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Domestic Arrangements 1.8


The third iteration of the Agincourt Project isn’t guaranteed. Few things are. But I have to assume the possibility of a show in Iowa next August-September and work toward that goal. The available space, however, is about two-thirds what the show occupied last time, so there will have to be some highly selective culling. And fewer pieces means that each one must tell multiple stories. For the theme of single-family housing, two residences are possible: the modest home of school principal Rose Kavanaugh and the more substantial Archer house.

buck houses

Perhaps because it stimulated me sufficiently to write at least seven times, the large house of Aidan and Cordelia Archer at 312 East Agincourt Avenue might be in the mix. [It might also be the much smaller home of Rose Kavana, principal of Charles Darwin Elementary School.] I reviewed what there is in the blog about the Archers and their home and found a tale rich in possibility [Sorry about the bulleted list.]:

  • Domestic Arrangements 1.0 was an opportunity to discuss housing stock in general, its variety, and its origins. This was also an opportunity to introduce Chicago architect Lawrence Buck, who had actually designed five houses in Iowa and could just as easily have done a sixth (or seventh, it turned out).
  • Installment 1.1 was a scaled drawing of the first floor. But rather than focus on the suite of rooms for living and entertaining, I expressed a fascination with a small room at the northeast corner: the bedroom for a live-in domestic worker, identity unknown at that point.
  • 1.2 outlined the Archer family and the circumstances that had brought them to the community.
  • Howard Tabor told us a bit more about the Archers in the context of wealth, power, and responsibility in 1.3—the notion of noblesse oblige, which I genuinely hope has little or nothing to do with trickle-down economics.
  • Parts 1.4 and 1.5 concerned the invention of Miss Nina Köpman, the young Swedish woman who emigrated to the United States and the circumstances of her eventual employment by the Archers. She would become the occupant of the northeast corner room and the story of her life might be the tale of hundreds of young women who came from Europe (Scandinavians and Irish, primarily) for opportunity that was in short supply at home. I really love shit like this.
  • Here and elsewhere there are entries under the general title “The way things work” in which are revealed the workings of my mind as these stories emerge over time. One-point-six was one of those, an earlier iteration of the very list you’re plodding through right now.
  • Finally (almost) was 1.7, the welcome confirmation from a friend and former student that my musings on the nature of 19th century emigration weren’t all that far from the mark: his very own grandmother had come America much as the fictional Ms Köpman had done.
  • Domestic Arrangements 1.0

The question du jour is simple: How can I summarize all these threads in a cohesive narrative, long enough to be thorough but short enough to not bore the pants off gallery visitors? And, for me, of course, will I be able to more completely detail the house at 312 East Agincourt in all its Arts & Crafts fullness—remembering Mies’s admonition that God is in those very details.


Might it be appropriate, for example, to include actual fragments of the Archer home? Stained glass, for example, from the entry vestibule? Or a light fixture from the dining room? A friend has volunteered to help (though I’m reluctant to impose). Stay tuned.


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