A day on which I’m too lazy to write two blog posts

Happy Sunday, everyone! Today I’m over at Heart-Shaped Glasses, where I’m blogging about how I come up with settings for my novels.

Kendal Castle, Cumbria

I’ll be giving away an ecopy of one of my books to a randomly selected commenter, so stop by and say hey!

 

Taking Tea

I apologize, my friends, for my sad neglect of this blog. I have no excuse, really, beyond being busy and inefficient, and, if truth be told, possessing a certain degree of laziness. But never mind, I am back, so I hope I am forgiven.

Sitting in the queen’s chair at Hampton Court Palace (I’d been awake for 36 hours)

Lately I have been thinking about tea and scones far more than is normal for your average American. This past week I returned from a visit to England, where I traveled hither and yon with my dear college friend Helen, talking and laughing and walking and drinking tea at every opportunity in which wine (or gin, in Helen’s case) was inappropriate.

On my first day there I did obtain a scone with jam and clotted cream at Hampton Court (as one does), but all additional efforts to secure afternoon tea were for naught. We arrived at the tea shop as it was closing (as happened at Hughenden Manor and across the street from Jane Austen’s house), there was no clotted cream (said in a rather rude “even if we did have cream I wouldn’t give you any” sort of tone at the cafe in Hyde Park), or on one occasion (at the 1657 Chocolate House in Kendal), I was in the mood for a cup of chocolate and a sandwich instead.

Lady Bedford, circa 1830

Lady Bedford, circa 1820

Spending so much time drinking tea and visiting historic sites last week, I started thinking about the history of afternoon tea. Although tea as a beverage has been common in England since the mid-17th century, it was not until the 7th Duchess of Bedford was feeling a bit peckish that the concept of afternoon tea as we know it today was born. The story goes that sometime in the 1840s Lady Bedford, a close friend of Queen Victoria, found herself desiring a snack around 4 o’clock, halfway between lunch and the fashionably late dinner. She asked for a tray of tea, bread, butter, and cake. This repast was so pleasant she made a habit of it, and then began inviting her friends round to enjoy it with her.

Afternoon Tea–not to be confused with High Tea, which is another animal altogether–consists of tea, small sandwiches, cake, and scones served with jam and clotted cream. It is not only the meal itself but the ritual that makes afternoon tea what it is. Ideally, the tea should be loose leaf, served from a tea pot. Milk is added after the tea is poured, not before. (Apparently there is much disagreement on this issue–I had no idea it mattered so much.) There is also great debate about whether jam should be slathered on the scone before the cream. In the spirit of research I tried it both ways, and admit I prefer jam then cream, which gives one the ability to add far more cream than is strictly healthy.

In an effort to make up for my lack of afternoon tea while in England, I shall be baking scones, brewing tea, and eating this afternoon. (Unless I have to go watch middle school boys play hockey, or take a nap.)

img_3981

Here’s my recipe for scones:

8 oz (approx. 1-3/4 c) all-purpose flour
1-1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
2 oz (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 oz (2 T) sugar
4 fl oz (½ c) milk

*Preheat the oven to 425F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
*Mix flour and salt together in a large bowl. Using your fingertips, lightly rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and the milk and lightly mix with a wooden spoon until just combined.
*Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Spread the dough using your hands until it is about 3/4 inch thick. Cut out 8-12 scones using a 1-1/2 to 2 inch fluted biscuit cutter. Press straight down–do not twist, or the scones won’t rise properly. (Ask me how I know!)
*Place the scones on to the baking sheet and brush with milk or an egg wash.
*Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and place onto a wire rack until cool enough to handle.
*Serve the scones warm with clotted cream (or butter) and your favorite jam. If you can’t find fresh clotted cream in your local grocery store, or you object to paying $10 for a jar, you can find a number of recipes online. Here’s the one I’m planning to use, although it takes so long it will have to wait until next weekend’s afternoon tea: https://fearlessfresh.com/make-clotted-cream/. I’ll let you know how it goes!

For more information on the history of afternoon tea:
http://www.creamteasociety.co.uk/history-of-the-cream-tea
http://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/afternoon-tea/
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-mirza-grotts/the-history-and-etiquette_b_3751053.html?
https://www.fortnumandmason.com/fortnums/short-history-of-afternoon-tea

 

 

 

Summer Vacation, Victorian-Style, AND Two Giveaways!

