Monday, December 17, 2012

Blueprints and slide talks

Architects have been making drawings for a long time. This is a drawing by Luther Turton for the E.R. Gifford House in Napa, CA; drawn in about 1890. My own house was also designed by Turton at about the same time, and built in 1892.

E. R. Gifford House, Luther Turton, 1890+/-

Just as my profession has changed the way buildings are drawn, there is an increasing interest in the ways we used to draw.

1905 photo, E. R. Gifford House, Napa, CA
Wilfred Ingalls House, Napa, CA, circa 1895

Here is a picture of our house, circa 1895. Turton was a neighbor of the original owner, Wilfred Ingalls. The similarities are quite striking, though ours is the "middle class" model. Mr. Ingalls owned a hardware store on Main Street, and supplied hardware for the construction of the Napa State Hospital. I assume the hardware in this group of houses was provided by Mr. Ingalls.

In 1895 several neighbors on First Street planted the palm trees visible in this photo and down the length of First Street. They asked the City Council to re-name the street after the palm trees (Palm Drive). Council did not agree with the plan, but several of the palm trees remain to this day.

In preparation for the Napa County Landmarks and Napa County Historical Society Holiday Candlelight Tour, we gave a slide talk at the Goodman Library (also designed by Luther Turton). Lauren Ackerman, current owner of the E.R. Gifford House; John Kasten - another architect who is currently working on the restoration; and I spoke about restoration techniques. Included was some interesting information about restoring stained glass.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Butter Bombs

John demonstrates the techniques for making "Butter Bombs" also known as "Lenora's Yeast Rolls" (cloverleaf style) as published in Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads, 1987.

After the dough has risen, the shaping of the rolls:

More on the shaping of the rolls:

Next, the ceremonial enrobing with butter:

And the final anointment with yet more butter:

This is why Thanksgiving dinner can be a mine field of calories. 

Julia Child would have been proud.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

My Mom the Veteran

On Veterans Day in 2010 I changed my facebook picture to one of my mom during World War II. Each year since, I've changed my picture back to this one. Mom died in 2000 at age 81.

After finishing college and the beginning of the war, she enlisted in the Marines as a nurse's aid and was sent to New Guinea. These were huge life changes for a young woman from Kansas. She told tales of the South Pacific - good looking "fly boys" from Australia - and from America; rain forests and deluges; and tropical diseases to avoid. One of those brought her home where she mustered out and took a civilian job in the Manhattan Project.

As a traditional housewife of the 50's, her adventurous life during and after the war was not well known. She was much better known in my home town as the non-Catholic mother of six children.

She loved to dance, and the music of the 30's and 40's was an early soundtrack of my life. Our Dad also loved to dance. They met on a blind date early in 1947, quickly married, and produced my eldest brother before the end of the year.

Dad was one year older than Mom and finished engineering school right before the war. He enlisted as an officer in the Navy after Pearl Harbor and spent years as a drill instructor at Annapolis. He requested active duty and served on a destroyer in the Pacific theater. Before the end of the war he was ordered back to Annapolis. For decades after the war he commanded a US Navy Reserve Seabee unit in our town. Dad's booming voice was either a special talent or result of his years of Navy service.

I always think of the contributions of my parents as Veterans on days like today. The millions who mobilized in the armed forces and on the home front helped keep our nation secure. I'm not sure I understood what that meant as a child, but I'm glad they told their stories so that I would remember when I became an adult.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Architecture and Art

Recently my husband John and I made a family trip to his native southern California. A first question is always "which museum/site/activity/historic district would you like to see?" My answer this time was "the Getty!" Architecture and art.

Richard Meier's stone, steel and glass structure frames the exterior views of Los Angeles, creates courtyards decorated by visitors, and shelters interconnected galleries filled with art.

lavender steel
buildings as pavilions
down to the grotto
the grotto
a picnic in the shade
in the garden
in the gallery
people decorate the courtyard
view of Los Angeles from the cactus garden
cactus garden
time warp
cactus, stone and sky
 We need another trip to spend more time in the museum, though we did see the show on Gustav Klimt's drawings. The Getty is worth visiting over and over. I'm looking forward to our next visit.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Anonymous bloggers

The local newspaper online edition - the Napa Valley Register - allows anonymous comments on their articles. Some bloggers have written that they are disappointed that I do not comment in the commentary section. Of course their language may be more strident than mine.

