Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Merry Christmas

A sketch by John Tackett Design
for the Small Dining Room of a new house
proposed for Palm Beach, Florida.
The Devoted Classicist
There is a long tradition, over 35 years now, of my making my own holiday greeting cards.  Some have been printed with rubber stamps and one year, the fold-out cards were printed using the diazo process, the ammonia vapor "blue-line" print that was used for architectural drawing reproduction at the time.  There was even a linoleum block print one year.  But by far the most common printing was done by photo-copying my own sketch, using the common Xerox machine and card stock.  Usually, a bit of color was added with felt-tipped watercolor pens.  The image here was colored with Prismacolor pencils with the wreath added to the bust just for illustration of this post of The Devoted Classicist.
Image via MapQuest.
A John Tackett Design project is often the subject illustrated for the cover of the card.  In recent years, however, it has sometimes been an unrealized project.  That commission may have been "put on hold," a status used more often than a definite cancellation.  So, the holiday card illustration was an opportunity to revive an old sketch, with a wreath or Christmas tree added, to get one more chance to spark some interest.  Such is the case this year.

Image via Christian Angle Real Estate.
The scope of the project was to do a preliminary study to build a new house on a vacant waterside lot at 488 Island Drive, on Everglades Island on the Intercoastal Waterway.

Image via Christian Angle Real Estate.
The site is a little over a half-acre with water frontage on two sides.  There are views to the Lake Worth Lagoon and the marina to the north, and to the golf course of the exclusive Everglades Club to the east.  The vacant land is still available, at this writing, and can be yours for $9,975,000.  And if you do decide to buy it, please feel free to contact me.  I have some great ideas for it.

Best wishes to all my Devoted Readers for a very merry Christmas and the happiest New Year ever!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

LaGrange, Tennessee

Immanuel Episcopal Church,
LaGrange, Tennessee, in a mid-1970s view.
Image by John Tackett/The Devoted Classicist.
About fifty miles east of Memphis is a charming community that I have known all my life since it was on the way to my father's hometown.  However, my first views were limited to the buildings along the highway that I could see from the backseat at 70 miles an hour.
A map of LaGrange, Tennessee, 1862.
U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.
But by the time I was old enough to chauffeur my parents, I took advantage of the rule of The Driver's Perogative and would cruise slowly through the town and even detour to some of the side streets of LaGrange.

Historic view of LaGrange, Tennessee.
Via lagrangetn.com
It is an area where early habitation has been documented.  A few artifacts have been found dating back about 15,000 years when the land was still covered by the Pleistocene glacier.  Many more artifacts have been found to show occupation during the Archaic Period that followed.  The Chickasaw Nation, formed around the mid-1500s, was centered in towns in north Mississippi, and used what is now west Tennessee as hunting grounds.  A trading post called Itey Uch La which meant "cluster of pines" occupied the site located on a high bluff above the Wolf River until the controversial purchase of the area in 1818 that relocated the Chickasaws to the West.  The town of LaGrange, located in Fayette County, was named in honor of the home of the French hero of the Revolutionary War, Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette.  The town was surveyed in 1822 and laid out with 225 lots.  A post office was established in 1828 and the town was chartered in 1829.

Woodlawn Plantation, LaGrange, TN
was built in 1832 just past the eastern border of the town.
It served as General Sherman's headquarters in 1862.
Photo via hardemancountytn.com
Also known as LaBelle Village, the town of over 2,000 occupants enjoyed prosperity before the Civil War.  But over a three year period of occupation by as many as 30,000 Union troops almost devastated the town.  Some of the houses were conscripted for official use and as many as 40 were partially dismantled for salvaged materials for the occupying troops.  Economic depression prevented much building after the war, and a fire destroyed most of the west side of Main Street in 1873.  The Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1878 also contributed to the lack of growth.  The Cyclone (tornado) of 1900 wiped out most of the remaining commercial buildings which were never replaced, resulting in a lack of businesses.  There are a couple of churches and a collection of handsome houses however.

Immanuel Episcopal Church
LaGrange, Tennessee.
Photo by John Tackett/The Devoted Classicist.
The most significant architectural survivor is Immanuel Episcopal Church.  Organized in 1832 after a 52 year old widow, Mrs. Mary Hayes Willis Gloster, rode horseback with her son-in-law to Franklin, Tennessee, to seek help from her godson, Reverend James Hervey Otey, later to become the first Bishop of Tennessee, as there were no churches in the area of LaGrange. 