We’re starting our weekend early at the blog today, just because–it’s summer! I always think of summer as a lazy, quiet time, with long evenings spent on the patio with a glass of wine, vacations in locales exotic, familiar, and somewhere in between, and schlepping the kid to day camp. Naturally, his favorite camp is a 25 minute drive.

I tend to think of Victorian era summers as similarly lazy and quiet, although I have no idea if they truly were. I’ve written before how affordable train travel revolutionized the way middle-class Victorians spent their leisure time, and summer was a popular time to take that vacation they’d saved for all year. Victorians traveled a lot, including women on their own, and their travels took them not just to the Continent, but to the Middle East, Asia, India, Australia, and America.

Brighton, Frederick William Woledge. 1840.

But for those less adventurous souls, a trip to the seaside was just the thing. For those who wished to stay fairly close to London, Brighton was only fifty miles away, easily accessible by train. Sometimes called “London-by-the-Sea,” Brighton was a mini-London without the smog. Bradshaw in his 1863 Railway Handbook writes of the traveler’s first view of Brighton from the train station: The twang of saltiness that greets the lip, and the freshening invigorating tone of the breeze, are agreeable proofs, on your first entrance, of the bracing bleak atmosphere that characterises the climate, though in various portions of the town, more shelter, the air will be found adapted to the exigencies of the most delicate invalid. The panoramic view that first bursts upon the eye is so striking of itself, that it may be worth while glancing at it in detail, for the benefit of the visitor’s future peregrinations.

Brighton, from the Pier, ca 1890. Source: Photochrom Print Collection [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

He also notes,

Bathing establishments, too, are almost as numerous [as accommodations], whilst, for amusements, there is no provincial town in the kingdom that can offer such a variety of assembly and concert-rooms, libraries, bazaars, and other expedients for slaughtering our common enemy–Time.

The more things change…

Blackpool Promenade, 1898

 

 

 

Brighton, of course, wasn’t the only seaside destination. For those in the North, a popular resort was Blackpool, on the northwest coast. When the cotton mills in Lancashire closed for a week every  summer, the town was inundated with factory workers seeking a respite from their usual lives.

Southend Pier, date unknown. By Snapshots Of The Past (Wikimedia Commons).

 

 

On the east coast, holidaymakers sought their summer break in Southend-on-Sea, situated at the mouth of the Thames in Essex, famous for its pleasure pier and miles of sandy beaches. Currently the longest pleasure pier in the world at over a mile long, in 1848 it was the longest pier in Europe at 7,000 feet long. Our friend Mr. Bradshaw notes of Southend in 1863, “The company that assemble here in the season will be found more select than at Margate, but it suffers severely in its climate when an easterly wind prevails…[Its pier] forms besides a pleasant promenade for those who love to enjoy the salubrity of the sea-breeze…”

 

Woman in bathing suit, 1893.

There were countless other resorts dotting the English coast–Margate, Ramsgate, Tynemouth, Dover, etc.–and at most of them you could find the ubiquitous bathing machine. These cabanas on wheels would be pushed out in the water, where bathers could descend into the sea, modesty intact, via a set of stairs.

Many of these resorts remain popular today–minus the bathing machines.

What’s your favorite summer vacation spot? If you comment below, you’ll be entered in a drawing to win a $10 Amazon gift card OR an autographed copy of one of my books, your choice. (I will use a random name generator to pull the name of a commenter on July 31, when the Summer Blog Hop has concluded!)

And now that you’ve finished taking the seaside air with me, click here to visit my fellow Wild Rose authors on their summer blogs. Each blog offers another glimpse at summer–and possibly another giveaway–so be sure to check them all out. You can also enter to win a Kindle Fire from Wild Rose Press using the Rafflecopter below. Thanks for visiting and happy Summer!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sources:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/victorians/seaside_01.shtml
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackpool#Arrival_of_the_railways
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southend-on-Sea
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southend_Pier
Bradshaw’s Descriptive Railway Hand-Book of Great Britain and Ireland (1863).

