If he who has travelled and observed the skies of other climes will spend a few months on the banks of the Hudson, he must be constrained to acknowledge that for variety and magnificence American skies are unsurpassed.
Thus spoke Thomas Cole, who was born and grew up in England, but once discovered the beauty of the Catskills he remained forever faithful – so much so, that he went on to found America’s first major art movement, the Hudson River School.
An even better shelter (this time from the inevitable -and welcome- downpour/relief from the heat). Gothic Revival at its finest, a mansion worthy of its notable owners: William Paulding Jr., a New York City Mayor; George Merritt, a wealthy businessman; and Wall Street tycoon Jay Gould who updated some of the interior décor by commissioning furniture from the Herter Brothers, windows from Louis Comfort Tiffany, and paintings from the Knoedler Gallery. Thankfully, they still remain intact, and most of the furnishings on view are original.
On top of a mountain overlooking Uniontown sits the historic Summit Inn, first opened to the public in 1907. It was built as a mountain resort for Uniontown’s elite as, according to the hotel’s history page, due to the coal industry in the early 1900’s, Uniontown boasted one of the highest rates of millionaires per capita in the world(!). Their goal was to build a mountain resort of “exceptional quality and durability” and they did a great job with the Summit Hotel.
Today, managed by the third generation of the family that owns it since the 1960’s, it offers a historic ambience, magnificent views and, most importantly, proximity to Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob, which was the main reason of our visit.
We walk past the Lion House first; a large residence built in 1856 by Brigham Young, second President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to accommodate his extensive family. Brigham Young was a polygamist (a practice discontinued since the beginning of the 20th century) who fathered 57 children by his many wives, and was also father to a number of adopted, foster, and stepchildren. It is adjacent to his other residence, the Beehive House, built in 1854, which served as his primary residence as well as the offices for the Church and Brigham Young’s work as governor of Utah Territory.
Today, the Lion House is an event space, not open to the public for visits, but the Beehive House functions as a museum with volunteers (missionaries of the LDS church) giving free tours into the various rooms with period furniture – most of it original – and wonderful woodwork with bees, the emblem of Utah – curved everywhere.
Back for a walk along Church Street and the Battery, to see the mansions in daylight. They look even grander under the brilliant sun. There are so many landmarks in Charleston, you would be hard-pressed to find one that is not!
”On February 12, 1736 the Dock Street Theatre opened with a performance of The Recruiting Officer. Built on the corner of Church Street and Dock Street (now known as Queen Street), the Historic Dock Street Theatre was the first building in America built exclusively to be used for theatrical performances. Flora, the first opera performance in America, took place at the Historic Dock Street Theatre.”
In the mornings, when there is no show, you can walk inside, take a sit and enjoy the silence.
The one with the stunning, free-flying staircase that will have you stand there gawking for a long moment, at least until your guide rushes you on to the next room, to make space for the next group. There are quite a few magnificent mansions in Charleston but if you only have time for one, the Nathaniel Russel House is your absolute must-see.
”A National Historic Landmark, the Nathaniel Russell House Museum was built over a five-year period and completed in 1808 by Charleston merchant Nathaniel Russell. The house cost $80,000 to build, at a time when the average value of a home was $262. The home’s graceful, free-flying, three-story staircase is an architectural marvel with each cantilevered step supporting the one above and below it.” [source]
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