Thursday, October 6, 2016

Library Visit: Seal Harbor, Maine

We had a wonderful vacation this August on Maine's Mount Desert Island. I visited some area libraries, four in all, and a few bookstores as well. I'll start with the library in Seal Harbor, which is in the neighborhood where we stayed. The Seal Harbor Library serves both year-round residents, summer people, and vacationers such as myself (and I did check out a few books).

Seal Harbor Library Association
5 Main Street
Seal Harbor, ME

Build in 1890. Going strong for 126 years!

A most picturesque library. Looks like it could be Jessica Fletcher's library, doesn't it, mystery fans?

Kids heading toward the library is such a wonderful sight. (Technically, these kids veered to the left and into the woods, not through the library doors.)

I've noticed in my travels that many small community libraries are built on small slips of triangular land between two roads. Can you make out the library at the end of this walkway, through the trees?

Custom built book return and bench.

The view from the bench.

Inside and to the left is this handsome stove and chimney. The sign above reads, "Seal Harbor Library Founded 1890."

The small plaque to the right reads, "This stove is given in loving memory of George Ledyard Stebbins, 1862-1952, Co-Founder & Library President, this gentle, quit man strove for the good of the Village of Seal Harbor." According to the Wikipedia page on Stebbins's son, who became a renowned scientist, George Ledyard Stebbins was "a wealthy real estate financier who developed Seal Harbor, Maine and helped to establish Acadia National Park."

The librarian's desk is to the right when you walk in. Through that door is the reading room.

The view from the reading room.

The right side of the reading room. If my memory serves me correctly, this is also a local history reference room.
The left side of the reading room.

This certificate, which you can see in the photo above hanging on the back left wall, commemorates the Seal Harbor Library Association's 100th year (from 1998).

Looking back into the main room from the reading room.
This local interest book display faces the front door.

The back wall of the library.
Cather on the shelf!

Old staircase leading down to the road.

I love tiny old staircases. There is a newer one a few steps away.

Looking up at the library from the road.

A view of the harbor from the curb. Ah, Maine.

While I love grand academic and large urban libraries, there's a special place in my heart for small, community libraries such as this one. Visit The Seal Harbor Library Image Collection here.

A note if you're interested in visiting this library. The address above must be the library's mailing address.  The Google Earth image below shows the location of the address that comes up in a map at the top of the image (see the red place marker for 5 Main Street?). The yellow circle at the bottom of the image is the library's physical location. From RT 3 turn right/go straight onto Steamboat Warf Road and you'll come across the library.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Classics Club Spin #14 & Meet Buddy Fitzwilliam

I completely forgot about the need to post my classics club list before Monday/today. I have a great excuse though! On Saturday we welcomed a new addition to the family--

Meet Buddy!

Buddy's full name is Buddy Fitzwilliam Tholak.

His middle name, Fitzwilliam, is--yes--a nod to Jane Austen. We had planned on giving our next dog an Austen related name, but Buddy already had a name, so now he also has a middle name. Buddy is tall, handsome, and dashing just like Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. And although Buddy didn't come with an income exceeding £10,000 a year, he is already making our hearts grow 10, 000 times larger.

As I said above, I know I was supposed to have my list of 20 classics posted prior to the announcement of the spin number, but since I did not I am simply going to use my list from the last spin. This turns out to be kinda perfect because as you Classic Clubbers know #1 is the chosen number and #1 from my last list is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.


Here's the last list and a link to that post so you don't think I'm pulling a fast one:
  1. Pride and Prejudice, Austen, 1813 <--- The Chosen One for #CCspin #14
  2. The House of the Seven Gables, Hawthorne, 1851 
  3. Carmilla, Le Fanu, 1872 
  4. The Bostonians, James, 1886 
  5. A Room with a View, Forster, 1908 
  6. Maurice, Forster, 1914 
  7. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Joyce, 1916 
  8. The Education of Henry Adams, Adams, 1918 
  9. Winesburg, Ohio, Anderson, 1919 
  10. So Big, Ferber, 1924 
  11. The Magic Mountain, Mann, 1924 
  12. The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck, 1939 
  13. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Smith, 1943 
  14. From Here to Eternity, Jones, 1951 
  15. The Price of Salt, Highsmith, 1952  <--- The Chosen One for #CCspin #13. My post on that book is here.
I don't think I've read Pride and Prejudice before, but then I thought the same thing about Kate Chopin's The Awakening which I read, or more accurately re-read, last month. I remembered starting The Awakening when I was in my 20s, but didn't get into it and put it aside. However, as so many of the scenes were familiar to me, I must have gone back and read it as some point in the last 20 or 30 years. 

