Mrs. Jack And Her Back Bay Palazzo

Today we would consider her eccentric; in her own time, many proper Bostonians thought that she was scandalous, but her friends were charmed by her free spirit. Henry James, for instance, once wrote to her, “I envy you, who always, even at your worst, loved the game, whatever it might be, and delighted in playing it. “But regardless of any judgment about her character, there is no question that Mrs. Jack Gardner, shown at left in about 1905, bequeathed to America a unique treasure—Fenway Court.Read more »

Tuxedo Park

An exclusive preserve of New York’s social elite —its rise, its flourishing years, and its slide into genteel decline

In a gazetteer of the geography of high society, Tuxedo Park, New York, might properly be described as a village (pop. 972), 40 miles NW of the Union Club in New York City, once famous for its rarefied social climate. And for the lexicographer, it is thought to be the place of origin in America of the dinner jacket—ä man’s full dress suit with the tails lopped off—commonly, though improperly, called the tuxedo. Read more »

“all Safe, Gentlemen, All Safe!”

The ups and downs of the invention that forever altered the American skyline

Of the mechanical wonders placed on view in the Crystal Palace, the great iron-and-glass exhibition hall erected in New York City in 1853 to house America’s first world’s fair, one of the most popular was a towering machine that was destined to transform the look of the world’s cities and the feel of city life. The machine was a freight hoist, or elevator, and it was the invention of a Yonkers, New York, factory engineer named Elisha Graves Otis.Read more »

Temples of Democracy

There are over 3,000 county courthouse across the country -- staunch hometown symbols of our faith in our ability to govern ourselves

There are 3,101 county courthouses in the United States, and a lot of history has happened in them. Abraham Lincoln was just one of hundreds of small-town lawyers who first made their marks in county courthouses, and scores of celebrated trials—from Lizzie Borden to Patty Hearst—have taken place inside them. Most of us have humbler courthouse errands—to file a deed, argue about a tax assessment, or buy a dog license.

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Hollywood’s Garden Of Allah

Tallulah Bankhead called it “the most gruesomely named hotel in the western hemisphere.” Others, perhaps thinking of its curious architecture or the monumental hangovers that accompanied its boozy high life, called it simply the most gruesome hotel. To most of its denizens, however—to the scores of stars, writers, directors, wits, and wags who would stay nowhere else when they went to Los Angeles to “make a movie”—it symbolized Hollywood itself. Read more »

Preserving A Neighborhood

Saving Hundred-Year-Old Buildings

The idea of urban renewal has traditionally been predicated on the superficially reasonable assumption that the best way to handle crumbling blight is to pluck it out—raze it, tear it down, get rid of it—and build something better: shopping malls and office complexes, say, or apartments and town houses, civic centers and sports arenas. Read more »

The World’s Tallest Building

Of the skyscrapers that sprang up in American cities in the early years of this century and embodied in masonry and steel the swaggering vitality of American technology and American business enterprise, none took so firm a grip on the public imagination as the Woolworth Building. From the day that Frank W. Woolworth, the inventor of the five-and-ten-cent store, let it be known that he intended to erect the world’s tallest building on a site in lower Manhattan, the newspapers were filled with accounts of its construction and encomiums to its builders.Read more »

Tree House

John Mason Hutchings, an Englishman, first, saw Yosemite Valley in 1855 and never got it out of his system. Nine years later he returned to the valley to be innkeeper of the Hutchings House, the frame hotel at left. Before long the hotel’s cooks—Hutchings’ wife and mother-in-law—demanded a separate kitchen. But when it came time to build, an obstacle presented itself in the form of a huge cedar, twenty-four feet around at the base.Read more »


High on a hill above the Hudson River Frederick Edwin Church indulged his passion for building an exotic dream castle

“Sometimes the desire to build attacks a man like a fever—and at it he rushes,” the successful young landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church wrote from abroad to his friend and patron William H. Osborn in 1868. Church, his wife, and his young son were on an eighteen-month tour of Europe and the Middle East, but it was clear that he had other things on his mind than the average tourist did. Soon after they arrived home with boxes of “rugs—armour—stuffs—curiosities, etc. etc.Read more »

The Summer White House In The Clouds

Perched on Mount Falcon as the mist rose and the cloudcapped towers caught the first rays of the morning sun, it would seem a dream palace, the residence of the Great Khan or a Dalai Lama, remote, unapproachable, yet somehow the center of the world. The rational air of midday would give the granite battlements and vast donjon the more formidable aspect of the krak des Chevaliers or Marienburg of the Teutonic Knights.Read more »