Mid Century Modernism: News Round Up: Walt Disney, Richard Driehaus Museum

A Round up of all things Mid Century Modern:

That’s it for now, friends.

 

 

The Mystery of the Haunted Mid Century Modern Home: A Letter, Jackie & Ash Wednesday

Found in the library here at St. Ita’s convent inside a book on Mid Century Modernism dated 1959. We’re not sure how it got here.  Very intriguing. Is it for real? Must investigate. – Sister Barbara

2/16/61

Dear Sister,

I nearly left my husband because he would not let me go to Ash Wednesday with the children.

This surprises even me, with my parents who rarely went to church and frequented the sacraments. I can only remember get ashes a few times as a child. And because it was so rare,  remember them well. Three times I got ashes. Once when I was about 5, I went with my father, he was stinky drunk. Just came back from the tavern. I was loathe to go with him to church and get ashes, but I did because I was a good girl. I was terrified that the priests giving out ashes knew that he was drunk. He could barely stand straight while standing in line, he swayed to and fro. I was so embarrassed. I didn’t want to return to that church.

And that might well, be in part, why I didn’t want to go to church as a child. I associated it with my alcoholic father. I was certain parishioners would remember him each time they saw me.

But as I’ve gotten older, I can appreciate the power of ashes, how it makes you understand your mortality. You’re going to die one day. Soon. Whether when it’s you’re young or old.

Now that I’m a mother, i understand that even more than ever and I want to convey that to my children. As much as I cling to them and want them to never perish or least not die before me, I do understand that they too need to understand that they too will die one day. Even if don’t want it.

So just being a mom makes me appreciate my Catholic faith more, even if my upbringing in the faith was sparse. I see Jack’s family going to church, Sunday Mass and more, and I’m vaguely jealous. While Jack and I were dating, the whole family went to Ash Wednesday together. I remember how the brothers complained afterwards about fasting, especially not being able to drink. So Irish, so Catholic, those Kennedys.

So this Ash Wednesday? I tried to sneak the kids out of the White House. Jean, John’s sister, was my partner in crime. I knew Jack wouldn’t approve, so I just decided to do and deal with the consequences later.

Pat and I decided we would sneak away for a 12 noon service, Jack would be busy. The Secret Service could escort us to a local church there and back within the hour. Jean and I planned to head into church at the tail end of the service so we wouldn’t get as much attention.

But everything went wrong. Jack’s luncheon with a head of state was cancelled so he saw us as we were headed out to a car. Naturally, he was curious.

“Where are you ladies headed with John-John and Carolyn?” he said, noticing that Pat and I had our coats, hats, and gloves on.

I felt hot. I’m not a good liar to be honest. No child of an alcoholic is. We’re straight up, honest people.

“Oh, Pat and I?” I said uncomfortably. “We’re headed out….”

“Where to in a coat, hat and gloves with the children? It almost looks like you’re going to Sunday mass!”

“Oh, yes, we do look formal, don’t we?”

“You’re not going to Ash Wednesday services?”

“We are.”

All Purgatory broke lose with that news, Sister. Jack was furious, he didn’t like that I was sneaking out with his children to do something like this. He was certainly an old-fashioned Catholic and all, but to go to Ash Wednesday in Washington DC while he was President of the United States? While he was professing to be separation of Church and State even though he was a faithful Catholic? He didn’t like this at all.

“You’re what?” he sputtered, loosening his tie.

“We are going to the Basilica for ashes, all for of us. Actually six of us with the Secret Service.”

“Without my permission?

“We need your permission to go?”

“Why, yes, they are my children too.”

“I understand..but I just want the children to get ashes, just as we did when we were children. It was meaningful to me as a child, and this is something I want for John-John and Carolyn.”

“They’re so young! They will never remember. They’re too young, besides, it’s not helpful when I’m trying to show there’s a separation of church and state during my presidency.”

“It’s about you?”

“No….but appearances, count, Jackie. Reporters and photographers will see you. Take your picture. It will not be a private event at all. Why not just have a priest come here and give ashes?”

“You wouldn’t like that either. What would people think?”

And so it went, Sister. Dreadfully. Poor Pat had to listen to it all. She eventually just left.

And the  day ended. No ashes. I felt so disappointed. I had wanted to share this experience with my children, my youth, the part of my childhood that I want to relive through them without the alcoholism. It was not to be. Sadly.

So Lent started with resentment and bitterness toward my husband. I’m not proud of that, Sister. If I could go to confession that would be my sin. Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been too long since I last went to confession.

