From the connected farmhouses of New England to I.M. Pei's Media Lab, from "satisficing" to "form follows funding," from the evolution of bungalows to the invention of Santa Fe Style, from Low Road military surplus buildings to a High Road English classic like Chatsworth—this is a far-ranging survey of unexplored essential territory.
More than any other human artifacts, buildings improve with time—if they're allowed to. How Buildings Learn shows how to work with time rather than against it.
While preserving the glories of Houston's lost movie palaces—only a few of these historic theatres still survive—Cinema Houston also vividly re-creates the moviegoing experience, chronicling midnight movie madness, summer nights at the drive-in, and, of course, all those tasty snacks at the concession stand. Sure to appeal to a wide audience, from movie fans to devotees of Houston's architectural history, Cinema Houston captures the bygone era of the city's movie houses, from the lowbrow to the sublime, the hi-tech sound of 70mm Dolby and THX to the crackle of a drive-in speaker on a cool spring evening.
In many cities across the world, particularly in Europe, old buildings form a prominent part of the built environment, and we often take it for granted that their contribution is intrinsically positive. How has that widely-shared belief come about, and is its continued general acceptance inevitable?
Certainly, ancient structures have long been treated with care and reverence in many societies, including classical Rome and Greece. But only in modern Europe and America, in the last two centuries, has this care been elaborated and energised into a forceful, dynamic ideology: a ‘Conservation Movement’, infused with a sense of historical destiny and loss, that paradoxically shared many of the characteristics of Enlightenment modernity. The close inter-relationship between conservation and modern civilisation was most dramatically heightened in periods of war or social upheaval, beginning with the French Revolution, and rising to a tragic climax in the 20th-century age of totalitarian extremism; more recently the troubled relationship of ‘heritage’ and global commercialism has become dominant.
Miles Glendinning’s new book authoritatively presents, for the first time, the entire history of this architectural Conservation Movement, and traces its dramatic fluctuations in ideas and popularity, ending by questioning whether its recent international ascendancy can last indefinitely.
Designation activity has been accompanied by growing interest in other local incentives/disincentives to the support of historic buildings. In this regard, the property tax is viewed as either a possible powerful drawback to or a catalyst of preservation. This study examines the relationship between historic preservation and the property tax, focusing on the question of how designated buildings should be assessed for real taxation purposes.
Listokin focuses on New York City in considering the effects of historic status on property value and in evaluating assessment practices. But this book's findings are transferrable to other communities because the base conditions are similar. Many other cities have designation programs modeled on New York City's. In addition, New York's property-tax system and administrative processes resemble those found in communities across the nation. To enhance the transferability of this study's findings, Listokin refers to the national experience and literature, typically on a side-by-side basis with the New York City counterpart.
Simplicity, sensitivity to the natural environment, and the use of natural materials are the hallmarks of Japanese architecture. The Art of Japanese Architecture provides a broad overview of traditional Japanese architecture in its historical and cultural context. It begins with a discussion of prehistoric dwellings and concludes with a description of modern Japanese buildings. Important historical influences and trends—notably the introduction of Buddhist culture from Korea and China, the development of feudalism, and the influence of modern Western styles of building—are all discussed in detail as facets of Japanese design.
Through all of these changes, a restrained architectural tradition developed in marked contrast to an exuberant tradition characterized by monumentality and the use of bold colors. The book provides tremendous insights into the dynamic nature of Japanese architecture and how it reflects an underlying diversity within Japanese culture.
The book is profusely illustrated with over 370 color photographs, woodblock prints, maps, diagrams, and specially commissioned watercolors.
Critically acclaimed author Robert Klara leads readers through an unmatched tale of political ambition and technical skill: the Truman administration's controversial rebuilding of the White House.
In 1948, President Harry Truman, enjoying a bath on the White House's second floor, almost plunged through the ceiling of the Blue Room into a tea party for the Daughters of the American Revolution. A handpicked team of the country's top architects conducted a secret inspection of the troubled mansion and, after discovering it was in imminent danger of collapse, insisted that the First Family be evicted immediately. What followed would be the most historically significant and politically complex home-improvement job in American history. While the Trumans camped across the street at Blair House, Congress debated whether to bulldoze the White House completely, and the Soviets exploded their first atomic bomb, starting the Cold War.
