Two lucky residents of the United Kingdom will spend £95 to spend one night in Winnie the Pooh’s house. The open dates are September 24th and 25th, which coincides with the 95th anniversary of A.A. Milne’s first publication of the adorable honey loving bear.
The one-room house has all the hallmarks of Pooh’s house. Kim Raymond, who has illustrated the Pooh books for 30 years, incorporated small details into the construction of the house, which sits along the Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, England. A.A. Milne lived here and based his famous Hundred Acre Wood on the forest.
The guests receive a guided tour of the wood, along with honey-inspired meals. They will also play Poohsticks on Poohstick Bridge and enjoy naps in the cozy beds.
The outside façade has Pooh’s tree and the “Mr. Sanders” sign. The mystery surrounding who Mr. Sanders was remains; however, the house has been beautifully realized. I hope that the house will be open on future dates for international tourists.
TheAngel of Grief, as it is known, is one of the most iconic funerary sculptures that exist. It is also one of the most copied. The original was created by American lawyer, poet, and sculptor William Wetmore Story. TheAngel of Grief would be his last major work and lovingly dedicated to his recently deceased wife, Emelyn. It captures the grief he experienced at the prospect of living without his spouse.
William Wetmore Story (1819-1895) saw an opportunity to quit practicing law and become a full-time artist. He was the son of Associate Justice Joseph Story (1779-1845) who served on the Supreme Court of the United States, also known as SCOTUS. William graduated from Harvard College and began his career in law. He was successful but unfulfilled. When his father died, William accepted an offer that changed the course of his life.
A committee set up to honor the late Justice Joseph Story wanted to commission a statue in his memory, and they asked William to create it. William was a hobbyist and accepted the commission as long as he and his family moved to Italy for him to study.
By this time, William and Emelyn nee Eldredge had married and started a family. They had two children: Edith “Edie” Marion and Joseph “Joe.” And so, the family moved to Rome, Italy where William embarked on an apprenticeship. Tragedy struck the young family when little Joe died from gastric fever on November 23, 1853. He is buried in Campo Cestio in Rome.
The family grew while William honed his craft. Thomas Waldo, born December 9, 1854, and Julian Russell, born on September 8, 1857, joined older sister Edie. (Note: All four surviving children embarked on careers in the arts: T. Waldo became an acclaimed sculptor; Julian was a famous painter; and Edit, known as the Marchesa Peruzzi di Medici, became a writer.)
Although William returned to the United States to erect the monument for his father, he would make Rome his home. During the forty years he and Emelyn resided in Italy, William created other famous sculptures and gained acclaim as a poet. They enjoyed life and each other.
Emelyn died in 1894, and William’s heart broke. He prepared and created one last sculpture: The Angel of Grief. An angel dressed in Roman attire drapes her body over the altar with her large wings slumped in despair. The sculpture personified the grief that embraced William.
William died in his sleep a year later. He is buried beneath the sculpture with the love of his life. The monument sits in Campo Cestio, also called the Protestant Cemetery or the Cemetery for the Non-Catholic Foreigners. It may be viewed during posted business hours. If you’re unable to see it in person, you can visit some of the copies in America. I cannot state if the cemetery is haunted; however, I can tell you that it has some of the most beautiful funerary monuments that I’ve ever seen in one location. It also has about 40 cats that roam the cemetery listening to classical music when the cemetery closes for the day. Well worth a visit, in our post-COVID world.
While researching this article, I wanted to find a photograph of Emelyn; however, I was unable. There are a few of William and his children who survived into adulthood, but nothing for Emelyn. That is also heartbreaking. I would love to see the woman who supported and encouraged her husband to create so many famous pieces of art, especially the most important piece that is one of his most well-known.
Growing up in Fort Myers, I was fortunate to have parents who owned a boat. We would spend weekends out on the water, eating on Little Shell Island, and motoring up and down the Gulf of Mexico. When we were making it an all-day affair, we would head down to Collier County and look at the three odd houses perched on Cape Romano. The most famous was and remains the Dome House.
I didn’t appreciate my youth living on a canal where manatees swam and seahorses grew until I left. I guess that’s the age-old adage. Many years later and well into my adult life, I was able to spend the day on the water sailing past Cape Romano. While the Pyramid House and the Stilt House are long gone, the Dome House remains.
Bob Lee made his fortune in the oil industry which led to his ability to retire at the age of 44 and become an inventor. He envisioned an eco-friendly home where his family could vacation. The home would be off the grid and powered with renewable energy. He first built a prototype on his property in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
In 1978, Bob purchased four lots on Morgan Island in the Ten Thousand Island chain south of Marco Island, Collier County, Florida. The island was pristine, unlike the rapid development taking over Marco.
