wrought iron fence
After a powerful gust of wind blew over half the fence Oct. 29, 22 six-foot-tall, rusty fence sections laid on the sidewalk along Liberty Street, a stretch that marks the north side of Mortimer Cemetery in the north end.
August L. DeFrance, president of the city’s Old Burying Ground Association, says after meeting with city insurance representatives, public works staff, the Federal Emergency Management Association and the State Historic Preservation Office, a decision was made.
“We’re going to put the old fence back up. It needed to be taken apart, repaired — and this is not a one-week job,” DeFrance said. “This thing came down in one big piece. We need to separate each section, all the concrete has to be removed, the legs that are rotten on the bottom.”
The barrier will be put back up on the same footing and city insurance is expected to cover the majority of repair costs, although the total, DeFrance said, is yet unknown.
No timeframe has been set, he said, but it’s a labor-intensive job. “They’re going to do it as fast as they can.”
Famous Middletowners buried at Mortimer include Revolutionary War Gen. Samuel Holden Parsons and Titus Hosmer, a Continental Congressman and signer of the Articles of Confederation. Also interred there are families like the Bacons, Hubbards, Mathes, Southmayds, Wetmores and Russells — among the city’s earliest residents.
And perhaps Middletown’s most famous historical figure — Joseph Fenno King Mansfield — was originally buried in Mortimer Cemetery in 1862. He was reburied in Indian Hill Cemetery near Wesleyan University by his wife on May 30, 1867.
Mortimer is one of three cemeteries in Middletown that are listed on the state register of historic places. In fact, the third, Indian Hill Cemetery on Vine Street, was just placed on the list a few weeks ago.
DeFrance said he was surprised to discover this burying ground off Washington Street, built in 1850, was not already on the register. “We’re quite excited over it,” he said of the Old Burying Ground Association members.
Inclusion on the list means Indian Hill is now eligible to apply for grants to complete some long lingering restoration projects.
“We have a lot of stuff in there we want to do,” DeFrance said. “We want to restore the 1867 chapel, we’ll be looking for some engineering studies, some grants, and we already have a fundraising group.”
The Old Washington Street Cemetery on Vine, built in 1739, the city’s second oldest, is the third city resting grounds on the state historic register. Riverside Cemetery is the oldest.
City officials are now trying to fix that, especially when it comes to front yard barriers.
Wildomar’s Planning Commission this week supported Planning Director Matthew Bassi’s idea of limiting the height of fences and walls built along residential property fronts.
The purpose, Bassi said, is to prohibit those structures from reaching as high as 6 feet in front of homes. A barrier that high, Bassi stated in his report to the commission, “can create visibility and safety issues, especially along corner lots.”
Also, it can create an unpleasant appearance and “can completely block out visibility of the front yard and house façade,” Bassi wrote.
Most cities restrict front yard fences and walls to a maximum of 3 ½ to 4 feet, while permitting barriers along the sides and rears of properties to be 6 feet high.
“Right now, we just don’t have any standard that would minimize the height of a fence in that front setback area,” Bassi said.
The commissioners agreed the front yard maximum should be 4 feet, given that is the standard height of many manufactured fencing materials.
Today, there are numerous front yard chain-link, wrought-iron and rail fences and other barriers around town that clearly exceed 4 feet. If the commission and the City Council ultimately sign off on the height restriction, however, it would only apply to new fences.
While supporting the height limit, commissioners voiced skepticism about other changes in Bassi’s proposed ordinance amendment and postponed further consideration until the panel’s April 3 meeting.
In particular, the commissioners opposed a citywide ban on barbed, razor and concertina wire as well as electric fences, because many properties in the 24-square-mile city remain rural and many residents have horses, cows and other domesticated animals.
“Where livestock is permitted, there ought to be barbed wire and electrified fence (allowed). … I do not want to remove that as an option for the property owner,” Commissioner Veronica Langworthy said.
Also, Commissioner Stan Smith said some commercial and industrial properties need to use barbed, razor and concertina wire as a deterrent to theft and vandalism.