Indefatigable researcher Robert Klara reveals what has, until now, been little understood about this episode: America's most famous historic home was basically demolished, giving birth to today's White House. Leaving only the mansion's facade untouched, workmen gutted everything within, replacing it with a steel frame and a complex labyrinth deep below ground that soon came to include a top-secret nuclear fallout shelter,
The story of Truman's rebuilding of the White House is a snapshot of postwar America and its first Cold War leader, undertaking a job that changed the centerpiece of the country's national heritage. The job was by no means perfect, but it was remarkable—and, until now, all but forgotten.
For more than two centuries, lighthouses have helped sailors find their way through treacherous waters, guiding them home or taking them safely through passages on their way to adventure. These historic towers and houses form a sparkling chain of lights along our coasts, a reminder of the past echoing with adventure and mystery, a lure for travelers looking for a glimpse into a romantic past.
Completely revised and updated, American Lighthouses offers more than just a tour of 450 beautiful and historic navigational beacons dotting the coasts and lakes of the United States. This fully illustrated, one-of-a-kind handbook details their history and architecture and provides full information on visiting or viewing them. Included are many endangered lights, threatened by erosion or lack of funding, as well as “ghost lights,” which are no longer standing.
Spatial Analysis and Social Spaces brings together contributions from specialists in archaeology, social theory, and urban planning who explore the theoretical and methodological frameworks associated with the application of new and established spatial analysis methods in past built environments. The focus is mainly on more recent computer-based approaches and on techniques such as access analysis, visibility graph analysis, isovist analysis, agent-based models of pedestrian movement, and 3D visibility approaches. The contributors to this volume examine the relationship between space and social life from many different perspectives, and provide illuminating examples from the archaeology of Greece, Italy and Cyprus, in which intra-site analysis offers valuable insights into the built spaces and societies under study.
The book uses case studies from England, Ireland and the US to illustrate the use of different materials and techniques on buildings ranging in age.
Written by Dr. Gerard Lynch, the leading authority in this subject area, this book will be of particular interest to architectural historians, architects working on historic buildings and building conservators.
International Heritage and Historic Building Conservation assesses successful contemporary conservation paradigms from around the world. The book evaluates conservation case studies from previously excluded areas of the world to create an integrated account of Historic Building Conservation that crosses the boundaries of language and culture and sets an example for further inclusive research. Analyzing the influence of financial constraints, regional conflicts, and cultural differences on the heritage of disadvantaged countries, this leading-edge volume is essential for researchers and students of heritage studies interested in understanding their topics in a wider framework.
Structural Design in Building Conservationdeals with design issues and technical choices, showing how they are integrated with the planning and architectural outcomes in a conservation project. It brings together theory with current conservation technology, discussing the possibilities of structural details and strategies in architectural expression. Case studies are central to this, and these are organised around such themes as the addition of roofs, requalification of space, strengthening and re-use of fabric, repristination, additions, completions, stiffness adjustments, and the correction of past mistakes. The reader is encouraged to examine the technical details of these real projects, and explore the possible solutions.
The philosophy of structural interventions is introduced in the context of conservation theories and practices in various European countries. The main types of strengthening, repairs and interventions are explained using different building types, and the structural nature of the main elements to be strengthened (linear structures, frames, plates and shells) is explored in detail.
Case studies included cover a very wide range of historic types and conversions, not only monumental masonry structures like neoclassical buildings, major temples, churches, public buildings and museums, but also more utilitarian structures like historic mills, early reinforced concrete structures and vaulting types.
This is essential reading for all students of architectural conservation, and practicing architects and engineers who are involved in conservation projects.
American novelist E.L. Doctorow once observed that literature “endows places with meaning.” Yet, as this wide-ranging new book vividly illustrates, understanding the places that shaped American writers’ lives and their art can provide deep insight into what makes their literature truly meaningful.
