Saturday, July 23, 2016

Annual Virginia Master Naturalists North American Butterfly Count

Butterfly Count in the forest at Kemper Park
It was an privilege for me to be able to participate in the North American Butterfly Count for Albemarle County. Today 2 teams of Virginia Master Naturalists (for the exception of a few of us) headed out at 9 am to count butterflies. I was assigned to the team that went to the amazing Kemper Park nature trail that traverses up to Monticello. When I left the house it was 77 degrees, when I returned after noon, it was 97! Needless to say, it was a hot day. We were very fortunate to be able to walk deep in the forest to escape the oppressing heat. The other group was dispatched to Crozet, another area in the county.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Thistle, parking lot Kemper Park
The official numbers have not been tabulated but it was obvious that the numbers were lower this year. The most commonly spotted butterfly, and one of the largest, was the yellow with black stripes Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Of all the butterflies in Virginia, it probably is the most recognized.

I found this photo amusing given our addiction to cell phones. This little American Snout is trying to grab the attention of one of our young nature lovers that was on the count. Almost to say, hey you, get off that thing and pay attention to me! Check out the unusually long snout on that guy.

The small Silvery Checkerspot
There are many reasons for a species to decline. One of the best ways to encourage butterflies in your yard is to plant natives and other trees, shrubs, and flowers that caterpillars like to eat or that butterflies prefer for egg laying. I finally have a little patch of three Paw Paw trees that are coming along nicely in my yard. This attracts the stunning Zebra Swallowtail, one of which we saw today but it was so high in the tree I could not photograph it.

Cardinal Flower and Joe Pye Weed
Not only do we see wonderful Butterflies but also interesting plants and little critters. We were lucky to have a budding entomologist along that magically spotted unusual insects that I had never seen before. It's a thrill to see something new. Of course being on the trail with Master Naturalists, most plants are also identified.

My first sighting of the Hackberry Emperor
It was a hot day but when your mission is to "spot the butterfly" it some how takes a backseat to your quest to find the next elusive beauty. Especially when you find a species that you have never seen. I was happy to see a Hackberry Emperor complete with a crazy pattern and many "eyes". All designed to confuse predators and make it blend into the environment.

The Kemper Park group
Training prior to the event was prepared by Nancy Weiss and Terri Keffert of the Rivanna Master Naturalists. Many thanks to both of them for their dedication to this effort and to our team leader, Laura Seale.


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Historic Garden Week 2016 in Petersburg, Virginia

 Petersburg 1838 Courthouse Clock Tower & Roses
This year as part of Historic Garden Week in Virginia, we selected Petersburg as our annual tour destination. I wanted to spend some time in the amazing Old Towne area and get a closer look of what could be described as a congenial southern historic town. 
YUMMY Sweets provided by The Petersburg Garden Club

I'm always impressed with the effort extended by the host Garden Club and Petersburg did not disappoint. The Petersburg Garden Club members at each stop were so welcoming and personable. We absolutely fell in LOVE with the house on the hill, Centre Hill, as the museum staff was superb. We can certainly understand why movie crews rush to Petersburg to set up camp to film.

All interior photos of Floral Arrangements were graciously provided by Molly Sammler, Petersburg Garden Club photographer for Historic Garden Week. 

Stone accents at the Kramer House on the Lake
Driving 2 hours from Charlottesville, we began our tour by visiting three homes located on the lake in Chesterfield Virginia. These relatively new large homes all offered lovely views of Lake Chesdin. We especially liked what we referred to as the pink and green house (my favorite color combination). Upon entry into the Kramer House, one looks beyond the open entryway through huge windows straight onto the lake. A light and airy home decorated by owner and designer Glenna Jean who makes beautiful bedding, pillows and accessories.

Rose Arrangement at Centre Hill by Molly
We were so touched by the history of her mother who died at 105 years of age. Being that her favorite flower was the rose, there were many small items in the home that she had beautifully painted. She also was a blue ribbon cookie maker and her winning Sugar Cookie recipe was handed out to every visitor. Several rooms were decorated in a garden theme featuring walls perfectly painted by an artist that had Alzheimer's. We very much loved getting to know this home on a more personal level and relaxing lake side on the multi-leveled deck chatting with garden club members.

