Friday, October 30, 2015

Happy Halloween: Non-caloric sweet treats and one haunted house

It's been a while since we had cupcakes so I give you... ta da! Halloween Cupcakes.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Leaving Helena, Mt (Sleeping Giant Wilderness Area)

Sleeping Giant

When we were taking the motorized tour around Helena, the guide pointed out the mountain range called “The Sleep Giant.” Few landmarks in the Helena Valley are as easily recognizable as The Sleeping Giant in the North Hills. You may have to stretch your imagination to see it in my watercolor but as we left the city, and headed east, the giant accompanied us for quite a long ways.

Now the land is getting flatter and flatter, the harvest is in and rolls of hay dot the yellow stubble. We saw cattle, horses and even an occasional deer but no more buffalo. I guess they are all corralled into parks which is just as well, given how destructive those who fancy themselves hunters can be.

 The "real" Sleeping Giant

 Sleeping Giant Wilderness Study Area is a non-motorized recreation area located on the west side of the Missouri River and Holter Lake located about 30 miles (48 km) north of Helena, Montana. Designated as a wilderness study area in 1981, the Sleeping Giant Wilderness Study Area contains approximately 6,666 acres (2,698 ha) of nearly roadless land, about half of which is forested. A portion of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail is contained inside the study area. (WIkipedia)

 Gates of the Mountains.

The Sleeping Giant land form was well-known to Native Americans in the United States. Members of Native American tribes as far away as present-day Minnesota knew of the landmark, and told the leaders of the Lewis and Clark Expedition about it. The Lewis and Clark Expedition camped below the Sleeping Giant and explored the area around it during their initial passage through the region in 1805.

Rocky Mountains in our rear view mirror as we headed into the plains.

The plains of eastern Montana were historically populated by Plains Indian tribes such as the Sioux, Blackfeet and Crow but they have long been herded into reservations. I had hopped to find some Indian jewelry in some of the small towns that we passed through but no such luck.

A lot of the food we had on the road was great but the very best steak and potato meal that we had was in Miles City (named after the nephew of some Civil War general). Apparently there is an older part of the city but we were on the new highway on the outskirts and the part of the town that we saw didn’t have any defining features. We were on the edge of a long drive through North Dakota and needed our red meat protein. The restaurant was recommended to us by the guy at the motel desk and he didn't steer us wrong. The place was hopping with people who did not look like tourists - men in straw hats and sturdy jeans, everybody with sunburned faces and whole families down to the baby.

My brother-in-law, Mike had baby back ribs, my sister, Jolene had Fillet Mignon and I had lamb chops. We all had baked potatoes and while travel writers aren’t supposed to stoop to drool over meals, I have no such reservations. I still dream of those potatoes. My attempts to draw the steak and potatoes were just pathetic so I will just let you imagine the best steak that you ever had.

Bundle of hay.

Monday, October 19, 2015

'Jewel City: Art from San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition" (an art interlude)

"Jewel City: Art from San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition" which just opened at the de Young museum recreates a portion of the art exhibition at the Panama-Pacific Exposition held in San Francisco in 1915.  San Francisco’s Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) of 1915 represented one of the largest art exhibitions ever shown within the context of a world’s fair, arguably the most successful and the last of its kind.

James Ganz, curator of both "Jewel City" and the Auchenbach Foundations for the Grapic Arts at the Legion of Honor and his team at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco pulled together about 200 works from museums and private collections — paintings, prints, sculptures, murals and photographs — that reflect the range of American and European art shown circa 1915.

Ganz has spent much of the last three years researching the art of the fair and gathering works exhibited 100 years ago at the blockbuster exposition that reveled in American ingenuity and prowess and the resilience of the city risen from the ruins of the ’06 earthquake and fire.

Arthur Frank Mathews (American, 1860– 1945), “The Victory of Culture over Force (Victorious Spirit),” 1914. Oil on canvas. 119 × 238 in. San Francisco War Memorial

The expo hosted 11,403 works (more of less), housed in buildings constructed specifically for the expo. Painter Jules Guerin, the PPIE’s director of color and decoration controlled the decorations and the color scheme of the buildings. He even drew up marketing renderings of the fairgrounds for selling SF as a viable city to the rest of the world was an important part of the fair. Erasing the images of San Francisco as a smoking ruin was forefront on the minds of the fair’s business minded board of directors. 

