpler–though not plainer. These are the ones that I believe best represent the architectural bones of the Italianate style across the country. The ones that are built with white-painted clapboards, the ones that possess tall windows with thin muntins that almost disappear into the glass, leaving facades with large expanses of windows to let in light (and for architectural voyeurs like myself to peek in).

circaitalianate

This one is for sale! Who wouldn’t want to live in an Italianate in Vermont? I’m having heart palpitations.

hightower

This is my dream right here. The tower’s mansard roof, rounded hood molds–it’s perfect.

In the last few days I noticed a trend on Pinterest that disturbed me for several reasons. Pinterest will bring up recommended pins on your homepage that they think you will like based on your other pins (that disturbs me, though that’s for a different day). So, since I’ve been pinning pictures of Italianate houses, my homepage is now filled with recommended pins of other houses with the style. And I noticed something. Nearly every board title on these recommended pins had the title “Abandoned,” or some variation.

This made me pause and narrow my eyes. Abandoned? How did they know? I typed into the searchbar, “Abandoned.” Board after board popped up under the architecture category. They were filled with “old houses” in the most basic sense. Numerous photographs depicting historic churches and houses filled my screen. I noticed the things they had in common–stripped paint, frame, all or nearly all windows intact, (the appearance of being) structurally sound, in a field. They’re all in a field. Guess you can’t have “abandoned” houses in cities? (Tell that to Detroit!) I clicked on a few of the links that took me to the source. Some were from Flickr, the photo sharing site. Others were from blogs. The overhwhelming majority, though, did not identify the structure, its history, its location, why it was photographed, and, most importantly, why it is labeled as “abandoned.”

Dictionary.com defines the word “abandoned” as forsaken or deserted. Now, this is the problem I have–so many of these houses would not be considered abandoned by historic preservationists today. In fact, that word really isn’t in our vocabulary. And I think that is a good thing. I like to think of houses as possessing anthropomorphic characteristics, such as pride, loyalty, and a soul. I try not to think ill of any structure. Even the Brutalist hospital building three blocks from my house–I don’t understand the style, I do not like it, but I can appreciate its role in American history and aesthetics and respect that. All structures demand as much respect as we’d give each other–houses especially so, because houses give shelter to people, families, roommates, pets, and everything else people give meaning to. That includes furnishings that have been passed down, portraits of loved ones, and the intangible parts of making a “house”–a structure meant to be lived in– into a “home”–a retreat, a palpable though not physical definition that ascribes being comfortable. I have arrived.  My classmates and I were banned from using the word “home” when describing a structure. It is not a structure, it is an adjective given to a structure that is derived from personal attachment and meaning. I think people have a hard time accepting that, preservationists and laymen alike. It’s asking us to think critically and sometimes brutally but not emotionally, when at its heart, preservation of historic and culturally significant structures is one of the most emotionally-wrought jobs to embrace. I would not be a preservationist if I did not love buildings. If I didn’t want to see another 19th century farm knocked down for a high-density neighborhood in my once-rural hometown. If I didn’t want to cry anymore whenever I learned of a structure that had nobody to fight for it, so it lost its battle without even raising a sword. This brings me back to my problem with people labeling boards full of historic structures as “abandoned.” It implies a human factor, a complex emotional component no one can begin to understand without having experienced it themselves. Read the rest of this entry »

Living in the Past

In history, Reading on June 8, 2016 at 3:44 pm

First off, I must apologize for my sporadic posts. I really don’t follow a set schedule or topic pattern, which means that I write when an idea hits me. I’ll be sitting in the living room and suddenly think of a topic, or I’ll be reading a book and a thought will cross my mind, and I’ll think “that would make an interesting post.” So since my last post nothing’s really hit me. My week has been really uneventful….as usual. I think it’s important to point out that I am so bored that even my brain can’t think of a blog post topic I could write to take up my time. (Okay, so this post has been in my drafts for four years. I’m not quite sure exactly when I began it. But I thought I’d finish it now!)

Tonight, however, I read 300 something pages of An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon, finally finishing it after starting it August of last year. Yes, a year ago. I’m never like that, I assure you. It’s just that it’s really hard to read in college! I don’t have any time for it, and so I had three books (One Day and two Gabaldon books) sitting on my adorable yellow Martha Stewart bookshelf in my dorm room all year long. For an avid reader, it made me very sad. But I finally finished it! Even though it’s really hard sometimes to start up on page 457 and expect to remember every little detail, character, and plot written in the previous pages.

