Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Mystic Commune 3 and Last

My American Dream of living in a special space with great friends and fellow artists

By Norma Jaeger Hopcraft

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Okay, last visit to my future Mystic artists' commune.

The front door has a stained glass panel of pineapples, the symbol of welcome.

Here's Paul McMasters, master carpenter and leader of this project, trying not to be photographed (I know, I'm an awful pest).

I can't get over the wainscoting.

Or the fireplaces...

Or the banister.

Here's the backdoor, looking through the center hall to the front, with a selfie of yours truly.

These men are scraping the eaves and architectural details, a brutal job.

The lovely front porch.

Call Paul for any woodworking you need.  What do you think? Would you join me in this house for an artists' commune? Comment below.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

American Dreams: Scene of a Mystic Artists' Commune?

American Dreams of Living and Working Together

By Norma Jaeger Hopcraft

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I'm continuing my series on the Spicer House, a fabulous historic home in Mystic that I'd love to live in with artist friends.

Here's Paul McMasters, telling me about the glories, and the difficulties, in restoring this marvelous old home.

On the second floor, a mysterious, more plain staircase leading to...

…that uppermost room I showed you in the last post. It's going to be a party room for whoever lives  or stays here. If it were the artists' commune I'd rather see, it would be a room for creativity, which can be (not always) a different kind of party.

It has a view out over the town and harbor of Mystic. The orange building front and center was built is the Mystic & Noank Library. It was built by the same man who built the house we're in, Captain Spicer, who started out as a midshipman (age 9 or 10) on the seas and came back a wealthy philanthropist.

Another view of the uppermost room.

The ceiling is beautiful, too.

Here's a view from the uppermost stairs down through the stairwell to the parquet floor in the entry hall.

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Comment below! Why are you crazy about historic homes, like I am?

Monday, September 1, 2014

American Dreams of an Artists' Commune

Grand Old House--The American Dream of a Commune

By Norma Jaeger Hopcraft

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Here's a house I've always loved in Mystic.  When I first saw it in January, it was broken into apartments. I wanted to live here with my friends and have our own commune, with each room an artist's studio and living space. As long as people did their own dishes...

Notice the room at the very top of the house, notice the architectural details under the eaves, the bay window to the right and the porte cochere behind it.

Here's the house from the other side. It has neat rooms, like the one bulging from the side, and I've always wanted to go inside and look around this grand old house.

One day recently I saw construction going on. The house was sold. It's no longer apartments, it's being carefully restored into a hotel, or wedding destination, or possibly being returned to being a single family home. The buyer hasn't decided yet.

But look up, through the staircases. What a grand place! The man avoiding my camera is Paul McMasters, an historic restoration expert.

Look at the parquet flooring! The turquoise paint has to go!

Look at the carving of the mantel!

More inlays on the floor.

What a gorgeous newel post!

More parquet flooring.

That neat room that bulges out of the side.  What a fantastic place!

Another incredible mantel and floor.

This wainscoting goes throughout the house.

Next time, we'll see the view from that glass room at the top.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Pursuit of American Dreams in Coffee Shops

Indie Coffee Shops and the American Dream

By Norma Jaeger Hopcraft

I'm an avid supporter of indie coffee shops, and Starbucks, too, 'cuz I'm infinitely grateful that, for the price of one cup of coffee, I can sit for hours and work among congenial people who don't bug me to buy more or else move on.  

But indie coffee shops hold a special place in my heart. The Drip is in Madison, NJ, and creates a unique atmosphere.

Outdoor seating on a very wide sidewalk. Great!

A place to meet friends and have a long, relaxed talk without having to clean your house first. Or bake. Or even make coffee.

"Coffee isn't a drug, it's a vitamin!" Agreed.

Breakfast and lunch: covered.

Your baristas, Rupert (left, in background) and Dylan.

Handles on the espresso machines, elegant but durable mugs, lovely colors on the walls.

The fixings bar. Contrast and compare with Starbucks, whose shops, unfortunately, are all the same...

My competition, a writer in pursuit of her dream, taking advantage of this great space to work alone, yet not alone.