You know all things and you know that I love you when I’m not in love with myself.

Hopefully, Lent will improve in the next letter I sent to you, Sister. I trust your Lent is off to a good start. I envision you getting ashes and then heading to the local pub to secretly celebrate.

Warmly yours,

Jackie Kennedy

 

Mid Century Modern Flashback Friday: HDTalks: Caesars Palace, Las Vegas

By Mary Beth Klatt

The opulent 680-room Caesars Palace began because builder and designer Jay Sarno had a vision: He wanted to construct a unique Las Vegas hotel—an homage to the famed Roman emperor.

Read more here.

The Mystery of the Mid Century Modern Home: 17iPads, One Starbucks Latte and a Ghost

Helvetica typeface, 1957

“The 17 iPads that were tossed in the pool and ruined? They can be replaced. It’s the chain smoking that’s a problem.”

George sat back in one of the vintage chairs out on the porch of his clients’ $26 million Los Angeles 1956 estate Mid Century Modern home two-story home, puffing on a Cuban cigar. He surveyed the glittering city of Angels, got up and started walking around the guitar-shaped pool created by a Hollywood star back in the day.

“The way I see it – the ghost themselves are an asset,” he said, tapping his ashes into the pool. “I’ve sold more than one property that was haunted. Just not a Mid Century Modern one. There are some people who seek them out. The idea that chairs mysteriously move or levitate intrigues them. My problem is the smoke.”

He continued talking to Sister Barbara, who came in on the red eye last night. A housekeeper in a crisp black and white uniform swung by the patio with a cup of hot coffee and cookies. George called Sister Barbara yesterday morning, pleading with her to come out and talk to the ghosts in this property now on the market. Apparently the iPads – mysteriously tossed into the pool – were the last straw.

“My team cannot sell a house that’s got the smell of smoke,” he said, pacing manically puffing on his cigar, and now sipping on a Starbucks latte. “I’m aware the smoke from these ghosts is vintage. It’s not real.

“But I just can’t risk them lighting up during the house walk through prior closing. They could screw up everything.”

Sister Barbara just nodded, saying “I see” every once in a while. What did this guy in a custom-sewn suit expect her to do?  Wave a magic wand? Do a novena on the spot to get rid of these ghosts?

Sister Barbara herself got up, started walking around the pool, dipped her own sandals playfully into the heated pool. The warm water felt heavenly. She just wanted to don a swimsuit and dive in. Not talk about ghosts.

“Sir, could you please sit down for a minute?” she said, setting down her coffee on the patio table. “Your ghosts – who exist their own time warp, if you will – will not respond to anything I do. I’m not a ghost buster. I’m just a nun who accidentally got on NPR after helping out a young couple with spirits in their contemporary architecture home. The news about that got out.  I don’t solicit business. I just answer calls at the convent.

“My intuition tells me these ghosts will only stop smoking when something else starts.”

“The sellers need to bury a St. Joseph statue? They’ve done that.”

“No, that’s fine. This couple need to baptize their two children immediately and start them in CCD at their local parish.”

George looked at her, stubbed out his cigar. “Lady, you are kidding me? I don’t proselytize to my clients. You will need to tell them this strange advice. They’re Buddhists. They’re in the middle of a divorce.”

Sister got up.

“Not my job,” she said, huffily. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll take a dip in your client’s pool,” she said.

Fully clothed, she leaped into the water as a pelican landed on the pool ledge. “Good luck with your ghosts.”

The Mystery of the Haunted Mid Century Modern Home: The Importance of Being Frank

Helvetica typeface, 1957

Just think – I ended up in jail on charge of trespassing private property thanks to a nun.

Yes, a nun. Somewhat older.  Hard to say how old she was 55, 65 with her hair hidden behind her black veil. She had the cherubic round cheeks of the young nuns of my youth and that relentless, disarming cheerfulness that seems to be the hallmark of the sisters of the cloth. Or at the least the ones you see on TV and in the movies. Not that smart-ass Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act.

Back to how I ended up in a jail. A first since my high school days when I was jailed for illegal possession of marijuana. I’ve forgotten that, and believe it or not, that youthful indiscretion derailed my career for a while since it was a felony.

So I called this nun to the building I manage, the late and great Frank Sinatra’s Desert Palms home. It has a kidney-shaped pool overlooking the city. The one you see featured in movie videos, commercials and more. It’s one of our most popular properties in our portfolio, well worth the $27 million our company Staywell Investors LLC spent to buy it a decade ago.

