Posted in The Publications

An Orchid at the Cross Roads

People always tell us to, “lead by example”. It’s a fair way to rise above petty arguments and low-blow fighting tactics. We abandon our sense of ‘getting even’ for a chance at transcending into a greater, generative modality when we model the behaviors we want to see. At least, that’s what the therapist in us bloggers says.

The freedom fighter historians over here have a unique application of it. Since establishing our grassroots ORCHID initiative, it has been a vision of ours to lead the way in illustrating how to integrate multiple facets of the Duke Legacy into projects with creative means. For instance, mental health met horticulture when a proclamation was issued in Franklin Township for the opening of the Sisters Serenity Gardens in Doris Duke’s name just a year ago. Another such example exists at the intersection of anonymous donations and historic preservation as we assisted multiple locations in seeking historic demarcation pro bono. Perhaps the greatest instance of these intersections occurs now, as we find an ORCHID at the Cross Roads.

Just recently, the latest endeavors of ORCHID led us back home, to a literal intersection that is best known for being the cross that draws directions to Belle Mead, Blackwells Mills, Millstone, and Griggstown: it is a lesser-known cornerstone of Hillsborough. Most notably, this darling little nook of Jersey still boasts its original, preserved farmstead, former post office, Dutch residence, railroad remnants (mentioned for its involvement in the Frog War) and schoolhouse. Collectively, this historic district got its name for the very intersection I’m standing on now: The Cross Roads.

So enter the essence of the Dukes: the historic district of Pleasant View never got its designation, where Cross Roads is embodied. Thanks to the magnificent efforts of the DORIS members, it all seems possible now to work on a nomination, but stay tuned for the results of a hard day’s work!

Cheers, darlings~

 

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Posted in Operation ORCHID

ORCHID Goes on Tour!

It has been a turbulent few months of silence at RRBlog, but we thank you for your patience throughout. In the last two weeks, The Duchess of South Somerville received a well-deserved makeover with a tag-team of volunteer editors and was re-released on May 5th, just this last weekend.

We are elated to announce that an entire box of merchandise was sold, connections were made to valuable other groups like Preservation NJ, NJ Historic Trust, and of course, we look forward to the final decisions for a future panel discussion at The 2019 NJ History Conference at Douglass College.

What a hoot it has been, darlings. So far, we have been graciously hosted by Morris Museum, The Van Veghten House, and Mendham Boro’s Hstorical Society.

Stay involved, use your voice, and speak up on behalf of your local history!

 

Posted in The Publications

The Timeless Quirks of Quilting

Once again, Manny Dylan breaks all records for the best and most thoughtful Christmas gifts. In doing so, he also brought to my immediate attention the underrated beauty of handmade quilts.

I’ll be honest. I’m a duvet person. I haven’t had a traditional quilt in years and since shifting from a quilt to its fluffy counterpart, I never went back. Then I discovered the snuggy joy of queen-sized fleece blankets for twin-sized beds to become a full-fledged burrito. With the gifting of an absolute work of art, a Quilt by Jennifer (see link: https://www.quiltingbyjennifer.com/ ), I have been revitalized and spooned by the thermal cuddles of a quilt.

Quilting as a craft has long been a staple of traditionally-women’s hobbies, dating wayyyy farther back than Colonial America. It is a simple way to take scrap fabrics or specially-picked out fabrics (or both artfully patterned together) and create something new, unique, and cozy as all hell! Quilting also is a form of paying it forward in modern times, often with their patchwork practices resulting in charitable acts, honorary arts, and other homages to meaningful causes and organizations.

These incredibly handmade staples deserve a review and resurgence into the spotlight as the crafting trends continue to grow (both by necessity of today’s economy- in America and abroad- and by desire of more individuals to learn new practices). Now typically it would take about a single column for us at RRBlog to discuss origins and what makes the topic of our discussion so timeless, but the techniques associated with quilting are so ancient that historians can’t trace a single isolated incident where quilting began. From the earliest civilizations that prepared textiles for clothing, the use of fabrics sewn or formed together was often done out of necessity before it emerged as an art form.

