Thursday, July 31, 2008

Native Plants Of California ~ #9 In A Series

This California native perennial vine, once established, is so hardy in temperate climes, it is almost impossible to get rid of. The morning glory has a twining tendency that lets it attach itself to other plants, telephone poles, arbors, fences, basically anything that holds still. There are 9,000 species of morning glories, and most open in the morning for pollination by hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies, and then die at the end of the day, to be replaced by more flowers the next morning.

There's sulphur in the juice of the vine that ancient American civilizations used to vulcanize rubber, to make their sports balls bounce. Ancient Chinese used the seeds as laxatives and eventually it found favor as an ornamental flower.

Morning glories are easily grown, preferrring full sun, but tolerating some shade. Some bloom in a particular blue that is indeed glorious. It has a tendency to be somewhat invasive, but if you don't mind curbing its enthusiasm occassionaly, perhaps you can find it a spot in your garden.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Not So Long Ago

The top photograph was made by Edward Curtis, as part of his efforts to document Native American tribes and their customs. What strikes as most remarkable is not the image itself, but that it was made in 1924, a mere 84 years ago. The woman is part of the Diegueno tribe, a tribe who lived predominately in what is now San Diego County. This photograph of the woman outside her home was taken in Campo, about 40 miles from here.

The photograph below was made by Edward Davis in 1914. It was taken of Maria Antonia, a Pala Indian, weaving a basket in front of her home. Pala is about 20 miles from here.

The following photograph was also made by Edward Davis in 1914, of a San Diego area Indian named Cinon Mataweer, standing outside his home with ceremonial plumes in his headress and belt.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Coming To America

Before my grandmother crossed the continent on a train to be a Harvey Girl at the Grand Canyon, she left Hungary and crossed the Atlantic Ocean to become an American citizen. She was a child of 6 when she and her family left their bucolic farm along the Danube in Buda, and after a harrowing transatlantic voyage, lived on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Life in New York City was a tremendous shock. The pastures, streams, gypsy caravans and everything familiar, including language, were replaced by gritty, crowded tenements, endless city noise and the hustle and bustle of Italians, Ukranians, Slavs, Poles, Germans and other ethnic groups struggling to get a foothold in a new, chaotic and confusing land. Even her name was new. Anika Fulop had become Anna Phillips.

The picture above shows Mulberry Street in 1900 as it was when my grandmother and her parents lived there. The photograph below is circa 1907, also the Lower East Side and is captioned "How the other half lives". The immigrants' ghetto included areas that are known today as Chinatown, the Bowery and Little Italy.

Monday, July 28, 2008

WPA Poster ~ Fort Marion National Monument

The WPA, short for the Works Progress Administration, was the largest program under Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, lasting from 1935-1943. The goal was to put people to work during the Great Depression. The Department of the Interior hired artists to create posters for the National Park service. This poster of Fort Marion National Monument was made in 1938, the artist is unknown.

Fort Marion was originally called Castillo de San Marcos, built by the Spanish in 1692. For 100 years, they had been defending their city, on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean, with nine wooden forts, but an attack by the English pirate, Robert Searle, prompted them to construct a masonry fort. Workers were brought in from Havana, Cuba and a star shaped fort was built of a seashell based stone quarried across the harbor on Anastasia Island. The commanding fort took 23 years to build. It still stands where it was built over 300 years ago in St. Augustine, Florida.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Native Plants Of California ~ #8 In A Series

Darlingtonia Californica is commonly known as California Pitcher Plant or Cobra Lily. This carnivorous native preys on insects who become confused by its translucent leaves. It grows mostly in Northern California and Oregon, in bogs near running water. It was first discovered near Mt. Shasta in 1841 and is considered an uncommon plant, as it is rarely seen. The tubular, forked leaves resemble a rearing cobra with fangs, hence the nickname. How this plant is pollintaed remains a mystery. It is speculated that flies or nocturnal bugs are attracted to its unpleasant smell, but pollination has yet to be observed. This is a difficult plant to cultivate in the garden, as its roots prefer to be colder than the rest of the plant.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Catalan Master Of Art Nouveau

Antoni Gaudi was born in 1852 in Catalonia. He studied architecture in Barcelona and graduated in 1878. His genius could not be contained. A fascination for natural forms, color and a sweeping, dramatic vision of swirling and whipping art nouveau curves combined in his imagination to form some of what can only be described as visual events. He used mosaic tiles, glass, carved wood and stone to create soaring towers, columns built on turtles backs, balconies shaped like masks, rooms designed to appear underwater, and facades that seem to be undulating to an unheard, inner rhythm. He designed parks, churches and apartment buildings, almost all in Barcelona. It's worth a trip to Europe just to see his work.

Gaudi was struck by a tram and run over in 1926. Taken to the paupers' hospital, he went unrecognized until friends found him the next day. He refused to be moved to a better hospital and died three days later. He is buried within La Sagrada Familia, the masterpiece he spent ten years designing and on which construction continues to this day. His magic lives on in his passionate, mysterious expressions of beauty.

The picture above is a mural painted on the ceiling at La Pedrera.

The picture below is a stairway in Casa Batllo, with matching ceramic urns in bronze stands. The smallest detail never escaped his attention.


Friday, July 25, 2008

Locomotive Roundhouses

Railroads built roundhouses to service their locomotives. They were usually built around or next to turntables, as early steam locomotives usually moved only forward. Even after reverse capabilities were incorproated into their designs, locomotives often did not function well in reverse.

The first roundhouse was built in Derby, England in 1839 and was described in a book of the time thus: "The engine-house is a polygon of sixteen sides, and 190 feet (58 m) in diameter, lighted from a dome-shaped roof, of the height of 50 feet (15 m). It contains 16 lines of rails, radiating from a single turn-table in the centre: the engines, on their arrival, are taken in there, placed upon the turn-table, and wheeled into any stall that may be vacant. Each of the 16 stalls will hold two, or perhaps more, engines."

Since the 1940s, many roundhouse have been demolished or put to other uses, as they proved to be too small for later locomotives. The B&O Railroad, made famous by the board game, Monopoly, houses its musuem in its restored roundhouse in Baltimore, Maryland, said to be the world's largest 22-sided building. The first picture was made in 1942 of the Chicago & North Western Railway roundhouse in Chicago, Illinois. The second picture is of the Derby, England roundhouse, the afore mentioned, built in 1839, as it appeared in 2006.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mighty Airships Of The 20th Century

Airships fall into two categories - rigid and non-rigid. The non-rigid, also known as blimps, have no internal supporting framework and depend on the strength of the envelope and pressure of the lifting gas. The only solid part of these is the gondola and tail fin. Rigid airships have an internal supporting skeleton. Both types are steered with rudder mechanisms and have engines attached to their gondolas which drive propellers. They are able to stay aloft because the lifting gas, usually helium, is denser than the surrounding air.

Hot air balloons were an early form of airship. A Portugese Jesuit priest was the first to achieve a lift off of sorts in a crude contraption in 1709. Fascination with flight prompted further innovation and led to what is considered the Golden Age of Airships, in 1901. Airships were the first objects to achieve controlled, powered flight, and were used widely across the globe until winged aircraft surpassed their abilities. Their use faded further due to the catastrophic crashes of the USS Akron in 1933 and the Hindenburg in 1937.

Currently, the iconic Goodyear blimps are used primarily for photography at sporting events and similar blimps are used for advertising.

The first phtograph shows the USS Akron over Manhattan Island, New York City, circa 1932. At 785 feet, it was one of the largest flying objects in the world. The second picture shows a United States Navy airship landing on an aircraft carrier during World War II.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Native Plants Of California ~ #7 In A Series

The largest of all North American oak trees, the Valley Oak is found in dense forests, valley savannas and foothill woodlands. It thrives in the hot interior valleys and with abundant ground water, will tolerate long, dry summers and cool winters. This deciduous California native tree can live to be 600 years old.

The bark of mature trees resembles alligator hide. It has deeply lobed, velvety leaves and its arching branches provide autumn acorns for the grey squirrels and woodpeckers.

In 1861, a botanist for the first California Geological Survey wrote this, upon seeing Valley Oaks in Monterey County: "First I passed through a wild canyon, then over hills covered with oats, with here and there trees--oaks and pines. Some of these oaks were noble ones indeed. How I wish one stood in our yard at home....I measured one [Valley Oak] with wide spreading and cragged branches, that was 26.5 feet in circumference. Another had a diameter of over six feet, and the branches spread over 75 feet each way. I lay beneath its shade a little while before going on."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Lightning ~ Still Mysterious

The cause of lightning is still in dispute. Some scientists think it occurs when the atmosphere changes due to wind, friction, pressure and humidity. Others think it comes from solar wind and charged solar particles. Most agree that ice in the clouds may be a key element. Lightning can occur during thunderstorms, volcanic eruptions or dust storms. A leader bolt can travel 60,000 miles an hour and reach temperatures of 54,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Estimates are that the Earth experiences 16 million lightning storms a year.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Lasting Gifts From A Self Made Man

Andrew Carnegie was a Scottish born immigrant who came to America with his parents in 1848, at age 13. That same year, he got his first job - working as a bobbin boy in a spinning mill, twelve hours a day, six days a week. A self made man, by 1890 he was a "Captain of Industry" and owned and operated the largest and most profitable enterprise in the world, Pittsburgs's Carnegie Steel Company. In 1901, he sold it to J.P. Morgan, who created U.S. Steel.