“It’s a fact of life today that we have a lot of disgruntled people out there who are trying to take from others,” Smith said.
Ultimately, the commissioners agreed the proposed ordinance should prohibit the use of those deterrent fences only on suburban residential properties.
“I think we need to distinguish between the rural areas and those that are not so rural,” said Commissioner Bobby Swann, who was participating in his first meeting since being appointed by the City Council earlier this month.
With regard to side and rear property fences, the commissioners agreed the standard 6- foot maximum is adequate and that factoring in adjustments for underlying slopes and retaining walls on a general basis would be impractical.
Cool in the tube: the terrace house stands the test of time
by Elizabeth Farrelly
The terrace house gives a whole new meaning to the idea of the London tube. London’s standout characteristic, as you trek in by taxi or train, is neither its veiled beauty nor its vile weather, though both are in play, but its countless rows of conjoined houses; mute, serried, identical.
I like London in winter. Also in recession – a city should be seen doing what it does best. But London’s loveliness, partly in defiance of these threats, is subtle and fugitive, set deep within a tough crusted carapace that is, in its way, as disciplined as a Bach cantata. The atomic particle of both the discipline and the beauty is that tube of space we call the terrace house.
It’s no accident that Sydney, too, is a terrace-house town, especially in its lovely inner reaches. But the Sydney terrace, which many consider dour and restrictive, is positively flamboyant, positively expressionistic, compared with London’s.
London is made of terraces as bread pudding is made of bread. There are raisins and custard, to entice the eating, but the basic tissue is row housing. From Bedford Square to Tufnell Park, London is the terrace house.
This wasn’t always true. Had Sydney spun off London at some other moment in history, Glebe, Surry Hills and Paddington might have comprised jut-jawed half-timbered Norman townies or semi-detached brick bungalows. As it is, Sydney’s entire centre, and increasingly its aspirational new-burbs, are also terrace-based.
It shouldn’t work. The theory of thermal building specifies lightweight, thermally responsive construction for warm, humid climates. But, having lived 20 years in Sydney terraces, I can report that they suit Sydney, if anything, better than London.
The brick terrace’s two-month thermal lag makes my terrace warm for most of the winter and cool for most of the summer. (I just have to spend February in Europe!)
This saves heating and cooling energy, makes walkable neighbourhoods (also saving fuel) and establishes a comfortable balance in the tug-of-war between the individual and the collective.
But how did this inspired device, this tube for urban living, come about? Tubes are everywhere. Guts, veins, rivers, worms, trees, tracheae, people; trains, halls, sewers, roads, tunnels and houses. The tube is one of nature’s favoured morphemes, and where nature goes, culture follows.
But history does not record the first-ever terrace house. English scholars make it Vicars’ Close in Wells, dated 1363.
But the huge preponderance of the London terrace starts, like so many things, with Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell’s trashing of the monasteries in the 1530s freed roughly a quarter of all England and Wales – including vast tracts of the City and Westminster – for handing out to the mates. In Sydney terms, this is the Obeids being gifted Macquarie and Bridge streets.
There were no planning statutes to speak of. London’s first building assize (or regulation), issued in 1189 by its first mayor, required neighbours to contribute equally to metre-thick stone party-walls between properties but there was little enforcement and, half a century on, most buildings were still timber.
As the Elizabethan stability allowed noble families to decamp to the countryside, London flooded with the new merchant classes from all over Europe. This influx, reinforced by Elizabeth’s opening of the new Royal Exchange in 1570, produced the cultural explosion of the English renaissance.
It also produced rampant inflation, with the parvenus jostling for Royal proximity and in turn generated the city-building force we now take as given: speculative development.
By 1580 development pressure was so extreme that the Queen banned all new dwellings within three miles of the city gates. The prohibition was well meant, but actually effected the endless rebuilding of existing wooden buildings, and their endless subdivision into ever-smaller apartments. London in 1665 – much like Bankstown, 2012 – was a disaster waiting to happen. Development, meanwhile, became the privilege of those who could afford the Royal licence – namely, nobles.