Bob decided to build a home linking 6 dome structures all perched on cement stilts. Bob bought a barge, a flat motorized water vessel that easily transports equipment, and ferried over steel forms (molds) and 2 concrete mixers. He mixed the concrete with freshwater and built the domes. Bob installed under-dome heating via fire; the walls were insulated with foam. Dell Jones installed solar panels. Along the bottom of each dome was a gutter system the collected rainwater which was filtered for use.
If the house seems rustic, you’re wrong. It was actually quite lavish. Pinterest has a large collection of images. Carpet and tile were laid for flooring. There was air conditioning, satellite TV, and even a hot tub. It was the perfect vacation getaway.
The 2400 square foot 3-bedroom and 3-bathroom house was completed in 1982. Bob along with his wife Margaret and family enjoyed two years at the house. In 1984, Bob sold the property to George Wendell. Caretaker Brian Slager moved into the house. By 1987, the house was back in Bob’s name, and the family made it their primary residence.
John Tosto of Naples purchased the lots in 2005 for $300,000. He sought to develop and protect the home. Bob encouraged building a seawall; however, it was too late. The island was eroding beyond conservation.
Mother Nature has not been kind to the island chain. All three houses had generous beach sand buffering them from the water. Over time, erosion and natural weather phenomena took away the sand. In 1992, the category 5 Hurricane Andrew destroyed the interior of the Dome House. By October 2005 when Hurricane Wilma churned past, the sand was eroded further. Two of the 6 domes fell on September 10, 2017, in Hurricane Irma.
After several years in court battling the land use of the Dome House, the State of Florida now owns the land while Tosto owns the structures. The house sits in the water and has become part of the Rookery Bay Aquatic Preserve. It is a destination for tourists and urban explorers. Sea creatures and birds have made it their home. Nature has reclaimed what was always hers.
The house is viewable only by water. As the erosion continues, there are growing fears for the safety of boats attempting to anchor or to sail close. Hire a licensed boat captain or company to sightsee. Never attempt to trespass.
Cape Romano is an island just south of Marco Island, off Naples, in Collier County, Florida. Back before climate change was mainstream, people purchased lots of these fragile islands and built houses. Of the three on Cape Romano, the Dome House is the most famous. (Blog forthcoming). However, personally, I’m captivated by the Pyramid House. Not only did the family live in the structure, they brought their pets to join them in island bliss…until it wasn’t.
Cape Romano is the southern point in a chain of islands making up the Ten Thousand Islands off just south of Marco Island. At some point in the 1060s, entrepreneurial salesmen decided to sell plots on the beach facing the Gulf of Mexico. This was Florida’s “I’ve got a bridge to sell you” land scam. It was also before climate change became our generations danger.
Montague “Monte” Innes convinced his wife, Judy, that he could build a house on the island where they could live an almost off-the-grid lifestyle. And it worked for several years.
According to a recent interview with Judy, the plot was on Caxambas Island, part of the Ten Thousand Island chain. (Note: the landscape of the island chain has substantially shifted with erosion. The island boundaries have changed over the years.) Monte purchased a barge to bring over the supplies and with the assistance of a friend named Harry, they constructed the 3-story cedar pyramid-shaped house.
Honestly, Monte, and with the Dome house builder Bob Lee, were decades before their time. Both men devised ways for the families to survive and thrive with solar power for Bob and windmills for Monte, generators, and water filtration systems. Judy and Monte even had a waterbed! Monte used extra pilings to secure the floor.
The house had rooms butted against the front wall and a large 3-story lanai along the back. What made the Pyramid special were 4 golden mirrors placed upon the top. Sunshine reflected off the mirrors, resembling the Egyptian pyramids. The other feature consisted of a menagerie of animals Judy kept. Monte built 5 aviaries for Judy to breed birds. Five emus had full run of the island.
Online forums house postings from people from all over who passed via boats the homes while growing up. As the homes were only accessible by watercraft, the homeowners had to bring over supplies and animals on barges. The horses are the most discussed topic. Judy brought over two horses, Notice Me (Twiggy) and Koko individually in a horse trailer fastened to the barge. They arrived in 1978. By May of 1987, Judy removed the horses and relocated them to her Naples property.
The youngest daughter, Heather, was a high school student while residing on the island. Each school day, she took a small John boat to Marco Island to get to school. What an incredible life!
