This was an unexpected blog post but a few days ago was the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. The Transcontinental Railroad was officially completed at Promontory Point, Utah on May 10, 1869 and it connected the county by rail.
A number of years ago, when I was still working part-time at the Potsdam Public Museum, I created a very simple mini-exhibit on the Transcontinental Railroad. The exhibit showed via railroad maps how, with the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, it was possible to get from Potsdam, NY to the West. The mini-exhibit was super mini and I don’t think that many people got to see but hey, this is a different platform and I’m sure someone will be interested in cross-country travel in 1869.
Along those lines, last weekend, I attended a cool tour at the Old City Cemetery in Sacramento, which gave a walking tour related to the Transcontinental Railroad. While few of the key players are actually buried in Sacramento there are a lot of connections to the city.
During the tour, I learned about some of the well-known names involved in the creation of the Transcontinental Railroad. For example, Theodore Judah, who was the brains and architect of the TC railroad; the idea was to get a railroad through and over the Sierra Nevada. He was originally born in Connecticut but lived in Troy, NY with his family for a number of years. On May 10, 1847 he married Anne Pierce. Sadly, though he died before construction began though but not before giving his wife enough information to make sure financing was secured for the railroad. Two of the volunteers with the cemetery acted the parts of Theodore and Anne. They did a pretty good job and the most interesting parts were about Anna to be honest. She apparently did a number of sketches while traveling to California. In additional the other interesting tidbit about them was that the completion of the railroad occurred on what would have been their 22nd wedding anniversary if Theodore hadn’t passed away. Neither are buried in Sacramento but instead in Greenfield, Massachusetts.
Another group of people connected to the railroad, were the Big Four. They were all business, philanthropists, and railroad tycoons who pooled their resources to create the Central Pacific Railroad, which would be the western portion of the Transcontinental Railroad. In addition they became even more wealthy from their involvement in the railroad and there was a lot of shady business that happened. The Big Four were:
Leland Stanford, born in Watervliet (now Colonie), NY. He was originally a lawyer but moved into business before moving to California.
Collins Potter Huntington, originally from Connecticut but settled first in Oneonta, NY where he established a successful business before moving to Sacramento, CA
Mark Hopkins, originally from Henderson, NY (located in Jefferson County). He is buried in the Sacramento Historic Cemetery.
Charles Crocker, he was originally from Troy, NY. He’s part of the same Crocker Family that established the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento.
As you can see, there’s also a lot of connections to New York, which is super interesting! I have also realized, while on the cemetery tour I didn’t take any photos of any of the stopping points on the tour except from the Crocker Family Plot. Charles Crocker isn’t buried here but his brother, Edwin, is buried here. Edwin was also involved in the Central Pacific Railroad and served as the businesses’ legal council.
The following images are all from maps that are available online and there is bibliographic information for each as well as the website to view the map in whole; all links are still active. The maps show the journey westward leaving from Potsdam, NY and arriving in California via multiple railroad lines across the United States. The portions of the following maps come from larger maps created around 1869, when the transcontinental railroad was completed at Promontory Point, Utah on May 10, 1869. Sadly, when I moved to Sacramento, CA from Brasher Falls, NY I did not travel by train. I took a plane from Massena, NY to Boston, MA, where I switched airlines and then flew non-stop to Sacramento, CA.
It’s been a while since we’ve talked about some architectural jargon, so that’s what we’re doing this morning!
So, balusters…. balustrades…. you’ve seen them, you’ve heard of them but really, what are they? Could you actually define them? Everything you’re about to read, will be on the test later. So pay attention!
A balustrade as defined by my handy-dandy “Guide to Vermont Architecture” says this:
“A row of vertical balusters or other elements topped by a handrail and used to edge stairways, porches, balconies, and roof lines.”[i]
It just so happens that a “baluster,” is one of number of terms that can be used to name a turned or rectangular upright support seen in the balustrade. Other names you may see include: “banister,” “column,’ “spindle,” or even “stair stick.”[iii] Personally, “stair stick” is my new favorite and will be the technical term I use going forth in any official building description I write ever again. That’s a joke, I’m like 90% sure no State Historic Preservation Office would be pleases to see balusters called “stair sticks.” The term, “baluster,” can also be used to described a type of metal candle stick, an upright furniture support, or event the stem of a brass chandelier.[iv]
Balusters and balustrades can be seen in a number of different forms and materials including wood, stone, metal, and plastic. In the history of baluster development, cast-stone balusters were first developed in Great Britain during the 18th century. While cast iron ones didn’t make an appearance until the 1840’s.[v]
The term, “baluster,” didn’t really come into use until the 17th century and originates from the Italian word, balaustro or balaustra, which in turn comes from the Latin word, balaustium. All of these words by the way means, “flower of the wild pomegranate.”[vi] We’ll come back to that interesting word in a moment.
Even though the word “baluster” and “balustrade” wasn’t in use until the 1600’s, the architectural element makes its first appearance in ancient Assyrian sculptural murals, also called “bas-reliefs,” which date all back to the 13th-7th century BC. In the murals, balusters and balustrades can be seen in palaces lining windows. This helps hone in on the function of a balustrade other than potentially being a decorative architectural feature, it helps reduce the possibility of a person falling. While balustrades make an appearance in ancient Assyrian art, we’re not sure exactly if there was a specific word used for the building element. Another interesting thing is that balusters and balustrades do not appear in ancient Greek or Roman ruins or art. The Romans did use a type of lattice structure though, crisscrossed panels called, transennae or clathii that could be constructed of wood, bronze, or even marble.[vii]
Balusters and balustrades as we know them did not reappear in the “modern” era until the Renaissance in Italy- not surprising because of the Italian origin of the word. The first known or maybe surviving first use of the balustrade in architecture is on the Pitti Palace in Florence constructed c. 1448. Another important, early example of the balustrade can be seen on the Drum of the Tempietti, which was designed by Donato Bramanti c. 1502. The Drum is at the Monastery of San Pietro in Montorio, which brings us back to the Italian and Latin root of “baluster.” Both origin words of “baluster” means the “blossoming flower of the pomegranate.” Most likely when you think of a single baluster, you think of a vase shaped mini column, which is actually what the blossoming pomegranate flower looks like! Some more trivia about balusters to impress your friends with include that the narrow section of the vase shape is known as the “sleeve,” while the wide section is called the “belly.” The balusters at the Drum of the Tempietti consist of two vase shapes connected at the “belly” end, which kind of looks like a candlestick and was probably inspired by Roman candlesticks. This type of baluster design is sometimes called the “double” baluster.[viii]
Last little tidbit on balusters and balustrades is that they can be found on staircases or porches, as well as along roof tops or roof lines, in a variety of different architectural styles including: Neoclassical, Colonial Revival, Federal, Georgian Revival, Beaux Arts, and Italian Renaissance Revival.
See below for a bunch of examples of balusters and balustrades I’ve photographed throughout the years!
Add a comment if you have any questions or thoughts about balusters and balustrades!
Thanks for reading!
[i] Curtis B. Johnson, editor and Elsa Gilbertson, Principal Author, The Historical Architecture of Vermont: Guide to Vermont Architecture (The Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, 1996) 24.
This post has been in the making for at least the past month or at least once I learned that Azure Mountain’s Fire Tower celebrated its centennial on July 29, 2018. This post is a little more personal than usual because I grew up hiking Azure Mountain yearly and also because the fire tower on Azure was constructed with the intent of being part of the fire detection network New York State created in the early 20th century. It oddly has some relevance given the fact that the state of California, where I currently reside, has had a hard recently with wildfires throughout the state.
Azure Mountain is located in the township of Waverly in Franklin County and is one of the mountains located in the Adirondacks in New York State. The mountain to though, is not one of the 46 mountains that make up the Adirondack High Peaks. The Adirondack High Peaks were all originally thought to be mountains that were all over 4,000 feet. Today it has been determined that four of the mountain peaks do not actually hit 4,000 feet. Azure Mountain in comparisons is only 2,518 feet tall, so it’s far off from being a high peak. But even though it’s not one of the coveted mountains of the Adirondacks, I still think it is the prettiest. I could be biased though because I’ve been up the mountain so many times.