Andrew Carnegie devoted the rest of his life to giving away his fortune. His interests were in education and scientific research and he untook the project of funding libraries around the world. Between 1883 and 1929, he funded over 2,500 libraries - 1,689 in America, 660 in Great Britain and Ireland, 156 in Canada and others in Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, Serbia and the Caribbean. Virtually anywhere that appied for a grant received funding.

Libraries were built in many styles, from Baroque to Spanish Colonial, and Italian Renaissance to Classical Revival. Most all had elaborate doorways, accessed by stairs, which symbolized man's elevation through learning, and all had lanterns or lightposts outside to symbolize enlightenment. His libraries were the first to feature open stacks, where a patron could browse the selections and choose interesting tomes. Prior to that, libraries had closed stacks where clerks retrieved books. Carnegie believed that anyone who worked hard could find success, and his libraries were a manifestation of that belief, as he strove to provide opportunity to those who would avail themselves of it.

The picture above is the entrance to the Avondale Branch of a Carnegie library in Cincinnati, Ohio. The portrait below of Andrew Carnegie was made in 1913, six years prior to his death at 83. His legacy lives on in Carnegie-Mellon University and his libraries from Maine to California and all around the world.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

On The Waterfront ~ San Diego

What is now the San Diego County Administration building was designed as the Civic Center during the darkest years of the Great Depression. A WPA project, the dedication in 1938 was attended by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt himself. Many had their doubts the San Diego architectural landmark would ever be built, as it sits on waterfront land that only years before had been underwater. Workers drove 1,500 H-shaped 32-35 foot long steel pilings into the subsoil to carry the weight of the building. This made engineering history, as steel has never before been used to carry lateral stresses.

The design of the building has been referred to as Spanish Colonial, Spanish Revival and Spanish Renaissance - whichever it may be, it was also heavily influenced by the sleeker Art Deco style of the day. Concrete, with a red tile roof, arching doorways and inlaid Franciscan tiles, the ten story central tower made it San Diego's first skyscaper. The interior has marble walls, bronze elevator doors and Philippine mahogany staircases. Artists were hired by the WPA to paint murals of city and county life, incorporating waterfront, recreational, agricultural and conservation themes.

The top picture shows a 1938 "fly by", in honor of the opening of the Civic Center. You can see the building in the foreground. The second picture is the architect's final drawing of the front elevation. The top section of the tower was never installed due to a threatened lawsuit by Reuben H. Fleet, who believed it would interfere with air traffic at nearby Lindberg Field.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Native Plants of California ~ #6 In A Series

Salvia apiana, or white sage, is such a common plant on the coast in Southern California, it goes unnoticed by most.

Pollinated by bumblebees, wasps and the occassional hummingbird, it was considered sacred by Indian tribes. They used it widely as a food and for medicine. The seeds were ground for flour and leaves used for flavoring. A tea was made for treatment of sinuses, lungs and throat and leaves were crushed and mixed with water for shampoo. Native American tribes still bundle the stems and leaves for burning in purification ceremonies.

This California native blooms during the late spring and summer and is an evergreen perennial shrub.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Gertrude Jekyll ~ Garden Legend

The impact of Gertrude Jekyll on gardening design has been paramount. Her partnership with Sir Edwin Luytens, who is considered by many to be the greatest English architect of all time, proved to be one of the most influential partnerships of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Born in Mayfair, London in 1843, she trained as an artist, and was greatly inspired by the Impressionists. She considered the garden her palette, a picture to be created, and used plants as her brush strokes. She was the first to take into account the color and texture of plants and viewed the garden as an experience. She raised the level of gardening to a creative art, and not only designed but planted, as well. She designed and planted over 400 gardens in the United Kingdon, America and Europe.