We’ve never had a problem filling that property since the day we we closed on in it. Until now. Now it’s too popular – thanks to Frank Sinatra’s ghost.

Or at least that’s what my AirBnB renters believe. I’ve never met this ghost and I’m cynical guy. I stopped believing in Santa at age 4 after I saw my dad putting presents under the Christmas tree. No more cookies and milk for that guy.

My renters have said they have started hearing Frank sing in the middle of the night. A lot of his swing-era favorites – Come Fly with Me, etc. Accompanied by his signature cigarette. At first they thought it was somebody playing the record player. But that record player – a defunct Philco model 49-1401 radio/phonograph  – doesn’t work. I know. Arm is broken and there’s no needle.

The news quickly spread that Frank was singing nearly nightly in Desert Palms. An impersonator who knew Frank back in the day says it’s really Frank.

The problem is people are breaking in to hear this ghost sing. These break-ins affect our daytime rentals as police need to fill out reports and more..

So I called the ghost buster nun. Paid for her fly out to Desert Palms, put her up in the swankiest hotel. Told her she needed to get rid of this ghost.

She even stayed one night. Communed with the ghost.

She told me Frank is upset. Very upset.

“Upset about what?” I responded. “He’s singing happy songs, I hear. Come Fly with Me. Upbeat songs.”

“He’s upset they’re planning to tear down his childhood church in New Jersey,” she said.

I blew a gasket or two. “Frank is dead and upset about a demolition? You’ve got to be kidding me.”

That wasn’t all. Apparently, Frank – a guy I never met while he was alive – wants me to stop the demolition.

“He’s afraid that all those souls who are attending Mass there now will not go to Heaven,” she said, fingering her rosary. “He’s fearful they won’t attend another church. They will just stop going.”

“That’s my problem?”

It turns out that if I want to save my imperiled Desert Palms property I have to save that church in Jersey. I don’t even go to church anymore, I’ve forgotten how to say the Rosary, none of my family members go, let alone my circle of friends. Church is passe.

But I was desperate to stop the travesty of break-ins at Palm Springs. I went to Jersey, fastened  myself to a chain link fence surrounding the condemned church, threw myself in front of a bulldozer and got arrested. All to appease the ghost of Frank Sinatra.

The nun bailed me out long distance. “I’m sorry, I got it all wrong,” she said in her phone call to me. “Frank doesn’t care about that church-”.

I didn’t bother to hear the rest I was so angry. I hung up on her.

Mid Century Modern: Flashback Friday: Gottlieb Memorial Hospital

Gottlieb Memorial Hospital (courtesy Epstein Global)

This state-of-the-art medical facility addition was completed in 1961. Its entrance canopy was considered controversial at the time.

by Mary Beth Klatt

For this week’s walk down memory lane, we visit Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Melrose Park, Ill., a Chicago suburb.

Local construction and engineering firm A. Epstein and Sons Inc. was hired in 1959 to expand the general-treatment facility, then a 120-bed medical institution. Over the next six years, the company designed additional floors and enlarged ancillary services, nearly doubling the number of beds to 225.

When the first phase was completed in 1961, a marketing mailer touted the facility’s state-of-the-art technology: a heating and air conditioning system powered by radiant ceiling panels, remote-control television, a bedside-operated audio and visual nurses’ call system; “ … in general, the interiors are pleasing and designed for patient comfort.”

Read more here.

This story originally appeared in Hospitals & Health Networks, May 21, 2015:

The Mystery of the Haunted Mid Century Modern Home: It’s Not A Big Deal, part 2

Helvetica typeface, 1957

continued from Part 1:

“You’re a nun but not an exorcist?”

Apple stood at the entryway, confused. She stared at this woman who was the epitome of 1950s religious chic garb in her habit and veil. She had a roly poly face not unlike Santa’s. In fact, she could have been Mrs. Claus’ sister with those ruddy cheeks, twinkly eyes and grey hair peeking from her veil.

“That’s right,” she said, extending her hand. “I’m Sister Barbara from St. Ita’s. I’m not an exorcist but I have experience working with spirits. May I come in?”

Sister extended her business card with her name, title. And her specialty: Counselor to the Real and Spirit World.”

“Well, all right,” Apple said, warily. “Just for a little while. Just what order did you say you were with?”

“BVMs, Blessed Virgin Mary.”

Sister Barbara stepped into the vestibule, gazing at the vintage Sputnik chandelier overhead. Gazed at the 1950s abstract artwork on the wall. “Your home is so beautiful, I grew up in a house with similar chandelier,” she said in awe. “Your neighborhood reminds me of where I grew up.”

