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The Adirondack Chair Revisited

In Adirondacks, Daily Munge, History & Heritage on June 29, 2011 at 7:30 am

Adirondack R&R in one of many versions of the Adirondack Chair

“To all whom it may concern: Be it known that I, Harry C. Bunnell, a citizen of the United States, residing at Westport, in the county of Essex and the State of New York, have invented a new and useful Improvement in Chairs. … ” So begins patent number 794,777, dated July 18, 1905, in reference to what we commonly refer to as the Adirondack Chair. With its signature slanted back and wide armrests, the recognizable profile of this outdoor recliner has become a trademark of summer in America. Despite the patent filed over a hundred years ago, though, Harry Bunnell, a carpenter and shop owner, was not actually the one who created the chair’s design. (via NYTimes.com.)

Image from original patent for the Adirondack Chair

Image from original patent for the Adirondack Chair

In Monday’s Rosslyn Roundup I included a link to a post about the Adirondack Chair, invented by Thomas Lee in 1903 but copied and adapted by countless carpenters since. A welcome surprise then to see the New York Times’ The 6th Floor blog tackling the same timely topic today. In “Who Made That Adirondack Chair?” Hilary Greenbaum highlights Harry C. Bunnel’s decision to patent the design actually invented by Thomas Lee allegedly without his permission. A case of vintage Adirondack snark? Perhaps. But even in Hilary’s telling, Lee seems to have been gracious and let the matter go, permitting his friend to produce the chairs for profit for a quarter century.

As luck would have it, I’m friendly with several of Thomas Lee’s descendants to still reside in (or visit) Westport — our Lake Champlain neighbor to the south —  where the original Westport chairs (aka Adirondack chairs) were invented and produced. I’ll have to ask if there’s any more to this story, perhaps passed down through the generations. In fact, Bruce Ware, the realtor who showed us property for several years and ultimately brokered the deal for us when we purchased Rosslyn is directly or indirectly related to Thomas Lee. I’ll see what I can find out…

If you know any more about the history of the Adirondack chair, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

Hyde Gate For Sale or Rent

In Artifacts, History & Heritage, Lake Champlain, What's Rosslyn? on June 28, 2011 at 2:01 pm
For Sale: Hyde Gate, aka Rosslyn, in Essex, New York

For Sale: Hyde Gate (aka Rosslyn), in Essex, New York, April 1910.

Rosslyn artifacts pop up all over the place! And they’re not always Rosslyn artifacts; sometimes they’re Hyde Gate artifacts or Sherwood Inn artifacts… Honestly one of the most enjoyable aspects of owning and renovating our home is stumbling across interesting relics of its almost 200 year history.

I originally came across the advertisement above on eBay. The auction item was a full page ripped from the April 1910 edition of Country Life in America. How could I resist? One more quirky artifact for the digital library!

Turns out it wasn’t the only time that Hyde Gate (aka Rosslyn) was advertised for sale or rent in the early twentieth century. A March 1910 advertisement is available on Google Books. A handy tool for finding print book content, Google Books offers increased functionality for out-of-copyright content such as this old magazine. For free you can “clip” the image (at right) to use elsewhere, and you can even clip the text content from the page. The following is quoted from the ad:

For Sale: Hyde Gate, aka Rosslyn, in Essex, New York, March 1910

For Sale: Hyde Gate (aka Rosslyn) in Essex, New York, March 1910.

FOR SALE “HYDE GATE,” Essex, N.Y. FOR RENT

The country residence of Caleb James Coatsworth Esq. is just at the outskirts of Essex Village on Lake Champlain, New York. The house faces the lake, and the grounds run right down to the lake with bath houses and a large private dock. The house is between eighty five and a hundred years old. Is built of brick. It is very beautifully furnished with the real antique Colonial furniture and although lighted throughout with electricity there is not on modem electrical fixture on the first floor.

