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Abandoned Art Deco

11 February, 2016

Well, not currently abandoned, but the Normandie Hotel has been unoccupied and supposedly under renovation since 2008. This San Juan gem, inspired by the SS Normandie ocean liner, took four years to build and finally opened in 1942, the same year that its namesake ship capsized in the Hudson.


San Juan, December 2015

Sadly, the Normandie Hotel’s heyday as the trendy hangout for Puerto Rico’s fashionistas lasted only until the early 1960s, and has since spent over 39 years abandoned or unoccupied. It had a brief resurgence in the late 1980s but closed again in 2004 (and opened in 2005 and closed again in 2008).

Alas! The Author, who admired the hotel across a four lane roadway, would have loved to see the interior in its prime.  Luckily, the Normandie Hotel was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1980 and the National Park Service has a marvelous photographic record of the hotel post-abandonment but pre-1980s renovation. I will share some below:

The Norm_die (poor Norm!) in 1980, with, strangely, a Burger King at its bow:

Normandie Burger King


Click for larger images:

The Author must resist including more photographs. The full 145 pages of Normandie Hotel images can be found on the National Park Service website here. Hip hip hooray for Internet Archives!

For Da Dork: the architect was Raúl Reichard.




Book Cover Monday: From Pole to Pole

8 February, 2016

It’s been quite some time since the last Book Cover Monday. Here’s an attempt to make it a regular feature! The endpapers are ever more impressive than the debossed cover.

Some brief research suggest that the former owner of this book, Mr. A. J. Hollick, assisted Joseph Wright in his report on the ‘Foraminiefera Obtained Off the South-West of Ireland During the Cruise of the “Flying Falcon”‘ in 1888.  Mr. Hollick transferred the likeness of Robert Welch’s drawing of the Foraminifera into stone (does that mean lithography?).

Mr Hollick’s crest’s motto reads ‘Ubi Libertas Ibi Patria’: “Where liberty is, there is my country”.

Happy St Andrews Day!

30 November, 2015

To celebrate, let us enjoy St Andrews on a rare sunny day last April.

2015-04-17 13.03.17

Taken from atop St Rule’s tower. Click on the image for a closer look!

*the Author accidentally published this on October 30th, which is not, in fact, St Andrews Day. Oops!

Rufe Bros Plumbing (and down the rabbit hole we go)

6 November, 2015

An advertisement for the Rufe Bros Plumbing remains faint but legible on the front of a house in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

The 1897 publication of The Metal Worker (‘a Weekly Journal of the Stove, Roofing, Cornice, Tin, Plumbing and Heating Trades’ – exciting!) reported that the Rufe Brothers ‘[installed] a fine system of heating and ventilation of the indirect type in the residence of Hugh B. Eastburn’. We hope you enjoyed your indirect heat and ventilation, Mr. Eastburn!
Rufe Bros Plumming Doylestown

Metal Worker - Rufe Brothers


Travelling further down the rabbit hole of digital archives, the Author has uncovered the mildly interesting history of the Eastburn family, and Mr. Hugh B. Eastburn in particular.

According to William W. H. Davis in A Genealogical and Personal History of Bucks County, Pennsylvania (published 1905), the Eastburn family is ‘an old and honorable one’. The first Eastburn to come to our fair shores was John Eastburn, a Quaker who fled religious prosecution in Yorkshire to immigrate to Penn’s Woods (Pennsylvania) in 1684. The year prior, John’s father and fellow Friends were imprisoned in Yorkshire for gathering for worship. Poor Quakers.

Skipping down many, many generations, Hugh B. Eastburn—the owner of the Rufe Brothers installed heating and ventilation system–was born in 1846 in Doylestown, Buck County. He taught at Friends’ Central, a sporting rival of the Author’s own high school (as far as Quaker rivalries go), studied law at the University of Pennsylvania, and was elected district attorney (with a ‘handsome majority’). Throughout his life, he was always ‘deeply interested in educational matters, and his voice and pen [were] potent in every movement for the advancement of education’. Jolly good, Mr. Eastburn.

William W. H. Davis uses a peculiar phrase to note when an Eastburn descendant leaves Bucks County: ‘David Eastburn removed to Delaware…John Eastburn removed to the west’ –as if no one would ever leave Buck County of one’s own accord, and if one does, one is never heard of again.


27 October, 2015

Dear Reader,

The Author loves her hometown of Philadelphia, even more so after happening upon the wonderful brickwork on the 2000 block of Locust Street. This one block alone has such a creative and charming display of brickwork, the Author can only wonder what other architectural gems have gone unnoticed (at least by her) in this fine city. The below pictures, poor in quality, hardly give it justice, and represent only a fraction of the noteworthy exteriors the Author noticed.

Shrugging figure

Bay window

inset design

Brick border

Tree Tied in Irons

30 September, 2015

On the Streets of New York, a tree struggles against his iron fetters, as his captor twists and turns in an effort to keep him restrained.

I reckon that, in the long run, the tree will prevail.

Tree tied in irons detail Tree tied in irons

Diligent Readers might recall earlier trees struggling against Mankind’s shackles.

The Tree devouring a fence in Budapest.
The Tree devouring a street sign in Lower Merion.
The Tree rebuffing a fence’s advance in New Orleans

Polka Dots

17 September, 2015
Under the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway.

Under the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway.


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