Friday, March 28, 2014

Grandeur Takes Many Forms

My American Dream: Restoring a Beautiful Home

By Norma Jaeger Hopcraft

Walking in New London, CT, recently, I saw this house that was spooky with faded glory.

Look at this place! It's deserted now, but think of the family that built it and enjoyed it in the 1800's.

A closer look at some of the architectural details. Look at the peak, with a sunrise medallion, and the rose medallion center right, next to the upstairs balcony. Look at each spindle in the trim -- they've each got two indentations!

Built by Samuel Dudley in 1889. Think of the party you could hold beyond those doors, the grand spaces for people to mill in!

Here's the three-story tower on the right side of the house, and the carport (I mean carriage entrance). Spindles, tons of them, again. And a lovely room, full of light, above.

Here's the entrance under the carport. How would you like to paint all those finials?  I think painting this house would be like the Golden Gate Bridge -- you'd finish and start over in the same day. I'll bet this house used to be rented out as apartments. I don't think there's even squatters here anymore.

The back door. No steps! 

The only creatures who've been in this house recently make tracks like this in snow. 

Another look at the details above the front door.

A fond last look at this grand house. Architecture is the creation of spaces for humans to live and work in. I just love this place.

If I had millions to indulge myself with, I would spend half of them on on feeding desparate people and the other half on restoring this house to its former grandeur. Then I would stride through the rooms and up and down the grand staircase that's got to be inside. I'd sit in that tower, at the top, and write and text my friends. If you have that kind of money, why not call this realtor's number? He obviously gave up a long time ago. Go ahead, make his day! The area code is 860, by the way. Will you do it? Comment below!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

El's of the Great Houses of Mystic, CT

American Dream: Bigger and Better

By Norma Jaeger Hopcraft

Not only are these houses very substantial at the core, but many of them have el's -- a wing to the side that's often as big as most people's houses themselves.

See what I mean? A whole other family could live in the el.

This is a different house, with an elegant el.

An el on a house from 1863 with a deck...

Did they really paint their houses powder blue in 1851, when this one was built?

With robin's egg blue trim?

This is the door to the el. 

This isn't a picture of an el, it's of a tree whose buds are sporting a layer of snow.

Here we are with el's again.

What a handsome house!

It was built in 1854 by Grover King, then owned by Captain William Morgan.

Here's one more el, this one with a porch downstairs.  This is just a tiny sampling of all the great houses in Mystic.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

My House in Spring

American Dreams: a Cottage in Spring

By Norma Jaeger Hopcraft

By the grace of God, I have a cute house. Here's what we have to look forward to in spring.

The rose bush is bug- and disease-resistant. From White Flower Farms catalog.

Daisies, day lilies, coreopsis, and red crocosmia.

Japanese iris and chives.

Echinacea and a pollinator.

You can't have too many roses in June.

The view from my backyard hammock, sheltered from neighbors'  view by my garage.

Taking a step away from my house, this is the parking lot of my church in NJ. Go, forsythia!

Never forget to enjoy coffee, even on the warm spring mornings we will enjoy in the near future.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Mystic Library

Sea Captain's American Dream

By Norma Jaeger Hopcraft

The Mystic & Noank Library is amazing. Commissioned in 1891 by Captain Elihu Spicer (he went to sea at the age of 9, became a ship's captain at age 22, and became a philanthropist who never saw his library completed), it's fabulous to be in.

Can you imagine sending your 9-year-old boy to the harsh environment of sailors, ships, and the sea, as so many mothers in days gone by have done? Yet it seems to have done a lot for Captain Spicer!

There's Oriental rugs on the wood floor, a wooden cathedral ceiling upstairs, and many of the racks are carved and beaded wood.  It's quiet, it's got people, it's got magazines, and best of all it's got books!

The roofline.

The side entrance, protected by wrought iron.

The main entrance (on the side of the building).

An historic Baptist church just down the hill.

The window in the nook that I like to work in.

Lucky nearby house.

Detail of the bay window.

Details under the eaves and above the windows.

How about you? Ever wish you'd been sent to sea at age 9? Comment below!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

American Dreams of (Too Much?) Prosperity

Great Architecture in Madison, NJ - II

By Norma Jaeger Hopcraft

The Dodges (i.e., Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge, of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation) had their estate in Madison, NJ, the town I haunted for five years as a reporter for a local weekly. They built the Hartley Dodge Memorial Building (town hall) as a memorial to their son after he was killed in a car accident. I imagine he was quite the too-rich, spoiled rake, and I don't miss him. But his mother did.

I sat through many meetings, on hard-bottomed chairs, within these hallowed halls. I always hoped that, as a reporter watching their proceedings, I helped to protect American freedoms by keeping public officials honest.

Today, newspapers' staffs are so diminished, many of these meetings no longer get covered. Buy a newspaper today and help support the American Way.

Hartley Dodge Memorial.

The Madison train station. Financiers from New York City (25 miles due east) built summer mansions in Madison and funded a rail station that befit their station :-)

Another example of successful 19th century commercial architecture in downtown.

Look at this brick work! Does anybody know how to do this anymore?

BTW, it was Shakespeare's 450th birthday yesterday, on April 23. To celebrate, why not pick up on a few of his best lines, to be used as needed:

Thursday, March 6, 2014

East Millstone Winter Sunset

American Dreams of a Country Sort of Town

By Norma Jaeger Hopcraft

Sorry for spotty publishing lately -- my mother was ill, and this week she passed away. I've been so busy taking care of her, and now with funeral arrangements, that my attention to this blog has not been total.

The following pics were taken in East Millstone, NJ, this winter. 

A church not far from the Delaware and Raritan Canal. East Millstone was the Saturday night stop, so there's five churches in a little town comprised of just six or seven short streets of houses.

Looks like a fire among the trees.

This is the historic home of people who own the best restaurant in New Brunswick, NJ, not far from here.

This place has a strange, deserted feel, and the few windows are very high up in the walls, too high up for people to see out of. But someone lives here. My sister says it's been converted into a home. I heard classical music playing through the doors.

Someone worked hard to put all this out on the lawn and light it all up.


A warm, inviting home with Christmas tree lit up in the living room.