In the hall there is an old lantern, and in all the rooms old candelabra hanging from the ceilings; there are also lamps on the centre table lighted by electricity. The house is a beautiful example of the Colonial period. It contains ten bed rooms and two bath rooms on the second floor, and three bed rooms on the third floor, also two lavatories on first floor. One can leave “Hyde Gate” in an automobile after breakfast and lunch at Lake Placid, or leave “Hyde Gate” in the morning and dine at Bretton Woods in the White Mountains, or dine at Montreal, Canada. Lake Placid is fifty miles from “Hyde Gate” by road; Bretton Woods one hundred and eighteen miles; and the Windsor Hotel, Montreal, Canada is just one hundred miles; all the roads are very good. It Is a great central starting point for automobiling. The owner of “Hyde Gate” has made all of these trips. You can leave the dock at “Hyde Gate” in a launch and go to Westport, NY, or Vergennes, Vermont (the oldest city in Vermont) through the beautiful Otter Creek or Burlington, Vermont in less than an hour, or “Bluff Point” in two hours where the Lake Champlain Hotel is located, which is considered the best hotel In the Adirondacks.

The grounds contain between five and six acres, beautifully laid out, and there is a great abundance of flowers, a large kitchen garden, and quite a number of fruit trees and currant bushes, etc.

A stable with room for five horses, carriage room for five or six carriages, large harness room with glass case for harness, and good comfortable quarters for coachman. There is a large carriage shed outside of table where extra carriages can be stored, also suitable for two automobiles, several chicken houses, and a pigeon house. There is a large new ice house with a cold storage house built in connection with it.

“Hyde Gate” is just half way on Lake Champlain, and one can make the trip to New York in a motor boat in two days running spending the night at Albany, or you can run to Montreal with a motor boat in two days.

Enquire CALEB JAMES COATSWORTH 110 South Penn Ave Atlantic City NJ (via Country Life in America, March 1910, P. 495)

A couple of years later a similar advertisement ran in the April 1912 issue of Country Life in America. And it would seem that Caleb James Coatsworth was learning a thing or two about advertising with each return to ink. The text length and detail is generally the same throughout, but a bit of brevity slips into the equation, and the photographs improve significantly. Perhaps there are later advertisements that I’ve missed?

Let’s take a look at the copy for Coatsworth’s 1912 Hyde Gate advertisement:

For Sale: Hyde Gate, aka Rosslyn, in Essex, New York, March 1912.

For Sale: Hyde Gate (aka Rosslyn) in Essex, New York, March 1912.

For Sale HYDE GATE ESSEX NY For Rent

“Hyde Gate” is just at the outskirts of Essex Village on Lake Champlain, N.Y. It is the country residence of Caleb James Coatsworth. The house faces the lake, and the ground runs down to the lake. There are bath houses and a large private dock. The house is between 85 and 100 years old. It is a beautiful example of the Colonial period; made of brick. It is very beautifully furnished with antique colonial furniture. It contains ten bed rooms and two bath rooms on the second floor and three bed rooms on the third floor. Also two laboratories on the first floor.

The grounds contain between 5 and 6 acres beautifully laid out. There is a great abundance of flowers. A large kitchen garden and a number of fruit trees and currant bushes, etc. A stable with room for five horses, accommodations for 5 or 6 carriages, large harness room and good comfortable quarters for coachman. Another carriage shed affords accommodations for extra carriages and two automobiles. There are other outhouses. Further particulars from

CALEB JAMES COATSWORTH

Hyde Gate Eases NY (via Country Life in America, April 1912, P. 3)

Two laboratories on the first floor? Fantastic! It’s handy having multiple versions of this ad to sort out the unlikely presence of a pair of labs in a summer residence… Two lavatories, now that makes a little bit more sense. Imagine the ten year old son who’s spent all spring looking forward to summer vacation on Lake Champlain. His father has promised that their summer rental includes two laboratories. Oh, the experiments that have occupied the boy’s daydreams in the final stretch of the school year. A homemade volcano, frog dissection,… the options are endless. And then to arrive after an exhausting journey along bumpy roads in the days long before air conditioning. And the lad races inside to search for the laboratories, to find the answer to his fantasies only to discover that it was an error. Two lavatories? What sort of evil joke is that?