A city within the city was created, stretching along SF’s long northern waterfront. In the center, an ornate forth-three-story tower sparked with more than one hundred thousand cut glass jewels. To the west, international buildings ended at a large racetrack and stadium. On the eastern end, a thoroughfare lined with fantastic midway concessions entered from Fillmore Street all the way to Van Ness Ave. The entire 635-acre site presented a magnificent spectacle to the over 19 million visitors who eventually passed through, its gates. 

All 48 states and numerous countries sent works to the fair. In fact, the onset of WW I meant that many of the warring nations sent priceless artworks to San Francisco to ensure their safety. As the San Francisco Chronicle reported, “Art treasures of the Old World that otherwise never would have been removed from their places in famous galleries have been shipped to San Francisco on the United States Government collier Jason as a measure of protection in the event that opposing armies should happen to lay waste other famous cities as the cities of Belgium have been wasted.” (“Exhibits Are Epitome of World Progress,” San Francisco Chronicle, February 21, 1915.)

In the middle of WW I, the radical art of the Italian Futurists made its American debut in San Francisco, Two years earlier, the Futurists had refused to participate in the jolting Armory show in New York because the term “futurist” was being applied to vanguard European art in general rather than denoting their motion-driven, form-splitting modern movement.

“I think they regretted not showing in the Armory show, because it got so much notoriety and generated so much interest,” says James Ganz, “So when they were asked to send their work to San Francisco, they said, ‘Yes, let’s do it.’”

“To have a gallery of art as avant-garde as Futurism at a world’s fair is really unusual,” say Ganz. The emphasis was more on the status quo. “But if you think about it, a world’s fair is about the latest technology. At this one, they had an assembly line of Ford automobiles, they had X-rays. It was all about electricity and energy and mechanization — and that’s what Futurism is about. So this movement, which was quite radical, was, in a strange way, the most appropriate for a world’s fair."

“We’re trying to recapture in a way the feeling of seeing the art of the fair, something of the visitors’ experience. Putting people in front of the same works of art 100 years later is going to be kind of amazing.”

This time around, works by American Impressionists like Mary Cassatt and Julian Alden Weir and other prominent late 19th and early 20th century American artists such as Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent and James McNeill Whistler are displayed in contemporary museum style (instead of the studio display style popular in 1915). The final section features works by major European modernists like Norwegian expressionist Edvard Munch and Austria’s Oskar Kokoschka, Finnish painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela and the Italian Futurists Umberto Boccioni, Giacomo Balla and Gino Severini.  The walls are painted in jewel-tones (dark teal, Venetian crimson, silvery ivory) and circular banquettes, in deep red, are in each gallery for the weary visitor.

William de Leftwich Dodge. "Atlantic and Pacific." 1914. Oil on canvas. San Francisco War Memorial

Ganz was excited about showing a decorative 50-foot-long mural painting by the American William de Leftwich Dodge, “Atlantic and Pacific,” the central panel of a huge six-panel work Dodge created for the exposition’s Tower of Jewels. It portrays the meeting of cultures west and east of the Panama Canal — there’s an ox-drawn prairie schooner and vaguely Asian figures in robes and headdresses — linked by the figure of a muscular male that art historian Anthony Lee calls “the allegorical form of Labor” (reportedly modeled on bodybuilder Charles Atlas). Owned by San Francisco’s War Memorial, it hasn’t appeared in a century. It's now prominently displayed in the huge entrance hall of the museum, although the visitor will have to crane his or her neck to see it.

Thanks to Norwegian-born J. Nilsen Laurvik, who represented his native Norway on the PPIE's International Jury of Awards, the fair also included a number of works that were considered radical at the time. Married to Elma Palos, a well connected Hungarian born beauty, Laurvik was able to use his connections to obtain contributions from various European nations, including the Hungarian avant-garde.