Published on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Historic Preservation Act, Writing America is a unique, passionate, and eclectic series of meditations on literature and history, covering over 150 important National Register historic sites, all pivotal to the stories that make up America, from chapels to battlefields; from plantations to immigration stations; and from theaters to internment camps. The book considers not only the traditional sites for literary tourism, such as Mark Twain’s sumptuous Connecticut home and the peaceful woods surrounding Walden Pond, but also locations that highlight the diversity of American literature, from the New York tenements that spawned Abraham Cahan’s fiction to the Texas pump house that irrigated the fields in which the farm workers central to Gloria Anzaldúa’s poetry picked produce. Rather than just providing a cursory overview of these authors’ achievements, acclaimed literary scholar and cultural historian Shelley Fisher Fishkin offers a deep and personal reflection on how key sites bore witness to the struggles of American writers and inspired their dreams. She probes the global impact of American writers’ innovative art and also examines the distinctive contributions to American culture by American writers who wrote in languages other than English, including Yiddish, Chinese, and Spanish.
Only a scholar with as wide-ranging interests as Shelley Fisher Fishkin would dare to bring together in one book writers as diverse as Gloria Anzaldúa, Nicholas Black Elk, David Bradley, Abraham Cahan, S. Alice Callahan, Raymond Chandler, Frank Chin, Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, Countee Cullen, Frederick Douglass, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Jessie Fauset, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Allen Ginsberg, Jovita González, Rolando Hinojosa, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Lawson Fusao Inada, James Weldon Johnson, Erica Jong, Maxine Hong Kingston, Irena Klepfisz, Nella Larsen, Emma Lazarus, Sinclair Lewis, Genny Lim, Claude McKay, Herman Melville, N. Scott Momaday, William Northup, John Okada, Miné Okubo, Simon Ortiz, Américo Paredes, John P. Parker, Ann Petry, Tomás Rivera, Wendy Rose, Morris Rosenfeld, John Steinbeck, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry David Thoreau, Mark Twain, Yoshiko Uchida, Tino Villanueva, Nathanael West, Walt Whitman, Richard Wright, Hisaye Yamamoto, Anzia Yezierska, and Zitkala-Ša.
Leading readers on an enticing journey across the borders of physical places and imaginative terrains, the book includes over 60 images, and extended excerpts from a variety of literary works. Each chapter ends with resources for further exploration. Writing America reveals the alchemy though which American writers have transformed the world around them into art, changing their world and ours in the process.
An introduction traces the evolution of historic preservation in America, highlighting the principal ideas and events that have shaped and continue to shape the movement. The book also describes the workings--legal, administrative, and fiscal--of the layered federal, state, and local government partnership put in place by Congress in 1966. Individual chapters explore the preservation of designed and vernacular landscapes, the relationship between historic preservation and the larger environmental and land-trust movements, the role of new private and nonprofit players, racial and ethnic interests in historic preservation, and the preservation of our intangible cultural values. A concluding chapter analyzes the present state of the historic preservation movement and suggests future directions for the field in the twenty-first century.
Contributors include preservationists, local-government citizen activists, an architect, landscape architects, environmentalists, an archaeologist, a real-estate developer, historians, a Native American tribal leader, an ethnologist, and lawyers.
Eager to assert the national value of their regional cultural traditions and to situate Charleston as a bulwark against the chaos of modern America, these descendants of old-line families downplayed Confederate associations and emphasized the city's colonial and early national prominence. They created a vibrant network of individual artists, literary figures, and organizations--such as the all-white Society for the Preservation of Negro Spirituals--that nurtured architectural preservation, art, literature, and tourism while appropriating African American folk culture. In the process, they translated their selective and idiosyncratic personal, familial, and class memories into a collective identity for the city.
The Charleston this group built, Yuhl argues, presented a sanitized yet highly marketable version of the American past. Their efforts invited attention and praise from outsiders while protecting social hierarchies and preserving the political and economic power of whites. Through the example of this colorful southern city, Yuhl posits a larger critique about the use of heritage and demonstrates how something as intangible as the recalled past can be transformed into real political, economic, and social power.