Quilts as we know them today were used on beds as far back as 14th Century Italy, where they depicted scenes from myths and sometimes religious references. Their intention remains the same: stay covered and cozy. For a full history of quilts, we did manage to find this rather comprehensive reference from Emporia University: https://www.emporia.edu/cgps/tales/quilte~1.html

So let’s fast forward to Christmas 2018. Manny Dylan strikes a perfect pastiche of Harpie’s favorite things- one being at the forefront of our minds in wintertime- including my blanket burrito-ing habits to stay warm. (Author’s Note: Harpie Lyn is always cold in winter.)

The significance of preparing a quilt as a gift is also rather timeless because of the aforementioned value of the handmade, the thoughtful, the sentimental, and the elaborate methodologies used to build a quilt that is uniquely representative of the recipient. Now, I’ve been blessed for 6 years to be the nerdy bestie of this strapping young sir, and I can attest that he’s outdone himself with this particular gift, especially as the Northeastern Corridor gets slammed with ice and snow this week.

Quilting by Jennifer, I want to extend my gratitude to you for the upkeep of a melleniae-long tradition of art and craft as well as for the loveliest, most custom-made gift I’ve ever received. We guarantee that your quilts will stand the test of time and surely, like quilts from our ancestors, this one is sure to  make excellent conversations as the years go by.

Stay curious & warm!

Posted in Operation ORCHID

On the Passing of Marion ‘Oatsie’ Charles

Anyone who knows much about Newport, Rhode Island society knows the name Marion Oatsie Charles. Raised in Southern wealth and poised in the art of vivacious advocacy, Oatsie was a close colleague and friend of our late neighbor, Doris Duke. The notification of her passing reached us as it was published, and we at ORCHID wanted to spread thoughts and prayers as well as solidarity to a woman known in her legacy for historic preservation- a legacy that far surpassed her Newport social life.

It will prove to be an exceptional inspiration to visitors of the Newport Restoration Society to have the name Marion Oatsie Charles immortalized in their work. Of course, as Rough Point is one of three locations designated under the umbrella of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, we at the RRBlog find it increasingly interesting to see how the DDCF will honor such a powerful ally’s legacy in their own ways.

Our hearts go out to Oatsie’s family and friends, as well as the entirety of Newport for this profound loss, especially so close to the holidays.

Additionally, we look forward to seeing how the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation operates under its new status as a nonprofit in the year 2019. We expect nothing short of honorably walking in the footsteps of the Dukes and their amazing allies like the magnificent and poised Marion Oatsie Charles.

Posted in The Publications

The Ceramic Christmas Tree Craze

You all knew it was inevitable. This Christmas season has made people across the nation (and beyond) watch eagerly at the windows of favorite stores while decorations and red-green merchandise glitter for us. What seems to be the most significant and widespread craze of this year is none other than the crowning achievement of a ‘kitschy’ Christmas: The ceramic lit trees. These tabletop gems are a necessity for the season as a reminder of tradition and family and what timeless values the holiday stands for.

Although the Kitch ceramics have been making a comeback for several years, this year has made tree-lovers and kitch-lovers rejoice more than ever. Unlike the previous years, this Christmas offers the elusive replacement plastic bulbs for all those empty slots in both new and old ceramic trees. As a proud recipient of my family’s originals, I can attest to the fact that these bulbs were impossible to find unless  (1) amazon was good to you this year, (2) you found them deep in the catacombs of your grandpa’s attic, or (3) you interrogated every antique store for them within a 50 mile radius of your home. To make matters more difficult, prior to the revival of these precious pieces, bulbs all differed in diameter and type. Some looked like pins with baubles, others were birds, and then there was the classic shape too. Now it seems like every major retailer has found the joys of these little light-ups.

