UU author wins award

The Before Columbus Foundation (BCF) was founded in 1976 “dedicated to the promotion and dissemination of contemporary American multicultural literature.” Their annual award, the American Book Award, is given by writers to other writers. Though not as well known as the National Book Award, winning this award puts you in august company. Previous recipients of the American Book Award include Edward Said, Joy Harjo, and Toni Morrison. Current members of BCF’s board of directors include Ishmael Reed, Joy Harjo, and other respected writers.

This year’s awards were recently announced. Poet Everett Hoagland won an award for his recent collection of poetry, The Ways: Poems of Affirmation, Reflection and Wonder (North Star Nova Press, 2022); other award winners included Maxine Hong Kingston and bell hooks.

Some of the poems in Everett’s collection appeared in UU World magazine; Everett’s a member of First Unitarian in New Bedford, Mass. I got to see the book in manuscript, and loved it (Everett even invited me to write the foreword). Also, there are plenty of poems here that would work well in a Unitarian Universalist worship service, so if you’re a minister or religious educator you might want to pick up a copy.

Unfortunately, about the only place you can buy the book is through Amazon. My spouse the writer does Not Like Amazon, so I won’t provide a link here. But you can easily find it. Go buy a copy. You’ll be glad you did.

Book cover of "The Ways"

More photos from the renovation of a 1721 house

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, I took some more photos this morning of the renovation of First Parish in Cohasset’s 1721 Parish House. No more surprises today. The cladding that was removed yesterday — 5/4 pine milled to mimic stone — is associated with Colonial Revival, an architectural style of the mid- to late nineteenth century. So the appearance we had become accustomed to was really a nineteenth century invention.

By this morning, the original framing was clearly revealed. The framing is beautiful in its own right. Here are some photos:

House with siding removed, which exposes the old timber framing
With the clapboards and nogging removed, the framing is clearly visible
Close up photo of framing
Joint between the girt and the post at the northeast corner of the house — you can see a treenail (or trunnel) and other details of the framing
Close up of framing
The girt with second floor joists and wall studs

It’s fun to speculate what the front facade of the building looked like in 1721. Based on what we’ve seen so far, and based on what would have been typical of that era, I’m guessing that the windows had smaller panes, and were somewhat differently proportioned (in my imagination, the second floor windows were double hung windows with 9 over 9 sash, and the first floor windows were 12 over 9). There were no pediments over the windows. The cladding was thin graceful clapboards, perhaps with no paint, nailed on with forged nails that had large heads. There were probably no corner boards, and it’s unlikely there was a front vestibule. All of the wood used to construct the house was cut from local trees, and the brick-and-mortar noggin was also of local manufacture. The glass would have been hand-blown, and therefore slightly wavy.

All this raises the difficult question of how we should restore historic buildings. Even if we knew exactly what the building looked like (and we can’t be sure), First Parish does not have the budget to purchase authentic windows with hand-blown glass and hand-made sash and frame. Nor would such windows be energy-efficient. I suspect the neighbors would not like it if we left the facade unpainted; white paint is de rigueur in New England historic districts. Even if unpainted clapboards were acceptable, we would not be able to find old-growth Eastern White Pine, and something like unpainted Western Red Cedar would look wrong. I suspect we would also receive pushback if we had no corner boards (plus, we would have to change the siding around each corner to match, which would add even more to the expense).

In my experience, historic renovation is always a compromise between historically informed research and current aesthetic standards, between practicality and community standards, between what would be nice or best and what the building owner can actually afford. The best way to reach an appropriate compromise is through community review (i.e., going through the Historic District Commission), accompanied by good-faith efforts on the part of the owner of the building.