A great deal of what happens in my head has little or nothing to do with architecture. As hard to believe as that may be, it’s true. Today, for example, I happened to be at Zandbrōz looking for wrapping paper and there was a book by Ron Rosbottom titled When Paris Went Dark. Yes, the “City of Light” was dimmed if not actually extinguished by the Nazi occupation of 1940-1944, and one of the consequences for Agincourt of that real historical phenomenon was the death of someone who never came to America, let alone the prairies of northwest Iowa.
The prospects for a small town in the American Heartland to be linked with places well beyond Des Moines, Omaha, or even Chicago is very likely. The first of those connections came from saving Anson Tennant from the sinking of the Lusitania. Some readers may recall that Dr Bob wondered why my architect-avatar had to die so soon after his Opus Only, the Agincourt Public Library.
I had imagined Anson as a one-hit-wonder [the Vanilla Ice of architecture?] and conveniently sent him to England on the May 8th, 1915 sailing of the ill-fated Lusitania. But Dr Bob’s question changed the direction of the Agincourt story—as he has influenced many other aspects of my life—by bringing him back from the presumed dead. Rescued by a passing Basque fishing trawler [whose likely presence had been brought to my attention by Mark Kurlansky’s book The Basque History of the World] which then brought him to Donastia [a.k.a., San Sebastian] on Spain’s northern coast and recuperative care of a convent hospital, where he made the acquaintance of a young novice who subsequently left the Order to marry Anson and bear him three children, two sons and a daughter. Don’t’ challenge me to diagram that sentence. The 1936 Spanish Civil War restored Anson’s memory and reunited him with his American family. I’ve neglected to thank Dr Bob for this windfall of new detail for the story.
One of the painting’s in the Community Collection provided another opportunity to forge trans-Atlantic connections. Gabriel Spat’s “Portrait use famille” depicts what is probably a husband (seated) and wife (standing beside and slightly behind him). One child, presumably a girl, stands at his right knee facing her father, and another child of indeterminate gender is cradled on his lap. [I’d provide a link to that blog entry, but it is currently private for reasons I can’t state at present.] Spat’s painting needed a stronger link with the story; it was insufficient in my mind that its presence in Agincourt was accidental. So the family group in that painting required identity.
Given the workings of my mind, the family became the Sobieskis, Polish emigrants who made wine in the Alsace. One of this children was Chlotilde Sobieski, and she eventually married Kurt Bernhard—who I think may have been an investment counselor. The Bernhards lived in Paris when the dates were right for the darkness that Ron Rosbottom writes about. What I knew only generally can now achieve greater detail.
How did Chlotilde Sobieski Bernhard die, I wonder. And how did Kurt and his own young daughter arrive safely in Britain with the painting of his deceased wife and her family as his only link with the past? What circumstances crossed his path in New York City with that of Mary Grace Tabor, Anson’s great aunt? Now you have some idea why the Agincourt Project will never be truly over until I myself am dead.