Apparently this love of Christmas found its intersection in the 60s and through the 70s as more and more individuals (primarily women) sought after their artsy side and pursued ceramic-painting classes. These classes were so popular in fact, that these ceramic creations spilled over from strictly holiday items through just about everything. The more a lady loved her ceramic classes, the more frequently families like mine would end up with dozens of keepsakes that were painted especially by Nana.

The trees, however, are one of her crowning achievements. Glazed and illuminated, these trees became a great reason to sign up for a class or two to keep up with the latest homemade, hand-crafted trends. Much like we see a resurgence of knitting today, tree-painting was a fad back then!

So now the trees are making a comeback as a well-deserved and sought-after (if not sold out) tabletop classic. Except of course, there have been additions made- these trees come in new forms too! Nightlights, tabletoppers, and battery-operated darlings all grace the stage for this season’s nostalgic must-haves. Have you got an original or a new age tree? Tell us about your retro Christmas! We would love to hear from you.

Posted in The Publications

Aesthetics and Racism: Revivalists Only Reuse the Good Stuff

The title of this post is one that I hope sticks with every reader. Over the course of a year of successful blogging, I think it is important now to write up a disclaimer of sorts. So many people talk about the “olden days” as being overly-romanticized, biased, and viewed through a stereotypical and stigmatized lens. In order for anyone to truly appreciate the past, it is so valuable to be aware. At a time in the US when coming together and giving thanks is just a staple of this season, it is more important than ever to emphasize this pillar of our revival antics.

The sad realities of the past are the same ones that plague us today. Previous to the hippie/beatnik movement, racism was rampant and it seemed like the Caucasian population was having all the fun. Today, we are fighting racism and bias tooth-and-nail in hopes that someday equality will be true to its word. I’m stressing this because sometimes people will address me or my colleague Manny Dylan with concerns that those who advocate for the past find these traits of yesteryear to be acceptable. Darlings, I promise you all, that this will never be the case. Revivalism focuses its energy on giving a second life to the best bits of decades past, not the regrettable bits.

We try not to use the term ‘cherry-picking’, only because it suggests we amend material to be in our favor. However, that is the idea. It is so important to pick apart revivalist ideas and lifestyles because if we take too much modern or too much vintage, we end up on the extreme sides of the spectrum. With too much modernism, we wouldn’t have something to write about, social media would become a dependency issue, and the top priority would be economic value. Too much retro would translate to a paper newsletter, no mass media, and no blog. 😦 In order to truly understand revivalism and living a retro lifestyle, we need to talk about moderation. It’s been a theme since the very beginning, but no post has centralized around it.

In the wake of recent hate crimes in the greater New York area and the political climate that wrongly pits parties against one another and tosses out offensive names like ‘snowflakes’ and ‘extremists’… this is more important than ever. Loving thy neighbor may not have been the theme of the heavily=gentrified 50s, but we are in 2018 now. Now is the time where ‘letting the good times roll’ shouldn’t be specific or unequal to any population.

The title “Aesthetics and Racism” is to display the very contrasting morales we can observe in decades past. Aesthetics, such as the craftsmanship of artifacts from each era or the overall ‘flavor’ of the past are the attributes that revivalists encourage. Racism (perhaps one of the most severe juxtapositions to the beauty of the ages), on the other hand, is extremely discouraged for obvious reasons. Going forward, it is vital to our culture not to bring back all these traits, because some of them are just plain wrong. Those bits and pieces that are morally justified are the ones that are worth pursuing. On a small scale, how many of our readers remember Randy from ‘A Christmas Story’? This sweetheart probably shouldn’t bestow the same frosty immobility of his snowsuit onesie to his own children. However, a hand-knit sentiment like a scarf or mittens to keep warm is a classic alternative to not being able to put your arms down.

On a macro-level, all people should be treated equally and respectfully. Welcome hard work and cherish the time you spend impacting the lives of others, even through the little things. So for any further clarification, the vintage/retro ideals (the real deal ideals), do not participate or approve of the past’s erroneous tidbits. We at the Retro Revival want to thank those who posed questions about morality, because without these complete answers, we wouldn’t be representing revivalism at its best. Until next time, stay curious!