The Bedford Estate was amongst the first. In 1630, almost a century after the initial land-grant of 1551, Francis Russell, 4th Earl of Bedford, paid the Crown a massive £2000 before commissioning Inigo Jones to design Covent Garden on the old convent garden.
Jones copied his design from Paris’s lovely Place des Vosges. A church fronted a grand central square that was otherwise formed by four-storeyed terraces. But where the Vosges was a Royal palace (modelled in turn on Palladio’s 1542 Palazzo Thiene in Vicenza), Covent Garden was divided vertically into terrace houses for the nouveaux riches.
This brought benefits. It increased density and profit while giving relatively modest houses, shaped to English individualism (each having its own ground and sky) the collective look of a palace.
This set the model. When the worst-ever plague of 1665 was followed by the worst-ever fire, the first terrace house Act made that model universal.
An Act for the rebuilding of the City of London 1667 required all buildings to be stone or brick. It established four sizes, or rates, of terrace house, specified all party-wall thicknesses in relation to their height, and all building heights – up to six storeys – in relation to street width.
It also banned facade projections and load-bearing timber. Non-complying properties could be demolished and resumed and their owners whipped ”… till his body be bloody.” Et viola! The plain Georgian terrace.
Hence, also, the Sydney terrace, since our own first Building Act of 1837 closely replicated that two-century-old original.
The elegance of this new device was two-fold. Linking building height to both wall-thickness and street-width made the terrace easily scalable according to means. It also gave even the most modest street a collective dignity and drama that could never accrue from individual dwellings.
Of course, Sydney’s patience with Georgian stricture was never going to last. We were soon decorating our own with balconies and wrought-iron lacework that owed more to a 19th century sensibility and probably came via the terraces of New York.
Since then, we’ve also become adept – through adaptations by Alec Tzannes, Glenn Murcutt, Richard Huxley, Clinton Murray, Tone Wheeler and others – at flooding the terrace with light and space while maintaining the original street-making discipline.
The Sydney terrace, at once expressionist and cohesive, is our very own: one of the few housing forms that is unmistakably Sydney. We should treasure and refine it, as a sustainable city-making device of genius.
Portland crossing to get shorter, beach road safer
By Randy Billings
The city is expected to do work along the Eastern Promenade this summer to make pedestrians safer. The plan includes narrowing and realigning Cutter Street in an effort to slow traffic heading to the beach and boat launch.
The project, which will go before the city’s Historic Preservation Board on Wednesday, includes a drastic reduction in pavement at the intersection of Cutter Street and Eastern Promenade road. The 100-foot-wide expanse would be narrowed to about 40 feet, and a pulloff area for tour buses would be created.
Bobinsky said the project, projected to cost $100,000 and expected to begin after July 4, will be in the Maine Department of Transportation’s request for bids to repave a section of the Eastern Prom from Morning Street to Washington Avenue.
Few major accidents have been reported at that intersection, but the potential is there, Bobinsky said.
The Friends of the Eastern Promenade is welcoming the proposed changes. President Diane Davison said the current configuration makes Cutter Street seem like an-off ramp that doesn’t require drivers to slow down. “The traffic just moves way too fast,” she said.
Safety concerns were raised in the 2004 Eastern Promenade Master Plan, which called the intersection confusing. “Cutter Street appears to be an extension of promenade drive, not a separate intersection,” it said.
The project also would reduce the width of Eastern Promenade road, from 52 feet to 38 feet, near the bend by Fort Allen Park. Pavement on the inland side of Eastern Promenade road would be replaced with grass and curbing.
Davison said commercial vehicles traveling from the Old Port to the East End boat launch, where they load supplies and equipment on barges, is the biggest safety concern.
“(The trucks) really fly right through that intersection,” Davison said. “Narrowing that intersection will make it safer for all park users.”
The crosswalk reduction from 100 feet to 40 feet shouldn’t cause problems for recreational boaters who use the East End boat launch, Bobinsky said.
The project is related to restoration work planned for this spring at Fort Allen Park, which includes replacing the rotting wooden cannon carriages, repairing a wrought iron fence, sprucing up a bandstand and improving pathways to better incorporate three war memorials.