While the view from the summit never changes, every new trek adds to my memories of Azure Mountain. The following is a collection of photographs showing the same view from Azure Mountain’s summit just during different times of the year!
View of three neighboring peaks near Azure Mountain; view during the summer; taken 2014.
Another view of the surrounding Adirondacks from the summit of Azure during the summer.
Views from the summit during the summer of 2015.
Those same three summits seen from Azure during the summer of 2015.
I have a thing for these nearby mountains I’ve realized; view from winter 2013.
This is considered a “glacier erratic,” which is basically a fancy term for debris that was left during the last ice age when the ice retreated some 10-12,000 years ago.
I can’t remember how old I was the first time I hiked Azure Mountain (most likely around 3rd grade) but I know my Dad dragged my brother and I up the mountain not too long after we moved to Northern New York from Osceola, NY. We would typically make our annual trek up the mountain in the fall when the Adirondacks are in full color and the mountain top blueberries are ripe enough to eat. Some falls we could determine- based on how many blueberries were left on the summit- that we had beaten the local boy scout troops up the mountain for their annual hike to the summit. On one fall hike, we convinced my mom to join us, another time we brought along some of my cousins Kyle and Derek- Kyle almost killed himself by running down the mountain, and then there was another fall trip up the mountain that I took with the modified and varsity girls soccer teams that we did in lieu of practice on the field.
When I graduated from high school in 2008, I received a scholarship from the Friends of Azure Mountain. In return for the scholarship, I had to be a Fire Observation Tower “interpreter” on the summit five different days during the summer. Being an “interpreter,” meant hanging out around the fire tower and welcoming visitors to the mountain’s summit, as well as answering any questions that they may have had about the mountain, the Adirondacks, or the fire tower. There were also other things to do other than answer questions, such as documenting the conditions of the trail, picking up any litter seen in the parking lot or on the trail, and even moving stones around the summit to help slow erosion. Was I good at being an interpreter? No, it’s because I was super nervous talking with strangers but I did hang around the tower to be there is people had questions. But I was super good at documenting trail conditions and moving rocks around to areas that needed erosion prevention. I did this adventure five times during the summer of 2008 and I dragged my brother with me every time. Two years later, my brother repaid me by also receiving the same scholarship and dragged me up the mountain a number of times during the summer of 2010. Every time there was a hike, it would be a race to see who could get to the summit first. I think Cody often beat me but there were a few times I made it first.
As you can imagine, I’ve been up the mountain many times, so many that I can visualize most of the winding trail from the parking lot to the summit. The trail starts from the parking lot, which is gravel and located in a stand of coniferous trees. There’s also a sketch outhouse in “front” of the parking in between the trees. At the end of the parking lot headed in the direction of the trail head there is a pile of stones, which super dedicated hikes can pick from and transport rocks to mountain summit. There is a pile at the end of the trail at the summit where the stones can be dropped off at. The stones are used by volunteers to help slow erosion on both the summit and along the trail. There is like a type of warm-up trail that goes from the parking lot to the actual base of the mountain, which is actually an old jeep trail. This trail stays mostly level for its duration and goes through a swampy/marsh area where you can see frogs and then goes into a heavily wooded area. Eventually, you’ll come to a mini wooden sign-in “station,” which is a common sight on trails in the Adirondacks.
The old jeep trail ends in a small clearing where the site of the former fire tower observer’s cabin was once located. The cabin is long gone but there still exists the ruins of a stone fire place indicating that there was once more to the clearing than meets the eye. The cabin went through three different incarnations, the original structure was constructed in 1914, with later reconstructions occurring in 1919 and then in 1936. The cabin would have last been used in an official capacity 1978, the same year the tower was last used to detect fires. Over the years, the cabin fell into disrepair much like the fire tower but wasn’t as lucky- it was officially removed in 1995.[i]
The hike continues through a forested area on a natural dirt path with some sections slightly altered by volunteers through the addition of stones or logs to help keep the trail intact from erosion. Along the first half of the hike, I have my favorite rocks and trees I like to stop at to catch my breathe. The so called “halfway” mark of the hike is at a rocky outcrop that’s on the right-hand side of the trail as you climb upwards. You won’t miss it. My brother calls it the, “caves.” There are some good rocks to sit on and the cave can be explored to some extent. I don’t think there’s any real caves though, it’s just the way the rock formation has shifted and eroded over the years, which gives the idea of there being caverns.
While it is a great place to stop, eat a quick snack, take a water break, and seems like a “halfway” point of the hike, it’s all a lie. You’re not really half way up the mountain- trust me. I consider the real halfway point to be slightly further up the trail at a ledge with a great view of the surrounding mountains and forest.
From that point onward, it’s an even more vertical climb up Azure, kind of like stairs. Eventually, the trail curves to the left and that’s when you know you’re almost at the summit because you can start to see specks of light through the tree canopy. The last 100-200-foot climb is steep but you just have to do it because the summit is close. The trail evens out at the very end through some underbrush and you walk out below the fire tower. To the right of the end of the trail there is a pile of stones where you can drop any stones you carried up the mountain.
Which brings me to Azure Mountain’s claim to fame, which is its historic fire observation tower that at one time was part of New York State’s main line of defense against forest fires in the Adirondacks. Before the current fire tower was constructed, there was a fire observation station constructed of wood up on Azure Mountain in 1914. That’s also the same year that the mountain’s name was changed from “Blue” to “Azure.”[ii]
The construction of the fire observation station at Azure followed a common trend in the Adirondack Preserve in the early 20th century- the construction of a number of observation stations on mountain peaks to help combat devastating fires. For example, in 1903 a fire in the Adirondack Forest destroyed 428,180 acres between April 20 to June 8, and only ended because of heavy rains. While in 1908, another fire caused by railroads burned an estimated 368,000 acres of the Adirondacks. In both instances, New York City experiences falling ash and smoke from the Upstate fires. In response, by 1909, a fire detection system was put in place and by 1910, 20 fire observation stations had been built.[iii]
The early fire stations were typically constructed of wood but as anyone can guess, wood doesn’t always stand up well to mountain top weather, lightening, or wind. Many of the early structures didn’t fair well and by 1916, the State had started to replace the wooden stations with steel structures and by 1918, there were a total of 52 steel towers in the State. Also, in 1918 the present galvanized steel tower was constructed on Azure Mountain- materials were transported up the mountain using horses most likely.[iv] Now the exciting thing is that the fire tower is a specific model. The steel frame was manufactured by the AerMotor Company of Chicago and they actually specialized in wind mills. The cool thing is that their wind mill structures could be easily adapted into a fire tower station, instead of the windmill on top, a cabin could replace it. Azure Mountain’s fire tower is the AerMotor Model No. LS-40, which is considered the “heavy construction type.” These models used heavier steel for the tower legs and angled “X” braces, as well as integrated stairs, with a square steel and glass cabin with a hip roof. Because Azure’s tower has five flights of stairs that means it’s 35 feet tall.[v]
A quick search through historic newspapers from 1900 to 1980, found the first mention of Azure in a news article titled, “Commission Designates Game and Forest Protections,” in the Chateauguay Record and Franklin County Democrat on September 11, 1914 where it was reported that, “Harlow Wheeler, formerly forest ranger as observer at the new mountain station on Azure Mountain.”[vi] Now this is interesting information because most sources record that Fred N. Smith was the very first fire observer at Azure Mountain and may have even helped build the original wooden observation station.
