We had people walk up our long,winding driveway to the house. First they came to the barn and there was a tree decorated with pine cones,dried hydrangea and some ornaments to depict barn tools. Also, of course, a small ornament that looked like Bill’s tractor!
Category Archives: historic homes
Last Touches at Woodstone
We (and our architect, Jen Hart) have always loved the railings that are on the pavilions at the University of Virginia on the Lawn and at Monticello,all designed by Thomas Jefferson. These designs were our inspiration for the railings on the side porches of Woodstone.
The railings were assembled first in our barn-waiting for a sunny, warm day to put them up.
Finally we got some good weather in April and up they went!
Parquet Floor from Monticello
A few people have asked about the parquet floor that we did in our front hallway-what was the inspiration for it?
The truth is, that was in the works from the very beginning. At our very first meeting with the architect, my husband mentioned the parquet floor. Right away Jen Hart, the architect, lit up-“I have always wanted to do that!” she said. The reason? They both went to the University of Virginia and love Monticello in Charlottesville. This floor is in the parlor (pictured below) and is made of cherry and beech. It is said that Thomas Jefferson designed it himself, although the thought is that he may have seen something similar during his years in France as the Ambassador in 1784-89.
Each unit is constructed of a center square of cherry and a border of beech. When first installed, the contrast between the woods would have been even more striking than it is today, with the cherry coming across as a rich red and the beech a golden blonde. Beeswax was the only substance used to bring out the color of the woods. Additionally, the squares were installed with their grains going in alternating directions, which would have added further nuance to the regular geometric pattern of the floor, depending on the angle of light and where one was standing.
J J Hardwood Floors from Acton,MA certainly did a very good job of replicating the floor for us. We were all very true to the design as well as the woods used for the project and the installation.
Mid-July at Woodstone
Outside lots going on-granite steps just installed,stone walls going in,clapboards starting to go in the back of the house,trim work almost finished.
Up on third floor all wallboard and plastering done-now millwork going in!
The tile has arrived and he is getting the showers all ready for the tile man who comes on Monday.
And the Barn has it’s roof-in red cedar. My office is coming along. The bookshelves are going in,floors are in,windows are coming in the next week or two. The stone veneer along the base is all completed. We are getting there!
The Raising of the Woodstone Cupola
Weighing in at 4500 pounds it was fascinating to see the cupola fly through the air and into place on top of the barn-next step is to add the windows next week!
A cupola (pronounced “kyou’puh luh”) is a structure that sits atop a larger rooftop or dome and can range in size from very basic and small, to extremely large and ornate. The small can be a simple vented box you would see on a barn while the cupola on St.Peters Basilica in Rome is an example of the other extreme.
Large Cupolas may be accessible from a stairway on the inside giving a commanding vantage point from which to look out over the world. This kind of cupola is often called a belvedere or a “widow’s walk”. Often smaller cupolas are constructed without access from inside and windows are added which provide a natural light source for illuminating the spaces below. These types of cupolas are also known as “lanterns”.
The origins and history of the Cupola can be traced back to 8th century Islamic architecture. These first cupolas placed atop minarets, were large and sometimes ornate structures with one or more balconies from which the daily call to prayer would be announced. These early cupolas are very significant because they are believed to be the inspiration for the dome which led to massive achievements in architectural design. These bold new designs that emerged were used as symbols for proof of cultural superiority. During the renaissance, most major european cities and Islamic states were building a plethora of these magnificent buildings. The cupola had evolved to allow architecture to become a very artistic and creative status symbol and today, the cupola stands as a statement of a major achievement in architecture.
Verona-Another City of Love in Italy
Straddling the Adige river in Veneto, northern Italy, you will find Verona which has approximately 265,000 inhabitants. It is the second largest city municipality in the region and the third of northeast Italy. It is one of the main tourist destinations in northern Italy, owing to its artistic heritage, several annual fairs, shows, and operas, such as the lyrical season in the Arena, the ancient amphitheater built by the Romans.
Three of Shakespeare’s plays are set in Verona: Romeo and Juliet, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and The Taming of the Shrew.
