Thursday, November 27, 2008

19th Century Facebook Foto – Uncanny Resemblance

Dave Thomson, our Mark Twain expert sent me a daguerreotype image of a little girl who possesses a number of Laura Hawkins' features and hence bears a surprising resemblance to her, were she a child:

This photo was taken around 1850 which would have marked Laura's 13th birthday. Although this girl appears to have been between 9 and 12 years old, it’s easy enough to envision her as being Laura’s sister, maybe even a twin sister.

To see this and other such dagguereotypes, CDV's and early films, click on this blogsite:

For all of you Mark Twain enthusiasts out there, here is a dagguereotype of the young 15-year old Samuel Clemens taken about the same time as the little "Laura" girl:

Dagguereotype, compliments of Dave Thomson.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

19th Century Facebook Foto


I'm postponing Part II of our roofing adventure to show you this photo regression I had done of Laura Hawkins.

Thanks to our Mark Twain expert, Dave Thomson, I learned (embarrassingly enough) that the little girl photo I posted several posts back was not Laura Hawkins, but Olivia Langdon, Mark Twain's wife!

Sooo.... with the derth of photos out there on Laura Hawkins in her younger days, I tapped into the services of an age regression artist. This is the photo I submitted...

Laura Hawkins at age 19

Here's the regressed photo created from the above:

Laura Hawkins at age 12-13

I was surprised with the final product and questioned the skill level of the person who did this regression.

For instance, is the chin shown here really the chin of a child? Shouldn't this have been smoothed out or tightened somewhat? Also, does it appear that the bone structure is a bit overdeveloped?

And the eyes... I believe the eyes should be spaced wider apart. Typically, the eyes of infants and young children appear wider apart due to the ratio of the length of their faces (top of forehead to bottom of chin) to the spacing between eyes. With age, eyes will appear closer together, if only due to increased face height. In my opinion, the close spacing between the eyes appears a bit premature.

The suppleness of the facial flesh in the regression also bothers me. I believe the child Laura should have been treated to a slight facelift around the mouth and jowls. The lips too should look softer and less chiseled. Despite the difficult lives of your typical pre-Victorian child, I wouldn't expect a child to purse her lips so tightly. To me, it's eerily Charlton Heston-like.

The more I look at the photo, the more I wonder if anything was done other than to house Laura's face at age 19 with a new hairdo and clothing. Even the hairdo makes Laura's young face appear overly cropped at the sides. With hair pulled back this tight and plastered against the skull, I'd expect that her eyes not only would be spaced wider apart, but she would have a slightly Asian look as well.

I'm inviting your opinions and then I will engage the expertise of American artist Nick Kosciuk (of whom I'm a great fan and collector). Nick paints heavenly faces of children and teens. Here's a blog post and article about his fairy-like children paintings:

I also intend to search out a second opinion from another age-regression artist.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A New Bonnet for the Old Lady – Part I

Loyal readers, I’m finally back blogging after weeks of screaming deadlines and the unveiling of the Laura Hawkins house. Unveiling? Watch for future posts on this exciting event. I’m also slowly coming down from this country’s seismic shift in electing Barack Obama; I'm still overwhelmed by this promising gift to our country and the world.

The artifact in question from my last post was an original cupola that capped the cone roof of the Laura Hawkins house. Cupolas are dome structures covering a circular or polygonal roof. These can either be architecturally significant to the house (as lookout perches with windows) or merely ornamental like this metal one, which is more appropriately termed a turret finial.

The cupola, resting on our Chateau floor,
next to our blocked fireplace.

So how original is this cupola or finial? I’m not sure, but I’ll assume it was installed when the house was first built and miraculously saved and installed for subsequent re-roofings. This Victorian cupola is now a decrepit, rusted structure and possibly won’t survive another attempt to install it. It will be relegated to our future museum. Museum, you ask? Museum.

Here's a close up of the Cupola which I hadn't even noticed until the roofing commenced. Wouldn't an architecturally interesting copper cupola with a lightning rod be a nice replacement?

Upon examining the cupola, I wondered why this otherwise mundane artifact would have been installed as a decorative element. Sure it was shiny when new and I suppose its ceramic nodules offered a modicum of decoration. Nevertheless, Victorians did not do decorative elements in a small way. Perhaps the norm of Victorian architecture dictated this to be a standard feature, even if it did not really fulfill its original purpose as an ostentatious showpiece.

It’s Roofing Time…

I poked a couple of members of our local historical preservation society for roofing referrals and received two. Surverying the house later, my spouse was approached by a crew who’d come into the neighborhood to look over a possible demolition job. Our good friends from the Garden House B&B wanted to demolish a later addition to the Munger house they owned. The Munger house (originally owned by William A. Munger) housed the former LaBinnah Social Club for the social elite in Hannibal's heyday around 1900.

The LaBinnah Social Club (Munger House) sits almost directly across the street from the Laura Hawkins house. Note the later addition on the right of the house. This was added during the 1970's to house the then-owner's business, George's Beauty Shop.

Here is a visitor's register from when Mark Twain visited the Club in 1902...

A 1902 newsclip from the Saint Louis Globe-Democrat is attached to this register. It describes Mark Twain's visit to Hannibal and Laura Hawkins, his childhood sweetheart. Kudos and thanks to Dave Thomson for sharing this with me.

The Munger house is currently a restaurant, which after some trials and errors went from being LaBinnah to LaBinnah Bistro. This bistro specializes in grass-fed beefsteaks and cosmopolitan menu fare. More on this later.

“Hey, you looking at a new roof?” cried someone who appeared to be the foreman. My spouse looked at him quizzically, pointed to the roof and replied, “Yes?’ “Well, we’ll come over later to look at it and give you an estimate.” the foreman retorted.

Normally, an interaction like this would bring to mind those unscrupulous fly-by-nights who trick guileless souls into buying a shoddy asphalt job at a hiked-up price. In a small town like Hannibal, this folksy approach is the norm. To protect ourselves, all we had to do was ask a few locals about the person. From this we’d expect to receive a no-holds barred, full-blown report in return. How I wish I’d done this with an earlier contractor.

As it turned out, the foreman was someone I'd gone to high school with back in the 1970’s. Mike Treastor in those days was a seriously hard worker whom teachers hired for summer work. The creation of his business, Mike's Construction, LLC is a local success story, as Mike often has to turn down bids for his services in Hannibal and the Midwest region.

We agreed to a contract for both the house and the garage. Since asphalt shingles had always been used for the house, we opted for this choice again. The architectural shingles we selected (except for the cone section) are expected to last 40-50 years. The contracted work was a bit more pricey than the norm, but this was to be expected considering the dangerous pitch of the roof. "If someone falls from this roof,” explained Mike, “he’ll die!” The work commenced a few months later.

During the hot days of early summer, the workers arrived faithfully around 6am each day and carried out the awesome task…

The roofing commences on this balmy June day.
Photo compliments of the hosts of Garden House B&B and LaBinnah.

Note the awesomely steep roof pitches on this Queen Anne.
Same credits as above.

The roof cone work commenced almost right away.
Photo compliments of Pat Kerns,
our neighbor and area art teacher.

This dumpster became a coffin for rooves past.
Ditto, Garden House credit.