October 28, 2009

Down into the Depths!

We're on a four part tour of the Holyoke Canal system. This is part two. In part one, I gave an overview of Holyoke and its canal system. Need a refresher?  Click here. In this post, we'll go inside Open Square to look at the waterwheels!

What in the hell is that?!?  That is an 1852 Fourneyron Turbine.  (That last hyperlink? A REALLY COOL WEBSITE.  But come back, okay?)
What in the hell is that?!?  That's the D wheel.   That's a Leffel Z water wheel.  No one knows why it's called the 'D' wheel, but trust us - it is. The Open Square complex originally had 13 mechanical wheels, and some were converted to electrical power in the 1920s, of which two remain active.  The other wheel is called the 'G' wheel.  Despite what mom says, between the 'D' wheel and the 'G' wheel, there IS a favorite.   But I'm not telling.
Our guide demonstrates how he matches the electric sin wave of the wheels to the sin wave of the grid before connecting the wheels to the grid. When the dial in the background gets to the 12:00 position, green lights flash and he punches a big red button. I shit you not. The list of folks approved to 'start up the wheel' is VERY SHORT.

Next post, we'll go down EVEN FURTHER into the canal system.

October 26, 2009

And Now, For Something Completely Different. Well not really COMPLETELY Different, but...Pretty Different

The next four posts are about Holyoke, Massachusetts.   So - I should probably do a little 'lay of the land' for those you not from 'round these parts, lest I LOSE YOU to a less confusing blog.  I don't want to confuse anyone (except Dick Cheney, when he's asking for directions.  Then I want to be REALLY confusing.)

Okay.  Ready?

Holyoke - as we know it - was built in the late 1880s.  It was the first planned industrial city in the country.  It's dense urban core and three-level canal system were built around a 60 foot drop in the Connecticut River to power INDUSTRY! INDUSTRY! INDUSTRY! Holyoke's tight street grid wraps around the broad canals, following an elegant curve in the Connecticut River. The ingredients that made Holyoke a great city - renewable water power, a dense urban core, and GORGEOUS mill buildings - remain.

Approximately 50% of Holyoke's electricity comes from hydro electric generators at the Holyoke Dam and along the 4 mile canal system.   I was lucky enough to join a tour of the two operating water wheels at a REALLY FREAKING COOL MIXED-USE DEVELOPMENT that sits between two of Holyoke's canals.  Welcome to Open Square:
Open Square donated a tour of the canal system as a silent auction item for a local fundraiser. 

Please join us on the tour! But first, please put on some really unattractive footwear.
Open Square operates two water wheels - producing 1/2 a megawatt of electricity. Twice a year, Holyoke Gas and Electric (HG&E) drains the canals for maintenance. The photo below shows an empty headrace with a safety grate exposed. 
With Boots on our feet, flashlights in our hands, and cameras at the ready, we ventured down into the raceways....in the next post!

October 23, 2009

Last Day in Boston

On our third and last day in Boston,

Oooh!  Wait!  Did I tell you about our meal at the Eastern Standard?  Laudy, laudy was that good.  I highly recommend.  It's in Kenmore Square, right on Commonwealth Ave.  Oh dear, now I need a moment to remove the thought of house-smoked trout with arugula and pomegranate salad and creme fraiche from my head........okay.  Wait.........Okay.

On our third day in Boston, we made a very disappointing trip to the Boston Design Center.  We were looking for lobby lighting for a REALLY FREAKING COOL MIXED-USE  DEVELOPMENT in downtown Holyoke. 

One of us (not me) is an architect.  Being an actual architect, with a stamp and everything, entitled one of us (not me) to walk around the Boston Design Center wearing a sticker that read 'Design Professional', while I was forced to hide a lousy 'Visitor' sticker under my coat.  How can a man who's never heard of Scalamadre or Lee Jofra call himself a DESIGN PROFESSIONAL?!?  Okay, okay, he can build stuff real good. But I pick out soft furnishings real good.  So there.  'Visitor' indeed.

I've never experienced the 'to the trade' thing.  Ever.  While I adore my shelter magazines, I buy my trash cans at Target thank you very much.  I think the closest I've come to 'to the trade' was via my mom's once a year trip to the Baker Furniture Factory Sale in Grand Rapids.  Once a year, if one rose at the butt-crack of dawn and stood in line, one could gain entry to a factory floor full of Baker Furniture and fabrics at ridiculous prices. 

I found the Boston Design Center to be Very Dis-a-POINT-ing.  There was not one, not even in a catalog, modern looking light fixture in the whole building.  Is it possible that the Boston design market doesn't purchase lighting that looks as though it was made before 1940?  Luckily, we did find a really cool light store on Boylston Ave.  Neena's Lighting was AWESOME and full of inspiration.

Neena's may even have had a light fixture for the REALLY FREAKING COOL MIXED-USE DEVELOPMENT lobby.

But you know design professionals - they're very finicky, so we'll have to wait and see.

October 21, 2009

We Drove Ninety Miles from Holyoke To See a Show About Holyoke

Before leaving for Boston, we got a postcard alerting us to the fact that the Holyoke History Room (Hi Penni!)  had collaborated with the Massachusetts State Library to create an exhibit about Holyoke at the State House Library.