Piazza Delle Erbe(above) is a good place to start a visit to Verona. Originally the Roman Forum, the rectangular piazza is in the heart of the historic center and is surrounded by beautiful medieval buildings and towers. In the middle is a 14th century fountain with a Roman statue.
This is Verona’s market square- where vendors come to slice and sell whatever’s in season. People have gathered here since Roman times, when this was a forum. The whale’s rib, hanging from an archway for 500 years, was a souvenir brought home from the Orient by spice traders. Today Piazza Erbe is for the locals, who start their evening with anaperitivo here. It’s a trendy scene, as young Veronans fill the bars to enjoy their refreshing spritzdrinks, olives, and chips.
Verona’s Roman Arena is the third largest in Italy (after the Roman Colosseum and the arena in Capua). Built in the 1st century and still retaining most of the original stone, the arena holds up to 25,000 spectators. Since 1913 it has been the venue for a prestigious opera festival and a top setting for other theatrical performances. Although part of the seating is in bright orange and red chairs, it’s easy to imagine the original look of the amphitheater.
Ancient Romans considered Verona an ideal resting spot before crossing the Alps so the city has a wealth of Roman ruins. Corso Porta Borsari was the main drag of Roman Verona. A stroll here makes for a fun, ancient scavenger hunt. Remnants of the town’s illustrious past — chips of Roman columns, medieval reliefs, fine old facades, and fossils in marble — are scattered among modern-day fancy shop windows.
Verona’s most popular site is the balcony said to be Juliet’s in Romeo and Juliet. The house said to be Juliet’s house is in a courtyard off Via Capello. You can see the balcony and the bronze statue of Juliet for free .The 13th century house is a good example of Gothic architecture and inside is a museum with period furniture. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet made Verona a household word. Locals marvel that each year, about 1,600 Japanese tour groups break their Venice-to-Milan ride for an hour-long stop in Verona just to stand in a courtyard. The House of Juliet, where the real-life Cappello family once lived, is a crass and throbbing mob scene. The tiny, admittedly romantic courtyard is a spectacle in itself, with visitors from all over the world posing on the almost believable balcony and taking snapshots of each other rubbing Juliet’s bronze breast, hoping to get lucky in love.(this is supposed to happen within 7 years!)
Fifth Season- Final Downton..sigh…..
Even though Downton Abbey’s fifth season got off to a shaky start, it ended up being so eventful that the estate’s fearless leader suffered a cardiac scare tonight from all of the activity. Among the year’s high and lowlights inside our favorite Yorkshire household: Mary got a haircut, a weirdly inconsequential fire ravaged Edith’s room, Isis died, a creepy art critic preyed upon Cora, the Dowager toyed with the idea of running off with a long-haired Russian refugee, Daisy quit the kitchen George Costanza-style only to revoke her notice, the Bates family was subjected to a tired retread of that whole falsely-accused-of-murder-and-sent-to-prison plot, Lord Grantham took in an orphan only to realize it was Edith’s illegitimate child, and Rose married a Jewish fellow. And during tonight’s two-hour season finale—which aired in the U.K. as the show’s Christmas special—the gang joined the Sinderbys at Hogwarts for grouse hunting before ringing in the holidays at home. (We are serious about Hogwarts—Downton filmed the Brancaster Castle exteriors at Alnwick Castle, which doubled as Hogwarts in the Harry Pottermovies.)
Carson Makes It Official by Proposing to Hughes (Believability: 3)
We are not monsters—we all want Carson and Hughes, longtime work husband and wife, to continue their march to full-on coupledom. They are far better suited for each other than any other couple in the house. But if we did not love these characters so much, and already have their housewarming gift ordered (a lovely calendar to remind Carson on a daily basis that it is no longer 1890), we might be dubious about Carson’s decision to commit to Hughes after her red-flag filled confession. In the course of a two-minute scene, Hughes reveals that she has possibly psychotic family members whom she will need to support financially for the rest of her life . . . and no money. And somehow, Carson is still like, “‘Das cool. Here are the keys to the house I bought in both our names.”