My response is this: it is not possible to have a conversation with a bunch of people wearing hoods.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Tales from the trail

I've been busy. Walking a lot of miles, knocking on about 3,500 doors, wearing out three pairs of shoes. All in the service of running for local office. There have been neighborhood meetings, debates, a direct mail campaign, and the task of raising money to send the mail that one hopes does not go into the recycle bin unread.

From walking in the wind and rain of January to the scorching heat of late May, there have been many lovely interludes on the campaign trail. I'm convinced that most people really put a lot of effort into making a lovely entrance to their homes. I'm posting some photos to show what I mean. We have vineyards in the City of Napa - and photos of vines before bud break.

Campaign events for other candidates such as for Congressman Mike Thompson:

Talking to a group of neighbors about the evils of urban sprawl:

 I found an old "head pruned" vine in north Napa, serving as a landscape feature:

A celebration of 100 years of Girl Scouts, complete with uniforms I remember from my own childhood:

Crabapple trees in bloom, in the rain:

A clever "Burma Shave" sign campaign against that same "Urban Sprawl" project:

Pink dogwoods in bloom, reminding me of the "old home place":

California poppies and bearded iris in a vibrant clash in a front dooryard:

 A front yard garden in a forgotten and often overlooked neighborhood:

And by the end of the campaign, the bare branches and dripping spring flowering trees have yielded their front yard bounty:

My backyard persimmon tree is loaded with tiny green fruits in little frilled and pleated cups. Our cherry trees have jays and mockingbirds yacking over who will eat the first fruits. They test the sweetness then complain that the cherries are not yet ripe. The weeds in our garden are knee high and the peonies are begging to be relieved of the strangling tentacles of blackberries that seem to think the deeply dug flower beds are their own. We missed the iris bloom in our own yard, and the artichokes will be sending out their blue flowers any day. Certainly they are past their tender and youthful stage.

The elections office calls the election "too close to call". So we wait patiently, realizing that we are 87 votes behind, and not likely to surpass the other challenger to the incumbent.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Calla Lily Alley

I've found a delightful little alley in Napa with over two hundred feet of Calla Lilies along the fence-line.  At this time of spring, just before Easter, a resident of the retirement community next to the alley spends many hours hand painting the lilies in delicate multicolored hues. Ginger Harness is the artist; and as the fame of this Calla Lily Alley has grown, she has trained volunteers to help paint the flowers.

Here is a link to my campaign website page with more lily photos and videos of how-to do your own lily painting project. In California, Calla Lilies spread easily to form great mass plantings of creamy white flowers. It is such a visual treat to see these improbable colors where a mass of white would usually exist.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

quiet nights

After walking a precinct in the sleet and rain today, the "quiet night of quiet stars" is a welcome respite. The chill makes it seem possible to have one of those thunder snow storms sometimes seen in northern California. Bossa Nova for St. Patrick's Day? Yes, of course.

I've been trying the Spotify premium service and like the ease of use, ability to create playlists, and large music library available. The jazz and classical catalogue is extensive. As a early adopter of Napster, I subscribed to their premium service when they finally went legal. The libraries seemed to shrink over time, and more and more tracks were unavailable on the playlists I had created over the years. After trying out Pandora, LastFM and other services, the Spotify interface seems to be working very well. Pandora provides an approximation of the desired music. Actual tracks cannot be played at will. It's a radio station. So far, I can recommend Spotify. I've linked Spotify to Facebook, so check out some recent tracks and playlists. It is very convenient to listen to music in the office and press the pause button when I'm on the phone.

In other internet activities, I've progressed a bit on twitter. It's possible to link the twitter feed and facebook, and on occasion I will do this when posting political news or information.