A prolific author who penned over 15 books and contributed hundreds of articles to magazines and journals, her books are still printed and read widely. Gertrude Jekyll was quoted as saying, "The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies". She died in 1932 and is buried in the churchyard of St. John the Baptist church in England, next to her brother, with a monument designed by Sir Edwin Luytens.

An interesting aside ~ her brother was friends with Robert Louis Stevenson, and it was their name that was used in his novel "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde".

The drawing below is of one of her border gardens in England.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Along The Coast Highway In Leucadia

Cars were few and far between on the Pacific Coast Highway through Leucadia when this photograph was made in the 1930s. The highway was the main route from San Diego to Los Angeles, but during the Great Depression, people stuck close to home and pleasure drives were reserved for the wealthy. There was a hobo camp in town, next to the railroad tracks, in a sparse stand of cypress trees and bushes, where the Lumberyard Shopping Center is now. Hobos didn't live there permanently. It was more a stopping off point where a man could swap stories around a fire, share a can of beans and figure out where to go next. My grandma said they never begged money, but would knock on the back door and ask to do chores in exchange for a meal. She had them chop wood for the stove, whether she needed any chopped or not.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Last Evening In The Garden

Hibiscus are a top performer in Southern California and can actually be trimmed up from shrubs into small trees with wide canopies. They'll tolerate some pretty heavy pruning around March and then come booming back full steam and are in their prime this time of year. With wide glossy leaves and big, showy flowers, this sub-tropical can be suseptible to white fly, but consistent blasts with the hose and keeping debris raked up will keep pests in check. Hibiscus is a sun lover that will tolerate some shade. Other plants grow well below it, especially plants that prefer dappled sunlight. It will continue flowering through autumn. Although the flowers don't work well cut, they look beautiful massed together floating in a bowl, or will stay fresh long enough to tuck behind your ear, if you're so inclined.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Native Plants of California ~ #5 In A Series

It's been impossible to cultivate lupines in my garden, but this California native annual will grow like a weed in even rocky areas on hillsides, under the right conditions. Lupine is currently blooming profusely along the Del Dios Highway, in a recent burn area. Perhaps the lack of undergrowth has allowed them to thrive, as there was no substantial rain this past season. Or maybe the ash has conditioned the soil for them.

Native lupines are important plants for butterflies and they have the remarkable ability to turn nitrogen from the atmosphere into amonia and fertilize the soil for other plants. They have eye-catching bright blue blossoms and are breathtaking in large clusters when they spread out across meadows or along hillsides. They grow naturally in both mountain meadows and along the lower coastal ranges.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Meet Sister Joseph

The photograph is of Sister Joseph, one of seven Sisters Of Mercy from St. Catherine's Convent in New York, who volunteered to become nurses in Beaufort, North Carolina, in 1861, during the Civil War. Union forces had occupied the southern city, and at the request of the War Department, the sisters left their covent and traveled south with a physician, Dr. John Upham.

Built on the seashore shortly before the start of the war, the famous three story Atlantic Hotel was taken over by the Union for use as a hospital. It had become, however, a filthy, vermin-ridden building, and the manager was described thus: “a man whose hair was matted and his scraggly beard stained with tobacco juice….constantly sitting in a wheelbarrow near the door…with a huge bunch of keys dangling from his belt.”

The seven Sisters created Hammond Hospital, a clean, sanitary facility where they worked faithfully, nursing wounded Union troops. The hospital closed in 1862 and the building reopened as the Atlantic Hotel in 1866.

The drawing below depicts the Atlantic Hotel as it appeared when it was converted to a hospital in 1861.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Summer Fruit

There's been a bumper crop of delicious fruit so far this summer. Red and Rainier cherries from up North, local peaches, raspberries, blueberries, navel oranges, nectarines, cantaloupes ~ it's been a veritable cornucopia of juicy sweetness. Once it gets this warm outside, it's nice to step away from the stove and enjoy the delicious fruits of the season, in all their natural goodness. They're great with yogurt or cottage cheese, or a smoothie blended up with orange juice can be a meal in itself. Try shopping just the perimeter of your grocery store, where the dairy, produce, specialty breads and meats are. Eating fresh and minimal cooking will give you more time to enjoy these longer days with extra sunshine.

