June 2013 Archives

Horse and Carriage Driving

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If you've lived in town for any length of time and have traveled the roads in Riverside and Old Greenwich, then you've probably come across Blaise Anello trotting down the road on his horse and carriage.  It's very distinguishable by its safety pole with tennis ball tip to keep automobiles at a safe distance.  On occasion, you may see Blaise riding with his dog as he rides through the highways and byways.

 

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                          Mr. Anello riding at Greenwich Point.                  

                              SOURCE:   Greenwich Time


Blaise Anello's father was an electrical contractor who emigrated from his home town in Sicily to Tunis, the capital of Tunisia in Africa, just before World War II.   Blaise was born on May 22, 1942, and was raised in North Africa.  As you can imagine, with the war looming, there was no gas, no construction work and food was scarce.  His father bought a horse and carriage, leased a farm and grew his own fruits and vegetables.  Young Blaise took an interest in horses, and helped take care of the animals.


Anello moved to New Rochelle NY with his parents, sister and brother when he was 17.  By this time he could speak Italian, French, Spanish, a Sicilian dialect and some Arabic.  He attended Yonkers High School, where he studied electrical drafting and design - following in his father's footsteps.  In 1965, he returned to Tunisia as an American citizen, and served as a field engineer helping to build a new airport.  He met his wife, Anne, there, and they were married.  Blaise bought two horses so they could ride together.  Unfortunately Anne never embraced horse riding.

When Blaise and Anne returned to the United States, he saw a carriage house for sale in Hillcrest Park in Stamford. It consisted of a half-timbered garage, with servant's quarters above.  The estate house had been built in the 1990s by entrepreneur Joseph Dillaway Sawyer. Anello embarked on a "do-it-yourself" project, and turned the utility building into a true home. There's a stable behind the carriage house, which comes in quite handy for sheltering his horses.  The complex also serves as the home for A-Electric services, a business started when he moved to Havemeyer Park.

As you can tell, Blaise is very passionate about his hobby.  He will take his horse and carriage out for 2 to 3 hours at a time.  He has a sleigh (with bells) that he takes out in the winter snow. He has "a surrey with a fringe on top" that he decorates with American flags, and rides in the annual Old Greenwich-Riverside Memorial Day Parade.  On a normal ride through town he trots at about 15 miles-per-hour. He likes to go out twice a week, but avoids extremes in temperature. Blaise reminds people to drive slowly and avoid using automobile horns to prevent spooking the horse. He could have turned his hobby into a popular business, but likes the hobby too much to commercialize it.

Anello has also begun collecting assorted carriages. There are eight of them in his collection. He has an antique donkey cart, as well as an antique sleigh.  At one point he even traveled to Sicily to research carts and harnesses.  Blaise would rather barter to further his hobby - especially to get maintenance for his horses, carriages and stables. He once obtained a cart in exchange for some electrical work he completed. And once he gave a carriage away to a local blacksmith in exchange for shoeing services. Like many other equestrians, he has traveled to Amish country to buy horses, harnesses, carriages and related items.

In January 2011, Blaise and his horse and carriage made headlines.  After a post-Christmas blizzard, Anello's horse "Big Boy" was startled by some headlights of an oncoming car as he was riding through  Havemeyer Park.  The horse panicked and broke free.  The Greenwich Police later retreived him on his way toward Cos Cob and returned him to his rightful owner.

I, for one, hope Mr. Anello has many more years of riding on his horse and carriage.  It reminds me of the "old days" in town, before automobiles.  He's providing a window into our (local) past history.   His love of horses is actually a treasure for our community. 

 Thank you, Mr. Anello!

 

 

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Artist Robert Motherwell

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One day when I was working at Perrot Library, I spotted a man who looked very familiar.  I couldn't quite place him.  Then someone told me that it was artist Robert Motherwell.  The reason I recognized him was because I had seen his picture in the local paper.

Robert Motherwell was born in Aberdeen, Washington, in 1915 to Robert Burns Motherwell and Margaret Hogan Motherwell.  The family moved to California in 1918, to Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1919 and back to California in 1926.  He attended the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles on a scholarship, and enrolled in a Prep School in Atascadero.  For a short time, he studied at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco.  Stanford University awarded him a BA in philosophy in 1937.  He studied at the Harvard Graduate School of Philosophy. 

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                         SOURCE:  Australian Government

 In 1938, Motherwell traveled to Paris, where he studied French literature and painted.  His first solo exhibit was at the Galerie Duncan in Paris.  He returned to New York in 1940 where he studied art history at Columbia.  Peggy Guggenheim granted Motherwell a solo exhibition at her Art of This Century Gallery in New York in 1944.  The following yesr, he moved to East Hampton to establish a painting studio and write about modern art.   By 1950, he had been appointed to the graduate faculty at Hunter College.  He moved back to New York City in 1953, and spent his summers painting in Provincetown MA.  Even when he moved to Greenwich in 1970, he still kept a studio house on the Cape. 

