Saturday, July 17, 2010


Here's an epilogue of sorts for the field school. As soon as I arrived back in Minnesota, I had the fortune to be invited to a potluck. I made pasties, as a way to share something that I had been introduced to in Wisconsin. I thought the pasty I had in Mineral Point was mushy and bland, and after Paul mentioned to me that making them was not difficult, I wanted to give it a shot. Sure, mine contained potatoes. But also: seitan, parsnips, carrots, fennel! They were outstanding and garnered many compliments. Here's how they looked straight out of the oven:
And here's how they looked as they were being eaten and enjoyed:
The evidence doesn't lie: these were awesome pasties. And we didn't consume them uncritically: they allowed us ample opportunity to discuss the constructedness of Mineral Point's Cornish historical narrative.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Meadows House Addition Mystery

Was the addition originally separated from the house, then filled in with a second section that connected it to the house, or was it connected to the house and then the end section built later? Given the tax assessment records, it would seem that the original addition was the end area, given the description "Lot 58 and buildings." Yet the 1872 bird's eye view, completed three or four years after the addition, may indicate an attached addition. What are Bailey and I to think?

This area of the house gets even better. When looking at historic photos, Bailey and I also noticed that the now-exposed sub-basement used to be a cellar, covered with soil and wooden doors like those seen on any other cellar. Apologies for the lack of specialized vocabulary; I'm not there just yet :)

This mystery will have to wait, as class is wrapping up and we have work to hand in. I enjoyed having the opportunity to focus on a specific house, and I want to know more about the structure itself and the people who lived in there. One particular man was a tailor, using the addition most likely as his place of business. More must be known about this man and how he used this space, and I want to find this out. I would also like to do more drawing, this time doing a detail of the mantelpiece.

This is one of the first structural mysteries that has really interested me. I usually deal with objects in interiors, but I must admit that the exterior is pretty nifty in its own right; I just have a problem with vernacular historians who seem to dismiss interiors because of their inability to last due to redecoration. I may just work up some vernacular architecture street cred with Anna after all.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

one more day - yet the research continues

Stay tuned: research reports coming soon.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Last trip to Mineral Point

Today I drove back to Mineral Point one last time to check out some records Andrea found on St. Paul's Mission Church in the Mineral Point room. Turns out there was some great information in a manila file folder, most surprisingly a short letter to the editor from the current pastor in the Mineral Point Tribune in the year 1896 The pastor was writing to correct the paper's assertion that a Catholic had recently attended an episcopalian service (read between the line-converted). The pastor vehemently protested, writing that not one parishoner had left his congregation in the nearly 30 years he had served. The best part: he included statistics on births, deaths, marriages AND new members since 1870. He says very clearly that the only reason he releases this information to the general public is because it is so important to refute the newspaper's claim. Among the other things collected were several short, locally produced pamphlets on the history of the church and the congregation, and an interesting photo of the 1905 attendees. The archivist at the Mineral Point Room commented on the exceedingly stern faces of the women in the photo, which seemed to me like a bit of an understatement!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Of Dolphins and Leather Binding

I spent today back in Iowa County with several classmates. We traced deeds backwards to identify the owners and residents of some of our properties. It took me and Alex several hours to trace the ownership of the Cothren house but we did it! And the winners of the historic names contest? "Thomas T. and Melva Dolphin." This aquatically-named couple owned the house from 1958 to 1969. But we traced the deed back to Judge Cothren's widow who died in 1895. While our classmates toiled away on some much more challenging deed traces (way to hang in there guys!), Alex and I went to the Southwestern Wisconsin Room at the UW-Platteville. Apparently, the database entry that described the tax records as being in "saddlebags" was more literal than I thought. The 1840s tax records are in ledgers built in to actual leather saddlebags that were clearly carried from door to door as the taxes were collected each year. Awesome! By looking through the records for every few years we were able to narrow down the date of the kitchen addition to the Cothren's large stone house to between 1866 and 1871. There were no records between those years. Then we went to Dairy Queen. Mmmmmm....

Research Teams & Topics

The way it worked out last week, we accomplished way more by way of drawing than we expected. Thus each "team" of 3 worked on a series of buildings, and perhaps not coincidentally, related buildings. One group - Team Tiger - worked on buildings of two powerful Mineral Point settlers: Parley Eaton and Montgomery Cothren. This group also measured one of the institutions of the town, an early mission church (St. Paul's 1842). Thus this group is working on landscapes of power in Mineral Point.

Team Oddity, meanwhile, worked on "middling" houses in Mineral Point that seemed to have some sort of commercial function alongside their obvious domestic one. These houses had some formal spaces (parlors) but not nearly the same level of finish as the more elite.

Team Pendarvis focused on the smaller houses of the (perhaps) lower sorts: the miners cottages so dear to MP's history. They made some great finds, in terms of construction techniques and also patterns (especially related to root cellars).

It is amazing how much the groups are accomplishing. Stay tuned for more details.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Drafting Studio

Here are some photos of the group in our borrowed drafting room. It also functions as a meeting room, so we got to hear some theater people talk about an upcoming production. By the sound of things, it's going to be racy. Our time in the room is less than racy. The air conditioning really isn't working in the building, so we're sweating away over our drawings.

Here's a detail of Sarah, to give you a better idea of the materials we use to do the completed drawings, and the balancing act that goes on: