Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Brief Respite from the Polar Vortex II

 Libby and I have been pretty busy today, what with preparing syllabi, doing laundry, falling down the steps to the laundry room…let's just say it has not been one of my best days and it ain't over yet. (I know the photo does not look like we were busy, but we were.)  First of all, we were awake from 2 AM until 5:30 AM, dealing with unexplained pain (this was pre-falling down the stairs).  I was able to make it past another level of Candy Crush, however, given the 36 minutes I spent between lives doing crosswords.
While I was not in a particular mood to get up at 7:30 when Libby decided it was time for breakfast, and, thus, I did not, I accommodated her by 8:51 so she had no room to complain.  (She still did, but I think she was overstepping her boundaries).  
I spent the day from 9 AM until 8:27 PM working on my syllabus, with tiny breaks for toting laundry back and forth, and the 30 minutes I spent icing my knee, shin, and ankle after the fall down the steps to the laundry room.  I am pretty darn careful these days, but swoosh--the step was slick and apparently, so was my foot.
Note: I am taking poetic license here--I was not wearing these boots at any point during the day, thus, they cannot be held responsible. 
 I had been pretty proud of myself last Monday for getting my room organized and de-dog haired and dusted.  Good thing; I think I might be taking it easy for awhile.  (And if you don't think this is "organized" then good thing you did not see it before.)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Hi Ho Hi Ho It's off to work we go...

Yeah, Libby, I wonder, too…how did these last few weeks fly by so fast?
Like Motel 6, I left the light on for Libby, but she was happy to see me when I got home from work today, and pointed out that it was almost time for supper.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

U S Post Office and Courthouse, El Dorado, Arkansas

 The three story, Classical Revival style post office and district courthouse were constructed in 1931 at a cost of $383,000 (El Dorado Historic District Design Guidelines).  The building remains in use as a post office and courthouse, and is part of the downtown El Dorado historic district.
 Since it was Christmas, all historic buildings were decked out in the obligatory wreaths and lights, which of course, does not enhance historic architecture one bit.  The building featured two twin front entrances.
 Although many of the buildings constructed under the New Deal were simpler, Art Moderne designs in keeping with the austerity of the Great Depression, this building was very elegant, as federal buildings were intended to illustrate something of the pomp and glory of the government.  The post office is located on the first floor, and the upper floors contain the courthouse.
 I think this is the first post office I have seen with round tables in the center of the lobby, and the glass and pedestal design was very elegant looking.  Wouldn't you love to have this in your kitchen or sunroom as a place to enjoy your morning coffee?
Radiator and window detail

Entry vestibule

 The elevator detail gave one the feeling of a luxury hotel.
 James A. Wetmore was acting supervising architect at the time, and as I discovered earlier, was not actually an architect, but rather an attorney.  Louis A. Simon would work with him as an assistant, and later go on to claim the office himself.
This elegant building had better be happy it is in a small town in Arkansas instead of New York City or  California, where it would be at risk of being sold to some corporation or private investor, and the post office "relocated" to a strip mall storefront.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Roses and Baby's Breath

I love days like today.  Even though it never got above 39 degrees, it was sunny and clear, and seemed warmer.  I left mid-morning for Memphis, armed with plans for research, thinking about one last fling of a road trip for work/pleasure/necessity before the semester begins again.  I had to take the car in for service, had some New Deal research to do, and I have been out of my two favorite Earl Gray teas for several days now.  And could it be possible that Buster's has been able to replenish Fairview Pinotage since the last time I was there?

Sometimes I have to confess that as much as I love research, I find things that create feelings of intense anger.  One of my supervisors used to say that only when we really did feel anger could we learn to channel that toward social change.  After all these years of practice (and experiencing a whole lot of anger at injustice) I still wonder about humankind.  So, as I was waiting for my car, I was finding more information than I could possibly process, and trying to figure out what to do with it in a useful way.  I have been working on this piece of research for a while now, and just when I think I have a handle on it, I find that I don't.  In one way, that makes me feel good about it.  Sometimes, thinking we know something can be a trap to stop thinking.

My final stop of the day was at Fresh Market, which is the only place I can find the two brands of tea that I prefer.  They had a mark-down rack of flowers just inside the door, and since I had finally managed to find time to clean my room this past weekend, I selected two of my favorites--baby's breath and spray roses.  (I just can't seem to reconcile fresh flowers in a pig sty--or as my friend's young daughters used to call it, a "pig style.")  I splurged on a $10 candle (a total contradiction to the research I had been doing) of tangerine and lemongrass, and hit the road home.