Since we were already in Boston, and we are total Holyoke geeks, we decided to pay a visit.

October 20, 2009

Kitchen After!

October 19, 2009

Another Day in Beantown

We spent our second day in Boston (of two.  Just two.  No more.  Sigh.) visiting the Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA), and walking around a park WHERE A GIANT HIGHWAY USED TO STAND.

I am embarrassed to tell you this, because, well, it's embarrassing, but I had not seen the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy park over which a giant, dirty, noisy highway (Route 93) used to pass, and under which a giant, dirty, noisy highway now passes.  In other english words?  As many times as I've been to Boston in the past 5 years, I'd never seen the impact of the Big Dig.

The transformation was nothing short of stunning.  

My best friend in high school and I used to take the ferry from Quincy to Rowes Wharf during the summer, and scramble under Route 93 and various construction projects to Fanieul Hall  - to buy ridiculous sweaters at The Limited, etc.  And now, exiting Rowes Wharf, there was nothing to scramble under.  Only a clear view of the Boston skyline and a green park in between.  It was shocking.

There are two really enjoyable exhibits at the ICA now.  The big show is a retrospective of Mexican artist Damien Ortega.  The second is the wall exhibit in the photo above.  Both are worth the trip (in my opinion.)

What do you think of the ICA?  Have you been?  I really love the building's interior architecture.

Next post?  I'll tell you about our last day in Boston and our visit to the Boston Design Center....oooooh!

October 14, 2009

Beantown for a Few Days

We spent a few days in Boston.
Apparently the Irish are not early risers?

We splurged on a hotel room with a nice view.  That's the golden dome of the State House on the right and the Charles River in the distance.  The tall building on the left is the Prudential Center, and beneath all those trees?  Boston Common.

It was nice to get away for a few days.

October 10, 2009

Another Kitchen Before/After

I just can't live with only one blog post showing off our kitchen before and after.  So much work deserves more than one post, yes?  Also, the longer I revel in our completed (mostly) kitchen, the longer I can put off starting the upstairs bathroom.

Here's what we did to our kitchen:
- Paid someone to sand and prep the floors for painting
- Removed vinyl panels from wall and discovered original bead board underneath
- Sanded, caulked, primed and painted bead board
- Paid electricians to add outlets
- Designed and installed chair rail detail
- Primed, caulked and painted chair rail
- Didn't listen to advice about only applying oil based sealer over wall paper and had a wall paper disaster
- Paid someone to skim coat the walls
- Painted ceiling and walls
- Paid plumber to hook up dishwasher and disposal
- Spent a lot of time painting the floor
- Didn't like the results of the painted floor, so went back at it with a caulk gun.  Painted floor and polyurethaned it again
- Installed Ikea counter and cabinets

 Here's one more Completed Kitchen money shot. Prep area before:

And prep area after:

October 8, 2009

Le Drum Roll Please.....Holyoke Home Kitchen is Complete.....Well......Complete Enough to Post 'After' Photos

So - Here's the kitchen layout we decided on:
Amazing, right?  How did we get all that stuff in there?  Sheer.  Effing.  Will.

All told, we spent five hours at Ikea, during which we picked out countertop material (and edging), kick plates, cupboards, shelves and pulls.  I know: How could it take five hours to do that?!  Monkeys do more before  7 am than we did all day at Ikea!  (by the way?  We planned to buy our sink, faucet, and stainless steel prep table at Ikea, but the quality of the stainless was questionable, so we took a pass.)
- Cabinets: Ikea AKURUM in white with white ADEL fronts
- Pulls: Ikea GREJ 
- Counter: Ikea Grey NUMERAR with stainless steel edging
- Shelves: Ikea GRUNDTAL 
- Stainless steel prep table: sourced from a local restaurant supplier. 
- Sink and faucet: ordered from Highland Hardware 
- We inherited the stove and fridge from the previous owners, and the center butcher block prep table was ours.

OKAY! READY? LE DRUM LE ROLL PLEASE!  (click on an image for a larger version in a new window.)
Ahem.  Sink area before:
Sink Area During:

Sink Area After!

Prep Area Before: 

Prep Area During:

Prep Area After:

October 5, 2009

Original Row House Details - Door Hardware

I know you're waiting for the rest of our kitchen story- but someone (not me) hasn't had a chance to draw a nice picture of our layout.  So...

In the mean time, how about a tour of the rest of the house?

There were two major reasons we bought our row house.  One: it was 'move in-able.'   We could live there comfortably without too much fussing around.  This was a requirement for one of us (Not me.  Because I didn't know any better.)

The second reason we bought our Holyoke Home?   The house's original details were largely intact and amazing.  In fact, one of the first details we noticed is featured in our logo (at the top of this page!)  - the original brass door hardware on the living room french doors.  Beyond the french doors, in room after room, were were amazed to find the original door hardware throughout.  Hinges, latches, knobs, pulls and plates.  They were all there.

There is a very distinct three-level hierarchy of door hardware, with the fanciest (of course) appearing in the foyer and front rooms:

A still pleasant pull on the bedroom and bathroom doors, this time without a brass knob.

And a still smaller pattern on all the bedroom closet doors.

Does anyone have any guesses or suggestions on dating brass hardware?