An article in the Adirondack News entitled, “Forest Rangers and Mtn. Observers,” reported that Fred Smith was designated Azure Mountain’s observer. The article stated that:
“State conservation commissioner George D. Pratt has announced the appointment of his assistants in the conservation department, including the forest rangers and mountain observers, whose duty it will be to guard the forests of the state throughout the great extent of Adirondack territory from fire also from trespassers.”[vii]
It seems that yearly announcements were made in the local Northern New York newspapers on who had been appointed forest rangers and mountain observers starting in 1914 until the late 1970’s. For example, an April 8, 1948 article reported that Earl Johnson was that year’s Azure Mountain fire tower observer. That year mountain fire observers went back to duty starting April 1 and that a number of observers would be assigned once the weather demanded it. Between Clinton, Essex, and Franklin counties there were a total of 18 mountain stations.[viii]
The Azure Mountain Fire Observation Tower was used as part of the fire detection system in New York for 60 years. The last fire tower observer was Mike Richards, who closed the tower for the season in 1978, the DEC removed the lower sets of stairs to prevent people from climbing up. The use of the towers to detect fires had been slowly replaced with aerial detection flights making the historic observation towers obsolete.
In 2001, the State began to move forward with plans to demolish the fire tower, which was in poor condition to say the least. In response, a group of concerned citizens and organizations like Adirondack Architectural Heritage quickly came together with the purpose of saving the Azure Mountain Fire Observation Tower by working with the DEC. The DEC gave those concerned with saving the tower, the opportunity to form an official group who would be involved in the maintenance efforts of the tower for long term. The group that formed was the Friends of Azure Mountain and was created largely in part to the efforts of Carolyn Kaczka and Michael McLean.[ix]
In the same year, as part of the effort to save the Azure Mountain Fire Observation Tower, it was listed on both the State and National Register of Historic Places as part of a multiple property nomination, Fire Observation Stations of the NYS Forest Preserve. Other fire towers included in the nomination consist of the towers on Arab, Blue, Hadley, Kane, Snowy, and Poke-O-Moonshine Mountains. Azure Mountain is listed under Criteria A and C because of its historic significance to NY State’s forest preserve (Criteria A) and because architecturally it is a good representative of early 20th century fire towers (Criteria C).[x]
By 2002, the involvement of a number of forest rangers helped the cause. Jeff Balerno was able to coordinate seven helicopter flights to Azure’s summit to drop off needed construction materials that would be used in restoring the tower. During the 2002 summer, a collection of people including forest rangers, Americorp volunteers, members of the Friends of Azure Mountain and volunteers worked to replace damaged and rotted wood, hardware, repainted metal, etc. basically everything you see today on the tower was done during the 2002 restoration. Eventually, a DEC structural engineer inspected the newly restored Azure Mountain Fire Observation Tower and on September 27, 2003, the tower was once again open and could be used by the public![xi]
The interesting thing is that Carolyn Kaczka trained me on how to be a fire observation tower interpreter for my internship/scholarship in 2008. ON the first day that I was the interpreter for the summer. I don’t think I saw again for a very long time. After moving back home from graduating UVM, I did occasion consultant jobs, one of which was conducting a free walking tour of downtown Potsdam, NY, which is known for its Red Sandstone buildings. I did this as part of Adirondack Architectural Heritage’s yearly tour offerings in May 2016. At the end of the tour, this woman came up to me and re-introduced herself as Carolyn and that she had enjoyed the tour! I can’t remember how the full conversation went but I do remember telling her that after graduating from SUNY Potsdam, I went on to grad school for historic preservation and was doing the occasional odd consultant job. It was a wonderful surprise to see her again and, in a way, see how somethings in life are connected. I’m not sure if being having a scholarship/internship with the Friends of Azure Mountain is what exactly got me into historic preservation but maybe subconsciously, it was there the entire time when I was making decisions about grad school.
On that note, Friends of Azure Mountain is always looking for volunteers, as is most non-profit organizations. If you live in the area of Azure or any historic fire tower for that matter, and enjoy hiking and helping preserve history and trails for others to use…. I suggest volunteering or at least contacting them to see in what ways you can help.
I have some big news to share on the blog, today I’m not going to focus on a recent history adventure but instead giving an update on both my blog and life.
If you’ve been following me around recently, you will know that I’ve been temporarily living in California on deployment with FEMA since June 2017. As a reservist with FEMA you’re basically called to go to work in the wake of a disaster. So I originally came to California last June during the response efforts for state wide flooding. Since I’ve been here, California has had other disasters such as a number of large devastating fires in both the north and south of the state, and even mud slides. It’s been a learning experience since this was my first deployment with FEMA and my first excursion on the West Coast. Since I’ve been here I’ve seen a lot of awesome things when I’ve had time to travel.
Well late last year some permanent positions with FEMA’s Region IX office opened up and I applied to see what would happen. Long story short, I was hired for a position in Sacramento, so I’ve officially become a resident of sunny California!
I’ve been back in California permanently since May 2018 and it has been a lot take in for the time being since my entire life has been spent on the East Coast and that’s where all of my immediate family and closest friends reside. But at the same time it has been exciting because its all so new- living on the West Coast, and having a full time job doing what I like to do and went to school for.
When I first graduated from UVM (University of Vermont) in December of 2013, when I was 23, I barely had any idea of what the hell I was going to do or how I was going to get a job “doing” historic preservation. I had been involved in a volunteer preservation group created from a class project and was trying to get more involved in Preservation Burlington but it wasn’t enough to get good enough experience to get a job in the field. When I finally moved home about a year later, I was super broke and honestly pissed. I assume a lot of people know that feeling of both anxiety and anger of not being able to get a job doing what you love to do or even makes you happy. When I moved home, I volunteered at the local museum, which I had experience working at before but it didn’t seem like that would help achieve the experience I wanted.
The biggest step in the right direction that I directly link to where I am today, is the Director of the Potsdam Planning Department looking at my resume and suggesting to the Village of Potsdam’s Board of Directors that they should hire me to write a National Register nomination for the Potsdam CivicCenter. I got the consulting job by actually creating a proposal for the job and I remember emailing my former UVM professors, Bob and Tom, to ask questions on how to write a proposal and more importantly how to create a cost estimate for my work. Trying to “guess-ti-mate” how much you’re worth isn’t easy or fun and one too many times I’ve been told I’m selling myself short. On that note, if you’re trying to work as a historic preservation consultant, please feel free to reach out to me if you have questions. I might not have all of the answers but I can at least listen and give suggestions from my own experiences!
The consultant jobs I’ve had since that first National Register nomination, while few and far between, are all part of the reason I was hired by FEMA to begin with. But I would also say that maintaining this history-preservation-adventure blog has created “work” for myself and has served a number of purposes. It’s not only been an outlet for showcasing by mad researcher skillz and mediocre writing abilities but also has allowed me to educate the public on historic preservation things. If I remember correctly, in my original interview with FEMA I referenced this blog and the work I put into researching and writing posts for non-preservationists to read and learn about the history and preservation around them.
So, as a quick aside- A Big Thank You to everyone who’s ever read a post, liked a post, shared a post, or even commented on a post. Thank you so much! I honestly hope you enjoy reading my quirky posts and that maybe for other young preservationists out there, you get inspired to start your own blog or create your own “work” to gain the experience you need in preservation. And if you’re super interested in working with FEMA, FEMA’s Environmental and Historic Preservation cadre is always hiring- maybe you’ll find your calling with FEMA too! This is in no way, shape, or form sponsored by FEMA. I just know being hired as a historic preservation specialist reservist, was super exciting and my first “real” job as a historic preservationist, that wasn’t a consulting job.
So what does this big change mean for the blog, since it was started as a Northern New York history adventure blog. Well it means that more of my posts will be West Coast-centric but I still have a lot of posts on Northern New York topics that I want to write about and share with people. I think my “What Is This Jargon!?!” series will be a great way to showcase both architectural jargon and related photographs from both sides of the county. I also think there’s a lot to obviously share from here in California since the architecture and history out here is very different from Northern New York and even the East Coast in general, which is all stuff that you might not be familiar with.
So as not to let this be a post with just a bunch of words, here’s some photographs for planned upcoming posts on both West Coast and East Coast topics:
Ruins of the fireplace from the former observer’s cabin.
