Stop… in the name of the Law!

Miscreant?  Scofflaw?

No doubt that yours truly has been on the receiving end of many a citation of the automotive sort.  In New York they can pile up fast.  Even in fair Charlottesville we likely funded a new Middle School of late.  Such notices are easily confused with the chinese takeout menu that was there the night before.  Not your best paper stock, the typeface dull, the graphic quality patently uninspired… you know the drill.

Needless to say we were taken aback to find this, perfectly placed under the windshield wiper of our car that had been abandoned somewhat willy-nilly at our fair offspring’s University.


This is the way of life in the DOMAIN, that being the preferred manner and method of referring to the 13,000 odd acres that constitute the grounds of Sewanee, the University of the South.

An anachronism in a world where most academic institutions tend to see ticketing as a way to fund the new private jet for the football coach.  Perhaps this is a result of the rarefied air they enjoy at such a high elevation on the Cumberland plateau. Perhaps it is due to the fact that Sewanee is “owned” by 28 southern diosceses of the Episcopal Church and its only graduate school is the School of Theology, the result of which is a forward thinking sense of stewardship, of both the spirit and the land.  For more on that sidle up next to the Reverend Tom Macfie, University Chaplain, and over a tea or scotch at the Sewanee Inn he will paint a picture of an exceptional institution well suited to serve our world today and tomorrow.  It isn’t new news really.  Sewanee has been churning out Rhodes Scholars at a shocking rate so the word is out.

Honestly, have you ever been awarded such a parking ticket? We sent in a donation pronto to a building fund chaired by our offspring (to the left with partner in crime to right).  Disregard the bloody mary behind the curtain.


So pray tell what else is there to see in the “DOMAIN“?

Well, first off there is a surrounding cottage community within which students and faculty – perhaps yours truly upon assumption of some role as visiting professor??? – reside like this…

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-6-36-55-pmAnd this…  Stunning eh?


Great hiking within the DOMAIN.  How about this fifty mile view?!?


And when weather drives you indoors there are plenty of exceptional exhibits such as this within the collection of the Earth & Environmental Systems Department, Snowden Hall.  Our offspring had yours truly handcuffed at her side touring though room after room of fossils, geological samples, maps and scientific equipment that are deserving of a separate report entirely.


And this is at the center of it all.  All Saints Chapel.


A Ralph Adams Cram chapel worthy of some description. The gold standard.  A hullaballoo of a significant architectural sort.

As all of you know, Cram (1863 – 1942) was the go to guy for heavyweight campus plans – Princeton shows off some of his greatest work, but also University of Richmond, Rice University, Sweet Briar College and Philips Exeter  to name some – and chapels.  We mean CHAPELS.  Chapels that are essentially cathedrals.   Cathedrals like Cram’s  St. John the Divine in New York City.


His two greatest University houses of worship being Princeton University Chapel and the All Saints Chapel at Sewanee begun prior to Princeton in 1904 but not finished until 1957.

Many will likely remind me that by the end of Cram’s life the Gothic Revival thing had become somewhat predictable.  Still magnificent but kind of the same, over and over again.   Yours truly loves Princeton Chapel, attended on occasion St. Thomas on Fifth Avenue (Cram finished that in 1914), has seen other Cram chapels up and down the eastern seaboard, but whoa nelly, All Saints Chapel is of a different mien entirely.

While Princeton sports the predictable dark and brooding interior, Sewanee All Saints is like a breath of their fresh mountain air and shockingly modern in palette.


Now, honesty remains the best policy so be reminded of the fact that All Saints was completed after Cram’s death.  The reigns were to be taken up by the Reverend Edward McCrady, Vice-Chancellor of Sewanee.  McCrady (VC from 1951 – 1971) served Sewanee longer than any other head of school.  A renaissance man in every sense of the word he was responsible for integrating Sewanee and bringing women on board.  He was also fond of the arts and had apparently considered Cram’s good work and designs in great detail.  He took it upon himself to get the job done and that he did.

The result?

Lots of Tennessee sandstone paired with a beautiful buttery plaster as opposed to dark timbering for much of the walls and perhaps more stained glass than one is used to seeing.  The light level during the day is incredible.

Spectacular floors.


Baptismal Font.  See the refracted light from the stained glass above?


Memorial plaques above memorial plaques and beside memorial plaques.  The layering of history and service that conveys sets our hearts afire.

A memorial chapel honoring those men and women of Sewanee that made the ultimate sacrifice to their Nation.


Our heart palpitates.

And if you were not lucky enough to win a lottery ticket for the annual Lessons & Carols celebration held there in All Saints Chapel this weekend as prelude to every Christmas but had angel friends (Stephen Alvarez is the angel responsible for the photograph below) they might have shared with you a view like this.



That is a view of the candlelight procession from the very peak of the nave ceiling at the crossing looking down to the floor over fifty feet below.  Angels see all of the good stuff.

In short, a visit to the DOMAIN is worth a parking ticket.  For the literary sort, attending the Sewanee Writers Conference in July you will escape summer heat at that elevation.  Magnificent places to stay, much to be said for not only the architecture of school and abutting town, with great food and drink to be had always. Nashville is nearby as well as Chattanooga, both experiencing great urban revivals.

Lastly, we dedicate this posting to our dear friend Dr. Daniel Wilkins Fort a proud Sewanee grad if there ever was one, who passed away 21 December 2015.  As they say at Sewanee:

Ecce Quam Bonum

Enough Already

screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-6-36-17-pmThere are times when we deserve a drink and yours truly has required more than what might be deemed a fair share since the last post many moons ago.  A divorce, a misstep or two or three, and something referred to as an election has necessitated cracking open an extra case or two.  At some point stepping back into the fray is the best distraction.

So ready or not, here we go.

The Honorable Joe Riley says it all

Charleston mayor Joe Riley announced his retirement on NPR last week.

Riley, the longest serving mayor of any major city in the United States, led the charge for saving one of our greatest urban assets which has become a model for countless other success stories as historic towns have been rediscovered so to speak.  This writer had the opportunity to cross paths with him as a young intern under the tutelage of Jaque Robertson, then dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia.  His indefatigable commitment to the home of his birth has given rise to countless tales of derring-do and  garnered dozens of awards, yet he remains the consummate gentleman devoid of bravado.  One look at his home – prominently displayed on Wikipedia – is evidence enough of a leader that remains first and foremost a true citizen within his community.

This NPR interview is worth listening to over, and over and over… :

!The Irish Have It!

Victory is theirs… for now.

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Even New York’s finest (most of whom still claim to be Irish) would only offer up a knowing smile.

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They even paraded in front of your writer to further declaim their rights to Folly primacy.  If possible we will post that entertaining event when your writer figures out how.  The Aunties would not be pleased with this result.  From the grave they are intermittently telegraphing American precedents worthy of note that will be posted in the near future.  Even our daughter beat the drum of victory on behalf of Ireland and enjoyed a good laugh to boot.

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The Aunties enjoying the porch overlooking Hampton Rhodes.  It is unwise to cross them!

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In the meantime your devoted writer remains in New York preparing for a talk at the Sotheby’s Institute this evening.  More in the offing.

My God! Folly Rivalries!

Gadzooks, these follies have elicited fractious debates!

A distant Irish cousin, Desmond Fortescue Outlaw (descendant of a piratical clan on my mother’s side) has countered using family prerogative, and reminds me that no doubt the Best Folly Known to Man is that which graces Carton, home of the FitzGerald family, Dukes of Leinster. Designed by Richard Castle, it was commissioned by Katherine Conolly, widow of famed Speaker William Conolly (1662-1729), in order to employ several hundred of the poor and destitute left during the Irish famine of 1740-41.  It is 140 feet tall!

That is patronage with a purpose.

Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 1.42.56 PMDesmond wishes that you fair Reader be advised as well that the Conolly Folly holds a special place in every Irishman’s heart due to the fact that the beautiful Mariga Guiness is buried there at it’s foot.  She was a magnificent force in Irish preservation who galvanized a movement that continues to gain momentum today.  Mariga in repose.

Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 2.27.12 PMVisit Robert O’Byrne who blogs as the Irish Aesthete.  He reports magnificently on all things Irish.

So, the American response?

Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 2.29.58 PMIs this our best?  Readers, do not fail me.  Desmond has suggested a challenge. By St. Patrick’s Day offer up a folly of equal scale, character, gravitas as that of the Conolly Folly or painted green we shall be.

Follies Redux



Accosted in an alley upon leaving the office late last night your writer was set upon by a masked hoodlum, clearly bent upon harm.  “Why no American Follies???”, she said breathily. “You talk about Follies as if we haven’t one or two here.  Domus Americanus?  You are nothing more than Europeans Stupidious.  Do something about that, or else…”

Pinned to the wall as a I was by the brute with a manolo blahnik heel on my toe, the best yours truly could muster was a “Yes Ma’am”.  She seemed familiar but in a flash she turned on her heels and was off.  “I’ll be watching…” she purred over her shoulder and was gone.

So, back to the typewriter way beyond bedtime, scotch at my side to calm nerves, and quickly pecked out an addendum.

 Monticello gdn pav

Yes, there are many grand follies here in our fair county.  Let us go to the mountain as it were and consider what our first architect blogger did for himself overlooking the Piedmont plain, his sea view as he often called it.  in this folly pavilion within his garden, Jefferson penned thousands of letters explaining his delight in the growing architectural compound he and his team were crafting, influencing his contemporaries and the architectural future of our new nation.


No doubt the well traveled Manigault clan in Charleston, descended from French Huguenots, were up to date on all things architectural and knew well that siren call.   With family members in the vanguard of the American Revolution, when it came to teatime breaks at the Continental Congress, they likely sidled up to TJ and chatted about design trends in their own back yards and shared a laugh over Dunmore’s ridiculous notions regarding pineapples (see our previous post).

Another view of the Manigault’s Garden Folly fronting Ashmead Place. Traditional stucco render on brick completed at the same time the Adam style house was in 1803.  Apologies for the distraction of the lamp post shadow.

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Astonishingly robust while simple in detail.


And this view showing the garden arrangement with more of a garden to come later.

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A conversation with Katrina Lawrimore and Jennifer McCormick of the Charleston Museum (founded in 1773 and perhaps this nation’s first museum) led us to this image from their archives.  Talk about the versatility of good architecture! Pressed into service as a gas station it remained grand in every way.  Now restored it is remains a Charleston favorite.

Courtesy of Charleston Museum,  Charleston, South Carolina

Courtesy of Charleston Museum,
Charleston, South Carolina

For more information do visit them at

Anything older you ask? Well at the Redwood Library and Athenaeum in Newport, this Summerhouse folly was built in 1766 by Peter Harrison for Abraham Redwood.  The structure actually stood on Redwood’s farm in Portsmouth before it was brought over to the Athenaeum grounds in 1916 we believe.  This and the Redwood library itself deserve to be inspected when on any architectural tour in Newport.

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Out and about with the Decorative Arts Trust this fall, Ralph Harvard forwarded this image from Natchez.  While a dilapidated lattice folly, do not be put off at first glance.

Lattice pavilion in Natchez

Everything is in the details.  Few architects could concoct that sort of italianate frieze scrollwork.  The better bet would be that a gifted carpenter in good spirits and feeling frisky was on the loose.

And at Winterthur a garden folly in lattice probably from the 1930’s? 40’s??

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More recent follies? But of course! At Blue Ridge Farm the irrepressible Chuck and Kim Cory rescued an ice house and crafted a porch from which they have a view of fields stretching far and wide.

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And lastly, our own folly perched at Rabbit Run, resplendent in summer garden finery.

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But today it looked like this.


So how does a family of this generation direct folly maintenance without a slew of staff to keep all shipshape and in Bristol fashion?  Why with indentured progeny of course!  And here they are, 1 and 2, in warmer weather prepared to muck out a pond and then off to tin a roof.

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Nonetheless, in weather such as that which graces us today your writer wisely remains inside close to a warm fire with this garrulous beast.


Georgian Follies Large & Small

A minor infatuation with follies, large and small, started with this.

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You, dear Reader (perhaps a Virginian?) surely recognize this. Lord Dunmore’s Pineapple House.  After being pitched out of the colonies – lock, stock and all barrels following the demise of his rule – Dunmore saw fit to celebrate his inauspicious return home to Scotland with the erection of this magnificent specimen as the centerpiece of his garden house.  Never one to miss the opportunity to make a joke even at his own expense, Dunmore placed upon his “fence” this pineapple in stone as any sailor returning from adventure across the seven seas would with the real fruit.

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Now in the possession of the Landmark Trust in the UK, Pineapple House is available for let to any intrepid traveler at an astonishingly fair price.  One may go on line to access their website.  Please take time upon your visit to peruse the guest book for the entertaining array of entries and noted visitors.  Perhaps the best is one penned over a decade ago:  “Farewell old fruit.”  How magnificently English.

So, in short order, this writer imagined how delightful it would be to occupy any and all follies when possible.  With wife in hand, upon delivery of progeny number 1 to a summer scholars’ program at Oxford,

(note progeny identifying significant architectural details down some Oxford lane)

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We headed over to Norfolk and Holkham Hall, seat of the Earls of Leicester.  Norfolk, being the city of my birth – the more questionably beautiful one in Tidewater Virginia – it was our mission to reestablish communication with english relations somewhat disheartened by Dunmore’s failings.  Once there we were guests not in the Hall – no hard feelings we were told – but the gatehouse as befits those of the lower caste.  Not a bad gatehouse!

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Our home away from home, and that is fair Brooke, wife and consort, peering from the window berobed and revived by a refreshing bath.

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The manner and method of construction plays off some common construction elements unique to those provinces, a manufactory brick of paler tone due to character of some clay there as well as that Norfolk beach flint used for rustication.

An end pavilion…

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An outstanding cornice impossibly simple yet powerful…

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Swags embracing the entry pavilion…

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An aedicule…

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And a wider perspective…

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Can it get any better than this?

The scale is charming and truly house-like.  This writer has no tabulation of square footage but it is smaller than most subdivision houses yet worthy of an Earl no doubt. After a refreshing evening and day on the Holkham estate, we were then off to visit our friend, George Carter, one of the most highly respected garden designers practicing today in England.  George and this writer have had the good fortune to collaborate on some projects and check in on each other now and then.  George’s gardens have been well documented as well as his collecting habits.  In his possession is a cache of great English furniture but there in Norfolk, it is his gardens that shine most.  And in those gardens, George is immensely playful as you will see with follies and garden eyecatchers running amok.

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So, on no more than twelve acres as we recall, George Carter has all sorts of garden rooms with hornbeam walls defining them, hornbeam being one of our favorite hedgerow plants, easily managed as hedge or tree, vigorous and absolutely at ease in our midatlantic planting zones.

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George has crafted allees, avenues and garden rooms with an eyecatcher folly anchoring each…

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Frequently of that same Norfolk flint used in these old barns on George’s property…

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Often framed with amazing sheds – like guardhouses – built out of nothing more than plywood, roughly painted in rich colors, and left to weather.  Always with a wink such as this toy tractor – look closely! – that had us all laughing.

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 9.28.38 PMA view back to George’s house.

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We then headed over to Suffolk and Helmingham Hall, home of Lady Xa Tollemache and her husband Tim, and joined them in their gardens for drinks and a walkabout. Xa sometimes partners with George on projects and designs on her own as well.  She keeps a stunning website worth review.

A view from garden to house.

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The formal garden.

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A garden seat tucked off to the side.

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And a shed.

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Then off for drinks.

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With perhaps the best garden seat I have ever seen.

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So, this provided fodder for a talk of sorts on Follies that your writer gave at Dick Jenrette’s historic Baker House on East 93rd Street, New York, this December past. Margize Howell, Co-President of Classical American Homes Preservation Trust, Ralph Harvard, and John Kinnear of the American Friends of the Georgian Group hosted us for that annual Christmas gathering. Here is a view of those beautiful green doors facing 93rd.

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Not being throw out on our ear, an invitation was extended to speak again.  This time, an Ides of March talk, sponsored by the American Friends of the Georgian Group, scheduled for 18 March at the Sotheby’s Institute of Art, 6:00pm.  The topic?


Prompted by my mother in law’s 75th birthday bash held at Edith Wharton’s, The Mount.  Here she sits, queenly in repose, in Wharton’s garden beneath a reconstructed lattice folly built using original photographs and drawings by our old friend, Rick Wyatt of Charlottesville, one of the greatest woodworkers and craftsmen to have graced this earth. Rick died just before Thanksgiving 2013, and we dedicate this lecture to him.

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 11.10.45 PM for more information and reservations should you be brave enough to attend

Winter down South

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Just a few months ago, upon this magnificent porch at Zero George in Charleston, South Carolina, when all of the northeast seemed a solid block of ice, yours truly began his day with a strong cup of coffee.  Batteries recharged, stepped into

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this courtyard, and then onto

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this street in order to venture upon these lanes and alleys that make up one of the most beautiful cities in America.

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A solid morning spent walking about under the guidance of the esteemed antiquarian Ralph Harvard, this writer was then at liberty to attend a ceremony honoring one of the greatest American preservationists, Richard Jenrette, recipient of the 2014 Albert Simmons Medal of Excellence bestowed in recognition of his astounding commitment to saving beautiful architecture.  There is not enough that can be said about what Dick Jenrette has done for preservation in general and for setting an exemplary tone as to what it means to live graciously.  Regarded as the last gentleman of Wall Street, his second career literally saving America deserves to be lauded in equal measure.  Congratulations Mr. Jenrette.

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And then home to this: our loyal hounds.

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Only the Brave Need Apply

Screen shot 2011-07-05 at 8.23.32 AMIt has been heartily debated as to whether or not this advertisement actually appeared in the Times of London prior to Shackleton’s second ill-fated Antarctic expedition. It was likely a romantic fabrication after the fact by those keen to further burnish the heroes’ reputations.

No matter.  The story is magnificent and the adventure is one we all hope for.

It is a way of imagining a life and this, dear reader, was the impetus for setting out for all to see some evidence – both written and pictorial – of adventures great and small that this observer has partaken in.  Not that an American architect is a superior adventurer by any means.  This writer knows well doctors, investment bankers, legal scholars and art historians, all adventurers of a seasoned sort, that might be greater authorities on the world of travel. What this writer hopes to bring to the fore is a sense of marvel at what lies before us and an undying appreciation for the beautiful.  With some schooling in the world of blogdom, minor missteps at the outset as to what is a draft and what is posted, as well as a patient retinue of assistants and associates, yours truly stands ready to ply this trade for all to see.

Let’s begin.