Rosslyn Roundup, June 27

In Adirondacks, Champlain Valley, Daily Munge, History & Heritage on June 27, 2011 at 5:43 pm
Adirondack chairs

Adirondack chairs (photo courtesy of albanykid.com)

It’s time for another Rosslyn Roundup to share everything Rosslyn-related that I didn’t get a chance to post this past week. Summer in the Champlain Valley has a way of inching along slowly, slowly, slowly and then suddenly galloping off! This summer was not exception, but the transition was even more apparent because of protracted Lake Champlain flooding. With almost two months a record breaking high water, the flood delayed the normal spring/summer transition. And once the water did finally drop, everyone hustled double-time to catch up!

This has been especially evident in our fair hamlet by the lake. Essex is undergoing a veritable renaissance! Despite early concerns that The Old Dock Restaurant and the Essex Shipyard and Rudder Club might be unable to open for the season due to severe flood damage, both are racing a July 1 opening date. And that’s only part of the Essex renaissance. Nary a storefront in the village is empty, and the offerings are exceptional. In fact, there’s so much activity that a new website has been born to tell the Essex story called Essex on Lake Champlain; it will serve as a digital bulletin board and community blog for Essex, New York. I’ve included a parade of blog posts from the website in my roundup below, so I hope you’ll take a moment to discover why Essex is such a grand place to live and visit.

In addition to the Essex stories, I’m starting with a post about the now ubiquitous Adirondack chair courtesy of Wanda Shapiro (@WandaShapiro), the author of Sometimes That Happens With Chicken. Although this chair proudly announces its Adirondack heritage wherever it is enjoyed, not many know that it was actually invented in Westport, the next town south of Essex. You may be surprised about its history!

Without further ado, I offer you the June 27 Rosslyn Roundup:

  • The Adirondack, Burnell, Westport or Muskoka Chair: Westport Chair was the original name for the Adirondack Chair… There is in fact a small town populated by about 1500 people called Westport, New York, on the western shores of Lake Champlain. It is on the very eastern edge of the Adirondack Park, and is quite a picturesque vacation destination. In1903 one Mr Thomas Lee set about to build the perfect chair for such a spot, as all his relations had taken up those in his mountainside cabin.
  • Travel Writing Contest Hosted by Champlain Area Trails: Get your pencils sharpened, your laptops powered, and your cameras ready, Champlain Area Trails (CATS) will soon launch its first Travel Writing Contest. It’s your chance to write about your travels in New York’s central Champlain Valley—to share your favorite experiences on the Champlain Area Trails–whether it’s hiking, walking, skiing, snowshoeing, birding, tracking, picnicking, or a little bit of each…
  • Provisions and Paparazzi in Essex, NY: “Essex is alive with both new and well-established businesses, opening up, dusting off and getting ready for the season…” So opens Sue Cameron’s “Provisions and Papparazzi” post on LakePlacid.com on June 14. Essex is alive! It’s incredible how much is going on in Essex these last couple of weeks. Essex businesses have proven that even a record breaking flood can’t drown the Essex spirit. Residents, businesses and friends of both are pulling together for what is shaping up to be the best summer in decades.
  • Longtime Residents Recall Essex Inn Years Ago: Last Sunday Alvin Reiner at the Press-Republican ran a fascinating story about the Essex Inn and the fusion of past and future in this historic landmark recently renovated by the Daltons and now open to the public. “We are reaching out to bridge the gap, as there is often a lot of knowledge that gets lost,” she said. (via Press-Republican.) Essex has long represented an important bridge back into history, but the Dalton’s Essex Inn revitalization is one of many new bridges forward toward a bright and shiny future.
  • Summer Arrives in Essex on Lake Champlain: Kim Rielly posted an enthusiastic blog post about summer in Essex celebrating flood recovery, exciting new businesses and the timeless charm that has drawn visitors and residents for decades. She asks, “could it possibly be true that the recently-submerged businesses were planning to open THIS summer? It’s true. In fact, the community is not only ready to welcome visitors for the summer – it is veritably BUZZING with activity.”
  • The Neighborhood Nest: A Gathering of Art, Nature and Antiques: Now in its 16th season, The Neighborhood Nest is one of the oldest businesses in Essex, NY but remains forever surprising! Open daily between 11:00 am and 5:00 pm, The Nest features a treasure hunt experience that spills into a wildly beautiful garden.
  • Pantouf’s Celebrates Summer with Beautiful Glassware: Yesterday I visited Helen Goetz at Pantouf’s in Essex. If you’ve never seen her beautiful glass work, now’s the perfect time to swing by before she gets swarmed with visitors… In addition to showing me her colorful glass serving platters and pitchers, Helen graciously toured me through the home, explaining how it had been configured and functioned when occupied by the Essex town doctor.
  • Live Well in the Champlain Valley: Another new addition to the Essex wellness scene is blooming on Main Street with the opening of Live Well. The beautifully remodeled space offers a wide range of health and healing services, and represents the collaborative genius of three Champlain Valley holistic health and wellness practitioners…
  • Full and By Farm, June 23, 2011: We took advantage of the beautifully sunny weather spell to make hay. We cut about 22 acres starting last week, and successfully baled 19 of it. The rain caught us in the middle of raking the last small field and we had to abandon the project. Once the grass and clover is cut rain begins to leach away the nutrients. Four straight days of rain is enough to ruin the hay as winter feed. It’s always a sad defeat, but part of making hay with an ever changing weather forecast.
  • The Old Dock Restaurant: The Old Dock Restaurant is a seasonal restaurant and bar located in the Historic Hamlet of Essex, New York. Guests arrive by automobile, private boat or on the Charlotte-Essex… Slips are available for our guests who arrive by boat. Passengers on the Charlotte-Essex ferry have the option to leave their automobiles in the free parking lot at Charlotte and when they arrive in Essex stroll a few feet to the Old Dock.

