St. Paul, MN 1999
The 33rd ANNUAL MEETING
of the VICTORIAN SOCIETY IN AMERICA
VICS PLUNGE INTO THE "LAND OF THE SKY BLUE WATERS"
An Annual Meeting Diary
Monday, June 7
The 8:15 AM Northwest flight to Minneapolis/St.Paul and Boise, Idaho departed Philadelphia carrying your diarist and VSA Business Manager Stacy Hampton. Also on board were German and British lady bicyclists who had competed the day before in Philadelphia's famous bike race. Among them was the crew-cut German winner of the ladies race. This writer, living across the street from the race's starting point had seen them start, but saw the finish on TV. All of them were slim, trim and attractive and on their way to Boise, Idaho.
After an uneventful flight, including a breakfast of Wheaties, a banana, a bagel with cream cheese and skimmed milk, we were met at the airport by North Star Chapter Annual Meeting Chair Mary Kay Nutzmann who whisked us off to the Saint Paul Hotel for a check-in. And eureka, rooms were ready. Then it was on to the W.A. Frost & Company Restaurant located in the ever-so-victorian (1889) Dacotah Building. The balmy weather made outdoor dining a must. Stacy, still recuperating from a stomach virus settled for Thai soup, potatoes and bread. Mary Kay and the writer were able to dine a bit more lavishly. After lunch we went around the corner for a visit to John's Antiques. Saw some marvelous chandeliers. A late afternoon nap was followed by a quick trip to nearby and almost-ghost town Dayton Department store to purchase thread and as a bonus a sack of chocolate chip cookies. Dinner was in the hotel's Grill where Stacy and I were joined by early arrival Bob Furhoff. Afterwards, while I sat in the lobby and enjoyed a post-dinner cigar, Stacy busied herself on a hotel computer churning out copies of material for the meeting. Greeted Pat Pixley arriving from Omaha and finally about 12:15 cigar butt in the ashtray it was off to bed. Stacy was still wrapped up with the computer. Shortly after two, about to bed down, I suddenly realized that I had left my folder with key papers in the restaurant. Down to the lobby to find that the Grill was locked up for the night. However, a security guard with flashlight unlocked the door and I felt my way to the table we had occupied, no folder. But, a happy ending, it had been found and placed under the hostess stand.
Tuesday, June 8
Late breakfast and loafed around in the morning, greeting arriving board members then off to the Minnesota History Center for the Board meeting. Lunch at the Cafe Minnesota on the first level sent a well-fed group into the meeting on the second level. Although on the way up the short flight of steps the twin museum shops by the cafe were very tempting.
A vigorous meeting re-whetted appetites and W.A. Frost was the selection to take care of that problem. North Star Chapter Proxy Sheryl Martinson, a psychologist by profession, enlivened the salmon dinner with a display of her delightful, non-fishy, sense of humor.
Back at the St. Paul, it was greeting time in the lobby as Vics started to assemble for the pre, regular and post meetings. Among them were fellow-Philadelphians Chapter VP Jim McPartlin and wife Elise, Chapter secretary Marilyn Popp attending their first National, Bob Skaler and Katie Giomi, veteran attendees.
Wednesday, June 9
It was raining at 8:45 AM and no bus for the Pre-Conference Tour of Stillwater, Minnesota. But, it soon arrived to take on its passengers. A short half hour ride along the high St.Croix River, which separates
Minnesota from Wisconsin, and we were in charming Stillwater. Our guide was Sally Erickson, assisted by Martha Oviatt. Sally made certain that we understood that she was a transplanted Easterner and therefore had to be credible.
The two highlights in the morning as we cruised the town were the newly restored Washington County Courthouse (1870, Augustus F. Knight, Architect) and Debbie Johnson's House, built in 1862 and added on to in 1888. Lunch was at the bizarre Lowell Inn, known as "The Mount Vernon of the Midwest. It was constructed in 1927 on the site of the 19th century Sawyer House, torn down in 1924. The Lowell Inn was lavishly decorated, most impressive was the men's room emblazoned with a theatrical decor. Dudley Brown was particularly taken with the Inn's draperies.
Built in 1853, the Warden's House next to the now departed old Minnesota Territorial prison has been turned into a museum. Until 1941, it housed an assortment of wardens, many lacking any concept of the job. This included one warden who got tired of taking care of his prisoners and let them all go free.
