Thursday, March 31, 2016

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 240

Blair Castle, exterior view

My nephew’s bride and her father know that I collect postcards and very kindly sent me a huge stack of travel cards that had been gathered by another relative who had since passed away.  The batch they sent included these three of Blair Castle, Perthshire, Scotland. 

Blair Castle is the ancestral home of Clan Murray and is located in Glen Garry, commanding a strategic position on the main route through the central Highlands.  Legend has it that a neighbor started building the castle on the Earl of Atoll’s land in 1269 while the Earl was away on crusade.  When he returned the Earl complained about the interloper to King Alexander III and won back his land.  He then proceeded to incorporate the new tower into his own castle.  David II Strathbogie, Earl of Atholl forfeited the lands and title, in 1322 for rebellion against Robert the Bruce.  The earldom was then transferred to a half brother, John Stewart (1440-1512).  In 1629 John Murray was created Earl of Atholl and the title has since remained with the Murray family.  Blair Castle was taken over by Oliver Cromwell’s army in 1650 but later restored to the Murrays by Charles II.   The current Duke, Bruce Murray, lives in South Africa not in Blair Castle.

Blair Castle Ballroom

As with many old castles this one has been added to and renovated several times during the centuries.  The last main remodel was the addition of a new ballroom in 1885.  The castle has been open to the public since 1936 and contains displays of weapons, trophies, paintings and furniture among other things collected by the Murray family over many generations.  There is also a garrison for the Atholl Highlanders, the only legal private army in Europe.  The grounds appear in the national listing of significant gardens found in the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland.  

Knight in armor

Many thanks and appreciation to Kelsey & Jim for thinking of me and sending the postcards.

For more information, see:

Thursday, March 24, 2016

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 239

Tampa Bay Hotel, ca 1891

Today’s postcard was originally issued in the 1890s shortly after the Tampa Bay Hotel was completed in 1891.  Designed by architect John A. (J.A.) Wood and financed by the railroad developer and builder, Henry Bradley Plant (1819-1899), who also organized the Plant System a railway, steamboat, hotel company.   The Tampa Bay Hotel boasted accommodations of over 500 rooms and was located near the terminus of Plant’s Atlantic Coast Line railroad as a resort destination.  This reproduction appears to have been issued as part of the 100th anniversary of the hotel and dates from 1994.  One hopes the 'gators on the card are for decoration only and not to be expected swimming in the water along with all the tourists.

Today the building has been incorporated into the University of Tampa with the south wing housing the Henry B. Plant Museum.  The entire building is listed as a U.S. National Historic Landmark.  The construction cost was over 3 million dollars, covers 6 acres, and is a quarter mile long.  The elevator, the first installed in Florida, still works today and is one of the oldest continually operating elevators in the nation.  A luxury hotel, all the rooms and suites were the first to have electric lights; telephones and most also included private bathrooms complete with full-sized tubs.  Most average hotels of that era charged $1.25 to $2.00 a night as compared to $5.00 to $15.00 a night at the Tampa Bay Hotel.  The hotel grounds included a golf course, bowling alley, racetrack, casino, an indoor heated pool, and covered 150 acres.  Plant selected the Moorish Revival theme because he thought the exotic design would appeal to widely traveled Victorians.  The building has six minarets, four cupolas, and three domes.

The hotel operated from 1891 to about 1931 but was closed during the Great Depression and was empty from 1931 to 1933.  In late 1933 Tampa Junior College received permission to move into the hotel and began using the old suites as classrooms and offices.  The college was expanded and became the University of Tampa.  The Tampa Municipal Museum, now the Henry B. Plant Museum, was established by the city to preserve the hotel and co-exist with the university.  The University signed a 99 year lease with the city in 1941 and pays $1.00 year.  The lease includes the grounds and has several sculptures and a botanical garden.  A non-profit corporation, Friends of Plant Park, assist with the maintenance, restoration and preservation of the grounds.  The museum is open to the public and hosts an annual Victorian Christmas Stroll. 

Two 1994 postcards showing the University of Tampa.  

