I didn’t eat or drink here, but the neon adorning a Spanish Revival building was pretty spectacular.
By BoLLNE boss-loans
I didn’t eat or drink here, but the neon adorning a Spanish Revival building was pretty spectacular.
In the year before my mother Jeanne Delano Martin was born (9-22-1923), her mother and father seemed to be enjoying their earliest years of marriage living in Sonoma County. Helen was 18 and Valentine Rudolph Otto Martin was 31. When Jeanne was born in Long Beach, the couple had come to Southern California to work in the film industry. But in 1922 they traveled quite a bit throughout California including this adventure at Camp Rose near Healdsburg.
Photo, Healdsburg Museum
Since the turn of the century (1900) this area of the Russian River was a favorite summer retreat of locals and visitors alike. But in the 1920′s it was developed into a full blown attraction with lodging, food, drinks and other recreational amenities.
A terrific suspended sign, apparently neon, directed people to the destination from central Healdsburg. Helen said they made the trip from Santa Rosa by Bus.
The Camp Rose Inn as Helen and Val saw it.
Another view showing the Inn but also a fair amount of cars and people.
A tavern and guest cottages were clustered above the river and along the hillside.
Fun on the Russian River. Helen in a rental row boat–but also a rental Camp Rose swim suite!
Val taking in the sun at the river beach. Note the row boat in the background. The beach required some work to maintain. After Rose Camp’s decline the beach took on more of a roughness as a river’s edge.
The Russian River at Camp Rose today. Through the years some of the cabins were demolished, burned down, or remodeled. But the 1970′s brought some new interest in Camp Rose.
The Camp Rose Inn was made into a restaurant and later a dinner theater. The restaurant no longer operates, but there is still the theater, home of The Camp Rose Players.
A number of the old cabins remain and are available as vacation rentals.
I took a trip to Los Angeles on Saturday to do some research at the downtown library. I snapped some shots as I walked about the richly historic downtown. Here’s the Loew’s State Theatre, 1921, 703 S. Broadway. The red brick and terracotta building is slated for adaptive reuse for residential lofts.
A highlight of the day was lunch at Coles for French Dip sandwiches.
I’m a big fan of Philippe’s but Cole’s is great too. Coles with its selection of draft beers and table service is something to look forward to.
The wood interior and comfortable red booths provide a great atmosphere.
The Palace Theatre, 1911, 630 S. Broadway. It was the third home of the Orpheum vaudeville circuit in Los Angeles. It is now the oldest remaining original Orpheum theatre in the country. The greatest singers, dancers, comedians, acrobats, and animal acts in vaudeville performed here for fifteen years, until the Orpheum moved to its fourth and final location at Ninth Street and Broadway in 1926.
G. Albert Lansburgh, who designed both the 1911 and 1926 Orpheum Theatres, was one of the principal theatre designers in the west between 1909 and 1930. In addition to commissions in Chicago, Kansas City, St. Louis and New Orleans, his works included the Warner Bros. Theatre Building in Hollywood (1927), and the interiors of the local Wiltern and El Capitan theatres.
Loosely styled after a Florentine early Renaissance palazzo, the façade features multicolored terra-cotta swags, flowers, fairies, and theatrical masks illustrating the spirit of entertainment. Four panels depicting the muses of vaudeville – Song, Dance, Music, and Drama – were sculpted by noted Spanish sculptor Domingo Mora. While the structure’s exterior displays Italian influences, its interior decoration is distinctly French, with garland-draped columns and a color scheme of pale pastels.
The theatre currently operates as a rental facility for special events and location filming.
I took a ride on the 1901 Angels Flight, the”World’s Shortest Railway.” It was built to move residents of the fashionable Victorian neighborhood, Bunker Hill, to the downtown flat land below.
Its creator was an engineer Col. James Ward Eddy. He was also Civil War hero and a friend of Abraham Lincoln’s.
Angels Flight at its original location, 1905. Photo Wikipedia Commons.
Angels flight first faced demolition in 1935, but Angelenos protested and it was saved. However the railway was closed in 1969 when the Bunker Hill area underwent horrible redevelopment which destroyed and displaced a community of almost 22,000 working-class families renting rooms in architecturally significant buildings, to a modern mixed-use district of high-rise commercial buildings and modern apartment and condominium complexes which imposed an extremely inappropriate design in what historically had been neighborhood of rich character. Note the great architecture in the photo. All demolished.