And then it was the piece de resistance of the day, namely, unleashing the Vics on Main Street and its plethora of antique and specialty shops. It was hot, but undeterred there were invasions of Merry Point Antiques, The Mill Antiques, More Antiques, American Gothic Antiques, Mid-Town Antique Mall, Stillwater Antiques, Architectural Antiques, Mulberry Antiques, Gabrielle Antiques, Chelsea Rose Antiques, etc., etc., not to forget ice cream at Barbara's Candy Shop, also on Main Street. Sally Kinsey's purchase of an Indian necklace may well have been the ice breaker.
Back to the hotel to rest and primp for the opening reception, with a bus pick-up time of 6:30PM for the trip to the James J. Hill House, a Richardsonian Romanesque mansion built between 1888 and 1891. It was designed by the firm of Peabody, Stearns and Furber. Hill was the founder of the Great Northern Railroad. He oversaw the planning, construction and furnishing of the house as if it were a new branch of the railroad. He rejected stained-glass window designs by Tiffany and Company, saying they were "anything but what I want," and even replaced the architects when they ignore his orders to the stonecutters. He engaged another Boston firm, Irving and Casson to finish the interiors.
The evening presented quite an agenda, remarks, food, music, tours, costumes, art. Chapter president Sheryl Martinson, Marcia Anderson of the Minnesota Historical Society and Christopher Monkhouse, Curator of Decorative Arts, Minneapolis Institute of Arts were the speakers. Monkhouse, a former VSA board member, spoke about James Hill and his house and as an art collector. Besides the Vics, there were other guests representing the Living History Society, the Costume Guild, the Hairwork Society (in town for their 2nd annual "Hairball"). Members of the Costume Guild in 19th century Minnesota dress circulated among the guests. Music consisted of mini-organ concerts by Nils Halker in the art gallery. Guided tours of the home started from the music room every half hour. The exhibition in the art gallery was titled "Minnesota Territory, Recorded and Remembered: An Exhibition of 19th Century Art." Among the Vics present, it was nice to note the continued return of a number of Annual Meeting veterans. New York City's Mary Cope; Washington, DC's Richard Evans; Baltimore's John Larsen, Plymouth MA's Enzo Monti; also Atlanta's sprightly Richard Maxwell and Earl Webster were back after a year's hiatus. None of them looked a day older. Barbara Lokke, star lecturer at the 1998 Annual Meeting, was on hand with her sister Marilyn Lage from Austin, MN. Also, Patricia Murphy, whose historic Council Bluff, IA's home was a part of last year's Annual Meeting, decided to view the historic house scene in another locale.
Back in the hotel I decided to enjoy a post-evening cigar and was steered to the bar only to discover that cigars were priced like gold. I wound up with a $9 Rothschild. Thus day #1 became smoky history.
Thursday, June 10
A 15 minute earlier start and it was to be Minneapolis Day. First stop, Minnesota's earliest tourist attraction "Minnehaha Falls" where the water from the Minnehaha Creek which forms from Lake Minnetonka drops over 50 spectacular feet into the Mississippi. From there it was a tour of the Minneapolis Lake District. Driving down the Minnehaha Parkway, as expected, Marvin Cristil was first to use the bus restroom, and, as expected, had difficulty getting the door open so he could exit. This was the third consecutive Annual Meeting "win" for Marvin, first Richmond in 1997, then Omaha in 1998. However, he did not match his Richmond time of one half hour to get the door open.
Our guide was Vern Greenlee, a firm believer in the maxim that every lake has its own personality. He saw Minneapolis as a city of glass and steel, and St. Paul as one of stone and brick. On the other bus, the guide was Suzy Vogt. We passed the Shubert theater which had cost $34,000,000 to move a block and a half, and they are looking for another $26,000,000 to restore it properly. Then it was Saint Anthony Falls where the true story of Minneapolis begins. It is the only true waterfall on the 2,350 mile length of the Mississippi. Originally, the Falls were located in the Saint Paul area but natural erosion has caused the line of the Falls to move steadily upriver about four feet a year and they are now in Minneapolis.
The Walker Art Center, the Tyrone Guthrie Theater, the Sculpture Garden, with the shortest suspension bridge in the world running from the Garden over the Freeway to Loring Park. Then it was on to the Minneapolis museum of Art for a guided tour and, naturally, a session in the gift shop as Betty Perlish and the Flora Dora girls got warmed up. The museum as an entity was established in 1883. The present building was designed by the firm of McKim, Mead & White and opened its doors in 1915.