Rosslyn Boathouse Free from Toppling Ash

In Boathouse, Daily Munge, Lake Champlain on June 27, 2011 at 2:11 pm
Ash tree undermined by Lake Champlain flood

Ash tree undermined by Lake Champlain flood

Remember the Lake Champlain flood? The good news is that flooding is abating. Rapidly. In fact the water’s “fallen” to normal spring flood stage… Which means that we’re finally catching up on the damaged waterfront, repairing the boathouse, installing docks and boat hoist, etc. You may remember that large ash tree was undermined by the flood and was beginning to topple down over top of the boathouse. Not good. You may also remember that local arborist Mark Sauslgiver decided to install a tension line from high in the tree to the guardrail north of the boathouse. The idea was that in the event the trees roots gave way and the tree toppled, the line would pull the falling tree northward, sparing the boat house.

I liked the idea. Sounded good. Looked good when I drew a little diagram on paper. But, I’d be lying if I claimed that I was 100% confident it would work. That’s a big tree, and I had a difficult time imagining a static line enduring a fall much less staying taught and pulling thousands of pounds of gravity-fueled ash anywhere other than straight down. On top of the boathouse, the pier, and the railings. But, turns out Mark knew his tension lines.

Today his crew removed the tree, piece by piece, sending massive chunks of wood down a “zip line” to the curb or New York State Route 22 where they could be cut up and/or chipped. The entire affair was a success!

I’m deeply saddened to lose a mature, healthy tree that offered much appreciated shade in the heat of summer and served as a charming frame for images of the boathouse. But I am overjoyed that the tree was removed before gravity won. And I’ve been assured that sooner or later it would.

I’ll add a short video soon!

Crooning to the Adirondack Sunset

In Adirondacks, Daily Munge, History & Heritage, What's the story?, Where's Rosslyn? on June 23, 2011 at 2:31 pm

“Martin Sexton croons to the Adirondack sunset,” reads the minimalist description for this beautiful video. Another video for Martin Sexton’s Over My Head reads, “Martin Sexton sings before the sunrise over Loon Lake, Adirondack Mountains.” Somewhat dissimilar but soulful songs sung in a similar setting. I’m guessing that both videos were recorded on Loon Lake.