Angels Flight was reconstructed at 351 S. Hill Street, a half block away from its original site, and reopened in 1996. Sadly it closed once more in 2000 after an accident killed a passenger. But only a short time ago, in March, 2010, Angelenos and visitors once again were able to utilize and enjoy the ride on this historic funicular railroad. Angel Flight’s hydraulic system was re-engineered. The fare is ¢25 each way–or as they would say in the old days “two bits,” to denote a quarter of a dollar.
A view from the top of Angel’s Flight. That’s the Continental Building, 1903, located at 408 S. Spring Street. It was the first skyscraper built in Los Angeles.
For residents of Bunker Hill, Angels Flight was an important link to Grand Central Market, 317 S. Broadway, which opened in 1917. This view shows only a little of the neon displayed here.
Clifton’s Cafeteria terrazzo. One of the most ornate terrazzos you’ll ever see. Numerous panels depict defining Los Angeles sites.
Clifton’s Cafeteria is located at 648 S. Broadway. The interior is a unique wilderness wonderland with waterfall, stream and a forest chapel with a neon cross. And the food is good!
The Eastern Columbia Building, 1929, at 849 S. Broadway.
Jack In The Box #1. Was located at El Cajon Blvd. at 63rd. Jack in the Box was the first “hamburger stand” to utilize intercom technology and the drive-thru window. McDonald’s and Wendy’s didn’t have drive-thrus until the 1970s!
1951 Southern California. The rise of the car culture and rapid service convenience. It was the year Robert O. Peterson matched hamburgers with the speed and convenience of the automobile. An American Drive-Through icon was born, Jack In The Box.
Jack In The Box, 30th and Upas, North Park.
The Company has brilliantly kept pace or has been ahead of changing times. However in the process we are on the verge of losing the last remaining identifiable architectural elements of the original Jack In The Boxes. Why is this important to note and be concerned about? The answer is found in consideration of two great individuals and their legacies. Robert O. Peterson and his architect Russell Forester.
The story of San Diego’s cultural history can not be fairly told without a chapter about Robert Oscar Peterson, the founder of Jack In The Box. The brand is not only a San Diego success story, but there are at least 2100 shops in 18 States, making this a story of national significance as well.
But through and through it is all about San Diego. Peterson grew up in North Park. He attended Jefferson Grammar School and Graduated from Hoover High. He attended San Diego State majoring in economics and graduated from UCLA.
To pay for his last year of college he rented Balboa Park’s Cafe To The World (present site of the Timkin Gallery) and charged admission for Friday night dances. At least two notable names in history were a part of this enterprise. A young Gregory Peck tore tickets. Art Linkletter was a bouncer.
As stated in the above newspaper clip from 1983 “Robert Oscar Peterson has exerted a profound effect on the life of San Diego.” He was an active supporter of cultural and fine arts in San Diego. He was backer the Symphony and San Diego Zoo. And he had a great eye for architecture.
It could very well be argued Peterson’s best business decision was the choice of his architect, Russell Forester. He also grew up in San Diego–graduating from La Jolla High in 1938. From 1943 to 1946 he was a draftsman with the Army Corps of Engineers, along with another great name in San Diego architecture Lloyd Ruocco. Forester began his formal education in 1950 at the Institute of Design in Chicago.
Forester admirer Don Schmidt, recalls his conversation with Forester in 2000/2001. “I wrote him a letter and I followed up with a phone call. He didn’t know me from Adam, but he was extremely nice to me and was very patient. A rare person in any time! He worked for William Kessling in the late 40′s/early 50′s. Kessling was not technically an architect, so Russell would clean up the plans so they would be presentable to the city. He said the designs were all Kessling, including the famous McConnell House on Spindrift, photographed for Life magazine by Julius Shulman in 1947.”
The Peterson Residence in Point Loma, 1965. Russel Forester, Architect. Photos, Jaye Furlonger.
Russell Forester is listed among San Diego’s Master Architects in the City’s San Diego Modernism Historic Context Statement
Forrester brought forth Mies Van Der Rohe’s steel and glass design sensibility of the International Style. Here, however, the organic arrangement of space and gardens hint of Japanese inspiration.
The Peterson Residence, “The House Jack In The Box Built.”
