Sunday, September 18, 2016

FALAISE: DayTripping on the Gold Coast By Polly Guerin

FALAISE in Style of 13th Century Norman Manor House
Harry F. Guggenheim's FALAISE,  one of the few intact historic houses remaining on Long Island's North Shore, is as relevant today as when it was built between 1923/24. It is one of the three stately homes at Sands Point once owned by the Guggenheim clan, now under the auspices of Nassau County.
    As a mansion museum built in the style of a 13th-century Norman Manor House its modest facade sets the stage for authenticity in its architectural design.
     Falaise is a time capsule of treasures from an era that segued into the Art Deco period when the titans of great wealth and industry built summer mansions on the Gold Coast and F. Scott Fitzgerald was writing The Great Gatsby.
     FALAISE, is an important tourist site as it is  furnished with museum-quality antiques and artifacts, many of the 16th and 17th century. Falaise (French for "cliff") is aptly named as the back of the house is situated on a majestic bluff overlooking the Long Island Sound.
FALAISE The Majestic Cliff  Terrace View
When entering the courtyard it is best to wear comfortable shoes as the enclosed cobblestone courtyard is challenging to traverse to the house.
     The thickly mortared Dutch brick walls are an authentic testament to the style of Norman Manor Houses and overhead the thickly pitched roofs of heavy tile are original. Like a fairy tale image the round tower evokes the Medieval theme both outside and inside with archways, thick wood beams, textured plaster walls and a French carved stone fireplace mantel in the living room from a Chateau in France.
    Falaise is a testament to a time well lived when polite society had the fortunes to  indulge in their artistic pursuits and passion for antiquities.  In 1923 when Harry F. Guggenheim married Caroline Morton, his father Daniel presented him with 90 acres of waterfront property on the Guggenheim estate, which at that time totaled 350 acres and included a gentleman's working farm. He could afford to be generous.
    Construction of Falaise began in 1923 and was completed in 1924.
FALAISE: Grand Staircase from France
     After their wedding, the couple soon embarked on an extensive European honeymoon. At some point they took along their architect Frederick J. Sterner as the configurations of the house needed special consideration in the architectural design of the overall structure. For instance, Harry and Caroline collected architectural fragments of medieval and Renaissance-period buildings including exquisite carved doors, wood carvings, wall sculptures, antique gates, Renaissance paintings and several important pieces of modern art.
     The imposing grand staircase from France is another eye-catching feature that leads to private bedrooms modestly furnished; most have a view of the water. Don't miss the beautiful swimming pool located behind the house. Originally a rose garden it was replaced with a swimming pool because  Harry was advised by his doctor to get more exercise
    Falaise may be main the attraction but there is something about Harry that is worth the telling.  For one thing, he was not a playboy.  Harry Guggenheim had a strong commitment to public service, was a businessman, diplomat, publisher, philanthropist, aviator and horseman.
Amazing as the time frame may seem, a Navy pilot, Captain Harry F. Guggenheim served in both World War I and World War II and you can still see his uniform and other diplomatic clothing as he was Ambassador to Cuba during the Hoover Administration. Harry was an ideal ambassador and tapped into his fluency in Spanish, which he mastered working in the Guggenheim family's mining business, and that. dear readers, is where the clan garnered a great fortune,
FALAISE: Living Room with French Carved Mantle
    Harry had a great interest in aviation and was a close friend of Charles Lindbergh, who was a frequent visitor to Falaise, particularly after the tragic death of his son, he wrote the book "We" there.
Harry continued to support aviation progress and was instrumental in securing funding for the research of rocket pioneer Robert Goddard. and helped organize the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Jet Propulsion Center at the California Institute of Technology and the Guggenheim Laboratories for Aerospace Propulsion Sciences at Princeton University.
     You may be familiar with Newsday, but  you might not know that the newspaper was founded by Harry and his third wife, Alicia Patterson in 1940. During her tenure as editor and Harry as publisher the circulation reached 450,000 and received the Pulitzer Prize in 1954.
    Horse Racing also caught Harry's  entreprenurial enthusiasm. He raised and raced thoroughbred horses and helped to establish the New York Racing Association.  Don't forget to go downstairs at Falaise where his trophies, awards and racing memorabilia are on display. Just so you know, Harry's 1953 Kentucky Derby winner Dark Star, was the only horse to defeat the legendary Native Dancer.
     Touring Falaise is the perfect way to experience the Gold Coast lifestyle in this meticulously and lovingly preserved historic home that reflects Harry's lifestyle and visionary achievements.  Open for docent-led tours from May 19 through November 20, 2016. Tickets $10 can be purchased at the Gate House, 127 Middle Neck Road, Sands Point. Best to call to check availability for tours at l, 2 and 3 pm.  516.571.7901. 
Ta Ta, Dear Readers: Comments welcome at Please visit Polly's other Blogs at