When I was a kid my grandmother and I once talked about her not remembering if she'd already read a particular book. I remember thinking she was just old and forgetful. Now I'm 50 and probably not all that much younger than she was when we had that conversation. I'm not calling myself old, but . . . time sure flies.

Anyway, the case of Pride and Prejudice will be different in that I've watched so many film adaptations of the novel that it might be difficult to tell if I'm recalling scenes from a movie version or a prior reading.

For now I'm off to find out what everyone else is reading for #CCspin 14 and hope to find someone who'll be reading Pride and Prejudice.

PS: Loved The Awakening, by the way. 
PPS: If you want to add more classics to your reading life check out the Classics Clubs here.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Library Stop: The (old) Otis Library, Norwich, CT

The (old) Otis Library
80 Broadway
Norwich, CT

  • Built by: Joseph Otis (July 1768-April 1854)
  • Opened: 1850
  • Architectural style: Greek Revival
  • The library opened with 250 volumes and over 1,000 subscribers.
  • Hamlin B. Buckingham was the first librarian.
  • By February 1865 the library had 6,666 books. A library "ticket" for the year cost $1.
  • In use as a library until 1962.
  • The building is now known as the William F. Bourgun Memorial, which houses Norwich's Department of Human Services.
Mr Otis spent $10, 500 on the land, the building, the furniture, and the initial book collection. He also left $6, 500 in his will for the library.

The Old Otis Library in Norwich, CT (WildmooBooks)
Originally, the first floor was the library and the second floor was the pastor's study. The lamps are a later addition.

The library is directly across from Town Hall.

Read some history of the library here.

A stylized rendering of how the library looked in its early days. Source: Forgotten Founders

An old postcard of Union Square that shows the library (Source: the new Otis Library's Flickr account).

The new Otis Library, which is just blocks away on Main Street, was awarded a 2016 Museum and Library Services national award.

Michelle Obama presents award to Bassem Gayed and Robert Farwell of the Otis Library
Michelle Obama presents award to Bassem Gayed & Robert Farwell of the Otis Library (source).

Norwich, CT was established in 1659 and was a thriving city by the time of the American Revolution. It was the center of activities for the Sons of Liberty as well as the birth place of Benedict Arnold.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Death at the Paris Exposition by Frances McNamara (giveaway)

Death at the Paris Exposition was the perfect read for the first weekend of autumn. It was delicious to cuddle up with a blanket and a cup of tea and immerse myself in this mystery set in Paris.
Synopsis: Amateur sleuth Emily Cabot's journey once again takes her to a world's fair--the Paris Exposition of 1900. Chicago socialite Bertha Palmer is named the only female U. S. commissioner to the Exposition and enlists Emily's services as her secretary. Their visit to the House of Worth for the fitting of a couture gown is interrupted by the theft of Mrs. Palmer's famous pearl necklace. Before that crime can be solved, several young women meet untimely deaths and a member of the Palmer's inner circle is accused of the crimes. As Emily races to clear the family name she encounters jealous society ladies, American heiresses seeking titled European husbands, and more luscious gowns and priceless jewels. Along the way, she takes refuge from the tumult at the country estate of Impressionist painter Mary Cassatt. In between her work and sleuthing, she is able to share the Art Nouveau delights of the Exposition, and the enduring pleasures of the City of Light with her family.

Initially I was interested in this novel for its Chicago (where I'm from) connection: amateur sleuth Emily Cabot is a Chicagoan currently employed by Chicago socialite and business woman, Bertha Palmer. As the blurb above stated, they're in France for the Paris Exposition of 1900.

This is the sixth book in the Emily Cabot Mystery series and the first that I've read. Jumping into an ongoing series used to make me uneasy, but I no longer avoid it. After a few books the main character is firmly established and the writer is typically more skilled, making for a good read. I've come to find it's a pleasure to start with the current book and go back to read others if I'm so inclined.

Part of the attraction of reading historical fiction is learning about places and time periods as well as the real people on which characters are based and seeing how cultural attitudes have changed about some things (say, divorce), but not others (Omaha). In addition to the Chicago connection there's also
Frances McNamara
a Connecticut (where I live now) connection in the character of architect Theodate Pope who makes an appearance at an art gallery as a friend of Mary Cassat. Pope was the first female architect to be licensed in both Connecticut and New York. She also survived the sinking of the Lusitania. Mary Cassat's character plays a more significant role in the novel than just a mention. I enjoyed how McNamara incorporated at least one of Cassat's  actual paintings within a fictional scene involving Emily. Nebraska (where I used to live) makes an appearance but, as usual, it is portrayed negatively, as a foil to the high culture and open mindedness of Paris. A Mrs. Johnston of Nebraska is portrayed as a closed minded ugly American from the cultureless pit of Omaha. Poor Nebraska.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read that never lagged. The time period, fashion, jewels, rich American
women, titled but broke English men, illicit affairs, and a big international event are rich ingredients for a mystery. There was a nice balance between the historical scene with descriptions of fashion and Paris with the crimes and tension of the plot. The mystery had me guessing.