In 1988, Judy was injured while riding a horse and never returned to the island. Monte and Judy divorced; Heather would look after the animals and began to bring them to mainland.
Shortly after Judy and Monte sold the pyramid house to a couple from Ohio, it sustained great damage from a hurricane. Judy says a tornado brought down the house.
Erosion, however, was always on their minds. When they constructed the pyramid, there was roughly 2,000 feet between the house and the water. Rapid erosion quickly diminished the distance, and then Mother Nature finished it off.
The area is not haunted—that I know of. However, it is a part of my childhood, having seen the houses and heard the talk, and I wanted to share that Florida is known for some odd things. And a cedar pyramid on an island in South Florida is one of them!
The Withybrook shrunken medieval settlement dates back to the 12th century. One of the earliest structures, the All Saints’ Church, was restored in 1995. The area is deserted; however, it contains significant ancient monuments and is protected under the British Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act of 1979. It is also privately owned. The owners were recently fined £160,000 pounds for unauthorized destruction.
Withybrook is located in Warwickshire, England. Government documents show that people inhabited the area as far back as 1188. The area is now deserted and co-owned by mother and daughter, Heather and Elizabeth Mac. Along with Heather’s husband, John, they began excavating an area by ripping out plants, grading the land, and installing plumbing. The intent was to set up a yard for horses to graze. All of the work was unauthorized. The family were issued several warnings. They refused to stop.
Community residents appealed to the government. The Warwick Crown Court issued £160,000 pounds in fines and court fees. The Court cited the family’s lack of remorse for the high fines. They have until September to pay or face up to 14 months in jail.
Historically designated sites are important. The designations ensure preservation of culturally significant properties. Owners are well educated in the laws and know what can and cannot be done. Any changes must be approved by governing bodies. Although the Mac family are probably not the only people to commit heritage crimes, they received some of the highest fines known.
Sunday night (and birth anniversary of Vincent van Gogh), The Singer Laren museum experienced a smash and grab. The museum was closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The art thieves entered through a large glass window and made off with one of van Gogh’s oil paintings. Here are some facts about the master painter and his lesser-known piece:
Dutch post-impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh (March 30, 1853-July 29-1890) tried several careers before settling on artist. He attempted to be an art dealer, like his brother; a schoolteacher; and a preacher.
He was self-taught and began to paint seriously at the age of 27.
He was an avid letter-writer. He exchanged over 600 letters with his brother, Theo.
The stolen painting, The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring 1884, represented a time when he painted about everyday life. He uses a somber earth-tone palette.
Colors played an important role in his paintings. His favorite color to use was yellow, representing emotional health. He used yellow for sunlight, life, and God in his work.
Vincent suffered from mental illness. He committed suicide in 1890 by shooting himself in the chest. He survived 2 days but died from an infection.
The stolen painting measure 10×22 inches and is done in oil. Over his lifetime, he created 2,100 artworks, of which 860 were oil paintings.
The stolen painting was on loan from the Groninger Museum.
American couple Willian and Anna Singer own the museum the painting was stolen from.
One of Vincent’s famous quotes: “The sadness will last forever.”
Since his paintings do not come up for auction often and fetch millions of dollars, it is highly unlikely that we will see it in any auction house publications. Hopefully, it will not be hidden in some uber-rich family’s private collection—removed from the world to experience.
The Wyckoff Villa is not haunted. Further, stating that it is hasn’t help sell it. The abandoned structure has been on the real estate market since 2012, and still, no one bites.
Less than a mile south of the Canadian border sits Carleton Island. The island sits within a chain of islands in the St. Lawrence River known collectively as Thousand Islands. Accessible only by boat, the island has three burial grounds and 34 homes. The most infamous home is Wyckoff Villa, also known as Carleton Island Villa.
Wyckoff Villa was intended to join the ranks of other stately mansions on the other islands. Architect William Henry Miller designed the 15,000 square foot home, and building commenced in 1894. The owner was former Union Captain William Ozmun Wyckoff. Wyckoff returned from the Civil War to become a lawyer and court stenographer. Through the stenographer’s job, Wyckoff learned about a new invention: the typewriter.
The first commercially successful typewriters were sold by E. Remington and Sons in 1874. William Wyckoff began selling the typewriters on a part-time basis, eventually leaving his court-appointed stenographer position to form the Wyckoff, Seamans & Benedict company. In 1886, Remington sold the entire typewriter division to Wyckoff, Seamans & Benedict, and William became the company president. Wyckoff became a typewriter tycoon.
