Sunday, June 16, 2013

Fallingwaters.... a home by Frank Lloyd Wright

Fallingwater is one of the most unique homes you will ever visit. In 1991, it was voted "the best all-time work of American architecture."  It is considered one of Frank Lloyd Wrights greatest works. It is listed among Smithsonian's Life List of 28 places "to visit before you die." It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966.  Accolade after accolade and all worth it. It is truly a stunning architectural wonder....totally amazing and hard to conceive that this was designed and built in the mid 1930's.  Frank Lloyd Wright was truly a visionary!

Fallingwater, or Kaufmann Residence,  is a house designed by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1935 in rural southwestern Pennsylvania, 50 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. The home was built partly over a waterfall in the Laurel Highlands of the Allegheny Mountains.  It was built as a  mountain retreat for the Edgar J Kaufmann family of Pittsburgh, owners of Kaufmann's Department Stores.

Only exterior photos are you will not see any interior photos. Photos are not even allowed on the cantilevered terraces. 

Bear Run, a tributary of the Youghiogheny River, and the sound of its water permeate the house and the falling water can be heard anywhere in the house. The design incorporates broad expanses of windows and balconies which reach out into their surroundings. 

Fallingwater's structural system includes a series of very bold reinforced concrete cantilevered balconies;  For the cantilevered floors, Wright and his team used upside down T-shaped beams integrated into a monolithic concrete slab which both formed the ceiling of the space below and provided resistance against compression
The extent of Wright's genius in integrating every detail of his design can only be hinted at in photographs. This organically designed private residence was intended to be a nature retreat for its owners. The house is well-known for its connection to the site; it is built on top of an active waterfall which flows beneath the house.

The fireplace hearth in the living room integrates boulders found on the site and upon which the house was built — ledge rock which protrudes up to a foot through the living room floor was left in place to demonstrably link the outside with the inside. 

 Integration with the setting extends even to small details. For example, where glass meets stone walls there is no metal frame; rather, the glass and its horizontal dividers were run into a caulked recess in the stonework so that the stone walls appear uninterrupted by glazing. From the cantilevered living room, a stairway leads directly down to the stream below. Bedrooms are small, some with low ceilings to encourage people outward toward the open social areas, decks, and outdoors.
The total project price of US$155,000.00, adjusted for inflation, is the equivalent of approximately US$2.4 million in 2009. A more accurate reflection of the relative cost of the project in its time is that the cost of restoration alone in 2002 was reported at US$11.4 million.  Fallingwater stands as one of Wright's greatest masterpieces both for its dynamism and for its integration with the striking natural surroundings.   

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Assateaque Island National Seashore

We love being by the water and we love the National Park System so on our sightseeing journey to Florida in fall of 2011 we decided to combine both and stay at Assateaque Island National Seashore.  In particular we both wanted to see the so-called "wild horses" that roamed there.  
Many of us first learned about the Assateague horses from Marguerite Henry's famous book Misty of Chincoteague. The story takes place during a traditional Chincoteague festival called "Pony Penning.'' On the last Wednesday of July, the Virginia herd of horses is rounded up and swum from Assateague Island to nearby Chincoteage Island.  

The Assateague National Seashore is a narrow band of land, barrier islands, surrounded by saltwater. It is  a very tough environment to survive year round. These "wild" horses are actually feral animals, meaning that they are descendants of domestic animals that have reverted to a wild state.  But these horses are tough...they live through scorching heat, abundant mosquitoes, stormy weather and a very poor quality of food on this barrier island.  

We wondered how these horses got here? Well local  folklore states that the horses were survivors of a shipwreck off the Virginia coast. While this is a popular tale of struggle and survival, there are no records yet that confirm it.  Most experts feel that they are the descendants of horses that were brought to barrier islands like Assateague in the late 17th century by mainland owners to avoid fencing laws and taxation of other words "they wanted to avoid paying taxes to the government"...imagine that! 

