Fever, Manayunk – 1821

While enjoying some research about the Schuylkill Navigation in Philadelphia – better known as the Manayunk Canal – I came across this wonderful map at the Library of Congress.  Manayunk is a wonderful 18-19th century mill town on the Schuylkill river.  To further illustrate this magical place, I give you a wonderful excerpt on the Millworker’s fever of 1821 in Manayunk, taken from a book titled Early History of the Falls of Schuylkill, Manayunk, Schuylkill and Lehigh Navigation Companies, Fairmount Waterworks, etc. by Charles Valerius Hagner, an early industrialist of the area, published in 1869(!)

1907 View of Manayunk, Philadelphia

1907 View of Philadelphia’s Manayunk Neighborhood; Credit LOC

“… He retreated, with his family, to Germantown, and I fled to the Leverington Hotel on the Ridge Road; not, however until the disease had taken fast hold of me; and I served a regular apprenticeship to it, off and on, for some three or four years.  At that time there was a race of men in existence, employed in the woollen manufactories, who have since become entirely extinct.  They came from England.  Their business was to shear cloth with an immense pair of shears from three to five feet long.  They were shortly after superseded by the invention of the cloth-shearing machines now in use.  They were biped animals certainly, but stupidly ignorant.  They had been accustomed from youth up to handle these cloth shears, which they did well; beyond that they did not appear to have a single idea, except drinking porter, which they did by wholesale.

Those kind of workmen were very much wanted at that time and hard to be got.  Captain Towers and the Prestons obtained five or six of them from Yorkshire, England.  They arrived here in the extreme warm weather, clothed in the thickest kind of woollen garments, woollen stockings, &c.  They were all remarkably large stout men of fine healthy color and appearance, but one month’s residence at Manayunk was quite sufficient to “use them up;” any person who had seen them at the beginning of the month and again at the end of it, would be almost ready to swear they were not the same party.  All their fine rosy color had vanished, and they became miserable, cadaverous, melancholy looking objects.

From sheer ignorance and stupidity two of them lost their lives.  One, when in the hot stage of the disease, to cool himself went into a damp cellar, stripped himself, and lay on his back on the damp ground.  There happened to be a jug of buttermilk within his reach, he drank it and was a corpse in a very short time.  Another got an idea that it required something powerfully strong to kill the disease; he procured a pint of horseradish and cider which he swallowed at one gulp.  It threw him into convulsions and he died.

With a few such exceptions as these the disease was rarely fatal; on the contrary, often the subject of mirth.  It was quite a common affair to see half a dozen at a time around Silas Levering’s stove in the bar-room of his hotel, all shaking at the same time, others looking on quizzing and laughing at them; and more than once have I seen the tables turned, and the merry ones obliged to take their turn at the stove and be laughed at.”


 

A note about the wonderful hand-painted map (see link HERE); the view is taken from southeast, the hilltop in Lower Merion (height exaggerated), part of the original Welsh Tract sold by William Penn to Quaker settlers in 1683.  Look here again for a future story on a particularly interesting site in Lower Merion called the Pencoyd Iron Works, the smokestacks seen along the river in the foreground of the painting.

Spring Walk – Washington DC/Dupont Circle

It has been a lovely spring; not too hot and some wonderful sunny days.  Looking for some blossoms and classic architecture, last Sunday I took a quick jaunt down to Washington DC to walk Embassy Row and Dupont Circle.  DC always delivers for eclectic architecture walks; the city is a treasure trove of fabulous facades and exceptional urban scale.  A Sunday is best as the traffic is very light.  Some highlights; let’s start with a whopper of a building.  This is the Beaux Arts masterpiece Cosmos Club by architects Carrère & Hastings:

Cosmos Club by Carrere and HastingsThis incredible building is the former estate of Mary Scott Townsend, completed in 1901.  The architects are famous for the New York Public Library and many other important American buildings.  Carrère & Hastings were a very successful firm, focusing on commercial buildings in the Beaux Arts style.  This property was acquired by the Cosmos club – dedicated to “The advancement of its members in science, literature and art” – in 1952.  The address is 2121 Massachusetts Avenue NW.

A pair of typical DC row houses.  This facade is fairly consistent throughout the city, very often in brick and sometimes stone.  The house to the left would have been painted at one time, which is fairly common and gives the street scape an eclectic feel.  The most noteworthy (and completely typical) feature is the square breakfront; DC row houses employ a sculptured facade almost by rule.

Typical NW Washington DC Row HousesA little up the road, just this lone impatiens.

Impatiens FlowerAn embassy building.  I didn’t get my notes correct, but I do remember this being a South American government/cultural building.  Anybody recognize the flag?