This post will simply be a reflection of myself and my tastes in books and history (because I just thought of it and felt like writing about it).

Did any of you read Ann Rinaldi’s historical fiction novels when you were a teenager? I believe she published the majority of them in the 80’s and/0r 90’s, but I found the re-printed Harcourt collection at Barnes and Noble when I was in middle school. She wrote stories that centered on the Salem trials, the American Revolution, and the Civil War, among others. Young females were always the protagonist. Her books made a huge impression on me as a young person. She didn’t start my obsession with history; I’m convinced I was born with that. But she wrote about the topics I was totally in love with. I wrote an essay about Rinaldi’s novels for an English class and had it posted on the hall bulletin board for everyone to see (I felt awkward).

I believe every reader has an experience like that– where you you find an author or book and it either transforms you or enhances a specific characteristic in yourself. For my mother, it was Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. For me, it was Ann Rinaldi (and I say it was her and not Jane Austen because early 19th century literature just didn’t affect me as a 14 year old as a contemporary Rinaldi book did…I’ll say it did later, and does, but not when I was 12, 13, 14).  In fact, her novels so made an impression on me that I found myself using antiquated terms spoken by the protagonists in her novels (I didn’t do it on purpose, I promise! At least my friends found it amusing and not creepy….thank goodness for small favors). I’ve never once looked up Rinaldi. I’m not quite sure if she’s still alive or not (is it odd I don’t want to know?). I did, however, print out nearly 100 pages of my mother’s nice printing paper with transcripts of the Salem witch trials for me to read through… I also kept a college-ruled notebook in which I painstakingly copied quotes or passages I found meaningful from Rinaldi’s books. Some of them, if they offered advice, I tried to apply in my own life (that’s sort of difficult for a young teenager, btw).

Anyway. As I was wrapping up An Echo in the Bone and verbally mourning the fact that I don’t have the next book in the series yet, I discovered just how acutely I was feeling for the characters and their present roles in the American Revolution. It’s one of my absolute favorite wars to study and so I naturally flock to any literature which takes place during that time (Rinaldi’s The Fifth of March was my favorite of hers. It takes place in Boston just before the official start of the Revolution). Picking up the Outlander series is like a veritable treasure chest of history since it spans the ’45 Jacobite Rising to the French Revolution to the American Revolution. Whoo!

But I realized tonight (and, sadly, not for the first time) that I longed for the chance to time travel backwards to those times I loved to study about in the present. I would think it’s every history major’s/lover’s dream to experience first hand the events or locations they study. I will be the first to admit it– I live in the past. I hold people accountable based on historic standards. A lot of my sense of morality comes from long established ways. I am in many ways a complete traditionalist, and that is because I live in the past.

It’s both a good thing and a bad thing. Wishing so fervently for a chance to live in Charleston during the Revolution or Civil War will only break my heart in the end. I romanticize the past sometimes, and I know that is silly. I nearly attended graduate school to study the 18th-century British-Atlantic world so that I could force myself to fully understand the realities people lived through 300 years ago. Romanticizing and idealizing how people (strangers) lived is not only unfair to their realities but unfair to ourselves. No one should want to live in Charleston in the 18th and 19th centuries. The weather was hideous, life sucked if you weren’t wealthy and accepted in society, and there weren’t many opportunities for women (duh). Wearing pretty dresses would get old after the third day of forcing my stomach into a corset and placing the fourth layering of clothing on my sweating body before stepping out into Charleston’s sweltering, miserable heat (I live here, so I can say that).

Understanding the past allows us to place our own lives and experiences on a continuum. Once we grasp the economic forces that enabled 17th century Holland and its artists like Johannes Vermeer to establish the Dutch Golden Age of painting and trade; once we accept the sociology of post-war American architects who created new and startling architectural styles in houses and high rises as a way of coping with the effects of WWII; once we acknowledge the enormity of the decision for our great-great-grandparents to leave Ireland in the middle of the night with a note to their parents, jump on a ship, and travel the Atlantic to make a new life in New York City (my great-great-grandparents, if you haven’t picked up on that)–only then, do we appreciate our own place in time.

So, I loved Ann Rinaldi’s books as a teenager because I could fantasize living on a plantation in the midst of the Revolutionary War in Camden, South Carolina. Her books pushed me to study the war on my own time, reading chapters of textbooks we never got to in class and secreting away my mother’s research books to my room to memorize. Now, though, about a decade after first picking up one of her stories, I’ve graduated to Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Her books are so detailed, descriptive, real, that they served as the perfect outlet for me to both fantasize and realize “life back then.” Until time travel really exists, it is only through extensive research and immersion into history that we can feel the past as tangible as the reality in front of us.

