Philadelphia

Happy to have experienced Philadelphia for the first time this summer. Unfortunately, we did not get to spend too much time there, but we did get to see the two biggest historical attractions: the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. As a bonus we got to learn something about Benjamin Franklin.

The Liberty Bell, so-called from the 1830s, was cast in London for the legislative building of the Province of Pennsylvania (now designated Independence Hall). The idea is that the bell was rung to announce the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, although there is no documentary proof that this actually happened. Its distinctive large crack developed some time in the early nineteenth century, rendering it unringable – but granting it a great amount of what Stephanie Trigg would call “mythic capital.”

You get to see it in the Liberty Bell Center, run by the National Parks Service, located across the street from Independence Hall. Annoyingly, you have to pass through an airport-level security checkpoint to get in, but the NPS does give you information about the object’s history and its place in the American psyche – it used to go on tour throughout the country, and in the nineteenth century became a symbol of the desire for liberty by African-Americans and women, in addition to being reproduced countless times in various media.

UPDATE: I just received this in the mail:

Also, I saw these at a local supermarket:

Here are a couple more:

Independence Hall isn’t quite as well-known a symbol as the Liberty Bell, but it certainly has been influential architecturally (see buildings at Dartmouth, Berea, Mercer, Rust, Dearborn, etc.)

The building’s original function was as the seat of the colonial legislature of the Province of Pennsylvania. The first floor housed the supreme court on one side, and the legislative chamber on the other. It was in the latter of these that the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence (July 2, 1776), and members of the Constitutional Convention drafted the Constitution in the summer of 1787.

Our NPS interpreter (a recent Temple University BA in English) explains the room’s history.

A fun fact: the Declaration of Independence was printed before it was handwritten. The representatives spent two days debating what exactly they were going to accuse George III of before sending it to the printer on July 4 (the reason that this date now marks Independence Day); they regathered in August to affix their signatures to a manuscript copy, which is now on display in the National Archives in DC.

(Related: the first printer of the Declaration was John Dunlap; in 1777 Congress commissioned Mary Katherine Goddard of Baltimore to print a new edition [the “Goddard Broadside“] including the signatories’ names; she boldy printed her own name at the bottom.)

Walking down the street afterwards we were accosted by Ben Franklin (a.k.a. actor Rick Bravo), with whom we had a good chat.

He enjoined us to visit his house further down the street. Not much of it still exists, although a “ghost house,” designed by architect Robert Venturi, now outlines where it once was, with concrete hoods that allow you to view the foundations of the original structure.

On the west side of this “Franklin Court” is the Benjamin Franklin Museum, a brutalist structure put up for the bicentennial in 1976. The National Parks Service has recently redone the exhibits, and they provide an informative and interactive view of Franklin’s career. To the north end of the court is a print shop (one of Franklin’s jobs was as a printer), where NPS employees will demonstrate the use of an eighteenth-century printing press. An adjacent working post office (Franklin served as the first Postmaster General) will allow you to send letters with specially designed cancellation marks.

Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography is now on my reading list for the summer.

Angel Roofs

From my friend Tim Emmett, pastor of the Waleska UMC, an interesting gallery on BBC Travel of photographs of angel roofs, which were a regular feature of late medieval English church architecture. The first caption reads:

Think of medieval England’s finest gems, and castles probably come to mind first. But the country has another type of treasure that few people know about: angel roofs. Built between 1395 and the English Reformation of the mid-1500s, these roofs are decorated with intricately carved wooden angels. Only 170 survive today. Because so little of the art from England’s medieval churches survived the Reformation, that still makes these cherubim “the largest surviving body of major English medieval wood sculpture”, writes photographer and expert Michael Rimmer in his book The Angel Roofs of East Anglia: Unseen Masterpieces of the Middle Ages.

Click the link to see a collection of Rimmer’s photographs. I had no idea these were a thing, nor that the Reformation had such a problem with them (after all, angels were biblical – unlike saints!).

Junk Drunk Jones

This afternoon I enjoyed shopping at Junk Drunk Jones, a store in Canton run by my former student Stephanie McGuire Jones. Check out the store’s blog and Facebook page. Stephanie was one of Reinhardt’s Ten Under Ten honorees last year. From the linked article:

Canton native Stefanie Jones developed a love for travel and collecting vintage items from her parents at a very early age, which led to her hometown business, Junk Drunk Jones, in downtown Canton.