The architecture is familiar to anyone who grew up in mid-century San Diego. It was so commonly a part of our urban landscape no one could have imagined the day these buildings would become rare or extinct. But that is what is happening. “Keeping up with the times” has meant more and more changes to the originals.
A “Mark II” Russell Forester Jack In The Box on Washington Street in San Diego undergoing change.
If there ever is a time for Jack In The Box to go “Back To The Future,” this would be it. While there are still a few shops around with some identifying Russel Forester features. It would be a worthy accomplishment to save one or two of the oldest shops, both Mark 1 and Mark II designs, as permanent landmarks and monuments to a great entrepreneur and brilliant architect. Doing so could have tremendous business potential as well. It’s a great P.R. opportunity and a chance to boost community historic character. Here are some great success stories to illustrate how this has worked elsewhere:
“Back To The Future” has proven very successful at the world’s oldest McDonald’s in Downey, CA.
The shop features all original neon trim and signage. An antique panel truck out front attracts passers by. Car clubs gather here regularly to show their shiny fenders as well as to chow on burgers and fries.
In addition to the fully restored hamburger stand, there’s a pavillion next door (red neon trim) that serves as indoor eating space, gift shop and McDonald’s history museum. It is simply a wonderful educational experience–especially for young people to learn about an exciting by-gone era, American mid-century.
Even the folks not dining at the museum pavillion have a chance to learn history while waiting in line to place their order.
Besides being a busy food operation, the site is a source of community pride. People gather here to socialize, to see and be seen, and to help create the sense of community that is sometimes lost in the fast pace urban landscape today. It is great P.R. for McDonald’s. And another example of the many benefits of historic preservation.
Another successful “Back To The Future” operation is Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank. Fully restored to its 1949 glory with a hint of 50′s Googie on the outside patio area. These photos were taken close to midnight. The restaurant was still packed with business.
Bob’s Big Boy, Burbank is a museum in itself. Packed with historic mementos and old photos. You can even sit at the booth where The Beatles had their meal.
As with the McDonald’s in Downey, vintage car cruises are popular here. Bob’s has even brought back car-hop service for designated busy nights.
The Retro business model has worked so well for Bob’s, they were able to recognize a golden opportunity for expanding it. Here’s the story of Harvey’s Broiler, later known as Johnie’s, in Downey:
What you see here is a work in progress. The on going reconstruction of the legendary Harvey’s/Johnie’s Broiler in Downey, CA.
The effort exerted in the attempted demolition and then the successful saving of this 1958 diner is an epic tale.
In its mid century hay-day, the site was a mecca for teenage car-cruise culture. It was a classic Googie style diner and car hop. It has been the site of countless film and television shoots.
It declined in the 80′s and 90′s. By the end of 2001 it shut down as a diner and became a used car dealership. But an appreciative following was not happy saying good-bye to their beloved diner. A coalition “Save Harvey’s Broiler” was formed in 2002. It began the process of nominating the building for the California Register of Historic Resources. The owner, however, was not cooperative.
Then one Sunday afternoon, a man named Ardas Yanik “allegedly” hopped aboard a bull dozer and maniacally attacked the building. As debris spilled helter skelter onto the sidewalks, horrified and outraged citizens called the police. But by the time the crime was stopped, the damage was done. Mr. Yanik, who was identified as the lessee of the property, pleaded no contest to three misdemeanor charges involving unpermitted destruction of a structure, conducting the demolition in the presence of live wires, and illegal dumping. He was sentenced to three years of probation and community service.
The building seemed mortally wounded. However a coalition of concerned interests and the sheer will of a community would not let this cherished landmark go away.
Seizing a great opportunity to operate another retro diner, Bob’s Big Boy is rebuilding Harvey’s Broiler, bringing it back to its former glory–including car hop service.
Does this “Mark I” Jack In The Box at El Cajon Boulevard at Kansas Street in Robert Peterson’s childhood neighborhood of North Park have retro- theme potential? It is one of the oldest (1961) Jack In The Boxes with remaining Russel Forester features.
This section of El Cajon Boulevard is part of historic U.S. Highway 80 “America’s Broadway.” It is an area with all the elements in place to become a mid century revival zone. First, the shop appears completely restorable. Reinstalling the criss-cross pattern steel siding at the walk up window, the historic neon signage, and the The Box on top with the large clown head looking down would draw great attention and from locals and visitors alike.