Narrowing the Cutter Street intersection will add green space next to the Jacob Cousins War Memorial, a bronze plaque on a boulder commemorating the city’s first Jewish soldier killed in World War I.
The $65m dowry for any man who can woo Cecil Chao’s lesbian daughter
Hong Kong property tycoon Cecil Chao wants granchildren to inherit his business so he is offering ‘a moderately deluxe life’ to any man who can woo his daughter
By David Pilling
The wrought-iron gate at the top of the path leading to Cecil Chao’s waterfront mansion says “Happy Lodge”. And Chao, a Hong Kong property tycoon, certainly takes every opportunity to be happy. Colourful even by the flamboyant standards of the city’s billionaires, the 76-year-old claims to have slept with 10,000 women – and to be adding regularly to his tally. A lifelong bachelor, he made headlines last September by offering a $65m bounty to any man who could woo and marry his lesbian daughter, Gigi. It turned out that he was not so much offended by her sexuality as in want of grandchildren to whom he could pass on his business.
I had caught a glimpse of Chao soon after he made his novel proposal. I was visiting friends in Pok Fu Lam, a quiet residential neighbourhood on the western edge of Hong Kong island. They lived in Villa Cecil, a collection of apartments owned by Chao with stupendous views of the Lamma Channel. A Rolls-Royce pulled up to the gates of Happy Lodge at one end of the complex. It bore the licence plate “Cecil”. In the front sat Cecil himself, waving delightedly to someone. In the back were two glamorous young women.
Now I was sitting in Cecil’s living room. (Hong Kong is a friendly place where almost everyone refers to each other by their first name.) The gate to Happy Lodge had been set ajar, so I had wandered down the path past a fishpond full of koi carp. The little door to his house was also open. In the living room was a grand piano, a tall, simply decorated Christmas tree, two large modernist statues and lots of glass and chrome. The far wall was glass, behind it a beautiful sea view. It reminded me of the Isla Negra house owned by Pablo Neruda, the Chilean poet enamoured of the ocean.
There didn’t seem to be a bell. It was warm, even in early December, so I stood outside until, after some time, I was greeted by a Filipina maid who ushered me inside. The enormous room was round with an improbably high ceiling in black mirror. Overlooking it was a balcony with an entertainment area and a banqueting room. You reach the top floor by a winding staircase. As the entrance is on the third floor the staircase also winds down to the staff quarters and to Cecil’s bedroom, site – almost inevitably – of a round bed.
Cecil eventually appears from below and we sit on one of three sofas arranged in discrete areas of the room. He looks improbably young and easy of movement for a man of 76 – a youthful appearance he attributes to his regular basketball sessions and nocturnal activities.
He’s wearing a brown suede jacket, a sweater, cravat and casual trousers. He calls one of his staff – he has eight in total, including a driver – to bring him his “light” sunglasses. A maid appears with a pair of Ferragamo.
Cecil designed the house himself some four decades ago when he returned from studying architecture at the UK’s Durham University. “It started with very contemporary thinking: black mirrors, stainless steel, high ceiling, skylights,” he says. “But when you get older you like Chinese and European classical culture,” he adds, gesturing to the assortment of antique furniture, ink paintings, Chinese lacquerware and Buddhist statues around. “We also have a Japanese garden.”
The house, at around 16,000 square ft, was designed to let in lots of natural light and to incorporate the sea view. “We tried to keep both sides light, mingling in the green environment,” he says. “So you have an interior garden mixed with an exterior garden and a waterfall outside.” He notices the waterfall is not operating and picks up a white telephone from the glass coffee table. “Julia, can you turn on the waterfall,” he says, his instructions transmitted through loudspeakers as though he were a Bond villain. “Our guest would like to see the sharks,” I imagine him saying. “Julia, can you please release them.”
We walk over to his terrace for a better view of the ocean. Below is a kidney-shaped swimming pool with a small stone elephant poised as if about to dive in. There are rocks and coral on the pool floor. “So we can snorkel,” he explains.
to be continued