After graduating from Reinhardt in 2008, she began an on-the-road and online antique store which has steadily evolved ever since. She created Junk Drunk Jones LLC. In March 2015, she purchased a 100-year-old building in historic downtown Canton.

After two months of renovations, Jones celebrated the grand opening of her first store front. Junk Drunk Jones specializes in authentic vintage collectibles and superior quality reproductions.

It is definitely worth a stop if you’re in Canton. I did not get any pictures of the wide range dry goods for sale, but I am pleased to have acquired a postcard of the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche as it appeared before 1943:

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Here’s what it looks like today:

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Wikipedia.

I.e. it was heavily damaged by the allied bombing of Berlin, and rather than restore it, architect Egon Eirmann kept it in its damaged state as a monument to the war, and constructed a separate modernist belfry (on the right on the photo) and nave (not shown), the main feature of which is a skin of blue stained glass. I remember discovering this by accident in Berlin once, and being impressed.

(The English equivalent of this, of course, is Coventry Cathedral.)

UPDATE: Here is a photo of the old belfry and the new nave, taken recently by my friend Michael Dorner:

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Capitol Campaign

Continuing our personal project, here are some more state capitols that we saw on our recent trip:

1. Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This departs from the regular pattern of a neoclassical dome – instead, like Bismarck, N.D. or Lincoln, Nebr., it takes the form of a tower. You can take the elevator to the top for a nice view.

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This building, of course, is essentially a monument to Huey Long, Louisiana’s populist Depression-era governor, who authorized its construction and who was assassinated in it in 1935.

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A statue of the Kingfish stands on the grounds.

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The former capitol building down the street is a crenellated structure that now acts as a museum of political history.

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Needless to say, Huey Long appears in here, too.

IMG_2695The Capitol Park Museum nearby is first rate.

2. Austin, Texas. Quite large, as befits anything Texan. It was surprisingly crowded on a Sunday. I was amused to note that the guards were armed with assault rifles. Don’t mess with Texas!

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Enjoyed the portraits of Ann Richards, George W. Bush, and Rick Perry, along with the view of the interior of the dome, and the mosaic on the floor.

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You can hardly see it, but “TEXAS” appears between the arms of the star.

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Another appearance of the Six Flags, or rather, the Six Emblems, with Texas at the center of the large star, and the other five between the arms of the star. Alas, this was the least crowded it ever got while I was there.

Down the street, the Bullock Texas State History Museum is wonderful.

3. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. A rainy day and construction, but the locals were certainly friendly. 

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The interior has a nice collection of paintings of famous Oklahomans, like Will Rogers, Gene Autry, Sequoyah (they claim him), and Wiley Post. Like Texas, the interior of the dome is nice, as is the floor decoration beneath it.

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The arms of the star illustrate devices used by the Five Civilized Tribes, who were all expelled there in the nineteenth century: starting with the seven-pointed star on the top left and moving clockwise, these are the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Seminole, and Creek. The middle of the seal shows “Columbia” (a feminine personification of America not much used anymore), holding a balance above her head, and blessing a handshake between a white settler and an American Indian, who are flanked respectively by a train and a teepee.

(Not to be too much of a wet blanket, but I don’t think this image necessarily reflects the reality of the Dawes Act, or the land runs that followed.)

Unfortunately, we were too late to see the Oklahoma History Center. Next time!

Warsaw Rebuilt

The Guardian is running a series called “The Story of Cities,” and number 28 on Warsaw is rather interesting:

Story of cities #28: how postwar Warsaw was rebuilt using 18th century paintings

When Warsaw’s Old Town was destroyed by Hitler’s troops in the second world war, the nation mobilised to rebuild the city with the rubble of its own destruction – and the work of Italian painter Bernardo Bellotto.

It is August 1944 and the Polish resistance are in violent clashes with the Nazi forces that have occupied Warsaw. The resistance intend to liberate the city from what the Polish poet Czesław Miłosz has called the “dark, black and red world of Nazi occupation”.

During the Warsaw Uprising, the ill-equipped Polish resistance succeed in inflicting serious damage on their oppressors, with 20,000 Nazi troops left wounded or dead. But it is the civilian population that suffers the greatest losses, with 150,000 people killed in air strikes and in fighting across the city.

