Saturday, June 18, 2016

Cake, Croquet and an 18th Century Afternoon

Cooper Ron Raiselis, in banyan & cap made by Tara Raiselis
It was just one of those perfect early summer days in June --a cheerful, convivial atmosphere, great friends old and new, a lush garden, with flowers in bloom and splendid costumes-- all set against a backdrop of a very special and significant historic house. The 1716 brick MacPhaedris-Warner House, a merchant's home, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, could just as easily be found in or around London. And yet, here the house stands, near the Piscataqua River. 

The third annual “Cake & Croquet: An 18th Century Afternoon” is a perfect accent to the theatricality of this Baroque survival. From croquet and Scottish country dancing on the lawn, to quiet conversations over tea and cake, the images below capture the day. Perhaps you will join us next year….

The Koski family and friend Hannah

Tara and Ron Raiselis
Jeffrey Hopper, Historic House Manager
All photos by the author 
For additional information about the Warner House,

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Archibald MacPheadris and His Room: A Baroque Merchant's House, 1716

Ascending the stairs
Archibald Macpheadris built his house on the shores of the Piscataqua River in 1716. The house is a fine example of a London style late baroque merchant’s house—rare enough in England, but exceptional in the United States.  Over time, the processional essence of that world has been lost, but in anticipation of the 300th anniversary of the building of the house an attempt has been made to remember and display how that theatrical world influenced, but did not wholly shape the present. A mode of life that was taken for granted disappeared in a historic instant—leaving only the rooms that accommodated the private/public stage of the everyday.

Talk & Cheese

Over the centuries this small chamber has been used as a bedroom, closet and in this example, its earliest use, as a study, or private chamber. In 1718 this room was at the heart of the public area of the house. Guests were entertained on the second floor in both the “smalt” room with its sprung floor for music and dancing and in the southwest bedchamber, where the most important guests were received. Due to its location and size, this room provided Macpheadris with a private study near his family, a place to instruct and engage his business staff, to display special wares and exotic items from his travels for his clients, and a separate area for his role as a member of the King’s council for New Hampshire.

Silk & Wool & Mat

This small room was a microcosm and center of Macpheadris’s mercantile world—poised between the early period of colonization and the growing prosperity of the eighteenth century. It was a world comprised of English wool, glass, furniture, engravings and pewter, Asian ceramics, a chest of drawers from nearby Saco, Maine, Virginian tobacco, Irish cheese, Spitalfields’ silk from London, woven mats, from the Mediterranean, and Port and Madeira from the Iberian Peninsula.  This was the British Atlantic world of the early eighteenth century and Macpheadris and other Portsmouth merchants were active participants in it.

Clay & Wood

The room was pivotally located so that with the door open it overlooked the social center of the house. With its turned balcony, walls decorated with murals, and a large weight-balanced glazed window it was a space of determined urban sophistication. To complete the impression, in 1718 the view looking across the street through the room’s front window would have included the gardens and large wooden shop, warehouse and guest quarters that sat next to it. Anyone entertained in this room would have understood Macpheadris’s social standing and aspirations. However, styles changed. When his daughter, Mary, and new husband, Jonathan Warner, took possession of the house in 1760, this room and all the others on the second floor retreated forever into the private household.

Passing Scenes of Importance, Once Meaningful, Now Obscure

Jeff Hopper manages historic properties and writes about history, architecture and clothing, among other things. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

A Pair of Festive Silk Brocade Pinet Evening Shoes

Collection of the author
Photo, K. Alexander
These elegant Francois Pinet (1817-1897) evening pumps, c. 1920 are included in my (very) modest study collection.  (The business continued after the senior Pinet died.) They feature a festive, sparkly silk brocade upper with leather sole and heel covered with the same textile as the shoe. They boast the ‘F. Pinet’ label, as well as “Pinet” stamped into leather sole.  

Just about as wonderful as the shoes themselves, however, is the survival of the original box, which probably accompanied them home with a very happy owner.
Pinet, the son of a shoemaker, made many contributions to the field of late 19th Parisian ladies footwear. His elegant boots of the 1870s-1880s were high style designs perfectly at home paired with a Worth gown, for example.
Pines satin lace up boots, c. 1870
Courtesy Bata Shoe Museum
The attention to detail, in particular the balanced design, makes these appear quite comfortable – but I will never know, as I have no intention of trying them on! 