Thursday, September 8, 2016

OAK ALLEY PLANTATION on the Mississippi River Cruise: By Polly Guerin

Oak Alley Plantations Live Oak Tree Allee,: View from the Mississippi River
As the great Irish poet, William Butler Yeats, might have written "A Cruel Beauty" at best describes the amazing, monumental Live Oak Trees at Oak Alley Plantation. Massive tendrils reach out from the trunks of these 300 year old Virginia Live Oaks; a strong testaments to the lasting legacy of a bygone era. With their twisted and gnarly branches dipping into the land they form a French Allee, an invitation to the large Greek revival antebellum mansion, Bon Sejour.
      If those ancient oaks could speak what would they say? "Planted in the 1700s by an unknown settler, the double row of 28 evenly spaced trees were there at Oak Alley Plantation, long before the majestic, present house was built." The awesome Allee or tree avenue invites visitors to Oak Alley Plantation with a sweeping panorama that leads to the mansion creating a stunning vista from the direction of the Mississippi River. The site is located in the community of Vacherie, St. James Parrish, Louisiana on the west bank of the Mississippi River.
      The Bon Sejour (Good Visit) Plantation as Oak Alley was originally named, was established to grow sugar cane, by the pioneer French entrepreneur, Valcour Aime, who purchased the land in 1830. The history of Oak Alley Plantation is an American romantic epic as equal in importance as Downton Abbey. It is surprising, to me, that no film producer has seen the potential to make Oak Alley's eventful history into a television series.  Instead, Bon Sejour has been deemed worthy enough to be the location for numerous productions filmed in part or entirely on location; including Primary Colors, NightRider, Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte, Days of our Lives, and others.     
Bon Sejour Living Room where Celina Enertained
      In the halcyon days of  Bon Sejour Monsieur Valcour Aime was one of the wealthiest men in the South and reigned in society as the "King of Sugar." He must have enjoyed the fruits of his labor so much that he wanted to downsize and in 1836, Valcour exchanged this piece of property with his brother-in-law, Jacques Telesphore Roman for a property owned by Roman.             Thus begins another phase in the management of the land and the dream of an antebellum mansion.The impressive maison that Jacques built, entirely with enslaved labor, was completed in 1839. One interesting story involves the slave, named Antoine. who is listed in the estate's records as gardener, expert grafter of pecan trees." Antoine was a master of grafting and perfected a pecan variety that won a prize at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. The trees may still be found throughout southern Louisiana, where the pecan was once a cash crop.
      Jacques, had become, like Aime, a wealthy sugar cane planter, but he had a good reason to erect the mansion, and like a Romance Novel, the story was motivated by Love.  At this time his young socialite bride, Marie Therese Josephine 'Celina' Pilie Roman, was enjoying the privileges of French New Orlean's high society balls and entertainments.  It was a daunting task but Jacques wanted to entice Celina away from the allure and pleasures of New Orleans' city life to live on the plantation where she could indulge in her social commitments and entertain friends and family in the grand style that she was accustomed to. Jacques had the tenacity of persuasion succeeded in this endeavor by providing Celina with an elegant mansion
Dining Room's Lyre Fly Swatter
for her social entertainments, that long, long ago were the epitome of southern hospitality. In the impressive dining room it is worth noting that one of the slaves would come in and using a pulley system, he would pull the big Music Lyre fan over the table, moving it back and forth to keep the air circulating and flies away from the table. Such luxuries are discussed by guides in period costumes who remind us how difficult life was without the slave counterparts who made it possible to live so luxuriously in the Old South. The pleasures of life in the elegant mansion lasted for nearly a decade, and then the halcyon days faded.
       Sadly, when Jacques Roman died, in 1848, Celina did not have a skill for managing a sugar plantation and her heavy spending nearly bankrupt the estate. In 1859, her son Henri, took control to turn things around but in 1866 the crisis of mounting debt, brought his uncle, Valcour Aime to the rescue and with Jacques' sisters,  the plantation was put up for auction and it was sold to John Armstrong.
The Master Bedroom with Regal Accoutrements
     As with the plight of so many Mississippi mansions, successive owners could not afford the cost of upkeep and by the 1920s, Bon Sejour mansion had fallen into the dust of history, and magnificent antebellum mansion unrecognizable. Then in 1925 along came Andrew Stewart, another romantic, who bought the mansion as a gift to his wife, Josephine.  She had a far sighted vision and recognized the mansion's  historical significance and began an extensive restoration and modernization of the house. 
The Stewarts were the last owners to live in in the residence.  When Josephine Stewart died she left the historic house and grounds to the Oak Alley Foundation, which opened in 1972 to the public as a tourist attraction and site for corporate events, weddings and private parties. The property was designated a National Historic Landmark for its architecture and landscaping, and for the agricultural innovation of grafting pecan tress, performed here in 1846-47 by Antoine, the enslaved gardener.  If you want to experience Southern hospitality the estate's overnight cottages are available for rental. For culinary indulgences there is a cafe/ice cream parlor and a restaurant recognized for its creole/cajun cuisine. In addition to films made at Oak Alley, there have also been a number of commercials, fashion location shoots and magazine articles which have appeared in almost every category of media coverage.
     It is also interesting to note that the 300 year old Virginia Live Oak trees on the Alley were inducted into the Live Oak Society in 1905 and each tree was registered and given a name.
    For further information visit or call 1-800-44ALLEY.
     Ta Ta darlings!!! Fan is mail always welcome, please send your comments to POLLY at  Visit Polly's Blogs at on fashion, visionary men, women determined to succeed and poetry.