In retaliation, the Nazis raze the Polish capital to the ground. More than 85% of the city’s historic centre is reduced to ruins. Unlike in other European cities, where damage largely occurs during the fighting, Warsaw is systematically destroyed once the two months of conflict have ended, as an act of revenge by Hitler’s forces.

What follows is the story of how Varsovians (residents of Warsaw) reconstructed their city – in part from the cityscapes, or vedute, of the Venetian painter Bernardo Bellotto (1722-1780), often referred to as Canaletto after his more renowned uncle.

Bellotto, who was made court painter to the King of Poland in 1768, created beautiful and accurate paintings of Warsaw’s buildings and squares. It is testimony to the veracity of his work that almost 200 years later, those paintings were used to help transform the historic city centre from wreckage and rubble into what is now a Unesco World Heritage Site.

More at the link.

Adairsville

Some more local tourism: the town of Adairsville, Georgia, through which Andrews’ Raiders passed in 1862 in the commandeered General.

The historic downtown looks nice.

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adairsville2The old station is now a museum, temporarily closed.

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The mural on the side depicts the Locomotive Chase, with the Texas in pursuit, running backwards.

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The Chase is immortalized in the city seal. It only depicts the Texas though.

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The city sponsors a Great Locomotive Chase Arts and Crafts festival in September and October.

UPDATE: I have discovered that the City of Kennesaw also has a train-seal, featuring the General!

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Hermits

Something amusing from Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life (2011). In a chapter on gardens, Bryson describes the triumph of “artificial nature,” inaugurated by the Serpentine (1730) in Hyde Park, an unprecedentedly asymmetrical pond. Follies (fake ruins) were also part of this movement, and then:

For a time it was highly fashionable to build a hermitage and install in it a live-in hermit. At Painshill in Surrey, one man signed a contract to live seven years in picturesque seclusion, observing a monastic silence, for £100 a year, but was fired after just three weeks when he was spotted drinking in the local pub. An estate owner in Lancashire promised £50 a year for life to anyone who would pass seven years in an underground dwelling on his estate without cutting his hair or toenails or talking to another person. Someone took up the offer and actually lasted four years before deciding he could take no more; whether he was given at least a partial pension for his efforts is sadly unknown.

Henry V’s Chapel

I’d love to see this:

Henry V ‘secret’ chapel opened for Agincourt anniversary

Westminster Abbey is opening Henry’s V’s chapel – rarely seen by the public – for guided tours to mark the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt.

The chapel was built within the shrine of Edward the Confessor.

Henry V ordered the chapel’s construction so prayers could be said for his soul after he died.

Tours of the chapel, located at the east end of the abbey, will be led by the Dean of Westminster on the eve of the battle’s anniversary on 24 October.

 

Bartow Courthouse

We enjoyed a look inside the old Bartow County Courthouse (Cartersville, Georgia) this afternoon, courtesy of Sherry Henshaw, director of the Keep Bartow Beautiful program. I took this photo some years ago:

Unfortunately, the building is in need of serious renovations, and needs to be made ADA compliant, so for the time being it mostly serves as a storage facility. But the courtroom itself remains in great condition (good enough for the filming of Devil’s Knot, at any rate!).

Most county business transpires in the Frank Moore Administration and Judicial Center to the west, which was completed in 1992. It does the job, but doesn’t have quite the character of this place.

The courthouse appears on the county flag, and on the county logo:

It also made the cover of a recent book on Georgia county courthouses:

Ms. Henshaw informs me that this gold-dome courthouse, which was built in 1902, was in fact the second courthouse in Cartersville. The first, dating from the 1870s, now houses the Bartow History Museum. They built a new one because that one was too close to the train tracks, and the trials kept getting interrupted by the noise.

Of course, none of this would have transpired if they had kept Cassville as the county seat. Just as they changed the county name from Cass to Bartow in 1861, after the Confederate colonel, so also did they change the name Cassville to Manassas in 1861, after the famous Confederate victory. This was way too much of a provocation for Sherman, who burnt the settlement to the ground when he came through in 1864. Instead of rebuilding it, the locals just moved the county seat to Cartersville and started over from there. (Cassville did eventually get rebuilt, and under its original name – but it never equaled its former stature.)