Victorian Houses

So you may have noticed that things have been pretty quiet here on the blog lately. Recently my husband and I decided to do what we have thought about doing for ages–moving into a smaller house. The month of March is the single busiest month of the year at the day job, which of course means it was also the month full of home repairs, cleaning, painting, and packing  all our crap clutter so we can sell our house.  I had high hopes for April, but it wasn’t much less chaotic.

I live in a Georgian Colonial style house built between 1916 and 1920 (we found a 1916 newspaper stuffed in the door jamb), which has a center hall and is, for the most part, symmetrical on either side. It features ornate crown molding which was all cut by hand on site, and nine foot ceilings. We love the house, but it’s far too big for us, so we are searching for something smaller. Which has not, of course, stopped me from looking at all kinds of houses no matter how big they are. It’s probably no surprise that I love Victorian era houses, with their nooks and crannies and gorgeous wood trim. Cleveland had a building boom in the late Victorian and early Edwardian eras, so fortunately for me, most of the housing stock in the suburb where I live dates from this period.

London Bridge, 1859. Image scan by Philip V. Allingham.

So with old houses in mind, I started wondering what house hunting and moving was like for the Victorians. (Doesn’t everyone?)  The population of England grew from 9 million people in 1801 to 36 million in 1911, which meant lots of new houses were built in the same period–6.5 million of them. With the easier transportation and the growth of the middle class that characterized the Victorian era, many of these homes were on the outskirts of cities, allowing families to move away from the overcrowded chaos that was London, into the clean air of the suburbs.

Many of these homes were terraces–what we call townhouses in the U.S.–rows of uniform connected smaller homes. In middle-class neighborhoods, these homes were well-built, with interesting architectural features.

In lower income areas, many of the rows were built back to back, with access only through a front door. These areas saw the erection of many apartment buildings as well, often cheaply built with little regard for safety or comfort.

Wealthy families built much larger homes with greater variety. In the U.S., Victorian houses included the Queen Anne style, with towers and turrets (in San Francisco this style of home was painted in many different colors, and became known as a Painted Lady); Italianate style, reminiscent of an Italian villa; Gothic Revival, with medieval features; and Octagon houses.

Take a look at this site for pictures and more information on these and other Victorian houses.

 

I could go on forever, but I suppose I ought to get back to work. What’s your favorite style of house?

 

 

 

Sources:
www.victorianweb.org/art/architecture/homes/housing1.html
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terraced_house
homeprotect.co.uk/blog/buying-victorian-property-terraced-houses
victorianchildren.org/victorian-houses-how-victorians-lived/
architecture.about.com/cs/housestyles/a/queenanne.htm
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Octagon_house
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Painted_ladies

Grey Towers of Durham

 

My debut novel, Stirring Up the Viscount, takes place in County Durham in northeast England. I lived in Durham for a year in the mid-80s, while I attended the University of Durham. I was struck by the city’s beauty and grit back then, and found it an inspiring setting for a romance all these (many, many) years later.

Durham Cathedral 1985

Durham Cathedral 1985

 

Durham has a fascinating history. It begins with the story of St. Cuthbert, a seventh century monk from Northumberland. He was for many years the bishop of Lindisfarne, an island off the coast of Northumberland, who traveled far and wide across northern England. When Cuthbert died in 687, he was entombed in the monastery on Lindisfarne. Some years later, the monks on the island inspected the coffin for some reason, and discovered that Cuthbert’s body was perfectly preserved, a miracle deemed worthy of sainthood. St. Cuthbert continued to lie undisturbed until Vikings threatened to raid Lindisfarne in 793.

Lindisfarne

Lindisfarne

The monks fled the island, along with holy relics and the coffin of St. Cuthbert. Legend has it that they carried it around for more than a century until they reached a spot to the east of what is now Durham. The saint’s coffin suddenly became too heavy to lift, and no amount of effort would budge it. After three days of prayers and fasting, the monks reported that a vision of St. Cuthbert appeared to them, instructing the faithful that Dun Holm (meaning “Hill Island”) should be his final resting place.