Have any of you had a meaningful experience with a book/author, whether you were young or old? What or who was it?

Outlander: every girl loves a man in plaid

In Uncategorized on July 7, 2012 at 11:40 am

Last night I watched P.S. I Love You with Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler. I watched it around a year ago and couldn’t believe how much I cried over it. I really dislike crying during movies. Especially when you’re alone. With food. But I was in a mood all day and when I saw it was on TV, I had to turn it on. And then I cried again. Especially when it plays Flogging Molly’s “If I Ever Leave This World Alive.” The lyrics are so beautiful. But it and the movie reminded me of Jamie Fraser and Claire from the Outlander series from Diana Gabaldon (if you haven’t read it or know much about it, you might not want to read any further because I may give some things away from the series, and you really don’t want me to do that…)

There’s a beautiful quote Jamie tells Claire in one of the novels in which he says, “when the day shall come, that we do part, if my last words are not ‘I love you’-ye’ll ken it was because I didna have time.”

What a beautiful sentiment! I mean, come on. How more romantic could a person possibly get? And Jamie Fraser is also a Highlander, speaking in a Scottish brogue, while wearing various plaid clothing items. And strong hands. And an unrivaled heart. So, yeah, when I read that quote, I had to go write it down (I keep a journal of my favorite novel quotes) so I’d always remember it. And when I watched P.S. I Love You  tonight it made me think of him and the story.

So. Outlander. Who’s read it? Who hasn’t? (crazies.) Well, basically, if you need a refresher, Outlander concerns a Brit named Claire Randall who, during the 1940s, goes back in time to Scotland in the 1700s (I’m really not giving anything away, it says it on the back cover). I’m currently on An Echo in the Bone, and a part of me is slowly dying inside because I know as much as us Outlander fans want her to, Gabaldon cannot write the series forever. I mean, Claire and Jamie will have to die. Gabaldon will die, eventually (sorry, did I just get too morbid?). Trust me, I would love it if Jamie could suddenly become immortal and revert to his tweny-five year old self. But that won’t happen, and I have to face it. (WHY do some authors make us fall in love with their characters?? I know that makes them really good authors, but WHY? I want the Outlander series to live forever! Such is the life of a bookworm. Sad face.)

For the people who have read the series and loved it too, why do you think Jamie is such a likable character? Romance stories can be found anywhere, some bad and some good. But there’s something about Claire and Jamie’s that makes me pause every once in a while and think about how lucky and special they really are. The whole time travel aspect may have something to do with it. But only a little, I think! I know I’ve thought several times that if I could meet a real life Jamie (he doesn’t have to be a Highlander, I could survive if he was just a plain ole American….maybe…) I mustn’t let him get away. I think that the two of them are so perfect together, and their love really does transcend centuries. If Austen wrote in the 21st century, I wonder if Elizabeth and Darcy’s love would hold a flame to Claire and Jamie’s (and trust me, I’ve thought of this many times before, and how I’m practically betraying my favorite author in the whole world…I still love you Austen! I promise!)

Gabaldon writes scenes in which I am absolutely blown away at the emotion displayed in the scenes. Her scenes are so gritty at some times, and truly touching in others. They make her stories realistic. She is such a truly, truly talented author. Do I get a second? My mother’s had the good fortune to meet her several times and is always completely awed by her presence (I think it’s a little funny how there’s a hierarchy in the writer world). Honestly, if Gabaldon came out and professed that she knows so much about 18th century Scotland and such because she actually time traveled….I’d believe it. Seriously. Her writing is so descriptive, her images so colorful, that each book blows me away.

Isn’t it amazing how much a reader can feel for a fictional character? Such a cruel fate.

And, look, I’ll be honest. I’ve never been in love. And I don’t plan on being so in the near future. But I do know that if love ever tries to find me, I’ve got raised expectations from this series!

I’ve collected just a few of my favorite Outlander quotes (they’re from all of the series, not just the first book. And I cannot find them all because my journal is still packed away in all of my college belongings, and I know it would be fruitless to search for it now…I’ll probably find it when I’ve returned to my school in January, after the semester in St Andrews.)

“Blood of my blood,” he whispered, “and bone of my bone. You carry me within ye, Claire, and ye canna leave me now, no matter what happens. You are mine, always, if ye will it or no, if ye want me or nay. Mine, and I wilna let ye go.”