The floor plan of Immanuel Episcopal Church.
HABS drawing.
Built by slaves, the cornerstone was laid May 9, 1840, and consecrated for worship in 1843.  Although no architect was credited, it is a handsome building, especially considering the relative isolation.  (The railroad passing through the town, linking Charleston and Memphis, the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River, was completed in  1857.  See an earlier post of The Devoted Classicist for the nearby town of Holly Springs, Mississippi which prospered from a link to the railroad at the adjacent town of Grand Junction).  The church is said to be a closely inspired by the Gloster family's former Immanuel Church in Warrenton, North Carolina.

The front elevation of Immanuel Episcopal Church,
LaGrange, Tennessee.  HABS drawing.
The front of the church is austere, with only the double doors flanked by shallow niches, more like blind windows.  There was to be a belfry, and the original hand-hewn structural framing shows this intention, but it was never built.

The roof framing of Immanuel Episcopal Church.
HABS drawing.
There was a campaign in the nineteen-teens that raised money to add a belfry tower, but it was decided to donate the funds, instead, to support charitable efforts related to the Great War (World War I).  In the 1970s, an abstract bell tower was built adjacent but separate from the building.

The east side of Immanuel Episcopal Church
showing the 1970s bell tower adjacent.
Photo by John Tackett/The Devoted Classicist.
The sides of the church are more attractive than the front, however.  The hand-made brick laid in Flemish bond provide a handsome background for stucco-covered, simple pilasters, long gothick ogee-head windows and louvered shutters.  (The existing window sash date from a 1968 restoration; they are similar to, but not an exact match of, the original).
A comparison of replacement vs. original
window sash at Immanuel Episcopal Church.
HABS photo.
Inside, the sanctuary measures 50'-4" x 36'-3" with the original 20'-2" ceiling height restored after the removal of a late 19th century vaulted wood ceiling.  A balcony spans the front end of the space, one of the few slave galleries ever built in this region.

East-West Section through Immanuel Episcopal Church.
HABS drawing.
The interior of Immanuel Episcopal Church
looking towards the front.
Photo by John Tackett/The Devoted Classicist.
The North-South section through the church
showing the original window sash.
HABS drawing.
At the other end, the original mahogany cross which had been removed for safe-keeping during the Civil War, has been returned to its intended location above the alter.  The original cruets are placed on a shelf adjacent.

View to the alter from the gallery.
Photo by John Tackett/The Devoted Classicist.
Another view of the alter of
Immanuel Episcopal Church.
Photo by John Tackett/The Devoted Classicist.
During the Yankee occupation, the church was used first as a hospital, then as a warehouse.  The pews were removed and, according to written accounts, the wood was used for coffins.  The wainscot was burned as firewood.  The replacements are said to approximate the design of the original.  The flooring of pine boards 7 1/4" to 7 1/2" wide is original.

Replacement pews, wainscot and windows
approximate the original designs.
Photo by John Tackett/The Devoted Classicist.
The Vestry was replaced after the Civil War.  A half-bath was added in the 1968 restoration.  Central heating and air-conditioning was added at that time as well.

In September, I had the opportunity to visit Immanuel Episcopal Church with three sisters from St. Mary's Convent, an Episcopal Benedictine monastery for women in Sewanee, Tennessee, and a contingent from St. Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, Memphis.  It was part of an annual observance each year honoring Constance and Her Companions, the Martyrs of Memphis.  We were given a history of the church by its most gracious warden, Nora Whitmer, the source for much of this information.

Cedar Hall, LaGrange, Tennessee.
Front (South) Elevation.
Photo by John Tackett/The Devoted Classicist.
Afterwards, we were fortunate to be invited to visit the warden's home, Cedar Hall, surely the most charming in a village of lovely homes.  The small cottage dating from about 1831 was sensitively enlarged with additions flanking either side of the original, plus an extension to the rear that also provided a wrap-around porch.

The East side of Cedar Hall, LaGrange,
showing the additions.
Photo by John Tackett/The Devoted Classicist.
For those considering an outing, there are currently no commercial establishments in LaGrange.  However, a no-frills meal can be had at Junction Café about 8 miles to the east on Highway 57 W in Grand Junction.  Unfortunately, their specialty, BBQ, was not available at the time of our visit, but comes highly recommended.  For more information on LaGrange, visit the town's website, a reference used for this essay.