The monks had never heard of such a place, but now that they had their marching orders they were able to move the coffin again. The story goes that while they were searching, they overheard a milkmaid asking whether anyone had seen her dun cow, and was told the cow was last spotted at Dun Holm. Overjoyed, the monks followed the milkmaid until arriving at Dun Holm (I like to picture a very Monty Python-esque assembly chasing after a milkmaid through the forest), which was a peninsula set inside a tight bend of the River Wear.  Eventually known as Durham, the area was found to be an ideal resting place for St. Cuthbert, and the monks settled there.

Durham Cathedral from riverbank

 

A wooden “White Church” was built in the center of the peninsula in 995, and replaced by a stone minster in 998. The present cathedral was constructed between 1093 and 1133.

Durham Castle

 

 

Construction began on Durham Castle in 1072. It housed the Bishop of Durham, and enabled defense of the area from invasion by the Scots.

Durham became one of England’s leading centers of scholarship during the medieval period, and three of the colleges which are now part of Oxford University—University, Balliol, and Trinity–had their origins in Durham. Although efforts were made to create a university in Durham as early as 1541, politics and North-South rivalries prevented it until 1832. Durham Castle housed the first of Durham University’s fourteen colleges, University College. Still in use today, the Castle is the oldest university building in the world.

Durham from train station

I had the titular Viscount in my novel, Jonathan Tenwick, attend the University of Durham. By the time he would have matriculated in the late 1850s, there were two more colleges, St. Hild & St. Bede and Hatfield. The paths that Lucien Ravensdale and the Earl of Longley would have walked continue to exist, and the train station still offers one of the most breathtaking views in England (although it’s kind of hard to tell from my really bad 1985 picture).

But it is there that the similarity between the real Durham and my fictional one ends. Although County Durham has been the seat of more than one nobleman and home to plenty of great houses, there is no Earl of Longley, no Longley Hall.  Nevertheless, I find that being able to picture a real place in my mind when I write makes it easier to describe the setting, and lets my imagination run wild with the possibility of what might have been.

For more information on Durham and its colorful history, check out:
https://www.durhamworldheritagesite.com/
http://www.englandsnortheast.co.uk/DurhamCity.html
https://www.dur.ac.uk/about/shaped/

And if you haven’t yet read about my fictional denizens of Durham, Stirring Up the Viscount is ON SALE for 99 cents at The Wild Rose Press through May 14. Also available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

 

 

Winter Escapes

Here in Northeast Ohio (and most of the rest of the northern half of the US), March is roaring in like a lion. We’re expecting another ten inches of snow today to add to the foot or two already on the ground. The piles of snow on the sides of the streets now exceed the height of my car, and the simple act of pulling out of a driveway or turning a corner is fraught with peril.  Ice dams under the eaves are causing water to back up into my house, in places we’ve never seen them before.

Most years I manage to get away from it all and head somewhere warm in March, but sadly, that’s not happening this year. Instead I will hunker down and write about how the Victorians weathered winter.

Source: http://www.rmets.org

The weather in England is known for being less than ideal for many months out of the year. For about 400 years from the 15th to the 19th centuries, Britain even experienced a “Little Ice Age.” The annual mean temperatures for central England were below 0°C nearly every year from 1772 to the 1930s. In 1836, fifteen feet of snow fell on Christmas Day. Frost fairs, held on the Thames when it froze over, were common from at least 1608 until 1841.

Hans Thoma, New Brighton, 1881. Source: Wikimedia.

Although it required trips to the Mediterranean to truly escape Britain’s winter weather–and plenty of wealthy Victorians did–there were also opportunities to holiday in England. Brighton was a favorite destination, as it remained reasonably warm through December.

At the start  of the Victorian era, visits to seaside resorts were the province of the wealthy. Only the wealthy could afford the journey, let alone the cost of staying in an inn. But by the end of Victoria’s reign, with the advent of the railway and the rise of the middle class, more and more people began to flock to the seaside.  Even the lowest classes, if they saved their pennies long enough, could afford to make the trip.  Resorts began to spring up all over the coast from Scotland to Cornwall.

Torquay, Devon, 1842. Source: Wikimedia.

It is, of course, human nature to want to escape one’s life for a while, to go somewhere warmer, or prettier, or cleaner, or simply different. The Victorians were just the same, and advances in technology during the era made it easier for more people to make that escape. They certainly had plenty of snow–more often and in greater quantity than we have now (as difficult as that is to believe).So as you watch the latest inch of snow fall outside your window, think about how much easier it is to escape the snow and cold now than it was then.