I made chicken provencal with fresh carrots and fresh Tuscan bread. The scent of the baby's breath and the tangerine/lemongrass are filling the room now.  One last pleasure of the day.

Bruce Springsteen & Jimmy Fallon: "Gov. Christie Traffic Jam" ("Born To ...

And here's a song from Bruce's new CD...

Saturday, January 11, 2014

On being a gentleman

My dad is of the age that some things are just to be done…like having your shirt tail tucked in your pants…no matter what kind of shirt, and no matter what kind of pants.  I don't guess I ever saw Dad without his shirt tail tucked in, at least not that I can recall.  He had worn starched shirts and jeans for years, even at home.
My niece took this photograph of dad just about two years ago.  Even though he was working, shirt in, jeans starched.
Up until Dad broke his hip in October, he was still dressing every day in starched shirt and jeans, and he would not hear of doing otherwise.  My sister finally talked him into fleece pants (and his western shirt) so he would be more comfortable and it would be easier to dress his wound after he had the hip repair surgery.  This winter, she eased him into fleece tops with those pants because they were warmer for him, and easier than all the snaps.
Rand and I had stopped at the outlet mall in Terrell on the way home to go to the Jockey store.  While they did not have what I wanted, they did have some Tall fleece and flannel pants--something you cannot get in Graham, or frankly, just about anywhere one can shop these days.  Dad is 6'6" so even the longest pants you can find, after a couple of times through the dryer, are about 2-3 inches (or more!) too short for him.  Most manufacturers think "tall" is a 34 inch inseam, and Dad needs a 36--which we could get in Wrangler's (apparently, they understand that cowboys are taller, and have no butt to speak of)--but even with looking all over the Internet, Sis and I could not find anything long enough in fleece.  And then, Jockey came to my rescue--which is kind of funny, if you think about it, since real jockeys have to be very short and very small.

So, Dad has been enjoying his long-enough fleece pants, and I will be sure to stop on my next trip and pick up a few more pair and relegate the "high waters" to one of those times I might need some work pants for mucking out the hay stall.  I have decided that I will be taking an old pair of smooth soled boots with me next time.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to get horse droppings and hay out of the soles of athletic shoes?  You do if you were foolish enough to wear them to the barn.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Magnolia's Final Cameo Appearance...

 I drove through Magnolia the first time in summer of 2012--when the marquee had a sign on it that said goodbye to the community, and announced the closing of the Cameo in August.  Coming back through in December, the building with "no plans to sell or lease" (The show's over for the Cameo theatre on Sunday night, Magnolia Reporter, August 12, 2012) is for sale, which understandably has folks worried--the folks who care about historic buildings and their future use, and preserving downtown Magnolia community and its only entertainment venue, that is (MEDC: Cameo's close a "quality of life" issue for city, Magnolia Reporter, August 24, 2012).
 There were quite a number of theaters named Cameo, some of which still operate as movie houses, as well as any number of Art Deco and Art Deco-influenced movie houses.  Some of the other Cameos had an actual cameo in the design also.  While cameos date as far back as 6 BCE, they
…remained popular throughout the Art Deco period. (Monica Beth Fowler, In praise of cameos. Antiques and Art Around Florida, Winter/Spring, 1998)
 Architects for the Cameo were Ginnochio and Cromwell, according to Joe Vogel on cinema treasures.org. Long-time owner W. P. Florence, Jr. retired in 2000, and the theatre was operated after that by a chain (The show's over…).
 Mr. Florence's father built the Macco theatre in 1925, which operated through the Depression, and closed in 1958.  He also opened the Odeon, which was destroyed by fire in 1948.  He opened the Cameo in 1949, and it opened with John Wayne in Tulsa on September 8.  The elder Mr. Florence also operated the Sunset Drive-In.
Other theaters in Magnolia included the Joy Theatre and the Joy Drive-In, which were later purchased by the Florence family in 1950.  The Ritz served African Americans in Magnolia during segregation.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Crossett Post Office