For information about Henry B. Plant, J. A. Wood and the hotel, see:

There is also a small booklet available through the museum "Moments in Time" about the Tampa Bay Hotel, 1891-1931, published by the Henry B. Plant Museum that includes many photographs and interesting historical facts.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

From Alcatraz to minimum security . . .

 "I'd like to file a complaint about unlawful confinement."

The six weeks of unlawful confinement without due process has ended.  Magic Rose the cat whisperer gave us a list of instructions that included removing the two chairs and all other items except the litter box and the now slightly less suspicious and fear free safe house carrier in the guest room of the north house where TBS has been staying, here dubbed as Alcatraz.

When Rose arrived she asked for two towels.  We stayed outside the room as she entered the "cell" with one towel, shut the door and emerged a few noisy scuffling, growling, howling, and hissing moments later with TBS locked in the carrier.  Rose said all went very well, TBS only needed minimal encouragement, unfolding the towel and letting it sway a tiny bit as it was held, to persuade her to enter the safe house.  Since no other alternative existed with everything else removed it worked like a snap.  She then draped both towels over the carrier so TBS could not see out much like covering a bird cage, transported the carrier to her car and off we all went with Rose & TBS following us to the south house (hereafter referred to as the new house).  Sorry no pictures of the capture and transfer, there was just too much excitement and activity going on to take photos.

Once in the new house minimum security cell (the office), TBS was to be left to sulk on her own all the rest of the day and night.  No food or water since the night before and that should have been a clue that all was not right in the world. Once in the new/old quarters I filled her plate with favorite food and treats and closed the door.  Silence.  It was quiet until about 2 am when she began crying piteously at the door.  It was hard to do but we ignored the mews and kept to the plan, no visits until breakfast time.  Lots of howling when we first entered the room but we just went about the business of feeding her and cleaning the box then basically ignoring her.  She eventually quieted down and settled in even deigning to let us pet her a bit and sitting by my feet while I worked on the computer.  

"Is the coast clear?"

The familiar igloo and rug are now in their proper places under the desks in the office.  TBS can hide in the igloo or in back of it if she feels ill at ease.  She looks a little too large to fit inside the igloo but be not deceived she can easily fit in there and squeezes into the very back where it is almost impossible to see her.  This is going ever so much better than the trip north so far.  It looks like it may not take another 3 weeks to get her back to normal.   She can go out into other parts of the house as soon as she indicates she ready to do so.  The human servants are not totally forgiven yet but since they do provide the food and clean the box the outcome is promising.

Pay no attention to cat behind the curtain . . .

We cannot heap enough praise on Rose who is absolutely wonderful with cats, especially difficult cats like ours.  Not only did she accomplish this move with hardly any drama she offered helpful suggestions for dealing with our much loved but extremely complicated pet.  

Late bulletin, TBS has ventured out into the hallway and is exploring the rest of the house!  Free at last, free at last . . .

Thursday, March 17, 2016

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 238

 Soissons Cathedral Basilica, Soissons, France, ca 1964

The black and white photograph on this 1964 postcard shows the Soissons Cathedral Basilica in Soissons, France.  Soissons is located on the Aisne River in northern France in the Picardy region.   One of the most ancient French towns, it is the see of an Roman Catholic diocese dating from about 300. 

This Gothic structure was begun in 1177 and completed in 1479.   The western tower, on the right, dates from the mid-13th century and is 216 feet or 66 meters high.  Looking at this postcard at first glance I thought it was Notre Dame in Paris but a closer inspection showed that it could not be.  It turns out that the tower at Soissons is an imitation of those of Notre Dame in Paris, see the 2012 pictures below for comparison.  Soissons has a rose window similar to those found in Notre Dame as well. 

 Notre Dame, Paris, France, 2012

A matching tower on the other side was planned but never built.  During World War I the tower and nave were severely damaged.  Stained glass from the 13th century can still be found in the choir end of the cathedral.  There is also a 15th century tapestry with scenes from the life of the patron saints, Gervasius and Protasius.   Adoration of the Shepherds, a painting by Rubens hangs in the northern transept along with a Philippe de Champaigne painting.  Some of the glass windows from this cathedral are on permanent loan exhibited at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts. 

The stamp is also interesting. 