We lunched in the second floor art gallery of the Hennepin Avenue Methodist Church, preparatory to the proceedings of the Annual VSA Business Meeting. President John Simonelli reviewed the 1998-1999 period and then called for reports from the various committee chairs. The awarding of the Annual Preservation and Book (Hitchcock and Emery) awards, as well as the President's Award, are covered elsewhere in this issue.
The meeting adjourned and Bus #1 and Bus #2 split their destinations. #1 sped off to Charles Nelson's Victorian home in North Minneapolis while #2 found its way to the 1913 Purcell-Cutts House. The latter, owned now by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts is a Chicago School Prairie-style house designed by William Gray Purcell (1880-1965) and George Grant Elmslie (1869-1952). It was built for Purcell's family and incorporates his talents for domestic planning with Elmslie's ingenious and exacting decorative detail. The architects believed that the hearth was the center of any home and disregarded many traditional ideas about room divisions. Purcell and his family lived in the house for only a few years before moving to Philadelphia and then Portland, Oregon. In 1919 the house was sold to Anson B. Cutts, who in turn bequeathed it to the museum.
It was shoes off at the Charles Nelson home, a Queen Ann 1890's style house. On the National Register, the house is decorated in an eclectic Victorian style. Nelson, an architect at the State Historic Preservation Office, is an avid collector of Victoriana. Your editor was chastised by guide Martha Oviatt for coming up the wrong set of stairs, but was not sent to sit in a corner.
About 4:15 it was "Valkommen" at the American-Swedish Institute. Founded in 1929 it represents an elegant tribute to over 150 years of Swedish experience in America. It was founded by Swan J, Turnblad, a newspaper publisher and self-made millionaire. The 33 room Queen Ann-style mansion, built shortly after the fin de siecle, was his home. It is filled with intricately carved oak, walnut and imported African mahogany panels and carvings. There was plaster sculpturing on the ceilings. Among the rooms is a library, music room and ballroom and two-story grand entrance hall. For the shoppers there was also an extremely well-stocked gift shop, and they took advantage of it.
Following the return to the hotel, everyone scattered in different directions. Some to dinner, others to the Summer School Alumni Reception, and a small contingent departed by hotel van for the Mall of America. Among the latter group was Katie Giomi who agreed to try to find cigars for this writer that were priced like silver instead of gold. At some point during the evening just about everyone visited the Silent Auction room to start the bidding. P.S. Katie did nobly with her cigar purchase.
Friday, June 11
It was a rainy start at 8:45 for St. Paul day with the Greenlee, Vogt duo as guides again. First, we traversed the redeveloped Lowertown area. This is an 18-square block in the very heart of downtown, the birthplace of St. Paul. It is named for the nearby "lower" landing on the Mississippi in the 1800's. It contains more than 40 historic buildings, many of them National Trust landmarks.
From there it was on to Dayton's Bluff for a view of St.Paul and the Mississippi. The rain had stopped, but it was a cloudy view albeit still spectacular. On the river we could see barges making their way in both directions. Back on the buses, the route went by a garage sale. "Let's stop" said Flora Dora Roseanne Vernon, getting in a sprinters position. But, alas, it was not to be, for we were bound for the State Capitol. Completed in 1905, it was the third capitol building and was designed by Cass Gilbert. It also was the first Minnesota building with inside plumbing. It has been called the second most beautiful capitol building next to Utah.
Our guided tour focused on the art and architecture, we viewed the restored House (largest in USA) and Senate chambers, the Supreme Court with its John LaFarge paintings and the Governor's reception room. Several members of our group even got to pump hands with the state's matinee idol governor, ex-wrestler, Jesse Ventura. Sally Kinsey was primed to arm wrestle him, but no luck. Not only did Gilbert design the structure but he also supervised its construction and its decoration. He was the designer of the state capitols of Arkansas and West Virginia. His design for the Woolworth Building in New York popularized the skyscraper. In Washington, DC, he designed the Supreme Court Building.
The Como Park Conservatory was built in 1914 and is modeled after the one in Kew Gardens, London. In addition to being able to traipse among the ferns, herbs, bonsai, shrubs, and plants, there is also a small zoo hovering in the background. No untoward incidents, no one was lost in the underbrush, no one sized up by a lion.