Shortly thereafter, Wyckoff and his wife, Frances Valeria Ives Wyckoff, began searching for a location to build a summer home. They settled on Carleton Island.
However, tragedy would follow. Construction progressed through 1894 and into 1895. A month before the home was ready, Mrs. Wyckoff died. On June 1, 1895, Frances died from either cancer or a heart attack (depending on the source). William moved into the enormous home on July 11th. He suffered a heart attack that very night and died.
No one would reside in the home again. The 11-bedroom, 50 room home sits on 6.9 acres. General Electric purchased the land, seeking to demolish the home and build a corporate resort. World War II placed the development on hold, eventually tanking the project entirely in the 1940s, when the company gutted the interior. Fixtures and material were stripped from inside. In fact, the marble underneath the 5-story tower was removed, thus causing the structure to become structurally unsound. The tower was eventually torn down.
The current owners have marketed the home as a tear-down (versus a fixer-upper as it would cost a reported $10-15 million) with the waterfront land sub-divided for future homes. The realtor receives weekly enquires; however, no one seems to want to purchase. Some media sites have labeled the villa as haunted.
The villa is not haunted. There isn’t one credible story claiming that the house is haunted. It has been described as creepy and spooky, which may be the case, but there aren’t any reliable stories showing evidence that the villa is haunted. Here, the lack of evidence is clear.
What is not clear is why no one has purchased the lot with the villa or any of the other lots. The price tag may be a reason; it is listed for $495,000. Or it may be that there aren’t any year-round residents or paved roads.
According to Airbnb, novelty lodgings are up 70%. Seems people want to spend the night in odd locations. Beginning next month, travelers can stay at the iconic Lucy the Elephant.
Lucy’s story is complicated. Lucy was built in 1881 by James V. Lafferty in Margate City, New Jersey. Her designs are even patented. In 1902, a family of 6 rented her for their home. They renovated her interior and added a second floor. Unfortunately, she endured natural disasters and abandonment.
Lucy the Elephant became a roadside American attraction. In 1969, Lucy was slated for demolition but salvaged by a group of local residents. By 1970, the Save Lucy Committee, LLC was formed, and Lucy was saved. She moved to a city-owned property and restored. Over 132,000 tourists visit her annually. Now she has become an Airbnb listing.
Through a partnership with Airbnb, which provided a generous donation as well as furnishing the interior, and the Save Lucy Committee, tourists may book overnight stays within her belly. The cost of $138 per night denotes her age. The price includes a gift certificate to a local restaurant for dinner, breakfast, and a mobile bathroom parked beside her.
Lucy truly is an iconic piece of Americana. In addition, she is designated as a National Historic Landmark. Although Lucy is not haunted, she makes for an interesting destination. Bookings begin March 5th. For more information, visit airbnb.com/lucy.
The porcelain miniature dolls made predominately in Germany in the 1850s were meant to be bath toys. The stiff dolls became popular in America. American writer Seba Smith (1792-1868) penned the poem “A Corpse Going to a Ball” about a vain young woman named “Charlotte” who refused to bundle up on the 20-mile horse ride to a New Year’s ball. Her date, aptly named Charlie, found her frozen to death. Smith’s inspiration supposedly came from an article he read in a newspaper. Although the dolls were only popular from the 1850-1920s, they’re having a resurgence of sorts. Collectors can purchase online with several Etsy venders claiming to have dolls long buried from abandoned doll factories. (I’ll keep you posted on the two I purchased)
During Charlotte’s popularity, French chef Marie-Antoine Carême (1784-1833) created a decadent dessert while working in King George IV’s Court. His first creation was called the “Apple Charlotte,” named for the King’s daughter, Princess Charlotte. When Carême went to work for Czar Alexander I, he created the “Charlotte Russe,” translated as “Russian Charlotte.” For this creation, Carême made a thick custard circled by ladyfinger cookies. Per legend, he was inspired by the “Charlotte” hat and his love for London. The “Chantilly Charlotte” is flavored with violet.
The modern “Charlotte Russe” means a “dish of custard.” It can be a trifle served hot or cold; a cake, bread, or cookies lined with custard; or an ice box cake. For the hot summer, one should consider making a “Frozen Charlotte.”
For this recipe, follow these directions:
Line a springform pan with ladyfingers, including bottom.
Make a frozen mouse or use soft ice cream.
Spoon into the pan.
The original recipe calls for a Bavarian custard; however, the custard is not recommended as it will not freeze. You could make the tradition Bavarian custard cake and merely chill for a cool, refreshing dessert. Enjoy!