Monday, September 27, 2021

A Jaunt Round the Countryside Part 2

 Another summer day, another mini road trip, another elegant courthouse full of spidery handwritten records - Belmont this time, in neighbouring Allegany County.

Though it doesn't look quite so good when you take in the modern extension.

Interestingly, the handwriting in the old records gets worse too, as the years progress.

These old western New York towns and villages are full of what must once have been trophy houses in the days when people grew rich on things like agriculture and oil.

I loved the delightful archway. Glad they kept it.

And here's the Belmont library, thanks, no doubt, to  Andrew Carnegie, whose free library network may well have done more good for people wanting to improve their lot and lift their spirits than any number of modern welfare schemes. 

And then on to Angelica. I hadn't been here for a few years and happily it seems to look perkier now and to be consolidating its role as a centre of local history - it was first settled in 1802. That's history. And maybe getting people to buy some houses in the process. 

A perfect porch with its triumphant woodwork and the typical planting right up against the house. as if keeping it warm.

And, typically again, two churches next to each other and more nearby 

Now if this were in New England or the New York city hinterland gorgeous house like this would go for Much Bigger Bucks.

How the name came about is interesting. Angelica was the wife of  a merchant, John Church, who was born in Britain but got mega rich  supplying the other side in the Revolutionary Way and helped fund the American victory. In return he got 100,000 western New York acres, Hence his son named the village after his mother - who also happened to be the sister-in-law of Alexander Hamilton no less. (I was lucky enough to see the musical in London, of all places. The British chap next to me asked me if "this Alexander Hamilton" was a real person. I gave him an American history lesson. Hubby would have been proud.) 

The politics now are somewhat different but you still can't get away from them.

I assure you I would have included a Biden sign for balance but I haven't seen many around here. 

But one of the most intriguing places in Angelica, which we stumbled upon quite by chance when looking for somewhere to have a picnic, is what looked at first glance like a derelict mansion.

Grandeur in the weeds

And broken windows. The local kids must love it.

But it looked a bit too institutional, so we speculated next that it might be an old TB sanatorium - there were quite a few of them in the surrounding hilly places, before the advent of antibiotics. I always found the idea both spooky and romantic, having read the "Magic Mountain" as a teenager.

But no,  Google Knows All - as hubby says - and it was in fact the local poorhouse, unused since the 1960s and by all accounts a place of revolting Dickensian conditions and not romantic at all. It was rebuilt after a tragic fire in the 1920s that did for some of the unfortunate residents. Strange to find something like that in the depths of the American countryside, where, before the poorhouse era,  the poor were sometimes auctioned off and sent to work, not in factories but on farms. 

All this history in one tiny rural spot.

to be continued.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Summer Flashback: A Jaunt Round the Countryside Part 1

It's always fun discovering the hidden corners of western New York, with its dusty old houses, relics of former grandeur,  as yet undiscovered by tourists, a magical place where you don't need a passport to go abroad. To Warsaw, for example, former home of, among others, the cowboy poet Earl Alonzo Brininstool.  Here's the Wyoming County courthouse.

A place where lawyer hubby spent many happy hours. And opposite, a gingerbread mansion that once belonged to a lawyer colleague.

And now houses an arty crafty antiquey co-operative full of frothy folderol.

How's that for cool decor?

A superabundance of teapots.

Would that we still had afternoon tea. (Question: am I more likely to host this in Florida? Possibly. So more breakables to go south in sister-in-law's car.)
  And you have to be very careful what you bump into here.

But what a magnificent library it would have been.

to be continued.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Into the Wonderful Woods

 Dateline: Cattaraugus County, western New York state

  My passion for forests continues apace. There's been something about this summer. Maybe it's the contrast with flat Florida but I've fallen in love anew with western New York's wooded hills. The mist rising on a rainy morning....

and swirling around the trees on the hidden path I recently discovered further up our lane. 

(No public footpaths here - you have to rely on the goodwill of the landowners, though if you're not hunting their deer, they most probably won't mind.) Though I didn't need to go far the other evening to peer through the dusk at the forested end of our back garden and see in the distance a small herd of deer silently flitting, ghost-like, through the trees. 
   Last weekend our local nature centre had a guided walk about forest health and management. At least that's what it was meant to be - they spent most of the time reminiscing about old neighbours and who-had-owned-what-and-when, who had sheep, who had cows (all this bit used to be farmland) and who had driven horse-drawn sleds up the old rock -strewn paths to collect maple syrup. 

But never mind, it was a beautiful sunny day, the forest looking its absolute best.

That might be a shell off a hickory nut, which sounds so American.

As does "trailhead" - you think you're out in the wilds of the Rockies or something.

Well who needs the Rockies when you've got Cattaraugus County's Enchanted Mountains?

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Rural Americana

 I had long wanted to pay another visit to what's locally known as the Springville Flea Market. It's some 45 minutes drive northwards from us, in a country town on the way to Buffalo. It's actually much more than  a flea market. As you approach, cars line the road and people walk, weighed down with bags of produce - corn, melons, giant courgettes aka zucchini and summer squash. The forecourt - actually a bumpy slope - is full of haphazardly parked pickup trucks, kids and dogs weaving among them. I asked a man in a cowboy hat what sort of dog he had - a large, odd-looking beast with lithe body and long floppy ears. "A coon hound".  Atop the slope, red wooden buildings that seem unchanged for decades. Children retrieve rabbits in cardboard boxes pierced with holes, a large turkey sits in a cage, goats, sheep and tiny calves in dank pens. The animal auction in a room with tiered wooden seats around a small ring, started and ended early. Alongside the buildings stalls of perfect, plump plums, peppers and peaches. 

"We don't have so much today", the stallholder said. "We sent some of it south to help those people." I assume she meant Louisiana, reeling after Hurricane Ida. 

  And behind the buildings Amish ladies in their white caps and long blue Victorian dresses sell doughnuts of exquisite lightness. Or, if you prefer it, there's a truck selling that staple of American fairgrounds, fried dough.

And stretching to the horizon, on tables and on the ground bric-a-brac of all kinds from bedsteads to broken hoovers to dolls houses to bicycles to antique fire extinguishers, interspersed with stalls of bargain toiletries, toys and pristine baseball caps saying "Jesus My Boss", sadly made in China. A  magnificently- moustached auctioneer wielding a portable microphone rattles his staccato spiel to a small crowd, "everything must go!"

There are plants too and herbs and lettuces and tarps spread on the ground with unidentifiable objects, "Everything on here for a dollar!"   Something tells me we should have arrived at the crack of dawn to get the real bargains.

  And  in the middle of it all, a white van stands draped in a massive banner suggesting we do something unprintable to the current President of the United States. Around it memorabilia extolling the virtues of his predecessor. 

  I catch a bit of conversation: "Afghanistan - yeah - well I say we should never have gone in there in the first place. But...."