MV Obsession

My obsession with Martha's Vineyard.. phototography..genealogy and life in general and this and that…


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Newport, RI – Part 2 – The Breakers…

The Breakers – if you only have time to see one mansion/summer cottage, this the THE one to visit.

From wikipedia: ” The Breakers is a Vanderbilt mansion located on Ochre Point Avenue, Newport, Rhode Island. The Breakers was built as the Newport summer home of Cornelius Vanderbilt II. The Breakers is the architectural and social archetype of the ‘Gilded Age’ a period when members of the Vanderbilt family were among the major industrialists of America. Vanderbilt was the President and Chairman of the New York Central Railroad, and was the grandson of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt. The Commodore made the family fortune in the steamship and railroad industries.In 1895, the year of its completion, The Breakers was the largest, most opulent house in the Newport area.”

CLICK HERE to read more….

This was the original Breakers which was destroyed by fire in 1892.  A modest summer cottage…

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Vanderbilt commissioned famed architect Richard Morris Hunt to rebuild it and  insisted that the building be made as fireproof as possible and as such, the structure of the building used steel trusses and no wooden parts.

And this is the Breakers in 1895… somewhat different from the original, wouldn’t you say.

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Great hall …

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Around the ‘cottage’… 2 sitting rooms – music room – library – bathroom – dining room.

In the library the fireplace, taken from a 16th-century French chateau  bears the inscription “I laugh at great wealth, and never miss it; nothing but wisdom matters in the end.”

mosaic2d3c178bc4b28b48496f16dc95b9f9c94d6d87e4Back of grand staircase – ceiling – gilded door – portrait – platinum wall paper – chandelier.

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‘The kitchen, unlike others in the time period, was situated on the first floor away from the main house to prevent the possibility of fires and cooking smells reaching the main parts of the house.’ You can understand why after the original Breakers burned down that they’d want the kitchen further away. This kitchen is gorgeous, it could even tempt me to whip up a cake or something.  Maybe.

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The grounds … you never know what you might see out there 🙂

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The Breakers is amazing… not just in its beauty and opulence but in the thought and foresight that went into building it.

Just a few more pictures, really, just a few 🙂

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If you haven’t been to the Breakers I hope you get to go.  In the mean time CLICK HERE for the Breakers and HERE to find out more about Cornelius Vanderbilt II.

Coming next … what mansion came within weeks of being torn down !!

(photographs by my daughter Deb and myself)


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Newport, RI – Part 1 – Marble House…

As you may have guessed from the clues in the previous post ‘April Road Trip’.. our trip was to Newport, Rhode Island to visit the mansions of the Gilded Age.  And gilded they were.

Mansion #1- Marble House.

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According to Wikipedia :  “The mansion was built as a summer “cottage” retreat between 1888 and 1892 for Alva and William Kissam Vanderbilt. It was a social landmark that helped spark the transformation of Newport from a relatively relaxed summer colony of wooden houses to the now legendary resort of opulent stone palaces. The fifty-room mansion required a staff of 36 servants, including butlers, maids, coachmen, and footmen. The mansion cost $11 million ($260,000,000 in 2009 dollars) of which $7 million was spent on 500,000 cubic feet (14,000 m³) of marble.”

The tours are audio guided which lets you progress at your own speed…  also now photos are allowed with smart phones.  You can use SLR’s without flash with written permission when you get there.  I used my SLR digital camera as well as my smart phone.   Let’s step inside now and begin the tour of Marble House…

Foyer and staircase….

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Around the house..

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kitchen

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Alva was big in the Women’s Suffrage movement, you can find this ‘Votes for Women’ china in the gift shop.

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One cannot leave Marble House without walking around the grounds and visiting the Chinese Tea House on the back lawn.

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pizap.com14624870194831This is only a sampling of the many pictures we took.  This house, escuse me ‘summer cottage’ is incredibly beautiful and interesting.  To read more about it and the original owners, William Kissam Vanderbilt and his eclectic and interesting wife Alva… CLICK HERE and CLICK HERE

Coming next… the ultimate ‘summer cottage’.  Can you guess which it is ?

(photographs by my daughter Deb and myself)


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Plymouth, MA – Standish and Alden …

Part 3 of our trip into the past to visit the Myles Standish Burial Ground and the John & Priscilla Alden House.

Our first stop in the charming and historic town of Duxbury, Massachusetts was the Myles Standish Burial Ground, the oldest maintained cemetery in the United States.

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It’s not a large cemetery, only 1.5 acres.  It is the resting place of several of the original Mayflower Pilgrims including Myles Standish and John & Priscilla Alden.   I felt a kind of peacefulness as I meandered around.  I felt respectful and humbled, it moved me more than I anticipated.

The Myles Standish grave site

pizap.com14454779088691The John and Priscilla Alden grave site

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Second stop in Duxbury… the Alden House Historic Site… CLICK HERE

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We arrived at the house only to find out that tours had stopped at the end of September so unfortunately we weren’t going to be able to go inside the house !

We wandered around and took some pictures  but of course it wasn’t like being inside.

pizap.com14454824657531As we were leaving we noticed two cars in front of the administration office so decided to walk over and say hello.   We were SO glad we did.  Not only were the two young women pleasant and smiley and full of information but… they said they’d give us a tour even though the house was closed.  Golly, wow.   So off we went… back into the past into the house of  John & Priscilla Alden.  I don’t know what they a actually looked like but I like this painting of them.  He was 21 and she 18 when they married.  They had 10 children.

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mosaica87ee7b48553477f85f6c668a051d66c06edb741Our tour guide (Trish) was terrific, she peppered historical facts with humorous family stories.  Why wasn’t history like this when I went to school… it was all about names and dates and not about people’s lives and adventures.

For instance the reason for wall paper and newspaper on the walls in this small closet, or as they called it, a clothes press.  The walls were covered with newspaper to protect clothing from getting snagged or caught on the rough walls.  Later on someone covered the newspaper with wall paper.  I believe our guide said the newspapers were from the time of the War of 1812.

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We did some quick gift shopping and Deb joined the AKA (Aldin Kindred of America) while we were there.   We hated to leave but we alas we had to come back to the 21st century.

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🙂  🙂  🙂

This concludes part 3 of our trip and I thought this was going to be the last installment… but no, there’s a bit of ‘this n that’ still to come !!

(pictures are mine and Deb’s)


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Plymouth, MA – Plimouth Plantation …

Part 2 of our trip into the past to visit our ancestors..Plimouth Plantation…

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DSC_0092Our visit to Plimouth Plantation was interesting and fun, I wish history had been this alive to me when I was in school eons ago 🙂

According to Wikipedia:

{Plimoth Plantation, founded in 1947, is a living history museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA, that shows the original settlement of the Plymouth Colony established in the 17th century by English colonists, some of whom later became known as Pilgrims. They were among the first people who immigrated to America to avoid religious persecution and to seek religious separation from the Church of England.

In the 1627 English Village section of the museum, interpreters have been trained to speak, act and dress appropriately for the period. At Plimoth Plantation they are called historical interpreters, and they interact with their ‘strange visitors’ (i.e. the modern general public) in the first person, answering questions, discussing their lives and viewpoints and participating in tasks such as cooking, planting, black smithing and animal husbandry.}

Let’s begin…

Before we got to the Pilgrim settlement we stopped at the re-creation of a Wampanoag home site where modern day Native People from a variety of nations, dressed in traditional dress demonstrate how their ancestors lived and interacted with the settlers.

pizap.com14452951552681Onward now to the village, founded in 1947,  where we see how the Pilgrims lived…

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and talk with some ‘historical interpreters’…

Governor William Bradford and friend

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William Brewster, Ruling Elder of the Plymouth Church

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and Myles Standish

Capt Miles Standish

 We sat down to rest and two ladies walked by and smiled and said we looked so happy and would we like them to take our picture… tah dah…

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🙂 🙂 🙂

This concludes part 2 of our trip… next up… Miles Standish burial ground and the John & Priscilla Alden House…

(pictures are mine and Deb’s)

 


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The Former Daggett House …

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I stayed a few times at the Daggett House Inn before it was renovated and turned into a private residence. One of the things I remember most is their famous Grape Nut bread/toast.

On the lower level of the inn was the breakfast room. According to the Guide to Martha’s Vineyard:

“The room was the first tavern on Martha’s Vineyard to sell beer and ale. In 1660 the taverner, John Daggett, was fined five shillings for “selling strong liquor.” In 1750 the Daggett House was added to the building. Through the years the Daggett House was a custom’s house, a sailor’s boardinghouse, a store, and during the whaling era, a counting house. ”

An interesting feature of the Daggett House was its secret room. I’m not sure what it was used for in the 1600′s or so but during the past years as a B&B it was a guest room, provided they could find the secret door and providing the GHOST wasn’t in residence!!!

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The back of the Daggett House had a nice expanse leading to the edge of Edgartown Harbor. A perfect place to have a breakfast or sit and read.

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I stayed at the Daggett House twice… once in the main house and once in the charming 2 room house in the garden.

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Grapenut Bread from the Daggett House.

(This recipe was a staple of the Daggett House Bed & Breakfast on Martha’s Vineyard until it closed. They used to readily hand out recipe cards so I’m assuming there are no copyright issues. But just in case there is, I’m giving full credit here to the inn as it’s their recipe)

Makes 2 loaves

Mix:

2/3 c Grapenuts

1/3 c wheat germ

3 T butter

1/4 tsp salt

1/3 c dark brown sugar

1 1/3 c boiling water.

Stir and let cool to barely warm.

Then, combine 1 T yeast, 1 tsp sugar and 2/3 c warm water, and let stand until bubbly.

Add yeast to the dry mixture. Add 4 c all-purpose flour.

Knead until soft and smooth, then return to bowl and let rise, covered, until double in volume.

Punch down and divide into two loaves, knead for a few minutes, and put into greased loaf pans. Let rise until double in size.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.

Freshly baked Grape-Nut bread…yum

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(In all fairness I have to give credit to my daughter Deb who baked this delicious bread).


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A Vineyard School House …

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My mother’s step-cousin was born in this house in Indian Hill in 1911. He lived in this house, built in 1752, until he died. He was quite a guy. He was a master at building things and he could fix absolutely anything. Over the years he added on to the family homestead, and when there wasn’t anymore he could do there he turned his sights to –

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— the one room school house up the road where he’d gone to school. He purchased the school house and set about renovating it.

When his daughter got married she and her husband moved into it. I had the pleasure of going there for dinner and I was in awe. The original wooden floors had been beautifully restored, but more than that, you could see clearly the marks where the desks had once been. A couple of the desks had been salvaged and were part of the living room. The closet was, of course the former cloak room with, the original coat hooks. And to top things off the school bell was once again working. I hardly ever enjoyed being in a classroom quite as much as I did that night at dinner many years ago.


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The House Story Updated …

This is the house of my godparents, the house of my childhood summers, the house that holds a special place in my heart.

The house I wrote this short story about (CLICK HERE) and this post where I’d been inside the house in the 1980’s after 40+ years and what I found there… (CLICK HERE).

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This is the house that I drive past each and every time I’m on the Vineyard.  This is the house that looked sad and showed its age… the house that needed people to see its potential and give it the TLC it deserved for so long.

Then one day I got an email….  it was titled something like ‘we bought your house’!!  They had had their eye on the house for awhile and when it went on the market they bought it.  The house couldn’t have been luckier.  This couple and their family obviously love this house and have already made it more beautiful than its ever been… and they’re not even done yet.  I firmly believe that certain houses have a ‘soul’… maybe it’s my deep connection to this house but when I saw it recently it looked happy and even better there was a feeling of warmth and contentment when you walked inside.

Look at the house now …take a close look at the detail work and how they’ve made it stand out.

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I recently met the new owners and had the pleasure of going into the house and stepping back into time…    this is some of what I saw…

When I walked into the living room the first thing I recognized  was the mirror over the fireplace…  it had previously been in the dining room over the sideboard.  The sideboard, dining room table and china cabinet are all original to the house and they are still beautiful.

This house was built around 1907 – 1911…  we think my godparent’s were the original owners but one thing’s for sure… a lot of the furniture is original…like for instance…

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… the iron beds and some of the side tables.

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But the one that I really got emotional about was in this room pictured below…  the only twin bed in the house… MY BED… the bed where I spent every summer of my childhood.

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To get to my room in those days I had to climb the steep stairs which led to a long, long hall … at least it seemed like a long hall then …

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however, on the nights I listened to ‘The Shadow’ on the radio with my godfather the hall seemed like this.

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Me and the house, 1950 and 2013… not much difference in my height 🙂

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Thank you my new friends for letting me revisit the past, to share with you what little I know about the history of the house, and thank you to you and your family for giving back to this house the heart it had been missing for so long.

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