This post took me a little longer than expected to finish up because I have a ton of photographs for Fort Ross. I hope you enjoy them all!
The main route from Point Reyes to Fort Ross is Route 1, which winds dangerously along the coast. Some “shoulders” of the roadway are literally the coastline with the Pacific Ocean with its waves crashing below the cliffs. There are many spots and turn-offs along the road to stop and take photographs, as you can imagine.
Google Maps oddly enough, directed me off of Route 1 and into the mountains and cow pastures along the coast. Eventually, I found myself on a single dirt lane road in the middle of the woods in my Kia Soul rental. I assumed immediately that Google Maps was off its rocker and had gotten me lost, which wouldn’t have been the first time. As I was driving along the dirt road, I figured it had to be an old logging road in the woods and since there were no easy ways to turn around, I decided to keep going because there had to be an end to the road. My favorite part of the dirt road detour was when Google Maps announced that I had arrived at my destination. I had in fact, not arrived at my preferred destination of Fort Ross but was still in the woods.
It would seem that Google Maps had chosen a path less traveled by for me to adventure down. The single lane dirt road ends right across the street from the main entrance of Fort Ross; the dirt road is actually a path that goes by the old Russian orchards that are also part of the Fort. On that note, for those also adventuring along Route 1 to Fort Ross….trust me, just stay on Route 1, you’re drive right by Fort Ross. You won’t miss it.
Fort Ross is for the most part a reconstruction that has been beautifully done and is as historically accurate as possible. Even though it is greatly reconstructed, the Fort has a very interesting history and if I was to do a full run through of the land and it’s history, this was would become a book. So instead I’m going to focus on four different aspects of Fort Ross’ history: the Kashaya Tribe, the Russians, the Call Family, and the preservation efforts of the Fort.
Before the Russians began to settle the area that would eventually became Fort Ross, the first people known to live there were the Kashaya- they still live in the region today. The Tribe consider their name to be “People From the Top of the Land,” while the name “Kashaya,” meaning “expert gamblers” was given to them by a neighboring Pomo group. Originally, the Kashaya made the lands surrounding today’s Fort Ross, their home; roughly a range of 30 miles inland from the coast and 30 miles North-South from Gualala River to Duncan’s Point (South of the Russian River). An important village site of Mitini, which was near Fort Ross was important to the Kashaya territory, since it was the site of an assembly house where people would gather for ceremonial and social events.
In comparison to the other California Indians, the Kashaya experiences less acculturation and fewer forced removals to missions and reservations but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. When the Kashaya first encountered the Russians in 1812, the two groups came to an agreement over the use of a parcel of land, which was to become Fort Ross. The agreement was in accordance to a Russian policy that had been created to seek cooperation with local inhabitants that had previously been established in Siberia and Alaska. Fort Ross in a short time became a “tri-cultural community” of Russians, the Kashaya, and Aleut hunters where elements of culture and languages came together. Based on historic Fort records it also seems that the Coast Miwok Indians from Bodega Bay had a presence at the Fort as well.
After the Russians left, obvious changes occurred to the Kashaya’s way of life. Access to their traditional resources areas became more difficult because much of the land had become private property. Luckily, relationships with the Kashaya and new settlers near Fort Ross were better than in other parts of California and the country. By the 1870’s, the Kashaya were living in two villages located on property owned by Charles Haupt, a rancher who had married a Kashaya woman. The property was about 5 miles inland from Stewart’s Point, while a third, smaller village had been established near Stewart’s Point. In 1914, the federal government at the behest of Charles Haupt Jr. started the process to purchase a 40 mile acre tract of land four miles inland from Stewart’s Point, as a permanent location for the Kashaya; the location was not the best given that it is on an exposed ridge with poor soils and little water.
The reservation still exists today but the story doesn’t stop there, in 2015 after five years of fundraising through a group effort including the Kashia Pomo (another spelling of Kashaya), The Trust for Public Lands, Sonoma County, as well as other private foundations and groups were able purchase nearly 700 acres of ancestral lands of the Kashaya along Stewart’s Point. In exchange for the land, the Kashia agreed to build a public bluff-top trail along the coastline. The purchase enlarged their small reservation but about 18 times the size it originally was from the 1914 land purchase by Charles Haupt Jr.
Throughout the 1600’s the Russians had begun to move east across Siberia and the Pacific Ocean into Alaska. They set up posts in the Alaskan frontier and began working with Native Alaskan tribes to hunt for furs. From there, the Russians moved south, eventually pushing into California at the beginning of the 1800’s. In 1812, a team of 25 Russians and 80 Native Alaskans arrived in California with a number of goals, which included: establishing both a fort and a colony to grow crops (like wheat) that could be shipped back to Russian settlements in Alaska; hunt marine animals such as otter because the need was great for furs; and to trade with Spain. Spain’s colonies were located across Southern California and would have been a great opportunity for Russia to expand their holdings through trade. Another way to think about all of that, is that this is 1812, and Russia is entering the colony game really late in comparison to Spain, England, France, and now the newly established United States of America. In comparison the French, English, and Spanish already had established colonies as early as 15th century when Columbus, sailing for Spain, first landed in what is known today as South America. Along those lines throughout the 17th and into the 18th centuries France had a steady claim on the fur trade in North America along the St. Lawrence River.
The Fort the Russians established was named, “Ross” as a play on words and their mother county, since imperial Russia was known as “Rossia.” Their plans of having a successful establishment never fully came to realization- the climate along the coast was not suited for growing the needed crops; from over hunting, the population of otters drastically declined; and the anticipated trading with Spain never occurred. By 1841, the Russian-American Company was looking to sell their holdings and get the hell out of America, which leads us to the Call Family.
Fort Ross, as I’ve mentioned consists of many replica buildings save for a couple of buildings. With that said, the buildings are authentic to Russian construction methods and exhibits within the buildings give an idea of what life would have been like during its Russian era.
Buildings at Fort Ross:
The Rotchev House
The Kuskov House
The Official’s Quarters
The Call Family:
After the Russians sold their Fort and associated land, the property changed hands a number of times and was used primarily for ranches. The family was care about this post, is the Call family who owned a portion of the original property including the Fort. In 1873, George W. Call purchased 2,500 acres and the Fort property with all of its buildings, eventuality he would go on to acquire a total of 7,000 acres and create a business enterprise with components in agriculture, livestock, and shipping. Under his ownership the property became a community center and a shipping port, which included a post office, store, saloon, hotel, wharf, warehouse, and even a school house.
Prior to purchasing the land, George W. Call had made a fortune in Chile and when he moved to the Fort Ross property he brought his wife, Mercedes Leiva, who is consistently called a beautiful Chilean woman and their four young children. When they Calls moved to their new property, they first lived at the Rotchev House. By 1878, there were a total of 8 Call children (five girls and three boys), which made George build a new house.
The Call Family House is still a part of the Fort Ross State Park site and the building is open for docent led tours the first weekend of each month. That was the main reason for when I visited the Fort when I went. The docent led tour was very informative about the Call Family. The coolest thing about the house is that it was is still very much the homestead of the Call Family; the last Call children passed away in 1976 but descendants of George and Mercedes’ children still live in the area. One of the family’s direct descendants was actually at the house the day I went and he was answering questions for visitors. The family still occasionally has reunions at the home from what my docent said. Another fun tidbit that my docent shared was that the Call family were, “pack rats,” meaning they kept everything and for that reason everything on display in the home was originally was owned by the Calls, which makes for a very real interpretation of the family’s home and the family’s life at Fort Ross. The other cool thing about the home is that parts of the Call House were originally parts of the Fort.
Time Line for Preservation Efforts of Fort Ross:
Fort Ross has a long history of historic preservation started in a way by George W. Call himself. During his family’s ownership of the property, the Rotchev House was maintained, first as the home of the Calls and then as the Fort Ross Hotel. At the same time, the Russian Official’s Quarters were renovated to be a saloon. The family also preserved the Chapel and used it for a number of things including a horse barn and for the occasional wedding.