When a ship arrived via the Panama Canal two months after the fair’s opening, the PPIE quickly built the Annex near the Palace of Fine Arts to house its unexpected bounty of works from places like Finland, Hungary, Norway, Russia and Italy. A large portion of the Hungarian work remained on view in San Francisco after the close of the fair, but was later detained as “alien property” when the U.S. entered WWI. Some pieces were not returned to Hungary until 1924.

Thousands of prints were displayed throughout the Palace of Fine Arts and its Annex at the PPIE. As part of "Jewel City," a satellite exhibition, "Prints at the Fair," showing on the first floor features approximately seventy-five such works, including etchings, woodcuts and lithographs, in a thematic display that shows the various preoccupations of American artists in the early twentieth century.

More images here

Jewel City is on view Oct. 17, 2015 – Jan. 10, 2016. For tickets and more information visit

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Millionares and working girls in Helena

The little tour that we took emphasized the older - and quite beautiful part of town. These huge Victorian mansions were side by side with more modest, but beautifully kept homes. Unfortunately, the new part of town - where we stayed - was the usual unplanned urban sprawl which is a real shame.

 Governor's Mansion: This stately Queen Anne style mansion has enjoyed both public and private roles in the history of Montana and its capital city. The history of the mansion is as much a history of the people who resided here as it is of a building. Montana's Original Governor's Mansion, built in 1888 by Helena entrepreneur William Chessman as a symbol of his wealth and influence throughout the Helena community. The next two owners, the Larsons and the Conrads, continued the pattern of affluent living. In 1913 the State of Montana acquired this handsome brick mansion as the first official governor's residence for nearly half a century. Between 1913 and 1959, it was home to nine Montana governors and their families. We also saw the new governor's mansion - with some kind of prow attachment which has earned it the nickname of "Ship's Mansion" (or something to that effect). It's no where as beautiful as the old Victorian mansion and one has to wonder why it was built.

If a man's home was supposed to be his castle, the millionaires in Helena believed in making that castle a palace, Victorian style. 

The Last Chance Placer is one of the most famous placer deposits in the western United States. Most of the production occurred before 1868. Much of the placer deposit is now under the streets and buildings of Helena. (As late as the 1970s, when repairs were being made to a bank, a vein of placer gold was found under the bank's foundation). This large concentration of wealth was the basis of developing fine residences and ambitious architecture in the city; its Victorian neighborhoods reflect the years when gold was flowing and the men with money were ambitious to show it off.

 By 1888, about 50 millionaires lived in Helena, more per capita than in any city in the world. About $3.6 billion (in today's dollars) of gold was taken from Last Chance Gulch over a 20-year period.When this was first built, it was a private club - you had to have at least a million dollars to belong.

The numerous miners also attracted the development of a thriving red light district.  Given that the town was full of single men and few women, so working women could made a living - if not always a good one. Unfortunately most could not avoid STD's which were a death sentence in the days before penicillin. Working women in Helena had the forces of "respectability" and temperance to contend with but the profession survived - semi-legally -until the 1950's

Among the well-known local madams was Josephine "Chicago Joe" Airey, who built a thriving business empire between 1874 and 1893, becoming one of the largest and most influential landowners in Helena. The brothels of Helena were a successful part of the local business community well into the 20th century, ending with the 1973 death of Helena's last madam, "Big Dorothy" Baker.

Ms Baker was an astute businesswoman. She managed to stay on the "right" side of the law by philanthropy, gifts to the police and politicians and by keeping an upscale house where the ladies were both professional and discrete. Who says that sin doesn't pay? For a much fuller and more interesting account of this part of the wild West, check out Lael Morgan's "Wanton West. Madams, Money and Murder..." The Wild West deserved it's name.

Later, we walked through the old downtown which escaped being bulldozed into rubble and was then rebuilt into a "walking mall," lined with trees, benches and places to shop and eat. In fact, we had a wonderful Middle Eastern/ Mediterranean meal there - proving that Helena is still a draw for enterprising immigrants.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Enjoyeth the weekende with freendes & music!