A restored Jack In The Box drive-in would have a great next-door historic neighbor, Rudford’s. The two could be a powerful one-two punch in attracting the kind of activity Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank and McDonald’s in Downey is known for. Vintage car cruises and neighborhood gatherings.
El Cajon Boulevard was once known as San Diego’s car cruise mecca. Ceremonial recreations of that era would be great fun–and great business.
This nearby Denny’s with its many preserved late 1960′s Googie elements is also reflective of this important era of El Cajon Boulevard.
El Cajon Boulevard’s Historic Red Fox Room at Layfayette Hotel.
Other eateries may fit in as well because of their historic neon. There could be possible “Taste Of” events during the year featuring food sampling at these various landmarks.
But there are more possibilities to explore as well.
Former Jack In The Box site at 24th and Market in San Diego in the 1970′s.
Note the “spider leg” columns, the exquisite neon lettering above the drive through, and of course the “clown head” jack-in-the-box sign.
24th and Market today. The “spider legs” remain, but the character, as well as the proprietorship, has changed.
Catty corner to the original Jack In The Box site is a newer very large one. It clearly seeks a community character appearance rather than a typical one-size-fits-all look.
Perhaps the old site could be reclaimed and then both sites could work for one common purpose. Have the newer site as the main dining area. Restore the original site and establish it as a cultural history museum and monument to Peterson and Forester.
There’s a timely opportunity at hand to create a win-win-win situation. Make a great business decision based on the appeal of nostalgia and fond memories of the “Baby Boomer” generation. To teach history–cultural and architectural–to their children and grandchildren. And to enhance neighborhood revitalization.
All these suggestions point to one thesis. Concerned citizens don’t want to see a great legacy disappear in the name of progress. Mid Century San Diego had a lot to say about the the shape of Modern America. We contributed astronauts, entertainers, aviators, business people, scientists, artists and architects–just to mention a few categories. Robert Peterson and Russel Forester were among our greats.
Resources for this article:
Special thanks to Jaye Furlonger. Photos, newspaper clippings, and insight on the Peterson Residence.
And Dionne “Back To The Future” Carlson.
The invasion began in 1962. Through the mid 1960′s until 1974 many areas of the U.S.A became the land of giants. Enormous fiberglass men, some twenty feet tall, stood over muffler shops, miniature golf courses, tire stores, and other venues. This population explosion of big men occurred because businesses with them became hugely successful immediately after installation. Back in the 1960′s you could order one for as little as $1,800. With added features and accessories–maybe a hamburger, golf club, or lumberjack ax, and other ad-ons including various garments, hats or facial hair–the price could be as much as $2,800. The basic big man ordered in quantity by a franchise chain could be purchased for a mere $1,000 a unit.
There was a female version produced as well. She was rendered with features resembling Jackie Kennedy. The tall figure had a removable dress and wore a bikini bathing suit underneath.
The giant in the above photo was called Malibu Man. He was a hamburger chef towering over a burger joint on Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) in Malibu. Steve Dashew the entrepreneur behind these big men took special satisfaction with this particular model. It was coincidentally built next to where his ex girlfriend lived. “I thought she’d appreciate the remembrance.”
The figure still stands, but perhaps in a most revealing sign of the times, he is now called Salsa Man. He sports a mustache, wears a sombrero, and has a serape over his shoulder. The hamburger has been replaced by a tray of Mexican food. 
This is a detailed replica of Villa dei Papiri, a Roman villa in the town of Herculaneum, which was buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Much of the ancient sight was visible only by camera inserted through shafts drilled in the solidified volcanic flow. The man that could afford such a venture was J. Paul Getty. His Museum overlooks the Pacific Ocean in Malibu, just off of PCH.
The gardens, the beauty of the architecture, the gorgeous bluff overlooking the Pacific makes the J. Paul Getty Museum (Now simply called The Villa) a soul soothing place on earth. It reopened in February of 2006 after nearly 12 years and $275 million dollars of remodeling. The museum previously housed both ancient and modern art. Then a second Getty Museum was built in Brentwood to house the modern collection. The Malibu museum closed to reconfigure for the ancient collection and to install teaching/educational facilities.
The original version of the museum was completed in 1974. Getty was living in England at the time and died before he could make the trip back to view his creation. The sorting out of his estate took until 1982 when the J. Paul Getty Museum became the world’s most richly endowed exhibition. Getty bequest 1.2 billion dollars for his art house. 