AMERICA: A Mississippi Riverboat Cruise: By Polly Guerin

By WSS member Polly Guerin

Review for the WORLD SHIP SOCIETY Port of New York Branch
The AMERICA Christening Ceremony 

I'm an old-fashioned gal who waxes nostalgic when comes to sentimental journeys. So when it came to deciding on a riverboat cruise this year I fancied remembering the 1927 musical "Showboat" and opted to take a River Boat cruise right here in the good old USA.
     Although I had taken riverboat cruises on the Volga in Russia and the Rhone in France I decided that it was time to travel through the land of the bayous and Southern Belles, where the culture of the the Old South would emanate throughout the trip.  So I took an eight-day/seven night round trip cruise,  to and from New Orleans, Louisiana, May 28 to June 4, on American Cruise Lines' newest ship, christened AMERICA.  An overnight stay on May 27th at the AC Marriott in New Orleans was included in the cruise package so that guests could embark early the next day.
       Festive events were woven into the cruise with ports-of-call along the Mississippi at Houmas House, Baton Rouge, St. Francisville, Natchez, Vicksburg and Oak Alley. In addition to visiting antebellum mansions/plantations. daily highlights included Bill Wiemuth, the River Historian's lectures, the Mississippi Songbird, Laura Sable and other showboat entertainments, plus on site afternoon tea, a visit to the Pilot House and the amazing Kitchen Galley with its efficient quarters. 
       However, the capstone of the festivities was the christening ceremony of the brand new AMERICA;  I knew then that special memories were aboard as well. As Riverboat Historian Bill Wiemuth said, "It is so exciting to see riverboat cruising have a vibrant future. The new riverboat America keeps alive the tradition of the Mississippi riverboat travel that dates back more than two centuries.  The 2016 launch of America is the second riverboat built in the past twenty years to ply the Mississippi River system. "
     America, the cruise line's largest ship with a capacity of 185 guests, maintains the intimacy and personalization of small ship travel. The ship brings never before seen features to Mississippi including advanced engineering for faster yet quieter travel allowing guests to spend more time at the ports-of-call and travel at a higher level of comfort.  For die-hard WSS cruise historians the propulsion of the boat is two 1600-horsepower Z-drives for a total of 3200 horsepower. The newly built paddlewheeler America was built at Chespeake Shipbuilding in Salisbury, Maryland.  The launch of America includes four authentic paddlewheelers, while an additional four are coastal cruises.  Like its fleetmates, AMERICA flies the United States flag with an all American crew.  It is the eighth ship for American Cruise Lines, which is based in Guilford, Connecticut. 
      While the ship is adorned with gleaming woodwork, brass fixtures, and historic decor, it was constructed with the latest cruise technology. The cabins, public spaces and lounges are designed with traditional Southern-inspired flair that elegantly blends with a traditional appearance with modern features and amenities. Every cabin has a balcony.  I especially enjoyed taking breakfast served on mine each morning, and the room itself had a certain tasteful Southern cham with exquisite textiles, pillows, a comfortable bed, an upholstered swivel chair, dressers and a bathroom with perfectly adequate shower stall.
      Although I traveled alone on this cruise, as I always do, meeting new people is a friendly exchange and  it extends to the Dining Salon where open seating provides another opportunity for conversation. The three meals a day are presented in an atmosphere of Southern decor and Southern hospitality. The pleasant surroundings provide an opportunity to sit as you please, at tables that accommodate four, six, eight and even twelve guests. American culinary care to the ship's cuisine has gourmet flare and wine is served. It is interesting to note the the American crew included college/waiters who were efficient, prompt, but especially polite.
      The first welcome aboard day  guests were invited to meet River Historian Bill Wiemuth for a fascinating introduction to the significance of "The Mississippi River, Then and Now." And, if you were not inclined to venture out of your cabin, his daily lectures and commentary was broadcast each day on the ship's "Narration" channel. Visit Bill at 
AMERICA's Paddlewheel Lounge
After a day of sightseeing and mansion/plantation visits the activities get into full swing at 5:30 p.m. when cocktails and hors d'oeuvres are served in the Magnolia Lounge on Deck 2. Although the River Historian Bill Wiemuth and Mississippi songbird, Laura Sable are the entertainment headliners on this riverboat other notables included the Victory Belles for an evening of songs and stories from the Andrews Sisters and a salute to our military men and women. On another night  Captain Hopkin's cocktail hour honored all of our veterans that served in the Armed Forces, with a bit of Old New Orleans jazz with Tom Hook and Wendell Brunious. Comic relief came with comedian Judy Davis, for song, storytelling, and a whole lot of laughs and guest were invited to "Bring your dancin' shoes to the Magnolia Lounge to enjoy some old time classics with entertainers Osgood and Blaque.