This book is for anyone who cares about cities, places, and saving America's diverse stories in a way that will bring us together and help us better understand our past, present, and future.
In 1552, in the countryside outside Venice, the great Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio built Villa Cornaro. In 1989, Sally and Carl Gable became its bemused new owners. Called by Town & Country one of the ten most influential buildings in the world, the villa is the centerpiece of the Gables’ enchanting journey into the life of a place that transformed their own. From the villa’s history and its architectural pleasures, to the lives of its former inhabitants, to the charms of the little town that surrounds it, this loving account brings generosity, humor, and a sense of discovery to the story of small-town Italy and its larger national history.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
No symbol is more synonymous with Wisconsin’s rich maritime traditions than the lighthouse. These historic beacons conjure myriad notions of a bygone era: romance, loneliness, and dependability; dedicated keepers manning the lights; eerie tales of haunted structures and ghosts of past keepers; mariners of yesteryear anxiously hoping to make safe haven around rocky shorelines. If these sentinels could talk, imagine the tales they would tell of ferocious Great Lakes storms taking their toll on vessels and people alike.
In this fully updated edition of Wisconsin Lighthouses, Ken and Barb Wardius tell those tales, taking readers on an intimate tour of lighthouses on Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and Lake Winnebago. Both delightful storytellers and accomplished photographers, the couple complement their engaging text with more than 100 stunning color photographs, along with dozens of archival photos, maps, documents, and artifacts. Detailed “how to get there” directions, up-to-the-minute status reports on each light, and sidebars on everything from lighthouse vocabulary to the often lonely lives of lightkeepers make this the definitive book on Wisconsin’s lighthouses.
Written for architects, engineers, preservation, and codeenforcement professionals, this is the only comprehensive book thatexamines how the International Building Code (IBC) and theInternational Existing Building Code (IEBC) can be applied tohistoric and existing buildings. For ease of use, the book isorganized to parallel the structure of the IEBC itself, and theapproach is cumulative, with the objective of promoting anunderstanding of the art of applying building regulations to theenvironment of existing buildings.
Building Codes for Existing and Historic Buildings begins with adiscussion of the history of building regulations in the UnitedStates and the events and conditions that created them. Next, itprovides thorough coverage of:
The rationale behind code provisions and historic preservationprinciples
Major building code requirements: occupancy and use, types ofconstruction, and heights and areas
Building performance characteristics: fire and life safety,structural safety, health and hygiene, accident prevention,accessibility, and energy conservation
Case study projects that reinforce the material covered
Additionally, the book includes building analysisworksheets—both blank and filled-in versions withexamples—that illustrate how to develop a code approach for anindividual building. If you are a professional at any level who isworking on creating a plan that meets the intent of the code forhistoric or existing buildings, Building Codes for Existing andHistoric Buildings gives you everything that you need tosucceed.
Abundant with details uncovered by Hafertepe in his research, including corrections to construction dates based on newly tapped records, this guide features those buildings visible to visitors from the public streets and sidewalks. The author lists which buildings are open for tours and which ones have been converted to public use such as museums, stores, or restaurants.
The buildings of Fredericksburg reflect memories of classic German construction and technique with a gradual transition to American styles, including a few remarkable decades that were neither purely German nor American distinctively but saw the creation of a regional style.
This book allows readers to walk down the streets of Fredericksburg and see the layers of Texas history on display: everything from a pioneer log cabin to an art deco courthouse.
The essays describe how building design, hardware, wall coverings, furniture, and even paint colors telegraphed social signals about the status of builders and owners and choreographed social interactions among everyone who lived or worked in gentry houses, modest farmsteads, and slave quarters. The analyses of materials, finishes, and carpentry work will fascinate old-house buffs, preservationists, and historians alike. The lavish color photography is a delight to behold, and the detailed catalogues of architectural elements provide a reliable guide to the form, style, and chronology of the region's distinctive historic architecture.
A treasure trove of measured drawings and photographs, this volume depicts wood fences, gates, and small garden houses of New England. Several of these elegantly detailed constructions were built between the Revolutionary War and 1825, and many of them no longer exist. Restorationists and preservationists will find this collection a valuable resource.
