Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Danbury CT Historic Homes: Hearthstone Castle

Hearthstone Castle located in Danbury Connecticut's Tarrywile Park was built between 1895 and 1899 by E. Starr Sanford who was a very successful New York City-based portrait photographer and invented one of the first movie cameras. Originally known as "Sanford's Castle," his home is listed in Danbury's National Register of Historic Places.
The castle was originally intended to be the lavish honeymoon home for Sanford's wife. It was designed by the architect Ernest G. W. Dietrich whose drawings of his homes and castles were extensively published in the architectural periodicals of the time.
The three-story turreted structure had seventeen rooms, including nine bedrooms, a library and a billiard room. The rock that was used to build the castle was quarried from the Tarrywile property that today is Tarrywile Park, and transported on a small railroad constructed for this purpose.
All of the wood used in the building of the castle was imported from Italy. In its heyday, the castle was quite a showplace conceived and built by one of the leading image makers of his day, and was also capable of producing its own electricity.
Sanford only lived in his castle home for five years before he sold it in 1902 to industrialist Victor Buck. In 1918 it was sold to Charles Darling Parks, president of the American Hatters and Furriers Co., who bought it for his daughter Irene Parks as a wedding gift. She renamed it Hearthstone Castle after its eight stone fireplaces, and occupied the castle as her home until her death in 1982.
The last residents of the Hearthstone Castle were Richard and Constance Jennings, her heirs who lived there until March 1987 when the entire Tarrywile Estate was sold to the town of Danbury. Today, Tarrywile Park includes Tarrywile Mansion also on the National Register of Historic Places, picnic areas, gardens, orchards, fields, ponds, woods, campsites, footpaths and hiking trails that cover 722 acres of rugged terrain.
Unfortunately, the castle was not able to be well maintained under Danbury's ownership, and the roof collapsed, ceilings have fallen, walls have crumbled and Hearthstone Castle had to be closed to the public due to safety concerns.
It has been said that several hauntings are known to exist on the grounds of the Hearthstone Castle including reports of shadowy figures, glowing mists in the castle's windows, roof and surrounding area. Hikers have reported being pushed and having sticks thrown at them.
The castle's first owner, E. Starr Stanford died an unusual death when the boat he was on was struck by lightning that badly damaged the arteries of his eyes. The man who had built his career as a photographer, camera inventor and image maker never recovered his eyesight and died three years later.
The Tarrywile Park Authority are considering two options for renovating the castle and surrounding real estate. The first option involves developing the Castle into a three season pavilion and observation tower.
The second option includes the complete restoration of the castle and development of a fully functioning building with lodge areas, restaurant, museum, conference rooms, classrooms, staff residence and gift shop. It is hoped the restored castle and grounds would provide a major attraction and gathering place for the city of Danbury and recover a historic castle home on the National Register of Historic Places.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Georgia Travel Guide