The horses didn't disappoint us... they were around often and could be seen somewhere just about anytime. You did not have to go searching for them.  I was reading outside one day and one of the horses just came up along side of the RV and stood in the shade. I guess he wanted to cool off!
Visitors are advised  not to feed or pet the horses. But every year horses are killed by cars as they beg for food and every year visitors are kicked, bitten and knocked down as they get too close to the wild  horses.  It must be remembered that you cannot treat a wild horse like a tame animal as that takes away the wildness that makes them special. 

We so enjoyed the National Seashore that we extended our stay to the allowed limit of two weeks. There is much to do besides enjoying the horses. Windsurfing, fishing, sunbathing, bird watching, hiking, and beautiful sunsets to name a few. 

There are few places in the United States where you can view wild horses.  Don't hesitate to take advantage of the opportunity to view these horses in a natural habitat as they provide enjoyment to nature enthusiasts, photographers, and people who just love horses!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lucas....Grassroots Art Capital of Kansas

Lucas is a farming community of about 450 people in central Kansas and it is so very Americana! A brochure got our attention about this unique little town so we decided to visit. We weren't disappointed.....such a fun time. As we made our approach to Lucas we found a very unusual welcome sign....the largest souvenir plate in the world.
...billed as the "largest souvenir plate in the world"...welcomes one to the town of Lucas.

Our first visit was to Brant's Meat Market which has been operating in the same small store since 1922. We were waited on by Donald Brant, a 3rd generation family member, who owns and operates the store. He gave us samples of everything we wanted to taste. They make much of their own meat and use their own Czech recipe for their homemade bologna which is very tasty. When it came time to pay for our meat purchase we found he did not take credit cards but he said we could send him a check in the mail....and he was serious. Being I did not have my checkbook either, we scraped enough cash together to pay him but we both left that little market in awe of such a trusting congenial man. He was a pure delight!

Brant's Meat Market in operation since 1922 by the same family.
Donald Brant...3rd generation owner...said we could mail him a check as he didn't take credit cards.

Our next stop in Lucas was the "Garden of Eden"....a page right out of Americana. Samuel Dinsmoor, a retired teacher, Civil War Veteran, farmer and politician, began building the Garden of Eden and Cabin Home in 1907 at the age of 64. For 22 years he fashioned 113 tons of cement and many tons of limestone into a unique "log" cabin and its surrounding sculptures. He opened his home and conducted tours from 1907 until a few years before his death in 1932. It is owned and operated by a group formed to preserve it, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has over 10,000 visitors annually.

Home is built of limestone logs, most of which run the cabin's length. This native "postrock" limestone traditionally was used for fence post due to lack of wood in the area.
Dinsmoor built this 40-ft tall limestone log mausoleum for himself and his first wife. He is laid to rest in his handmade, glass-topped concrete coffin.

Unfortunately for us, the Garden of Eden was still operating under winter hours and was only open on the weekends. But we were able to get photos of the outside exhibits known in the art world as outsider art and grassroots art. Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, the devil, an angel, and serpents are among the 150 sculptures.

Grassroots art is a term describing art made by people with no formal artistic training . . . (usually of retirement age) using ordinary materials in an extraordinary way . . . and frequently creating a whole artistic environment around themselves, effectively making themselves part of the artwork. Such work tends to be difficult to classify because it falls outside the sphere of fine art as well as that of traditional folk art in which skills and patterns may be passed from one generation to another. Lucas is home to the Grassroots Art Center which has Ed Root's Concrete Creations, and Herman Divers Pull Tab car and Motorcycle to name a few....

Quirky art throughout town........
.......a play on words...."Fork Art"

So if you find yourself in the middle of Kansas, stop and visit the neat little town of Lucas and all its quirky whimsical art.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Steamboat Arabia, Kansas City, Missouri

On September 5th, 1856 , a steamboat named “Arabia” struck a large walnut tree hidden just under the surface of the Missouri River. The steamboat sank. In 1987, David Hawley found the wreck site lying more than one-half mile from the river’s edge and buried 45 feet underground. And in 1988, Greg, along with David, their dad Bob, and two family friends , excavated the steamboat Arabia and brought it back to the surface. Arabia held 222 tons of freight, and the ship itself weighed over 222 tons. When full, it weighed about 444 tons.