Curl up with a good book and think Spring.

Sources:
http://hadobs.metoffice.com/hadcet/
http://www.rmets.org/weather-and-climate/weather/frost-fairs
http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2010/jan/07/brief-history-snow-britain-charlie-english
http://www.netweather.tv/index.cgi?action=winter-history
http://www.victoriana.com/Travel/brighton.htm
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/victorians/seaside_01.shtml
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_seaside_resorts_in_the_United_Kingdom

The Rusticators

My next book takes place in a fictional town in Maine, near Bar Harbor. Set in 1871, it precedes the “gilded age” experienced in many American cities–my hometown among them–but by then the wanderings of America’s wealthy elite were already being felt in Maine.  As I was doing research for the book, I made some discoveries.

In the 1850s, Frederic Edwin Church, a second generation member of the Hudson River School of painters, visited Mount Desert Island, on which rests Bar Harbor (officially known as “Eden” until 1918) and its fictional neighbor.

Frederic Edwin Church, Twilight in the Wilderness, 1860. Cleveland Museum of Art. (Photograph taken by author.)

Frederic Edwin Church, Twilight in the Wilderness, 1860. Cleveland Museum of Art. (Photo taken by author.)

His paintings, as well as those of  his peers, captivated America’s wealthy denizens of the south, and they began to visit Maine in significant numbers. In 1890, W.H. Sherman, in his Sherman’s Bar Harbor Guide, Business Directory, and Reference Book, writes the following “bird’s-eye” description of the area:

A beautiful, landlocked bay stretching away into the distance and losing itself in numerous coves and inlets, amid purple hills and green, wooded shores, its waters now washing the feet of weather-worn precipices and anon breaking softly on glistening sand and pebbles. Studded over the surface of this bay are bright emerald islands, rich in foliage, stately landmarks of the ages. As the summer sun shines brightly on this panorama of sea and mountain, one can imagine himself in the home of the lotus eaters, so enticingly does it seem to invite to repose.

On one side of this beautiful bay is an island, an island rich in all the wonders and beauties of nature. Majestic mountains rear their bold summits toward the sky, and sheltered valleys lie nestling at their base. Lovely lakes abound, reflecting in their pellucid depths an endless vista of mountain and forest. Brooks, with shady pools where the trout love to hide, flow gently through its vales or leap, foaming, from rock to rock in their headlong course to the sea. Mountain, forest and lake scenery meet the eye in every direction, while the rock-bound shores and lofty cliffs form a picturesque frontier to this island paradise.

Winslow Homer, <emEarly Morning After a Storm at Sea</em>, 1900-1903. Cleveland Museum of Art. (Photo taken by author.)

Winslow Homer, Early Morning After a Storm at Sea, 1900-1903. Cleveland Museum of Art. (Photo taken by author.)

 

Travel by land was difficult–trains only went as far as Portland–so the best way to reach Mount Desert Island was by steamship from Boston, which had its own hardships.  Because the journey was arduous, visitors tended to stay for a month or more.

These “rusticators,” as they were known by the locals, initially stayed in hotels–in 1855 a New York lawyer named Charles Tracy brought 27 people, including Frederic Church, to stay in a village tavern. He kept a diary about his experiences, which was published, including illustrations by Frederic Church, by the Mount Desert Island Historical Society in 1997. (There are used copies available on Amazon, ranging in price from $5 to $285. Seriously.)

After a few summers, however, the visitors grew weary of rusticating, and began to build “cottages,” ornate structures with 20-30 or more rooms. The “Golden Age” of Bar Harbor and surrounding towns began in earnest around 1880. At its height, the season featured lavish parties nearly every day of the week. According to the Mount Desert Island Historical Society, “Some ‘cottagers’ actually hired teams of local workers who would move, largely by hand, fully grown oak, maple and elm trees to different locations on the lawn each year, much like one would rearrange furniture or change the composition of a flower garden!”

