Showing posts with label Emily Dickinson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Emily Dickinson. Show all posts

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Pretty In White

Jada lined up with Miss Emily's famous white dress

Call me a history geek but I couldn't think of a better way of spending Fathers Day than walking around Amherst town center with my girls, having lunch at the Taste of Amherst, and then hanging out at the Amherst History Museum.

I am always a little amazed to be able to amble up close to the last remaining article of clothing worn by our most famous resident, Emily Dickinson: A simple white dress.

Like Miss Emily must have appeared at first glance all those years ago. Simple on the outside, but pricelessly complicated on the inside.

And I'm even more amazed the Strong House History Museum, one of the oldest wood structures in Amherst, has no sprinkler system in case of a catastrophic fire.

Town Meeting recently approved $390,000 for just such systems at The Evergreens and First Congregational Church which are of course historical treasures.

Amherst College owns both The Evergreens and the Dickinson Homestead and they matched the $190,000 Town Meeting approved for The Evergreens ultra fancy fire suppression system.

The Dickinson Museum has a copy of the white dress on display but the original remains at the nearby Strong House.

The proposed Jones Library expansion renovation will create 1,000 square feet of new climate controlled, sprinklered space for the neighboring Amherst History Museum to use for public display, which I would assume means the priceless white dress.

Hopefully before the unthinkable should happen.

Kira at age 14 is already taller than Miss Emily

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A Room For Miss Emily

Dickinson Homestead:  Centerpiece for the Dickinson Historic District

Throughout history -- from whale oil lamps to modern electric LEDs -- there's no greater power on earth than the bond between a parent and a child, a special luminescence that shines brightly generation in and generation out, regardless of what fancy name you give to each succeeding generation.

At the sacred Dickinson Homestead Museum a tangible display of that special relationship between a father and his gifted daughter will soon see the light of day after 100 years of storage, to allow exotic plants to grow in spite of winter's icy grasp.

A small glass enclosed conservatory that Edward Dickinson built for both Emily and Lavinia will be meticulously reconstructed in its original location jutting off the southeast portion of the beautiful brick building -- perhaps the first of its kind in Amherst.

 Click to enlarge/read
 Pretty safe bet this will gain a "Certificate of appropriateness"

Edward Dickinson also demonstrated his love of family by ensuring after being "called back" they would spend eternity, forever, together.

 Note worn spot in front of Miss Emily
Amherst Town Meeting just approved $190K (with Amherst College providing matching funds) for a sophisticated fire suppression system for The Evergreens next door

Friday, March 25, 2016


Graves immediately adjacent to Dickinson family plot

On my usual walk through Amherst town center I was chagrined to find these two toppled gravestones that probably could cast a shadow on the Dickinson family plot if the sun were out and they were still standing.

So I stopped at Town Hall on the way home to show the damage to local historian & Senior Town Planner Jonathan Tucker, and he confirmed this was recent damage.

Which of course reminded me of my Facebook photo quick update a couple days ago of the perimeter fence at the Emily Dickinson Homestead that was also most recently pushed over in the same manner.

 Damage occurred sometime late Tuesday into Wednesday early morning

Amherst police responded to West Cemetery last weekend for reports of homeless folks using it as their personal playground/bar and leaving behind a major mess that had to be cleaned up by the DPW.

This is getting out of hand.

UPDATE (Sunday afternoon):

 AFD & APD on scene West Cemetery after reports of "2 homeless men sleeping on Emily Dickinson's grave." One transported to CDH the other moved along

Monday, December 14, 2015

Protecting History

The Evergreens on a bright October day

The Evergreens, immediate neighbor and family member of the Emily Dickinson Homestead Museum, will become a lot safer if the Community Preservation Act Committee recommends the $200,000 request for a new high pressure water mist fire suppression system. 

The actual cost of the system is over $400,000 but museum officials have a donor who will match the CPA grant should it be approved by Town Meeting in the spring. 

Both the Dickinson Homestead and the Evergreens are owned by Amherst College, the largest property owner in town.  The Dickinson houses attract thousands of visitors to our little college town from all over the world. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

What's In A Name?

The Emily Dickinson Homestead "I'm nobody! Who are you?"

Perhaps we can get Amherst College to increase its Payment In Lieu Of Taxes to the town of Amherst from the current $130,000 up to $1 million or so in exchange for changing our name.  How about Emilyville?

Appropriate enough of course since Miss Emily is more famous than Lord Jeffery Amherst -- and for a better reason.  And ever so conveniently her historic homestead, a mecca for tourists from around the world, is owned by Amherst, err, Emilyville College.

The undefeated Jeffs beat Wesleyan 27-18 at their October 24th home game

I'm not so sure rough and tumble college football players will be psyched about a nickname associated with a long dead reclusive female poet, although anything has got to be better than a flea infested moose. 