1891- Interest in Fort Ross for its cultural and historical important as a sacred place for Russians, resulted in many pilgrimages to the site. One such pilgrim was Bishop Vladimir, who made a proposal to George Call to buy the Chapel and cemetery to save them from further deterioration. The purchase never happened, but Call did start putting a thought into preserving the site.
1897– Another Bishop from Russia pilgrimaged to the site- Bishop Nikolai who also attempted to obtain the Chapel and cemetery from Call. Again, nothing came from the talks but in September of that year, Call donated lumber to restore the Chapel for the use as a Sunday school.
1902– The California Historical Landmarks League is incorporated.
1903– William Randolph Hearst sponsors a Citizen’s Campaign to raise money to save several historic landmarks, including Fort Ross. The stockage portion of Call’s property is purchased with funds raised.
1906– Fort Ross becomes an official historic site; less than a month later, the San Francisco Earthquake damaged a number of the historic buildings at Fort Ross.
1916- Funding is made available to begin repairing the damaged buildings at Fort Ross. The organization, Native Sons and Native Daughters of the Golden West take special interest in the Chapel and use the area as a place to celebrate the July 4th for a number of years.
1925- The Russian Orthodox Congregation of Holy Trinity Cathedral in San Francisco are invited to a July 4th celebration by the Native Sons and Daughters; the Congregation still continues an annual July 4th pilgrimage to this day.
1928- Fort Ross becomes one of five historical monuments in the new California state parks system.
1936- A group from the San Francisco Russian community begin the initiative group for the memorialization of Fort Ross and begin publishing articles in Russian newspapers about the property’s history. The new year, the group creates the Russian Historical Society in America.
1945- The Society locates the lost bell of Fort Ross- it was at the Petaluma Adobe. The Society, along with the Native Sons and Daughters bring the bell back to the chapel in a special Labor Day celebration.
1961- Fort Ross is designated a National Historic Landmark.
1962- Fort Ross becomes a State Historic Park after the State purchases 353 acres from the Call Family.
1966- Fort Ross is nominated to the National Register of Historic Places.
1970- The Rotchev House is nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. That same year, fire destroys the Chapel and the historic bell, less than a year later an arsonist sets fire to the Rotchev House, which luckily only burned the roof and attic.
1972- A new water supply system is built and plans are carried out to reroute Highway 1 (it had originally divided the stockage of the Fort). Federal money is available to restore the sites in the state. Various organizations come together to get funding for the “Restore Fort Ross Fund.” Key groups include the local Sea Ranch residents and several Russian-American groups. That same year, state parks director, William Penn Mott Jr. develops the first Citizens Advisory Committee for Fort Ross, which includes local residents, Russian Americans, and the Kashaya Pomo.
1976- The last of George and Mercedes Call’s children pass away.
1985- Ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Fort Ross Visitors Center
1990- The Citizens Advisory Committee is dissolved. The Fort Ross Interpretive Association continues the work the Committee had started.
2010- Fort Ross almost closes because of the state budget crises. Viktor Vekselberg, president of the Russian business group, Renova Group, meets with then Governor Arnold Schwarzengger to discuss plans to keep the Fort open, and creates the Renova Fort Ross Foundation to help with funding.
2012- Fort Ross celebrates its bicentennial!
This is all a very small snippet of the history of Fort Ross. There’s a lot more I could have went into detail on such as the Native Alaskans who came here with the Russians of the other ranchers who owned the Fort Ross property after the Russians sold the land. Visiting Fort Ross was super exciting and there wasn’t a lot of people there when I visited, so it was nice to be in the building by myself for the most part.
There’s a lot more to learn about, so please check out some of the resources listed below for more information on this really amazing place.
As always thank you for reading!
Further Information and Resources:
Most of my information on Fort Ross comes from the following book I purchased during my visit:
Kalani, Lyn, Lynn Rudy, and John Sperry, ed. Fort Ross. Fort Ross Interpretive Association, 1998.
Sections that were relevant to my post include:
Parrish, Otis, “The First People,”pgs. 6-7.
Watrous, Stephen, “Fort Ross: The Russian Colony in California,” pg. 11.
“The Ranchers,” pgs.24-25
Sakovich, Maria, “Partners in Preservation,” pgs. 27-28.
“The Fort: Structural History and Reconstruction,” pgs. 29-38.
I meant to get this post out sooner than what I did. Work had been much busier than expected since returning to California in January. So free time after work was limited but I still have been going to the Sunday “Shut Up and Write” sessions. For the time being though I’m currently on a much needed vacation home in Northern New York. So while I’m home, I hope to catch up on a number of posts I’ve written but haven’t yet shared on the blog.
Anyways, the next part of my adventure along California’s coast was in Point Reyes National Seashore where I stayed at a hostel located within the National Park and hiked a couple of shorter trails: the San Andres Fault Loop and part of the Coastal Trail.
The Point Reyes National Seashore was established in 1962 by Congress and is located on the Point Reyes Peninsula. The Peninsula is separated from mainland California by a linear valley, which happens to be on the San Andres Fault. The Fault is where the Pacific and North American Continental Plates meet; geology talk time- this means that the Pacific Plate is slowly sliding underneath the North American Continental Plate and when things don’t go smoothly with this geological process, earthquakes happen. Today about 1/3 of the National Seashore is a protected wilderness, while another third is preserved as a pastoral zone for dairy and beef farms that date back to the 1880’s. The National Seashore also offers numerous outdoor activities and places to see for visitors; there’s roughly 150 miles of trails within the boundaries of the Seashore.
The drive from Sacramento to Point Reyes is roughly two hours. Inverness, which is the place I wrote about in the last post, is about a 15 minute drive from the National Seashore’s main entrance….longer if you’re planning on driving deeper in the Seashore. The car ride is very simple. The route goes through Point Reyes Station- a quaint looking town but I didn’t stop. I drove to the Point Reyes Visitor Center to get a map and to buy some souvenirs. I did walk on a short trail located near the visitor center: the San Andres Fault Loop (roughly 0.6 miles long). The trail is along a mostly even terrain that winds through a field and a forested area, which must be a popular hangout for the local deer population.
Along the trail there are a number of signs giving both geological history of the region and the history of the Great 1906 Earthquake. By the way, it seems any time I go to something related in anyway to history here in California there’s always some connection to the 1906 Earthquake or the Gold Rush….there always is a connection….no matter what.
Within the National Seashore, I stayed at the Point Reyes Hostel located in the heart of the Seashore. It’s very secluded yet homey with a large kitchen, porch area and a cozy living room. The hostel is at the site of the historic ranch, Rancho de Laguna, which was established at the current site in 1866. Eventually, the ranch buildings were purchased by the Park Service in 1971 and instead of demolishing the buildings, they were renovated and the hostel was opened up in 1972.
The ladies eight bed dormitory was spacious, as was the shared bathroom within the main hostel house. There’s also a number of newer looking buildings that are apparently more dorm rooms for larger groups aiming to stay within the Seashore. When I’m traveling around I like to stay at hostels because it’s way cheaper and it gives the opportunity to meet cool people. While at the Point Reyes Hostel I didn’t really talk to anyone like I had at previous hostel stays in San Francisco and San Luis Obispo. Since the Point Reyes Hostel is secluded and in a forest, there is no Wi-fi and there’s definitely no cell service. I was able to get one bar at the end of the road on both of my cellphones (work phone is AT&T and my personal cell is Straight Talk in case you’re interested). I spent the night at the hostel writing…you guessed it…blog posts and reading on my tablet, A Company of Liars by Karen Maitland is what I had been reading at the time. Side note- it’s a very interesting book but literally the last chapter isn’t the best. I looked up the book after finishing to see if others were as annoyed as I was and it seems like the general consensus was that the ending isn’t the best. So readers beware.