How about you? Do you like independent coffee shops? Do you prefer Starbucks? Or do you thumb your nose at the whole coffee-house business? Chime in! Comment below!
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Friday, June 20, 2014

Mystic at Dusk

American Dreaming in the Gloaming

By Norma Jaeger Hopcraft

In the gloaming is a beautiful time to dream dreams of what you want to accomplish with your life. Mystic has a picturesque dusk (picturesque everything). I'm blessed to be here while I work on my American Dreams.

Ship's masts silhouetted against the sky…not many places where you can see that.

This painter is capturing the scene.

Same ship, a little later, different angle.

The largest white blob of light, right in the middle of the photo, is a light over the painter's easel. He wasn't going to let darkness stop him.

On another recent evening, the sun kissed just the spire of the Union Baptist Church.

A selfie at the famous Mystic Pizza, where the movie with Julia Roberts was filmed.

A fog rolled in. Here's the gloaming, giving the fog a blue cast. Lights barely seen on the opposite shore.

The most gorgeous lines on this catboat, tied up at a private pier.

You can see the superstructure of the famous Mystic Drawbridge, one of the few bridges of its kind, silhouetted against the blue foggy.

Now for some miscellaneous Mystic pics.  Here's a sight not many people see: a 3-masted ship passing through Mystic Drawbridge (to the right, behind the red brick building), while the traffic waits on Route 1--the same Route 1 that goes from Maine to the Florida Keys.

I just like the colors of the hull…and the lines on this boat.

An historic Mystic cottage adorned with spring blooms.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

American Dreams, and How the .1% Live

Peapack-Gladstone: Horse Country, Fox and Hounds Country, Gatsby Country

By Norma Jaeger Hopcraft

I went to Mansions in May, led by volunteers for Morristown Memorial Hospital. The mansion, Blairston, is in Peapack, NJ, and has 26 rooms, plus four "indoor/outdoor" rooms, each one decorated to the hilt by top interior designers. I was dreaming dreams of writing a book like The Great Gatsby (meaning critical and popular success), because the son of a 19th-century railroad baron/Gatsby built the place and now that the Blair family lost its fortune, a modern-day Gatsby owns it. I asked how he made his fortune, but nobody knew. He will be deciding whether or not to keep times like the two Baccarat chandeliers on loan in the living room, priced at $250,000 each.

The reflecting pool, statues of stags, busts of Roman emperors lining the walk to the house…Get it? This place is meant to shock and awe your friends.

This is my friend Susan, smart, insightful, and fun!

As we left, Susan suggested that I take a walk on a country road nearby. She told me how to find the road. It turned out it was a dirt road. The ultra-rich pave their driveways but not their roads! They're shrewd. Susan told me about a friend of hers who runs a cattle-lending business. People on these big estates rent cattle from him, and he goes around to their places and takes care of the cows. The ultra-rich get a tax write-off, as if they were farmers, and Susan's friend gets to make a living without being in a cubicle.

Anyway, as I walked down this dirt road, with mansions hidden behind gates, and hedgerows of brambles, and trees, I saw a sign for Fairview Farm Wildlife Preserve and Raritan Headwaters Association. So I started down the driveway.

The air was fantastic, lightly perfumed with the scent meadow grass basking in sunshine and wild blooming things. Birds sang in trees or swooped across the road. Far away, someone started up a tractor.

First, let's set your expectations. This is the kind of house you might see from the dirt road I walked on.

Or something like this, a huge McMansion for the nouveau riche. 

Well, here's the gates to Fairvew Farm (sorry the photo's tilted, I took it while driving past). Where does this enticing driveway lead? (I knew it was public before walking down it.)

The first 100 yards or so.

The second 100 yards or so.

The third 100 yards or so.

Are we 1/2 mile along yet? 

More to go...

A meadow along the way.

Another couple hundred yards.

At last, a sign of humans -- a bridge!

Here's what you get.

Beyond the white house was a classroom barn for a kids' nature camp.

A butterfly garden.

The classroom barn.

Inside the garden,

and the other side.

Here's the back of the farmhouse.

A place to sit and watch the birdfeeders. Then I had to walk all the way back...