        Festivities included marvelous music with the lovely Laura Sable performing hits of timeless singers including Garland, Streisand and Parton, 's accompanied by River Historian, Bill Wiemuth at the piano.  A departure from Bill's daily historical lectures included "10 Amazing Card Tricks Anyone can Do," held in the Paddlewheel Lounge.
      By far, AMERICA'S Christening Ceremony was a major highlight with passengers gathered on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th deck bows to watch Mrs. Barbara Suttles christen the ship by smashing the requisite champagne bottle against its railing. We all sang God Bless America, and sipped champagne as our voices rang out with pride of the moment. Visit Bill at RiverHistory.
      Plantation/mansion visits at ports-of-call were facilitated with coordinated ease so that when the AMERICA docked passengers could walk directly to the plantation. The ship also provided golf carts to transport anyone with special needs.
      Herewith I capsulate some my observations. 
      The first welcome mat was open to the southern splendor of Houmas House, once a massive sugar plantation, aptly called "The Sugar Palace." It is a total immersion into the Old South's grandeur and features 16 rooms filled with period antiques and furnishings, plus time to explore the 38 lush acres of exquisite gardens. A charming docent in period costume made the experience of Southern Plantation life memorable.
     In St. Francisville we visited Rosedown Plantation is considered on of the most beautiful plantations in the South. As Keats wrote, "A thing of beauty is a joy forever." The magnificent property provides insight into Southern culture and hospitality.
     Oak Alley with its alley of 300-old Live Oak Trees leads to "The Grand Dame of the Great River Road. This antebellum home with historical culture makes it worthy enough to become a Downton-Abbey-like American series. The restored slave quarters and magnificent grounds invite your observation.
       If you are interested in reading in-depth features on some of these plantation/mansion visits visit Polly's  Blog:

THE FRENCH QUARTER: New Orleans Remembered By Polly Guerin

St. Louis Cathedral-Basilica
This is the final report from Polly's recent Mississippi Riverboat cruise
New Orleans' Gallic charm, its enchanting historical rhetoric, Mardi Gras mania and Jazz Funerals light up the collective imagination with dreams of the 'good time' city that never ceases to amaze, entertain and renew itself over and over again.
      New Orleans has a strong vitality and has survived steadfast through the Civil War, World War I and II, the Great Depression, epidemics and storms, and even Katrina.
     I was drawn to the heart of Le Vieux Carre, the French Quarter at Franklin Square, the city's most historic area---its lacy balconies, elegant courtyards, unique boutiques and exceptional restaurants.
     At the heart of this ancient quarter is the Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis King of France, which stands as a testament to the city's French influence and culture. Founded in 1718 and established as a parish in 1720, it was not until 1964 that it was designated a basilica. Looking back to its original setting, the curved road, bordered with tress and green hedges was the passageway where fine horse-drawn carriages arrived in style with fashionably dressed French women and noble men in military attire.  It was Sunday at its best "en famille" with lavish dinner to follow the service and time for romantic encounters under chaperon protection.
     Louisiana was claimed for France in 1682 and La Nouvelle Orleans was named in honor of the Duke of Orleans, France's ruling regent until the young Louis XV could take the throne. Unlike the Protestant founders of most New World settlements the French were Catholic and early formalities did not share the strict view of life with the New England Puritans. Although the major influence was religious, the French Catholics were a different breed of settlers and enjoyed good food and sensual pleasure. Mardi Gras, the most famous festival, is a Catholic holiday after all and in French, Mardi Gras, means "Fat Tuesday," a time of happy indulgence and merry-making before the self-imposed austerity of Lent.
      In 1872 the Russian Grand Duke visited he city and the masquerading and partying reached epic proportions and New Orleans declared Mardi Gras an official holiday in the Duke's honor. Then they crowned their own king---Rex, the Lord of Misrule---who decreed that the event's official colors were purple (for justice), green (for faith) and gold (for power). The city-wide celebration's extravagant floats, outrageous costumes, and non-stop partying are reason enough to attract visitors worldwide to experience Mardi Gras madness. The Mardi Gras Museum located in the French Quarter is an eye-popping experience with the historical account of Mardi Gras, a treasure trove of  costumes on display and memorabilia, which remain key components of the party ever since. Next door to the Mardi Gras Museum is the Katrina Museum which chronicles Katrina with memorabilia, photographs and artifacts.
     Such a neophyte place as New Orleans needed some form of discipline and the formality of instruction, To this end, a coterie of Ursuline nuns were invited to establish a convent to provide the colony spiritual guidance and instruction. No one was left out of their orbit, the nuns included all races, enslaved and free, into Catholicism which solidified New Orleans' Catholic character. The Catholic girl's school they established in 1727, the oldest one in America is still operating and debutante's emerge the wiser.
      However, immigrants today continue to shape the French Quarter but the heart of the city holds fast to its French roots. Even during forty years of Spanish rule, New Orleans remained French, schools taught lessons in French, newspapers published in French and New Orleanians adapted French culture and fashions. Since then New Orleans has become an iconic American City, but its French heart is still beating. Nearby St. Louis Basilica is the Old Ursuline Convent Museum.
                                                          BREAKFAST AT BRENNANS
Brennan;s Dining Patio
      One special day I visited Brennan's restaurant to sample their famous Bananas Foster. a delicacy of honey fried bananas with vanilla ice cream and butterscotch drizzle and dined in the inner patio as a sweet summer breeze of summer wafted through the lush greenery.
    However, breakfast at Brennan's has much more to offer including an egg cuisine of particular note such as Eggs Sardou with crispy artichokes, Parmesan creamed spinach and choron (pork) sauce.
        As history would tell, when Owen Brennan, the proprietor of the old Absinthe House, was teased by Count Arnaud that an Irishman's culinary skills end with boiled potatoes, he was determined to prove him wrong. In 1946 he opened Owen Brennan's View Carre restaurant on Bourbon Street, where Bananas Foster and history were made in the process. After a successful decade the restaurant moved to its present quarters at 417 Royal Street, a new location with an illustrious past. 
Brennan's Pink Building
      Legend has it that the building was constructed in 1795 by the great grandfather of Edgar Degas, The famous pink building building and patio, one of the Vieux Carre's most interesting it was erected during the twilight of Spanish rule over Louisiana by Don Jose Faurie, a wealthy merchant.
       Later the building housed The Louisiana State Bank, first banking in the Louisiana territory. Later still, it served as a private residence frequented by President Andrew Jackson, and was home to eccentric world-famous master chess champion Paul Murphy, who lived there until his death in 1884.     
     Then it was bequeathed to Tulane University, leased and the sold to Brennan family in 1984 and in 2013 it was bought by partners Ralph Brennan and Terry White, who completed a major restoration and re-established the iconic restaurant in 2014.  Today, Brennan;s is both historic and contemporary proof that fine dining remains proudly relevant in New Orleans. I also visited Bubbles at Brennan's courtyard and Roost Bar, which makes Bubbly libations and snacks a "must treat" after an afternoon of sightseeing.   www.brennan'
Historical Postcard
     I'm an old-fashioned gal so when it came to dinner I went to Antoine's Restaurant at 713 Saint Louis Street. which has become as much a part of New Orleans as Jackson Square and Saint Louis Cathedral---a restaurant that have been operating continuously by the same family, since 1840.
     It all started when Antoine Alciatore arrived from Marseilles, France in 1840, and became immediately a culinary notable in New Orleans. He was eighteen years old, and young Antoine had been apprenticed, since the age of eight, to the Great French Chef, Collinet, of the Hotel de Noailles in Marseilles.. 
Oysters a la Rockefeller
        By the time he left France, Antoine had served Kings and royalty, and the aristocracy of that country. Before Antoine arrived here the meals served at public table were simple. Boiled or roasted meat, fowl, fish and sauces were mainly non-existent and haute cuisine preparations virtually unknown at that time Antoine changed all that. He was he first to serves visitors New Orleans culinary treasures such as Chicken Creole, Crayfish Etouffee, and Shrimp Remoulade. The names of his dishes tell a history of the great chefs of France.  His son Jules created such unique offerings as Oysters Bienville, Foch and Rockefeller Yes, Oysters a la Rockefeller was invented here; the recipe a sacred family secret.
     The Vieux Carre has so much more to offer but these were a few of my favorite things to share with you. The French Quarter possesses an old-world charm but there are other districts of equal interest, such as Upland where antebellum mansions proudly stand their place grounded in history, the Garden District, Botanical Gardens, Audubon Zoo, and others. Not to be missed is New Orleans Historic French Market, since 1862, the 24-hour meeting place for New Orleans most delicious coffee and BEIGNETS, a pastry delicacy that melts in your mouth.
     Ta Ta darlings, fan mail welcome please email Visit Polly's Blogs at and check the link in the left hand column to Blogs the resonate with your interest.