Another monument achieved by extreme wealth is Hearst Castle. This is the magnificent Neptune swimming pool, an architectural masterpiece surrounded by fourth-century Roman columns, Italian bas-reliefs, and contemporary statues from Paris.
The pool is lined with marble quarried in Vermont. The pool was enlarged twice after the original was completed in 1924. The pool as it is today was completed in 1936. As big as it appears, it is some 60 feet shorter than an Olympic size pool.
Hearst Castle in San Simeon is exactly half way between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Either city is two hundred miles away.
This being a “house” with 165 bedrooms and 41 bathrooms, there are 5 different tours offered. Ticket prices range from $20 to $30 for adults. Well worth every penny. Well worth repeat visits to experience all five tours–which I haven’t done yet. But it is on the agenda. 
There’s something enchanting about the mix of scents from the ocean and the red woods of Big Sur. The calming peace and quiet found here attracted the likes of Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth, just to mention a few. And a few of them stayed here at Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn. I had noticed the sign on many a trip through Big Sur. When I finally gave it a try, I found myself a new favorite place to stay.
Helmuth Deetjen, a Scandinavian, settled in the quiet secluded Castro Canyon of Big Sur in the 1930′s and built this barn. Today it is the reception office and dining room of the Inn.
The rustic guest cabins were built by Helmuth in the manner he learned in Norway. The cabins trail up and are tucked into the pastoral canyon.
The rooms are quaint and cozy. There are no televisions, stereos or phones in the rooms. Cell phones do not have reception at Deetjens. Children under 12 are only allowed if the occupants rent all the shared rooms and walls of a freestanding cabin. You get peace and quiet here.
Wood burning stove, copper kettle and ornate chair. Deetjen’s has a time travel feel. It is easy to imagine the atmosphere of the 1930′s here.
A garden paradise is one step out the door. 
References and links
Territory known today as southern Arizona and northern Sonora Mexico was originally Pima Indian territory, the Pimeria Alta. Their settlements nestled along various river tracks. Thus the name “Pima,” given by the Spanish, indicates “river people.” The natives had an agrarian society that mastered irrigation with diverted river water. Growing corn, beans and squash. They were artisans. Pima made baskets with their distinctive coil construction and geometric patterns which are highly desirable to this day. Their architecture used bent tree saplings to form dome shaped structures. They had their own government, political hierarchy, and means to defend themselves or attack outside forces.
But in the end they were no match for the Spaniards.
A church has been present at Tumacacori since 1753. The structure as it exists now, San Jose de Tumacacori, began in 1800.
The Jesuit Missionary Priest Eusebio Kino (1645-1711) first met the natives at Tumacacori in 1691. He was an educated man that came to devote his life to Missionary work. In the league of Spaniards entering New Spain for such work, he was the “kind” Padre. He took into account Indian ways. He skillfully taught during his 24 years in the region. The Pimas were receptive pupils in learning about wheat, livestock and fruit trees. He presented Christianity by means of pageantry and ritual rather than dogma. He offered communion and baptized children but then also taught many practical skills. He built other missions. He also established and mapped supply routes throughout the region. He was a “good” soldier of souls for the church and Spain.
The circular mortuary chapel at Tumacacori.
The Pimas were gently “tamed” under Kino. But some 40 years after Kino, Spain administered the region far more harshly. Pimas found themselves in slave labor at mines and ranches. They rebelled in 1751. At no point were the Apaches agreeable to foreign occupation. Their insurgency had been continual. A presidio built at Tubac was the result. But Apache attacks continued until the late 19th century as the territory transitioned from Spainish domain to independent Mexico, and finally to the U.S. in 1853.
The grave sites are only from the late 19th and early 20th century. Evidence of mission era graves has vanished.
The Soto Family lived in Tumacacori at the turn of the century.
The weathered soft curves of Tumacacori clay walls cast interesting curvaceous shadows.
Tumacacori National Monument is located 45 miles south of Tucson and 19 miles north of Nogalas. It came under protection of the U.S. Forrest Service, and later the National Park Service, by executive order of President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908.
From the comfort of air conditioned automobiles the wonders of the Mojave Desert are viewed much differently today than in the times when names such as Death Valley and Funeral Mountains were chosen for these locations.
A lady meditates amongst the mineral deposits of Death Valley known as Artist’s Palette.
