Vintage landscape: the bench

Vintage landscape/enclos*ure: bench at Ladder Creek Gardens, Washington, via HABS, Library of CongressRustic bench at Ladder Creek Gardens, Newhalem, Washington. Photo taken 1989 for an Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The gardens, next to Ladder Creek Falls, were landscaped during the 1930s as a showcase for the Skagit Hydroelectric Project, which now provides power to the city of Seattle.

My husband and I were arguing about a bench we wanted to buy and put in part of our backyard, a part which is actually a meadow of sorts. . . . My husband wanted a four foot bench and I wanted a five foot bench. This is what we argued about. My husband insisted that a four foot bench was all we needed, since no more than two people (presumably ourselves) would ever sit on it at the same time. I felt his reasoning was not only beside the point but missed it entirely; I said what mattered most to me was the idea of the bench, the look of it there, to be gazed at with only the vaguest notion it could hold more people than would ever actually sit down. The life of the bench in my imagination was more important than any practical function the bench might serve. . . .

Mary Ruefle, from “The Bench

Vintage landscape: Meridian Hill Park

Orpheus with his lute made trees. . .*

Vintage landscape/enclos*ure: Meridian Hill Park, D.C., 1976, via Library of CongressThe Linden Walk, Meridian Hill Park,* Washington, D.C., August 1976, by Jack Boucher for an Historical American Buildings Survey (HABS), via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

This HABS has photos from 1976 and 1985. The report, which contains a very detailed description and history of the park’s design, was completed in 1987.

Unfortunately, the report notes that the linden trees shown above had to be cut down between 1976 and 1985 because they were threatening the 16th St. retaining wall (on the right side). They were replaced quickly, however, as you can see here.

The HABS report summarizes the importance of Meridian Hill Park this way:

One of the first public parks in the United States to be designed as a formal park, generally considered to be in the continental tradition, rather than in the “natural” mode associated with the English park; Meridian Hill Park was constructed [from about 1914 to 1936]. . . . Under the guidance of the Commission of Fine Arts, the park benefited from the finest criticism of the day. The technologically innovative use of exposed aggregate concrete provided a facsimile of the stone and mosaic masonry traditionally employed in the Italian Garden. The Park represents an effort in a democratic society to match the major European city park.

Today, the last Friday in April, is Arbor Day in many states in the U.S. The day was established to encourage people to plant and care for trees.

The words themselves are a delight to learn,
You might be in a foreign land of terms
Like samara, capsule, drupe, legume and pome,
Where bark is papery, plated, warty or smooth.

Howard Nemerov, from “Learning the Trees

*Meridian Hill Park is bounded by Fifteenth, Sixteenth, Euclid and W Streets, N.W.  The quote above the photo is by William Shakespeare, from Henry VIII.

The Sunday porch: iron lace

The Sunday porch/enclos*ure: iron lace in New Orleans“A vista through iron lace, New Orleans,” ca. 1920-26, by Arnold Genthe, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

This is a covered third floor balcony, and it has a wonderful view of the back of St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter.

The 1836 house still stands* — wrought iron intact — at 716 Orleans Street. It is now light pink with dark green shutters and is known as the Le Pretre Mansion, for one of its first owners.

It was on the market as recently as this past April — for $2.65 million.  Here’s a 1937 photo of the entire house.

An exotic horror/ghost story goes with the mansion:

In the 19th century, a Turk, supposedly the brother of a sultan, arrived in New Orleans and rented the house. He was conspicuously wealthy, with an entourage of servants and beautiful young girls — all thought to have been stolen from the sultan.

Rumors quickly spread about the situation, even as the home became the scene of lavish high-society parties. One night screams came from inside; the next morning, neighbors entered to find the tenant and the young beauties lying dead in a pool of blood. The mystery remains unsolved. Local ghost experts say you can sometimes hear exotic music and piercing shrieks.

— “Walking Tour in New Orleans,” Frommer’s(.com)

The Sunday porch/enclos*ure: iron lace in New OrleansThe view above, from the same balcony, looking northeast on Orleans Street, was photographed in 1936, by Richard Koch for a Historic American Buildings Survey, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The Sunday porch/enclos*ure: iron lace in New OrleansThis privacy panel along the second floor balcony of the service wing, overlooking the courtyard, is interesting too. Photo also by Richard Koch for HABS.

Whalebone fence in Alaska

“View along whalebone fence — Cemetery, Point Hope, North Slope Borough, Alaska”

“General view — Cemetery”

Photos taken by Jet Lowe in 1991 for the book Buildings of Alaska and then donated to the Historic American Buildings Survey or HABS (here and here). Via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Today’s Washington Post has a story about how the way of life in Point Hope and other communities in the Alaskan Arctic is being transformed by climate change, here.