Friday, February 7, 2020

Helleborus foetidus

Photos above taken in January 2018


Photos above taken in March 2018.  All photos are from my garden.

Helleborus foetidus (Stinking Hellebore) has worked exceptionally well in my dry, lightly shaded garden in Seattle.  There is moderate to fairly steep slope, so the plants are never in standing water.  A 50-foot tall Fraxinus oregana (Oregon Ash) extends sparse branches, 20 feet above ground level, over the area.  My 15 hellebores, scattered randomly, make quite a show from January through March.  The foliage is attractive all year.  The plant is called the stinking hellebore, because of the odor of its crushed leaves.  I've never noticed the odor.  It's a needlessly off-putting name.  I took seedlings no more than 5 inches tall from another garden where they were plentiful.  Those seedlings grew to their mature height (2 to 3 feet) within 3 years.  The plants continue to expand laterally as the number of stalks increase.  This is a long-lived perennial.  The stalks die after blooming & setting seed.  New stalks grow to replace them & bloom the next year.  The green or chartreuse flowers are attractive to insects, especially bees.  The leaves are dark green, but leaves, stalks & flowers are sometimes tinted red. The Wester Flisk Group of Helleborus foetidus is reliably reddish.  I suppose that my plants may be descendants of that group.  Helleborus foetidus is native to the mountainous regions of Central and Southern Europe, Greece & Turkey.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Columbia City Seattle

Angeline Apartments, the largest building in Columbia City

1890s apartment building in the Landmark District

1920s apartment building, now a hotel in the Landmark District

2010s houses

The Columbia City Theater (cream building at right) in the Landmark District was built in 1917 for vaudeville acts.

GreenHouse Apartments

2010s townhouses.  Photos above taken in November 2017

 1910s & 1920s houses

Ark Lodge Cinemas (Masonic Building constructed 1921) in the Landmark District

Bikeworks (store built in 1900) in the Landmark District

1890s houses

Columbia Branch, The Seattle Public Library & Columbia Park. The landmark 1915 building (at far left) is the smallest of the Carnegie libraries built in Seattle.

Click here for more photos of Columbia City.

Columbia City is a neighborhood, urban village, business district, landmark district & National Register Historic District in SE Seattle. There is confusion over the extent of Columbia City. Boundaries that appear on internet maps correspond with the Seattle City Clerk's Geographic Indexing Atlas.  The City of Seattle has no official neighborhood boundaries.  Hillman City & Rainier Vista are often lumped in with Columbia City.  As a longtime area resident, I think Columbia City is contained by 48th Ave S on the east, Martin Luther King Jr Way S on the west, S Brandon St on the south, S Alaska St on the north & the 3 blocks between S Alaska St, S Oregon St, 33rd Ave S & Rainier Ave S.

The City of Seattle designated the Columbia City Residential Urban Village in 1994. Those boundaries correspond roughly with those given above, except for the addition of Rainier Vista & the S Genesee St Business District along Rainier Avenue where it connects to the North Rainier Hub Urban Village.  Residential urban villages provide a focus of goods and services for residents & surrounding communities, but not a concentration of employment. Columbia City includes low-rise multifamily with townhouses, apartment buildings & commercial zones.  

The Columbia City Landmark District is one of 8 historic districts in Seattle. It is a collection of commercial buildings, churches, apartments & houses. It covers a relatively small area along Rainier Ave S in the heart of Columbia City. Restricted to 8 blocks & partial blocks on both sides of Rainier Ave S, it includes more than 40 historic buildings. The area preserves the small town atmosphere of the 1890s & early 1900s. The landmark district was designated in 1978 & was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Columbia City was incorporated in 1893, then annexed by Seattle in 1907.  In the early days, economic activity was limited mostly to logging & the lumber mill (the 1st business built in Columbia City) on the NW corner of Rainier Ave S & S Brandon St. The Seattle, Renton & Southern Railway reached Columbia City in 1890, when the area was still densely forested.  Columbia City shipped surplus lumber to Seattle, but much of Columbia City's lumber was used to build in & around Columbia City. From 1900 to 1907, Columbia City grew rapidly. Many of existing buildings in the landmark district were built then.

Columbia City was named after Christopher Columbus. Streets were named after the famous explorers Ferdinand Magellan (S Ferdinand St) Henry Hudson (S Hudson St) & Amerigo Vespucci (S Americus St). Lots were sold beginning in April 1891, shortly after regular railway service began. In 1892, the town had more than 40 residences, a town hall, a school with 75 students, a post office, 2 churches, a park, various stores & trains to Seattle every 30 minutes.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Huron National Forest Corsair Trail

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (kinnikinnick or bearberry) has a circumboreal distribution, growing around the world in northern latitudes.

Pinus banksiana (jack pine) predominates on more than one million acres of forest in Michigan.

Vaccinium vitis-idaea (Lingonberry) is also circumboreally distributed.

Quercus (oak). There are a dozen species of oak in Michigan.  Quercus alba (white oak) & Quercus rubra (red oak) are most common in this area.

