Shabby Chic Federal

IMG_4180(1)I’ve been watching this rundown beauty for years praying that someone would buy it and restore it to its’ former glory. The last person to live in this house was a woman who lived to be 99. Born in 1879 (bustles and corsets were du riguer), a mere 100 years post Revolutionary War, Marion Aurelia Story Barr lived here her whole life until her death in 1979 (jean shorts and tube tops were common).

Peering into the windows, it seems that nothing has been disturbed since then. Relics of an earlier time are evident: Torn lace curtains in a front window convey a feminine touch and class aspirations, an early 20th century zinc ice box lays dormant in the backyard, an old writing desk and chair lay discarded. The curious girl expects an old sea captain to come out and scare her, pipe clenched in mouth, “Get off my property.” But, it hasn’t happened. Yet.


This was made when they still called them “ice boxes.”


Back paneled door that connected to an ell (now torn down). Notice the coat rack complete with hanger.

This home was once one of the finest homes in Essex, MA. It’s a respectable vernacular Federal-style home built in 1803 for Colonel William Andrews and his wife (possibly Betsy Goodhue). Although most of  the original six-over-six windows have been replaced by slightly newer ones (still probably 19th century), the front door remains unchanged. Stately symmetrical Ionic columns and signature Federal fanlight adorn the door and has a charming later addition of a Victorian door light. A similar-style overhead globe light can be found about 2 miles away.IMG_4198

Images taken from the book: Images of America: Essex by Robertson and Wilhelm

Please, someone, save this ancient beauty! In the meantime, stay tuned to this story. There are rumors that the grandson of Marion Aurelia Story Barr lives nearby and that he may be willing to talk about her.

How Daylight Savings Time in March messes with me

march snow

As a writer and task-oriented person who has always lived in a northern state (whether Minnesota, New York State or Massachusetts) I prefer having brighter mornings in March rather than bright sunshine (and 32 degrees) at 6pm. Just sayin.’

I do not underestimate how the DST change (from April to March) George W. Bush enacted in 2007 right before he left office probably affects the average person in their daily routine more than his decision to invade Iraq. What do you think? I get messed up because I’m ready to settle down with my evening routine at 6pm yet it seems like it’s 5pm and it’s still cold out so I really don’t want to just go out there and garden or take a walk  because it is still frigid here and I also have to feed my family.  Then, by the time dinner and clean up are finished, it’s already 8-9pm so I stay up later than usual trying to wind down with my nightly pursuits of T.V. and reading. But, I have to get up at 6:30 and it’s still dark out. I move through my day tired and uninspired. Thus, I guesstimate that I lose at least an hour of sleep (if not more) as my body adjusts to the lack of early morning light in the often brutal month of March in New England.  I’d like it switched back to the old DST switch of April and November. Pox on me! for more information go here:

March Field Trip: Lyman Greenhouses and Concord Museum

What to do on a Saturday in March in New England? Go to an Historic New England property and get inspired to be creative. I chose to do just that yesterday. I ditched the family and went on one of my solo field trips to the Lyman House in the middle of sprawling Waltham. The Lyman house property has antique greenhouses that have been in use since the early 19th century. The sights and heady smells were soothing on a cold March day with the winds whipping up. It was luxuriously warm in the greenhouses. The Camellias are the main draw and although I expected to see more of them, the antique flowering plants did not disappoint. The brick and glass Lyman greenhouses make you go back in time where the prospect of a lemon, orange or pineapple in late winter would have been a delicacy only a very few could enjoy. If you go, keep in mind that the Camellias, as of 3/17, were not quite at peak. Also, if you want a house tour as well, plan ahead:


After my visit to the antique greenhouses I decided to visit one of my fav destinations in Massachusetts: Historic Concord. Of course it wouldn’t be a trip to Concord without stepping into The Cheese Shop to sample cheeses from Europe and the U.S. As per usual for a Saturday afternoon, it was packed.

Finally, on my last stop before returning home I decided to duck into The Concord Museum to see their latest exhibit: Fresh Goods: Shopping for Clothing in a New England Town 1750-1900. This is a great small tour for someone who is researching the early mercantile industry in this country (first wave of wealth) particularly the idea of how one purchased clothes before the advent of department stores. What is most striking for the historical novelist and researcher is the vast, I mean, vast quantity of fabrics that mercantilists sold in their shops.

Also, the quality of yesteryear fabrics were, not surprisingly, luxourious. The museum has sample fabric swatches that you can touch: worsted wools, printed cotton, and silks.  Plan on 30-45 mins to see the small exhibition. The curators did a nice job using items already in their possession. The clothing they chose (mostly donated from Concord residents) was outstanding. From a Parisian formal dress (1870s) to a delicate white Regency-style wedding gown, I got my fabric and riches fix.

The exbit runs from March 2-July 8, 2018.

Welcome to my world!

Thank you for joining me in my quest to share my ideas, thoughts, tips, and yes, fiction dribs with you. Being a historically-minded person living in New England, I will take you on my ride to discover the most ancient parts of it. I’ll also post anything from beauty secrets to how to keep the nooks and crannies of your car dashboard clean (use a fan paintbrush from an art store). Mostly I’ll stick to the historical panoply that blankets the area and that inspires me everyday.