 For additional information:

The Art of the Shoe, Marie-Josephe Bossan, 2004, p. 67

Friday, May 6, 2016

Future Fashions

Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Photograph @Kimberly Alexander
I recently had the opportunity to spend time at both the Currier Museum ( and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (, pondering the current and future ramifications of technology and material in the current fashion marketplace. How do post-consumer recycled materials, fused fibers and 3D printing change not only the look and possibility of an evolving “fashion”? How does this alter the availability of items such as shoes for world cultures in need of footwear – whether the need be created by poverty, famine, or natural disaster? How do new technologies free the body or respond to the environment? Of course, there are hardly new questions, but if you are interested in making your own exploration, I encourage you to visit #techstyle at the MFA Boston and “Killer Heels” at the Currier Museum (on view until 15 May 2016;

There are a number of fascinating garments included in #techstyle, but I have selected just a few, in large part because my predilection is for an exploration of how past dress iconography is envisioned in new materials and with relatively recent technologies.

One of the best known garments in the exhibition is the “Anthozoa” cape and skirt. Curious about the title, I did a bit of research and discovered that anthozoas are from the family of sea anemenoe and corals. They can be brightly colored, vary in size and live singly or in a colony. Taken in this context, the dress and cape is all the more paradoxical – using the natural form of a sea creature as the basis of a design which is created by predominately man-made materials.

Iris van Herpen and Neri Oxman
Anthozoa 3D cape and skirt from the Voltage Collection, 2013
Polyurethane rubber and acrylic co-polymer 3D printed on Stratasys Connex 3D printer, steel cage, cotton twill, silk satin

Manish Arora known for combining “traditional Indian crafts like embroidery, applique , and beading with Western silhouettes.”  The bodice, which was look #33 from his Spring/Sumer 2013 collection is a fusion of traditional clothing with modern technology; here the laser-cut leather is embroidered with beads and sequins.

Finally, both exhibitions plumb shoe typology and technology in work of the late Zaha Hadid for NOVA and the botanically-inspired shoes of Iris Van Herpen and Rem D. Koolhaus, United Nude.

For more:

Monday, April 25, 2016

Architecture of the Piscataqua

By Jeffrey Hopper

This summer (2016), at the Portsmouth Athenaeum, I am curating an exhibit on John Mead Howells' book Architecture of the Piscataqua.  The Howells family has been instrumental in the historic preservation movement of the region and it seems fitting as the city of Portsmouth, NH approaches its 400th anniversary to reflect on the book that figured so prominently in this historical stewardship of the city and region.

Portsmouth Athenaeum c.1935 Image from book

Architecture of the Piscataqua,
A Photographic Reflection

A retrospective of John Mead Howells’
Architectural Heritage of the Piscataqua

It has been nearly eighty years since the publication of Architectural Heritage of the Piscataqua by the architect John Mead Howells. This summer’s exhibition is a photographic reflection of the book and the houses that inspired Howells to record them for posterity. The twentieth century proved tumultuous for the buildings and residents of Portsmouth. The 1920s saw the sale of historic interiors and the resulting destruction of their edifices. The Depression of the 1930s slowed this trend and allowed Howells to photograph buildings viewed as architecturally important to his audience. Urban renewal emerged from the victories of World War II with mixed results for the built environment and residents of Portsmouth when neighborhoods were destroyed or moved in an effort to “improve’ the living arrangements and structures of the city. On the brink of these changes, the images in Architectural Heritage of the Piscataqua offer a nostalgic hold on the imagination, but perhaps more importantly they provide a visual clue to the historical architectural importance of Portsmouth to the nation. William Laurence Bottomley in his introduction to the book regarded Charleston, Annapolis and Portsmouth as a trinity of eighteenth-century towns, “with much of their early work complete and extant,” but of these, he wrote, Portsmouth “was the most complete.” In 1937 this book brought that vision to the rest of the country. The exhibit will be open from the later part of July to Mid-November.