While Suze Orman may not approve, Carson goes ahead with his plans and proposes to Hughes on Christmas Eve while she awkwardly holds two drinks in her hand. The moment is perfect though—who would have thought that last season’s hand holding would lead to this?—and our hearts swell when Carson tells Hughes, “I am not marrying anyone else.”
Anna Is Thrown in Jail Because One Man Thinks He Saw Her Throw a Serial Rapist Into Traffic (Believability: 0)
We know this happened last episode but we still can’t wrap our minds around this plot twist, even though we’ve spent five seasons systematically lowering our expectations for Downton Abbey storytelling logic. We’ve been through this whole a-Bates-family-member-is-falsely-imprisoned-for-murder plot before and it doesn’t make much of a difference to us that Anna is now goingOrange Is the New Black instead of Bates this time around. (We will say that Anna’s miserable-in-prison expressions are not much different than her everyday expressions and Bates’s worried-about-Anna faces aren’t any less creepy than normal.)
Mary Still Has Not Realized That Marigold Is Edith’s Daughter (Believability: 3)
It seems insane to us that Mary has not noticed that Edith, her blood sister and chief antagonist, has birthed a daughter who is now living in their household. She certainly notices the bizarre fixation that Edith has with Marigold, is annoyed by it, and puts Edith down on the subject whenever she has the chance. Mary’s most immortal line about parenting arrives tonight, and chills us to our core: “Why don’t you just shut [the children] up in a box in the attic and let them out when they are 21?” For once, Edith sees a way in which Mary’s cruelty can be used in her favor: “[Mary] is completely uninterested in me which should keep [my secret] safe.”
Barrow Manages to Uncover Sinderby’s Darkest Secrets, and Lure Them to Hogwarts Within Some 72 Hours of Being There (Believability: 6)
Barrow only uses his vengeful skill set for good these days, not evil. And in tonight’s episode, we see Barrow take up Lady Mary’s invitation to bring down Sinderby’s butler, and then go one step farther, raiding Sinderby’s own closet for the perfect skeleton that could completely undo him—and manages to find it, or “him” specifically: the illegitimate son he sired with another woman. Barrow lures both to Hogwarts during a party, but Rose thwarts his plan and saves the unsavory Sinderby. Why exactly? I suppose to forge a good relationship with her father-in-law on the foundation of his extramarital sins. But we would have loved to see how the episode would have played out Sliding Doors-style had Sinderby’s illegitimate son been discovered.
Lord Grantham Knows Exactly What to Say to Edith in a Tender Moment (Believability: 2)
Who is this new and improved Lord Grantham, who not only detects emotional nuance but is able to appropriately reciprocate it? Last week, we watched as Lord Grantham surprised everyone by going out of his way to do something thoughtful for Mrs. Patmore. And now, when he decides to tell Edith he’s learned of her secret, he does so with sympathy and understanding. “I’m sure I need your forgiveness just as much as you need mine,” he tells Edith after she apologizes. The line is so Oprah-level spot-on, that we half expected Lord Grantham to suddenly rip his face off, Mission Impossible mask-style, revealing that Dr. Phil had been there underneath the whole time. It will be interesting to see how Mary reacts to the news that her sister is Marigold’s mother, and see whether this news will finally soften their relationship as cartoonish enemies.
Branson Says Goodbye to Downton (Believability: 4)
In what was surely the worst moment of the episode, Branson stares off in the children’s nursery and, when Edith asks why, he says because he “is taking pictures in his mind” so that he has memories of the home when he is in Boston. Later, he tops himself for stiff line readings when he tells Lord Grantham that he will not consider leaving Sybbie at Downton but adds this as some weird consolation: “I love the way you love her.” Farewell, Tom.
Lady Mary Essentially Informs a Stranger How Much He Has Unknowingly Inconvenienced Her Extended Family (Believability: 9)
Well what else should she do during the course of the episode? Break Anna out of prison? Mother her child? Forge a relationship with her last living sister? Ha! No, Mary played etiquette police on tonight’s episode, informing Henry Talbot (Matthew Goode) that he had rudely (if unknowingly) crashed their hunting party. Of course, Mary can segue any awkward introduction with a handsome man into a flirtation, and manages to do just that, showing us that she has better chemistry with him and his fancy car than she had with either Blake or Gillingham.
