Thursday, July 30, 2015

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 205

Tour des Fiefs, Sancerre, France

On a hilltop in central France overlooking the Loire River is the medieval town of Sancerre.  This postcard published by Magasins Modernes of Sancerre has a photo titled on the reverse as “Tour des Fiefs” or in English “Tower of Strongholds” and refers to the only remaining tower of the feudal chateau originally begun about 1152 with this tower dated as 1390.  An unused card that was published in Europe it can be dated by the deckled or scalloped edges to between the years 1920 to about 1960 when this type of edge was popular.

Sancerre’s hilltop location at 1000 feet (312 meters) made it a natural fortress and the castle built by Stephen I provided even more protection.  In times of war a fire was lit on the top of the tower called Saint George that could be seen for 40 kilometers or 25 miles.  This fortification repelled the English forces twice during the Hundred Years’ War while much of the surrounding area was destroyed.  The name of the town is thought to have come from Roman times and be a shortening of Sacred to Caesar or Saint-Cere. 

Trivia:  Stephen I (1151-1190) was among the first feudal lords to abolish serfdom.  He built a six-towered castle on the hilltop that was added to and destroyed, rebuilt and torn down several times over the centuries.  Joan of Arc’s comrade-in-arms, Jean V de Bueil used Sancerre as his headquarters.  This is also the town was where the Huguenots held out during the War of Religion against the king’s Catholic forces for 8 months in what is called the Siege of Sancerre (1572-1573).  That siege was one of the last times the trebuchet or sling weapons were used in warfare.  Like many other fortresses of that period the king ordered it destroyed in 1621 to prevent further resistance.  Ironically, during World War II Sancerre was a regional command center for the French Resistance. 

Today the economy of Sancerre and the surrounding region is mainly based on the production of red, white and rose wine.  The goat cheese “Crottin de Chavignol” is also produced here, taking its name from the nearby village of Chavignol. Visitors to Sancerre can walk the old twisted streets and see many buildings that have survived from the Middle Ages.

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 204

 Castle Sinclair, Caithness, Scotland

The color picture postcard above shows the remains of Castle Sinclair also called Castle Girnigoe located in Caithness, Scotland.  Caithness is in the north of Scotland with this castle, one of the earliest seats of Clan Sinclair, about 3 miles north of Wick on the east coast.  Our line of McKays or MacKay, as it was in Scotland, also came from Caithness and lived in the northern coastal town of Thurso hence I was particularly taken with this card.  The postcard is a "Hail Caledonia" product published by Whiteholme Ltd. of Dundee.

Castles usually seem to have interesting histories and this one is no exception.  William Sinclair, the 2nd Earl of Caithness, who died at the battle of Flodden in 1513, had the castle built sometime between 1476 and 1496 possibly on the ruins of an earlier structure.  Almost 65 years later in 1577 John, Master of Caithness, held his father the 4th Earl, George Sinclair, prisoner in the castle for seven years where he eventually died.  In 1606 the building was extended to include a gatehouse and other buildings that were surrounded by a curtain wall with a drawbridge spanning a rock-cut ravine.   Following the expansion the then Earl obtained permission from Parliament to change the name from Girnigoe to Castle Sinclair; although, both names remain in use.  As part of the renovation a small secret chamber was constructed in the vaulted ceiling of the kitchen with a rock-cut stairway down to the sea, and a well was built in the lowest level of the tower.  Many castles and manor houses had "priest-holes" or secret hiding places where a priest or some other person could hide in time of need. About this same time escape routes were also often built. 

The castle remained with the Sinclairs until 1676 when the Earl’s widow remarried John Campbell of Glen Orchy who claimed the title Earl and the castle.  George Sinclair of Keiss, who claimed rightful inheritance, stormed the castle in 1679 resulting in the Battle of Altimarlech (1680).  The Campbells were victorious.  In 1690 George Sinclair again besieged the castle.  It was thought that the castle sustained severe damage from cannon fire during that siege but the story has been discounted.  Nevertheless the castle became a ruined shell and until recently it was allowed to fall in decay.  Today the Clan Sinclair Trust has begun restoration work in an attempt to preserve the importance of the building.  Once work is complete it will become one of the few castles open to the public and accessible to handicapped people. 

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 203

 Lyons Ferry, 1923

This unused vintage postcard shows a 1923 photograph of a raft, holding two automobiles, that was called Lyon’s Ferry and established in 1858 to carry passengers across the Snake River.  There was no information on the card to indicate the photographer or the publisher/printer.  

A ferry was used at this crossing until 1968.   A bridge was built over the Snake River in 1914 downstream from the ferry near the town of Starbuck, Washington.  Another steel truss bridge was constructed in 1927 and used for crossing the Columbia River at Vantage, Washington.  It was later replaced with a larger four-lane bridge in 1963.  At that time the older bridge was dismantled and reassembled at Lyons Ferry Park in 1968 where it is used today.  The old ferry is still located at the park but no longer in use.

