The Sunday porch: Bon Echo

Bon Echo cabin, Cloyne & District Historical SocietyRustic birch lattice on the porch of the North Cottage of the Bon Echo Inn, near Cloyne, Ontario, 1935, via Cloyne and District Historical Society Commons on flickr (both photos).

The Bon Echo Inn was established in 1889 on Mazinaw Lake.  It attracted wealthy guests who were also tea-totalers, as the religious owners did not serve alcohol.  Later, it was purchased by a founder of the Canada Suffrage Association, who made it into a retreat for artists and writers, notably James Thurber. In 1936, the Inn and many of its outbuildings were destroyed by fire and never rebuilt.  The surrounding area is now Bon Echo Provincial Park.

Bon Echo Inn, Cloyne & District Historical SocietyTea service on the verandah of the Inn, between 1920 and 1936.

The Sunday porch: Dyess Colony

Porch, Dyess Colony, Arkansas, 1940, Library of CongressBeautiful elephant ears. This porch belonged to a farming family who were “resettled” in “Colonization Project No. 1” in Mississippi County, Arkansas.

The photos* were taken in August 1935 by Arthur Rothstein. He was on assignment for the U.S. Farm Security Administration.

Children, Dyess Colony, Arkansas, 1940, Library of Congres

The government-sponsored agricultural community had just been established the year before — the brainchild of local cotton planter William Reynolds Dyess, who was also Director of the Arkanasas Emergency Relief Administration.

Family, Dyess Colony, Arkansas, 1940, Library of Congres

Dyess wanted to provide aid to displaced tenant farmers and sharecroppers. His idea was to put 800 families on 20 to 40-acre uncleared bottomland plots with new houses.

Dyess Colony, Arkansas, 1940, Library of Congres

The project — scaled back to 500 families — was underwritten by the New Deal Federal Emergency Relief Administration. (It was absorbed by the Farm Security Administration in 1944 and made independent of the federal government in 1951. )

“The colony was laid out in a wagon-wheel design, with a community center at the hub and farms stretching out from the middle. . ,” according to the online Encyclopedia of Arkansas. “Each house had five rooms with an adjacent barn, privy, and chicken coop. . . , plus a front and back porch.”

Another Dyess Colony House, Arkansas, 1935, Library of Congress
Another colony house with a mass of flowers along the front path.

Dyess was killed in a plane crash in 1936, and the colony was given his name.

Among the resettled farmers — all of whom were white — was the father of country singer Johnny Cash.  Cash lived  in house #266 from the age  of three until his high school graduation in 1950.

Today, Arkansas State University has restored the Cash home (open to the public) and is working on an adjacent original colony home, as well as the administration building and theater.

Sharecropper's house, Dyess Colony, Arkansas, 1935, Library of Congress

The 1935 photo above by Ben Shahn was captioned, “Sharecropper’s house optioned. Dyess Colony, Arkansas.”  I’m not sure what that means, but the picture gives an example of original local farm housing.

I like the small semi-circle of trees and the two chairs facing out on the left side.


*All photos but the last were by Rothstein, taken in August 1935. All are via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The Sunday porch: French Legation

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The front porch of the French Legation to the Republic of Texas, Austin, Texas, 1934, by Louis C. Page, Jr., via Historic American Building Survey (HABS), Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

This house — now the French Legation Museum — is the oldest extant building in Austin.  It was constructed between 1839 and 1841 for Monsieur Jean Pierre Isidore Alphonse Dubois, a secretary at the French Legation in Washington, D.C., who was sent to Texas to investigate the benefits of establishing relations with the new Republic of Texas.

On Dubois’s advice, Texas was soon recognized as a sovereign nation by France and he himself was appointed as the King’s chargé d’affaires.  Unfortunately — and probably before he could ever occupy his house — he became involved in a number of political, financial, and personal controversies, culminating in the so-called “Pig War.” When the Republic’s capital moved to Houston in 1841, Dubois left for New Orleans, only occasionally returning to Texas.

The style of the house is a blend of vernacular Greek revival and Mississippi Valley French. It may have been designed by carpenter Thomas William Ward, who had previously worked in Louisiana.

At the time of the 1934 photos above, the house was owned and occupied by Miss Lillie Robertson, whose father had purchased it in 1848.  After Lillie’s death, the property was sold to the State of Texas in 1945.  It was then put into the custody of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.  They restored it and opened it to the public in 1956.

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The same views in 1961, by Jack E. Boucher, also via HABS, Library of Congress.

By 1961, the Legation house was surrounded by a formal arrangement of boxwood hedges — perhaps having taken a lesson from  M. Dubois, the son of a tax collector,  who styled himself Count de Saligny after he arrived in Texas.

Today, the museum looks much the same.  Its surrounding park is 2 1/2 acres and is open to the public. Its wide gravel paths are sometimes used for games of pétanque. From the front porch, visitors can see the Texas Capitol Building and downtown Austin.

