It’s interesting that pride as a noun represents something we take — I took pride in my daughter’s accomplishment (regardless whether I had anything to do with it)because we cannot bestow pride any more than we can grant dignity. Indeed, the active verbal form, to dignify something, has a quite negative connotation: in doing so, we give it a status it clearly doesn’t merit. So, surely we can find a better word for this weekend than “Pride”.

Beside being one of the Se7en Deadly Sins, even the dictionary doesn’t give “pride” an entirely clean bill of health: “a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.” The Church, by the way, often pairs the Seven Deadly Sins with the Four Last Things (Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell), sending a clear message that successful avoidance of the former will have implications for the latter.

Synonyms for pride run the gamut: from pleasure, joy, delight, gratification, fulfillment, satisfaction, a sense of achievement, self-esteem, dignity, honor, self-respect, self-worth, and self-regard to less desirable characteristics such as arrogance, vanity, self-importance, hubris, conceit, self-love, self-adulation, self-admiration, narcissism, egotism, superciliousness, haughtiness, or snobbishness. I might quibble with the placement of one or two — after forty years “on the couch,” I regard self-love as a potentially good thing, unless it’s carried into those terms that follow in the listing. Nevertheless, a mixed bag, if you ask me. An exceptionally minor encounter this morning is stuck in my craw and moves me to think about pride.

I stopped this morning on my way to my Sunday volunteer job to buy a coffee. As I pulled to the curb, opposite one of two favorite coffeehouses, two people sitting in the shade of a tree waved me on with “You can’t park here,” which of course I do every Sunday on the way to the same gig. Then it came to me: This is Pride Week and it is likely that a parade has been scheduled. I rolled down the passenger window and said that I would be there less than two minutes, that a latté was in my future, and the parade would be unimpeded, by me at least. The grimmer of the two gestured toward a temporary sign attached to the lamp post and reiterated “You can’t park here,” to which I repeated my promise to be gone in less time than we had already invested in the conversation, to which there was only glaring. “Is that going to work for you?” I inquired, not anticipating a reply any more satisfying than what we’d managed so far.

It briefly crossed my mind to share with them my growing hostility this morning had nothing to do with antipathy to prideful expressions by the Gay community and its supporters (among whom I count myself); that I was, myself, a member of that community; that, indeed, I and my husband were two of the litigants who helped achieve marriage equality in our state. So please do not take my insistence on parking for 120 seconds as hostility to the scheduled event; I was simply responding to their rudeness, thank you very much.

The angst of “coming out” rarely occurs to me because I don’t think I was ever “in.” Instead, I suspect I may have been neuter, a male in gender with no outward sexual orientation. For Millennials, that may be hard to grasp, but many of the 70-somethings of my acquaintance understand full well.

Another interesting aspect of LGBTQ community life is the eagerness of a few to step up to the camera or the microphone when comment from that community seems required. Every community has such spokespersons; I’ve known a few and wondered about their motivation. Finding someone who “speaks” for the Gay community is as likely as Donald Trump speaking for America. He does not and likely never will. He certainly never sought my opinion.

Now that the Supremes have given full legal status to same-sex marriage, I look in wonder at the current state of affairs. Those achievements were unthinkable even five years ago. Varying acceptance of this change is obvious in the cultural matrix of America: deeply Red states will continue to resist what may seem inevitable to some and rural communities may hold to the comforting illusion that this is an exclusively urban phenomenon. The current administration gives them hope.

“Wearing” your Gay-ness probably depends where you live but it is also affected by age. A few years ago I was at an event with a decidedly mixed audience: old and young, Gay and Straight, urban and small-town, religious and not-so-much. As an older Gay male, attending with his husband and our dog, I went through reams of “litmus” paper; each introduction, every encounter was a test of sorts. And with just one significant exception, the afternoon was a tremendous success.

That exception were the Gay 25-35 year-olds who made no effort to speak to us. In fact, they took no notice of our presence whatsoever; we were simply invisible. I can’t recall having been looked through quite so effectively. I could speculate but it would reflect more badly on me than on that generation or at least that representative sampling. I wonder if some interesting conversations were missed.

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. // It is so ordered.”

I cannot imagine what is was like to have been young and alive and LGBTQ when Justice Kennedy this poetic legal opinion. But I will admit to taking more than a little pride in the moment.

What do you imagine is happening on Broad Street, The Square, and The Commons in Agincourt today. I’d give a lot to be there.