Arriving at the Minnesota History Center for lunch in the Cafe Minnesota, time did not permit any respectable invasion of the two shops. There was some confusion when it became time to re-board the buses. It seems that Bus #1 unloaded on the lst floor level, and bus #2 on the 2nd floor level, and evidently assumed that people would re-load the same way. Not our crowd!
As was to be expected there were a lot of fleur de lys in the design of the Catholic Church of St. Louis ("The French Church"). It was designed by Emmanuel Masqueray for the French-speaking Catholics of St. Paul. A brand new pipe organ ($1,000,000) has been installed. It was designed and built in Quebec, Canada. Father Morrisey, the pastor gave us an informative historical rundown spiced with wit on the history of the church.
From the solemnity of the church to the fancy of the governor's Summit Avenue residence was the next parlay. We were split up into groups of 25 for the tour. Our group was accompanied by Franklin, the Governor's bulldog. He was well behaved. No family members were on the scene.
The last stop was the fabled St. Paul Cathedral, the third largest church in the USA. Also designed by Emmanuel Masqueray, its dome rises higher than the state capitol. Masqueray, because of the limited size of the site, designed the cathedral, built of Rockville granite and Kasota dolostone on the outside and Minnesota limestone and Italian marble inside. It is built in the form of a compact Greek Cross crowned by a 175 foot drum and dome. Started in 1906, it was not completed until the 1940's, although the first mass was said in 1915. Seating 3,000. the cathedral has two organs and perfect acoustics. We were able to ascertain the latter because while we were there we heard the choir rehearse, their voices and the organ soaring with grandeur.
On the way back to the hotel, by popular request, a stop was made at the Hill House on Summit Avenue so outside pictures could be taken. Summit Avenue offers one of the best preserved avenues of 19th century architecture in the U.S. Out of 444 homes built there since 1855, 373 homes are still standing. Then it was back to visit the Silent Auction, attend the sherry party for Chapters, before primping and resting up for the Grand Ball.
Dance programs in hand, Vics, many in costume, poured into the Landmark Center for the grand Ball promptly at 7PM. We did not note who was first at the cash bar, but we do know that the cold buffet featuring warm chicken was excellent. However, before settling down to dinner many of the attendees took a tour through the historic Landmark Building. North Star Chapter member Edna Reasoner, our delightful guide, had an incredible fund of information about the building which originally was a courthouse. We saw a number of courtrooms which were kept busy in the thirties when St.Paul had its gangster era. As we toured we were quickly made aware of the fact that the Society of Minnesota Quilters was having a convention, There were sewing machines, more than I had ever seen in my long life, in every room that did not have steam irons.
Promptly at 8:30 the Camp Town Ladies tuned up, and the Silver Moon Dance Ensemble, who had been warming up, summoned everyone up for the Grand March and we were off to the dances. Led by President John Simonelli and Treasurer Sallie Wadsworth and Chapter president, splendidly costumed, Sheryl Martinson and husband the March wended its way through the room in ever-so-staely fashion. Seen among the ranks frock-coated, wing-collared, top-hatted Hank Dunlop, and this writer costumed for the first time ever (fez, scarf and grandfather's smoking jacket), accompanied by Stacy Hampton wearing her 1860's Civil War hoop skirted gown, Edith and Bill Bradbury, Pat Pixley and the kilted Tom Nickel. Not to forget Billie Britz, May Stone, Don Bergmann, Ann Ashmead, Bill Wilson, the Fosters in civilian mufti.
It was certainly a better terpsichorean effort than the incredible sight of Vics trying to do an Indian dance in Omaha. Speaking of Omaha, we noted that Wayne Anderson, responsible, along with Pat Pixley, for the success of last year's Annual Meeting was a relaxed, gleeful participant. Until the dessert break at 9:45 the Camp Towners played waltzes, a Virginia Reel, a Schottische, a two step. We, fortunately, had the guidance of the Silver Moon group on the unfamiliar dances.
It is almost one of the seven wonders of the world to observe the Vics attack a table groaning with desserts. It was a stomach heavy group that returned to the dance floor to try the Rustic Reel, the Liberty Bell, the Spanish waltz the Cotillion, and Pop Goes the Weasel. By midnight the dance floor had become somewhat deserted as the Camp Towners struck the chords of the last waltz. Verdict: well done, it was lots of fun.