Meeting a few furry friends @ Strachan-Harrison
Next we headed to Old Towne to race through Petersburg to get to the next set of three homes on tour. After a break at Demolition Coffee (a really cool shop in of course an amazing historic building) we were off to the Strachan-Harrison House. A boxwood garden complete with majestic trees surrounds the front entry. Inside there are beautiful period portraits. The owners have gone to great lengths to make the interior represent the homes age dated in the late 1700's. There was also a barn outside with a sweet Donkey that protects the dear Lambs from predators.

Massive Kramer H. Peacock Arrangm.
Next we were off to Centre Hill. I really do enjoy an element of surprise when I plan a tour and don't like to know too much about a property before I visit. We were walking around what appeared to be an amazing Civil War period mansion, lolly gagging along taking pictures of the roses at neighboring homes, who, by the way, have a great view off all that goes on at Centre Hill, when we read a little sign outside of the building that said for us to please forgive the length of the grass as the PBS series, Mercy Street, wants it that way! 

Centre Hill Mansion
I thought Mercy Street was filmed in Alexandria Virginia. Mercy Street is actually filmed in Richmond and Petersburg and in the series, it was chosen to list as being portrayed in the town of Alexandria Virginia. Centre Hill Mansion is the central family's home in the series. Centre Hill has been used by many movies and is a known for paranormal activity. Do not miss this beautiful mansion when you go to Petersburg.

Iris in Ginger Jar @ Strachan by Molly
At the end of our tour we dashed through - oh I wish we had more time - the historic McIlwaine House which was featured in the film, Lincoln. Amazingly, this 3-story shell of a building was moved from its original location 8 blocks away. The original ornate hand carved interior woodwork was missing but eventually found in storage and restored back on the walls. This ca. 1794 high-style federal building is now in fine condition complete with beautiful period pieces supplied by the current owner who has done an amazing job restoring this structure back to it's original condition.

Marie Bowen Gardens in Walnut Hill
Our last stop was to the natural gardens named after the Raleigh Parish Garden Club member, Marie Bowen who spent, up until her death in 1979, countless hours tending and planting the Fairfax side of a ravine. A sweet and tranquil garden that can freely be visited from dusk to dawn. It was the perfect end to a beautiful day in Petersburg, a nice mix of the new and old. 

Goodies provided: Laptop Case, Recipe, Seeds, Magazine
A nice briefcase bag was given to each participant, which now holds my laptop, along with a packet of Forget Me Not seeds. I last planted this dear plant many years ago on the grave of my dear Schnauzer, Tator. If I can get it to grow, it will be a sweet reminder of my trip to Petersburg and my pooch.

Little meditative spot at 
After hitting several Thrift Stores (another reason to visit Petersburg) and buying 2 cute purses for $2.50, we headed to Cary Street in Richmond for dinner. Home at 11 pm - pooped. My only wish was that we had another day to really delve into the history in Petersburg but I can't wait to return!


Sunday, April 3, 2016

Grand View Nursery, a Charlottesville Hidden Gem

Yesterday I decided to take my dead lawn mower battery to the annual Hazardous Waste drop off at the Ivy Material Utilization Center, along with my household trash. I recycle practically everything we consume so I make a trek across the mountain three times a year to drop off trash for $2.50 a bag (this is in lieu of paying for monthly curbside pickup). I always look forward to driving past Grand View Nursery located at 648 Dry Bridge Road. I typically link to a business page to provide more details but this nursery is so popular it doesn't even need advertising and there is no online listing.

Tucked off the beaten path on top of Gilliams Mountain is a gardeners paradise. You won't have access to all the landscaped property which has been purchased over the years by the owners of Grand View Nursery but you can drive by in the Spring and see the thousands of Daffodils, Azalea, and Rhododendron. Stop by the nursery and be blown away by the diverse selection of annuals and perennials that are propagated each Spring. They also have slow growing Confer's, Azalea, and Rhododendron for sale. The nursery is only open for a short period in the Spring and on select days, so call before you head up. The plants sell out quickly due to the popularity of this hidden gem.

There is a lovely area across the street from the nursery that is gated and if you are lucky to find the gates open, you can stroll through the stream and perennial beds. Blooming this time of year are unusual varieties of tulips and daffodils artfully arranged with other Spring bulbs cascading over banks and streams. Soapstone boulders have been crafted into art throughout the landscape.