In the long yeer been werk-dayes ynowe! Enjoyeth the weekende with freendes & music! Bodleian Douce 195 77r Collection: Bodleian Library, Roman de la Rose, 15th century;Douce195

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Buffalo on the plains

Oh give me a home where the Buffalo roam....

One of the best parts of the trip from West to East was seeing Buffalo in the wild. They are so huge that it's hard to take in. It's a miracle that they were saved from predatory greed and ruthless hunters but I give thanks that they were saved to roam the plains again.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Last Change Gulch, aka Helena Montana

We made it to Helena around 2:30 pm, just in time to take this little train tour of the town. The hard wooden seats made me wish I'd brought a pillow but hey! it was probably pretty authentic. The conductor was focused on the old Victorian mansions but I found the early history of the town much more fascinating. We zoomed around the town at such speed that I didn't have time to take photos but the next day, we went back on a little exploring trip.

On July 14, 1864, the discovery of gold by a prospecting party referred to as the "Four Georgians", in a gulch off the Prickly Pear Creek led to the founding of a mining camp along a small creek in the area they called Last Chance Gulch. Now, I knew about the California Gold Rush and the Yukon Gold Rush but I didn't know about Montana's so now I can add a bit more knowledge about the West - all gained on this trip.

 Photograph by William H. Jackson. - National Archives Pictures of the American City

In their frenzy to get at the precious metal, miners soon stripped the landscape of everything green, churned up the soil, and built their buildings along the claims that followed Last Chance Stream through the gulch. In October, residents gathered to properly name the mining camp known as Last Chance. After some cantankerous discussion, they dubbed the new settlement Helena after the Scott County, Minnesota, hometown of one of the men.

Last Chance Gulch produced 19 million dollars’ worth of gold in the first four years. In fact, they still find gold in the sub-basements of the town. When the local bank rebuilt their facility, they found a vein of "placer gold" underneath the foundation - it if had been me, we would be digging it all out to the last nugget but I think that's probably not very cost effective.

Still GOLD! But like any pioneer camp, the "facilities" were primitive and the state of law and order non-existent. The Montana Heritage Society has rehabilitated the first two real cabins in the city: Pioneer Cabin and one other.

Pioneer Cabin.

In 1864, Wilson Butts followed the stampede to Last Chance Gulch. He staked his claim and built a one- room cabin. In the following spring, his brother Jonas arrived with a wife and three young daughters. Jonas added a front room and porch onto the cabin. But by 1867, the rowdy gold miners camp was too wild and crazy a place to raise a family and the Butts fled the gulch. Next, Stephen and Luella Gilpatrick moved into the cabin and their first son was born there.

You can't enter the rooms but you can get a good idea of the their furnishings from just looking through the glass door. Of course, a warm dry day in Helena doesn't give any indication of what it would have been like to live there with rain coming through the roof, snow on the ground and prostitutes and miners going at it, night and day.

"Caretaker's Cabin"
The cabin next door- now a homeopath's office - was built in 1865 by William Davenport who also built a tiny adjoining cabin. Sadie Davenport was eight when her family arrived from Missouri. Later she recalled that the cabin’s dirt roof “dripped for days” after a good rain. Twenty-eight year old Jeanette Parkinson kept house in the other cabin for her husband, a long time steamboat pilot.

The two tiny cabins served as interim housing and by 1875 had been incorporated into the single cabin which still stands. By the mid=1880’s the cabin marked the southern edge of Helena's low-rent red light district where a motley assortment of cabins and cribs stretched from here north to Montana’s Wall Street. The former house of ill repute was later rehabilitated for the caretaker of the Pioneer Cabin.

Reeder’s Alley and the Yee Wau Cabin (1875–1884)

Pennsylvanian Louis Reeder, who may or may not have been a reader but was certainly a developer, built this collection of tiny row house apartments that once housed miners and, later, single men of varied occupations. One of the tiny, ramshackle sheds attached to the back of a building probably housed a lady of ill repute who conducted her business from the "crib." This is probably how most of the prostitutes in the old West lived; not a glamours life by any standard, although there were a few exceptions.