Donald Evans [1945-1977]

In a general sense, Donald Evans and I are contemporaries, both born in 1945. Coincidentally, we both studied architecture – he at Cornell, me at the more affordable University of Oklahoma – though he got somewhat farther along the path to licensure, working for some time in the NYC office of Richard Meier. I would never have made it that far, nor would I have survived in Meier’s employ. Apparently neither did Evans, for he moved to Amsterdam and lived the reclusive life of an artist, painting minute watercolors of postage stamps. He died in a hotel fire in 1977.

Evans has been mentioned here once before but I’m thinking of him again this afternoon, wondering where life’s trajectory might have taken him. What connects us, besides a year and professional path, is the odd desire to create imaginary places. Evans conceived more than forty countries — many of them island nations overlooked by all but cartographers of the imagination, dare I say it?, like myself. Oh, that we had one of his works in the Community Collection!

Do you suppose there is a monument to Evan in Amsterdam, that long-time haven for those who don’t fit elsewhere? I wonder today if there isn’t already a memorial on the steps of Agincourt’s post office, dropped on its way to the mailbox, eternally on its way and evading the “dead letter” box.

Would anyone like to design something in his memory?

Gabriel Spat [1890-1967]

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

SPAT, Gabriel [1890-1967]

Three Women (obverse) / Gathering (reverse)

circa 1930

oil on wood panel / 4.75 inches by 8.25 inches

Peter and Clara Sobieski, parents of Kurt Bernhard’s first wife Clothilde, may have known artist Gabriel Spat during his Paris years. Spat painted a portrait of the Sobieski family: parents and three of their four children. This pair of studies on a wood panel was given to the Sobieskis by the artist, who had studio space at La Ruche, an artistic enclave in the 15th arrondissement of Paris, which includes the bohemian community of Montparnasse made famous in the film “Moulin Rouge.”

A catalogue for one of his post-war exhibitions includes a story about Spat’s use of scrap canvas from other more financially successful artists; in this case he has painted on both sides of a discarded cigar box lid.

WHW and B. F. Cooley

In the “Six degrees of separation” department, here are a few more words on the Rev Benjamin Franklin Cooley [1835-1913], born twenty years before Halsey Wood and outliving him by sixteen. I’ve invoked Fr Cooley here before, at a different blog and in the context of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Lisbon, Dakota Territory, a congregation he helped to found and whose church design he influenced.

From his base in Fargo, DT, Father Cooley became the Episcopal counterpart of a circuit rider, itinerant clergy who routinely service multiple congregations, usually on a cycle of visitation. Holding a normal Sunday service at Christ Church [later renamed Gethsemane], Cooley would board a train for the 25-50 mile journey to Mayville, Casselton, Buffalo, Lisbon, and other hamlets not large enough to support their own resident priest. Cooley was the right person in the right place at the right time: a “high church” Anglo-Catholic with a passion for ritual and its proper setting. He and his wife Ellen had come to Fargo in 1881 with the likely mission to establish the Episcopal denomination in an area already peppered with Methodist, Congregational, Presbyterian and the occasional Baptist churches. With Roman Catholics already firmly established, Episcopalians had to play catchup, and Cooley was soon joined by another ideal collaborator: emigrant architect George Hancock [1849-1924], educated in England and no doubt sporting a proper British accent in an essentially Yankee population.

The dynamic duo of Cooley and Hancock set about creating a de facto corporate image for the Protestant Episcopal church: Cooley organized a parish and found resources to build (materials and money) and Hancock served as architect — though that division of labor may be too absolute. They were able to work so closely because the bishop was situated hundreds of miles away in Omaha; Rt Rev Robert Harper Clarkson administered his own diocese of Nebraska, as well as the missionary jurisdiction of Dakota, incorporating the entire area of what would become North and South Dakota. Clarkson died in 1884, just 58 years old and already worn out by the magnitude of the task. Cooley and Hancock were joined by Rt Rev W. D. Walker, elected bishop of a newly established Missionary Diocese. The three-way division of labor allowed Cooley to focus on parish organization, Walker to raise funds [he spent more time out of the diocese than in; he was well connected in the East], and Hancock provided design serves and construction supervision. It may have been an ideal relationship, because the product is still scattered from Lisbon to Devils Lake.

Right now you may be asking yourself two questions: Who is this Cooley guy and what are his clerical and architectural credentials? And what circumstances might have crossed his path with that of William Halsey Wood? Fair enough.

