Tag Archives: Architecture

Vaile Mansion, Decorated for Christmas

Vaile Mansion, Independence, Missouri, in Snow Poster

Vaile Mansion, Independence, Missouri.

Each Christmas season, the Vaile Mansion in Independence, Missouri, is lavishly decorated for Christmas in a Victorian style. I recently toured the beautiful mansion with a friend, who had visited the mansion when it was decorated for a previous Christmas season. Each Christmas season’s decor is different, based on a Victorian theme. This year was a Victorian Christmas Romance. Some of the themed rooms, all decorated by different designers, were Phantom of the Opera, Sunflowers and Music, coordinated by the Vaile Victorian Society. Mother Nature added her own touch with a blanket of snow on the lawn. It was all gorgeous!

The Vaile Mansion in Independence, Missouri, is decorated every Christmas season, coordinated by the Vaile Victorian Society, with a Victorian theme and is open for tours.


The follow information about the Vaile Mansion is from three separate sources, which I have linked at the bottom:

Built by Colonel and Mrs. Harvey M. Vaile in 1881, the Vaile Mansion was “the most princely house and the most comfortable home in the entire west,” the Kansas City Times reported in 1882. Situated on North Liberty Street, a mile north of the historic Independence Square, according to the Vaile Mansion’s website.

The three-story Gothic-like mansion includes 31 rooms, 9 marble fireplaces, spectacular painted ceilings, flushing toilets. This mansion is one of the best examples of Second Empire style architecture in the United States. The Vaile Mansion was designed by Kansas City architect Asa Beebe Cross (1826–1894) in the Second Empire style; its design was reportedly inspired by a large house visited by Vaile and his wife Sophie in Normandy. The mansion is constructed of hand-pressed red brick, partially trimmed with white limestone.

Servant gossip and a local newspaper reporter’s description in 1882 of the mural on the ceiling over Colonel Vaile’s bed caused tongues to wag in Independence, Missouri. An Italian artist painted the mural titled “Innocence” of a woman rising from a bed. Part of her anatomy is revealed, which was the cause of the scandalous talk.

The mansion features thirty-one rooms with fourteen-feet-high ceilings decorated by French, German, and Italian artists. All of the original furniture was auctioned off when the estate left the Vaile family (the house was refurnished by the Vaile Victorian Society after 1983); however, the interiors still boast much of the original paintwork, nine marble fireplaces (one of which cost $1,500), and two of the three original chandeliers, originally intended for the White House (Harvey Vaile was able to purchase them for $800 while he was in Washington, D.C., because there was some flaw in them). State-of-the-art amenities original to the house include speaking tubes, gasoliers, indoor running hot and cold water, and flush toilets; equipped with a built-in 6,000 gallon water tank, the Vaile Mansion was the first house in Jackson County with indoor plumbing.

This chandelier — or upside down — Christmas tree hangs in the entry of the Vaile Mansion in Independence, Missouri.

The mansion was originally surrounded by a 630-acre estate (now reduced to 5.6 acres), which included a grape vineyard and an apple orchard. Vaile had a wine processing plant on his property, as well as a wine cellar capable of holding 48,000 gallons.

A “strong supporter of the abolitionism movement” with a passion for politics, Vaile was among the founders of the Republican Party in Jackson County. Vaile built his wealth by investing in several business ventures, primarily interests in the construction of the Erie Canal; he was also part-owner and operator of Star Mail routes, with rights for the route to Santa Fe.

Sophie Vaile died in 1883. Her husband lived in the house for 12 years afterward. The Vailes were childless, and Colonel Vaile bequeathed the mansion to a college. Relatives contested the will. The mansion turned into a retirement home until it was purchased after the owner’s death by Roger and Mary Mildred Dewitt, who gifted the mansion to the city of Independence in 1983. That year neighbors formed the Vaile Victorian Society, and they’ve been meticulously restoring, decorating and caring for the house ever since.

Vaile Victorian Mansion Official Website.

About the Vaile Mansion.

Mansion Visitors Have Themselves a Scandalous Victorian Christmas.

Scenes from the 2018 Vaile Mansion Victorian Christmas Romance. Each room is decorated, even the bathrooms.

 

 

The Ladies’ Parlor features one of a pair of chandeliers, original to the mansion, that were intended for the White House. The White House staff rejected the chandeliers, because they didn’t match. Vaile was able to purchase them for $800 while on a visit to Washington, D.C.

