Monday, January 30, 2012

I am pleased (and proud) to announce that I am now a member of the Board of Directors of  the Homer Historical Society:
Charles (Chazz) Spina, proprietor of Restoration Fabrics andTrims and owner of a historic 1880 Victorian home has been named to the Homer NY Historic Society Board of Directors. Historic Homer, located in Central New York, has a long and illustrious history including significance in the civil war and suffragist and abolitionist movements.
Chazz's passion for preservation and considerable knowledge of historic periods are a welcome addition to the Historic Society Board members. One of his first tasks will be to help identify and create a catalog of the historic society's collection. Chazz, a specialist in historic period decor will also be providing period needlepoints and fabrics for restoring some of the furnishings in the Society's holdings.
So I thought I'd take this opportunity to tell you a bit about Homer, NY.

The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation
The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation
by Francis B. Carpenter of Homer NY

Although a small town, Homer has played an important role throughout its history due to its residents' notable involvement in the Civil War, politics, Suffragist Causes and the Abolitionist movement. Famous Homer residents include Amelia Bloomer, who not only revolutionized women’s clothing but also was a prominent figure in gaining women’s right to vote. Francis B. Carpenter, the artist, called Homer home and his house is still here. Carpenter painted The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, which hangs in the U.S. Capitol in Washington DC.

Homer is also the home town of William Osbourne Stoddard, who was Abraham Lincoln's secretary in the White House and played an important role in the dissemination of the Emancipation Proclamation, and of private investigator Eli DeVoe, who foiled an assassination plot against Lincoln before his first inauguration. The last three have made Homer a Mecca for Lincoln scholars while other visitors come to follow the underground railroad that stopped at the homes of many influential Homer residents and clergymen.

(You can read more about Homer’s triple connection to Abraham Lincoln in a wonderful book Lincoln's Gift from Homer, New York: A Painter, an Editor and a Detective by Martin Sweeney, Homer town historian and Lincoln scholar.)

So, as you can see, Homer has a lot to be proud of in terms of its history, historic homes and a Main Street with its wonderful historic Village Green, an opera house that now needs restoration but in its heyday boasted appearances by Mark Twain, among others.
Many of these buildings are in dire need of preservation -- and we stand to lose more than just the buildings. There's a lot of history and a sense of civic pride that I hope to be able to help the Historic Society of Homer rekindle and keep alive.

The Original Cardiff Giant
Homer also has a more infamous claim to fame. It is the hometown of David Hannum, a, um, er, businessman and hoaxer. He was immortalized in a book by Edward Noyes Westcott in 1898, who changed "Hannum" to "Harum" (to protect the guilty?) and later in a stage adaptation (1915), radio series (1936-1950) and a film, David Harum, starring Will Rogers. Amazingly, The Cardiff Giant hoax Hannum perpetuated as the head of a syndicate of five men spawned a rivalry with PT Barnum and became one of the most famous hoaxes in history. The 1869 "discovery" of a supposedly "petrified man" 10 feet in height, was so famous in it's day that Mark Twain (A Ghost Story) and L. Frank Baum (author of The Wizard of Oz series) wrote about it.

The Cardiff Giant and the copy P. T. Barnum had made when Hannum wouldn't sell him the original, are still on display - the first at the Farmers' Museum in Cooperstown, NY and the latter at Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum in Farmington Hills, Michigan.

This has turned into a longer and more meandering entry than I intended, so let me conclude for now by returning to the original reason for this post and summarizing thusly:
It is my hope that, The Homer Historic Society, through displays, educational programs, and similar endeavors and in working with similar preservation-minded area groups such as the local Landmark Society and Cortland Historical Society, can play a significant role in garnering support for preserving our heritage.
I am honored to be part of this wonderful group of concerned and caring citizens and very pleased to contribute to this wonderful community and I hope to help the Homer Historic Society bring the past alive to enrich the present and inspire the future.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Optimizing Energy Efficiency in Victorian Houses

 When we think of old Victorian houses, the image that comes to mind is often a drafty and overly-expensive energy-eating buildng. Although it is true that the Victorians did not have the technology available today, they did have a lot more comfort and awareness of environmental factors than they are often given credit for.

The Victorians were particularly expert at taking advantage of natural ventilation and air flow to increase comfort. Used properly, the "old ways" are still surprisingly effective because old houses, for all intents and purposes, used "historically green" architecture, building methods, and interior decorating. Read more.