Spratt Challenges Denker to a Broth Off (Believability: 4)
May we never forget that this was actually a storyline in tonight’s Downton Abbey. Spratt nurtures his inner Barrow this episode, suggesting that Denka prove herself as a lady’s maid by making broth. Alas, the challenge only unites Denka and the Dowager and wastes valuable screen time that could have been spent on the surprisingly crafty Molesley.
The Dowager Sends Prince Kuragin Away with His Miserable Wife (Believability: 7)
“I will never again receive an immoral proposition from a man,” the Dowager tells Isobel after reuniting her suitor with his far flung wife. “Was I so wrong to savor it?” After getting a glimpse of the wholly unpleasant Princess Kuragin (who follows Larry Grey and Susan MacClare in this season’s procession of awful Downton guests), we understand why the prince was so eager to leave her. Later in the episode, the Dowager confides to Isobel that the princess once physically wrestled her out of running off with the prince. Asked if the Dowager’s husband realized, when she got home, that she had been ruffled up, the Dowager offers the best-timed retort of the evening: “Men notice nothing.”
Yes, the same man that dyed his hair shoe-polish black earlier this season finds a way to free Bates from his self-imposed Fugitive sentence. (Where were these two back when Bates was wrongly accused of murder the first time around?) While the rest of the house wrings their hands over the criminal drama-prone character—who foolishly confessed to a murder he did not commit to free Anna, and then ran away Dr. Richard Kimble-style—Molesley finds a photo of Bates and then recruits Baxter to travel to each and every pub in York until he finds a witness who can confirm Bates’s alibi. And it is a good thing too: I don’t know that any of us were as invested in this plot retread to purchase “Free Bates” T-shirts this time around. The episode ends with Bates sneaking into Downton Abbey on Christmas Eve and surprising Anna, which is nice for them. But of all the characters on the series, these two need a plot makeover most. Maybe next Christmas.
On his gravestone at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson chose to be remembered for three things: the Declaration of Independence, the Virginia statute for religious freedom, and the University of Virginia.
Though 100-year-old S. Prestley Blake of Somers, Connecticut, has not yet shuffled off this mortal coil, he wants to be remembered for just one thing: his devotion to Thomas Jefferson. The centenarian has, in fact, summed up a lifetime’s admiration of Jefferson in one parting gesture—he has built a $6 million replica of Monticello next to his own Connecticut estate.
Like the real Monticello in Charlottesville, Blake’s replica sits on a hill, commanding a view of the surrounding area and commanding the attention of passersby. Near the door of this dream home, which he plans to sell to a “worthy buyer,” he has placed a plaque with a quote by Jefferson—taken from a 1787 letter to George Gilmer: “I am as happy no where else and in no other society, and all my wishes end, where I hope my days will end, at Monticello.”
Blake—who never attended U.Va. or lived anywhere near Charlottesville—sees the just-completed project as his gift to posterity.
“The last sentence in my book that is coming out this spring is ‘I am 100 years old and this is my swan song,’” he said.
Blake will, of course, be remembered for other things besides his Monticello. For one, he is cofounder of Friendly’s Ice Cream, an iconic restaurant chain in New England.
For another, Mr. Blake’s just-completed Monticello is not his first architectural tribute to Jefferson. In the 1990s, he and his wife, Helen, donated the funds for a Monticello-inspired building to house the middle school at Wilbraham & Monson Academy in Wilbraham, Mass. Five years ago, they funded the construction of the president’s residence at Springfield College in Springfield, Mass., a structure that also contains echoes of Monticello.
It was while the Springfield College project was under way that Mr. Blake began to conceive of “his” Monticello in Somers, located just over the state border from Springfield.
“Monticello is the most prominent private residence in the United States. You see it reproduced everywhere,” says Blake, who has visited Monticello many times. “Five years ago, I went down to Charlottesville to see it again. I love good architecture and Jefferson’s is the best.”
