The Roman Baths – Bath, England

The Roman Baths in Bath, England is both the town’s namesake and the main attraction in the city. There is archaeological evidence that the Celts used the area as a natural hot springs even before the Roman invasion. The Romans built the temple between 60-70AD and the baths you can see today were built over a period of 300 years after the original temple was built. The original baths are below the current street level, so what you see when walking around the city are dated from the 19th century.
I haven’t managed to find much about the bath complex during WW2, but over a weekend in April 1942 80 Luftwaffe flew over the city of Bath and bombed it. It is said that most people who saw them coming didn’t duck for cover thinking the planes were headed for near by Bristol. The bombing was the start of the Baedeker Blitz which was a reaction to the RAF bombing and destruction of the city of Lubeck. This resulted in 19,000 building being bombed in Bath alone, 1,100 being seriously damaged or entirely destroyed of which 218 were of architectural significance. St. Andrews church was entirely destroyed and is now a park. St. Johns was nearly destroyed but efforts to restore were completed in the 90s. The names of those lost to the bombing can be found at the War Memorial outside the gates of Victoria Park. 
Visiting the Roman Baths
The bath complex is a open air square with the Sacred Spring, Roman Temple, Roman Bath House and museum as well as the Pump Room which is a restaurant and tea room. There is also a gift shop that exits visitors on the main pedestrian street and can be accessed by non museum goers. We didn’t visit the baths themselves. I think had we been in town longer we would have, they look quite impressive. And I love a good historic site. But even being there off season the lines to get in were wrapped around the building and we wanted to see more of the town rather than spend half the day standing in line. If you wanted to go I would try getting there early and midweek if it can be helped.
You can visit the Pump Room without visiting the rest of the buildings and the restrooms in the building are open to the public, one of the only ones I found in the city. The Pump room offers a variety of tea services, which we were considering but we wound up choosing a different location due to price and crowds. But the building is gorgeous and if you want fancy tea in a fancy building with a great view you should really go here.
The other main attraction in this area and perhaps the most obvious is Bath Abbey. Early kings built on the religious site in the 700s. The site was fought over during the Norman Conquest. It was reorganized in the 10th century, rebuilt in the 12th century, dissolved from the Catholic church by Henry the 8th and restored in the 1860s. When I visited they were digging up the floors in sections for more restoration work to improve the in floor heating from the thermal waters in the area. Rumor has it they unearthed 8,000 bodies from the church floors, it should be noted it is an entirely normal practice historically for parishioners to be buried under church floors.
The building of the Bath Abbey that stands today is known for it’s historic significance and architecture, specifically the fan vaulting on the ceiling which was designed by Robert and William Vertue. The brothers designed a number of well know buildings including a similar ceiling in Westminster Abbey for Henry the 7th. Additionally the entire church is made of a butter yellow limestone that is unique to the area, most of the city of Bath and buildings in near by towns are built with the same stone.
If visiting the church is on your bucket list be sure to plan around religious holidays and check for hours. The church is still holding regular services and tourists are only allowed in during specific touring times. Obviously you could attend a service to get in, but the lines for the services are long and you wouldn’t have the freedom to wander the building or take pictures.

Secret Things To Do Near the Baths
Behind the Bath Abbey is the Parade Gardens a walled park on the river front. The parks were rebuilt in the 1930s on the grounds of 17th century pleasure gardens.  It costs to get in and it is cash only, but if its a nice day I would say the charge is well worth it. There are also food stands at the top of the gates before you go in so you could always buy a picnic and settle in for an afternoon rest.

To the left of the Parade Gardens over the River Avon is the Pultney Bridge which was built in 1774. It like the bridge over the Grand Canal in Venice has shops built into it and was a very popular shopping district in its day. Though it was still pretty crowded when we were there. There are both restaurants and shops on it now, one of which a quaint little map shop selling original historic maps. If I had enough money to afford such a think I would have bought one, they were gorgeous.
If you walk over the bridge you will notice a small stairway on the right hand-side after you pass over, this stairwell goes into and under the bridge depositing you on the other-side of the river where another lovely park sits along with restaurants with outdoor seating. This stairway is significantly harder to see coming from this side of the river, which is what we did. I thought we were walking into a restaurant kitchen rather than the bridge, though it wouldn’t be the first nor the last time I have accidentally wandered into a busy not public kitchen.

If you continue to walk away from the bridge along the river you see a wonderful view of the city that you wouldn’t get otherwise. This side of the river also hosts a small riverfront park, but rather than streets and cars there are a good number of restaurants offering outdoor seating. Continuing down river from the bridge you get an excellent view of down town Bath and a quite little restaurant on a long boat.

If you follow the river down to the next bridge and then turn east and wander up the hill you run into the most charming waterway and greenspace. It goes on for quite a ways in both directions but along this canal is a series of locks. I couldn’t find an exact date on the lock system. But they are a part of the larger system of locks connected to the Bristol Floating Harbor which was built in the 1800s and the Bath Locks have two bridges that date to the same time period.
They fell into disuse and then were restored in 1968 and are run today manually by volunteer labor via the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust. This was probably one of the highlights of the trip. Watching the long boats come and go, and watching them manually (when I say manually I mean two young men physically move the winches that open and close the locks) manned was very impressive. The volunteers are all very nice and were happy to answer all of our questions.
The long boats that run up and down the canals can be rented for day use or overnight. We almost stayed on one, I think it would have been a hoot, but having seen them in person there wouldn’t have been a ton of privacy sitting up here on the canal. There is also a small restaurant and ice cream stand up near the top which would make a nice little rest stop should you need it.

Crossing the river at the last of the locks brings you back to the Bath Train Station and right near the aforementioned St. John’s church. The church  is near the bath complex sitting along the river, in fact if you walked the opposite side of the river you probably saw the back side of it just down river from the Pulteney Bridge. It isn’t as impressive as the Bath Abbey but it is still very impressive, especially compared to modern American churches.
My favorite thing about this location was the are stations around the inside walls describing the history of the church. I don’t see this a lot and was happy to read about the history in the location rather than later after I had toured it.  This church like most in England was originally Catholic but dissolved during Henry the 8ths reign. St. Johns was also nearly destroyed during the blitz and the signs do a nice job discussing the damage and restoration efforts which were extensive.

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The Gordon House – Silverton, Oregon

Visiting the Gordon House in Silverton Oregon reminded me how much I live Frank Lloyd Wright designs. I am not sure when my love of architecture surfaced or why I feel so drawn to all things between 1910 and 1940. In my opinion all the best buildings, books, art, fashion and architecture happened during this period. That isn’t to say I don’t adore literally every other time period. Some might call me wishy-washy, I call it an ardent lover of all things.

Regardless Frank Lloyd Wright falls safely in that most beloved time period. I don’t love everything he is designed, but his background, inspirations, darkness, the mysteries and the murders that seems to follow him around make for a fascinating study.  The more I look into his life, and the things that have occurred surrounding his work the harder it is to stop digging. And it is difficult to deny even if you don’t agree aesthetically with his work, that he was a genius. Creating several well known architecture movements and schools. Inspiring countless future artists and leaving behind a legacy of over 1,000 buildings, 400 of which stand today.

Unisonian architecture was the last of his movements. An attempt to create homes for middle class America that were specially designed to give you everything you need inspired by and for the surroundings of the home. Every house he designed was unique, and it didn’t stop with the building but continued in every detail of the house including furniture. But to design for the middle class rather than some of his earlier clients meant a much simpler house. Not that it came cheap, according to our tour guide this house would have cost 500,000 – 600,000 to build today.

The Gordon House is the only Frank Lloyd Wright building in the state of Oregon. It was designed for a retired couple for their specific piece of land on the Willamette River. When the house was designed it was too pricey to build for the couple, so they waited. It was built after Lloyd Wright passed away. And the couple lived in it for the rest of their lives. When the property was sold to its second owner they didn’t want the house.

They were going to tear it down. But word got out and soon wheels were in motion to save the house. Long story short, it was mapped, moved and rebuilt at its current location at the Oregon Gardens in Silverton.

You can tour the building now, and the docents who conduct the tours are just lovely. So knowledgeable and passionate about the house and all aspects of historic buildings.

The tour lasts about an hour and is plenty of time to learn about and enjoy the home. Though I didn’t really want to leave I was ready to move in. Those floor to ceiling windows on both sides of the main living space made me swoon.

Every aspect of the house was designed with a very specific purpose. I wish I could properly recall everything we learned but you should definitely go to The Gordon House. It is amazing to be in a place where so much intention was put into every detail.