 The former post office in tiny little Crossett, Arkansas was described as
...unique blend of Art Deco, Greek Revival, and International architectural styles...(Arkansas Historic Preservation Program).
 I get the International style, with the expanse of glass, the squared granite trim on the entrance, the primarily squared, flat fronted building, and the use of stucco...but I am not seeing that Greek Revival, unless it is the tiny little pediment at the top of the entrance--the only non-flat, non-squared, non-rectangular aspect of the building.  And, perhaps that the glass fronted wall sort of emerges from the rest of the building sort of like a portico?
 A peek through the entrance reveals the original wooden vestibule is still in place, and these were common in the Colonial Revival and Greek Revival post houses I have seen through out this area.  Perhaps there were other elements in the interior that reflected Art Deco and Greek Revival.
 Crossett was founded as a "company town" by the Crossett Lumber Company (now Georgia-Pacific Corporation) and until 1946, all buildings and businesses except a cafe, the laundry and dry cleaners, and the post office were owned and operated by Crossett Lumber Company (D. M. Moyers, Trouble in a company town: The Crossett strike of 1940).
 The Crossett Lumber Company donated the land for the new post office and wanted it to "reflect new progressive ideas."(AHPP).
When construction was completed in 1940, Crossett reveled in the addition of the 'pleasing green' stucco building that was designed using a combination of Art Deco, Greek Revival, and International architectural styles. (AHPP)
The building cost $70,000 and was finished and dedicated in August 1940--roughly the same time as the lumber company strike of 1940 was polarizing the town, so there may have been less 'reveling' and more revolting going on in some parts of the community.
In terms of design, this is a building built decades ahead of its time.  The Crossett Post office was, and still is, a jewel hidden in a small town in Southeast Arkansas. (Old Crossett Post Office named to National Register of Historic Places, Ashley County Ledger).
The building housed the post office until 1968 when it was sold by the postal service for $1 to the city for use as a public library.  The library was housed in the building until 2002, and now is home to the Crossett Economic Development Foundation.  The building is still a "pleasing green." Perhaps that was the nod to Art Deco?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Miller County Courthouse, Texarkana

 The Miller County, Arkansas courthouse is located on the Arkansas side of Texarkana.  The 1939 Moderne-style of Art Deco building was constructed under the Works Progress Administration (WPA) by Manhattan Construction (National Register of Historic Places, nationalregisterofhistoricplaces.com/AR/Miller/state.html).
E. C. Siebert, formerly of Witt, Siebert, and Halsey in Texarkana, designed and supervised the building while serving as mayor of Texarkana (Arkansas Historic Preservation Program). 

The top floor served as the jail at one time.  The bars are visible on the photograph at the top of the page.  It is unknown if the space is currently in use for any purpose.  Jails on the top floor of courthouses was apparently quite common, for example, in the Concordia Parish courthouse in Vidalia, Louisiana and the Stephens County courthouse in Breckenridge, Texas.
Little history on the effects of the Depression on Miller County has been recorded.  A Works Progress Administration (WPA) office was located for a time in the Victory Hotel in Texarkana. (B. J. Rowe, "Miller County." Encyclopedia of Arkansas)
Arkansas: A Guide to the State, 1941, was included in the Federal Writers Project materials, and Arkansas, like other states, was the recipient of New Deal funds for relief, employment, and construction of new buildings, roads, and other forms of infrastructure.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Where is the only Federal courthouse to straddle the line between two states?

That would be Texarkana--half of the building is in Texas and half is in Arkansas.  I always wondered where the "ana" part of the name came from, and just learned it was because the original namer thought he was on the border of Louisiana as well, but he had missed it by some 30 miles.

The building behind the lovely photo op of standing in two states at the same time is
…steadfastly Beaux Arts in design, the federal building is at the more austere end of the spectrum of its style.  (Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, www.arkansaspreservation.com)
The building has an Art Deco style trim at the top of the "service penthouse" (General Services Administration, gsa.gov).  Not only is it the only Federal building to cross state lines, Texarkana boasts it is the most photographed courthouse in the US, second to the Supreme Court in DC.  I am not certain how the statistics for calculating the photographing of courthouses is maintained, however, so cannot verify that claim.
Art Deco trim on penthouse
 The building was constructed in 1932-1933 with a base of pink granite from Texas, and walls of limestone from Arkansas.  The post office is still located on the first floor of the building.
The first courthouse on the line had only one courtroom, located on the Arkansas side of the line.  Texas lawyers had to be versed in Arkansas law, which was apparently something of a problem (Arkansas Historic Preservation Program).  The current courthouse was built with a courtroom on the Texas side of the line and a courtroom on the Arkansas side of the line, solving that problem.
 The architect was James A. Wetmore, acting supervising architect for the treasury department, assisted by Louis Simon who would later take over the job.  Wetmore was not an architect by profession--he was an attorney (GSA).  The project was funded through the Public Buildings Act 1926 at a final cost of one million dollars (Arkansas Historic Preservation Program).
Its design and construction, like other public buildings built in the early 1930s, was a part of federal construction programs that were designed to reduce unemployment during the Depression.
The construction of the Texarkana U S Post Office and Courthouse, like other federal construction projects undertaken during this period, provided unemployment relief during the Depression.  During its planning and construction, the federal government expanded its public buildings program.  The appropriations allotted under the 1926 Public Buildings Act were increased in 1928 and again in 1930 and 1931.
In 1931, the Federal Employment Stabilization Act was passed.  This act permitted the President and Congress to authorize additional appropriations for construction projects in order to facilitate employment.  These pieces of legislation established a trend in public works projects that led to the creation of the Public Works Administration (PWA) and Works Progress Administration (WPA).  Although not directly part of the so-called "alphabet" New Deal programs, the building's construction, like other public buildings built in the early 1930s, was part of the government's efforts to combat growing unemployment. (Arkansas Historic Preservation Program)
One architectural firm who benefitted from the project was Witt, Siebert, and Halsey of Texarkana, who designed the building, in association with Perkins, Chatten, and Hammond of Chicago (GSA).  The original structural engineering drawing was by R. D. Jameson, and the mechanical engineer was R. F. Taylor.    Gauger Construction of Memphis, Tennessee built the courthouse (Arkansas Historic Preservation Program).

