Wrought iron is always part of history

wrought iron historyAt the Battle of Antietam in September 1862, the first true images of war were produced by photographer Alexander Gardner using a stereo camera. Gardner’s images were put on display at Mathew Brady’s Gallery in New York City. The public was shocked by the reality of the photographs. Newspapers of the day were unable to reproduce photographs and relied on artists’ woodcuts which were published in papers like Harper’s Weekly. Enterprising showmen produced traveling exhibits to tour in the North. Such a program was scheduled for presentation in Warren on Feb. 27 and 28 at Webb’s Hall on Main Street.

On this date in 1863, the Western Reserve Chronicle published a publicity story and advertisement for this event. Reporting that the exhibition was “highly spoken of by papers elsewhere,” the Chronicle reprinted an article from the Elmira (NY) Advertiser:

“The exhibition of Russell’s extensive and magnificent Panorama of the War gave the utmost satisfaction to a large and attentive audience. It gives a perfect and life-like view of the principal battles and incidents of the war, such as cannot be obtained in any other manner. None who appreciate good paintings, and an interesting rehearsal of the incidents connected therewith, will let the opportunity slip to see Russell’s magnificent Panorama.”

“The view of the city of Charleston is the most perfect production of art we ever witnessed; also the view of Baltimore was strikingly correct. The burning of Norfolk Navy Yard is a fine production. You can, as you gaze upon it, almost hear the fire as it burns and crackles through the dry timbers of those old line battleships. You see the masts falling, and can, in imagination, hear them as they splash upon the water. The artist has so truthfully portrayed the scenes of the battlefield that the observer can almost fancy himself a spectator of the real tragedy, and hear the roar of artillery and clash of arms.”

The Chronicle concluded, “If you wish to gain a comprehensive view of the war, and learn many of its interesting details, go and see Russell’s Panorama of the War.”

Webb’s Hall was built by Almon D. Webb in 1861. After the Great Warren Fire of 1860 had burned out most of the Main Street, Webb purchased the lot at 15-17 Main and erected a three story brick building, with store rooms at street level and office rooms in front on the second floor. The third floor, with a distinctive wrought-iron balcony overlooking Main, housed the opera hall with a 600 seat capacity. The stage with scenery occupied the west end of the auditorium. At the time, it was Warren’s only house of public entertainment with many traveling shows and entertainers appearing there along with local productions as well.

Almon D. Webb was active in civic affairs and served as mayor from 1863 through 1865. In the 1800s when the new opera house (later known as the Harris-Warren Movie Theatre) was built on High Street, Webb’s son, Peter L. Webb, was its manager. Peter L. Webb’s home is located at 352 Mahoning Ave. N.W.

Source: Warren’s Sutliff Museum.

Anvils the key to wrought iron creations

anvil_wrought_iron_creationsFor about 30 years, white-bearded Eric Green, 59, has fixed automatic transmissions at his Perry Township garage, Barts’ Transmissions.
He copes with what he dubbed the nightmare of repairing more modern electronic hydraulic transmissions as opposed to simpler, older hydraulic units.

Green knows firsthand about changing workplaces in changing times.
As it turns out, Green also has spent a lot of his free time collecting historic anvils.

Anvils were once on every farm and in garages and blacksmith shops, a necessity for creating tools, kitchen utensils, nails, horseshoes, wagon wheels and much more before modern mechanization.

In his business name, Bart is a reference to Barton, which is not only his middle name but that of his father, son and grandson.

But, within his family, only Green fixes transmissions, even though he named his place Barts’ when he hoped his son would join him.

“My son wound up being an English professor,” Green said. “I’m not sure where that came from. Then again, my father was a farmer, and I never wanted to be a farmer.”

The outwardly engaging Green is a Santa Claus look-alike and actually portrays him for Hamburg during the holidays.

But none of that explains why he and his hobby partner, Steve Mengel, 52, also of Perry Township, have collected nearly 200 historic anvils over the past 20 years, dating from the 18th and 19th centuries. They have traveled to dozens of national and regional blacksmith conventions.

“We’ve hitched truck to trailer and hauled anvils from all over,” Green said, noting that the farthest location was Seattle.

The anvils, of many shapes and weights, are housed on their separate properties in a shed and a basement. Green said the earliest anvils were forged from wrought iron with steel plates and others were made of cast iron. A few of their anvils weigh as much as 800 to 1,000 pounds, but most are in the 150-pound range, he said.