The picture is a Victorian chromolithograph, circa 1885.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Czech Master Of Art Nouveau

Alphonse Mucha developed his artistic abilities to such an incredible degree, his name is synonymous with the Art Nouveau Movement. Born 1860, in a small village in Moravia, in what is now the Czech Republic, his talent was evident even as a child. He studied formally for years, in both Czechloslovakia and Munich, and upon his travels to Paris in the late 19th century, his stylized botanicals with beautiful women set the advertising and artistic world afire. His combination of subtle colors, whiplash designs, traditional themes, sensuous women and the glorification of the natural world have never been equalled. He illustrated landmark lithographed posters for the most popular actress of the day, Sarah Bernhardt, in addition to numerous commercial advertising posters. He designed his way across the whole field of visual arts: furniture, jewelry, wallpaper, rugs, textiles, ceramics and glass ~ he did it all, and was a highly accomplished painter and sculptor, as well.

When the Germans invaded his country in 1939, he was one of the first people interrogated by the Gestapo, as he was such a revered Czech patriot. He never fully recovered from the experience and died shortly thereafter. His creative genius lives on in his remarkable body of work.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Natives Plants Of California ~ #4 In A Series

Coast Redwood trees are also known as Sequoias. They are evergreens that can live to be 2.200 years old and include the tallest existing trees in the world. In Oregon and California, they range along a 5-47 mile wide strip, 470 miles long, from sea level to around 3,000 feet. Their bark can be up to 12 inches thick and their low resin content makes them less vulnerable than other trees to fires. Once they reach 10-15 years of age, they produce abundant seeds in cones, but only 15% of the seeds are viable.

The tallest three trees are Hyperion, Helios and Icarus, at 379', 376' and 371', respectively. Hyperion was discovered in 2006 and its location is a closely guarded secret. Although not as tall as Hyperion, the Lost Monarch is considered the largest coastal redwood, as it has more girth ~ it is 26' in diameter and 370' tall. Its exact location is also kept secret, and the few who know its location keep it to themselves in an attempt to limit destruction to its enviornment.

The picture is circa 1915 and shows a railroad on Mt. Tamalpais that ran through the Coast Redwood groves.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Remembering The Encinitas Ranch Hands

The Encinitas Ranch Hands started out in the late 1920s and continued as a dance band through the Great Depression of the 1930s and up to World War II. The photograph above was probably made in the 1930s at the Sea Cliff Villa, which was an hotel and restaurant housed in the two story white building right next to the park at Swamis, now just inside the SRF compound. They also played to enthusiastic audiences at the Beacon Inn, another inn/tavern just south of where the Chart House is today in Cardiff. The Beacon Inn was built on pier pilings and the tide washed in right under the building.

The musicians pictured are Lyle Hammond, Charlie Brass, Neil Conrad, Mrs. MacFarlane, Fred Harvey and Frank Nay. One member is not identified. In the 1940s, they were joined by Owen Lienhard, still in his teens, on trombone and trumpet and Mac Brink on piano. Don't let the outfits fool you. They were the hottest dance band around and could get the audience on the dance floor in nothing flat.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Stepping Back In Time

The doors lead into a long building that surrounds the Mission courtyard on four sides. Built back when people were a lot smaller, the doors are narrow and the doorway short enough to make you duck down to pass through. The doors are hand made from local trees, with creaking old hinges and the wood's grain is much weathered and has turned gray. The threshold was especially eye-catching, worn low from the thousands of feet that crossed it these past hundreds of years. It's easy to image the moccasin clad feet of Indians, the sandal clad feet of padres, the leather booted feet of caballeros and the suede slippers of their women as they all passed through the doors to enter the coutyard of the great Mission San Juan Capistrano.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

California Wildfires

Every summer and fall are fire season in California. If we have less rainfall than normal, we're at risk because of dry conditions, but if we have an abundance of rain, we're at risk due to dense vegetation. Last year we had such rampant fires in Southern California, it was deemed the worst natural disaster in California history. The recovery is ongoing. Currently, fire fighters from all over the country have come to help battle the blazes in Northern California, started by lightning and burning out of control in Big Sur and the Central Coast near Santa Barbara. High winds have fanned the flames and rugged, isolated terrain have made containment nearly impossible.