Pantherophis vulpinus (eastern fox snake) is found in the upper Midwestern United States, east of the Mississippi river.

Pinus banksiana (jack pine)

The Lumberman's Monument.  Photos taken in October 2017

Click here for more photos of the Corsair Trail.

In the Huron National Forest, we hiked the Corsair Trail for 2.5 hours. The forest was very quiet & stunningly beautiful. It was filled mostly with pine & oak trees, plus many understory plants. The forest was replanted by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression of the 1930s, helping it recover from the devastation of the timber industry from 1870 to 1900. I saw many plants I recognized & a few that also grow in Washington. I had bought a field manual of Michigan flora before I left Seattle, but it was too big to carry with me.  I almost stepped on a fox snake, which then lay motionless on the trail. After we finished the hike, we drove to the Lumberman’s Monument, where we saw interpretive displays about logging & lumberjacks. The Corsair Trail system has 28 miles of trail that varies from gently rolling to somewhat hilly terrain. The system was developed primarily for cross-country skiing.  But the trails may be hiked anytime during the snow-free periods.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Pinconning Nature Preserve

Photos taken in October 2017

Click here for more photos of Pinconning Nature Preserve.

In October 2017, we drove up the shore of Saginaw Bay (Lake Huron) on Michigan highway M-13 to Pinconning Nature Preserve. It was quick & easy to access the preserve from the highway at the small City of Pinconning along E Pinconning Road. We walked on a pleasant trail through a small forest to a wetland on the bank of the Pinconning River. We were unable to go far into the wetland, let alone to the river, because the trail became too wet & mucky. But it was pretty there on that small preserve, which had once been a farm.  My advice is to wear big rubber boots.

The preserve has a variety of plant communities including lowland deciduous forest, scrub/shrub, & marsh. In addition to wetlands, there is 2,165 feet of frontage on the Pinconning River.  The complete loop trail is a little over 1 mile.  The preserve is owned & maintained by the Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy. Headquartered in Bay City, the SBLC owns and maintains 10 nature preserves that are open to the public, dawn until dusk, every day of the year, forever. They are natural areas in need of protection & management for the ecological benefits they provide to people & the environment. Some land was purchased through partnerships, while other properties were donated outright, or donated while reserving the right to live on & use the property. When the landowner dies, the Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy takes title & control over the property.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Downtown Bay City Michigan


Bay County Building

City Hall

Pere Marquette Depot


Saginaw River.  Photos taken in October 2017

Click here for more photos of  Bay City Michigan.

I visited Bay City Michigan in October 2017.  I liked the downtown area very much. The were many interesting & attractive buildings. Most were built between 1880 & 1930. It reminded me of Pioneer Square in Seattle.  Unfortunately, many buildings had also been destroyed. Those spaces became little-used parking lots.  That happened to a lesser extent in Pioneer Square.

New development centered on Water Street along the Saginaw River. Several buildings with new condos had recently been built. A few old buildings were converted to condos. The Victorian train station was restored, converted to offices & surrounded by parkland. The 8-story, Art Deco, Bay County Building (Bay City’s skyscraper) was in good shape, as was the Victorian city hall. Five blocks from the riverfront, at the edge of the small downtown, were Victorian houses, mostly shabby (but none derelict) with some refurbished, or decently maintained. It was all very charming to me.  

Half a mile south from downtown, there was new development on the Saginaw River at the former site of Defoe Shipbuilding Company called Uptown Bay City. There were condos, restaurants, shops, office buildings & a hotel.  It was nicely done.  

As of the 2010 census, Bay City's population was 34,932. There are a number of suburbs. The Bay City Metropolitan Area population was 106,107. Settlement began in 1831. Bay City was established as Lower Saginaw in 1837 & incorporated as Bay City in 1865. It was the largest community in Bay County & became the county seat.  Rapid economic growth took place. Lumber & shipbuilding industries created many jobs. Timber was floated to mills & factories along the Saginaw River.  Businesses concentrated along Water Street. 

Friday, October 4, 2019

Courtland Place Seattle

Townhouses of the 2010s

Townhouses of the 2010s at the foot of the Charlestown Hillclimb

An original house in the Craftsman style of the 1910s.

Townhouses of the 2010s

Townhouses of the 2010s

A typical townhouse development in the faux-Craftsman style of the 2000s

Click here for more photos of Courtland Place.

Courtland Place is a small part of the larger neighborhood of Mount Baker in Seattle.  It has been zoned for multifamily buildings since around the year 2000 & is an good example of  townhouses that have been built in Seattle since that time.  Small single family houses from the early 20th century still exist there, but are rapidly being replaced during the building boom that consumed Seattle in the late 2010s.  There are also townhouses from the national housing boom of the 2000s.  Three full blocks are zoned Lowrise 2.  The LR2 zone provides for a variety of multifamily housing types in existing multifamily neighborhoods & along arterial streets. A mix of small scale to multifamily housing such as townhouses, rowhouses and apartments are encouraged.  An apartment building of 7 units was built in 2004.