I was fortunate to walk through the other gated areas of the property during Historic Garden Week in 2010. Located on approximately 50 acres (property has been added gradually over the years), Grand View sits on top of the mountain with majestic views among massive trees dotted with an enormous collection of Azalea and Rhododendron. When the property was originally purchased, four hundred Rhododendron were obtained from a nursery in Germany. Many other pocket gardens were designed, mainly with an oriental flair.

Looking for a weekend drive? This is it! Don't miss the beautiful Spring show and visit the nursery if you are looking for unique plants.

Please be mindful that this is a private residence as well as Nursery so if gates are closed, there is no access to these areas but you can still catch quite a show just driving by!


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Historic Garden Week in Virginia 2016 Biggest Tour of the Year

Flower Arrangement Richmond Tour 
If you love Spring as I do, then you won't want to miss the biggest tour of the year, Historic Garden Week in Virginia. Beginning April 23 select communities throughout the state host home and garden tours sponsored by local Garden Clubs. Each year I get my grubby gardening gloves on the 250 page guidebook that explains in detail every tour site. You can pick up a catalog in local specialty shops and libraries or you can read the guidebook online. Proceeds from the tours help preserve historic gardens in Virginia.

Beautiful Flowers during prior Tour
Each year I blog about my favorite tour sites listed in the catalog. The following communities made my list mainly because of their emphasis on gardens. Some localities focus more on home interiors. Last year we visited Richmond and it was outstanding and over the years we have visited Ashland, Charlottesville, Lexington, Staunton, and Richmond (twice).

Note: Some tour tickets can be purchased in advance for a $5.00 discount.

Ashland Tour 2012
4/23, Saturday, 10-5, $35.00 - Staunton is pulling out all the stops with 8 properties open on tour day. They also have guest speakers and performances throughout the day. When we toured Staunton several years ago I was totally blown away by the floral arrangements created by the Augusta Garden Club. On tour this year are expansive gardens with over 1,000 Daffodils and Tulips, Azalea, Rhododendron, Peony, and Spring Shrubs. Featured are select Roses from the Garden Club of Virginia's Rose Collection. The Charles Gillette designed garden at the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum is included on the tour. While you are in town, check out the ongoing efforts to replant Dogwood trees in the sprawling Gypsy Hill Park.

This Spring on Forsythia Hill in my garden.
4/23, Sat, 12-5, $45.00 - Winchester-Clarke features native plant and organic food production gardens featuring herbs and vegetables. Specialty gardens are also highlighted on this tour; Dahlia, Rose, more than 15,000 Daffodils, 10,000 Tulips, and 15,000 Grape Hyacinths. Clay Hill will be on the tour and has been featured in several notable publications and includes an Orchid conservatory, Italianate boxwood parterre garden, and perennial & vegetable gardens planted within stone walls built by Hessian soldiers. Don't miss the Black Walnut tree said to be one of the largest in Virginia. If you have time, visit our State Arboretum of Virginia.

Ashland Tour 2012
4/26, Tuesday, 10-5, $25.00 - Petersburg is steeped in history and is a fascinating place to visit even without Historic Gardening Week to lure you in. Centre Hill Mansion has been featured in several movies and is a restoration project of the Garden Club of Virginia. Several other amazing historic homes are featured on the tour as is a billiard room, wine cellar, carriage house, potting shed, barn, gazebo, and guest house. Art, history, and antiques abound along with terraced gardens, flowering trees, walking trails, and native plants. The Marie Bowen Garden is a 30 year restoration project taken on by the Raleigh Parish Garden Club, named after one member who spent countless hours propagating native plants for an overgrown expansive ravine located within the garden. You may want to make time for the first Bank Museum in Virginia, Farmers Bank, one of the few in the USA,

Monticello during Garden Week 2014
4/28, Thurs, 10-5, $40.00 - Norfolk features homes from the early 1900's. Well known Virginia architect, John K. Peebles designed one home that is featured. Interior styles vary from Italian to Asian. Gardens include a pesticide free garden with herbs and vegetables and a sustainable garden featuring many edible / pollinator friendly plants. The eight acre Weyanoke Bird and Wildflower Sanctuary is also on the tour. For more than 20 years, the St. Andrews Episcopal Church has hosted a Flower Festival and will showcase arrangements during the tour. If you have time, you might want to make a trip over to the Chrysler Museum of Art or the Moses Myers House (one of the many Garden Club of Virginia's renovated gardens).