Motherwell is considered one of the pioneers of the expressionistic aesthetic style.  This was the product of the confusing and uncertain times following World War II.  It's style communicated emptiness and despair.  It gave rise to Abstract Expressionism, and utilized a large scale and explosive style.  Motherwell began painting a series on sky and water, which is believed to have been triggered by waves crashing against the stairs of his Provincetown studio.  He was so successful in his work that his works were exhibited around the world in such places as Amsterdam, Brussells and Madrid.

Needless to say, Robert Motherwell received many awards including:

 1969 - Elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters
 1979 - Received Gold Medal of Honor from Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
 1980 - Awarded the Medal of Merit from the University of Salamanca in Spain
 1985 - Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
 1990 - Received the National Medal of Arts

Ironically, Robert Motherwell died suddenly of a stroke in Provincetown in 1991.  He died on the way to the hospital.  The world lost one of its great art history experts, and Greenwich lost a valuable citizen.

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Historical Happenings

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The Communities and Neighborhoods of Greenwich 

Glenville

Saturday - June 29th - 2pm

Greenwich Library

 

The multimedia series continues with a PowerPoint presentation by Historian Susan Richardson on the Glenville section of town.

Glenville has had a very diverse history as a farming, manufacturing and business center.   It's had its own church, school and central business district. Polish, Italian and other ethnic groups came to Glenville to work in the factories and on estates.

Come join us for this FREE program, which is open to all.  No registration is required.

 

 

The Telephone Pole House

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Someone asked me a few years ago about a dwelling called "The Telephone Pole House" in Greenwich.  He wanted to know if the house still existed and where it was located.  So I began to research it.  

One of my favorite research tools is "Building Greenwich: Architecture and Design, 1640 to Present" (2005) by Rachel Carley, who was commissioned by the Greenwich Historical Society to write an updated history of the town.  I'm proud to say she was able to use many of our Local History resources to complete her book.  Ms. Carley included a short paragraph and a photo of the Telephone Pole House, which was built in 1968, for Mr. and Mrs. Chase Ritts.

I also found an article by Stepen Mahones online from the February 2, 1968, issue of  Life magazine. The Ritts family moved to Greenwich after having moved around the country for years.  The town was ideal since it was only 45-minutes away from New York City.  They wanted to build a house that would give them "roots".  Mrs. Ritts wanted a structure that was warm, rustic and mysterious.  To this end, they hired well-known architect John Johansen.

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Johansen was born in Manhattan in 1916, and was the son of a well-known painter.  He attended Harvard, and was one of the "Harvard Five" architects, who settled in New Canaan.  As a proponent of the Modern Movement, he incorporated bold lines in his architecture.  Mrs. Ritts wanted a house that would fit in with a rustic environment.  When she showed him one particular 4-acre plot overlooking the Greenwich Horseneck Brook on Rapids Lane, Johansen practically chose the site himself.  He envisioned a "Viking effect", a pop art-type of structure in an Andy Warhol style.  He wanted to incorporate direction, velociy and power.  Mrs. Ritts suggested using telephone poles to give it a natural effect that fit in with the surrounding oak and hemlock woodlands.

The telephone poles were shipped from Oregon.  They were 16-inches in diameter and 4-feet in circumference.  One source stated that 150 poles were used.  Another source reported 104 poles 40-feet long were used.   Only one pole a day was installed due to the intricate placement.   A Scandinavian shipbuilder was hired to notch out the poles for a proper fit.  Heavy, protruding bolts were used to connect the poles, and electrical wiring was (unattractively) visibly exposed. There was a lot of shifting and positioning involved, creating sharp angles. The poles were neither horizontal nor vertical.  This design gave an impression of lines going on forever.   Despite the installation of heavy glass, the unusual design offered  great privacy.  Each level was considered a "platform" instead of a floor.   Massive telephone poles held up the heavy wooden roof.   The structure was reinforced with fieldstone and concrete.  There were several hearths and fireplaces to give the structure that warm feeling Mrs. Ritts sought for her home.  The final result was a structure with 6 different levels and 14 stairways.  It was called "The Palace of Poles" and "The Tree House".

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  According to The Grand List tax records of Greenwich, the Ritts were listed as property owners of over 4 acres (on the west side of Rapids Lane off Lake Avenue) as early as 1964.  A dwelling is listed in 1968.  The Ritts family is listed as owners until 1998, when a new family bought the property.   Ms. Carley stated in her book that the house no longer exits.  I don't know if this building is still standing, or was demolished to construct another structure.  if anyone has any further information, I would welcome your comments.

 

SOURCE:   Mahoney, S.; Palace of Poles; Life Magazine, Vol. 64, No. 5; Page 73; Accessed on 6/7/2013 at:

  http://books.google.com/books?id=NkkEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA73&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=2#v=onepage&q&f=false

 

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