Saturday, June 12
Bliss, the bus leaving time was 9:15, what luxury! time for a leisurely breakfast. The writer, together with Billie Britz, May Stone and Sallie Wadsworth, having heard great things about Mickey's Dining Car opted to breakfast there. Great pancakes and eggs. But we heard that Mickey was originally from the East Coast which explains the quality.
Saturday was optional tour day with Vics having to choose from three possibilities. They were Fort Snelling (the last U.S. outpost in the "northern wilderness") or the Henry Sibley House or a "Behind the Scenes"-tour of the collections of the Minnesota Historical Society. Our choice was to go behind the scenes and it was well worth it. After a wait for the museum to open it was in to the catacombs. What an incredible treasure trove of items that are not on display. Everything is carefully inventoried and stored in temperature-controlled areas. We saw Indian statues, trunks, school desks, dolls in mourning clothes, hair jewelry, roller and ice skates, dentist chairs, drums and a copy of Cleopatra's couch.
Then it was off to the Irvine Park area where we were to spend the afternoon - Forepaugh's for lunch, then across the street to the fabled Alexander Ramsey House, and a tour of houses in the immediate park area. Forepaugh's is the former residence of dry goods merchant joseph L. Forepaugh. It was built in 1870 for a cost of $10,000. In 1975 the home became a restaurant with nine distinctly decorated dining rooms. For the writer, the hit of the lunch was a true English trifle for dessert.
Following lunch, it was over to the Alexander Ramsey House, where half were to tour the house while the other group visited the block of restored houses in the Irvine Park area. The Ramsey House, headquarters for the North Star Chapter, is, in this writer's opinion, one of the finest restored Victorian homes he has ever seen. Under the guidance of its charming director, Janet Budack, who, unfortunately, had the handicap of a broken ankle, the house and grounds were festive. Costumed ladies, croquet, a booth selling hair jewelry (which found its biggest customer in Stacy Hampton), a phrenologist from the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices, lemonade, cookies, cake and the piece de resistance the "pit spitting" contest. This was won by Willie Meadows, pride of St.Louis, with a record cherry pit spit of 22 feet. The writer was a far distant second with a spit of only 15111". A steady parade of Vics braved phrenologist Bob McCoy's head machine to have their bumps read. Bob Skaler, Patrice Beam, Bill Murtagh, John Martine, Claire Gallagher, Sheryl Martinson among others had their bump analysis printout read out amidst hoots and whoops and cackles.
At four, Mary Kay Nutzmann led a group over to John's Antiques and Grandma's Attic and the buses started to ferry a well-satisfied bunch back to the hotel.
Dinner was at The Castle, the 1890 former stock exchange building, now restored into a 30 room Victorian hotel. The entree was Minnesota's state fish- Walleye and for dessert - chocolate squares were deadly, but who cared.
Climaxing the evening was a trip back to the Hill Mansion to enjoy the final program of the Annual Meeting. Titled "Picture the Songs: Magic Lantern Slides and the Music of the Ragtime Era." This was a multi-media presentation mixing history and music with beautiful hand-colored photographic lantern slides presented by the Bergh sisters, Nancy and Margaret. It was rollicking to hear such numbers as "My Moving Picture Babel' 1908, "You Can't Expect Kisses from Me" 1911, "I'm On My Way to Reno" 1910, "When Broadway Was a Pasture" 1911 and "Oh You Spearmint Kiddo With the Wrigley Eyes" 1910.
The evening was not yet over when we arrived back at the hotel. The silent auction finale was yet to come. A packed house jockeyed around striving to get the last bid down for the object of their desires. The spectacular hit of the evening was the appearance of the Flora Dora quartet each sporting a jazzy FLORA DORA T-shirt. Love those ladies! There were about 180 items up for bid.
Sunday, June 13
The clocks registered 7AM and the 28 of us going on the post trip were expected to have our bags outside our rooms. Promptly at 8:30 the bus sped down the Great River road with its magnificent views of "Old Man River." About IOAM we stopped in Red Wing at the 1875 St.James Hotel restored to all of its past Victorian splendor for a coffee/tea/coke/Danish break. The dining room was named "Port of Red Wing." Unfortunately, it was Sunday and nothing was open to the dismay of the veteran shop explorers Betty Perlish, the Fosters, Hank Dunlop, Dudley Brown and David Nicolai, a rookie. This led to a lot of aimless milling about, noting Taco John's, a 1913 Prairie School building across the street, an 1868 Italianate building, an octagon house, a store named "A Little Jewel Box",and a small girl on a pogo stick.