Richmond Tour 2013
4/29, Fri, 10-4, $40.00 - Middle Peninsula will open 6 homes; a mix of historic and contemporary and new construction. A Virginia planters home from the 1840's, a Georgian style home that has discovered two cannon balls on the property, and one home from 1763 that has a slave cabin and log cabin on the property. One newer home has a waterfront view with gardens, pool and outdoor kitchen. The "Old Customs House" referred to as "Sandwich" is on the tour and is named after the Earl of Sandwich who of course invented the sandwich! You won't want to miss the home with custom crafted interior wood detailing located on the salt marsh and creek. Stroll winding woodland paths covered in over 15,000 bulbs through a bog garden surrounded by native plants and trees.

Prior Garden Week in Richmond 2015
4/30, Sat, 10-5, $35.00 - Blackstone & Nottoway County features homes ranging in age from 1800 - 1900 plus one new contemporary home. Garden details encompass a herb garden, Asian garden, Koi pond, cottage garden, heirloom plants, mature specimen trees, and over 100 Hostas. The Virginia Bluebird Society will host a garden presentation. One home features 500 martini glasses and a collection of Buddhist and Hindu statues. In town there is a carriage museum and The Nottoway County Courthouse has been described as one of the most beautiful of its style in Virginia. Trend is hosting a waffle tasting from 9 - 11 am.

Richmond headquarters for Garden Club of Virginia
4/30, Sat, 10-5, $30.00 - Lexington features 6 properties, many tied to the production of grapes. Rockbridge Vineyard is on the tour as is a nearby home with natural wood detailing, a shaded woodland garden, and a fruit and vegetable garden. One home that has been modified over the years since 1790, had Union forces camped on the farm prior to Hunter's raid on Lexington and now has "rocking chairs on the front porch over looking the countryside and grape vines". Another home on the tour features natural gardens with birdhouses, hand-hewn fencing, and an amphitheater near the creek. Art is a feature in several homes on this tour. A sweet Herbery is filled with hundreds of bulbs, spring ephemerals, herbs, and a greenhouse. Also tour a rustic treehouse and log-cabin smokehouse, barn, pool and pool house surrounded by garden walking trails leading to the creek.

Garden Week in Richmond 2015
This is just a small taste of beautiful homes and gardens in Virginia. I hope you will pick a location and explore. I'm still on the fence where to go this year but at least my list has been narrowed down!


Thursday, March 3, 2016

Navigating the Prepaid Wireless Cell Phone Smart Phone Landmines

Phone pile
It's been 11 years since I've seriously investigated cell phone options. I've tried to navigate through the plans in the past and ended up throwing my hands up. It has taken way too much time to search online for plans, phones, coverage, and fees. One would think the quagmire would not be so great. I believe the majority of the trouble comes into play because there are too many carriers and options.

Do I buy online or go to a store? Do I really need smart phone "surfing" capability or just talk? How do all those cards work that are displayed at the Grocery Store, Sears, Kmart, Sams, Walmart, Best Buy, and nearly on ever street corner? When one goes into a store and sees the vast racks of companies and the monthly fees they are bartering, boasting unlimited this and that, it can lead to a mental overload. It all seemed like a big fat hassle to me.

It may not be straight forward but financially it might be worth shopping around, especially if you have not done so in the last 5 years. If my 80 year old mother and father-in law can figure out the monthly flip phone reload, how difficult can it be? Well, let's just say they are much smarter than I. During my quest to convert, I decided sharing a few tips might help guide others through the landmines.
My series of phones over the years
"Plans" that are conveniently set up by the major wireless players will cost you. It certainly was costing me! For 11 years I got great support, coverage, and service but I overpaid in comparison to buying a phone and reload card off the store shelf. My major hindrance was the fact that I had to go into a store each month and buy a reload card. That's how my mother does it. I thought to myself - what a PAIN. It was worth it to me to stay put if I had to do this every month.

For 3 months I had been unsuccessful at wandering around Walmart's and Best Buy's to get the lowdown. I also had been researching online for which carriers to choose in order to get good coverage in my area. Very few of my questions were answered until I got lucky last week and spoke to a very competent employee at the Cville Walmart. It absolutely does matter who you speak to. Terry (a female) explained the cell phone quagmire effortlessly and was so helpful. She explained that you initially buy a card but that you can set up auto-pay with the wireless carrier so you never have to buy another card from a store (YAY). My biggest barrier was conquered.

