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Toward a manuscript… (1.something)

ARCH 771 / Fall 2020 / Ramsay

As an exercise in “group think”, let me propose a writing exercise that will be valuable to the ongoing project — beyond your time and certainly beyond mine. [I’m presuming a lot here.] I also believe it will be an exercise valuable to you in practice late next year.

Kate Macdonald, publisher of HandHeld Press, has asked me (some time ago, actually, so the offer may have evaporated) to put the Agincourt Project in book form. You can visit her site here. My initial response/reaction was the dilemma of how to tell the story: Should it be written by one of the characters in town, say Anson Tennant’s great nephew Howard Tabor, who writes for The Daily Plantagenet? Or should it be written by an actual person — most likely by me — as “telling the story of narrating the story”? In other words, is the book a work of fact or fiction? Or is it faction? I’ll be interested to have your thoughts. I’ve got a 76th birthday in the offing that seems as good a date as any to have a first draft in hand; why not by the end of January.

So there is Question #1: What form ought a book about a fictional community take?

The natural follow-up concerns the warp and weft of such a story. Buildings and the people who designed-built-financed-used-and maintained them can be made to tell a large though incremental part of the narrative. But what other elements of material culture would be useful? And what influences ought to be addressed? For example, has COVID-19 affected the community in a lasting and meaningful way? I suspect so. But what about other major events within and outside the community that also played a role? The influenza pandemic of 1918. The Great Depression and all those “alphabet soup” agencies created to put people to useful work. Wars, like the Civil, WWI, WWII, and Vietnam. Positive influences from philanthropists like Andrew Carnegie — the founder of the feast, so to speak.

I’ve grouped these influences in three large categories: FORCES (natural conditions over which we have no control, such as climate, geology, etc.); FACTORS (broad cultural phenomena (or fads) which very often begin elsewhere but have local impact, like government programs, benefactors like the aforementioned Carnegie, or the Stock Market Crash of 1929); and, finally, FACES (of which Carnegie might be one but also including local persons with influence, like teachers, public figures, in or outside government, businesses — even artists and architects who have left a legacy). Sorry, I like alliteration.

So there is Question #2: What elements or topics ought to be considered as significant parts of the story? And how might they be organized?

Grammar And Analysis Made Easy And Attractive By Diagrams : Containing All The Difficult Sentences Of Harvey’s Grammar Diagrammed, Also Many Difficult Sentences From Other Grammars, Designed For Both Teachers And Pupils By Irish, Frank V (1884)

The organization of those elements in a book will be followed chronologically, more or less. But in a website, the path that a viewer might follow begins at a common point but may move in any of several different directions, depending on their interest. How is this organization alike or different from the outline of a book?

Question #3: What might this branching decision-making tree look like as a diagram?

For #1 I’d like each of you tackle that basic but vital question. Which approach would engage readers and hold their attention?

For #2 and #3 perhaps you could divide in three or four groups and each take on the basic outline of the story. Is chronology the best way to narrate? What other options might be equally good or even better? And how does this compare with the organization of a website?

De Bijenkorf (1.2)

Projects, so many projects, have remained just that: unfinished. Some of them are even in the category of “the unbegun”. De Bijenkorf’s Department Store is among those.

“The Beehive” (that’s what “de bijenkorf” means in Dutch), as I’ve written before, evolved from its first 25′ by 140′ foot storefront to incorporate the two neighboring buildings to the south. They would have been, of course, typical late Victorian storefronts, which means of course they would typically be dissimilar. In façade as well as floor levels. Unifying them would have no small project. And that’s why I thought immediately of the De Baliviere Building on Delmar Boulevard in St Louis.

Designed by St Louis architect Isadore Shank, it is one of the more successful adaptations of Frank Lloyd Wright’s “textile block” system of the 1920s — though technically, I suppose it’s not. This was also executed at once, however, rather than in pieces.

The ground floor of commercial retail space was ornamented with this pattern of terra cotta tile in an abstracted rectilinear pattern; some glazed black, some in natural terra cotta red. I guess this obligates me to conceive a pattern for De Bijenkorf, perhaps something derived from the hexagonal preference of bees. Unifying the interior spaces should prove far less complicated.

Materials like this, by the way, were logical in heavily industrial cities of the Midwest because they were relatively impervious to pollutants and could be easily washed with soap and water. They were also a welcome note of color in drab winters landscapes.

Dana Bartlett [1882-1957]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

BARTLETT, Dana (1882–1957)

Canal in Venice

ca 1920-1930

color woodcut / 12.5 inches by 10 inches (image)

Dana Bartlett, painter, printmaker, teacher, and gallery owner, was born in Ionia, Michigan on 19 November 1882. He studied at the Art Students’ League in New York with William Merritt Chase and Charles Warren Eaton.

Bartlett established a studio for a few years in Boston before moving to Portland, Oregon where he worked as a commercial artist for the Foster-Kleiser Company. For a short period of time he had a studio in San Francisco but in 1915 he opened his studio in Los Angeles. In 1924, Bartlett traveled to Europe where he studied with Armand Coussens in Paris and upon his return he joined the staff of the Chouinard Art Institute.

He was a member of and exhibited with the California Arts Club, the California Watercolor Society, the Laguna Beach Art Association, and the Print Makers Society of California. His work was included in the Painters and Sculptors exhibitions at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, he exhibited at the Stendall Gallery in Los Angeles, and a solo exhibition of his work was mounted at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in December 1927. The following spring he opened the Bartlett Galleries which specialized in sketches and small paintings. Bartlett served as the seventh president of the California Art Club in 1922 and he founded and served as first president of the California Watercolor Society.

Bartlett’s work is represented in the Boston Public Library, Huntington Library, Laguna Beach Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles Public Library, National Gallery of Art, Sacramento State Library, and the Southwest Museum.

Dana Bartlett died in Los Angeles, California on 3 July 1957.

This delightful small print was found on the boulevard during Spring Clean-up Week in 2004. One person’s “trash” in another’s treasure.


The Mighty Muskrat

This is the Blue River, which flows today through the edge of Kansas City. A picturesque stream, it appears to have been a popular recreation spot at and probably before the turn of the century. I’ve always like the jumble of boathouses, summer homes, and their docks and hoped that Agincourt could have had this kind of resource. I called them the “River Rats”; after all, it is the Muskrat.