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!