I’m not sure prospectors of olden days spent much time meditating here in the other- world beauty of Death Valley. Recreational communing with nature would have been an unimaginable concept to them I would think. Livelihood if not existence here was tough business. Prospector Jack Keene scratched around the Funeral Mountains without success for some 8 years. But his dogged persistence paid off. He and fellow digger Domingo Etcharren hit pay dirt –gold– on the Death Valley slope of the Funeral Mountains in late 1903. Their 1904 claim was named “Wonder.” Both sold their claim for $45,000. The yield of the mine –gold and silver– was estimated at nearly a million dollars. It was part of the “Bullfrog” lode that created the city of Rhyolite.
The Keane Wonder Mill. The raw ore was deposited here from mine buckets delivered by a tram wire. Ore was crushed then pulverized before the valuable elements were separated mechanically, chemically, by slurry and wash.
Domingo Etcharren went on to buy a store in Darwin. Jack Keane returned to his homeland Ireland where he landed in prison after a sentence of 17 years for killing someone.
In 1908 the mine site had a house, an office building and a cookhouse. There were plans for an ice house as well. By 1909, 50 men were working at the mill and the mine. Work also began on a cyanide mill used for separating gold from rock.
The Wonder Tram.
The mill and tram were powered by gravity. With an elevation drop of 1, 300 feet from mine shafts to mill, loaded ore buckets traveled a descent of about a mile pushed by gravity on a tram wire stretched between eleven towers. The energy generated not only sustained the tram but pumped water, operated an ore crusher and the mill. The self sustaining power concept seems to be a technology applicable today somewhere, somehow.
“Old Dinah” a steam engine tractor used to haul Wonder ore to the train line at Rhyolite. On the third trip, the tractor blew a flue and was abandoned on the spot. Now it commands tourist attention at the Furnace Creek Ranch.
Keane’s Wonder mine shut down in 1912 with the announcement it was tapped out. It started up again in 1914 but went went idle once more in 1916. It restarted in 1935 to rework the tailings with Cyanide. The Chemical was stored in these large tanks.
The mine closed again in 1937. The next interest in Wonder came in 1940.
The tram was refurbished. Machines retooled and geared up. But operation was not meant to be. In 1942 all usable gear except the tram was moved to other mines. In 1972 the abandoned mine site came under the protective reach of the National Park Service.
Rhyolite. It was once the third largest city in Nevada. Boomtown it was. Between 1904 and 1908 she was the queen of mining towns. Not just your ordinary canvass and wood makeshift structures. Rhyolite was solidly built with obvious intentions of staying around awhile. It boasted all the cosmopolitan features. Water and power. There were forty-five saloons, an opera house, an orchestra, a number of dance halls, a slaughterhouse, two railroad depots, and three public swimming pools serving as many as 10,000 residents.
Looking out the school house window openings to the town. The Cook Bank building, left. Overbury Building (jewelry store), center. General Store, right.
Two things killed Rhyolite. The gold mines tapped out. City investors pulled out when the national economy turned sour. By 1911 the population was down to 675. In 1916 utilities were shut off. Boomtown became ghost town.
Cook Bank Building
This substantial structure of 3 stories cost $90,000. It had marble floors imported from Italy, mahogany woodwork, electric lights, telephone and inside plumbing. Various interior components and fixtures were sold off when Rhyolite shut down. Staircases, banisters, floors, etc., live on today as parts of various buildings scattered through the region.
Rhyolite is perhaps the best known of all ghost towns. Likely the most photographed. It has served as a set for numerous motion pictures and music videos.
Three Railroad lines came through Rhyolite. The Depot today appears in use by someone. The structure seems restorable to me.
Bottle House of 1906.
The walls are completely made of glass bottles. The house has lived on through the years as a tourist attraction. However upon my visit I didn’t see any caretaker. It seemed closed up.
John Lennon’s famous quote “Before Elvis there was nothing” could especially be said about Giotto di Bondone (1266-1337). When the glory that was Rome faded into the Middle Ages, art became highly stylized and flat dimensionally. Naturalistic perspective and depiction vanished. At the precipice of The Renaissance Giotto nearly stands alone in his discarding the centuries old framework of painting and art. Not since Roman times was the human form naturally depicted. He reinvented soft rounded deep modeling effects using light and dark values. Giotto marks the turning point toward The Renaissance. The above Madonna and Child is in Firenze’s Uffizi Gallery.