To learn more and tour the house the you must visit the website and make reservations. Tours of The Gordon House are conducted several times a day but in small groups. Since the house isn’t all that large they keep the groups small so you can more easily maneuver around. The house is also open for a variety of events, and can be rented for your own special event. They also allow rentals for overnight stays occasionally. All proceeds back to the foundation that keeps the house in good repair.

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F. Scott Fitzgerald House – St. Paul, Minnesota

I like a lot of authors but there has always been something about F. Scott Fitzgerald that has always made me especially curious. His writing wasn’t terribly successful in his time. Rather he and his wife were famous for their lifestyle and the friends that they had. They ran with a dream crew of creatives and thinkers, partying all night and dreaming up some of that centuries most creative works. It was a life that I don’t think the world will ever see again and for that I am infinity curious about all that went on during that time period.  Most of us are probably more familiar the ‘The Great Gatsby’ than any of his other works, if it is no longer on the required reading lists of graduating seniors the two movies based on the novel are surely familiar. My personal favorite of his has always been ‘Tender is the Night’ a horribly tragic work about a married man and a much much younger actress, and the personal fallout of his life after an illicit affair. It sounds more like a soap opera than it really is. If you haven’t read it I really do recommend it, but not the movie. That was a tragedy of a different sort.  At any rate the last in the Minneapolis area for work a good friend of mine and I had just finished dinner at Parlour in St. Paul. And he kindly obliged to my very weird request to drive by the F. Scott Fitzgerald House which is just next door to Minneapolis in St. Paul. It was getting dark and raining a lot but despite his trepidation he kindly did it anyway. I hoped out of the car and rushed over to get a good look, which again was fairly hard given how dark it was getting and how terrible the weather was. Location and History There isn’t much to see in truth. It is one among many of a long set of row houses built in 1889. They were built in the New York Style of the classic Brownstone apartment but with a Victorian flair. Fitzgerald parents moved into 593 Summit Ave in 1914 when he was studying at Princeton and then later in 1918 moved down to 599 Summit Ave in the same block of row houses. He lived here only briefly between 1919 and 1920 while writing the manuscript for ‘This Side of Paradise’. It was declared a historic property in the 1970s but still remains a private residence, as such you cannot tour the inside. Which is probably fitting given he is known to have hated the neighborhood and probably would have been appalled at a museum here in his honor. Parting Thoughts It was have been nice if the location were a museum of some sort. But I suppose again given F. Scott hated the house, it is more fitting that there isn’t more to see. Never the less it is quite lovely and the area itself is home to a very impressive amount of mansions. Though Frank Lloyd Wright is also known to have publicly criticized the area for being the “worst collection of architecture in the world”. Alas, despite the negative opinions I hope that next time I head back there the weather proves better and I can spent some time strolling around the area.
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Maryhill Museam, Maryhill, Oregon

Sitting atop a cliff overlooking the Columbia River Gorge sits a house that is fairly easy to miss. Often mistaken for a private house or a winery building it is in fact an art museum. The Maryhill Museum of Art is open to the public and one of the best things to visit in the area.
It was built starting in 1914 by Samuel Hill a local business man and lawyer who had quite a bit of money and quite a bit of influence in early 20th Century Oregon and Washington. He was a very well educated man, who once took classes from Henry Cabot Lodge (who was an American Senator who staunchly apposed the signing of the Treaty of Versailles and the inspiration for Veronica Lodges father in the Archie Comic series). And was very well traveled and well connected overseas having made good friends with the likes of Albert I of Belguim and Queen Marie of Romania.

The house had originally been intended to be lived in by the Hill family in order to entertain Hill’s wealthy friends however due to the entrance of the United States into WWI the building of the house was put on hold. The unfinished house was dedicated by Queen Marie in 1926 but not opened to the public until 1940 which was 9 years after Sam Hill’s passing.

Due to Hill’s friendships and connections the museum now houses quite a few personal effects of Queen Marie herself as well as a large collection of Rodin’s sculptures (another friend of Hill’s). It also houses a very nice collection of Pacific Northwest Native artifacts and history as well as the puppets and sets from Theatre de la Mode a mostly forgotten WWII French haute couture collection which was created by the great fashion houses of the time which premiered in the Louvre’s Museum of Decorative Arts in 1945.

Aside from an astounding amount of history the location itself is stunning. Complete with a cafe and well manicured grounds it is the perfect place to stop off on your way to somewhere or to adventure out to from Portland just for the day.

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