Apple ushered her into the living room. Sister sat on a the bright orange wave chaise. Sister Barbara stared at the vintage Zenith record player console. “We had one just like that when I was a little girl,” she gushed.

Apple sat across from sister. How could this woman dressed in black help her? She looked like she could fly right up and away like the Flying Nun, the television show.

“You are right to be suspicious. What is your name again?”

Sister repeated her name again. She told Apple about her work at St. Ita’s, working as a principal in the school, playing the church organ on Sundays. Her calling as a spiritual counselor of the other-worldly variety, how it evolved from calls to the rectory for an exorcist.

“Unfortunately, there is only one exorcist recognized by the archdiocese. One only for the entire Chicago area. He is very busy as you can imagine since he must cover so much territory and there a growing number of old houses possessed by spirits.

“I step into on occasion to help with the overflow on ad hoc basis. I help evaluate whether there is a genuine spiritual emergency.”

She paused, cleared her throat and tugged at her habit.

“I would say your house is possessed by friendly spirits. They mean well. You might not like to hear what I have to say about getting rid of your friendly spirits. My intuition and reading of these two spirits tells me you need to attend Mass every Sunday. Your ghosts will not go away until then. They’re concerned you are not headed toward Heaven.

“They themselves are in Purgatory, If you can commit to Sunday Mass for the rest of your earthly existence, they will leave you alone and they themselves will go to Heaven.”

“What?” Apple said. She stood up as if to get a glass of water and fainted.

Mid Century Moderne round up: Disney World and More

Butterfly House, 1957

Here’s this week’s round-up of Mid Century Modern homes and related news around the country.

 

The Secret Life of a Mid Century Modern Dollhouse: All That Glitters

Miniature Eames Lounge Chair & Ottoman by Vitra

Hunca Munca was known for her penchant for shiny, bright objects. Anything and all that glitters.

She collected dollhouse-sized pie and cupcake tins, tiny bits of colored foil from Hershey kisses. Everyone knew and teased her about her hobby.

Until one day, her husband Tom Thumb, a mouse, spotted his wife wearing an unusual necklace.

He peered closely. “Why are you wearing a rosary?” he asked, one eyebrow raised.

“Is that what this is? Hunca Munca said, pawing the beads. “I had no idea. I just thought it was a pretty necklace. Looks like diamonds. You know, diamonds are a mouse’s best friend.”

Tom Thumb harrumped. Where did she get the rosary? Hunca replied nonchalantly: Barbie’s jewelry box.

“Well, you need to return that right away,” he snapped. “That doesn’t belong to you, somebody made that and sooner or later someone will notice it’s missing.”

Hunca Munca laughed. “I will return it, eventually,” she said. “It’s not like Barbie can pray. She’s just a doll.”

“The rosary is the greatest weapon against evil! It  will convert the souls in the Soviet Union!” Tom Thumb roared, surprising enough himself.

“Well, I had no idea you felt this way,” his wife said, taken aback. “When did you convert to Catholicism?”

Tom Thumb said he hadn’t, it was something he had heard the people in the household say while they prayed in the living room. They were deeply worried about the Soviet Union detonating a nuclear bomb on the U.S. Everyone worried about it.

“It why people drink and smoke so much,” he observed. “They’re worried about what the Commies in the USSR are going to do to the U.S.”

“Praying will make a difference?

“I guess,” Tom Thumb said, shrugging his shoulders. He lit his corncob pipe, settled into his miniature Eames lounge chair & ottoman by the fireplace, the chair he was borrowing from the dollhouse .

A few minutes passed.

“I wish we could pray,” Hunca Munca said somberly.

“Well, we can starting right now,” he said, reaching for the rosary around his wife’s neck.

The delicate thing broke, Hunca Munca gasped and burst into tears.

“You broke my necklace. How can I return it now? We’re certainly going to get bombed by the Soviets now!”

“Not if we can help it. We must pray!”

Just then a nearby village siren began to wail, warning of an impending air attack.

The Mid Century Moderne Weekly: A Round Up

1955 home, Michigan City, Indiana

This is a weekly round-up of all things Mid Century Modern in the news. Houses that have been renovated, demolished. Interesting news about furnishings, the real deal or reproductions. Occasionally related articles that I’ve written (I specialize in writing about historic preservation and architecture).

Here’s the first round-up of news in no particular order:

That’s it. Let me know what you think in the comments.