After researching online I decided that Straight Talk, Verizon, US Cellular, and Boost were 4 carriers that would work well in Charlottesville. I can vouch for US Cellular as that was my carrier for 11 years while living in Southwest and Central Virginia. You can set up different levels of minutes based on the monthly prepaid card options (you will see them listed in big letters over top of phones and cards beside each wireless carrier's logo).

The next step is to choose a phone. If you choose to go directly to a wireless carrier and set up through them, you will most likely be charged all sorts of hidden fees. When US Cellular advertised 6G for $40.00 I was giddy until I talked to them (4 separate times) about upgrading my account from 2 dumb phones to 1 smart phone and 1 dumb phone (talk / text only). This actually is what sent me over the edge. I do no appreciate false advertising and US Cellular is not the only carrier guilty of adding fees into their advertised plans. The advertised $40.00 a month plan zoomed up to $85.00! There was a $18.00 phone purchase fee even though it was advertised as costing a penny.  There was another monthly something or another fee and there are always taxes.  In order to avoid any hidden fees you generally have to choose a prepaid card at the store (NOTE: you will be charged a .50 911 fee in addition to the amount on the store card but nothing more, no taxes, no hidden fees).

If you want to pay for what is advertised, you will have to go into a store and buy it off the shelf. Prior to purchase I recommend that you look online at the store cell phone options and reviews. I didn't want to break the bank for a cell phone so I ended up getting a smart phone for $40.00 that had good online reviews. There were some slightly cheaper monthly plans through other wireless carriers but I could not get an inexpensive good phone. I ended up paying a little more a month on the prepaid card for the smart phone and a little less on the dumb phone to make it all balance out.

Steps to success:
  • Research websites of local stores that sell phones and prepaid cards and write down the online cost of the phones of interest (my flip phone was $3.00 cheaper online than in the store and the store matched this price).
  • Look for switching coupons. Many carriers will pay you to switch from say US Cellular to Verizon, even if you go from a direct wireless carrier plan to a prepaid card.  I was paid $75.00 to make this switch. I was credited this by calling the wireless carrier after I purchased my phones and prepaid card at the store. This covered my cost of purchasing the phones!
  • Go into the store and decided what plan works for you. Do you only need a phone for emergencies and very light calling? You may only need the $15.00 a month / 300 minute plan and an inexpensive flip phone. Are you planning on searching the Internet with your phone? You may want to go with a 3 GB - 6 GB plan just to be sure you will not use up all your minutes quickly. If you are going to play games and watch movies - be sure you get a unlimited card, the higher the GB the better. Most plans offer 2 GB - 5 GB and some unlimited. Apparently there is a limit to the response time of 1 GB, 2 GB, etc but you still can get unlimited searching, it will just be slower after the specified GB is used up. If you have a wireless provider at your house (like Comcast) then you can save your GB's by setting up your phone to use that service when in the house. That will save a ton of GB each month.  
  • Write down all the costs, the cost of the phone, the monthly prepaid card rate and the details of what your card provides.
  • Before you take the plunge, call you current carrier and tell them that you want to close your account and go with another carrier. Often they will quote you a better rate to try and keep you. I probably would have stayed with my carrier if I would have been offered a good plan early on. After I had switched everything, I spoke to the department that intervenes when you are getting ready to pull the plug. My carrier reduced their rate from $108.00 down to $68.00. They still could not beat what I was paying via a prepaid card so I did not accept their offer.
  • Also ask your current carrier if you are locked into a contract. My contract expired many years ago since I did not take them up on their offers to get a new phone every 2 years which renews you into a contract. To get out of a 2-year contract, it will cost you money so wait until it has expired and then cut the tie.
  • If you decide to transfer to a different wireless carrier and want to keep you current phone number, do NOT close your current (old) account until your new carrier makes the switch and your new phone is up and running. You do not have to contact your old carrier, the new carrier will take care of this for you - but you need to talk to a representative with your new prepaid plan to keep your existing phone number. Do not activate your new phone or load prepaid minutes until you talk to a live person. After your new phones are up and running, you can call your old carrier and make sure all ends are tied just to ensure you won't be billed any longer.
I hope this helps you in your quest.


