22.4.12

By the way...

Drum roll, please--- have I remembered to mention that I'm writing a book?  About the cottages of the summer colonies of Down East coast of Maine, Rockport to Grindstone Neck, and of course Bar Harbor, it will be published by Acanthus Press in the early spring of 2014.  I have been a huge admirer of Acanthus and its handsome monographs ever since they started publishing, and could not be more pleased to be joining the others on the shelf.


If posting has seemed a little thin on the ground in recent months, now you know why.  Barry Cenower, the head of Acanthus, and I were working on the outline---and until we arrived at the final choices, much material was temporarily off the table.   The book will cover 50 of the most interesting of the 700 or so architecturally significant summer houses built up here between 1880 and 1940, with an additional catalog  appendix of fifty more.  

Castine, c.1895
 Northeast Harbor, c. 1905
 Many of America's most significant architects have worked in this region, and the book will contain some of their work, as well as houses that have never been published. There is a special sensibility to a Maine house that sets it apart from those of the Hamptons or Newport.

Dark Harbor, c. 1910
 The genre includes iconic gray shingled houses by the sea, turreted mountain top mansions,  Italian villas, designs inspired by the regional vernacular, modernist masterpieces, and a couple of one-off houses that will astound.  Photographs old and new, of houses, interiors and grounds, along with floor plans and architectural drawings will illustrate each chapter. I am having a ball seeking out new and unknown houses and material, and discovering the fascinating stories behind the houses.  I look forward to telling them for you.

Blue Hill, c. 1915
You think I'm going to tell you more now?  I'm contractually obligated not to---but stay tuned.  We will be releasing little teasers from time to time.  In the meantime, I'll be going back in full swing here---antiques, gardens, houses, interiors (except the ones in the book), road trips and more.

Bar Harbor, c. 1905

In other news, the Dilettante goes to a party HERE (Scroll to the last one at bottom)

And a recent Dilettante article about a notable tear-down HERE


14.4.12

THEN & NOW

I'm a sucker for 'then and now' photo essays.  Sadly, the 'now' is rarely as good as 'then'---collectively, we are not making the world a prettier place---but there are exceptions, as you will see in today's post.

Grindstone Neck in Winter Harbor is a small but elegant summer colony on the Down East coast---in fact, the easternmost example of the species in America. 

Nathan Barret's original plan for the Grindstone development, with inn at center, yacht club at top, and steamboat landing at bottom.
Grindstone Neck happened almost overnight.  John Godfrey Moore, a native of the nearby village of Steuben,went to the big city, made his fortune in railroads and finance and returned home, buying  Grindstone Neck, as well as the even more spectacular Schoodic Peninsula, now part of Acadia National Park. 

The Grindstone Inn in halcyon days

The Gilded Age was coming into its own, and  Bar Harbor, only four miles across Frenchman's Bay, had become known as one of the fashionable stops on the international social tour, Mr. Moore, by now a New Yorker and  group of like-minded investors, all Philadelphians, sought to replicate that success by creating a first class summer resort at Winter Harbor.  To do this, they formed the Landscape architect and engineer Nathan Barrett was engaged to layout the plan of the point, with lots and roads arranged around a central oval.

The blue & white hotel china featured this grindstone logo in the center of each piece

A water company was formed, plans were made to build a hotel, a yacht club, a swimming club and casino, and a steamer landing, amenities designed to attract potential buyers.  To design these buildings, a young Philadelphia architect, Lindley Johnson, was hired  as company architect, also available to design cottages.   Although he designed other prominent architects also executed commissions, including Wilson Eyre of Philadelphia and W.W. Kent of New York, who designed Godfrey's own cottage.

 
The first lots were put up for sale in 1890, with deed stipulations requiring that cottages be built within a year, and that the minimum cost be $3,000.00.  By 1891, Grindstone Neck, but a gleam in the developer's eyes just two years before, had appeared like magic, and within two more years, the majority of the 40 or so cottages built on the neck over the last hundred years were completed.  Almost all of the cottages were built of natural materials, shingle and stone, nary an Italian villa or Georgian manor in the bunch. Several were clearly influenced by Bruce Price's published work at Tuxedo Park, the ultimate resort development of the era. In a collective master stroke, landscaping was minimal---no more than was need to help the natural landscape of granite, blueberry and spruce achieve full beauty.


Soon the New York Times had added Grindstone to their weekly accounts of summer social doings on the eastern seaboard.  As with most of the Maine coast, the original colony was heavily Philadelphian (the epicenter, Northeast Harbor, was known as 'Philadelphia on the Rocks'), with many families returning generation after generation.   

View of cottages on Grindstone Neck, c. 1920 and 2012 (top photo Eastern Fine Illustrating Collection, Penobscot Marine Museum)
Grindstone did not grow significantly after that first burst of development.  After the Depression and WWII, a few cottages were demolished, and in 1956 the Grindstone Inn burned. Today, trees are taller, roads are paved, but otherwise time stands still in this corner of Down East.


After looking at a copy online of the Gouldsboro Land Improvement Company's 1892 promotional booklet, proudly displaying several of the cottages that had been built in those first two years, I took a late afternoon walk on Grindstone to see how many could still stand, and how they have fared.   Of the 15 cottages pictured in 1892, 13 still stand, some barely altered, some greatly enlarged.  Unless otherwise noted, the cottages are the work of Lindley Johnson.

The name of C. Berkeley Taylor's architect is lost in the mists of time.
Laura McCrea cottage, by Wilson Eyre
 
 
The Richmond cottage was designed by Stone, Carpenter & Wilson of Providence RI

The Charles S. Whelan cottage, by Wilson Eyre

10.4.12

SHINGLE CHAPEL

Almost every summer colony in Maine contains an Episcopal summer chapel, often designed by one of the great architects of the day.  One of my favorites is the Church of the Redeemer in Sorrento, donated by an early summer resident, Eva Smith Cochran.  Mrs. Cochran was a daughter of Alexander Smith, the carpet king of Yonkers New York, who was one of the richest men of his day.  


Legend has it that Mrs. Smith instructed the  architects, Rotch & Tilden, to model the design after a wooden chapel she had seen in Sweden, and indeed it does not follow the usual veddy English stone and half timber design of many Maine summer chapels  Whatever their inspiration, the architects turned out a building of high design integrity, which delights at every turn.   The chapel was ready for the season of 1890.  The charming belfry, connected by a sinuous covered walkway, was added a few years later.  The removal of one of the twin porches on either side of the front has slightly compromised the original design, but the building retains its 19th century color scheme of brown and buff, and the wooded site is free of parking lots and paving, encouraging the faithful to walk to church.

The chapel soon after completion.  Mrs. Smith's summer cottage in background.






The rectory, added a few years later, was designed and built by a local carpenter.

One good church deserves another, and in 1896 Mrs. Cochran donated St. Joseph's Episcopal Church for the African American population of Fayetteville North Carolina.


Brief research indicates that Mrs. Cochran was a thoughtful and generous philanthropist..  She survived blindness by lightening, was the financial savior of the  Philipse Manor Hall in Yonkers, an iconic early preservation effort, and in her will left stipends to many of the workers in her family's factories.  She also had the obligatory yachtsman playboy son, Alexander Smith Cochran.  He was very briefly the third husband of Polish Opera singer Ganna Walska, whose $3,000,000 (that's 1922 dollars, kids) divorce settlement later helped fund her famous Lotusland estate in Montecito---very far in every way from her brief mother-in-law's Anglican chapel on the coast of Maine

Mme. Ganna Walska d'Eingorn Fraenkel Cochran McCormick Matthews Bernard at home at Lotusland, Montecito, CA