For additional information, see:

Sunday, March 13, 2016

UW campus cherry trees, 2016

UW Campus Cherry trees, 2016

Once a year this spectacular display of cherry blossoms in the Quad of the University of Washington campus brings out hundreds of people who just wander among the trees taking photos and admiring the beauty and resiliency of nature.   Today it was raining a little with promise of yet another monster windstorm but as the pictures show lots of folks were willing to brave the weather to catch a glimpse of this year’s full display of blossoms.  It will only be this magnificent for a few days, so if you are in the area, catch it while you can. 

 Under the trees

 Cherry blossoms

Also reaching peak bloom are the old magnolia trees by the School of Music building.  The flowers are among the largest magnolias I have seen and come in light and dark pink shades.  Spring is almost here!

Magnolia blossoms

One last look at this year's cherry trees in bloom

Friday, March 11, 2016

The miracle cat whisperer . . .

 "I know you are talking about me."

The time is drawing near to return TBS to the south house.  As mentioned earlier we have been dreading this event almost as much as she has.  And don’t kid yourself; of course she knows that there must be a return trip.  These events are never a one-way journey. 

After the broom under the bed chase into the carrier for the trip north, Bob said we needed to hire someone to move TBS back south and neither of us are looking forward to a repeat of the 3 week adjustment ordeal looming ahead.  A friend recommended Rose of Better Kitty as a possible solution to our return moving problems.  We called, Rose came for get-to-know-TBS visits on Tuesday and Thursday.  Next week sometime is our target move date.  Rose is amazing.  No screams, hissing, growling just mild curiosity on the first visit.  Today we were not so lucky.  Some unpleasant noises came through the door. We were advised to stay out of the room while Rose was re-establishing contact.  From the scuffling sounds, growls and howls I can only imagine what was going on behind closed doors.  But Rose emerged unconcerned and calm after a few more minutes with TBS.  

Following the first visit she instructed us to remove the small safe house table and the soft igloo hut and replace them with the thoroughly cleaned (disinfected and fear free) bottom part of the carrier that had been made into a “bed” with towels and a little pad that TBS likes to sleep on.  We did this.  A couple days later we put the top of the carrier in the room and tomorrow we will attach the top to the bottom and hope that the carrier becomes a welcome retreat and a replacement for the safe house that has mysteriously disappeared.  TBS is very smart and savvy; however, so I’m not sure we can pull this trick off.

The highly suspicious looking fear free welcome safe house crate in 2 pieces

It did not help much that we had a ferocious wind storm the night before the scheduled visit resulting in lots of tree branches and cones dropping on the roof scaring TBS to the point of trying to claw or clawless a way out of the guest room.  She did not feel up to eating because of the storm so all was not well for a whispery visit.  Nevertheless things went fairly well and Rose is confident that we can move her back south with a minimum amount of drama.  Stay tuned for the final report.

"You are saying that?  I know what that means, I looked it up."

Thursday, March 10, 2016

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 237

 The Little Mermaid statue, Copenhagen, Denmark

This postcard has a picture of the Little Mermaid statue found on a rock by the water at Langelinie street in Copenhagen, Denmark.  Her story is one of the fairy tales written by the Danish author, Hans Christian Andersen.  The statue is the best-known work of Edvard Eriksen (1876-1959), a Danish-Icelandic sculptor, who created the statue in 1909-1913 as commissioned by Carl Jacobsen.  The ballerina, Ellen Price, who had appeared in the ballet version of the story was chosen as the model but she refused to pose nude so only her head was used and Eriksen’s wife, Eline Eriksen, posed for the body of the statue instead. 

Eriksen was first an apprentice wood carver who later went on to train at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts (1894-1899).  He taught at the Royal Academy between 1908-1919 and was also a conservator at the Thorvaldsen Museum 1930 to 1953. 

The fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen have been translated into more than 125 languages and many of his stories have inspired ballets, plays, animated and live-action films.  Andersen was born in Odense, Denmark in 1805 and died in Copenhagen in the year 1875.  Some of his early stories were revisions of tales he had heard as a child, he later began writing new stories of his own.  I liked a quote from the “Ugly Duckling” that says:  “It doesn’t matter about being born in a duck yard, as long as you are hatched from a swan’s egg.”  Andersen’s likeness appears on a 1935 Danish stamp.  As he was dying he consulted a composer about the music for his funeral saying “Most of the people who will walk after me will be children, so make the beat keep time with little steps.”  [Wikipedia]  He was revered and considered a national treasure of Denmark.