Embassy Building in Washington DCAcross the street, this great old apartment building, also in buff brick.  Turrets are common in the District.

Apartment Building, Embassy RowThe Dutch embassy.  The hyacinths were in full bloom and smelled wonderful!  I expected some orange flowers; none to be seen!

Dutch Embassy Washington DCWalking back to Dupont, here is a typical row of residential/commercial buildings from the early 20th century.  Note the eclectic range of styles – this is a fairly typical block of commercial development and the pastiche of style is a never-ending delight.

A row of eclectic architecture in Dupont CircleAcross the street is the Washington Club, originally the Patterson House, designed by icon Stanford White in 1901.  This Italianate mansion was the scene of some bizarre politics during WWII, as Cissy Patterson, heir to her father’s Chicago Tribune fortune, waged an editorial attack on FDR throughout the war years.  The only mansion left on the circle, it looks a little lonely and the siting seems a bit odd today.  Even so, a nice sunny morning and any Stanford White building will get my undivided attention.

Washington Club, Architect Stanford WhiteAnd finally, on my way back to the railroad (when rain began to fall), a detail of Daniel Burnham’s fabulous Union Station.  This is the “knuckle” arcade between the main waiting room and the former – now shops – concourse room.  The detail of this building is astounding.

Detail of Union Station in Washington DCI used to live 3 blocks from Union Station, and would walk in and around it most days.  Completed in 1908, it is a massive complex – not exactly pretty – but impressive nonetheless.  Daniel Burnham was the “art director” of the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, the famous world’s fair in Chicago that introduced the “White City” and celebrated the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of the western continents.  The fair, and this building, were a riot of Beaux Arts white marble monumental architecture.  I used to sketch in and out of this building, and it has inspired some details of my own, and a collection of architectural hardware that I designed for Amerock in 2003.

So, just a quick Sunday’s walk and some highlights of DC in the springtime.  I return to the capitol several times during the year (it is the next city south of my home), so look for more Washington DC architecture in the months to come.

ISH 2013 Wrapup – Faucets

Part 3 of my report on ISH 2013 from Frankfurt, Germany.

Although this year seemed a little down on exhibitors and overall showing a conservative approach to new design, there were still many standouts.  Some companies, notably Dornbracht, eschewed new shapes and finishes for a focus on useability and electronic aids.  I concentrated on trends within the design envelope.

Laufen Faucet with Top SurfaceFirst up is this faucet by Laufen and Kartell, which I mentioned briefly in my report on fixtures last week.  Similar to a faucet by Starck, there is a flat surface on top for storage of bathroom items.  Above it is naked… and here:

Laufen faucet with Kartell tray surface…seen from the side with the polycarbonate Kartell “caddy” on top.  I really don’t like this piece too much; if you consider the caddy moveable, what if you or somebody else puts a bar of soap on top of the naked faucet – and then you want to put your caddy on top?  The soap will leave residue on the bottom of your caddy, if you put it there next.  Also, I don’t like the “business end” of the faucet being hidden.  I like to see where the water will be coming from.  I would rather see Kartell make little caddies that fit into spaces on the lavs perhaps, or on the mirror, accessories or something along the side.

Chrome Mixer Faucet at ISH 2013Above is a nice design, with the square base and round lever language perhaps being in slight conflict.  Below are two faucets I noted the shape of, only because they look like things I have been developing for my client.  I didn’t note the makers.

Gold Faucet Chrome Mixer Faucet

These were not the only pieces similar to some ideas I had.  It isn’t easy coming up with something completely new of course.  Next, a nice shower set in white.  Colors (instead of plated surfaces) were down a little this year, but there were still some very nice examples.

White Shower SetI think the sharp vertical edges of this design lend itself to powder coating, as opposed to plated finishes.  The edges will be very hard to get right if plated, as the polishing of the brass/zamac is critical and usually done by hand.  The thickness of the powder probably hides any flaws.  It was quite crisp, however.

Now that I have mentioned colors, a company called Treemme is next.  These faucets were by far the coolest new designs I have seen this year.  There were wall mounts, lav mixers and a clever two-handle lav top faucet.  Designed by Emanuel Gargano, Marco Fagioli and Giampiero Castagnoli.  Just stunning.

5mm Faucet Info Board 5mm Faucet in Black by TreemmeI love the matte black finish.  I will need these for my bathrooms at home.  Above is the two-handle version – the mixer is very similar.  The other offerings from Treemme were also fantastic:

White Faucets by TreemmeI had been sketching things like this last year for my faucet project, but I thought… no, too radical.  Ha!

Another great faucet by TreemmeA different take on 5mm, and a lovely one.  I will need one of these too, for my powder room on the first floor.  Also shown were these high arc faucets, similar to some designs I saw from Ritmonio a few years ago.  The thin spout is just great.