This is my first encounter with the music of Martin Sexton (@martin_sexton) but I find it catchy, at once playful and haunting. And there’s something about the Adirondack mornings that he captures in these videos — the sacred sunrise, the unpopulated world — that resonates deeply with me. So often I’ve photographed Rosslyn’s boathouse in these hours. And my earliest infatuation with Rosslyn was a fantasy about spending early morning wandering her rooms. My bride tends to sleep later than I, but Griffin — a Labrador Retriever with an early appetite — and I often rise at 5:00 or 6:00 am. I make him breakfast and then head outside with him to welcome the morning with a cup of tea and often a camera or a notebook. Ideas flow in the morning. With so little noise and so few distractions it’s easier to hear the singing underneath. And the morning light as the sun rises over Vermont’s Green Mountains and bathes the boathouse in orange should be classified an opiate!

I’ve hinted at an elusive Adirondack lifestyle that enchants like an Odyssean siren. Or perhaps a Champlain Valley lifestyle. Seductive mornings are a part of either. Both. And Sexton’s song and video evoke this velvety pull. What do you identify with the Adirondack lifestyle?

Related articles:

Haying with Draft Horses at Full and By Farm

In Adirondacks, Champlain Valley, Daily Munge, Historic Essex, What's the story?, Where's Rosslyn? on June 22, 2011 at 7:35 pm

Another spectacular day in Essex! Perfect summer days mean great gardens, and soon enough I’ll be posting a garden update to show you how well the tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and Brussels sprouts are doing. But first I’d like to introduce you to one of the lifestyle luxuries we’re able to enjoy as Essex residents. Please meet Sara Kurak and James Graves of Full and By Farm.

We pick up our farm share every Thursday evening, and Sara emails the farm members in the morning to let us know what to expect. I’m including last week’s note in its earthy entirety below, and the video tells a little piece of the haying story described in in her note. I hope you enjoy both! Here’s the Full and By Farm note for June 17, 2011.

We are trucking right along this week—moving animals, planting crops, harvesting, weeding, cutting hay, cutting soap, building wagons, enjoying the moderately warm sunshine. This is our first year cutting our own hay and the learning and preparation curves have been steep. Given the uncertain weather predictions for the week and all of our new-to-us equipment we decided to cut one small field on Tuesday and get the process down before going for it whole hog. We took Abby and Lightning out on the horse-drawn mower, selecting the smallest field, but coincidentally the steepest and least rectangular. They took it on like champs, despite several problems with the mower, and the sneaking suspicion that lots of sharp scissors are following right at one’s heels. James is out now tedding the field, we plan to rake, bale, pick-up and unload all TODAY. Hay wagon building has largely been a late night activity. If we seem a little shell-shocked at pick-up tonight, please be nice, it’s been a long day and week.

The vegetables are perking up and getting green out in the fields. Our current harvests however are still being hampered by the earlier mud season issues of poor germination and cloudy skies, followed by the really hot week which caused the soggy, stressed out plants to bolt. All this to say that we are starting to harvest a little bit of a lot of things. Great news on the variety front, but hard to divide up 40 ways. We’re getting creative though and offering up some fun stuff at the share tonight and as well as sweet things to nibble on while picking them up.

Three important things to know today:

1) We are having our spring farm tour and member dinner two weeks from tonight, on Thursday June 30th at 6pm. We’ll provide a farm-fresh dinner and solid wagon ride. You all bring the desserts, a place setting and drinks to share. Please rsvp by email or the list in the csa room. I’ve put in the rainbow request already, but they won’t guarantee a thing this far out.

2) We are officially rolling out the Full and By Farm “Go Whole Hog” challenge tonight!!! The rules are simple: fill out a card for your household, this will live at the farm. Check off the boxes after you’ve used each of the cuts on the list**. When your card is completed you will get a hand printed “Go Whole Hog” shirt or grocery bag. **And don’t worry, we’ll help you out with some of the more challenging ones.

3) Our last spring calf was born on Monday into a muddy puddle. It was a rough entry, but his long legs helped him out. We had originally named him Gus after the legendary Texas Ranger Augustus McCrae. But after getting to know him a little the name just doesn’t seem right, mostly due to his challenge with direction (i.e. his tendency to walk the opposite way when we move the cow herd). We’re considering Gonzo and Gulliver. Bring your vote tonight, write in’s are welcome.

In the veggie share: lettuce, lettuce, lettuce, spicy lettuce mix, braising mix, stir-fry add-ins, spring onions, spinach, nettles (by popular demand) potatoes, celeriac, black and white beans. coming soon: garlic scapes, baby turnips and radishes.