“Oh, aye, Sassenach. I am your master . . . and you’re mine. Seems I canna possess your soul without losing my own.”

“Ye werena the first lass I kissed. But I swear you’ll be the last.”

“You’re tearin’ my guts out, Claire.”

“I stood still, vision blurring, and in that moment, I heard my heart break. It was a small, clean sound, like the snapping of a flower’s stem.”

“Oh, Claire, ye do break my heart wi’ loving you.”

“Scots have long memories, and they’re not the most forgiving of people.”

“Hodie mihi cras tibi, said the inscription. Sic transit gloria mundi. My turn today, yours tomorrow. And thus passes away the glory of the world.”

 

Word of the Day: Soul— The spiritual part of humans as distinct from the physical part. The spiritual part of humans regarded in its moral aspect, auras believed to survive death and be subject to happiness or misery in a life to come: arguing the immortality of the soul. The disembodied spirit of a deceased person. The emotional part of human nature; the seat of the feelings or sentiments. A human being; person. (source: Dictionary.com)

A Valiant, if Failed Effort: Scotland and the Fight for the Restored Monarchy

In A History on June 29, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Currently, I am reading The Winter Sea, a book by Susanna Kearsley. It takes place in Scotland, in the year 1708. The eighteenth century was an incredibly tumultuous time for Scotland. The amount of change it experienced was incredible. In this particular year, a large group of Jacobites comprised of French and Scottish soldiers almost succeeded in saving their exiled king, King James, and restoring the monarchy. They failed, but the Jacobin efforts did not stop. It is a fascinating topic. I am not Scottish, but I’m quite interested in their history (I might as well become familiar with it if I’m supposed to be living there for 4 months.) Why is this topic a source of fascination to me? I promise, it is NOT because of Jamie Fraser, featured in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series (although, really now, who could blame me?)

a quick summary of the Scottish resistance:

  • 1296 CE- Edward I of England invades Scotland. Scottish resistance begins.
  • Fighters like William Wallace and Robert the Bruce champion for Scotland’s independence
  • 1314 CE- Battle of Bannockburn
  • Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1587, Catholic) descends from the Stewart line (cousin to Queen Elizabeth I. She was also imprisoned by her cousin. And executed. Harsh.)
  • She gives birth to James (1566-1625), heir to the childless Queen Elizabeth I (of England)
  • This James I and VI is now king of Scotland AND England
  • His son Charles I (1600-1649) gets beheaded by Cromwell when he assumes too much power and disbands Parliament
  • This ensues a Civil War that lasts for years in England. Cromwell rules during this
  • England wants their kings back
  • They have Charles I’s son, Charles II (1630-1685, still a Stewart) to rule
  • His brother James II  and VII (1633-1701) ascends the throne when Charles II dies in 1685
  • Point of Information: James is Catholic. The English really don’t like Catholics at this point in time. The English think he’ll use his Catholic powers to be friends with the King of France, also Catholic, who also happens to be the number one enemy of the English
  • King James’s daughter, Mary, is married to William of Orange, who is Protestant
  • But before they can have William and Mary rule, Mary’s father (King James) gives birth to a son (1688-1766, the Old Pretender)with his new wife!
  • Point of Information: Legitimate son=HEIR!
  • This scares the Protestant loving English, so they start a rumor that the child isn’t really James’, and therefore he isn’t a true heir
  • This starts a lot of problems within England that leads to
  • King James, wife, and son fleeing to France
  • 1688- the GLORIOUS REVOLUTION, with (the Protestant) William and Mary ascending the throne
  • Back to Scotland– they’re split between Presbyterians happy with Mary ruling (she is Scottish) and those who agree her half brother, the little heir, is the true ruler (because males are put higher than females in the line of succession)
  • The latter group is the one who wants King James VII back. They become JACOBITES. This means followers of James (Latin for James is Jacobus) 
  • Scotland suffers during the time of William and Mary– their fields produce terrible harvests so Scotland is starving to death. England puts so many laws and tariffs on them that their trade suffers drastically
  • King William, after Mary dies, fears that upon his death Scotland will bring back a Stewart (King James or his new son, also named James)
  • Scotland and England used to be joined as one monarchy way back in the day, so William believes creating an act of Union that will make Scotland and England one, and so he can continue having Protestants ruling on the throne
  • When he dies Mary’s sister and daughter of King James, Anne, becomes Queen. She believes her half brother is really her half brother, but her council persuades her to choose her new successor (she was childless) from the German House of Hanover (does that last name ring a bell?)
  • Scotland refuses to accept this. They have their own parliament at this time, and declare that they won’t accept the Hanoverian claim on the throne unless Scotland is free to ignore foreign policies that don’t agree with Scotland’s interests
  • England retaliates with the ALIEN ACT—unless Scotland discusses the Union with England, every Scottish person living in England would be become an alien, and all Scottish owned estates in England would be taken back.
  • Scotland decided to talk
  • 1707 CE—Act of Union joined the parliaments of England and Scotland and formed the Parliament of Great Britain. It confirmed the Hanoverian (Protestant) succession to the throne
  • 1708 CE—failed Jacobin uprising (Where The Winter Sea takes place) 
  • 1715 CE—another failed Jacobin uprising
  • 1745 CEBonnie Prince Charlie, aka Charles Edward Stuart arrives in Scotland and creates a Jacobin rising. He has some success, but the Jacobin fight was viciously ended as the English brutally murdered nearly all clans in Culloden (where Outlander takes place). My next post will be about the Battle of Culloden (which I have visited) and Outlander.