Sunday, February 21, 2016

Plaza Art Auction New York City items of Jefferson Monroe Levy of Monticello

Louis XV Beadstead conveyed to TJMF, auctioned NYC
When Jefferson Monroe Levy acquired Monticello, there were few items remaining that were original to Thomas Jefferson. Mr. Levy was wealthy and successful, never marrying and this was not his primary home. He therefor set out to restore the interior of Monticello to museum quality purchasing items that he believed to represent Thomas Jefferson's style. When he conveyed Monticello to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation he also sold to them many of the furnishings he had collected. I'm sure Mr. Levy felt that not only was the building historically significant but also the items he had spent years accumulating. He was in dire financial straights needing money to cover his debt. He cried the day he signed over Monticello and died just 3 months later of heart failure.

First pg of NYC Auction Catalog
Read my prior blog post to catch up on the details of the two auctions that were held to distribute Mr. Levy's vast collection. In December of 1928, over 5 days, an auction was held at the Plaza Art Auction Rooms in New York City. The first page of the Auction Catalog shows a photo of Monticello and the following introductory page headline refers to "Art Furnishings" from Monticello. What makes this Auction a bit tricky is that it included items from other consignors, one being millionaire John Markle, who owned a successful Mining Company. He set up a Foundation of his own in 1927 to distribute his wealth prior to his death in 1933. The catalog has sporadic notations as to items being from Monticello but of the 8 photos in the catalog, 6 were of items from Monticello, several of which were photographed in rooms at Monticello. I did find documents online indicating that all proceeds from this sale were used for the purchase of Monticello but the catalog makes no reference to this. My conclusion is that items were in fact donated by various individuals and Foundations to help with the purchase of Monticello and that all proceeds were given to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation.

Second pg of NYC Auction Catalog
To help decipher which items potentially belonged to Mr. Levy, I found a list of over 300 items conveyed to Monticello in the book written by Melvin Urofsky, The Levy Family and Monticello. This list is organized room by room and is very specific but at times refers to "books" or "cases of books", "chairs", and "carpets" so the actual physical number of items transferred would be much more than 300 items. Interestingly, no mention of statuary or exterior property was specified as being transferred to The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation. We do have historic photographic and newspaper documentation that the 2 lion statues on the West Portico were transferred to The Foundation. There is also one statue from the grounds of Monticello listed in the auction catalog. Interestingly I have never seen this particular statue in historic photos but I have seen 2 other Greek style statues.

Marcus Aurelius Statue #750, #751 not listed as from Mont.
It's remarkable that so many elaborate items were auctioned over 5 days (don't forget, there was also an auction at Monticello the month prior). Each day approximately 200 items were up for purchase for a total of 1057 items. Piles and piles of English, French, and American books, carpets, rugs, tapestries, oil paintings, furniture, statuary, and silver were auctioned.

On Day 1, 255 individual book titles were auctioned, of which many were large volume sets, giving a day total of over 2,210 individual books. There is no mention of any from Monticello but Thomas Jefferson stored 6,000 volumes of books in his book room so there certainly was space in the library for the many volumes that were auctioned.

A few of the book titles were as follows:
  • The Works of Thomas Jefferson, a 12 volume set, priced today at $1,200.00
  • Shakespeare's Works, a 12 volume illustrated set, priced today at $5,000.00
  • Ships papers of the Brig of Olivia, signed by Jefferson and Madison
Day's 2-5 consisted of just over 800 auction items, mainly decorative Furniture, Oil Paintings, Linens, Rugs, Carpets, Tapestries, China, Dinner Services, Chairs, Clock Sets, Oil Paintings, and English Silver. A few items of interest were:

  • Ebony Chickering Grand Piano
  • Ornate Gild French Beds
  • Louis XV carved Salon Sofa
  • Miniature Commode with inlaid walnut and 2 drawers
  • Painting Gainesborough Dupont (mid to late 1700's) Portrait of Lady in Blue. (There is a Lady in Blue at the National Gallery
  • Ormolu Firedogs - Decorative Gilt Andirons  
  • Moonlight Landscape Blakelot similar works sold $30,000 in a future auction

3 piece Clock and Vase set at Monticello
Thirteen items were specifically noted in the catalog as being in rooms that Thomas Jefferson occupied or at Monticello. I found it interesting that on occasion they referred to Thomas Jefferson, not Monticello, even though the items were being auctioned specifically because they never belonged to Thomas Jefferson (good marketing tactic).