Georgia is a Christian country in the Caucasus, on the border between Asia and Europe, with thousands of years of history, very peculiar landscapes and gorgeous mountains, and people who a famous for their hospitality.
Georgia is a unique country with huge tourism potential. About three hundred of mountain and seaside resorts clearly state the country's possibilities for a meaningful rest, and the Black Sea coast is a popular summer destination. Over ten thousand unique monuments of archeology, history, architecture and art, as well as numerous monuments of nature contribute to Georgia's international recognition as an important tourist hub of the Caucasian region. On top of that, the country is inhabited by hospitable people, so ancient and rich, as the land itself.
Tbilisi is one of the oldest cities in the world. It was founded in the 4th millennium BC, and its name originally meant 'warm springs'. The historic core of the capital is the Old Town, located at the foot of the mountain and dominated by small stone and brick houses with carved wooden balconies, typical of 'Tbilisi architecture'. Almost all the buildings are historical or cultural monuments, and they create an authentic impresion of the famous 'Georgian courtyard' repeatedly mentioned in literature. In the center of Tbilisi, there are the remains of Narikala fortress and St. Mary's church, which are some of the oldest edifices in the city. The Sioni Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady, the Church of St. David, the pantheon of outstanding statesmen of the country, the legendary Tbilisi sulfur baths, Metechi temple with a monument to the founder of Tbilisi Vakhtang Gorgasal, Paliashvili Opera House and many other interesting attractions are among the city's main magnets for tourists. According to the number of cultural monuments, Tbilisi is one of the richest cities in the world. The best museums of the city include the Museum of Georgian Art, the Museum of Art, the Museum of Folk Architecture, and the Museum of Silk. Numerous theaters and amusement parks offer a splendid quiet rest and cultural enrichment.
Not far from the capital, there is acting Betania Monastery, which is considered one of the finest examples of Georgian church architecture. To the north of the capital, there is Mtskheta, another Georgian cult place and its ancient capital. Here the famous Jvari monastery is located as the symbol of Christianity on Georgian soil. Another attraction of this city is the huge Svetitskhoveli Cathedral restored in the 15th century. The modern church was erected on the site of the first Christian church in Georgia, which had been built in the distant 4th century. The large and well-preserved Hartsvisi Castle is located near the town of Akhalkalaki, in the vicinity of the famous cave city Vardzia. Legend has it that the citadel was taken by Alexander the Great. In the 12th century the castle was revived again, and soon grew to the extent of the city. But then it was destroyed by the Mongols and later came under the power of the Turks. Gonio Fortress is located to the south of Batumi, near the border with Turkey. Tmogvi is a small castle on a cliff overlooking the Mtkvari River. However, the path leading to the mountain fortress is very dangerous, and the way may take at least an hour.
Kutaisi is one of the most unusual cities in the country. Its interesting picturesque quay, the Historical and Ethnographic Museum, the Paliashvili Museum, the Art Gallery and the famous ruins of the Cathedral of Our Lady create the list of the city's main sights.
The city of Borjomi is situated in a picturesque valley and is famous for its mineral waters. Borjomi is glorified not only by the excellent natural conditions. It is also known for its cultural attractions, such as the summer residence of the last Russian emperor, Timotes Ubani monastery complex, and a unique Borjomi reserve considered to be a haven for numerous species of flora and fauna and the best place for ecotourism in the Transcaucasia.
Adjara is another popular area in Georgia. Washed by the Black Sea, and located at the foot of the mountain ranges of the Caucasus, this ancient land has a mild subtropical climate and beautiful natural environment.

Monday, January 9, 2012

West Coast Road Trip Day 6 - South to Carmel

On this the sixth day of our epic family extravaganza that began in Spokane, WA, we all agreed that San Francisco wasn't easy to leave. But we had to continue south on our West Coast Road Trip, taking a somewhat short drive south to Carmel By-the-Sea. Departing from Fisherman's Wharf, we set out to see if all the good things that have been said about Carmel were true...
Although we'd initially planned to drive as close to the Pacific Ocean as possible throughout our entire west coast road trip, a wrong turn, a tired driver and a desire to get to Carmel as soon as possible won out over more ocean view driving.
So rolling along down Highway 101, past mountains, small towns, and farms, we left San Francisco behind. We found our way back to Highway 1, the ocean, and Monterey; and after a fairly short drive we reached Carmel.
There were six features of Carmel that particularly stood out: The restaurants, Carmel City Beach, shopping, art galleries, the people, and the 17-mile drive.
There were so many restaurants in Carmel, I found it unfortunate to only have one stomach. We decided on an Italian dinner at Il Fornaio, lunch at Palisserie Boissiere Restaurant & Bakery, a meal out on the patio at the Village Corner Mediterranean Bistro and snacks from other quality establishments. We had good experiences at each place, and left plenty of others on our list for next time.
Carmel City Beach had a great vibe. It's a large, clean beach with a great view and lots of free parking nearby. The beach is also close enough to the shops and art galleries that you could walk right down instead of driving.
Although I'm not a big shopper, the shopping scene in Carmel offered something for everyone. There were many interesting stores and boutiques of all price ranges, from the modest to the luxury. I preferred the locally based shops, but there are were also the nationally known places such as Tiffany, Louis Vuitton, Coach and Tommy Bahama.
What I was looking forward to investigating more than the shops were the art galleries. Carmel is known to have a lot of them, and of course I visited as many as possible. There were actually so many galleries that I couldn't get to all of them in the short amount of time we were in Carmel. There were galleries of all kinds: large, small, artist-owned (very cool, although none of them were open at the time), all with different styles and price ranges. Seeing a few original Brian Blood paintings and the California Impressionist paintings at Karges Fine Art Gallery were personal favorites.
As we navigated through town, it seemed everyone we met in the various businesses were nice and friendly people. We felt welcome in Carmel, which is more than I can say about another well-known coastal town in the next state to the north. Feeling welcome made our experience that much better.
And finally, though the 17 Mile Drive isn't technically part of Carmel, it's right next door. The drive took us through Del Monte Forest and Pebble Beach, past beautiful homes and sites like Pebble Beach Golf Course, Bird Rock, Cypress Point Lookout, and the Lone Cypress.
As an artist, I found myself picturing living and working in a place like Carmel. With its excellent weather, many creative people, city streets without parking meters and proximity to the ocean, all the stories proved true. Whether you're an artist, art lover art collector, or just want to visit a unique area on this planet, I highly recommend you go to Carmel if you can.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

