A weekly round-up of my favorite preservation related stories from around the web and in the news. Click on the title of each story to jump through to the original article/blog post.
“As Marcel Proust so famously documented, it’s often the simplest of foods that can carry us back to remembrances of things past. And so perhaps it’s not so surprising that, when freelance food writer Anne Noyes Saini began asking New York’s elderly residents about their memories of the foods of the city during the early-to-mid 20th century, it was humble meals like baked beans and the fruits sold by old-timey wagons that most often came to mind.”
If nothing else, check this article out for the vintage photos of New York!
The Search for Eskippakithiki in Clark County, Kentucky – The Winchester Sun
“A Shawnee village once located in Clark County remains all but lost to time, but state anthropologists hope landowners in the Indian Old Fields area will join in the hunt.” The University of Kentucky’s Department of Anthropology and the Kentucky Heritage Council are hoping land owners will allow researchers to explore their property in search of the lost village of Eskippakithiki.
Women in Greenwich Village – Off the Grid
NYC’s Landmarks Preservation Commission pulled together a slideshow of landmarks with 19th and 20th century connections to women in the field of art. Off the Grid, the blog for the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation put together a little guessing game with the landmarks in the Village. Can you connect each building to their respective lady in the arts before they reveal her name below each photo?
“Ms. Gardiner’s efforts reflect the pressure that small museums are under to build attendance, especially in the fragile aftermath of the recession. From promotional efforts via Twitter to city walks, they are seeking to encourage what experts now call “museuming,” or spending time with an institution whether in person or online.
It’s not secret that historic house museums are among those under such pressure. Check out the article to find out some of the new and creative ways small museums are raising awareness and interest.
A community uninterested in preservation is a community that is not proud of its past.
-Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Bill Cunningham in his opening address to the 2012 Kentucky Historic Preservation Conference
Quote via the Kentucky Heritage Council
The Blue Grass Trust’s deTours is a group of young professionals (and the young at heart). The program provides behind-the-scenes tours of historic buildings, places, and sites in central Kentucky. BGT deTours are free and open to the public. They occur on the first Wednesday of every month.
Touted as the “Good, Bad, and Ugly Tour,” general manager Gerald Marvel gave our group free reign to roam the magnificent 1930’s Georgian Revival mansion known as Spindletop Hall. Named after Spindletop Field, where Frank and Pansy Yount struck oil, Spindletop Hall was established in 1935 on 800 acres of land in Fayette County. At a cost of one million dollars (over 40 million today!), construction of Spindletop Hall took two years to complete. The widowed Mrs. Yount intended the the house to be a showplace – it was and still is.
It is currently owned by the University of Kentucky. It is a private club open to faculty, alumni and friends of the university. You may recognize it from the Disney film, Secretariat. Portions of the movie were filmed at the estate!
It’s nomination to the National Register of Historic Places was recently approved by the Kentucky Heritage Council. Management is awaiting word on the NRHP’s final approval.
By all accounts, Pansy Yount was a devoted mother, an unassuming millionaire, a generous spirit and a spit-fire who bucked tradition. After the love of her life, Frank Yount, died, Pansy fulfilled their dream of owning an award-winning Saddlebred horse farm in Kentucky with grit and determination. When workers realized midway through construction just how much Pansy was worth, they dug their heels in. Without blinking, Pansy doubled their wages (from $1 a day to $2) and they were back to work before lunch. Unfortunately, her lavish spending during the Great Depression (locals would travel out to the farm to watch construction just for the entertainment!) rubbed Lexington blue-bloods the wrong way. When construction was completed, Pansy planned a huge and extravagant celebration. She flew in French chefs and fancy ingredients. And no one showed up.
Undeterred by the snub, Pansy said to hell with them and lived her life any way she pleased. She wore house-dresses into town (both unfashionable and inappropriate for a woman of her social status), dined with her staff (another faux pas!), and generally ignored Lexington high society.
Spindletop Hall was designed in the Georgian Revival style – it utilized classic form and design elements, however, it was constructed using modern materials and with modern technologies in mind. The two most interesting examples are the use of concrete in the structure and the installation of the Kimball reproducing organ. The bulk of Spindletop’s structural elements were fabricated with concrete, but the material was manipulated in such a way as to fool the casual observer. The concrete forms were designed to impress a wood-grain pattern into the material. The concrete is only recognizable in the basement and attic where it has been left exposed. The most impressive example of the skill and workmanship involved in the house’s concrete fabrication is the circular double staircase located in the entry hall. (At the time of construction, it was the largest circular staircase in Kentucky). All floors, including the attic, rest on 4-7 inch thick reinforced concrete and are the only per-fabricated elements in the house – everything else was constructed on site by a team of artisans, carpenters, and other skilled laborers.
Mrs. Yount’s beloved daughter, Mildred, was a talented musician. In order to accommodate the Kimball reproducing organ purchased for her, a large part of the house was designed around the extensive pipes and mechanics of the organ. Much of its inner workings are built beneath the classic Georgian Revival porch. The mechanics also stretch into the basement and attic. The organ was played manually or in conjunction with a Welte reproducing machine which used specially recorded paper rolls. The sound was funneled from the luxurious music room throughout the mansion thanks to a sophisticated system of speakers. Staff loaded the Welte with a selection of music each morning and inserted a hand-written list into state-of-the-art remote controls installed in six rooms of the house. At a press of a button in any of the six rooms, the song of your choice would play throughout the house. The organ, the Welte reproducing machine, most of the paper scrolls, and the remote controls are still in place at the estate. Plans for a half a million dollar refurbishment to get it back in working order is underway.
Other unique technological amenities included individual thermostats in each of the mansion’s forty rooms, 14 modern bathrooms (which included bath tubs and showers with 10 spray heads each), swimming pools, an intercom system, a six bay garage, and copper plumbing, pipes, fittings and roofs.
There is so much to say about Spindletop Hall, I had to break this into more than one post. Check back later today for descriptions and photographs of Spindletop’s incredible interiors and grounds!