CHILDE HASSAM: American Impressionist and the Isles of Shoals at Peabody Essex Museum: Review by Polly Guerin

CHILDE HASSAM: American Impressionist and the Isles of Shoals at Peabody Essex Museum: Review by Polly Guerin

Childe Hassam painting on Celia Thaxter's porch
Can an artist find inspiration on a treeless island, called Appledore? Childe Hassam, the celebrated American impressionist painter found his oeuvre in the celebrated Maine island for nearly thirty years. Bracing each day through gusty salt Atlantic breezes, the relentless sun blazing over his shoulder he painted en plein air seascape vistas, and spent summer nights at poet and author, Celia Thaxter's salon. Today one can vicariously visit the island through Hassam's prolific Appeldore paintings at PEM.
    THE PEABODY ESSEX MUSEUM,  (PEM) in Salem, Massachusettes presents AMERICAN IMPRESSIONIST; CHILDE HASSAM AND THE ISLE OF SHOALS, through November 6, 2016, and pays homage to Hassam with the first exhibition in more than 25  years to focus on Hassam's paintings of the celebrated island. More than 40 of  Hassam's greatest oil paintings and water colors record the coves, inlets, ledges and expansive seascapes that inspired his thirty year engagement with this alluring island. Six miles off the coast of southern New Hampshire and Maine, Appledore is the largest island in the storied archipelago in the Atlantic known as the Isle of Shoals.  (Image: Attributed to Karl Thaxter (1852-1912). Childe Hassam painting on the porch of Celia Thaxter's cottage, c. 1886. Portsmouth Athenaeum, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Isles of Shoals, Photograph Collection.)
A ROCKING CHAIR VISTA. Visualize the seascape mood. Just pull up one of the white rocking chairs provided for visitors and reflect upon the magnificent and multi fascinating paintings of the gorges and rocks at Appledore. "His paintings of a wave dashing the spray among the rocks was magnificent and matchless for its technique and coloring," wrote Oscar Leighton, 90 Years on the Isles of Shoals.1929. Then, there is a large photo image on one wall where an empty rocking chair on a cottage veranda invites you to vicariously sit and listen to the audio of the relentless ocean crashing against the rocks. At the post card table, visitors are invited to write a commentary for the commemorative scrapbook. You may also send a free postcard with Childe Hassam's Sunset at Sea image, and it will be stamped and  posted by the museum and mailed to your friends. Just drop it in the mail box on the wall.
Isle of Shoals, 1907. Oil on canvas
MEETING CELIA THAXTER: When Celia Thaxter took painting lessons in Boston, given by 
Frederick Childe Hassam,a friendship ensued and continued on Appeldore. Celia was a published author and poet and her modest cottage was located next to her family's popular resort hotel. Although Celia was known for her exquisite garden, she is better known for hosting a cultural center, a brilliant salon, where artists, literary and musical celebrities were her guests.  
      In addition to Hassam, who was a regular visitor, other literary and artistic luminaries of the day, were enjoying informal morning concerts, lively discussions and evening readings. Too numerous to record here they included Nathanial Hawthorne, celebrated author of The Scarlet Letter and House of Seven Gables, Henry David Thoreau,  philosopher, naturalist, abolitionist, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, best loved-American poet and Ole Bull, the famous Norwegian violinist among the great number of visitors invited to Celia's Salon.   
Moonlight, Childe Hassa, 1892 Photoby Alex Jamison
CHILDE HASSAM AT APPLEDORE: It was during one of those inspired evenings that Celia suggested to Frederick Childe Hassam that his professional name would be more effective if he dropped the first name.  He took her advice and ever after he was knowsimply as Childe Hassam. 
     The initial interest for Hassam was the exquisite garden of poet, author, and painter and local celebrity, his new friend, Celia Thaxter, Appelore's greatest champion. Hassam loved painting on the island and after frequent visits he purchased a parcel of land from Celia's brother and built a small studio and worked there, but mostly en plein air. Celia and Childe's friendship was a rock solid relationship that lasted from the late 1880s to 1912. 
     Thaxter published An Island Garden in 1894 with illustrations by Hassam. Over four summers Hassam painted Thaxter's garden and the views from her cottage piazza and the exquisite book is a collectible today. The PEM exhibition offers a sustained reverie on nature, the pleasure of painting and a rapturous sense of place and color. Image: MOONLIGHT: Childe Hassam 1892. Oil on canvas. Private collection. Photo by Alex Jamison. 
      PEM IS LOCATED at EAST INDIA SQUARE,  161 Essex Street, SALEM, MA. Tel: 866.745.1876.  A 124-page exhibition catalog with 100 color illustrations, American Impressionist: Childe Hassam and the Isles of Shoals, edited by Austen Barron Bailly, PEM's  George Putnam Curator of American Art, and John. W. Coffey, deputy director and curator of American and modern art at the North Carolina Museum of Art, limited edition, is available through the PEM gift shop and online at
     Ta Ta Darlings!!! Coincidentally, THE SALEM ATHENAEUM celebrates Celia's Salon through September 23, 2016. The historic private library shares a common mission with Celia Thaxter: to encourage creativity and share literature, music and are. In the summers, like Celia, the Athenaeum enjoys a lovely garden and Friday salons. Experience an ambiance of art and literature "in the key of sea." Find them at 337 Essex Street, Salem, MA. Learn more at Polly welcomes email comments from her readers:
Visit Polly's Blog and in the left-hand column there are links to Poll's other Blogs on remarkable women, visionary men, poetry and fashion.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