Arabia had sunk on the Missouri River, just north of Kansas City, and as the corps of engineers and Mother Nature switched the river's direction, it ended up being buried in a farmer's field, rather than in the river. To raise the ship, they had to dig a huge hole and then continually pump water out as they removed things because the water was always coming back in. The low oxygen, no sunlight atmosphere did a fantastic job of preserving everything on the ship. The first thing the excavators found was in the upper spokes of the freshly exposed paddle was an 1849 rubber shoe made by Goodyear.

The museum itself is simply amazing. So many artifacts! It's like walking back through time and into the mid-1800s. The care and effort put forth for preservation is extremely inspiring. The museum is in continuous growth as they finish the long process of preservation and add new artifacts and displays. They still have a "boatload", no pun intended, of artifacts to prepare for display. The stories about how they preserved the various artifacts are very enjoyable. You get to see part of the lab and even smell some of the perfume they found.

....huge display of the china ware recovered.

There are dresses, shirts, shoes and an array of clothing that look like you could wear them tomorrow. There are displays of eye glasses; ink wells; food bottles; medicines; spoons; bells; china; wrenches; guns; pocket knives; trading beads; jewelry; nails; and on and on......all perfectly preserved.

Display of buttons, perfume, jewelry, bottles, coins nestled amongst old beads....
Perfumes and writing pens from France.....
...cases and cases of well-preserved items were found and a sampling of all is displayed
....beautiful artifacts and well displayed....
Porcelain buttons on the left and trading beads on the right....

The Arabia is one of Kansas City's "treasures" and we were highly impressed with this museum. This is a story about every day guys that had a dream of digging up a sunken boat and then they had the forethought to document every step of their recovery so that now we can see their story and their findings. Their video presentations, their personal storytelling and the huge amount of well-preserved artifacts shows how determined they were in the rescue of the Arabia and then sharing it with the public. Reading about history is nothing like seeing it.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson, AZ

Have you ever had a place that you could go back to time and time again and enjoy it just as much? Well that is the way we feel about the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Being we often spend our winters in Tucson we have visited the Museum many times. It is a world-renowned zoo, natural history museum and botanical garden, all in one place! If we have guests, this is one of the first places we take them.

Even before you arrive at the Desert Museum you have an added treat ....coming from Tucson be sure and drive through Gates Pass as it is absolutely an awesome drive. It is a twisty turning drive through the Sonoran desert hills with beautiful scenery, thousands of saguaros and plenty of overlooks for photo ops... so don't forget your camera.

View coming through Gates Pass looking out over Sonora Desert.

The Desert Museum features animals and plants native to Arizona and the Sonora Desert and it is a wonderful educational experience. If you take the time to study the plants and animals while there, you walk away with a good understanding and appreciation of living in the is truly remarkable. ASDM is well organized, signage is great, and overall a very well designed much so that even the view from ASDM overlooking the desert is absolutely breathtaking....

The docent (volunteers) at ASDM are some of the most knowledgeable about their subjects we have ever encountered. Make sure you take advantage of a guided tour with one of them and also stopping at the various displays they man throughout the park as you will marvel at what they know and how interesting they make it.

They have live bird shows twice a of our favorites is the Harrier Hawk presentation. They demonstrate how the Harrier Hawks live as a family, how they search for prey, and other interesting facts.....all the time the hawks are swooping overhead and landing on the saguaros. It is truly a fun event. (for best viewing and fun get down in front by the bird handler).

Another bird show we saw was the owl presentation.
Another view of this beautiful creature.....a barn owl.

We also love the cactus garden as all the plants are nicely labeled, attractive in their presentation and every time we have visited we are always fortunate to find several in bloom.

Beginning of a bloom on a Century plant

Another favorite for us is the hummingbird aviary. These little hummers are plentiful and very busy in their aviary. We saw several sitting on their nests when we visited.

Little hummer patiently sitting on her must be taken not to disturb while nesting.
One of many photos we took of the hummingbirds.

We did eat at the Ironwood Terrace on the museum grounds. Food is a little pricey but not out of line in comparison to other such places. I had a turkey wrap (quite big) and my husband had a hamburger and all was quite good. There is everything from a quick snack bar to fine dining so there is plenty of variety if you want to eat while visiting. The lighting in the eatery was quite unique as the photo below shows.