Part I, "Designing National Memories," examines the ways institutions and individuals construct national memory. Eric Sandweiss discusses American urban history museums; Mark Jarzombek addresses the reconstruction of Dresden, Germany; Fernando Lara contrasts Brazilian modern architecture to earlier European modernism; and Maria de Lourdes Luz and Ana Lucia Santos look at Brazilian history through the prism of the coffee plantation system.
Part II, "Literary Memory Spaces," focuses on the treatment of place in literature. Sabir Khan spotlights the experiences of two South Asian women who return to their homelands after several years abroad to discover changes in their native landscape. Barbara Mann explores the Old Cemetry in Tel Aviv, while Carel Bertram considers images of the Turkish house, and Eleni Bastéa examines the cities of Thessaloniki and Istanbul as reflected in literary novels.
Part III, "Personal Cartographies," comprises three personal essays: Catherine Hamel on Beirut, Christine Gorby on Belfast, and V. B. Price on Los Angeles and Albuquerque. "The Voices from the Studio" in Part IV considers the ways memory may apply to the teaching of architecture. Thomas Fisher writes about the state of architectural education, Rachel Hurst and Jane Lawrence describe their teaching methods. Sheona Thomson examines the relationship between the spaces of architecture and the spaces of literature asking, "Why couldn't we be drawn more often into learning about architecture by studying how it has been painted by Giotto, or described by Virginia Woolf, or, for that matter, by being asked to reflect on our own recollections of place?"
Want to build responsibly and help preserve the environment? This friendly, step-by-step guide introduces you to key facets of green building and remodeling, from looking at long-term costs to working with green professionals to reducing energy and water use.
Open the book and find:
The benefits of going green
Green material substitutions
Where to locate green professionals
Ten green things you can do in your home today
Contributors: Susan Calafate Boyle, National Park Service; Susan Buggey, U of Montreal; Michael Caratzas, Landmarks Preservation Commission (NYC); Courtney P. Fint, West Virginia Historic Preservation Office; Heidi Hohmann, Iowa State U; Hillary Jenks, USC; Randall Mason, U Penn; Robert Z. Melnick, U of Oregon; Nora Mitchell, National Park Service; Julie Riesenweber, U of Kentucky; Nancy Rottle, U of Washington; Bonnie Stepenoff, Southeast Missouri State U.
Richard Longstreth is professor of American civilization and director of the graduate program in historic preservation at George Washington University.
Seventy featured taverns and breweries represent diverse architectural styles, from the open-air Tom’s Burned Down Cafe on Madeline Island to the Art Moderne Casino in La Crosse, and from Club 10, a 1930s roadhouse in Stevens Point, to the well-known Wolski’s Tavern in Milwaukee. There are bars in barns and basements and brewpubs in former ice cream factories and railroad depots. Bottoms Up also includes a heady mix of such beer-related topics as ice harvesting, barrel making, bar games, Old-Fashioneds, bar fixtures, and the queen of the bootleggers. Now in paperback for the first time!
In Texas State Parks and the CCC: The Legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps, Cynthia Brandimarte has mined the organization’s archives, as well as those of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and the Texas Department of Transportation, to compile a rich visual record of how this New Deal program left an indelible stamp on many of the parks we still enjoy today.
Some fifty thousand men were enrolled in the CCC in Texas. Between 1933 and 1942, they constructed trails, cabins, concession buildings, bathhouses, dance pavilions, a hotel, and a motor court. Before they arrived, the state’s parklands consisted of fourteen parks on about 800 acres, but by the end of World War II, CCC workers had helped create a system of forty-eight parks on almost 60,000 acres throughout Texas.
Accompanied by many never-published images that reveal all aspects of the CCC in Texas, from architectural plans to camp life, Texas State Parks and the CCC covers the formation and development of the CCC and its design philosophy; the building of the parks and the daily experiences of the workers; the completion and management of the parks in the first decades after the war; and the ongoing process of maintaining and preserving the iconic structures that define the rustic, handcrafted look of the CCC.