European Microstates: Luxembourg Travels

Luxembourg was founded over 1,000 years ago and became a nice, neat and lively city. A wide variety of architectural patterns, bridges, cones and spikes of palaces and churches, monuments, parks, buildings of different periods and styles form a harmonious ensemble. The capital is the cultural center of the Duchy. Tourists will be delighted to visit the National Library, the Municipal Theatre, the Conservatory, the Symphony Orchestra, Luxembourg Radio, and the film studio. Particular attention should be paid to the National Museum, which gathers many of the exhibits including a marble bust of Septimius Severus, bronze statues of the Roman era, tombstones and fragments of medieval sculptures, the collection of minerals, exhibits of decorative and applied arts, and the beautiful paintings of German and Dutch painters.
In addition to the National Museum, the city is famous for many other museums and art galleries, such as Luxembourg City History Museum, the Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Folk Life, the Museum of Weapons and Fortifications, the Museum of Ancient Musical Instruments, the Municipal Art Gallery and others.
Luxembourg is also a very beautiful city. The two rivers, Petrus and Alzeta, divide Luxembourg in two parts. In the upper town, you can see the houses built in Gothic style, the steeples and the towers against the background of cliffs. In view of this particular location, the city's 111 bridges play a special role in the architectural outlook of Luxembourg. In the center of the upper city, one can see the beautiful residence of Grand Duke. The palace with elegant turrets and a quaint faade is built in the Moorish style, in harmony with the House of the Parliament and the City Hall, built in 1830 in the best traditions of classicism. The city's main square looks even more gorgeous due to the Baroque cathedral of Notre Dame. In addition to the above mentioned monuments, the attractions of the Upper Town include the ruins of the Roman watchtower, the rock chapel of St. Kieran, the Gothic cathedral of Saint-Michel, the Palace of Justice and many others.
Luxembourg is home to various festivals and noisy celebrations. In February, there is a colorful carnival, in April one celebrates the Feast of the First Flowers, and the Catholic Octave festival. Sumptuous feasts fall on June and August, when wine festivals begin.
In the suburbs, you can see the old mill converted into an artistic workshop, the Ansemburg and Holenfels fortresses, and the thermal springs in Mondorf-les-Bains. One can take a boat walk on the river Moselle and explore its picturesque valley, visit the famous vineyards and watch spectacular boating and sailing competitions.
In addition to the capital, the northern town of Clervaux, has become a real hot spot for tourists due to its Gothic architecture and the unique impression of a medieval town.
Less than 12 miles from here is Vianden, which is considered one of the most beautiful and picturesque cities. This city is famous for the fact that Victor Hugo lived in it. The house, where he lived, has been turned into a museum that holds some things and books of the great French writer. To the east from this area, there is the so-called 'Luxembourg Switzerland' which is highly praised for its amazing nature. The landscape around the half-ruined fortress of Beaufort is especially beautiful.
The city of Echternach is one of the oldest cities in the country, and is about 1000 years old. There are many ancient buildings with fancy vaults and arches in this city. Echternach, along with the capital, is a recognized tourist destination, a place of numerous festivals and parades.