In brief, B. F. Cooley was born in western Massachusetts in 1834. For the time being, let me summarize his life in a bulleted list:

  • Born into the modestly prosperous Cooley family of Granville, Massachusetts.
  • Made a deacon in 1861 in Connecticut.
  • Attended Nashotah Seminary in Wisconsin for a year some time in the early 1860s; Nashotah is renowned for its “high church” traditions. Cooley’s record there is slim: he was remembered as being “all music”.
  • Ordained in 1865 in Massachusetts by Bp Manton Eastburn who, it should be noted was decidedly not High Church. This eventually got him in trouble.
  • Married in January 1867 to Ellen Josephine Hodges, who plays heavily in the story much later. Rev and Mrs Cooley led a peripatetic life, as many clergy do, serving congregations in Connecticut, New York, and at multiple places in Massachusetts before being disciplined by Eastburn for the “Romish” quality of his service. About this time, Cooley was in charge of Christ Church, Medway, where he worked with architects to design their new church.
  • When things got too hot with Manton Eastburn, Cooley “hid out” in the handful of High Church parishes that existed in New England, chief among them St Anne’s, Lowell, and nearby Chelmsford. But in one case he left the region for several months and became head of music at the House of Prayer in Newark, New Jersey. Would it surprise you to learn that the choir director at the House of Prayer was one William Halsey Wood, budding architect and whose churchmanship equaled that of Cooley.
  • For reasons not yet known, Cooley accepted the call westward and came to Christ Church, Fargo, in Dakota Territory, a position he held from 1881 until being summarily dismissed for unspecified charges — though I suspect what they may have been.
  • After leaving Fargo in November 1885, Cooley went to parishes in Sycamore, IL, Milwaukee and Eau Claire, WI, and finally back to familiar turf in New England.
  • He died at the home of his mother in Westfield, MA on 07 August 1913 and was buried at Pine Hill Cemetery. His obituary called him a pioneer in the Oxford Movement (code words for High Church) but summarizes most of his life by saying that “he went West.”

So far, so good. Cooley has met Wood and no doubt found much to talk about.

The architecture of frontier churches was often put in the hands of itinerant carpenter–builders with little experience in the design of Episcopal churches for Anglo-Catholic services. What they often got were rude wood boxes without even proper liturgical orientation. So bishops like Robert Clarkson [remember him?] put out a call for eastern architects to volunteer their services in the interest of improving the quality of frontier architecture, the theory being one such church could serve as a model for others and raise the general quality of design. Bishop Clarkson did just that and employed Henry G. Harrison for the Gothic Revival cathedral at Omaha, Henry Rutgers Marshall for Bismarck, and Charles M. Burns for Sioux Falls. William Halsey Wood was also called into service, designing church in Kansas City, and the cathedral in Laramie, Wyoming, probably never visiting either site. There is evidence that Wood was also consulted on the cathedral in Boise, in addition to having designed St Margaret’s School for Girls there.

Fast forward to the 1890s. Dakota Territory had become two states but a sequence of bad winters and decimated both agricultural production and livestock. Those conditions were compounded by the Panic of 1893, one consequence being a downturn in population growth, so the construction of a proper cathedral in Fargo was delayed. In the meantime, however, Bishop Walker had consulted Halsey Wood on one of his eastern tours of fund raising. Wood provided a potential design — probably an unbuilt project for another client — but that was rejected for unknown reasons and, instead, a more conservative (and probably economical) design came from local architect George Hancock. Even that was beyond the budget, for Hancock’s original design in masonry was built in wood and painted red.

Gethsemane Cathedral (formerly Christ Church) Fargo, ND


B. F. Cooley and William Halsey are both linked with me and my interests. So it was reassuring to discover that they were linked with one another, despite me. And they are both implicated in the Agincourt Project:

  1. WHW designed the second Fennimore County court house in 1888.
  2. WHW designed a house in Orange, NJ for C. S. French, a house that served as the basis for a doll house Anson built for his sister Claire in 1905.
  3. WHW design the Episcopal church at Mantoloking, NJ, which Anson and his family visited in the summer of 1912. Anson returned home and crafted a set of building block based on that church.
  4. The peripatetic Father B. F. Cooley made a six-month stop at Saint-Joseph-the-Carpenter on his return eastward.

“The Forum, Rome” by P. Lacombe


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

P. Lacombe (dates unknown)

The Forum, Rome


oil on panel /  13.5 inches by 10.5 inches (unframed)

Lacombe’s painting of the Forum in ancient Rome looks east toward the Colosseum, a view framed by the Arch of Septimus Severus. The columned fragment to the left of center is the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina.

Ghosts (Part Three)

#15 Henry “Whitey” Malone is a thinly veiled version of myself. “Whitey” was my childhood nickname but ti was years later that I turned out to be a partial albino. Really.

#16 Abel Kane deserved a second entry. Every town has its infidels and its infidelities. Abel Kane was both.