In the meat share: pork, chicken and ground beef, lard and leaf lard, lavender soap.

See you all tonight between 4 and 6,
Sara

Three Perks of Life in Essex

In Daily Munge, Historic Essex, What's the story?, Where's Rosslyn? on June 16, 2011 at 5:07 pm
Three reasons I love living in Essex, New York: Essex Glass, Essex Provisions and Tom Duca.

Three more reasons why I love living in Essex, New York: Beverly Eichenlaub's Essex Glass,Essex Provisions' shrimp quiche and Tom Duca's find-a-problem-solve-a-problem magic!

Yesterday afternoon Beverly Eichenlaub sent me a message:

“Fresh Item: Cufflinks! Come on over and choose your pair!”

She’s heading off to represent her jewelry, Essex Glass, at a Father’s Day show in Rhinebeck later today, so I zipped right over this afternoon to see what she’d built. Bev and her husband Bryan Burke are the architects behind Premises Architecture + Design, but like so many of us living in Essex, she prefers to wear a couple of hats. She’s an inspired (and inspiring) artist. “July”, a patriotic three dimensional collage created by Bev adorns the wall next to my desk, and my bride wears her beautiful earrings all the time. In fact, they’ve become one of her favorite gifts for family and friends!

July, by Beverly Eichenlaub

July, by Beverly Eichenlaub

So it came as no surprise that her glass cufflinks were handsome works of art. She even designed a beautiful pair (the ones on the left in the photo above) to match a pair of earrings that she’d made for my bride. Can you imagine us showing up at The Depot Theatre with matching accessories? Snazzy! And better yet? She gave them to me as a gift. Today is Thursday, June 16, and no, it’s not my birthday. Or Christmas. It’s just another day in Essex… See why I love it here? Thanks, Bev. I love the cufflinks you gave me, and I’m excited to give the two pairs I bought as gifts. I know they’ll be well received. Good luck in Rhinebeck.

On my back to Rosslyn, I dropped into Essex Provisions for a mid-afternoon snack. They have the world’s best (bar none) oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and they’re always warm and gooey. Perfect pick-me-up for a few more hours at the keyboard! My bride is unable to eat chocolate (Aaahhh, the injustice!) so I picked up a fresh berry muffin for her. That was the plan, just a quick snack times two. But when I arrived at the cash register, two exquisite quiches were smiling up at me. Both vegetarian, fresh and delicious smelling. A quick call to my bride: “Susan, Essex Provisions has just baked an exquisite tomato basil quiche and a shrimp and herb quiche. Would you like one?”

“Both!”

“Both?”

“Sure, one for now and one for later.”

“But they’re huge!”

“We can freeze one…”

Gluttony. Essex Provisions has tapped into our visceral appetites since opening less than a month ago. The food is delicious. The shop is spotless and charming with an outstanding view of Lake Champlain (out over the marinas). And the two ladies who run it are gracious and friendly. Win, win, win.

I convinced my bride that the shrimp quiche would be plenty for now. Dinner tonight. Perhaps lunch tomorrow. And then we could swing in for a fresh quiche this weekend or next weekend.

Feeling totally spoiled by this point, I headed back to Rosslyn where I bumped into Tom Duca. Tom was one of our first friends when we arrived in Essex. He’s the unofficial Essex cruise director and an all around good guy. His laughter and hugs are intricately woven into the Essex experience. Not just my Essex experience, but everybody’s Essex experience. I’m not kidding! Ask around…

In addition to town ambassador and hugger, Tom’s a gifted and hardworking carpenter. He spent the last two days building and installing a hook/hanging station outside our sports closet. I’ll share a photo soon. But the amazing thing about Tom is that each time he’s worked for us, he’s divined additional projects that need doing. And then he does them. Just like that. Sometimes before we’ve even realized something needs fixing! In the photo above, he’s painting a gate that needed touching up. Earlier he’s discovered that another gate wasn’t closing properly because the stone wall into which one side was mounted had shifted during the winter. He brought a jack and fixed the gatepost for the second year in a row without even being asked. And then touched the gate and gateposts up with paint. This morning I spied him touching up another gate, one of a pair of unique gates that he built and designed about a year ago. You can look forward to a full post with photos and drawings in the not-too-distant future. Tom solves all of these problems quickly, efficiently and perfectly. All without making a fuss. Trust me, this is extremely exceptional behavior for a contractor! And we feel incredibly fortunate for his work and his friendship.

What an afternoon! And these are just the three most recent perks of life in Essex…

Moon Over Lake Champlain

In Boathouse, Daily Munge, Lake Champlain, What's Rosslyn?, What's the story?, Where's Rosslyn? on June 16, 2011 at 9:11 am
Moonrise over Lake Champlain with Rosslyn boathouse in foreground

Moonrise over Lake Champlain with Rosslyn boathouse in foreground

Last night’s moonrise over the Vermont foothills (south of the Green Mountains) was absolutely sensational! The moon started out fat and orange as it made a dramatic appearance. My bride and I first spied the “Great Pumpkin” while driving home to Essex from Willsboro after dining at Johnny’s Smokehouse. Breathtaking. And elusive because it kept disappearing behind the trees.

Once we arrived home, I grabbed a camera and headed down to the waterfront where I tried to capture — albeit in blurry facsimile — the less orange and smaller but still exquisite orb shimmering across Lake Champlain. The view in this video was shot from the flood damaged but finally dry waterfront of our home in Essex, New York. You can see the Essex ferry dock where the Essex-Charlotte ferry delivers and picks up passengers, and the Old Dock Restaurant is even slightly visible beyond the illuminated ferry gallows. Rosslyn’s boathouse is silhouetted in the foreground with a Lake Champlain moon beam inviting you to begin enjoying summer after Lake Champlain floods put such a damper on the first half of June.

As of this morning, the USGS website reports that the Lake Champlain water level has fallen to 100.33 feet. Most of the bottom terrace of the waterfront is now water free, except for where flooding damaged the stone retaining wall and eroded the lawn. This weekend we’ll remove the remaining debris and begin to repair the damage. We’re still waiting to hear what New York State has decided about stabilizing the embankment and repairing the road, so we’ll need to hold off on significant repairs in the area where NYS Route 22 (aka Essex Road or Lakeshore Road) collapsed at the end of May. But hopefully by next week we’ll be able to start windsurfing and possibly even install the boat lift and docks so that our ski boat can be launched. A late start to summer, but hard won!

 

We could live at Rosslyn

In Champlain Valley, Memoir, What's the story? on June 15, 2011 at 3:29 pm
We could live at Rosslyn

We could live at Rosslyn

“We could live at Rosslyn,” I said.

“What?” Susan sounded startled. “You mean buy Rosslyn and live there?”

“Why not? If we lived here, if it were going to be our home instead of just an investment, maybe we could justify buying it.”

We had joked about how much time and money it would take to make Rosslyn habitable, categorically dismissing it as an investment. And yet it clearly had captured our hearts. If it were our home and not a short term investment, then maybe the criteria were different. Maybe the potential was different. Maybe the risk was different.

“Will you be relocating here full-time?” a realtor had asked a month or two ago while showing us a house.

“Uh, maybe, yes, we’d like to,” Susan had lied, glancing at me awkwardly. Some locals disliked out-of-towners buying, renovating and reselling, so we kept quiet about our plans to do so. Our hearts sank.

“Are you serious? Would you really want to live at Rosslyn?” Susan persisted.

I was unclear whether she was horrified or excited. I had made the suggestion spontaneously, without forethought, and now I felt embarrassed. I knew the idea was absurd. We both knew it made no sense at all. And yet we had returned to see the house again that morning. A second visit to a house we had already decided not to buy. Why? It exerted an inexplicable pull on both of us. It had awakened our imaginations, our fantasies, our hopes.

“No. And yes,” I said, hedging. “No, I’m not really serious. I just suggested it off the cuff. It’s probably the stupidest idea ever, or at least the least serious idea ever. But yes, there is a side of me that would love to live at Rosslyn. I’ve felt it each time we’ve visited the house. I’m not sure I can explain it…”

“You don’t need to,” Susan said. She was beaming. “I agree.” She rose out of the bath and wrapped a towel around her broad shoulders. “What a dream it would be, to live in that grand old home!”