CELIA'S SALON: Celia Thaxter's Art Colony Exhibit at the Salem Atheneaum: Review by Polly Guerin

Celia Thaxter in her Appeldore Island Garden
Celia Thaxter, the celebrated American poet and champion of Appeldore Island, attracted the cultural cognoscenti of the 19th century and established  the first American Artists and Writers Colony in America.      
     Celia's Appeldore garden, tended by Celia with loving care on the treeless island, was often painted by her guests. In her cottage parlor, next to her family's resort hotel you might meet the artists who occupied rooms in her cottage including Childe Hassam. J. Appleton Brown and Ellen Robbins. They, too, created images of lasting beauty. Image: Childe Hassam's painting of Celia's garden in the spotted impressionistic style.
      Today there appears to be a resurgence of interest in Celia Thaxter and THE SALEM ATHENAEUM, for one, is raising the bar of interest with a breathtaking exhibition entitled, CELIA'S SALON. 2016, through September 23. On display is a treasure trove of rare books and personal correspondence, art, and family photographs and memorabilia. The exhibition invites you to scrutinize these museum quality artifacts and vicariously become part of Celia's celebrated arts colony and writers circle.
Celia Thaxter's Cottage on Appeldore 
The curator Elaine von Bruns has painstakingly culled the Celia documents and artifacts from The Salem Athenaeum's archives producing in the process a multi-dimensional exhibit that includes intimate pictures of Appeldore's landscape and visitors. With celebrity status came Celia Thaxter's advertisement endorsements including her picture on cigar box covers and, in another case, endorsement of the Thaxter typewriter.  

    Several illustrated brochures are offered for the taking including "An Artistic Escapade" by Oscar Leighton, Celia's brother. In another brochure,  "Memories of a Young Guest" by Maude A. McDowell wrote, "It was my privilege as a young girl to be for several summers in the cottage of Celia Thaxter the poet, on Appledore."
     Celia showed the power of her pen when she wrote against the bird-wearing hat fashions of the time, Woman's Heartlessness in the February 1887 issue of Audubon Magazine, "We trust yet to see one day when women, one and all, will look upon wearing of birds it its proper light, namely as a sign of heartlessness and a mark of ignominy and reproach."
    The exhibit introduces the visitor to the famous artistic and literary individuals who were visitors to Celia's Salon.  Childe Hassam was a frequent visitor of some 30 years and erected a studio on a plot of land that he purchased from one of Celia's brothers.  On view are Hassam's favorite subject Celia's garden and paintings of the windswept gorges and boulders of Appledore.  Other luminaries introduced in the exhibit include John Greenleaf Whittier, Quaker poet and close friend of Celia and her circle as well as William Morris Hunt, esteemed Boston artist and friend of Celia's husband Levi Thaxter. Ross Sterling Turner was,"Famous for his charming sketches of our boats," wrote Celia's brother, Oscar Laighton, in 90 Years on the Isles of Shoals, 1929.
    You will learn about Celia's friendship with Robert Browning and the literary and artistic luminaries of the day, enjoying an informal evening concert by the composer Edward MacDowell, who frequently visited Appeldore with his wife who founded the MacDowell Colony in his honor. The Norwegian violinist Ole Bull might entertain as did many other musicians contribute to the conviviality of Celia's circle. At evening readings, on occasion, Celia would recite poetry and perhaps even be coaxed to read her account of the fearsome murders on Smutty Nose Island.
One Woman's Work by
Celia found time to paint and like other women of her time it was a woman's work, a way to earn a living, though modest it provided necessary income. Her exquisite renderings of island flora and fauna are some of the most beautiful examples on her plates and vases also on display.  Among the books of particular note is the quintessential Celia Thaxter reader, An Island Garden by Celia Thaxter with illustrations by Childe Hassam.