When the property next door to his own came up for sale, Mr. Blake reached his Rubicon. He purchased the land, about 10 acres, tore down the structures that were on it and began to put his signature idea into action. Then he hired Bill LaPlante, who owned the contracting company that built the president’s house at Springfield College.
“When we learned he wanted us to build Monticello, I was shocked. I dismissed it, thinking, ‘This isn’t going to happen,’” LaPlante says.
And yet, Mr. Blake called back soon thereafter, saying he had plane tickets ready for LaPlante and his father, Raymond, founder of the company, to Charlottesville.
At Monticello, the LaPlantes met with various officials who spent six hours answering their questions.
“They were extremely gracious. “It was interesting to see the progression of Monticello,” LaPlante says. “Jefferson would build something, then tear it down, and put something else up. He spent his life obsessed with architecture and this house.”
For the actual architectural plans, the LaPlantes consulted Monticello in Measured Drawings, a book of plans compiled directly from the Historic American Buildings Survey. While most of the exterior of Mr. Blake’s Monticello conforms to Mr. Jefferson’s original, only some of the interior retains the Jeffersonian touch, including the dining room, tea room, main foyer and hall and the use of a Monticello pattern on the parquet floors. Jefferson tinkered away on his house for 28 years, and spent about $100,461 (roughly $1.3 million in today’s dollars). The LaPlantes, meanwhile, working in a more technologically-advanced time, different time, needed only 18 months.
And while Jefferson’s house is roughly 11,000 square feet, Blake’s is a streamlined 10,000 square feet with modern amenities like geothermal heating and three helicopter landing sites on the property. There are also small touches to adhere to local ordinances, like railings on the front door entryway.
“We re-created the front façade to scale, which is 95 percent accurate,” says LaPlante. “The original porches on the sides are now enclosed and the rear of the house is 50 percent accurate.”
Blake is particularly proud, albeit amused, by the attention to detail.
“I wanted to have the house as close as possible to the original, and this one has the exact same footprint as Jefferson’s,” he says. “Bricks normally cost 50 cents apiece, but ours cost $1 apiece because they’re handmade. It took 95,000 bricks, exactly the same as Monticello, even down to artificially cracking them to look like Jefferson’s. LaPlante had ten finishing carpenters who were minutely fussy, and excellent sub-contractors who all had the same attitude. “I want Bill LaPlante to put a plaque up so that future generations will know he built this,” Blake says.
Blake does not regret the expense of this project.
“I spent a fortune to build it but I don’t care if I get my money back. That’s not why I built it. I built it for posterity, not to live in it. It’s done wonders for the community. The house is lit up at night and people drive by and take photographs and are so proud of it.”
Perhaps what makes Blake happiest of all is that the house was completed by the holidays, allowing him to declare something few ever get to these days: “We had Christmas dinner at Monticello.”
(article written by Alan Bisbort)
Progress at Woodstone
The red cedar roof (we looked at both red cedar and Alaskan yellow cedar but decided the red cedar was better with the colors we have picked for the house)is going on so we are good to work inside all winter…. but most interesting has been watching the 200 year old barn from Pennsylvania start going up.The Colonial Barn Restoration company worked for weeks piecing the bents together and then last Sunday they started putting them up.
The bent is the unit of barn timbers running from front to back. If a barn has four bents, it has three bays. Barns were easily enlarged by adding more bents on either end to lengthen the barn.
Concord Museum’s Holiday House Tour
What a fantastic event-despite the heavy rains, the houses were absolutely spectacular-the bar has been raised again. Here are some of the things I thought were particularly creative(although obviously I loved everything in the tour!)
These pictures(above) are taken at a house that was done by Hilary Bovey of Bovey Steers Design Group, Copper Penny Flowers and Comina. Some great ideas-I especially loved the “package” made of little mums. I also noticed that a lot of the houses were decorating with roping not on the rail but instead along the stairs-very nice effect!
The second house I just loved was done by Kathy Morris and Margaret DeJesus of Morris Interiors of Concord. They spent hours making every single floral arrangement in the house, and created several vignettes that were just incredible. Most of all though, I absolutely loved their “cookbook tree”-so clever!