The following catalog items were noted as being from Monticello:

  • Gilt Beadstead, hand carved Louis XV (#300 Bed with Canopy)
  • Two green and gold hand carved Bedsteads (Twin Beds), said to come from King Ludwig in Munich and used by "The Mad King" 
  • Bronze and Rosewood Inkstand
  • Set of 22 Flags of the Nations (acquired during a period of years at Monticello)
  • Roman Gilt Table, Carved with marble top inlaid with lapis lazuli and precious stones
  • Bronze 42 Light Chandelier 
  • Italian Marble Bust, Lotus Eater
  • Marcus Aurelius Statue on lawn at Monticello
  • Round checkerboard ebonized table, top inlaid with semi-precious stones, signed Palozzo dei Caesari, Febraio, 1869
  • Model of First Corliss Engine
  • Miniature water color painting presented to Monticello
  • Pandora Clock and Pedestal, representing the mischievous goddess with her casket of troubles that once adorned the palace of Louis XV
  • Royal Sevres Clock and Vases, bought from France
  • Blue and gold Clock, with 2 four-branch candelabra  

1912 Holsinger historic photography collection
Once again the search for the last pair of Levy Lions has been thwarted. From this last bit of research, one can conclude that not all items transferred from the Mr. Levy to The Foundation were documented. As we have discovered 3 outside marble statues were conveyed but not documented. So far, we have no evidence that the pair of sitting lions made it to auction BUT we do have hearsay that 2 lion statues were sent to the dump. I still have hope that their fate was otherwise.

To read my entire research into the mystery of the Levy Lions, I'm listing the sequence of links for your convenience:

Blog #1: The Levy Family and Monticello
Blog #2: Monticello Levy Lions
Blog #3: Historical Levy Lion Library Research
Blog #4: The Monticello Levy Lion Saga Continues, Part IV

I would like to thank the amazing library staff at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for helping me with this weeks blog research.


Sunday, February 14, 2016

1928 Auction of the Levy Property at Monticello and New York City

Two auctions occurred at Monticello during its 244 year lifespan. The first was in 1827 after Thomas Jefferson passed away. His daughter was required to sell all furnishings, the house, and 140 slaves to pay his accumulated debt. It took 4 years to "unload" the house for a mere $7,500.

The second auction was held in November of 1928 after the new owners, The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, set on a fundraising mission in 1923 to raise 1 million dollars to purchase Monticello. The goal of The Foundation was to rehab Monticello back to the 1809 - 1826 Jefferson era which meant disposing of items belonging to the prior owner, Jefferson Levy. The work continues to this day to remove all property and building modifications that were made during the 90 year sporadic ownership of Monticello by the Levy family. Fortunately in the 1980's steps were taken by The Foundation to restore the Levy family history.

1914 Sitting Lions and interesting sign to visitors by Holsinger
For many, many years Monticello was open to just about anyone that meandered up the mountain. Property owners were often not on site and Monticello was a "second home" managed by hired help to look after things. Because it was an ex-President's home, there was money to be made by charging admission but often there was little control over what people did or where they went. So Monticello had become quite the popular place to visit especially when automobile travel made the voyage easier. By 1900 it is recorded that 50,000 people made the trek each year. Apparently things were being damaged as a posted signs states, "Visitors allowed on grounds 20 minutes, Do no pull or break shrubbery, No lunching on the grounds". So one would imagine that a nationally advertised auction held at Monticello would be a HUGE deal. I've found no record of what occurred at the auction, as to what was sold or the turnout. Was it a stampede up the mountain or a fizzle?

More statues @ Monticello by Holsinger
When the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation originally took over Monticello it was headquartered in New York City. What you may not know is that there was another auction held in New York City as part of the 1928 disposal of Levy family items. In December, a month after the auction at Monticello, select items were sent to New York to be auctioned. I envision a few "high society" items and found a reference to some statuary being included in this sale. Because I had been researching the auction of 4 Lion statues for several years, I was very interested in trying to track down exactly what items were part of this auction. Maybe the missing "Sitting with Shield" lions were included!

Grounds @ Monticello by Holsinger
After some serious googling, I found a reference to a brochure listing the items in the NYC auction. Up until this point, I had not encountered any published references to the exact items auctioned. Because this auction was only 1 months after the auction held at the Monticello, I felt these items had been pre-selected and never part of the auction held at Monticello.

What sort of items do you believe were auctioned? Are you hanging on the edge of your seat? I was until I received the contents of the brochure and was I ever surprised.

It's so revealing that I'll have to write about it in my next blog post. So stay tuned!