If I haven’t bored you so much already that you’ve stopped reading my post, you can see that Scottish history is quite complex, bound quite unwillingly to England. When my family visited England and Scotland in 2010 (my choice!), I remember the Customs Guard at Heathrow Airport asking us where we were headed. When I told him Scotland, he looked up and he said, “Ahh! Why in heavens’ name would you want to go there? There’s nothing over there!” He said it jokingly, and my father laughed, but a history as rich as it is is still felt by people today. Perhaps not with the vigor of the Scots and English back in the day, but they are certainly aware of it, and are aware of the feelings of betrayal and loyalty that lived in both England and Scotland for hundreds of years.

Word of the Day: Divine Right of Kings- a doctrine of political and royal legitimacy. A monarch receives his right to rule directly from God and is subject to no authority on earth (meaning the will of the people or the church). Strongly promoted by King James I and VI in England. Mostly associated with the House of Tudor and the House of Stuart. It was abandoned with the Glorious Revolution.  

Derby Day, Epsom Downs: A History

In A History on June 18, 2012 at 11:13 am

Since I’m reading a book entitled Derby Day, I’m doing this post as much for myself than for my readers. The book is less about the actual event than the people involved in it (unsavory characters at best). Even though I’ve been riding horses consistently since about 9 years old, I was never one to be quite knowledgeable on horse related facts (a travesty I’ve been trying to correct). As a self professed anglophile, I’m interested in all things relating horses to England. So, I did some research to try and find out why the Derby is so special. Hopefully I got it right, and I’m not portraying any inaccuracies (it is, after all, through the eyes of an American).

Derby, 2012. June 2nd.

1779: first race recorded on the sight

It was organized by the 12 Earl of Derby, Edward Smith Stanley. He set it up for he and his friends, who all owned 3 year old fillies. The distance was approximately 1 1/2 miles.  1780 featured another race that included colts as well as fillies.

How did the race become called the Derby? Friend and horse racing fanatic Sir Charles Bunby tossed a coin with Derby to determine who would be the namesake of the race. Ironically, Bunby’s horse won.

The Derby race is one third of the British Triple Crown, which I find quite interesting, as I had no idea the Triple Crown existed other than in the United States! The British Triple Crown consists of these three races: The Derby, the St Leger, and the Two Thousand Guineas (quirky names, don’t you think?). I suppose now I’ll have to update my bucket list to seeing both the US and the UK Triple Crowns!

1927: the first Derby to be broadcast by BBC

Fun Fact: Emily Davidson, a suffragette, killed herself by throwing herself in front of King George V’s horse in 1913.

In 1779, no race was run unless it was less than 2 miles. No 3 year olds ran.

140 countries hold a Derby, but Epsom Downs remains the Home of the Derby.

One of the owners of the 2012 Derby winner, Camelot, said about the Derby: “To win the Epsom Derby is a dream come true.” The 2012 race began at the start of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The race occurred the 2nd of June.

http://www.epsomdowns.co.uk/racing/derby-history this is the link to the official Epson Downs website, if you want to learn more about the race!

“The Graces in a High Wind” James Gillray, 1810

In Julia Quinn on June 14, 2012 at 6:43 pm

caricature demonstrating how flimsy Empire style dresses were in the early 1800s (although I’m sure the men didn’t mind…)