    Several other books on view of note include One Woman's Work, The Visual Art of Celia Laighton Thaxter,  by Sharon Paiva Stephan, a visual feast of Celia's hand-illustrated-books, watercolors and painted china.
    THE SALEM ATHENAEUM, the historic private library shares a common mission with Celia Thaxter: to encourage creativity and share literature, music, and art.  In the summers, like Celia, the Athenaeum enjoys a lovely garden and Friday salons. Find them at 337 Essex Street, Salem, MA. Tel: 978.744.2540.
Coincidentally, PEM, the Peabody Essex Museum's exhibition American Impressionist: Childe Hassam and the Isles of Shoals runs through November 6.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

THE SERENDIPITOUS INNKEEPER: Northey Street House, Salem, MA By Polly Guerin:

Northey Street Bed & Breakfast
The perfect word to describe the Northey Street House, Bed and Breakfast is "Serendipitous," which Webster's describes as "obtained or characterized by serendipity (discoveries)." 
     Discovery is what makes Northey B&B, a rather small gem with a big historic heart; reinvented with modern amenities fifteen years ago by the charismatic innkeeper Flora Tonthat.  
     Located in Salem, Massachusetts on a quite little enclave, 30 Northey Street,  Northey B&B is a short walk to museums, nautical adventures, wharfs and fine restaurants. It is a peaceful retreat after sightseeing and for the weary walker you can take a taxi anywhere in Salem for $6. At least that was the fare when I was there in August 2016.  Of special note, Northey has free parking, but it is best to check first for those details.
     The Salem Train depot is just a few blocks away and takes you to Boston and Cape Ann in a mere 30 minutes.  There is also a commuter ferry from Boston to Salem or if you prefer. as I did, I left Salem in nautical style and took the ferry back to Boston.
The Federal style house's historical past is a discovery worth the telling. 
Northey;s  Charming Woodbury Room
     The documented history of the house goes back to 1809. In those days, cabinetmaking was an important industry and Salem was an epicenter of this trade. 
    Flora Tonthat is fond of historic and local information,"The Federal house was built for the cabinetmaker Nathaniel Appelton, Jr. and later occupied by his daughter Susan and son-in-law Captain Isaiah Woodbury, a Salem Shipmaster. That is why I named one room the Woodbury and another room the Captain's Quarters.  The latest addition to the house is the Garden Room with double French patio doors that accesses a Japanese Garden. Of special note, Northey has a separate apartment suite, which is ideal for small families, for vacation stays and even transient visitors."                                                                                                                                                           PERIOD DETAILS and ANTIQUES
Northey Sun Deck and Breakfast Al Fresco 
Elegantly furnished rooms with period details and antiques appealed my creative senses but I appreciated most the private bath, queen bed, cable TV/DVD and other personal amenities. The inviting living room welcomes guests for conversation and relaxation and the kitchen opens out to a large Al Fresco sun deck where a complimentary breakfast is served each morning (weather permitting).

     Polly can attest to the specialty of this Eco-friendly house that recycles, has composts and solar panels and adheres to serving healthy low sugar baked goods such as Northey Glory muffins, scones, and Provencal fritatas. The next day another surprise, blueberry whole wheat pancakes were served drizzled with maple syrup, plus fresh fruit, a fresh garden fritata and scones. Many of the herbs and some of the vegetables come right out of Flora's garden. Complimentary coffee, tea, juice, snacks and other accoutrements always available including ice, movies and library.
Northey;s Japanese Garden, of the Garden Room
FLORA TONTHAT has immersed herself not only in the historical aspects of  Northey House but also by serving on local community committees, as does her husband Jeff.  Flora is a woman who was determined to succeed. 
     After 911, when she lost her job as a software engineer Flora was already living in this house in Salem and worked part time in IT while raising her two daughters. Then, as fate would have it, while jogging one day through the Salem Commons she noticed the B&Bs and the thought entered her mind, "I can do that!" And that, dear readers, is how the Serendipitous Innkeeper was born. 
     Flora welcomes your interest and reservation. She can be reached at 978.397.1582 or