With a call for greater appreciation of these historical resources, especially in light of the recent Bastrop fire, which threatened one of the state’s most popular CCC-era destinations, Brandimarte profiles twenty-nine parks, providing a descriptive history of each and information on its CCC company, the dates of CCC activity, and the CCC-built structures still existing within the park.
In the preparation for writing this book, the Evanses traveled 13,821 miles documenting and photographing more than 200 covered bridges. The introduction to the book familiarizes readers with covered bridges by discussing their history, twelve different kinds of truss designs, and current preservation and restoration efforts. The Evanses provide, for each of the 206 bridges in this book, the name of the bridge, its location, specific directions to the bridge, its year of construction, its truss design, and the name of the waterway it crosses. Additional information includes whether the bridge is in use, its number of spans, the names of its owner and builder, its length and width, its condition, number, national register data, and anecdotal material. A short glossary of covered-bridge terminology is also included.
“…an astonishing feat of research, compilationand synthesis.”—ContextThe book delivers the first major survey concerning theconservation of cultural heritage in both Europe and the Americas.Architectural Conservation in Europe and the Americas servesas a convenient resource for professionals, students, and anyoneinterested in the field. Following the acclaimed TimeHonored, this book presents contemporary practice on acountry-by-country and region-by-region basis, facilitatingcomparative analysis of similarities and differences. The bookstresses solutions in architectural heritage protection and thecontexts in which they were developed.
Houston Lost and Unbuilt presents an extensive catalogue of twentieth-century public and commercial buildings that have been lost forever, as well as an intriguing selection of buildings that never made it off the drawing board. The lost buildings (or lost interiors of buildings) span a wide range, from civic gathering places such as the Houston Municipal Auditorium and the Astrodome to commercial enterprises such as the Foley Brothers, Sears Roebuck, and Sakowitz department stores to "Theatre Row" downtown to neighborhoods such as Fourth Ward/Freedmen's Town. Steven Strom's introductions and photo captions describe each significant building's contribution to the civic life of Houston. The "unbuilt" section of the book includes numerous previously unpublished architectural renderings of proposed projects such as a multi-building city center, monorail, and people mover system, all which reflect Houston's fascination with the future and optimism that technology will solve all of the city's problems.
Visit the most compelling cultural and nature sites in all of Japan with this beautifully photographed travel guide.
In Japan's World Heritage Sites, readers are introduced to the temples, gardens, castles and natural wonders for which Japan is so justly renowned—all of those now declared to be Unesco World Heritage Sites. Author John Dougill describes each site in detail, stating why they were singled out by Unesco, the current number and types of sites, the application process, how the sites have been selected, and how difficult it is to be given the special status of a World Heritage Site.
Dougill traveled to all of the sites in Japan to research this book. Because the Japanese archipelago extends from Siberia all the way down to Taiwan, Dougill describes how his journey led him from the sub-Arctic to the sub-tropical zones. These are without a doubt the most interesting sites that Japan has to offer, including the following: Mount Fuji, Japan's tallest and most sacred volcano. Located on Honshu Island near Tokyo, Mt. Fuji is considered the sacred symbol of Japan Himeji Castle, a monument from Japan's long feudal history. Also known as Egret Castle, because it looks like a bird taking off in flight. Horyu-ji Temple, the world's oldest surviving wooden structure—a center of Buddhist learning that still serves as a seminary and monastery Hiroshima Peace Memorial or Atomic-Bomb Dome—one of the few structures to partially survive the atomic blast in 1945 The Ogasawara Islands, a remote archipelago of over 30 islands—including Iwo Jima—that is home to rare wildlife and spectacular scenery
Readers will learn how Japan first became involved with the World Heritage Sites program back in 1993, the importance of these designations, and their popularity in Japan, where they are visited by millions of people annually, both Japanese and foreigners.
Its thrust has increased since the mid-1920s with the pioneering work of the San Antonio Conservation Society. In Saving San Antonio, Texas historian Lewis Fisher peels back the myths surrounding more than a century of preservation triumphs and failures to reveal a lively mosaic that portrays the saving of San Antonio's cultural and architectural soul. The process, entertaining in the telling, has reverberated throughout the United States and provided significant lessons for the built environments and economies of cities everywhere.