1925 Restoration of Monticello from the book by M. Urosfky
Historic photos by Rufus Holsinger are copyrighted and not for commercial use as noted from the UVA Special Collections Library.

The last photo is a snapshot of the Levy Lions amid scaffolding is from the book, The Levy Family and Monticello by Melvin Urosfky.


Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Monticello Levy Lion Saga Continues, Part IV

Saunders Trail Pond
A beautiful walk on Saunders Trail at Monticello re-energized me concerning the topic of the Levy Lions. One of the great Charlottesville mysteries, that has yet to be solved, is what happened to 4  ~ very public ~ life size lion statues that resided at Monticello up until the late 1920's. My quest to track the Lions began after reading the fascinating book, Saving Monticello, written by Marc Leepson. In his book it was reported that one of the 4 massive lion statues, which I refer to as the Canterbury Lion, was only a 10 minute drive from my house! To follow the tale of the lions, first click here => to read my original blog post about the Levy family history.

The Canterbury Road Lion Statue
Yesterday, after walking the trail, I decided to check in on the Canterbury Lion statue. After residing 33 years at this location for all to see, I was shocked to find that it had been MOVED. I gasped and drove by twice just to make sure I was seeing things correctly. The lion was GONE and the house under renovation. My mind is swirling with questions... "Where is it", "How in the heck did they move it", "Did it get damaged", "Was it sold"! Fortunately, I received an email from the daughter of the family that lived in the home. As life goes, her father passed away and the house was sold. I was relieved to learn that the 3000 lb lion was harnessed and hoisted by fork lift into a special truck to take a little road trip over the mountain to his new home. He is now safe and sound with the Granddaughter of the original purchaser, gazing up at the little mountain that is Monticello.

1925 photo of Cary Jean sitting on the Canterbury Lion 
For nearly 95 years the Canterbury Lion has been purported to be one of the "Foot on Ball" lions or at least a lion that was purchased at Monticello. It was purchased, by Herbert Collins, the Grandfather of the family that resided on Canterbury Road, at Monticello in 1923. His Granddaughter, Sherrie, provided the wonderful photo of her mother sitting on their Lion. We have dated the photo to 1925 based on her mother's age of 2 years old. Getting the car dated might provide another clue.

Historic photographs show that there were 4 life sized lion statues at Monticello during the Levy family reign. The "Foot on Ball" pair was even on the back of the $2.00 bill for the world to see. Read my second blog post to get familiar with all 4 lions and then read my last blog about more of this mystery.

1912 photo by Holsinger Foot on Ball lion W. Port. Monticello
Recently I unearthed a clue concerning the West Portico Lions. Before any piece of ground is touched at Monticello, the archaeology team gets to work. Interestingly that is exactly what happened on the West Portico stairs where a pair of Levy Lions once stood. Detailed measurements made by the team put the brick platform width at 18" (referred to as the west portico cheek wall @ 1.5'). To further complicate matters, historic photos show a slate cap that appears to overhang the excavated cheek wall. As pictured, the base of the Levy Lion Statue fits within the slate top, therefore one must conclude that the base width of a standing Levy Lion statue would have to be smaller than the width of the slate cap. It appears the cap was replaced in 1938, long after the lions were removed from Monticello so an estimate must be derived based on photographic evidence.

The base of the majestic Canterbury Lion is 20" wide by 60" long. It is possible that it could fit on the slate cap given we do not know its exact width. The oral history insists that the Canterbury Lion has a connection to Monticello. I have found no photographic evidence or written documentation that there were more than 4 large lion statues at Monticello (2 Ball on Foot and 2 Sitting with Shield). If this lion never sat on the West Portico, it is possible we have a 5th lion that was possibly stored inside the home as the vast majority of historic photos are of the grounds at Monticello. Conveniently, Mr. Collins owned a moving company so it certainly would have been an easy pitch to The Foundation - "If you want to get rid of a 3000 lb lion, I can move it - TODAY".

Side view of 2 Levy Lions that remain lost in history.
There are still 2 "sitting with shield lions" that are unaccounted for. Crucial information has been found concerning the search for the Lions and I can't wait to reveal the details in my next Levy Lion blog post. So stay tuned!

A special thanks to Sherrie Breeden who was determined to move this massive beast and keep him as part of their family legacy. I am so grateful for her continued communication and for providing historic family photos for all to enjoy!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...