“Collecting them just seems to be a disease, I guess,” said Green, who grew up on a 60-acre dairy farm near Bernville.

Green, now coping with a serious leg injury as a result of a motorcycle accident in the autumn of 2010, said he always had a gift for fixing things and started out working in a foundry.

He explained that his anvil interest gained steam when Mengel’s wife, Arlene, wrote a college paper on a Lenhartsville-area blacksmith.

“There are more people into blacksmithing these days than you might think,” Green said, estimating there may be about 100 blacksmiths in Berks who continue the craft as examples of living history.

“Today, you mostly have people doing historical reproduction stuff, iron gates and a lot of art sculpturing,” he said. “I, myself, use anvils to make knives.”

Some of Green’s handcrafted knife creations are sizable and sharp enough to chop wood.
“I’m drawn to making stuff on anvils because I enjoy turning one thing into something else,” Green said.

“For instance, I use a Ford transmission drive shaft to make knives,” he said. “It’s the only thing I’ve found those drive shafts good for.”

Source: readingeagle.com

Original candleholders by Samuel Yellin sold at major auction

wrought iron candleholderThe top-selling lots in Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates vataloged variety auction on Feb. 16 were all rarities, all from private collections and all were in great condition. These three elements made for aggressive bidding not only for these lots, but also for most others in the auction. LiveAuctioneers.com provided Internet live bidding.

Top price of the day was a collection of important Virginia Confederate veterans manuscript records contained in three volumes, for the Stonewall Jackson Camp #25, UCV# 469, located in Staunton, Va. The 870 pages in the three journals included extensive notes and records of member’s war services, resolutions, newspaper clippings, signed letters from Mrs. Jefferson Davis and Gen. Eppa Hunton.

Famous members of Stonewall Jackson’s entourage who were affiliated with the camp include Maj. Jed Hotchkiss, Stonewall Jackson’s mapmaker; Dr. Hunter McGuire, chief surgeon of Stonewall Jackson’s Corps and the doctor who amputated Jackson’s arm in a vain attempt to save the general’s life; and Gen. John Echols. Estimated to realize $500-800, the colection [Lot 265] sold for $6,900 to a representative of a local historical group.

Two items from the collection of the late Veronica “Ronnie” Riefler Strathmann, Pittsburgh, Pa., also realized strong results. A wrought-iron Arts & Crafts candleholder by Samuel Yellin (1885-1940) with an open-spiral shaft raised on a circular pan-like base and three five-toed pad feet, stamped “SAMUEL YELLIN” under base, dating to the first half of the 20th century, realized $4,600 against an estimate of $800-1,200 [Lot 368].

A wonderfully detailed circa 1900 Victorian painted wood doll’s greenhouse with amazing details including accoutrements such as potted plants, flower pots, baskets, miniature animals, etc., sold for $2,990 [Lot 188]. It was discovered disassembled in the attic of the Strathmann home by Beverley Evans who immediately recognized its auction potential.

Another of the popular lots in the auction was also a toy, a massive German Elastolin play set of approximately 160 pieces. The Western set included a log cabin and fence, two canoes, a covered wagon, teepees, campfires and approximately 148 Native American and cowboy figures. Many of the larger pieces were marked Germany or U.S. Zone Germany. It was accompanied by five boxes and packing papers that appeared original. Dating to the second quarter 20th century and the property of an old Virginia family, the set [Lot 191] realized $2,645.

The auction included a 2,000-plus piece collection of souvenir spoons and silver flatware from the estate of Lillian Merchant of Cape Cod, Mass., which proved very popular with bidders. A lot of 11 spoons and forks [Lot 778] having Western American themes featured ornate figural handles including miners, cowboys and cowgirls and nude figures sold for $1,150.

“Fresh estate merchandise with no reserves and low estimates is drawing strong interest and selling for very respectable prices,” said Jeffrey S. Evans. “This is the largest number of registered bidders that we have had for an auction since the economic downturn. It certainly demonstrates that buyers are coming back into the market and are enticed by the great values available today compared to prices five or six years ago. That renewed interest and energy is a good predictor of an upswing in the antiques and collectibles markets in the coming year.”

The 849 lots realized $208,714.50 (including 15 percent buyer’s premium). There were more than 1,400 Internet bidders with more than 7,225 bids submitted over the Internet.

Source: .LiveAuctioneers.com.