At one time some thirty-two one-room apartments spread along the narrow alley in various buildings but less than half remain.

Some wonderful historic photos here

 The Yee-Wau Cabin is the only remaining Chinese-associated dwelling in Helena at the foot of Reeder’s Alley. It was the home of the Yee Wau brothers during the 1870s and 1880s, who ran a grocery store on South Main Street. I thought I had taken a photo of this but I didn't label all my photos so I'm not sure. (Bad Nancy). In any case, this is a photo from the 19th century which is a lot more accurate than anything of mine.

But there's more of the fascinating history of Helena to come - ostentatious Victorian mansions and tales of the wanton working ladies of the gold rush. 

Art Morsels for Sunday

Art & Pancakes, October 11th, 2015, Art news morsels for your Sunday morning

Vermeer & Rembrandt are the stars of this show. Well, they would be, wouldn't they: 

Eleanor Roosevelt, American writer and civil rights campaigner who was married to president Franklin D. Roosevelt, was born today in 1884. 

Top monsters of the Middle Ages: 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Big Sky

Cropped fields, bundles of hay and the sky on the far horizon

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Minnesota Fall

I took a bit of poetic license in this water color. The trees had only begun to turn when I left Minnesota but in this piece, I've painted them in their full fall glory.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Crossing the Rocky Mountains (but not by wagon train)

As we zipped along a lovely mountain road, sidelined occasionally by construction, I was struck again and again by how resourceful our early settlers were. We got to stop at lovely, well kept places, one of which had a fun red food cart.

But the trip wasn't any fun for engineer John Mullan. In 1859, Mullan, 230 workmen, teamsters and solders began construction of a 624-mile road from Walla Walla Washington, through the Rocky Mountains to Fort Benton, the head of steamboat navigation on the upper Missouri River in Montana. The land between Lake Coeur d'Alene and the Missoula valley was a tangle of mountains, rivers, rigged hillsides, low swampy areas, deep ravines and fallen timber.

 Courtesy photo

The crew celebrated July 4, 1861, on a high mountain pass east of present-day Coeur d'Alene. They carved the words "M.R. July 4 1861" into an old white pine. The pass became known as Fourth of July, and the tree remained intact until 1962, when it blew over in a fierce windstorm.

Today, the carved stump is on display at the Museum of North Idaho.
After seven years of surveying and construction, the Mullan Road was finally finished in 1862. It connected two military installations, but more notably, it linked the Columbia and Missouri River watersheds - an overland Northwest Passage. Mullan's men build 47 bridges! Forty-Seven bridges and a road that tied together two gigantic and important river systems.

Mullan went on to become a farmer, lawyer and politician, and would eventually move to San Francisco. In time his road fell into disrepair; the foundation decayed, the bridges washed out. But the track was revived in the late 1870s, after Gen. William T. Sherman traveled the Mullan Road and ordered its restoration.

We would stop on occasion and look down those hillsides and marvel about the beauty of the settings while being astonished that any body had managed to carve a road out of the wilderness.

What I didn't know was how much wealth had been taken from "them thar hills. " Five billion dollars of lead, silver and zinc from towns that most of us have never heard of: Burke, Kellogg, Murray, Mullan, Osburn and Wardner. Unfortunately we didn't have time to explore those old mining towns but if I ever come back that way again, I really want to go up into the hills and see what I can.

We went around Wallace which is, according to their web page: "Wallace is also known for the fact that every downtown building is on the National Register of Historic Places... which is why the government finally had to go over us instead of through us in order to complete the Interstate Highway system in 1991. Now the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes paved bike path is directly under Interstate 90 as it passes above Wallace, following the famous South Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River through the narrow Silver Valley: the only place on earth where more than a billion ounces of silver were mined in 100 years."

Historic Wallace

We got into Cour d'Alene late in the afternoon so we didn't have much chance to see anything. Apparently most of the "tourist" attractions close down after Labor Day so we missed the boat trip on the lake which we were all looking forward to. The outskirts of the town were pretty much generic strip mall boring but the lake itself is simply beautiful.