Courtland Place is near the major arterial of Rainier Avenue S & adjacent to Rainier Square Plaza, a small shopping center with Safeway & Ross Dress for Less, among other tenants.  The 7 Rainier bus provides transit to Mount Baker Station & Downtown Seattle.  The areas on 2 sides of Courtland Place are zoned for commercial development.  The other 2 sides are zoned for single family homes, most dating to the early 20th century.  The name Courtland Place is used for one of 2 large apartment buildings at nearby Rainier Court.  The City of Seattle has acquired land for a small park on S Charlestown Street.  The Courtland Place P-Patch was established in 1999.  The Charlestown Hillclimb was completed in October 2014.  The hillclimb (stairs) connects Rainier Valley to Cascadia Ridge.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Roman Architecture of Nîmes France


Above: Arènes de Nîmes. Below: Maison Carrée

Photos taken in March 2017

Click here for more photos of Nîmes.

I went to Nîmes on March 7, 2017.  I took the train from Montpellier & was there about 3 hours. I liked Nîmes. It was an upscale place. The old town is full of narrow streets with expensive shops in buildings with stone facades. The stone is a light yellow-beige that seemed to glow, even on that gray & windy day. The buildings are not as tall & the historic district is not as extensive as in Montpellier.

The most interesting things were the Roman arena & the Roman temple called the Maison Carrée, or square house. It's rectangular. Both are among the best-preserved Roman buildings anywhere. The arena can hold 24,000 spectators. The temple is large, but not huge. It is amazingly intact, built by the Emperor Augustus & dedicated to his 2 grandsons in 19 BC. The interior had been made into a small theater where I saw a 25-minute film about the birth of Nîmes in the Roman era, a docu-drama with actors playing historical figures, fairly well produced.

The remains of villages in & around Nîmes date back as far as 1800 BC. Nîmes started out as a small, fortified Iron Age village. Sometime before 28 BC the village became the Colonia Nemausus, known because coins stamped with that name have been found. Nemausus was a very local god, apparently not worshiped anywhere else. Nemausus became the capital of the Roman province of Narbonensis during Emperor Augustus' 2nd visit there from 16 to 13 BC

The Arena of Nîmes was built around 70 AD.  It was remodeled in 1863 to serve as a bullring. It is now used for 2 annual bullfights, concerts & other public events. It measures 436 feet long and 331 feet wide, with an arena of 223 by 125 feet. At 69 feet tall, its exterior façade comprises 2 floors of 60 superimposed arches & an attic, separated by a cornice. At the top, drilled stones were positioned so that poles could could support a canopy.  The interior is deeply atmospheric.

The Maison Carrée is extremely well preserved. It is a nearly textbook example of a Roman temple, as defined by Vitruvius in On Architecture, written during the first century BC.  This is particularly interesting because the Maison Carrée illustrates the model for many significant buildings constructed in Europe & America from the 17th to 20th centuries.

The return to classical styles in architecture began with Andrea Palladio (1508–1580). Palladian architecture grew from Palladio's ideas based on the classical temple architecture of the Ancient Greeks & Romans.  Palladianism got its start in Britain during the mid-17th century & then spread to the British colonies in North America.  A famous example is Thomas Jefferson's Monticello in Virginia.  I saw that building in the fall of 1973 with my father, an architect.

The Early Classical Revival style developed at the end of the 18th century took inspiration directly from the ancient buildings of Rome & Greece. While earlier styles were also inspired by classical forms, they used architectural details & did not recreate the look of ancient buildings. The Roman Classical Revival & Greek Revival style copied the form of Roman & Greek temples. It recalled the power & influence of  the Roman Empire. Thomas Jefferson designed campus of the University of Virginia using ancient Roman temples as his guide.

The Neoclassical style is common in the United States. It was inspired by the World's Columbian Exposition held in 1893 in Chicago, which promoted renewed interest in classical forms of architecture. Neoclassical buildings have massive columns with classical capitals, topped by a front facing pediment. The arrangement of windows & doors is symmetrical.  The Neoclassical style was most often used for courthouses, banks, churches, schools & mansions.  My own high school was built in this style in 1912.

The Maison Carrée has a single cella (cell or room) & a deep porch on a high podium. The podium of the Maison Carrée is more than 9 feet high. The footprint measures about 87 by 44 feet at the base. The building has 6 Corinthian columns (acanthus leaf motifs on the capital) across the façade, 10 along each side & 6 across the back. The 10 columns of the portico (porch) are free standing, while the rest are attached to the cella.

The temple had an inscription that was removed in the Middle Ages. A reconstruction of the inscription in 1758 reads (in translation): To Gaius Caesar, son of Augustus, Consul; to Lucius Caesar, son of Augustus, Consul designate; to the princes of youth.  The worship of the emperor & imperial family was not uncommon in the provinces. The Temple of Augustus & Livia located in Vienne is similar to the Maison Carrée. These temples show how much local elites invested to celebrate the emperor & his family.