Wrought Iron Luxury in Villefranche France

luxury wrought iron villefrancheMinutes by scenic train ride from Nice and Monte Carlo, Villefranche is unique on the Cote d’Azur with the charm of a small port, the glory of the Mediterranean, the glamour of the Riviera – and a relaxed pace with friendly locals. Tucked away on a gorgeous bay, the town has a colourful history and a sparkling present.

On our first visit (we’ve been twice), we opened the door to our room to find a vase of flowers and a card on the little table by the French doors to the corner balcony overlooking the bay of Villefranche. What made this special was that the flower had been hand-picked from the hotel’s garden by the manageress for our arrival, to go with the special Mother’s Day card she had printed out – from our daughter’s email, perfectly timed.

It was an appropriate introduction to Hotel Provencal, whose charm is greater than its modest two-star rating might indicate and is matched by its location at 4 Avenue Marechal Joffre, up the hill from the waterfront. And down the hill by a few metres from the corner ATM where we stocked up on euros (thanks to our handy Travel Money Card) and the local shops where we stocked up on fresh fruit, baguettes, cheese and wine for a picnic with a view, on our balcony.

Not that Villefranche is short of restaurants: the quay is truly eat-street, with a variety of cuisines and prices, all along the cobbled road that has served the waterfront of this mediaeval port for centuries. But our favourite place turned out to be Le Cosmo Bar & Restaurant, set back from the Quai de l’Amiral, with its relaxed atmosphere and great food making up for the lack of a view to the port.

You can pay a lot more and sit by the quay at places such as La Mere Germaine or La Fille du Pecheur, but we kept returning to Le Cosmo, which had enough variety on the menu to keep us satisfied – until we found La Caravelle, hidden up one of the lanes running down to the waterfront. A skull and crossbones hangs at the back and the husband/waiter/owner wears a gold ring in his left ear, but the prices do not raid your wallet: their excellent fish soup (the brown variety served along the entire south coast) is just €10 ($13), compared with €27 at Mere Germaine.

These places became even handier to us when we moved into La Belle Vue apartment, around the snake bend and up the hill a few steps from Le Cosmo, in a commanding position overlooking the bay. The view takes in the port, the large natural harbour and across the other side to the peninsula of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.

It’s a €1 bus ride to the Cap, for a view back towards Villefranche. On the way, the bus trundles along the road above the famous Villa Nellcote, where the Rolling Stones spent some chaotic weeks in 1971 recording their legendary Exile on Main St album. The mansion is mysteriously closed, its large wrought-iron gates padlocked.

The area around the port itself is amply served with shops selling a variety of clothes and tourist merchandise, displayed for cruise passengers who make half-day stops at Villefranche on a regular basis; apparently it’s the busiest port of call on the coast. They are all gone by drink o’clock, when we usually get a relaxing pastis at Gaga’s Bar, rustic and small, in rue du Poilu.

This old town – established in the 13th century – has a number of remarkable features, not least the Rue Obscure, an underground laneway hidden among the narrow backstreets that run above the quay. The 10-minute walk along the old lane (rue du Poilu) from La Belle Vue to the train station is filled with nooks and crannies, ancient stone walls, a feature fountain with resting benches, and mysterious doorways. Our camera nearly melted down from overuse here.

This is also the lane to find the Patisserie Maritime, where the genial Monsieur Herve Theraud bakes sensational croissants, fruit tarts and baguettes at dawn; our daily bread.
The foreboding Citadel Saint Elme overlooking and protecting Villefranche dates from the 16th century; in summer it holds outdoor movie screenings (it’s France, remember).

The giant stone fortress houses the town hall and a couple of museums, including the Volti, which can be enjoyed with a guided tour that includes breakfast in the gardens (just €8!). This is only one of several tours offered through the tourist office, including one focused on the artistic heritage of the town, another on its maritime heritage.

Only about five kilometres to the east of Nice, the old port has retained its characteristics – tourists notwithstanding. The train takes us 12 kilometres to Monte Carlo further east – and it will take you too, for a day of designer window shopping, not to mention an extravagant coffee and the world’s best millefeuille at the Cafe de Paris next to the famous Casino. Worth it in people perving value alone.

Source smh.com.au

Revolutionary War Era Cemetery Fence Toppled by Sandy to be Restored

wrought_iron_gates_4Work has begun on repairing the 102-year-old wrought-iron fence felled by Hurricane Sandy three months ago at the city’s third-oldest cemetery.

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.

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