#17 Harold Russell Holt (a.k.a. Hal) was a retired engineer who became director of the Fennimore County History Center. A second article about his passing was written before the “Ghost” series began. Hal Holt isn’t based on anyone I know; I think he may be either someone I’d like to know or even someone I’d like to be. I’d certainly prefer to be remembered that way.

#18 Sandor Szolnay guided the Men’s Department at deBijenkorf. Sandor is a hybrid character, a blend of the Hungarian baker I knew in Argo (who arrived after the 1956 Hungarian uprising) and the nameless Hungarian tailor at Capper & Capper who fitted my first suit.

#19 Seamus Tierney was the founder of professional theatre in Agincourt. If he sounds familiar, simply substitute “art” for “theatre” and you’ve pretty much got it.

#20 Fred D. Shellabarger doesn’t yet have a place in Agincourt. But he is a fond memory from my own beginnings in architecture and was, in hindsight, a strong influence on its trajectory. I could not have known how that experience would connect with my later life.

#21 Edmund FitzGerald Flynn, Agincourt’s thirteenth mayor and husband of Amity Burroughs Flynn, died in office. Many people were not upset about this. The hidden treasure here was Ed’s widow, Amity Burroughs Flynn, who blossomed after his passing and became a character I could never have imagined — but I guess I did.

Ghosts (Part Two)

#8 Phyllis Tabor, with Ella Rose, her twin, were pioneer aviatrices (is that the plural of aviatrix?) and also happen to have been Howard’s great-aunts. He had a special relationship with Aunt Phyllis, who shows up in other settings. Twins fascinate me; in fact, there are multiple sets of them in the Agincourt story. And in two of the three cases, death took one of them prematurely. What do you suppose the impact had been on the survivor? Perhaps Howard asked Aunt Phyllis before she died a couple years ago.

#9 Ray Benson was retired from the Merchant Marine and a neighbor of Rosalie Oakes, mother of Rowan Oakes. Rowan is married to Howard. Ray sounds a great deal like my cranky former neighbor Ray Jackson, who may not have disliked dogs but did seem to have been bothered by mine, Mr Moose, a twenty-five pound Cockle Spaniard. One day as I read quietly in the living room of the Little House, with the screen door open for ventilation, I heard what might have been pellets being slung against the front of the house and rose to see what had rained down on me like hail. I jsut got a hint of Ray going around the corner and then noticed what he’d thrown: dried dog droppings — none of which were from Mr Moose, by the way, because we pick up after the animals — which Ray had assumed were ours and then accumulated them for “return.” Ray was a man of action, if not words.

#10 Ernest “Red” Anhauser was the village atheist, a watchmaker at Salmagundi, Agincourt’s jewelers and purveyors of “precious things.” He, too, needed a second entry. “Red” exhibits many characteristics of Cecil Elliott, a former colleague at N.D.S.U. There are those of us who have stepped away from our religious upbringing and the select few who carry an active grudge: it’s one thing to be irreligious and another to be hostile.

#11 “Veterans” is as close as I can get to understanding Agincourt’s many contributions to war. At some point, there’ll be a specific character who can stand for all those listed on the memorials in The Square.

#12 Brother Crucible is yet another attempt to tell the complex story of religious institutions in the community’s history. I don’t know him. Perhaps you do. Architecture is one of those professions, perhaps the foremost of them, that seem to be monastic. So why not imagine an order of actual monks devoted, not to silence and poverty (though architects can identify with the second of those), but to architectural restoration. Visualize coarse brown franciscan robes with a tool belt where the knotted rope should be.

#13 Robina Lyle is very real, the public health nurse in my elementary school, a character so legendary in my own community’s history that an elementary school is named for her.

#14 Michael Corbett was someone of my acquaintance in about the 5th or 6th grade. He beat the shit out of me during recess until it ceased to be any fun and then moved on to another target. Decades ago there was a TV show called “F.B.I. Files” which dramatized cases from the bureau’s archives. As I spun around the dial — this was long before cable — a snippet of narrative included “…Willow Springs, Illinois…” which caught my attention. I knew people from there; went to school with some of them. The case involved the mayor, who was being sued for divorce by his wife — she having discovered he had been operating an illicit gambling and prostitution ring; hey, it is Chicago! — and the local police chief. The half hour dramatization of their solution involved drugging Mrs Mayor, stuffing her in the trunk of hizzoner’s car, driving to the bank of the Sanitary & Shipping canal, where the Chief pumped a few bullets into her drugged body, and then pushing the car into the canal. Actors, of course, played the roles but at the end, there was my grade school nemesis in a police mugshot, frontal and profile views. All things considered, I guess I got off light.