“Really?” A wave of relief and excitement rushed over me. What a dream indeed. I stood and wrapped my arms around Susan as we drowned each other out, pent up monologues bursting out. We sounded manic as we catalogued our dreams. Waterskiing from Rosslyn’s pier still visible in photographs from the mid-1980’s. Awakening in the yellow bedroom brimming with sunlight. Entertaining our families in the evening amidst mingling aromas of arborvitae and grilling hamburgers. Eating cheese fondue next to a crackling fireplace with friends after a day of downhill skiing. Watching the Fourth of July parade from the front steps with our nephews, still fascinated with fire engines, antique tractors and costumed clowns. Recalibrating our urban rhythm to the comings and goings of the Essex-Charlotte ferry. A pair of effervescent hummingbirds flitting from blossom to blossom in the flowerbeds that we would coax back to life. Puttering around in the carriage barn on Sunday afternoons. Tossing bocce balls in the side yard while nursing gin and tonics and watching Vermont’s Green Mountains slide into pastels, then monochromes, then memories.

Ed Pais visits Rosslyn Boathouse

In Boathouse, Daily Munge, Renovation & Rehabilitation, What's Rosslyn?, What's the story? on June 13, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Edward Pais was a classmate of mine at Deerfield Academy from 1986 to 1990, and he now practices architecture in Burlington, Vermont. Despite being out of touch for more than two decades we recently reconnected via Facebook. Ed joined the Rosslyn Redux Facebook page and he’s offered ongoing feedback about our boathouse during the Lake Champlain flooding. Recently he offered to come over and take a look. Needless to say, I eagerly accepted his offer.

We started out with a delicious lunch at Essex Provisions overlooking the still flooded marinas, then headed back to Rosslyn to take a look at the boathouse. Ed’s reaction was encouraging, and despite pushing him into engineering territory a couple of times, I mostly listened and took mental notes. He reminded me that he’s an architect and not an engineer, but repeatedly expressed his confidence in the work of Engineering Ventures in Burlington. Paul Hobbs who handled most of the structural engineering for the boathouse renovation repeatedly impressed with his keen mind, so Ed’s confidence was not misplaced. That said, I do intend to follow up with Hobbs and/or Jeffords Steel to ascertain whether or not the beams which support the suspended pier were fabricated out of COR-TEN or a similar weather resistant steel.

Ed’s recommendation to quickly and aggressively treat the mold situation was highlighted in a follow-up message after his visit. He suggested that we should remove the baseboards to inspect for mold. He linked me to helpful information “Cleaning Mold on Wood” that confirms that we’ve been remediating the post-flood mold situation appropriately.

The molds seen on lumber are largely a collection of fungal spores on the surface of the wood. Wet wiping and scrubbing the lumber will remove the mold. But simply wiping the wood can release spores into the surrounding air. A better approach is to gently spray or wet down the mold prior to removal.

There are a number of products on the market, ranging from common bleach to commercial mildewcides, which are promoted for cleaning mold from wood. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggests using a mild detergent and water for most mold clean up. The EPA recommends wet vacuuming the area, wiping or scrubbing the mold with detergent and water and, after drying, vacuuming with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) vacuum.

Common bleach and water can be used for cleaning mold. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends using a solution of 10 parts water to one part bleach to clean mold from surfaces. (Western Wood Products Association)

Huge thanks, Ed, for taking the time to coach me through the latest challenge! I really appreciate it.

After De’s departure my parents joined us for dinner. They’ve just returned to the Adirondacks from Chicago for the summer, so grilling and dining al fresco seemed like the perfect way to launch their summer. While showing my mother the recovering boathouse, I asked if she remembered Ed Pais from Deerfield. She did! She recounted a story that I’d never known. My brother, two years younger than I, had come to Deerfield for his admissions interview. Although he already knew his way around because he had visited me frequently, he decided to take the admissions office campus tour anyway. His tour guide was Ed Pais! When we got back to the house I asked my father if he remembered Ed Pais, and he immediately told me the same story! Ed, must have made quite an impression…

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