 

The locals did reap benefits from these eccentric summer visitors. They provided jobs year round, and John D. Rockefeller financed 57 miles of gravel roads and 17 hand-carved granite stone bridges on Mount Desert Island, and donated one-third of the land which became Acadia National Park, the first national park east of the Mississippi River. He convinced many of his friends to donate land as well. Another summer visitor, George Dorr, charted and created many of the trails in the park.

The Golden Age hit its decline with the creation of the federal income tax, as well as the Depression and World War II. But the death knell was struck in October 1947, when Mount Desert Island suffered a massive forest fire. The fire swept through “Millionaire’s Row” on Frenchman’s Bay, destroying 67 palatial summer estates and ultimately burning 17,188 acres, 10,000 of which were in Acadia National Park.

Sources:
*Cleveland Museum of Art
*http://www.barharborhistorical.org/bhhistory.html
*http://mountdesertisland.net/heritage.html
*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederic_Edwin_Church
*W.H. Sherman, Sherman’s Bar Harbor Guide, Business Directory, and Reference Book, 1890. Available on GoogleBooks.
*Photos of cottages from “Cottages of Mount Desert Island,” http://research.mdihistory.org/MDIcottageshome.htm
*http://www.discover-acadia.com/acadia-national-park-history.html
*http://www.acadiamagic.com/carriage-roads.htm
*http://maineanencyclopedia.com/mount-desert-fire/

 

Another visit to Akron

Akron’s been on my mind lately, as I’ve been there more in the past two weeks than I have in years. Okay, only twice, but still.

Last week my husband and I went to a concert (Wilco, in case you were wondering) at the Akron Civic Theater, which is truly one of the oddest looking buildings I think I’ve ever been in.

Strangely enough, given that my dad grew up in Akron and my grandmother lived there almost her entire adult life, I had never been there before.  It was originally envisioned as “the Hippodrome,” a 3,000 seat movie theater with an arcade full of shops and restaurants. It was designed in 1919 by L. Oscar Beck, an Akron dance hall owner. Construction began and the lobby was built, but the project was bankrupt by 1921. In 1925, the abandoned lobby and adjacent land along the Ohio and Erie Canals were purchased by Marcus Loew–who founded the Loew’s theater chain and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios–and designed by architect John Eberson.

The theater was completed in 1929, two years after Loew’s death. Its interior was fashioned after a Moorish castle featuring Mediterranean decor, including medieval carvings, European antiques and Italian alabaster sculptures. Eberson also designed the theater to be “atmospheric,” featuring twinkling starlit skies (seriously, it’s wild–this picture of mine doesn’t do it justice at all) and drifting clouds.

Proscenium arch, Akron Civic Theater

I had never seen or heard of an atmospheric theater before, so being the nerd that I am I needed to do some digging. The Akron Civic is one of the largest remaining examples of atmospheric theaters in the US. It was nearly destroyed in the 1960s, but for the enterprising persistence of a group of Akron matrons, who saved the theater from destruction and insured its continued success. (Ironically, they did so in part by selling popcorn, the smoke and grease from which so blackened the walls that the theater underwent a $19 million cleaning and renovation in 2001. Or at least that’s what the guy selling beer(and no popcorn) told us.)

John Eberson was born in Romania in 1875 and immigrated to the U.S. in 1901. He developed the atmospheric design, and by the end of his career had designed anywhere from 100 to 1,200 theaters, depending on which website you choose, all over the world. Usually designed with European themes, Eberson’s theaters featured large sky-blue ceilings with twinkling stars and clouds, and facades on either side. You can almost imagine you are in a courtyard in some ancient European city. Almost. We really weren’t sure what the fake Christmas trees along the top were doing in a Moorish castle.

Left facade, Akron Civic Theater

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It’s curious that so many of his theaters are in Ohio, and some in relatively small towns as well. Eberson designed the Colony Theater in Shaker Heights, which is now Shaker Square Cinemas (a slightly bizarre art deco space), as well as theaters in Marion, Canton, Bellefontaine (the only one with a Dutch motif and working windmills), Bryan, Celina, Norwalk. Perhaps it is because he built his first theater, the Jewel, in Hamilton, Ohio, and started his own architectural firm in Hamilton.

Have you ever been in an “atmospheric” theater? What did you think?