In the morning, I decided to hike the Coastal Trail, which the trail head is just down the road from the hostel. The morning was colder than I expected- probably in the 40’s. I didn’t see a lot of wildlife on the trail other than groups of partridges. On that note, I’ve never seen groups of partridges- they’re funny little posse and they all flap off together when you get too close. Closer towards the coast and the beach, you could hear the crash of the ocean waves.
There were no other people on the trail, which can kind of be unnerving in a large national forest especially since there’s signs telling you to watch out for mountain lions, not to hike alone, and to flee to higher ground in the case of an earthquake/tsunami death combo. On another side note, what the wrong with California?!?!?!?!?! We don’t have these kind of warnings at the beginning of trail heads in New York. This all just continues to solidify my thoughts that California is a hostel environment….
Now back to the coastal trail….
When I emerged from a marshy area with a lot of tree coverage, there were sloping hills where grazing elk could be seen. Let’s be honest, they probably saw me first and were probably wondering what the hell I was and why I was up so early. I assume I must have been a spectacle for the elk to watch since I was flaying my arms around trying to determine if my phones were going to pick up a signal or not.
The trail curved through the hills without any real incline. To be honest most of the trail seemed to be an even grade without any real noticeable inclines/ downhill sections and then finally the path emerged onto rolling hills towards the beach.
There was, unsurprisingly, no one at the beach. So I was able to hang out on the beach by myself and take lots of photographs. Based on the trail signs, the Coastal Trail continues past the first beach stop to another beach area. Instead of continuing on the trail, I decided to head back to the hostel to get ready to leave for the day to travel the rest of the way to Fort Ross, which would be another 1 ½ drive up the coast.
On the walk back through the woods, I was still keeping an eyes and ears alert for any unusual rustling sounds. Call me a Nervous Nancy but there’s a crazy need to be alert in the California woods especially when most trail head signs warn of tsunamis and mountain lions. It also didn’t help that the local, patrolling, partridge posses are noisy in the wee hours of the morning. So while I was walking along the trail observing my surroundings, minding my own business, I looked down the trail and saw that it was clear, I looked down at my feet and then I looked back up and saw some four-legged canine creature ahead of me on the trail.
Well let me tell you. I freaked out. I think it was a coyote.
It looked at me.
I looked at it.
I mentally freaked out.
It remained calm.
I yelled a little to scare it off.
It stayed on the trail staring at me- probably wondering what the hell was happening.
Actually, wait. It was probably judging me for hiking alone on the trail in the early hours of the morning. Obviously that’s what it was doing- judging the lone human in the woods.
I decided my best move in our standoff was to walk towards the coyote while making some obnoxious noises. It must have been my menacing look and walk that caused the coyote to saunter off the trail….LOL. Who are we kidding, probably not. But at that moment I realized that I probably needed an adult supervising my outdoor adventures, especially in California. For the rest of the walk back to the hostel, I only saw a few cute bunnies and luckily no more sightings of larger mammals.
And that was my adventure in Point Reyes National Seashore.
Thanks for reading! Next up, Fort Ross.
*See below for applications to be a “supervising adult for Courtney’s Adventures.”*
All of the information about Point Reyes came from a pamphlet I picked up at the Point Reyes National Seashore Museum but more information about the National Seashore can be found here:
*Sadly, there’s no actual applications to be a supervising adult in my adventures, I just need to be better prepared for the unexpected. Obviously, my years as a girl scout didn’t prepare me for coyotes in the woods at 8 am. But if you’ve had moments in your own adventures, where you questioned your life choices, please feel free to share!
This week is going to focus on a weekend trip I took out to Marin County to see the central coast area of California, especially around Point Reyes National Seashore and up to Fort Ross, a historical site with a reconstruction of the original Fort that was used by the Russian’s from 1812-1840’s. The main reason for the trip was to see Fort Ross but I also stopped along the way in Inverness and Point Reyes.
While in Point Reyes National Seashore, I visited Inverness, California to get dinner. Inverness is located on the west shore of Tomales Bay and is surrounded by the National Seashore. Fun fact about the town, parts of two John Carpenter’s films, The Fog and The Village of the Damned, were shot in and around the community. I only stopped in the town briefly to get dinner at the Saltwater Oyster House but while there I discovered a place that’s part of the Atlas Obscura atlas, the “Tomales Bay Shipwreck,” also known as the S. S. Point Reyes, which is an apparent nod to the S. S. Minnow from Gilligan’s Island. The shipwreck is not really a “shipwreck” but more of a fishing boat that has been grounded in the restored wetlands of Tomales Bay. A previous owner had made plans to restore the boat but these were never acted upon. Instead the boat has become an added tourist attraction and photography spot for the National Seashore and the Giacomini Wetland Restoration Project.
The S. S. Point Reyes is located in the Giacomini Wetlands, right behind the Inverness store. At one point there boat was almost removed because of the restoration work to the native landscape but the photography community rallied around the boat and it has remained in its place. In 2016, the haul of the ship was burned pretty bad by either vandals or photographer’s who screwed up during their photo shoot; a full investigation was never conducted on the fire.
The other cool part of the boat’s location is the Giacomini Wetlands themselves. The Waldo Giacomini Ranch Wetlands Restoration Project, other than being a mouthful, is the attempt of the National Park Service to restore the former dairy ranch back into the tidal wetlands and floodplains the area is meant to be. The project’s roots stem from the 1972 statewide Coastal Act, which places a high value on protecting California’s natural resources. The act was directly related to a failed 1968 plan to extensively develop West Marin. The ranch lands were eventually incorporated into the Boundaries of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, so that the Park Service could purchase the land to do the work. In 2000, the purchase was finally completed and within 7 years the wetlands restoration work done. The project has resulted in 550 acres (roughly 50% of Tomales Bay’s wetlands) to be restored to their native habitat. In comparison though, the 550 acres is the estimated equivalent to just 12% of the total lost coastal wetlands in Central California. The restored wetlands are home to a number of animals including: salmon, seals, bat rays, white pelican, black-bellied plovers, white tailed kits, river otters, raccoon, and even bob cats.
Across the street from the Inverness Store, is the post office and the Saltwater Oyster House, an upscale yet laid back restaurant that’s open for lunch and dinner. I went during their dinner service and was lucky enough to get a seat at the bar during the busy dinner service. My bartender, who happened to be the owner was great and attentive. I went with the Oyster Stew, which was cream based with chunks of oysters, leeks, and brioche croutons. It was very good, not too salty and the leeks went well with the oysters. I know, you’re probably wondering why I didn’t get any raw oysters. It’s because I’ve never had them before and felt a little out of my element trying to order them. But seated at the bar I did get a great view of the man preparing the oysters for those who ordered them. It was hypnotizing to watch him shucking oysters and plate them on a bed of ice. I did order dessert though, the chocolate brownies sundae, to be exact. I was expecting something small and delicate and instead got enough sundae to share! Atop of the very dense brownie was frio gelato and that was covered in a creamy chocolate sauce that also hardened into a shell on the gelato. I just want to let you all know, that I took one for the history adventure team and ate most of the dessert.
I had no regrets.
It was glorious.
I would highly suggest visiting Inverness and especially the Saltwater Oyster Bar to anyone. I definitely plan on visiting the area again and would to go there for food again. It might be fun to go during the lunch services to see how different the menu is and if it is as busy as dinner had been. I would love to go back and explore the small town of Inverness now that I know it was used in a few films. It would be fun to compare scenes to what is there now much like I’ve done with historic postcards in the past.
Watch for my next post on Point Reyes National Seashore and my brief time there!
Since I’ve been in Sacramento, finding time to write blog posts has been difficult, the same goes for meeting new people other than those I work with. So a way I’m kind of working on both small issues, is by joining a Meet Up group that aimed at writing! There’s a lot of Meet Ups in Sacramento for so many different interests- in comparison there are no Meet Up groups in Northern New York and I’d never actually hear of Meet Up until being in California. So for the twoish months I’ve been going to a Sunday meet up for, “Shut Up and Write! Sacramento,” where I’ve been writing and pulling a bunch of posts together. It just then takes me a while to type everything up and edit my photographs before actually posting on my blog.