Lyons Ferry Park was named after the ferry and was a state park from 1971 to 2002 when ownership transferred to the Port of Columbia where it is called Lyons Ferry Park and Lyons Ferry Marina today.   The park and marina are located on State Route 261 near the confluence of the Snake and Palouse Rivers.  

The Lower Monumental Dam erected in the late 1960s formed Lake Herbert G. West and the park is considered to be on the lake.  It includes the marina together with swimming and picnic areas open to the public. 

For more information, see:,_Washington

Thursday, July 9, 2015

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 202

Broadway High School, ca 1904

When it opened in 1902 Broadway High School on Capitol Hill was the first dedicated high school in Seattle and was called simply the Seattle High School.  Seven years later the name was changed to Broadway High School after the street that runs in front of the building and a second high school, Lincoln, had opened in the Wallingford neighborhood.   It was no longer used as a high school after 1946 but became instead of technical/vocational school for adults and still later in 1966 Seattle Community College purchased it for the central campus.  Today most of the original building is no longer standing, only the auditorium, Broadway Performance Hall, is used as a venue for arts and lectures and some large stones were also salvaged from the front entrance. 

The postcard above shows the building as it was sometime between 1902 and 1907 when it was still called The Seattle High School and when postcards had undivided backs.  The publisher is identified as The Puget Sound News Company, Seattle, Washington with the printer as A N C Excelsior of New York, Leipzig, Dresden, and Berlin, Germany.  The company logo is a three-leaf clover with an omega shaped border (see below).

Logo of A N C Excelsior

The architects for Broadway High School were William Boone (1830-1921) and James M. Corner.  Boone was a prominent pre-fire Seattle architect who had worked previously with George Meeker, William H. Willcox and finally J. M. Corner.  Many of the buildings he designed were destroyed during the fire.   Some of Seattle’s earliest brick buildings were designed by him some still standing in the Pioneer Square district others were destroyed during the Great Fire of 1889. 

Finding the card in a Pike Place Market shop was a delight since my father and his sister both attended and graduated from Broadway High School.  This yearbook picture of them as seniors in 1931, below found on, added to the family history also.   It was touching and informative to see what was said about both Dad and Betty.   He always had an infectious ready laugh, was indeed generous and very good-natured, and liked and respected by many all of his life.   Mom used to tell us that Dad held the record for running the stairs at Broadway High that was unequaled for several years.  Both Dad and Betty enjoyed music, he played the violin in the school orchestra (one of his great-grandsons plays violin today) and had a good singing voice.  Betty was a year younger and had skipped a grade so they graduated the same year.  She played the piano and sang also.

Broadway High School Yearbook "Sealth" 1931

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Thursday, July 2, 2015

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 201

Wrecked Strathblane by Will A. Barrows, 1901

The 1901 Pacific County Historical Society painting on this vintage postcard above is by Will A. Barrows of Chinook, Washington and shows the wreck of the Strathblane, a British cargo ship that ran aground off the mouth of the Columbia River at low tide during a storm on 3 November 1891 due to a navigational error.   The ship was a Glasgo-Built iron steamer, 235.4 feet long, 1363 tons, and had a 37.4 foot beam.  It left England sailing first for Hawaii and then going on to Portland, Oregon to pick up more cargo.  The construction of the North Head Lighthouse in 1898 was as a direct result of this wreck. 

There are several different accounts of the event but all seem to agree that the weather was extreme.   This area was called the Graveyard of the Pacific because there had been so many wrecks here before the lighthouse was built.  The stranded ship broke apart before rescuers could get to it.  Captain Cuthell and six or seven crewmembers either went down with the ship or at the last minute got into a small life boat that capsized and all drowned or were swept into the roiling sea by wind and waves and perished.   The remaining crew of between 21 and 26 members managed to get into the tender boat and “were rescued, mostly by trained stallions that swam out in the surf to bring in survivors” since rescuers in boats from shore had to turn back due to the terrible storm conditions.  

A 16 year old cabin boy, Charles Angus “Jack” Payne, was one of those who survived.   Jack joined the staff of the Chinook Observer newspaper and wrote colorful reports about pioneer life on the Columbia.  His living quarters were on the second floor above the printing room and made to look like a small ship’s stateroom with a built-in bunk, a porthole window, and a ship’s clock. 

A navigational error was blamed on defective chronometers by Mate Murray who survived the wreck and reported that he and Captain Cuthell had taken measurements coming away with differing numbers.  Both readings turned out to be significantly off track, putting the ship between 20 and 40 miles further out to the west than it actually was. 

The postcard was published by Photo-O’Neil of Long Beach, Washington and has a brief explanatory statement on the reverse.

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