Resources 
In addition to the links embedded above, check out these sites for more information and some great pictures:
http://www.ohio.com/lifestyle/akron-s-lost-landmark-retains-a-grand-facade-1.154282
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Eberson
http://auburncinefile.com/schines_friends_page
There are some wonderful examples of Eberson’s work at this interesting blog about, of all things, ornamental plaster.

The Ohio City Bridge War

After my last Cleveland post, a friend asked if I would write something about the Ohio City War. “The what?” I thought I knew my hometown pretty well, but it turns out I knew squat.

The origins of the “Bridge War” lie in Cleveland’s inherent schizophrenia. There are two sides of the city: west of the Cuyahoga River, and east of the river. The Cuyahoga is that squiggly blue line running through the center of the city in the map below.

Cleveland, OH, 1910. Source: US Digital Maps Library.

I am actually one of those relatively rare beings who have lived on both sides, but most of my life has been spent on the east. We sometimes joke that you need a passport to go from one to the other.

After Cleveland was founded in 1796, the west side was populated by captains of industry, and most of Cleveland’s factories are on that side of the river. The east side came to be inhabited primarily by lawyers, bankers, executives, and the like. Although the east side had its “Millionaires’ Row” in Euclid Avenue, the west side had Franklin Avenue, which had its own grand houses, some of which still exist today (including Franklin Castle, which is rumored to be haunted, but I’ll leave that as a teaser for another post). As the city grew and prospered, the east side far outstripped the west in terms of wealth and development.

Because the west side was separated from the east by the river, and the ferries that had moved people from side to side were inconvenient, a bridge was built to connect the two halves of town. The near west side was an incorporated municipality in its own right, known as Ohio City. 

One of Cleveland’s first bridges was a floating bridge off of Center Street which connected Cleveland with what became Ohio City, and was jointly owned and maintained by the two municipalities. It was made of large whitewood logs chained together. When a ship wanted to pass, a section of the bridge was floated to one side and then drawn back into place by ropes. The bridge was carried away by flood a number of times, each time replaced by something they thought might be a little better. 

In the spring of 1836, an group of east side developers constructed a bridge south of the floating bridge on Columbus Street.

Columbus Street Bridge, c1836. Source: Cleveland Historical Society.

The new Columbus Street Bridge provided a direct route to Cleveland from the Medina and Wooster turnpike (now known as Pearl Road) and bypassed Ohio City’s main commercial thoroughfare. It was a covered bridge with a draw at the center allowing ships to pass. Ohio City residents, justifiably fearing that the new bridge would divert commercial traffic, were incensed. In retaliation, they boycotted the bridge. Unimpressed, Cleveland quietly removed its half of the floating bridge in the middle of the night. 

Ohio City then made a number of attempts to destroy the bridge, including an ineffective explosion. Either in late 1836 or 1837–I am not sure which historical account is accurate–a mob of Ohio City residents marched to the Columbus Street Bridge with guns, crowbars, axes, and other weapons, intending to finish the job. They were met by Cleveland’s mayor and armed Cleveland militiamen. In the ensuing fight, three men were seriously wounded, and a number of arrests were made. In the end, the courts wisely decided that Cleveland needed more than one bridge. Cleveland restored its half of the Center Street Bridge, and Ohio City stopped trying to blow up the Columbus Street Bridge.

Columbus Street Bridge, c1986. Source: Cleveland Memory Project.  


The original wooden Columbus Street bridge was replaced by a steel span in 1870, then by a double swing bridge, and finally by a lift bridge in 1940. The 1940 bridge is currently closed and is being restored. Ironically, it is now a popular route between Cleveland and Ohio City.













Center Street swing bridge. Source: historicbridges.org.


The many incarnations of the Center Street Bridge were finally replaced by a steel swing bridge in 1900, which remains in use today.














Ohio City was annexed by Cleveland in 1854, and is now home to Cleveland’s historic West Side Market and some of the best restaurants in town.

There are a number of great resources on Cleveland’s bridges, among them: 
Bridges of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County (1918), available on Google Books. 
The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History
The Cleveland Memory Project, in particular http://www.clevelandmemory.org/ebooks/bmc/Bmcchap3.html
The Cleveland Historical Society, which also has an awesome free app that puts Cleveland history at your fingertips as you travel around town. 





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