Friday, October 31, 2014

October Autumn to Begin

Bob's 50th high school reunion over Columbus Day Weekend was a good reason to book a trip back to New England  in the autumn. The children have grown at least a year or two since we saw them back in May. Lavinia is in 2nd grade, home schooled for two days a week, attending an alternative school two days a week, and on Friday's, she alternates between home school programs at the Museum of Fine Arts and the New England Aquarium in Boston. Christian is in Kindergarten and Eloise is in pre-school at a Montessori school in Hingham.

For Bob, New England means lobster. The first of regular trips to the favourite source of
giant lobster rolls at Nanatasket Beach in Hull

Hingham has had a dry summer according to Megan, and the leaves are only just beginning to turn. And they seem to be turning tree by tree, so there are spectacular trees, but no spectacular panoramas.

Hingham is having a high profile at the moment. The Wahlburgers reality TV show is in its second season (and even broadcast in London), but the 19th century bucket and toy industry has inspired a book and an exhibition at Old Sturbridge Village. The Hersey family was among the group of emigrants who arrived from England in the mid-1630s and established the coastal town of Hingham, 17 miles south of Boston. This was 15 years after the Pilgrims established their town in Plymouth farther south along the coast.

The international popularity of the buckets made millionaires of several members of the Hersey family back in the day according to the exhibition research. 

We spent a beautiful day exploring the village . . .
. . . where historic buildings have been gathered to present a  living history of New England's
farms and villages in the period of the Young Republic around 1830.

The harvest is in for people . . .

. . . and for pigs.

The iconic New England covered bridge.
Why did early bridges have a roof? Bridges were expensive to build,
and the roof helped protect the bridge structure from weather damage.

The children help with the water pump on the village common.

After a week in Hingham we headed off for a week in the New York Metropolitan area, although never into Manhattan itself, although we were able to pick out the city's newest high rise tower looking across the Meadowlands from the New Jersey Turnpike. It's very tall. On our way to New Jersey to spend the night with friends, we stopped in Greenwich, Connecticut to visit the Bush Holley House Museum. Built by a wealthy farmer, the house dates back to the 1790s, but in the 19th century, it became a boarding house, and by the 1890s it was a favourite spot to escape the city for a group of painters interested in the Impressionist style of European artists. The Cos Cob painters, as they were called collectively, included Childe Hassam, John Twachtman, and Elmer MacRae, who married the Holley's daughter and became landlord of the boarding house.

The view of I-95 from the porch of the Bush-Holley House. The route of I-95 was altered to save the house from demolition in the 1960s. The glimpse of Cos Cob's harbour that can be seen under the highway is a peek at the once lovely view appreciated by the artists who boarded here .

Elmer MacRae was one of the organizers of the famous 1911 Armory Show in New York that introduced European Modernism to the American audience. MacRae's painting was radically different after the Armory Show. 

The display rooms at the museum are divided between the artist boarding house rooms c.1900 and the early farmhouse rooms c.1800. This is the attic where Farmer Bush's female slaves might have slept. The male slaves would have slept in an outbuilding. The first US Census, mandated by the new Constitution, listed 9 slaves living in the household. 
Bob's reunion was underway at a massive corporate hotel on the New York-Connecticut border amidst the massive campuses of world headquarters of countless financial mega-businesses. The financial landscape of suburban office parks — so much easier for the chauffeur to get the CEO to work in the morning —would have just been emerging as a great idea in planning history 50 years ago when the Class of 1964 was graduating. Despite sitting in a tight network of highways, no one could find their way around the area because road signage was so lacking. Undoubtedly on the presumption that if you didn't know where you were, then you certainly didn't belong here.  In order to escape until the evening dinner, we headed south to New Rochelle to finally see the Thomas Paine Cottage. Thomas Paine is a particular hero of Bob's. We have followed the Thomas Paine trail in Lewes, Sussex and attended several plays written around Paine's experiences and contributions, but we had never found the Paine Cottage open for visiting.

This is the original saltbox style cottage where Paine lived  from 1802 to 1806.  After he was no longer welcome in his homeland of England, nor his adopted country of France, and not entirely accepted in the United States when he was denied the right to vote for not being a citizen. Paine died in New York City in 1809 and buried in New Rochelle. Ten years later, radical journalist Thomas Cobbett had his body disinterred and returned to England, but the commemorative reburial never happened and the body lost.

The house contains several galleries devoted to the local history of New Rochelle, including information on its role as a transfer hub for the Underground Railway helping runaway slaves on their way to freedom in Canada.

Then we headed west to the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers with its views of the Hudson Palisades. The Museum includes the Hudson Riverama, a surrogate trip up the river from mouth to source . . .

. . . Glenview, a grand Victorian house with restored rooms . . .

. . . an art collection that includes Red Grooms' 1970s design for for the Museum 's bookstore
that has been installed in a gallery as The Bookstore . . .

. . . with the New York Public Library lions at one entrance . . .

. . . and a unique exterior . . .

. . . and interior.

And if that isn't enough, we were there for the opening day of a remarkable exhibit called Strut which showcases the image of the peacock in art and design and commerce especially since the Arts and Crafts movements of the late 19th century. This photo is pathetically out of focus, but the gallery's guard was very strictly enforcing the "no photographs" rule. 

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