It was on through such towns as Wabasha, Lake City, Minnesota City, Winona, to LaCrosse. At this point, the diary keeper, a Yale varsity lacrosse player in his long sped past youth waxed a bit nostalgic, as we headed for our first stop, the Marriott Residence Inn for lunch.
After lunch it was on to the Hixon House. Gideon Hixon had the house built in 1860. Additions were made in the 1880's and around the turn of the century. Electricity and indoor plumbing were added by 1885. What is most significant is that so much of the house has survived intact. The woodwork is outstanding and features a variety of woods. The bulk of the furnishings are Victorian era, but, reflecting the interest in the Orient, there are a number of Far and Middle Eastern pieces collected during the Hixon travels. In particular, the small corner attached to the sitting room was known to the family as the "Turkish Nook." It was added about 1901, and demonstrates the fascination which Americans had with things Oriental. The sitting room also still has original William Morris wallpaper. Brenda Jordan, Curator of the Hixon House and Director of the LaCrosse Preservation Society was on hand to take us through.
Back on the bus Maryanne Ondovscik launched into a fascinating discourse on food. This so stirred up the group's taste buds, that when a sign announcing Culver's Frozen Custard appeared in Prairie du Chein, a stop was called for, and the bus emptied out. From the number of cars parked around the shop it was obvious that Culver's was a well known hangout. They had a product called a "Turtle" composed of chocolate surrounding butterscotch and pecans that was an immediate smash hit. While the munching was going on, a loaded horse van pulled in with a dashing cowboy hatted driver and two blonde ladies both of whom promptly went into the shop, probably for "Turtles." Several of our ladies drifted over to the van ostensibly to pat the horses, but the driver seemed to be getting a bit of the attention.
As we passed through Dickeyville we spotted a sign announcing "The Grotto, and there in front of our eyes was an edifice constructed of stone, broken glass, seashells, fossils, broken china dishes etc. A stop was immediately called for and cameras at the ready the Vics leaped off. A sign told us that the grotto was built between 1918 and 1931 without a blueprint and was a part of the Church of the Holy Ghost. About 5:30, we pulled up in front of Galena, Illinois' DeSoto House Hotel in the county of Jo Daviess. Galena means lead. Indians were the first miners of the rich deposits of lead ore, followed in the late 1600's by the French. In 1829, twenty years before the California Gold Rush, people from around the world flocked to Galena seeking their fortune. The DeSoto House opened its doors in 1855 and became known as "the best hotel west of New York City for its sumptuous accommodations and meticulous service." Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the hotel underwent major renovations in the 1980's. Incidentally, Galena provided nine Civil War generals, including U.S. Grant.
One distinctive feature of the DeSoto House made itself apparent as we unloaded from the bus. The bell hops were diminutive ladies and they had no trouble with the bags. We gathered for dinner in the Schuyler Colefax Room. Barely through our dessert, the door opened and in walked a frock-coated General Ulysses S. Grant, cigar smoke trailing behind him. He proceeded to entertain us with both historic and apocryphal tales in a most captivating fashion. This writer inhaling the cigar aroma, longed to be able to light up and join the General. Following the meal, most of the group congregated in front of the hotel and gazed right and left down the almost deserted Main Street dreaming of the next day's buying spree to come.
Monday, June 14
Monday was our day in Galena and at 9AM we boarded our motor coach for a tour of Galena. Barbara Finney set up her toll booth in front of the rest room. It was hot! First stop was General Grant,s home. Our guide was Daryl Watson, Executive Director of the Galena/Jo Daviess County Historical Society & Museum. The home was presented to Grant upon his return to Galena following the Civil War. It has been restored as it appeared during the post-civil War period and the Grant Presidency. His children gave the house to Galena in 1904. From there we went on to the private Spur House, circa 1860, which housed three generations over a 102 year period. The present owners, the Benders took great pride in showing memorabilia. From this point we were on our own until 5:15PM.