The stamp on the reverse of this postcard was issued in the 1960s and bears the likeness of the then king of Denmark, Frederick IX.  

The Little Mermaid statue is just a short distance from this corner

When we visited Denmark in 1982 we walked down Langelinie promenade to see the Little Mermaid.  Contrary to what we expected she is not prominently displayed in a park but sits quietly on a rock right on the shoreline near a busy harbor.  Unless looking specifically for her, she might be easy to miss.  Possibly due to the close access and lack of security surrounding her, she has been subject to vandalism and defacement on several occasions.  Her head has been removed twice, her right arm cut off, the entire statue blown off the rock by explosives, paint poured over her, and various costumes draped over her to make political statements.  Fortunately, it has been possible to restore the statue each time following one of these incidents. 

 This photo above shows how close the statue is to the shore

The statue is relatively small, 4 feet (1.25 meters) tall and weighs 385 pounds (175 kilograms).

 For more information, see:

Thursday, March 3, 2016

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 236

Hudson Bay Blockhouse, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada, ca 1939
This 1939 postcard shows the Hudson Bay Blockhouse, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada and was issued by Photogelatine Engraving Co., Ltd. Of Ottawa.   Photogelatine also called Collotype was a process invented in 1856 by the French chemist, civil engineer and photographer, Alphonse Louis Poitevin, and was used for large volume mechanical printing prior to offset lithography.  The process allowed for very fine detail to be printed the equivalent today might be compared to 1000 dpi. 

Without going into too much detail the process involved a plate of glass or metal coated with gelatin or other colloid, left to harden, then coated with a thick layer of dichromated gelatin and dried carefully, washed in controlled temperature water, then exposed with the negative using an ultraviolet source.  To make prints the plate was dampened with a glycerin and water mixture then blotted before inking with a leather or velvet roller.  The resulting prints required less pressure than stone lithography and could be made by hand but a press was more effective.  Business cards and invitations were also produced using this method since it allowed for fine detail of script lettering.

The Clergue Blockhouse in the picture was originally a powder magazine built of uncut fieldstone around 1819 by the British North West Company.  The simple design was typical of The Hudson’s Bay Company incorporated the stone magazine into their trading post in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario.  The stone walls are the only remains of the North West Company Post in Sault Ste. Marie.  Added in 1894 by Francis H. Clergue, an American entrepreneur, the upper portion of the building is made of logs and designed to look like those constructed during the Indian Wars one hundred years earlier.  Clergue used it as his residence and office.  The Blockhouse was used as a residence for several years but eventually fell into disuse and was burned in 1974.  In 1996 it was moved to its current site and restored as a historic site.

For more information, see:

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Invasion of the honey snatchers . . .

Invasion of the honey snatchers . . .

A couple of days ago Bob noticed a very tiny insect in the kitchen.  It was quickly dispatched.  This morning he called me to come downstairs pronto as the kitchen and dining area had been invaded by a great black horde of these same tiny insects. Upon closer observation we determined they were very tiny black ants.  Under the fridge, on the counter, crawling all over the floor, long lines going back and forth toward the sliding glass doors that lead outside. 

We swept, sprayed, crushed, and wiped everything down then left to go south to check the floors, open the windows to air out the house, and talk with the contractor.   When we got back north we found a few stragglers wandering around in the kitchen, confused by the lack of a trail and dizzy from the ant spray.  They were also quickly taken care of.  But alas, our lovely European honey in a jar had been invaded.   At first I thought we could scrape out the ants and salvage the remaining honey but there were just too many joyous ants in the jar to save anything.  It was with much sadness and regret that we had to ditch the honey.   

For the next few days we will be diligent about spraying and watching so as to avoid a second invasion.  Of course, now that our prize honey is gone they might not come back anyway.  Since we have been on this low fat, low sugar, low salt diet there isn’t much left that an ant would love.