I joined google+ and it turned out to be a bust. There is not much going on behind the velvet rope. No bouncer required. I'm convinced this was a re-launch of Buzz.

Here's to St. Patrick's Day - and sister-in-law Patti's St. Patti's Day birthday!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Walking till dark

One of my friends in Italy has been with me since 1975. She loves to post photos of sunsets from the farm in Tuscany. The masthead of her blog contains a sunset photo. Well, we have sunsets in Napa, California also.

I am deep into another political campaign. One of the best parts of campaigning is walking door to door to talk with residents. Plus meeting the pets, admiring the camellias, discussing road conditions, finding out how small our world is and how connected we are in Napa County.

We kicked off this campaign with a fund-raiser at a lovely historic site, a stone distillery adjacent to the historic Hedgeside Winery designed by Hamden McIntyre in 1885. The winery is a fine example of gravity flow winery architecture. A full house got to hear a bit of finger style guitar by Shaun Hopper.

I just received a link to a video from last week where Shaun plays with daughter Anna on bass - backing up a phenomenal 11 year old singer. Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" never sounded so good...

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Preservation Architecture

The Napa County Planning Commission voted unanimously to allow the rehabilitation of the National Register Aetna Springs Resort. Some of the buildings are pictured here. Although the condition looks awful for some of the buildings, others are in surprisingly good condition such as the Social Hall. This and the dining Hall are reputed to be designed by Bernard Maybeck, though documentary evidence is lacking due to the destruction of Maybeck's drawings in the SF earthquake and fire in 1906. The Social Hall embodies the principals of the Arts and Crafts movement - and far surpasses the Social Hall designed by Bernard Maybeck at the private Bohemian Grove.

The site contains a compendium of styles built from the 1870's Through the 1950's. I will follow up with a more thorough history of the resort in a separate post. 

Aetna Springs


Social Hall

Aetna Gate

Social Hall

Good advice

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Why preservation architecture?

I received word this past Thursday that a few neighbors of the critically endangered National Register District Aetna Springs Resort will oppose any effort to restore and rehabilitate the most important historic site in Napa County.

Whatever the NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) rationale, there is no objective reason to prevent restoration of the historic resort. In Napa County we have a voter initiative called Measure P that prevents re-zoning of any agricultural lands without a vote of the people. The 672 acre Aetna Springs Resort is zoned agricultural. However, resort use of the property has existed for 130 years or so - many years before there was a Measure P.  No change in zoning has been proposed, no new buildings or changes in uses of any of the buildings is proposed, there is an existing Use Permit for the site, and the historic uses are protected under the California Historic Buildings Code and the Napa County Historic Preservation Ordinance.

The extent of the current Use Permit modification is to relocate several structures out of the Swarz Creek set-back to protect the creek; to repair the outmoded septic system and water system; and to provide for accessibility to some of the structures. The nationally acclaimed architectural firm Architectural Resources Group has prepared the restoration/rehabilitation plan according to the Secretary of the Interior Standards.

Why do I care about this, and why should you?

I care about this because I witnessed the destruction of acres of Colonial through Victorian buildings, sites and landscapes in my home town of Greensboro, NC. This destruction of the historic fabric of the community continues to this day. See the apologia for destruction of this neighborhood near the UNC-G campus. I witnessed the bulldozing of tracts of historic homes in Raleigh, NC, while I attended the School of Design at NCSU. I salvaged parts of historic buildings as the rumbling "big yellow toys" prepared to scrape sites clear of historical encumbrances. I began working on historical buildings as a construction worker while attending the University. I have lived in and restored historical homes for over 35 years. My avocation has been historic preservation action for many decades. See Napa County Landmarks' website. My vocation - architecture - has included hundreds of projects involving preservation, restoration and rehabilitation of historic buildings. My passion for preservation of historical neighborhoods and sites has increased over the decades as I have seen the cultural value of the history and physical continuity of "place". We create our own genius loci - or spirit of place - when we create places. Architecture and place-making are some of the most important "callings" of our species.

I hope that all who likewise care about place, genius loci, embodied history, historic preservation, and community will attend the hearing on Wednesday, January 18, 2012.