The photograph is courtesy of the United States Department of Agriculture.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Native Plants of California ~ #3 In A Series

The California wild grape is so hardy and robust, it is used worldwide as root stock for wine grapes. This native vine grows abundantly along streams and rivers and elsewhere can survive periods of drought. Its twisting, roping vines are covered with green leaves and can grow up to thirty feet long. The leaves turn yellow and orange in autumn and birds feast on the small, sour, purple grapes and build nests in the cover of its thick leaves. Two cultivars are suited for native plant gardens: "Walker Ridge" leaves turn yellow in the autumn and "Roger's Red" turn a lovely red. Once established, both can survive the summer with no water.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Eye Of The Beholder

There's a huge ficus tree on the patio that has evolved along with us since we planted it 30 years ago. In years gone by, its mighty branches held a rope swing that more often than not held a youngster, swinging for the sky. Now, it's home to dozens of sparrows who share its sheltering canopy. They warn each other noisily when Thomas comes around to nibble at his bowl of catnip, and one recently hopped about impatiently when a baby pushed out of the nest refused to fly. The base of the tree has attracted a mix of objects. There's a large white coral head, brought home from Hawaii one year, a ceramic angel holding a bird, and a cast iron cow, all perched amongst the spreading trunk. Adults rarely notice, but children seems to zero in on them right away, with the cow being the hands-down favorite.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

"I"ll Just Forget The Rain"

This watercolor painting was in a stack of old famly papers my parents brought by recently. Written on the back, in an artful, concise script that speaks of an earlier time, is, "This is the little church Grandfather Hauswirth gave to Gsteig. Someday I hope you will visit. I thought you might like to frame this. The countryside is beautiful. I'll just forget the rain. Love from, Helen". Grandfather Hauswirth was Clara's father, and Helen was Clara's daughter and sister of my grandfather, Otto. Gsteig is a small village in Switzerland, close by Gstaad, famous for its Alpine skiing. Once Helen came of age, she visited Switzerland every year, the only family member to ever go back to the homeland, until a 2003 visit by Grandfather Hauswirth's great-great-great granddaughter, Amanda.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Native Plants Of California ~ #2 In A Series

Mentzelia lindleyi is a scraggly one to two foot annual with dandelion-like leaves on somewhat hairy stems. This California native makes up for its mundane foliage with the beauty of its flowers. Bright yellow, five petaled and star shaped, these beautiful flowers are nicknamed "Blazing Stars". The flowers open in the evening , bloom all night and into the next morning, and then close again at noon. They're found across our coastal ranges and into Arizona. They produce many seeds, self sow easily and are a favorite of rock gardeners, as they thrive with low water. The first plant in this series, the flowering bulb California brodiaea, would be beautiful paired with blazing stars, as a purple/yellow combination in the garden is both striking and complimentary.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Presido Park

Presidio Park in San Diego was the first permanent European settlement on the Pacific Coast. It was used by the Spanish as a jumping off point for their colonization of California, which they achieved by establishing pueblos, missions and more forts. Although explored since 1542, no one chose to stay until the historical fort was built in May, 1769, under the authority of the King of Spain. The location was strategic, as the fort on the hilltop commanded sweeping views of San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean, and any intruders could be spotted from many miles away. Two months later, Junipero Serra founded the Mission San Diego de Alcala, just down the hill.

Almost immediately, there was an Indian uprising, and once it was quelled, the fort trained one cannon on the bay and another on the Indians. Permanent buildings eventually replaced the wood and thatch fort and the Mexicans took control in 1821 and then abandoned it in 1835, when the missions were abandoned, as well.

In 1907, George Marston, a local department store owner, purchased the hill, built a private park and then donated it to the city in 1929. It is still up the hill from the Mission, with a statue in honor of the Mormon Brigade, some cannon, rolling, grassy and wooded expanses, a classically columned pergola, and unrivaled views of the city, harbor and the Pacific. The wind sweeps up off the water ~ a perfect spot for a picnic.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Russian Master Of Art Nouveau

Born in 1876 in a small village outside St. Petersburg, Ivan Bilibin was one of 20th century Russia's most influencial illustrators. As a young man, he studied under the famous Ilya Repin, a leading Russian painter and sculptor.

Heavily influenced by traditional Japanese prints, his own work became widely known in 1899, when he published illustrations for Russian fairy tales. From 1902-1904 he travelled widely in the Russian North, engrossed with Russian folklore and traditional wooden architecture. He was also widely know as an accomplished and innovative set designer for the Ballet Russe.

He left his homeland at the outset of the Revolution, and stayed briefly in Egypt before settling more permanently in Paris in 1925, where he decorated Orthodox churches and private homes. The pull of his homeland was strong and although it had become Soviet Russia, he returned there in 1936, where he lectured at the Soviet Academy of Arts until 1941. Ivan Bilibin was killed during the horrible Siege of Leningrad, during World War II.

His works are recognized today as enduring examples of Russian Art Nouveau illustration. The above portrait of Ivan Bilibin was created in 1901 by Boris Mikhailovich Kustodiev.