Giotto was also an accomplished architect. The Bell Tower at Santa Maria del Fiore, Firenze, is his. He never saw the completed work. He died three years after construction began. It took more than fifty years to build.
Giotto’s bell tower is sublime. But the grandiose architectural element of Santa Maria del Fiore is the celebrated dome by Filippo Brunelleschi. The achievement can not be over stated. Architectural dome engineering and construction know-how died with the Romans. It wasn’t until Brunelleschi closely studied the Roman artifacts first hand (especially the well preserved Pantheon in Rome) that architecture was reinvented. Being this was unexplored design in its day, Brunelleschi faced a counter current of resistance and opposition. The Guild of Wool Merchants who sponsored and over saw the project wanted to know just how in the world such a large dome could be accomplished. Brunelleschi asked the members of the committee to demonstrate to him how they would stand an egg on the table. No one could. “Impossible,” they said. With that, Brunelleschi cracked the end off the egg and proceeded to stand the shell on the table. When the members of the committee protested that any one of them could have done that, Brunelleschi explained that was exactly his point. If he told the committee how he planned to execute his concept, all would claim that they could have done it. After several months of arguing, the committee allowed him to proceed and work began on the dome in the summer of 1420.
The Pantheon, Rome, A.D. 118-25. Besides its position as one of history’s greatest architectural masterpieces, its survival from ancient times to modern day Rome is miraculous. Step in from the noisy hot streets of Rome to a cool calm quiet atmosphere where time seems frozen. You may almost hear the distant whisper of Marcus Aurelius. That the structure is so well preserved is a testament to Roman engineering and master building. One can only ponder a question; if the Pantheon had not survived into Brunelleschi‘s time, how long to reinvent such engineering from scratch?
Locals simply refer to Santa Maria del Fiore as “Il Duomo.” It remains to this day the most iconic Feature of Firenze. A site on the landscape still commanding the most attention.
Michaelangelo’s David, Firenze Italy.
Michaelangelo went to school, so to speak, with The Duomo before designing Saint Peters in Rome.
Another source of Michaelangelo’s admiration was Lorenzo Ghiberti’s Doors of the Baptistery, Firenze.
Michaelangelo fondly referred to them as “The Gates of Paradise.”
The doors consist of ten panels. Each frame depicts a scene from either the New or Old Testament. Ghiberti used a painter’s approach to composition but used his sculpture and architectural skill to create enormous visual depth. As an architect, Ghiberti was the only other considered candidate besides Brunelleschi for designing the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore. And Brunelleschi was a possible choice for the commission Baptistery doors. Much competition for the prized jobs during The Renaissance.
The Gates of Paradise have been removed from the Baptistery and have undergone restoration. Replicas are there now. The originals will be kept indoors under a protective transparent encasement after completing a world tour. They maybe coming to a city near you.
Smithsonian Magazine has a complete story of the restoration and history of these magnificent panels.
Firenze (Florence), Italy. That cradle of The Renaissance and birthplace of modern Western Civilization. Trove of priceless art and architecture. It is only natural to view the parade of Calico Storico (Historic Soccer) with its Renaissance costumes as a quaint colorful and charming affair. In perfect fitting with all that is great with Firenze and Italy at large.
But I truly didn’t grasp what I was looking at. When I heard “Historic Soccer” I figured this was in some way akin to modern soccer.
It is not. These are mean nasty tough guys that play a sport that makes rugby look like a game of paddy cake.
A recorded date of 1530 is affixed to the beginning of Calico Storico, but it actually goes as far back as the 1400′s.
The child will not be participating. Nor will the older members of the parade. Only men in their 20′s and 30′s have the bodies capable of enduring the punishment suffered in this “sport.” A later day rule prohibits criminals from participating to somewhat mitigate blood letting.
A good wholesome church function? The four major churches of Firenze each sponsor a team. Here the white team is sponsored by Santo Spirito.
The ball isn’t kicked in this version of soccer. A heavy leather bladder is hauled through a maul and melee across a field. The “goal” is to heave the ball over a 4 foot wall at either end of the grounds. Players literally wrestle, shove and bare knuckle punch or slug. It is part “Fight Club,” carnal demolition derby in some semblance of a ball game. By the end players are near naked from gear being ripped to shreds. Bruised, bloodied, dirty, sweaty and spitting mud. A splendid time for all!
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