One of a variety of "bug lighting"

A word of warning before you start your day.....if your visit is in the summer go very early when it is cooler as it gets stifling hot by midday and the animals go into hiding. Protect yourself with sunscreen, hats with brims, sunglasses and plenty of water (they do let you bring in your own water). There's very little shade and a lot of walking is involved so I would definitely visit in the winter if at all possible.

Crown Saguaro...this rare deformity occurs in about 1 in 50,000 plants. This one is found at entrance to the museum.

As I said earlier it is a combination zoo, botanical garden and natural history museum so there is something for every one, young and old, plenty to keep you busy all day and if you enjoy learning this is truly a great place for that experience.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Way of the Cross and the Garden of Gethsemane…sculptures by Felix Lucero

A little known, but must see attraction in Yarnell, AZ., is the Catholic Shrine of Saint Joseph of the Mountains. We were the "accidental tourist" discovering this special place on our drive to Prescott.

The life-sized pieces are set among an oak tree-shaded area amidst the boulders. Visitors can take a trail through the stations of the cross to see the statues or meditate in its beautiful park - like setting. A word of caution to the physically disabled or the elderly...there are many steps involved on the trail and one is at a higher altitude here so some breathing difficulty could be experienced.

One of the many sculptures at the Shrine of Saint Joseph

In 1939 the Catholic Action League of Arizona commissioned Felix Lucero, a Native American from Colorado to create theStations of the Cross, in the Weaver Mountains, about a half-mile west of Yarnell. The Stations of the Cross in Yarnell is impressive and in a beautiful setting. This hillside shrine has a chapel, the Way of the Cross, replicas of the Garden of Gethsemane and the Last Supper.

....a magnificent view from the hillside of the Shrine.

The history of Felix Lucero is quite interesting.

As Felix Lucero lay dying on a World War I battlefield, he reportedly proposed a deal with the Virgin Mary: let me live, and I'll spend the rest of my life creating Christian art. Mary agreed, Felix survived, and he returned to America.

Several years later, Lucero finally started to make good on his promise. He drifted into Arizona during the Depression and he finally settled in Tucson in 1938. His home in Tucson was a plywood and cardboard shelter built under the Congress Street Bridge. He was homeless, just living a few feet from where the park holding his sculptures in Tucson now stands. He began sculpting Christian statues, molded from damp sand, reinforced with debris recovered from the Santa Cruz riverbed, covered with plaster. The amazing thing was that this young man had no formal training in art, but despite this lack of formal training, his figures have a majesty and realism that people can immediately relate to and feel some of the deep bond that Lucero felt with God.

Felix Lucero was a truly a starving artist.

Joseph , Mary and infant Jesus in Garden of Gethsemane, Tucson, AZ.

Lucero's technique was not devised for longevity, and all the pieces are damaged or in distress. The skin of crucified Jesus is flaking, and the noses and fingers of Jesus and several of his Last Supper meal-mates have been smashed.

The statues acquired the name Garden of Gethsemane and suffered "the ravages of time, floods, and many acts of vandalism," according to a plaque at the site. "Heartbreak and pain walked with the artist during his sacred efforts."

The Lord's Supper at Garden of Gethsemane, Tucson, Az.

Felix Lucero died in 1951, but his sculptures have survived, thanks to sweat and cash from the residents of Tucson. The statues have been moved several times to save them, and frequently repaired after vandalism (in one incident, a total decapitation at the Last Supper). They now stand in a roadside park shaded by palm, pepper, and mesquite trees -- close to where Lucero lived under the bridge. The sculptures in Yarnell are in much better condition as Lucero sculpted all of the work out of reinforced concrete.

Sadly, when we visited the Garden of Gethsemane there were a couple of homeless people wandering about the garden with their meager bags of possessions nearby...but then again, Lucero was homeless when he did these sculptures.

Yarnell is located on the Highway 89, Scenic Route to Prescott, Arizona. The garden of Gethsemane is at 602 W. Congress in downtown Tucson.