Attaching myself to a group of ladies, including Ina Campbell and all of the Flora Dora girls, we crossed the Galena River and visited the Belvedere House, 22 rooms, built in 1857. It has been completely restored and remains Galena's largest mansion. As we arrived at the house we noted a car parked in front that told us the Sheriff of Jo Daviess County was on the premises. We hoped that the sheriff had not been called to the scene to collar lawbreaking Vics. He had not been. The mansion was built for J. Russell Jones, steamboat magnate and Ambassador to Belgium. Inside it turned out to be a hodge podge of period as well as such things as items from the Liberace estate and the infamous green drapes from "Gone With the Wind. A ticket purchased for the Belvedere also entitled you to visit Galena's oldest the Dowling House on Diagonal Street. However, we opted to see the Dowling House later, and break for lunch.
For lunch there was a split with Diane Wellons, Janet Cleary, Lois Howlin opting for a veggie restaurant, while the writer joined Roseanne Vernon, Ina Campbell and Sallie Wadsworth for more hearty fare. Then it was buying time at shops labeled Fig Leaf Intimates, American Eagle Galleries, The Bee Hive, Body Basics of Galena, Galena Teddy Bear Company, Ink and Stamp With Sue, Petals & Primitives, Images of Nature, Twigges of Galena, Ltd., Karen's Neat Stuff, Hawk Hollow, Honest John's Emporium etc. etc. The writer found a great winter jacket at the London Fog outlet, but realized he could not possibly find room to take it home. He also found Churchill & Burns, Ltd. and was able to restock his cigar cache. Eventually the buying frenzy ran out of steam and it was possible for the Vics to rest up before the bus-off to Dubuque and the paddlewheel down "Old Man River" on The City of Dubuque. The ship boarding cotillion was led by Clark Marlor anxious to reclaim his position of first in line. We had a bit of difficulty in leaving the dock until the astute captain hollered out to the girl manning the dock-tying cable "Suzanne, take the brake off" and we were away.
Mimi Grimes was the first to invade the pilot house, camera in hand, as we wended our way. A guitarist/singer kept us entertained and it was refreshing to sit outside in the bow and watch the scenery. Up on a bluff overlooking the river we could see the Julien Dubuque monument. Constructed in 1897 to honor the founder of the city, the monument was erected over his grave. Basically, it was a subdued group, no horseplay while dining, no one in danger of being thrown overboard. However, Betty Perlish was a little piqued that there was no shop on the paddlewheel.
Back at the DeSoto, we looked for a piano so that we could end the evening with some Dudley Brown ivory tickling. There were two pianos, an out of tune grand and a spinet. The spinet it was and the music poured out until yawns overpowered the delightful music.
Tuesday, June 15
Tuesday was back to Dubuque day, and the bus got underway at 8AM. First stop was Eagle Point Park with its view of four states. It also provides a view of the the Zebulon Pike lock on the Mississippi, number 11 of the 29 locks. Traffic on the river was heavy going up, light going down. The lock drop is from 151 to 91. Buildings in the park are essentially prairie style.
St.Luke's United Methodist Church is the oldest in Iowa, established in 1833. The present church was built in 1895. Its tower is 87 feet high and the church has the largest number of Tiffany windows in the world, most installed in 1897. There were four Tiffany lamps hanging over the pews, however, a redecorating project exiled the lamps some time ago into storage. There has been thought given to taking them out of exile. The frieze in beautiful bas-relief extending across the entire chancel and choir loft is a replica of the famous "Singing Children" designed for the Cathedral of Florence by Luca della Robbia (1400-1482AD). On the whole, a very rewarding experience.
After listening to an orientation film narrated by Garrison Keillor, we were on our own to tour the Mississippi River Museum. Toured through the dredge "William M. Black," a sidewheeler built in 1934 which spends its time dredging the river bottom. Lunch was served at a big restaurant outside the entrance to the Diamond Jo Casino. This writer noting the size of the line into the restaurant decided to spend some time on board the Diamond Jo. The writers first visit to a casino since Reno in 1970. Needless to say no jackpot fell out my way. Following lunch in the enjoyable company of Barbara Finney, we were free to explore the town. Unfortunately, the Dubuque Art Museum was in the process of moving from its Egyptian Revival building to a building several blocks away. However, we were able to visit the County Courthouse (1891) with its gold-leafed-covered dome topped by a 14 foot statue of Justice. Composed of Indiana limestone, brick, and molded terra cotta, an example of Beaux Arts Classicism. We spotted the Saint Raphael Catholic Church which looked impressive. However, it seemed to be all closed up, but a ha, our intrepid president John Simonelli managed to find an unlocked side door and we were able to pay a visit. Unfortunately, it was too dark inside to form any judgments. We passed the Five Flags Theater built in 1910 and modeled after Paris' Moulin Rouge, and the Grand Opera House (1889). It was still hot, and the writer about this time started to feel sleepy, so the sight of the bus looked tempting. After a quick run through a dull antique mall, it was on to the bus to join Clark Marlor and Philip Rubin in a heavy doze. While we were napping, most of the others went on the Fenelon Incline Elevator. This is the world's shortest, steepest scenic railway. Erected in 1882, it elevates passengers 189 feet, and provides a view of Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois.
Dinner was progressive encompassing four stops. For appetizers, it was the Mathias Ham House, an 1856 Italianate villa which reflects antebellum life along the river. We indulged in a Chicken Puff appetizer, with lemonade to drink, had a tour of the Victorian-furnished house and joy there was a gift shop. On to the Redstone Inn (1894), a fifteen room Victorian hotel, for the soup course, garden vegetable. Next was the entrée at the Ryan House (1873) where in addition to the main course we had a slice of Victorian life served up vignette style. This featured William "Hog" Ryan and his genteel second wife, Catherine, and a little bit went a long way. By the way, the main course was-Chicken Cordon Bleu. As our bus pulled up at the Mandolin Inn for dessert, hazelnut praline, there was no plinking of mandolins to greet us. Built in 1908 as the home of Dubuque's leading financier, the building has had an incredible career. It was a convent for 22 years; then a half-way house; a law firm office on the first floor and college students living on the second and third; a college residence; a bed and breakfast with three consecutive owners. Needless to say, it was a tired group who returned to Galena and the DeSoto and into the elevators and on to bed, particularly since bags had to be out at 6:30AM.
Wednesday, June 16
We all managed to get our bags out so that the stripling girl bell hops could wrestle them onto the bus. A quick buffet breakfast and we were off to Prairie du Chien and the Villa Louis. There was a round of applause as we passed the Dickeyville Grotto. Unfortunately, we could not make the requested stop at Culver's Frozen Custard. As we pulled onto the grounds of the Villa Louis Historic Site we were greeted by an array of tents, teepees and Port-o-Potties. We found out later that this was a reunion of North American Fur Trader enthusiasts. Fur trading flourished from the late 1600's until the mid-1800's. The Dousman family wealth came primarily from fur trading.
Our guides were to be Michael Douglas, Site Director and Vickie Lock, Curator. The entrance of our group into the mansion was temporarily halted when we were dive bombed by a red-wing blackbird, claws and beak at the ready. The original house known as the "Brick House on the Mound" was built in 1844, In 1870, it was dismantled and the Villa Louis, an Italianate house of Milwaukee cream brick rose in its place. The architect was E. Townsend Mix and the house was extensively remodeled and redecorated in 1885. It became obvious a few years ago that Villa Louis needed extensive renovation. It was decided by the Wisconsin State Historical Society to select the period of 1893-1898 for the renovation to emulate. This selection was predicated on the fact that valuable documentation was available. Over a thousand photos, drawings and archival documents guided restoration specialists in their work. Chief among those specialists is national member Gale Winkler. Assisting her is present board member Bob Furhoff. There is much work remaining to be done. Still, it is presently one of the finest American examples of the British Arts and Crafts Movement. It was mind boggling to follow Michael Douglas through the mansion. One disappointment, Michael promised to tell us some Bob Furhoff stories, but we only had time for one.
We were able to go through a number of the other buildings on the site such as the ice house, the carriage house currently containing museum-type artifacts and a shop, the fur trade museum. An early lunch was served to us on the cool veranda, probably should have called it brunch, since we were served so early. We had to be conscious of time because Clark Marlor's flight left at 4:30PM.
Clark made his flight in plenty of time. This diarist, as usual played it safe and scheduled a 7 o'clock departure and may well have been the last to leave. However, he had a chance to chat with Barbara Finney and later Sallie Wadsworth before they went off in the great blue beyond.
Another Annual Meeting is history- In 2000 it will be Philadelphia and the writer, on home turf, will not be the last to leave for a change. We would like to express our deepest thanks and appreciation to Mary Kay Nutzmann, to her assistant, Jeanie Richgels, to Martha Oviatt, to Chapter president Sheryl Martinson, to Cathy Taylor, Marcia Anderson and Gayle Whitney and on the home front that tireless perpetual motion machine Stacy Hampton.