Posted in Operation ORCHID

Op. Orchid: Where There’s Hope…

 

Recently the team at RRBlog had the luxury of a calm weekend afternoon to ourselves. In an ever-busy world, its a beautiful commodity to get to slow down and enjoy the scenery at a place like Duke’s Estate. Of course, even on the loveliest of days with the most charming picnic box lunches, it is impossible to shut our eyes to progress or demise of any sort. You see, we’ve got a rich history on the land of historic riches.

So what exactly caught our eyes this time around? Admittedly, it’s been a while since we’ve had this opportunity for a self-guided tour. We didn’t cover everything, but it was enough to shake a stick at. First thing we noticed as we got into the park was a small cart carrying individuals to the Orchid Range who otherwise would struggle with that distance. In the absence of a tram, this was a relief to see. Next, we made our way to the orchid range, where we met a frog in the doorway. Most impressively, there were decorations for the harvest season flanking both sets of doors and a boisterously successful growing arch. We didn’t have time to tour the entire facility again, but the explicit use of space and attention to detail was a welcome contrast to years prior.

Next up was the Old Foundation after a nice cardio walk uphill. That remains essentially unchanged, except for the excess of trees and other debris blatantly left to overgrow the structure. Surely the roots alone are causing irreparable damages to the shapes of concrete rooms below. I also remember years ago that visitors would have no problem seeing the fireplace on the northernmost wall of the foundation, or the two stories beneath the ground. Now, it’s nowhere near the same caliber of visibility.

Ahead, we veered off the path to wander west across the bridge at the Great Falls. The very same balustrade post from years ago still stands cracked and badly in need of repairs, but we remain hopeful. We had to pause for lunch by the Great Oak Tree. It was just getting sunnier out and we had the distinct pleasure of befriending yet another, much larger frog in our trek back to the Coach Barn. This is where the real amazement started to settle in. Just as the two of us emerged to greet the Bull Durham statue, my eyes instantly darted to the gates to the mansion’s footprint. Gone were the sprays of ivy, cracks, and unblended patch-up jobs of the last year. Restored, clean, and painted a clean coat of ivory, the gates that once welcomed Doris Duke home and all her guests to their destination stood tall and proud. Naturally, we were inclined to take a closer look, because this was a splendid step in the right direction. And we were blown away with the steps toward a true vision that awaited us.

Yep. You heard right. Things within the realm of historic integrity are actually looking up. We aren’t about to overlook the catastrophic losses of the Duke Mansion (2016) or the Garden of Nations (2008), but we are here to serve as a source of encouragement and support for future endeavors to improve on what is left.

The mortar of walls along the borders of the Coach Barn and pillars that lead to the new pedestrian-accessible Coach Barn Gate, which offers a unique new trail for visitors to use. This was once a turn-of-the-century motorway for the Dukes and their company to drive along the banks of the Raritan and now gives an expansive look of wetlands and views of the same lovely river. As if this wasn’t enough of a re-ignition of hope and positivity, we decided to venture into the ‘arboretum’, which actually held up its name with some hints still lingering of a summer’s blooms.

The meditation garden was remade so effectively that we at the RRBlog want to give our compliments to the landscape team for this area. The tea house, babbling brooks, paths, and diverse array of non-native plant species all support the magnificent display. Icing on the cake? We got it. Despite the dramatic absence of a one-of-a-kind mansion, there is maintenance of the landscape of its footprint and the flanking palm room fountains.

Feel like another round? From the sound of Twitter, the Education Cottage is the revival of the Visitor’s Lodge that leads guests to the grassy esplanade of the greenhouses. We revel in what comes next in this pattern in pursuit of preservation. Until next time, we carry on the inspirations through Operation Orchid.

#JusticeForDoris