Lord Jeff of course never actually ordered the distribution of infected blankets to the hostile Indians, err, Native Americans laying seige to Fort Pitt.  And there's no conclusive scientific proof that the two blankets and handkerchief used in the sick attempt actually worked.

But there's no question Lord Jeff was not a big fan of what was then a sworn enemy threatening the men, woman and children of his command. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

But Will The Residents Complain?

 West Cemetery:  The most historic/sacred ground in Amherst

The Agricultural Commission was receptive to DPW Division Director of Trees & Grounds Alan Snow's  proposal to allow sheep grazing in town cemeteries, an all natural way of keeping the green green grass at an acceptable height.

Ideally the town would use a mix of sheep and goats, since the latter "browse" and would consume weeds, shrubs and invasive species.

 Our Civil War dead are buried in West Cemetery

The proposal is still very much in the preliminary stages.  The next step is to seek permission of the Historical Commission.  Snow believes there may be grant money available to help pay for the experiment, and if all goes well the critters could be munching away next spring.

This section of West Cemetery kept in a more "natural" state

Historic West Cemetery, where the older area is already kept in a more "natural" condition  (cut only once per year) is envisioned as a test site.

Don't worry, the critters would not be given a key to the Dickinson family plot.

Emily Dickinson, "The Belle of Amherst," 2nd from left

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Can You Find Me Now?

New sign near Sweetser Park

Three new signs were installed yesterday at both ends and the middle of the long stretch of frontage at the Emily Dickinson Homestead Museum, perhaps Amherst's greatest cultural asset.

Not that small businesses in the downtown would mind having foreign travelers stopping in to ask direction and grabbing a cup coffee.  The Museum attracts 15,000 visitors annually.
Click photos to enlarge
Original Signage:  Large one left will be removed small one in driveway replaced by slightly larger one moved down closer to sidewalk

New sign in driveway installed yesterday

Last September the Amherst Planning Board gave Site Plan Approval for renovations at the Museum and waived restrictions about the signs over size and placement.

Corner of Main & Triangle Street

Sweetser Park: now if we could just get the town to spruce up some of their signs ...

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Miss Emily: A Star Is Reborn

Emily Dickinson Museum, 280 Main Street
A professional film crew will come calling next week for a three-day shoot about Amherst's most famous reclusive resident, Emily Dickinson -- The Belle of Amherst.

The movie is called, appropriately enough, "A Quiet Passion" and they will of course be filming at the Dickinson Homestead, aka Emily Dickinson Museum, on Main Street just above the railroad tracks her father helped bring to Amherst.

Since it's a period piece Amherst police will be used to control traffic to ensure a 21st century internal combustion vehicle does not stray into a shot of a horse and carriage ambling up Main Street.  Barry Roberts will be providing the horses.

Film crew will use Wildwood rather than West Cemetery due to 21st century intrusions near West Cemetery

Chief Livingstone points out it's a pretty simply request, not nearly as complicated as the 1993 shoot centered in the downtown for the movie "Malice."

Old timers also remember when the Merry Maple (aka Christmas Tree) was reignited in the spring of 1968 for the movie "Silent Night, Lonely Night."

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Historic Preservation Via Duplication

Amherst History Mural overlooks sacred West Cemetery

"If you can't save it, repaint it" should be the motto for the One East Pleasant Street 5-story mixed use building coming soon to the northern end of downtown Amherst, within the shadow of Kendrick Place (set to open in August).

The 16' by 140' Amherst Community History Mural painted on the back of the Carriage Shops overlooking West Cemetary by Cambridge artist David Fichter ten years ago will be repainted by the original artist on the back of the new building.

Last night the Amherst Historical Commission voted unanimously to accept an amended easement agreement, thus guaranteeing a new and brighter mural will continue to overlook Miss Emily's final resting place.  Forever.

One East Pleasant Street as seen from historic West Cemetery

West Cemetery from Triangle Street side

Friday, November 28, 2014

Miss Emily Renewed

 Miss Emily and Lavinia

Although I'm sure it will not stop NIMBYs from attending the December 3 Planning Board meeting for one final pot shot at 1 East Pleasant Street, a five story mixed use (but mainly residential) development that will rejuvenate the north end of downtown, the last potential stumbling block seems to have been surmounted.

At last week's Historical Commission meeting the guardians of Amherst's historic past did not vote to oppose the (temporary) destruction of the Amherst Community History Mural attached to the Carriage Shops rear wall overlooking sacred West Cemetery.

Mike Hanke, Chair Amherst Historical Commission

Of course the mural will be reborn via the original artist, David Fichter and a crew of professionals  to assist, unlike the original that used citizen volunteers.  And this time he will not have work around ugly air conditioners jutting out from his "canvas".