Great Faucets from TreemmeHere are some other powder coated faucets, these by Steinberg.  I like the adventurous palette of color.  If you are going to go paint, why not get very creative?

Series 240 Powder Coated faucets by SteinbergLastly, here was an “industrial chic” style faucet from Waterworks/THG.  This was the only sign of the industrial/factory trend I saw at the show.  This trend is completely saturated in North America and I’m glad to see it is not very prevalent in Europe.  That said, this was probably focused on America, being Waterworks.  Interesting piece but not my cup of tea.

THG Retro-style faucet for WaterworksI finished up my trip to Germany by heading northwest on Deutsche Bahn, to visit my friends at SieMatic.  It is easy to then fly back home from Amsterdam, which gives me some time to take in some strolls along the canals in Jordaan and Centraal.  Of course, I walked my favorite street again, Langestraat.  This alley-type street is just amazing.  I love how there is no sidewalk, the houses are pretty much at grade level, and the height and width proportion is just right.

Langestraat, AmsterdamThis walk was early in the morning on my way to the airport.  I singled out a house, one of many, that I love.  Can I move in?  Maybe just for the summer?

Langestraat House, AmsterdamI wonder if my current neighbors will mind if I paint my red brick rowhouse in black?

The Ideal City

Here in Baltimore we have an extraordinary art gallery called the Walters Art Museum.  Given to the city in 1931 by Henry Walters, the collection of art and artifacts was started by family patriarch William Walters during the American Civil War, when William took his family to Europe to avoid the conflict.   Greatly expanded by son Henry in the early 20th century, the original townhouse is on the corner of Mt. Vernon Place (the nicest block in Baltimore, adjoining the Peabody Conservatory and the 200 foot Washington Monument), combined with several properties to construct an immense, opulent gallery building.

Walters Art Museum in Baltimore

The gallery was designed by William Adams Delano and was completed in 1909. From Wikipedia: The exterior was inspired by the Renaissance-revival style Hôtel Pourtalès in Paris and its interior was modeled after the 17th-century Collegio dei Gesuiti (now the Palazzo dell’Università) built by the Balbi family for the Jesuits in Genoa.

Historic View of Walters Museum Galleries

Inside there are various rooms with salon-style exhibitions, and a fantastic paneled room called the Curiosities Room with a great collection of nature’s wonders including a butterfly collection set in low vitrines, really popular with children.

My favorite piece in the collection is a Renaissance painting called The Ideal City, attributed to architect Fra Carnevale ca. 1480-1484.  The subject is an imaginary Greco-Roman city with the most orderly layout and a sweeping, panoramic perspective.

The Ideal City, Renaissance Painting by Fra Carnevale ca. 1584

From the Walter’s website: The imaginary city square features a Roman arch typically erected as a commemoration of military victory at its center. As a whole, the painting offers a model of the architecture and sculpture that would ideally be commissioned by a virtuous ruler who cares for the welfare of the citizenry.  The work was… apparently commissioned for the palace of Duke Federico da Montefeltro of Urbino. Set into the woodwork at shoulder height or higher, “The Ideal City” would have seemed like a window onto another, better world.

The Walters is presently displaying reproductions of some pieces around town in the Off The Wall program; placing popular paintings outside to reinforce the point that the collection is for the benefit of everybody in the city.  I was delighted to see The Ideal City on Hopkins Plaza downtown, in front of a government building.

The Ideal City in Baltimore

There is no little irony this picture is placed in front of an administration building – one that I have been stopped by guards for taking pictures before.  I snapped this one quickly.  The plaza is a 1970s-era concrete valley between tall, modernist government buildings.  Not exactly the same view as depicted by Signore Carnevale, but nearly as devoid of people due to unpleasant gusts of winter wind, and a pervasive feeling that relaxing there is not allowed.  The curator of Off the Wall has done well to place the picture here, juxtaposing the “better world” of Duke da Montefeltro with this forlorn plaza.

Of course The Ideal City might have shown more people enjoying the space as it was intended, but perhaps the artist didn’t want to muddy up his picture?  The scene also lacks of trees or other greenery of any kind.  Is this the way the artist envisioned it, something which exists in a fantasy, like a scale model or digital rendering of the future?  A private playground for the Duke to enjoy, unspoiled by throngs of lower classes milling about?

A deeper read into The Ideal City reveals that Renaissance planning was perhaps concerned not only with aesthetics and solving immediate social needs, but the dream of a tamed, perfect climate and a gentle, educated humanity sharing a peaceful world.  To me, The Ideal City is nothing less than the enlightenment of man, free of social ills and living a sweeping, harmonious democratic existence, manifested as this perfect, delightful environment.