E. C. Siebert would later leave the firm to start his own business, and while mayor of Texarkana, designed and supervised construction of the Miller County courthouse.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Rio's Year

 In the past year, I have spent many days back home in Texas helping taking care of my parents.  My favorite chore while I am there is feeding and watering Rio.
 I don't recall the actual year Dad got Rio, but it was after they started going to Cowboy Church.  The elder men would ride their horses up to the arena and mentor the younger kids.  Dad told Mom he thought he needed a horse so he could go, too.  Dad has always been an animal lover, having grown up in the country with not only dogs, but farm animals.  To be sure, the animals were for food or for work (for example, my dad has plowed a field using a team of mules), but nonetheless, he has a fond spot for them.
 He bought Rio from a neighbor to his parents' land--a man who had raised horses for a living.
 I remember Dad talking to me after he first got him, and laughing as he mounted--he said he had to grab his right leg with his hand and pull it over the saddle as he could not just swing it across.  We all allowed as how if he was 83 and still able to get on a horse at all, he was doing pretty well.  Before long, he would have to lead Rio to the deck to use as an "upping block" in order to mount.  It was only a few feet up the road to the arena in which Cowboy Church was located, so Dad would ride up there rather than trailer Rio and drive it.
 I was never there when Dad was riding, so that is a memory I don't have, but he shared many of the stories on the phone of the day's events when they would have the Play Day at the church arena.
Last fall, my sister and I mastered the art of cleaning out the water trough--a cast iron bathtub that is heavy when empty.  On the last trip, I managed to clean it out by myself, with Rio standing patiently behind me, watching and waiting.

My sister loves Rio, too, and she is the one who picks up feed and unloads it, six bags at a time.  Well, she buys six bags at a time, not that she carries six bags at once as they weigh 50 pounds each.  On occasion when I have been there, I had to go buy feed and unload it, but usually that chore is done when I am there.

I do get to fork hay in the winter, and that was a pretty wild chore last week when I could not get the baling wire off the bale of hay.  The wounds are mostly healed now, with only two small scabs left to show the results.  Next time, I will be sure to have those wire cutters in my pocket, since Texas does not use seagrass string to tie up bales of hay.  (Shout out to Lana for teaching me something new about my adopted state.  However, I will point out that there are myriad uses of baling wire, and my grandmother was proof.  She practically built her yard fence with baling wire.)

Because Dad can't get down to the barn now to see Rio, I usually take a picture or two of him each time.  I am such a common feature at feeding time now that Rio nickers when he sees me coming--a little sound that makes my heart feel good.  The caregivers feed him, keep the hay out, and keep the water trough full, but they don't have affection for him.  I always give him his handful of grain while he waits at the gate--because Dad did that.  I give him a peppermint treat--because Dad did that.  I pet him, and call him my baby boy--because Dad did that.

Because I am pronoid, the exchange is vital to me, and because I understand something about stability, the consistency is important to Rio, to Dad, and to me.  Last week, as I was forking hay, Rio came up to watch me.  I stopped and petted him, talking to him.  Back at the house, Dad said, "I saw you petting my horse out in the pasture."  Dad had been standing at the kitchen window and looked out to see me and Rio.  That little memory is tucked inside my heart now.  Simple, but profound, knowing he knows that Rio is more than a chore to be done, knowing that he knows I value Rio as more than a chore to be done, but rather, a relationship to be maintained.  Rio is like therapy: in the midst of all the endless uncharted terrain of the past year, he is just there, quietly standing by me, accepting my affection, returning it with his nicker of thanks, and helping me maintain connection with Dad and Sis--because she and I are committed to keeping Dad's life as normal as possible as long as possible.

Here's a little present for Dad: