"An Architect's most useful tools are an eraser at the drafting board and a wrecking bar at the site" Frank Lloyd Wright
Monday, April 22, 2013
A visit to Mr. Washington's and some cherry trees
It was a LONG winter, and very cold. We had some snow, more than say last year, but nothing like the blizards of four years ago. But it was still very cold...so I basically just hid under a blanket for 4 months. Okay not really, but I don't think I will ever get used to east coast weather. You can take the boy out of Rialto, CA but you can never take the Rialto, CA out of the boy. Since I last posted we have done some interesting things, scattered and hardly of any organizing theme so I thought I just compose an illustrated ramble of some of the highlights of the past winter.
I'll start in reverse order, Washington's famous cherry blossoms came and went. We have some trees in our development that allowed us to enjoy the spectacle without the crowds. But I have been to them in years past so if I didn't just tell you that you would think these were from this year.
The trees were a gift from Japan about a hundred years ago and they line the Tidal Basin, where there are monuments to Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Jr, and George Mason. Now no one remembers poor Mason,(In fact I took no picture of his memorial in keeping with his spirit of anonymity) he was the writer of a document that inspired the Constitution as written by James Madison. This has earned him a share of recognition as a father of the Constitution. So much so that a National Parks Guide once told me "Over there you'll see a monument to the writer of the Constitution...James Madison", that was only half true...there is no monument to James Madison on the National Mall.
Of course this same guide told me while giving me a tour of the FDR memorial "Did the New Deal help end the Depression? No, not really but FDR made the people feel better and hopeful, and that was his real legacy". Sounds an awful lot like Leonard Nimoy on the Simpson's "The following story is true, by which I mean it is false. But then again isn't that the real truth? The answer...is no." Hopefully that guide is being furloughed due to the sequester.
I try to make Mount Vernon for President's Day, which come on is really Washington's Birthday. I'll let you in on a little secret that only I and about 50,000 people know about....on President's Day admission is FREE! So we usually make it an annual trip. One year it was the day after a blizzard so the crowd was managable...only 35,000 people.
I love Mt. Vernon, it is situated on this beautiful bend on the Potomac River, and even though it has pretty much been surrounded by suburbia they own enough land to trick you with Disneyland style landscaping tricks to make you think it is in the hunt country of 200 years ago. Even the museums are underground. The house was added to over the years starting as a small cabin and becoming the great manor house you see today. GW was a big picture guy so some of the details are rough, and yet that is so in keeping with his character. What may seem almost modernistic was probably just an outgrowth of his straight forward practical character.
The house mimics natural stone by being clad in wood boards that have been shaped as if cut masonry, and sand is applied to the paint to give it a faux finish. It was less costly then real stone would have been, but then has needed to be repainted at great cost over the last 200 years it probably has been a wash. The windows on the front of the house aren't quite symetrical due to the original cabin underneath...but no one seems to have cared enough to do anything about it and in fact the staircase cuts across on of the windows.
None of these things really detract from the overall dignity of the house, which is perfectly appropriate. Afterall everyone knows about GW's illfitting dentures, which would no doubt have been uncomfortable and unsightly and yet they didn't detract from the dignity of the great man either.
The piazza...the great covered porch overlooking the river is my favorite part of the house. I could sit there forever, but preferably not a day after a blizzard, and frankly not in February, and well honestly I am too cheap to pay to get in to the place.
It is a double height space and frames the river view , and yet once agin the simple elegant pillars are straight forward, they are square and are not classical columns. Squint and it almost reads like a Miesian colonade.
Is Mount Vernon getting smaller or is that boy getting bigger?