The Sunday porch: Ste. Genevieve, Mo.

The Sunday porch:enclos*ure- 1934 J. B. Valle Hse, Mo., HABS, Library of CongressThe Jean Baptiste Valle House from the southeast, Sainte Genevieve,  Missouri, April 10, 1934, by Alexander Piaget, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The town of Ste. Genevieve is the oldest permanent European settlement in Missouri — established about 1735 by French Canadian colonists. Today, its National Historic Landmark District has a number of surviving late 18th century and early 19th century homes.

The Jean Baptiste Valle house was built between 1785 and 1796 by Valle and his wife, Jeanne Barbeau.

The Sunday porch:enclos*ure- 1934 J. B. Valle Hse, Mo., S.W. view, HABS, Library of CongressA view of the southwest corner (same photographer and date as above).

The house has an “interrupted French colonial gallery” porch on all sides.

The Sunday porch:enclos*ure- cropped 1985 plan of J. B. Valle Hse, Mo., HABS, Library of CongressA plan of the property drawn in 1985 for HABS. The site is about 200′ x 250′.

The Sunday porch:enclos*ure- 1934 J. B. Valle Hse, Mo., N.W. view, HABS, Library of CongressA view of the garden from the interior of the west-side porch (seen on the left side of the second photo above), 1933, photographer not noted.

This section of porch connected a back bedroom and the kitchen.

These pictures from the 1930s were part of photographic surveys of early Missouri sites made by Alexander and Paul Piaget and Charles von Ravenswaay. In 1984, their work was donated to the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) collection of the Library of Congress (all photos here via the LoC).

1934-The Sunday porch:enclos*ure-  J. B. Valle Hse, Mo., HABS, Library of CongressA view of the flower garden on the north side of the house, April 10, 1934, by Piaget.

Spring 1934-The Sunday porch:enclos*ure-  J. B. Valle Hse, Mo., HABS, Library of CongressLilac along a pathway.

The photo above and the two below are not dated, but also seem to have been taken in April 1934. The steps went into the kitchen pantry.

probably April 1934-The Sunday porch:enclos*ure-  J. B. Valle Hse, Mo., HABS, Library of CongressThe garden was laid out in 1867.

probably 1934-The Sunday porch:enclos*ure-  J. B. Valle Hse, Mo., HABS, Library of Congress

1985-The Sunday porch:enclos*ure-  J. B. Valle Hse, Mo., HABS, Library of CongressAn undated view of the garden entrance “at side.”

West side, 1985-The Sunday porch:enclos*ure-  J. B. Valle Hse, Mo., HABS, Library of CongressThe west garden and porch in 1986, by Jack Boucher for HABS. Additional images and information were added to this property’s survey in 1985 and 86.

Today, the house is not open to the public. However, in 2013, it was sold to the National Society of the Colonial Dames to ensure its preservation.

The Sunday porch: Palo Alto, Louisiana

. . .lovely, dark and deep.

Palo AltoThe old kitchen wing of Palo Alto Plantation House near Donaldsonville, Louisiana, in 1938, by Frances Benjamin Johnston, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

It’s almost too dark and deep to see very well in the above picture. However, this shaded, lattice-enclosed porch must have been the best possible place to sit and snap beans during Louisiana summers.

dark and deep 2The kitchen building was originally free-standing, about 22′ from the house. Later, it was connected to the main house by a breezeway.

Drawing by Max Miller of the entire Palo Alto Plantation House, 2003, HABS, via Library of Congress.
The entire Palo Alto Plantation House, 2003, HABS, via Library of Congress.

A 2003  Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) drawing of the property seems to indicate that the enormous Quercus Virginiana or live oak tree at the right in the top photo was still standing at that time. Over 15 live oaks are shown in the area immediately in front of the house.

The principal part of the house is described in the HABS as an “Anglo-Creole type Louisiana plantation cottage decorated in Greek Revival style.” It was built in the mid to late 1850s and faces Bayou La Fourche, off the Mississippi River.

P.A. croppedIts porch, above,* is a “deeply undercut Acadian gallerie,” according to The Planter’s Prospect: Privilege and Slavery in Plantation Paintings.

In a c.1860 painting of Palo Alto shown and discussed in the book, the main porch originally had railings and double front steps.

2010, by cajunscrambler, Palo Alto, LAThe steps and railings were restored (and the lattice removed from the old kitchen porch) by the time of the HABS and this 2010 photo† above. The plantation (with 6,000 acres, according to one source) belongs to a family that has owned it for several generations. They now offer stays in a “Log Cabin” lodge and guided hunting trips on the property.

. . . the tree implies a quiet place
where pendulums might rest,
the heart decline to beat, a place
of time disclosing the lattice of time. . . .

John Beer, from “The Waste Land

*Photo (cropped by me) from 1938, by Frances Benjamin Johnston, via Library of Congress.

†Photo by cajunscrambler, via Panoramio.