Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Reich Chancellery In May 1945

A mother and child play outside Albert Speer’s Reich Chancellery in the second week of May 1945, only days after the end of the war.

The balcony on which Hitler appeared for special occasions is visible in the background.

The hyper-efficient Germans always cleared streets immediately after air raids, which explains why streets in the photograph are free from debris.

By mid-May, the rest of the debris in the photograph had been plowed and deposited against and alongside the walls of the former Chancellery; the debris was to reach the floor of the balcony. This fact is known from countless photographs—by American, British and Russian soldiers as well as by professional photographers working for various news agencies—taken from May 16 onward, photographs that depict soldiers and visiting dignitaries posed atop the piles of debris immediately adjacent to “Hitler’s Balcony”.

Those other photographs allow the photograph above conclusively to be placed in the second week of May. It was taken sometime after the conclusion of The Battle Of Berlin but before the tons of debris had been shifted.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Guests At A Table We Did Not Spread

John George Brown (1831-1913)
The Boat Builder
Cleveland Museum Of Art

Oil On Canvas
30 1/2 Inches By 40 Inches

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Boredom Must Have Been Overwhelming

This rare color photograph, from May 1945, only days after the war’s end, shows recently-surrendered German soldiers interned in a British Prisoner Of War Camp in occupied Germany.

Hundreds of thousands of German soldiers spent weeks and weeks in such open-air camps before they were discharged and allowed to return to their homes.

The many dugouts must be beds the soldiers created for themselves. It must have been warmer sleeping in dugouts than on flat ground.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Fraxinus Americana

Andrew and I shall soon be homeowners, whether settlement is effected on November 18 or a few days later. We walked through the house this afternoon, and there is still considerable work to be done.

We bought an all-brick town home in a new development that features several residents-only amenities. The development includes a golf course, clubhouse with nonpublic restaurant, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, indoor and outdoor tennis courts, a private gymnasium with regulation basketball court, a private fitness center, and a private park. Access to the development is by private road, and only by private road, so the development should be very peaceful and very quiet.

There are only ten town homes in the entire development; all the other homes in the development are large single-family homes. The town homes, all ten in a single row, are situated right at the edge of the development’s private park, which means that Andrew and I shall have an enormous eighty-acre front yard in which to romp, with trees, shrubbery and flowers all professionally maintained.

Andrew and I will be the first to go to settlement on the town homes.

We chose this particular property because we liked the development and because we liked the unique design of the town homes.

The town homes are professionally designed. Each of the town homes features commissioned windows and commissioned doors and commissioned wallpapers and commissioned wall coverings and commissioned border papers and commissioned woods and commissioned kitchen and bath cabinetry and commissioned lighting fixtures and commissioned carpets, all designed by a single professional designer (whom we met).

The house Andrew and I selected will feature a color scheme of various shades of blues, ivories and grays (with a very sparing touch of rose and an even more sparing touch of lemon yellow), with white ash wood—Fraxinus Americana—prevailing in the kitchen and baths for both flooring and cabinetry, and white marble used for kitchen-tops and bath-tops. We thought ours was the most beautiful and most restrained of the ten town home designs. (I think it may have been the various kitchen and bath wallpapers that ultimately caused us to sign on the dotted line. The different kitchen and bath wallpapers are amazingly subtle and amazingly beautiful.)

There are noble and stately exterior masonry moldings above and around the front door and above and below all front windows, the first-floor front windows are floor-to-ceiling in height, and the roof has a remarkable steep pitch with intricate brick chimneys extending six and eight feet above the topmost roofline, all features of which contribute to a very beautiful and very distinctive front exterior.

From the front of the house, the town home appears to be two stories, but from the back of the house it is seen as three stories.

At the back of the bottom level is a giant garage large enough to accommodate four cars; in the middle of the bottom level is a utilities room; and at the front of the bottom level is a family room with three small windows at ground level and an enclosed stairwell to the main level. Andrew and I did not order the family room finished. We can have the family room finished at a later date if we choose.

On the main level, there is an entrance hall, a powder room, and an enclosed stairwell to the upper level, all on the Eastern front side of the house. A living room/dining room—with no partition, and with a large fireplace on the living-room side—runs the entire length of the Western side of the house, front to back. There is a deck off the dining room, with floor-to-ceiling French doors serving as passage. The effect is that of a supremely elegant shoebox-shaped room with giant windows at each end.

On the Eastern side of the house is the giant kitchen, which extends eighteen feet beyond the back wall of the town home (the builder terms the kitchen extension “the garden room”). The kitchen extension has three giant skylights, rows of windows on all three sides, and a set of floor-to-ceiling French doors leading to the same deck as may be reached from the dining room. The effect is a room utterly filled with light.

Between the kitchen and the dining room is a set of floor cabinets as well as a set of ceiling cabinets. The ceiling cabinets feature glass on both sides, a beautiful way of dividing the kitchen from the dining room—there is a keen sense of two separate spaces, and yet one may easily see from one room to the next.

The main floor has eleven-foot ceilings. There are beautiful crown moldings and chair moldings in the living room/dining room.

There are only two bedrooms on the upper level (we suspect this was a deliberate measure to discourage families with children from buying the town homes, since all ten town homes feature only two bedrooms). One bedroom runs the full front width of the house, with four large windows overlooking the park. This giant room, which also features a fireplace, may very well be our favorite room of the house. Its proportions are beautiful, and the views are beautiful.

The smaller bedroom, right across the hallway from the giant bedroom, is at the back of the house. Each bedroom has full bath facilities.

Andrew and I intend, at present, to furnish only three rooms of the house.

We will, of course, furnish the kitchen. We intend to buy a very large dining table and ten dining chairs so that visitors may come and eat whenever they want. There are built-in cushioned window seats on two sides of the kitchen extension—so, what with the dining chairs and the window seats, there will be plenty of kitchen seating for visitors.

We will furnish the front bedroom as a living room/library. We intend to buy bookcases, desks/modules (with chairs) for our computers and our sound system, and three sofas that may be converted into beds. Andrew and I intend to use the front bedroom permanently as our living room/library—and the room can serve as a lavish guest bedroom for visitors whenever needed.

The small bedroom will be furnished with the bedroom furniture we bought in Boston.

The main-level living room/dining room will not house a single piece of furniture for the foreseeable future—and we do not care if people make fun of this fact.

There are a couple of downsides to our soon-to-be new home.

Andrew and I will shortly be living ten miles further outside the city, and that will make our daily commute into the city longer. We will also be living twelve miles from Alec, Lizbeth and the kids, eleven miles from Alex, and ten miles from Andrew’s parents, a fact signifying that we shall have much more leisure-time driving in our future.

Because we shall be on the road more, Andrew and I have been car-shopping in order that we always have two cars at our disposal once we move into the new house. We are, alas, having difficulty making a decision which model to buy—and sales personnel are, I believe, tired of seeing Andrew and me enter local showrooms (since we always leave without making a purchase).

Much the same is true of our furniture-shopping: we are having trouble picking out anything. We cannot even find a kitchen table that will be ideal for the kitchen.

Our indecisiveness is causing us distress—and we are already asking ourselves whether it was a wise move to buy a designer property.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Old Women Of Reims 1917

During World War I, the French government commissioned thousands of color photographs.

Color film was to remain rare for another two decades, and the color film used in France during the war was undeniably primitive, yet France’s photographic archive of World War I is of an amazing standard, historic and unparalleled among countries fighting in the war.

In March and April 1917, photographers descended upon the destroyed city of Reims to photograph the city’s destruction—as well as the city’s inhabitants.

The photograph above was taken on March 28, 1917.

The photograph below was taken on April 5, 1917.