Every day, millions of people enter old buildings, pass monuments, and gaze at landscapes unaware that these acts are possible only thanks to the preservation movement. As we approach the October 2016 anniversary of the United States National Historic Preservation Act, historian Max Page offers a thoughtful assessment of the movement’s past and charts a path toward a more progressive future.
Page argues that if preservation is to play a central role in building more-just communities, it must transform itself to stand against gentrification, work more closely with the environmental sustainability movement, and challenge societies to confront their pasts. Touching on the history of the preservation movement in the United States and ranging the world, Page searches for inspiration on how to rejuvenate historic preservation for the next fifty years. This illuminating work will be widely read by urban planners, historians, and anyone with a stake in the past.
When Eleanor Phillips Brackbill bought her suburban Westchester house in 2000, three mysteries came with it. First, from the former owner, came the information that the 1930s house was “a Sears house or something like that.” Thrilled to think it might be a Sears, Roebuck & Co. mail-order house, Brackbill was determined to find evidence to prove it. She found instead a house pedigree of a different sort.
Second, and even more provocative, was the discovery of several iron stakes protruding from the property’s enormous granite outcropping, bigger in square footage than the house itself. When queried about them, the former owner told her, “Someone a long time ago kept monkeys there, chained to the stakes.” Monkeys? Was this some kind of suburban legend?
A third mystery came to light at closing, when a building inspector’s letter contained a reference to the house having had, at one time, a different address. Why would the house have had another address?
Her curiosity aroused, and intent upon finding the facts, Brackbill gradually peeled back layers of history, allowing the house and the land to tell their stories, and uncovering a past inextricably woven into four centuries of American history. At the same time, she found thirty-two owners, across 350 years, who had just one thing in common: ownership of a particular parcel of land.
An Uncommon Cape not only tells the story of an eight-year odyssey of fact-finding and speculation but also answers the broader question: “What came before?” and, through material presented in twenty-two sidebars, offers readers insights and guidelines on how to find the stories behind their own homes.
“A detective story set in her own backyard, Eleanor Phillips Brackbill’s book shows the rich stories even our own homes can tell us if we take the time to hear them. What to most looks like a common residential Cape-style home in a suburban neighborhood can tell us more about ourselves as New Yorkers than anything we learned about in school. This book is a testament to the value of historic preservation and an appreciation of all that is our past, including our victories, our failures, and our faults.” — Jay A. DiLorenzo, President, Preservation League of New York
“Eleanor Phillips Brackbill’s in-depth genealogy/biography of the house in which she lives and the land on which it sits is a brilliantly written model of superb research and storytelling. It recognizes the opportunity, perhaps the responsibility, to learn and record and pass along to future generations all that can be found out about the history of property for which we are transient stewards. Her Uncommon Cape is a perfect vehicle for bringing back to life four centuries of enthralling regional (and American) history while allowing many interrelated, but yet unsolved, mysteries to live on. Brackbill ably succeeds in convincing us that the past is not even past!” — Charles Duell, President, Middleton Place Foundation and author of Middleton Place: A Phoenix Still Rising
“Home ownership has become, for better and for worse, a profound part of contemporary American identity. Eleanor Phillips Brackbill delves into this terrain—quite literally—by piecing together the genealogy of her home, which she reconstructs through diligent archival detective work (and even the occasional late-night trek through the woods). As such, her study is as much about the craft of historical inquiry as it is about the vicissitudes of a particular chunk of real estate. With sidebars that offer research tips placed throughout the text, the book will be a useful guide for those interested in pursuing their own historical investigations.” — Michael Lobel, author of James Rosenquist: Pop Art, Politics, and History in the 1960s
“A page-turning read. I got totally caught up in the history of a county, a country, and a sturdy little house. Brackbill’s meticulous research fascinates and will cause me to dig into my own house’s story—its moves, its occupants, and its alterations.” — Lucy Hedrick, author and publishing coach