Click on any photo below to see a large size.

 

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Filed under Architecture, Christmas, History, Holidays, Kansas City, Photography

The Ugliest Courthouse in Texas

The Titus County Courthouse was built in 1895, but currently looks nothing like its original brick exterior with a large bell tower on top. The building underwent a couple of modernistic renovations, one of which earned it the title of “Ugliest Courthouse in Texas,” although there are other contenders. In the 1990s, the building was restored to its 1940s Art Deco – Moderne appearance. Now I think it’s starkly beautiful.

The ugliest courthouse in Texas? Yes, definitely we needed to put the Titus County Courthouse on our field trip list.

On a recent trip to Texas, family members and I were looking for interesting historical destinations in northeast Texas.  Visiting courthouses usually takes you to scenic and historic areas in each county.  There are 254 counties in Texas, so there are a lot of courthouses to visit. A quick search online in our desired area found several notable destinations.  One place stood out: The Titus County Courthouse in Mount Pleasant was named as The Ugliest Courthouse in Texas. (There are several contenders to that title, according to several websites devoted to Texas.)

Actually, the Titus County Courthouse didn’t look that ugly in the photo — just dramatically changed from its original appearance when it sported a brown brick exterior and a large bell tower.  Bell towers on top of courthouses fell out of favor when they began to fall during high winds during severe Texas weather, so they aren’t usually a feature on Texas courthouses in modern times. The Titus County Courthouse, built in 1895, is the fifth courthouse building in Titus County.  The current courthouse underwent a couple of  renovations, including one that did look hideous, but the building was restored in the 1990s to its 1940s appearance of Art Deco and Moderne, which I think is attractive.  One quirk is that a loudspeaker blasts music, news and commercials from an area radio station in the area around the courthouse.  One website noted this, and we discovered it was true.  It was a Sunday and otherwise quiet in the courthouse neighborhood.

Mount Pleasant is a Texas Main Street City.

Titus County Courthouse, Mount Pleasant, Texas Postcard

Titus County Courthouse, Mount Pleasant, Texas.
Photograph by Catherine Sherman.

Click on these thumbnails to see full-size photographs.

We also discovered one of the most beautiful courthouses in Texas, the Old Harrison County Courthouse, which I’ll write about in another post, and also include other Texas courthouses.

Old Harrison County Courthouse, Marshall, Texas Postcard

Old Harrison County Courthouse, Marshall, Texas Postcard.
Photograph by Catherine Sherman.

 

 

 

 

 

Titus County Courthouse: The Ugliest Courthouse in Texas

254 Texas Courthouses Website.

Texas Courthouses.

A Link to Several of My Courthouse Photographs in Colorado, Kansas and Texas.

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History on Every Street in Jefferson, Texas

The Jefferson, Texas, General Store beckons travelers, tourists and residents with refreshments, clothing and all sorts of other enticements.

Whenever I visit my sister in Tyler, Texas, we go on tours of the many historic towns in her corner of Texas, called the Piney Woods.  On my recent visit, my sister took us (my mother and niece, too) to Jefferson, in the northeast corner of the state.

We happened to go when the city was preparing for its annual re-enactment of the Battle for Jefferson, a Civil War battle.  The re-enactment is reported to be the largest in Texas.  We didn’t see this re-enactment, but we saw many of its participants in town before it began.  You can check out the links below to find out more about this fascinating town, where there is an historic plaque or marker on almost every public building and on many residences. Shortly after the Civil War, which ended in 1865, Jefferson was the six largest town in Texas. Now, although it’s a small town, it retains its historic grandeur. The town, which is in Marion County, was named after Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States.

Click on the thumbnails at the bottom of the post to see full-size versions of the collages.

Jefferson General Store

In the upper left, a cat leaves empty pawed from the Jefferson General Store, Jefferson, Texas. Shoppers in Civil War era clothing examine the goods in the general store.

Re-enactors in Jefferson, Texas

Re-enactors in Jefferson, Texas, for the Battle for Jefferson, a U.S. Civil war re-enactment, which takes place the first weekend in May. Some of the many historical buildings are visible in this collage: The Old Post Office, the Marion County Courthouse, Excelsior House hotel; and Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.

Civil War re-enactors

Participants in the U.S. Civil War re-enactment of the Battle for Jefferson relax and shop in Jefferson, Texas.

History is on Every Corner in Jefferson, Texas

History is on every corner and every street in Jefferson Texas. From the upper left is the Old Post Office, now the historical society; The Excelsior House hotel; The Jefferson Carnegie Library, still operating as a library; and the Sterne Fountain.

Jefferson, Texas.

History on every corner, including old gasoline stations turned into antique stores, markers dedicated to residents who got famous and even old clawfoot bathtubs featured at an antique store.

Jefferson, Texas

Jefferson, Texas, offers tourists a variety of destinations to explore, including the Museum of Measurement and Time and the Jay Gould Railroad Car.

About Jefferson, Texas.

Visit Jefferson, Texas.

Jefferson Carnegie Library.

About the Battle for Jefferson.

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Filed under History, Photography, Presidents, Thomas Jefferson, Travel

Webster House in Kansas City

The historic Webster House has been transformed from a school to a beautiful shopping and dining destination. It stands next to the modern Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in the Crossroads Arts District of Kansas City, Missouri.

The historic Webster House has been transformed from a school to a beautiful shopping and dining destination. It stands next to the modern Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in the Crossroads Arts District of Kansas City, Missouri.

One of my favorite buildings to photograph is the Webster House, formerly the Webster School. It’s in the Crossroads Arts District of Kansas City, Missouri. 

Nutcrackers for sale at the Webster House

Nutcrackers for sale at the Webster House

It’s a beautiful work of art, designed in the “Richardson Romanesque” style.  What a grand place it must have been to attend school there! It’s lovely inside and out with fabulous interior wood woodwork. The school officially opened in 1886 and then closed in 1932. It was restored, opening in 2002, as a beautiful dining and shopping location. The Webster House has a beautiful bell tower, which is a reconstruction. The original was removed after another school’s bell tower fell during a tornado and caused the death of fifteen students.  I like to meet friends and family at the Webster House for lunch or dinner, served in a couple of lovely dining rooms, which were once school rooms.

Behind the Webster House are the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and the Bartle Hall Pylons, architectural icons and modern additions to the Downtown Kansas City landscape.

The Webster School was designed by the Kansas City School Board’s architect, Manuel Diaz. Webster House is one of the oldest remaining public school buildings in Kansas City and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The Webster School was the last area school built with a bell tower on top. In 1886 a tornado caused the bell tower on the Lathrop School at Ninth and Broadway to crash into the school, collapsing the third and second floors into the basement and burying children in the debris.  Bell towers were no longer permitted on top of schools after this tragedy.

The old Webster School is now a restaurant and store. Here beautifully decorated trees display Christmas ornaments for sale.

The old Webster School is now a restaurant and store. Here beautifully decorated trees display Christmas ornaments for sale.

Beautiful cabinets that match the original woodwork of the old Webster School display jewelry for sale.

Beautiful cabinets that match the original woodwork of the old Webster School display jewelry for sale.

History of the Webster House.

History of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

Crossroads Arts District.

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Filed under Education, Kansas City, Personal, Photography

Marvelous Melbourne

People gather at Federation Square, which is a civic and cultural center in Melbourne, Australia.  About Federation Square.

People gather at Federation Square, which is a civic and cultural center in Melbourne, Australia. About Federation Square.

Four years ago (has it really been that long?) my husband and I and our long-time friends Mike and Anita visited Melbourne, Australia.  We’re enduring another snowstorm in Kansas City (it’s late March, doesn’t Mother Nature read the calendar!), so I’m looking through my photographs of warmer days and places, including Melbourne.  I’m feeling warmer already!

Melbourne is a gorgeous city of more than four million people  on Australia’s southeast coast in the state of Victoria. It’s known as the “Garden City” and Australia’s “Cultural Capital.”  Melbourne is also the home of the Australian Open. We coincidentally were there at the same time as the tournament as we made our way to Tasmania.

The Old Melbourne Gaol is now a museum. Between 1842 and its closure in 1929 the old Melbourne Gaol was the scene of 133 hangings including Australia’s most infamous citizen, the bushranger Ned Kelly, who was hanged on the gaol grounds on November 11, 1880.

Melbourne was ranked as the world’s most liveable city in ratings published by the Economist Group’s Intelligence Unit in August 2011 and in 2012. It’s no mystery why Melburnians call their city Marvelous Melbourne. People from Tasmania (it was then called Van Diemen’s Land) founded Melbourne in 1835, 47 years after the European settlement of Australia.  The 1850s gold rush in the state of Victoria transformed Melbourne into one of the world’s largest and richest cities.

We were only there for two days in January 2009, so I’m not an expert, but we did take a whirlwind tour of some of notable sights, such as the Melbourne Museum, The Melbourne Aquarium, Rod Laver Arena (from the outside), St. Paul’s Cathedral, The Royal Exhibition Building, Captain James Cook’s Cottage, and Federation Square. We visited the Old Melbourne Gaol, which held Ned Kelly, one of Australia’s most notorious bushrangers (highway robber), who was hanged there in 1880.  Heath Ledger played Ned Kelly in a 2003 movie, also starring Orlando Bloom.

Captain Cook's Cottage in a Melbourne, Australia, park.

This is the home of the parents of Captain James Cook. The cottage was built in 1755 in the English village of Great Ayton, North Yorkshire, deconstructed and and then re-built in 1934 in Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Melbourne is known for its wrought iron trim.

Melbourne is known for its cast iron trim, which adorns “Melbourne Style” Victorian terrace houses. The gold rush in 1850s triggered a building boom, enabling developers to build costly and ornate Victorian-style homes and public building.

It was a hot day on the streets of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1-21-09

It was a hot day on the streets of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, January 21, 2009.

Contemporary Aborigine Art was on display in an art gallery in Melbourne, Australia, January 2009.

Contemporary Aborigine Art was on display in an art gallery in Melbourne, Australia, January 2009. Melbourne is  Australia’s cultural capital and is home to the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia’s oldest and largest public art museum.

Coincidentally, we were in Melbourne during the Australian Open Tennis Tournament, held at Rod Laver Arena.  This is as close as we got. It was very hot. The following week, after we left, was even hotter, and sadly there were many bushfires near Melbourne, resulting in many people's deaths and many animals were also killed.

Coincidentally, we were in Melbourne during the Australian Open Tennis Tournament, held at Rod Laver Arena. This is as close as we got. It was very hot. The following week, after we left, was even hotter, and sadly there were many bushfires near Melbourne, resulting in the deaths of many people and animals.

On January 21, 2009, in Federation Square in Melbourne, Australia, people gather to watch a re-broadcast of Barack Obama's take the oath of office to become the President of the United States.

On January 21, 2009, in Federation Square in Melbourne, Australia, people gather to watch a re-broadcast of Barack Obama taking the oath of office to become the President of the United States.

We rode the free tourist trolley around Melbourne, Australia.

Melbourne, Australia, has the largest tram network in the world. We rode the Heritage trams that operate on the free City Circle route intended for visitors.

This is the interior of St Paul's Cathedral in Melbourne, which is the cathedral church of the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, Victoria in Australia.

This is the interior of St Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne, which is the cathedral church of the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, Victoria in Australia.

The Royal Exhibition Building is a World Heritage Site-listed building in Melbourne, Australia, completed in 1880.

The Royal Exhibition Building is a World Heritage Site-listed building in Melbourne, Australia, completed in 1880.

Phar Lap (1926–1932) was a champion Thoroughbred racehorse, whose hide is on exhibit in the Melbourne Museum, which is in the Carlton Gardens in Melbourne, Australia, adjacent to the Royal Exhibition Building. About Phar Lap

Phar Lap (1926–1932) was a champion Thoroughbred racehorse, whose on exhibit in the Melbourne Museum, which is in the Carlton Gardens in Melbourne, Australia, adjacent to the Royal Exhibition Building. About Phar Lap

Click on any thumbnail to see a slide show of more photographs in full size  of Melbourne. Below the slide show are links to information about Melbourne.

About Melbourne.

About Phar Lap

About Federation Square.

About the Melbourne Aquarium.

About the Melbourne Museum.

About Captain Cook’s’ Cottage.

About the Leafy Seadragon.

Here is why is there so much cast iron lacework on buildings in Melbourne.

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Historic Theaters

The Rialto Theatre, South Pasadena, California, photographed in September 2009. Opened in 1925, this theater is now closed.

The Rialto Theatre, South Pasadena, California, photographed in September 2009. Opened in 1925, this theater is now closed.

It was love at first sight when I saw The Rialto Theatre.  I was introduced to this old beauty when I visited my friend Jan in South Pasadena, California, in the 1990’s. I’ve taken many photographs of “The Rialto” since then, but may not get the chance much longer if it isn’t saved.  This venerable theater opened in 1925 but it is now closed and in danger of demolition, as are many old theaters.  A scene in Robert Altman’s movie film “The Player” was filmed in The Rialto’s back alley.  “Scream 2” also featured The Rialto.

The Rialto is beautiful even in its decay.   Like so many old theaters, it was decorated grandly.  It has a fanciful Moorish, Egyptian and baroque motif. When I wrote an article for the Kansas City Star’s magazine about Orval Hixon, who photographed vaudeville stars from 1914 to 1930, I saw photographs of many glamorous theaters that have now fallen into ruin or are gone.

In the background is The Rialto Theatre, South Pasadena, California.

In the background is The Rialto Theatre, South Pasadena, California.

In the “old days,” an evening spent in the theater was a beautiful experience beyond what was being performed on the stage or shown on the screen. Some of the first movies I saw as a child was in The Orpheum, a gorgeously decorated old theater in Wichita, Kansas, which was originally built for vaudeville shows. Like many entertainment legends, these old theaters needs more than face lifts to keep them alive.  Sometimes only the marquee sign is all that’s saved from an old theater.

Some of the theaters, such as the ones in Hawaii that I photographed, might not be grand, but they have their own charm. Farm workers and U.S. servicemen were among their clientale.

It’s bittersweet seeing these old cinema relics, whether they are grand cinema palaces or more humble screens. I’m grateful many of these historic theaters are still standing, but who knows for how long? People watch films on their computers and even on their phones these days.  When people do go to the theater they want a great sound system, recliner seats, cup holders and even 3-D screens.

Jan and I and our husbands planned to see a movie at The Rialto in the early 2000s, when the theater was still open, but when we got to the box office we were told that the projector was broken.  So we walked across the street to a video store and rented a VHS movie to watch at home. Sadly, I never saw a movie at The Rialto before it closed.

Here’s a slide show of theaters I’ve photographed in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Michigan and Missouri.  There is information about each theater when you click on the photo.  CLICK ON ANY THUMBNAIL PHOTO TO BEGIN THE SLIDESHOW AND SEE THE PHOTOS FULL SIZED.

Click on Cinema Treasures for a guide to more than 30,000 movie theaters from around the world, including theaters that are now closed.

Click on I’m Not Ready For My Close Up to read about my brief appearance on the Big Screen in the movie “fling.”

Here’s a blog that documents grand old theaters, many sadly in advanced decay.  After the Final Curtain

About the theaters featured in slide show:

The Rialto, South Pasadena, California

Friends of The Rialto

Friends of The Rialto Facebook Page.

Sebastiani Theatre, Sonoma, California.

Michigan Theatre, Escanaba, Michigan

Gem Theatre, Kansas City, Missouri

Aloha Theatre, Kainaliu, Big Island, Hawaii

Honoka’a People’s Theater, Honoka’a, Big Island, Hawaii

Honomu Theater, Honomu, Big Island, Hawaii

Na’alehu Theatre, Na’alehu, Big Island, Hawaii

Park Theatre, Estes Park, Colorado

Screenland Crossroads Sign from old Isis Theatre, Kansas City, Missouri.

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Filed under Entertainment, History, Movies, Photography, Travel

Kansas City Street Scene

I love this view of one section of Kansas City’s Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, juxtaposed between an unrelated mural on the left and the Denny’s sign on the right. I took this photo from my car window while stopped at a red light in June 2012. We were on our way to a wedding reception in the nearby Crossroads District of Kansas City. The Kauffman Center offers two performance venues.

The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri, is an artwork in itself. This photo only shows the west shell (wing) of the building, but the east shell looks similar. Shell seems like the right word for the wings, because the building does have a creature-like appearance. I thought of an armadillo when I first saw it. When my husband stopped at a red light as we drove near it on our way to a wedding reception in June, I quickly took the photo. Sometimes, long red lights are a good thing! My friend Jan and I had recently driven past the Center when she visited from Los Angeles, so Jan, here’s another view!

The two wings (Muriel Kauffman Theatre and Helzberg Hall) are designed for the needs of opera, dance and musical performances. The Kansas City Symphony, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and the Kansas City Ballet perform in the Center.

The Kauffman Center opened in September 2011, and a month later, friends invited my husband and me to a performance of “Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis” in the glorious Kauffman Center. It’s time we went back!

Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts Website.

Wikipedia on the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

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