Here is The Emily Cabot Mystery Series in chronological order:
The author created a Pinterest board for the book (here) as did the publisher (here). Both have pictures of the fashions of the day, photos of Paris, ads for the Exposition, and portraits of the historical people represented in the novel.

I look forward to reading an Emily Cabot mystery set in Chicago.

Enter to win a copy below:

Title: Death at the Paris Exposition
Author: Frances McNamara
Publisher: Allium Press, September 1, 2016
Source: Review copy, France Book Tours
Bottom line: If you like historical mysteries and/or mysteries set in the fashion world or Paris, give this one a try.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Library Visit: Derby Public Library (Derby, CT)

I came across this handsome, historic library one day this summer when I was in the area running errands.  It's so exciting to stumble on such an architectural treasure.

Derby Public Library
Harcourt Wood Memorial Library
313 Elizabeth Street
Derby, CT

  • Dedicated December 27, 1902
  • A memorial library initiated by the parents of Holton Harcourt Wood who died when he was only eleven. According to this NYT article, he died from meningitis.
  • Style: Colonial Revival featuring Flemish gables and granite ashlar walls 
  • Size: 7500 square feet
  • Architect: William Hartley Dennett*
  • Renovated and expanded, 1990-2000, additional 7200 square feet

The Derby Public Library sits on a rectangular slice of land between Elizabeth and Caroline Streets. The land was originally owned by the DAR and they maintain rights to use the library.

A grand stair case leads up from Elizabeth Street to the original front entrance.

The new front entrance is on the side of the library along Caroline Street. The original library building is to the left of the new entrance and the addition is from the entrance to the right.

An old millstone, dated 1727, recommissioned as a sundial.
A view of the original entrance from behind the millstone/sundial.

Thick purple glass embedded in concrete. I forgot to ask about this when I was there. Could it have been something like a skylight for the basement?
Entry detail. The original structure is on the National Register of Historic Places.

A view of the foyer, looking out.

Beautiful handmade tile in the foyer.

A serious umbrella stand.
Dedication plaque reads: "This building was erected by his parents in loving memory of Holton Harcourt Wood, Born June 19, 1885 -- Died February 27, 1897."

Walking into the library from the original foyer. To state the obvious, the gold leaf ceiling is stunning.

Staircase leading to the librarian's office.

Stencil and ceiling detail.
The original mahogany circulation desk with brass lights. Until the early 1980s the library had closed stacks. Patrons came to the circulation desk to request materials. The new circulation desk is through the left hand door. Through the doorway to the right is the history room.
The new circulation desk.

An original safe across from the new circulation desk.
A peak into the history room.
Beyond the new circulation desk and to the left is the teen section.

To the left of the teen section is the reference and computer area. The reference librarian is sitting to the left -- he's facing the original circulation desk, so we've almost gone full circle.

Walk beyond the circulation desk and you're in the new addition. Here's a shot looking back toward the old section's display cabinet. Through that doorway to the left is circulation and to the right is the teen section. Nonfiction is behind me but there were too many patrons to photograph it without being intrusive.
The Non-English Collection is being developed to better serve Derby's diverse population. It includes fiction, nonfiction, and DVDs. "It is the goal of the Library to invite all groups to become part of the Library."

A collection of "Very Short Introduction"books from Oxford University Press is just across from the elevator. Fiction is upstairs and downstairs are meeting rooms, restrooms, offices.

Colorful close-up. I love this series and it was neat to see them all in one place. Usually they're shelved in their respective categories.

Sit, Color, Relax. Coloring isn't just for kids anymore.

Upstairs in the fiction section. The original external arched roof line is part of the internal design of the new edition.

The Cather on the shelf shot that I often take at libraries was challenging here as the Cather titles wrapped around to the other side of the shelf, so I pulled out one book and took this photo instead.

And it was then I saw that the library used a custom hole punch instead of an ink stamp to mark ownership. Here's a close up from a different Cather book.

Back outside. A shot of the other side of the library, facing Elizabeth Street. Handsome windows reflect the blue sky.

The"Old Hallock Kettle" is on display on this side of the library. It was originally used to test blubber on whaling ships, 1816-1869, and then was put to use at a local shipyard to steam and bend ships knees (an L shaped piece of wood used to brace).

That's me holding the kettle to give a sense of size.

Overall a very handsome, busy, and obviously well-loved library. It's always heartening to see an old library building in use.

*If I have the right Dennett, it looks like he was the husband, for a time, of Mary Dennett.
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