The destined for demolition Carriage Shops abut West Cemetery to the south

Since Miss Emily was a bit of an introvert in her later life she would probably be amused at the turnout the Planning Board hearings have generated over the past four sessions on this age old controversy concerning growth and renewal.

 Amherst Community History Mural (The sun also rises)

Monday, October 27, 2014

"An Oasis Of Peace"

Welcome to West Cemetery an "oasis of peace in the center of the municipality"

The Amherst Public Shade Tree Committee issued a written plea to One East Pleasant Street developers David Williams and Kyle Wilson, urging them to rethink current design plans that will encroach upon Amherst's most sacred ground and final resting place for our most revered citizen, Emily Dickinson. 

A bevy of trees and a 10-year-old historic mural are endangered by development plan

And just to make sure they got the message, a committee member read it publicly to them at the Planning Board meeting last Wednesday night.

 Click to enlarge/read

Of course so much heavy fire was being directed at the developers from all sides that night, they probably have forgotten about the trees due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

 South side of One East Pleasant mixed use project abutting West Cemetery

When the Amherst Carriage Inn hotel was first built in the early 1960s the footprint was graded to be auto friendly .

Amherst Carriage Inn circa 1960

The new owners want to return to the original topography and plan to fill in nearly five feet around the outermost border of their property, exactly where the 15 trees have stood for over a generation.

Kyle Wilson did tell the Planning Board they plan to, "Save what we can, and plant more."

The historic mural -- which can't be saved due to demolition --will be repainted on the southern side of the new building by the original artist, David Fichter, but even that has folks grumbling since the original work had many civic minded volunteers who helped bring it to life.

 Carriage shops bordered by West Cemetery to the south

Friday, September 5, 2014

Branding Miss Emily

Dickinson Homestead built 1813.  Sign will be moved forward closer to sidewalk and enlarged

The Amherst Planning Board voted 6-1 earlier this week to waive restrictions due to "compelling reasons of public convenience, public safety, aesthetics, or site design" for the Emily Dickinson Homestead Museum and Evergreens estate next door (owned by Miss Emily's brother Austin) to allow additional signs that can be placed closer to a sidewalk than 30" and higher than the 48" regulations. 

Large new sign to left of fence pillar, westerly most end of property

The one dissenting voter, Rob Crowner, thought the signage change required a Special Permit from the Planning Board and therefor would mean the Museum has to refile an application.

Executive Director Jane Wald described the signage as a way for the Museum -- birthplace of our most famous resident -- to "refresh its branding and logo."  

Additionally the signage will more clearly delineate to visitors (15,000 annually) the distinction between the Dickinson Homestead and the Evergreens next door, that together occupy three acres just at the edge of town center.

 Large new sign between traffic light pole and fire hydrant easterly most end of property

Two large signs will act as bookends on the east and west ends of the properties with the other three smaller signs replacing those located along the fence that runs parallel to Main Street.

As part of Site Plan Review (which allowed the Planning Board to "waive" signage rules) the PB also approved drainage work and the addition of a "chiller unit" located out of public view behind the garage on the north end of the property.

The Dickinson Museum will benefit by the addition of a new Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning system and the installation of a fire suppression system, to significantly protect the building, which is so historic it's practically sacred.

The Evergreens, built 1856

The Evergreens too will see physical improvements in the form of exterior painting and woodwork repair, including new gutters, all of which were approved by the Dickinson Local Historic District Commission.

The total budget for these improvements comes to $1.5 million.  The Museum recently received a $380,000 grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund as well as a $380K matching grant from Amherst College. 

The balance will be raised by private fundraising and additional support from Amherst College.

The Evergreens from above just west of Dickinson Homestead

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Saving Miss Emily

 Sun going down on Emily Dickinson

I'm not a lawyer of course, but I do understand English.

And the wording -- especially "perpetual" -- of the legal easement between Carriage Shops owners/Trustees, the late Dick Johnson and Jerry Gates, and the town clearly indicates in plain English that the wall used to paint the historic mural was guaranteed to remain standing and undisturbed ... forever.

Sure, back ten years ago the owners obviously never thought they would sell the entire complex lock, stock and mural.  But a local developer friend of mine told me 30 years ago, "When you own property everything is for sale ... if the price is right."

 Carriage Shops main building from above (Mural on back wall facing West Cemetery)

But when million of dollars are on the table, it's hard not  to be convinced otherwise.  Problem is the town does not stand to gain an immediate windfall, and they do have a legally binding document that should cause major design considerations, or torpedo the lucrative deal.

"The trustees shall not undertake nor permit any activity which will alter or deface the appearance of the mural."  Like, maybe, a wrecking ball for instance?

From the vantage point of her placement high on the wall, Miss Emily looks out over her final resting place and that of her entire family.  In a town brimming with history, West Cemetery is our most hallowed ground.

So too is the mural. 

Miss Emily (and Lavinia)