Electra Webb And Her American Past

How a brave and gifted woman defied her parents and her background to create the splendid collection that is Shelburne

What do the following items have in common—a peerless collection of old American juilts, a 220-foot steam-driven side-wheeler, last of its noble race, and the exact replica of six beautiful rooms in a millionaire’s Park Avenue apartment? The answer is nothing except that they all can be found at one of the most amiable public places in America: the Shelburne Museum at Shelburne, Vermont—”35 buildings on 45 acres and the S.S. Ticonderoga ,” as the little guide to the place puts it.Read more »

Henry Hobson Richardson

“I’ll plan anything a man wants,” he said, “from a cathedral to a chicken coop.” The monumental results transformed American architecture

It was common ground among everyone who knew him in the late 1870’s and early 1880’s that Henry Hobson Richardson was one of the great Americans of his day. It was not that he ever talked big—that would have been quite out of character—but that he looked big, thought big, and built big. Read more »

Bernard Maybeck

This puckish, nearly forgotten California architect built his own distinctive style on the simple principle that beauty alone endures

In the winter of 1953, a few days after his ninety-first birthday, Bernard Ralph Maybeck granted a lengthy interview to a public service radio station in Berkeley, California, the city in which he had lived and worked for six decades. In some respects the interview evidenced little more than the casual curiosity that people feel about someone who has been around for a long, long time.Read more »

Bank Holdup

It sits like an exclamation point at the easternmost tip of Long Island and has done so for 184 years—making the Montauk Point Lighthouse one of the oldest in the United States. It also has the distinction of having been authorized by President George Washington himself.Read more »

William Randolph Hearst’s Monastery

He could build castles at his whim, but the ancient home of a small band of monks defeated him

During the early summer of the year 1213 Saint Martin of Finojosa was an old man and not in the best of health. Nevertheless, at the age of seventy-three the saintly bishop and abbot left his beloved Burgos for a long and taxing trip to visit a tiny new monastery on a hilltop near the Tagus River. Like all Cistercian monasteries, it was named for the Virgin Mary—in this case, Santa Maria de Ovila. Read more »

A Heritage Preserved


The past has a way of catching up to us in odd and unexpected ways. A friend of mine was once walking the streets of Venice and encountered the smell of sausages cooking somewhere. The aroma immediately aroused in her rich Venetian memories—not of Venice, Italy, but of Venice, California, the seaside resort where she had spent many childhood summers half a century before, basking in the sun and eating hot sausages bought from street vendors. Read more »

A Heritage Preserved

History by a Dam Site

The humble structure at the right—as the sign conveniently tells us—is indeed a dam, but it is no ordinary dam. It is a logging dam and may be the last of its kind left in the country, the crude reminder of an age in which the white pine forests of Wisconsin were systematically stripped of timber. It was built sometime between 1878 and 1883 at Round Lake on the South Fork of the Flambeau River in north-central Wisconsin, and its function was as simple as its construction. Read more »

American Vernacular

As a nation we spend a disproportionate amount of time destroying the remnants of our immediate past. There are voices enough to protest against the razing of marble and brownstone monuments, but nobody speaks out for the far more vulnerable and transient victims of rezoning and renewal: cafés, small grocery stores, rural banks, shops, warehouses. Dark, lopsided, and shabby, they hang on for a while in the run-down districts on the edge of town and then disintegrate under the bulldozers to make way for the bowling alleys and condominiums.Read more »

Buildings For Sale: Unexpected Beauty From A City Archive

People who have never been to New Orleans usually can name several things that it’s famous for (Mardi Gras, jazz, A Streetcar Named Desire , the Superdome, jambalaya, red beans and rice), but they are apt to have only a hazy notion of what the city looks like. Iron-lace balconies may come to mind, but little else. And yet, for many years—particularly during the ante-bellum era—New Orleans produced some of the most charming, distinctive, and varied architecture in the nation. Read more »

The Treasure From The Carpentry Shop



Early in 1969, because a bit of hardware on the Brooklyn Bridge had begun to show signs of wear after nearly ninety years, a young civil engineer working for the City of New York’s Department of Transportation was delegated to hunt up the original drawings of the item. The “trunnion,” as it is called, is a steel joint assembly, or gudgeon, about eighty of which are used to connect the vertical cables of the Brooklyn Bridge to the roadway out at the center of the river span where the greatest movement occurs.Read more »