It’s been nice meeting new people who are passionate about writing and it’s nice to see them weekly and see how their progress on their own projects is coming along. The Meet Up I go to is at Shine, a really cute coffee shop at the corner of E and 14th Street. I usually get the Namaste Latte (a matcha latte with vanilla and honey), it’s super good!.
So this week’s post comes to you via my hour of writing at “Shut Up and Write!” It’s been a while since I’ve done a “What is this Jargon” post and today’s topic is……..Rose Windows.
It’s not really jargon sounding, is it? You probably had your hopes up that it was going to be something crazy like oriel….maybe next time it’ll be something outrageous. Any who. Rose Windows are exciting and they’re pretty and they kind of link back to by previous post about Grace Cathedral, which has two rose windows!
So “Rose Window” is a generic architectural term- see told you! Not jargon! A rose window is a term that can be used to refer to any circular window but typically is thought of as a window found in churches constructed in the Gothic architectural style- much like Grace Cathedral, which is a French Gothic style cathedral in San Francisco. The windows are often stained glass and are usually divided into segments by mullions and tracery.
There we go, some real jargon for ya! It’s like historic preservation inception, jargon within jargon…
Let’s get back on topic. So, where were we. Rose windows can also be referred to as a “wheel window” or even a “Catherine window,” a direct nod to St. Catherine of Alexandria, who was sentenced to be executed via a spiked wheel…fun side note, St. Catherine is a martyr who was most likely made up and possibly was based on death of the Greek female philosopher, Hypatia. Look it up, really interesting stuffs. While rose windows made a splash on the architectural scene by the middle of the 12th century in France, it’s reasonable to assume that the idea of this style of window came from the Roman oculus- a large circular windows-like opening that would allow light and air into a structure. Roman oculus can typically be found on the west facade of a Roman structure. From the Roman oculus, some examples of rose windows can be found in buildings that date to the Romanesque period (10th century).
By the Gothic period in France, rose windows can be found left and right in churches and cathedrals- typically at the west end of the nave (that’s the big central aisle) and at the ends of transepts (wings on the sides of the nave). A common scene depicted in rose windows includes the “Last Judgment,” especially in the west end, while the transepts would often depict “Mary.” Bar tracery in rose windows was officially introduced int the 13th century; that’s the stonework that supports the stained glass.
So obviously, I’ve got some awesome photographs to share of stained glass windows:
Memorial Hall, Harvard University:
These photographs are of Memorial Hall on Harvard University’s campus in Boston. It’s a High Victorian Gothic building (Neo-Gothic is another term) that was designed by William Robert Ware and Henry Van Brunt. The Memorial Hall was constructed to honor Harvard men that had fought for the Union during the Civil War. The stained glass window measures 708 square feet and is called McDonald’s Virtues Window. Further information on Memorial Hall:
This little church is located in Paul Smiths, NY in the Adirondacks. The Episcopal Church was constructed in 1930 and designed by William G. Distin. You can only see a small portion of the rose window in the photographs but if you follow the link you can see interior images of the church: http://townofbrighton.net/sjinthew.htm
Trinity Church in Potsdam, NY is constructed of fantastic Red Potsdam Sandstone. The church was originally constructed in 1835 as a Federal style building with Gothic elements. In 1886, it was enlarged and renovated into the High Victorian Gothic style church it is today; designs were by James P. Johnson. The stained glass window was a gift of Thomas S. Clarkson and was installed in 1886; the window has many Christian symbols with a dove in the center. The church, as is many of the Potsdam Sandstone buildings in St. Lawrence County, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Further information: https://www.northcountrypublicradio.org/news/trinitywindows/trinitywindows.php
Zion Episcopal Church:
This rose window can be seen in the Zion Episcopal Church in Colton, NY. It’s also constructed of Potsdam Sandstone and it’s construction was financed by the Clarkson family in 1883. James P. Johnston also designed this church and it was inspired by the Trinity Church in Potsdam. The rose window is located in the south facade and is 10 feet in diameter. The sections of the window represent the 12 apostles surrounding a dove. The Zion Episcopal Church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Further information: https://coltonepiscopal.wordpress.com/history-of-zion/
This is the former 2nd German Baptist Church in Rochester, NY; the church was constructed in 1890. Today the building is no longer a church but the home of Swill Burger. While one of the rose windows is gone, the other one still exists and helps point to the former history of the building. More information can be found about Swill Burger and the church in a previous post:
Herring-Cole Hall is located on campus of St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY. The current building was constructed in two different installments both of which are of Potsdam Sandstone. The Herring Library was constructed between 1869-1871 and was designed by the firm, Huberty & Hudson. The Cole Reading Room was added between 1901-1902 and was designed by Joseph Smith. The rose window located at the east of the hall was made by the New York firm, J. & R. Lamb and the window is of the college’s seal. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic places. Further information: http://hcap.artstor.org/cgi-bin/library?a=d&d=p1644
Resources and Further Information on Rose Windows:
I’m now back in Sacramento after being home for a couple of weeks on vacation. The flight back was luckily, uneventful and there was only one delay at the tiny Massena, NY airport, which didn’t impact the other flights I had in Albany, NY and Chicago, IL.
This post is going to be focusing on another single building. I’ve been doing a lot of those lately because there’s so many awesome buildings that deserve recognition plus it makes you realize that all old buildings have a great story just waiting to be told. Today’s property is, Grace Cathedral, which is the cathedral church of the Episcopal Diocese of California and the third largest Episcopal Cathedral in the county; I saw the cathedral the last time I was in San Francisco on my own. The reason I’m focusing on this property today is because it’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day and on March 28, 1964 the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave a sermon during the Cathedral’s celebrations for its completion and consecration. I didn’t know that information before I visited the Cathedral; the reason I went to check it out was because it was listed as a cool place to visit at the San Francisco Downtown Hostel that I had stayed at when I was there last.
Grace Cathedral is located on Nob Hill, and it was the last place I was visiting on the Saturday and it was already late in the day- so I had to book it, which is easier said than done since San Francisco is so hilly. The hours of the Cathedral are Sundays 8-7, Thursdays 7-6, and the other days of the week are 8-6. Throughout the week there ares services and many other events going on, so if you’re interested in visiting, I would suggest double checking their website to see whats going on during your visit. For example when I arrived at the Cathedral it was around 4 pm and there were signs up saying they would be closing at 5 pm to set up for a concert later that evening.
Grace Cathedral has its beginnings with the Gold Rush of 1849- the year it was founded. The church was the “daughter” of the historic Grace Church (I assume the one located in Manhattan). The church went through a some location, building, and even name changes during its early history but all of that came to a halt thanks to the Great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, which completed destroyed the church. After the earthquake, the family of railroad baron and banker, William Henry Crocker,** gave their Nob Hill property for a new a cathedral to be constructed on- the Crocker’s mansion had also been destroyed during the earthquake. A cornerstone was laid in 1910 but construction really did not begin for a number of years until 1927. The cathedral was designed by architect, Lewis Hobart, who designed the property in the French Gothic style as a nod to the Crocker family; a major inspiration of the cathedral is Notre Dame located in Paris, France.
During the Great Depression, work on the Cathedral completely stopped and it officially wasn’t “completed” until 1964. The interior vaulting and the cast-stone walls are actually unfinished. Other really cool details of the building is that it’s frame is raw concrete and steel, which is unusual for cathedrals. There is some pre-fabricated cast stone for decorative details and Guastavino acoustic tiles were used for the vaulting. Other architectural features that indicate its a French Gothic style building include the twin towers, the building’s cruciform plan, rose window, and the polygonal apse (I sense a number of new jargon words to explore at a later date).
Another thing to mention before I get into some of the really amazing things of the building is that there are docent led tours of the building throughout the month Since my visit was spur of the moment, I didn’t really have time to plan my visiting during a tour but Grace Cathedral has a fantastic App that can be downloaded on your phone to do self-guided tours, which is what I used when I was there. The App is the reason I learned that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave a sermon there in 1964.
Both the interior and the exterior of the cathedral are beautiful and offer a lot to see. Obviously, I had a very limited window of time to see the cathedral so I wasn’t able to see everything, luckily though a member of the Cathedral’s staff who was there closing parts of the building in preparation of the concert was kind enough to let me into the Chapel of Grace, which is the oldest part of the cathedral.
The gentleman who I think was either a deacon or verger for the cathedral stated talking to me and asking if I had visited the cathedral before. Talking with the staff member, I told him I didn’t know anything about the Cathedral and that it was the first time visiting the building but that the app was really useful for learning about the building, I also told him I didn’t know that Martin Luther King Jr. had spoke here during the Civil Rights Movement. And that’s when the behind-the-scene history adventure happened. The staff member said that he could show me the room that Dr. King prepared and got ready in before his sermon. The room is off the Chapel of Grace and I don’t think is open to the public. The gentleman told me that he believed the room was mostly unchanged since some of the furniture in the room could be seen in historic photographs of Dr. King in the same room. It was also suggested that I go check out the pulpit and that it was okay to step up into it. It was a little too much for me to do, so I didn’t mainly because I was having a lot of feelings, It was kind of like that scene in Wayne’s World when Garth and Wayne meet Alice Cooper and say, “We’re not worthy” or something along those lines. That’s kind of how I felt being told I could go stand in the same pulpit that really amazing people like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. have spoken from. Hopefully that makes sense.
The following are some links from Grace Cathedral’s YouTube page where they have video recordings of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermon:
The following area other art and architectural features of the cathedral that are amazing:
Stained Glass Windows:
There are a ton of murals along the walls of Grace Cathedral. A number of the murals were done by Jan Henryk De Rosen, a Polish painted who lived in exile in the United States after 1939. De Rosen was born in Poland to Jan Rosen and Wanda Hantke. His father was also a painter (Polish historical and genre) who worked at the court of the Russian Czars, Alexander III and Nicholas II. As a child, De Rosen moved to Paris to live with his sisters, Maria and Zofia (a sculptor) and from there enlisted in the French Army during World War 1. After the war he moved back to Poland and studied to be a painter in Warsaw. His painting skills were very much in high demand and he painted murals within many churches and cathedrals across Europe. He came to the United States in 1939 at the request of the Polish ambassador to paint murals at the Polish embassy in Washington DC. With the outbreak of World War 2, he stayed here in the United States where he taught and continued painting.
These doors are replicas of the famed Ghiberti Doors, The Gates of Paradise. The originals were installed at the Baptistry of the Duomo in Florence, Italy. The original doors were designed by Lorenzo Ghiberti and worked on by himself, his son, and the men in his workshop, which took them 27 years to complete. In 1990, the originals were housed in the Duomo Cathedral’s museum and replicas took their on the actual building. So how does Grace Cathedral have a set of replica Italian Renaissance doors who ask?
Way back during WW2, the original doors were removed and hidden. Bruno Bearzi, themaster founder and superintendent of the Florence’s art works, had them in his care where he cleaned them and had molds made with the intention of creating replicas to put in place of the originals and place the originals in a museum. That didn’t happen until 1990. But hearing that the molds and replicas existed, Grace Cathedral architects contacted Bearzi in the late 1950’s. Through the generosity of donors, Grace Cathedral was able to purchase the replicas and they were in place by November 20, 1964. The doors are made entirely of bronze with the sculptured portions finished in gold. Each door is 16 feet high, 4 inches think and 5 feet wide. Biblical events are depicted in the panels of the doors.
So after the wonderful and very short visit I had at the cathedral, I would highly suggest visiting it, if you’re in San Francisco. I know I would really like to visit it again and possibly join a docent led tour since there’s probably a lot I missed. Let me know what you think!
Thanks for reading 🙂
Below are some resources I used, most of the information came from brochures I collected while at Grace Cathedral and the websites helped supplement what the brochures had summarized. There’s also some links to my other blog posts that are linked to this one, like the Crocker Museum and the National Mall, which the Lincoln Memorial is part of. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream Speech” there in 1963.
**William Henry Crocker was the nephew of Edwin B. Crocker of Sacramento whose home is now part of the Crocker Art Museum:
It’s been awhile. I’ve been super busy with work in California and just haven’t had a lot of time to write. I have been able to see quite a few cool places: San Francisco, Hearst Castle, Tahoe National Forest hiking trails, Old Sacramento and a number of Gold Rush towns. I hope to share those awesome adventures on this blog in the near future but in the mean time I thought I’d do a simple post on one building.
A few weekends ago, I drove into downtown Sacramento to get a hair cut (a lob for those concerned) and that resulted in me getting dessert for lunch, exploring a used bookstore, and taking a number of photos of a few cute tiny Victorian houses in the area.
One of the houses I photographed had a “name” or maybe more of a label “label,” called “Winters House.” I figured if the house has a name, it must have a story, and this house does.
Winters House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places under Criteria C, which means its architectural significant! Winters House is important because of it’s Queen Anne-Eastlake style and because of its size. It’s one of the largest Victorian homes left in Sacramento!
The home was constructed in 1890 for Herman Winters, a local successful merchant, who was a German immigrant. When the home was constructed, it was located on the outskirts of Sacramento in an area considered to be the, “gypsy camping grounds” (words from the National Register nomination, not mine). Through the rest of the 1890’s the area developed into a residential area outside of the city- kind of like suburbs; today the area is known as Mid Town.
Winters hired experienced craftsmen to give the three-story home many intricate, wooden, ornamental details. The home has an asymmetrical front facade with key elements including: the bay window, stained glass windows, a sunburst pediment, scroll work sunbursts, brackets, lower porch balustrade, various shingle and wooden patterns, and overall delicate spindle work. According to the National Register nomination, the interior also consists of intricate details such as carved mantel spindles, tile work surrounding two fire places, and trim details. The home exemplifies what it means for a building to be a Queen Anne- Eastlake Victorian home.
Winters passed away in 1904 and his money, store, and home were divided between his widow and his two children from his first marriage. His widow, Effie Winters, inherited the home and put a lot of money into maintaining the home during her life. For example, Effie had the home elevated by ~ 2 feet in 1909 to build a flat under the first floor.
The interesting story of the home lies with Effie Winters. Apparently, Effie’s wealth and eccentricities did not sit well with her brother, Frank. In 1911, he petitioned the courts to get here declared incompetent. Luckily, the courts ruled in Effie’s favor based on her success in managing her inheritance from Herman. But that didn’t stop Frank’s crusade to have his sister declared of an “unsound mind.” Effie passed shortly after her brother petitioned the courts and when her will was read, Frank contested it because the primary beneficiary was L. S. Jones, her minister. The court records indicate that there was an investigation into the life and mental well being of the deceased Effie Winters. Records show that she had had a severe accident in 1901 when she was thrown from a buggy and hit a street car. She was unconscious for a number of days and when she finally pulled through, she had bouts of physical and mental distress; at least once, spent time in an asylum in Stockton, CA where she claimed to be the wife of Jesus Christ; she eventually was released. Her minister and others gave testimony to her character and lifestyle. It seems that those testimonies were not enough though and a postmortem autopsy was performed for examine her brain. Based on the testimony of five doctors who claimed Effie had a “small” brain, which meant she was of an “unsound mind” during life and in writing her will.
From the court finding, Frank, inherited the home she had lived in during her life. He did not keep the house for long and the Winters House went through a number of owners. That is until 1998, when the new owners began the long process of restoring the home to its former glory and getting the home placed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Resources and Further Information:
All of the information on the Winters House came from the National Register Nomination, prepared by Vickie M. Cosentino, 1998. See the following links for more information on the home and to see the National Register Nomination in its entirety.