The Most Famous Estates in British Period Drama History

With the latest Anglophile craze underway in America thanks to Downton Abbey, it’s time we did a little historical tour of your favorite houses in English period drama history. My mother handed me her hardbound book of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen when I was eight years old and I read it secretly under the desk at school, thereafter voraciously reading any bit of English literature I could get my hands on. Deep down in this hard urbanist soul of mine is someone that fell in love with Lizzy Bennett, Mr. Darcy, Emma, and Anne Elliot, amongst countless others.

For Americans, the stories of plucky commoners making their way into the hallowed halls of British aristocracy is possibly the colonial origins of the American dream, and what’s more, they’re inklings of our once illustrious beginnings over the ocean. In New York, we lament the demolition and decline of the grand estates built by the Vanderbilts, Carnegies, and Morgans, but we know that this type of beauty, an architecture of such pure individual vision, could not have survived in a culture purportedly about the collective. (Let us also not forget that the wealth of the American robber barrons was also built off of a good amount of corruption, counterbalanced later by a healthy dose of philanthropy.) And there was once a time when the upper crust of American society was married off to the British nobility – one of the inspirations behind the story of Cora Crawley’s marriage to Lord Grantham in Downton Abbey.

So as Americans, we not only identify, but we also obsess about an England that is no more and a United States that likely never was, and vicariously live it through the wonderful estates that thankfully still exist in England as featured in sumptuous period television productions. … Read More

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The Forgotten Movie Theaters of Upper Manhattan

Editor’s note: This post by Benjamin Waldman originally appeared on Untapped Cities, a Flavorwire partner site.

Upper Broadway, which has been called that “ignored stretch of Manhattan,” contains the remains of a number of former movie theaters from the golden age of the silver screen. While none of these buildings are currently utilized as movie theaters, their facades (and a few of their interiors) serve as reminders to their prior uses. Their conditions, both interior and exterior, range from abandoned to restored and are representative of many of the city’s old theaters. Walking down Broadway from Washington Heights to the Upper West Side I encountered these theaters some of which were instantly recognizable as such by their architecture, while others I only discovered were theaters during the course of writing this article. The theaters are arranged from North to South, as I passed them on my walk, beginning with B. S. Moss’ former Coliseum Theatre at 181st Street and Broadway and culminating with the former RKO 81st Street Theater at 81st Street and Broadway. … Read More

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Meet the Famous Residents of Paris' Père Lachaise Cemetery

Editor’s note: This post by Benjamin Waldman was originally featured on Untapped Cities, a Flavorwire partner site. Read more from his ongoing series on the cemeteries of Paris here.

Père Lachaise was established in 1804 and is located at 16, rue du Repos. It was named after Père François de la Chaise, the confessor to Louis XIV, who lived on the site. Unfortunately, the cemetery was not an immediate success. Parisians were wary of being buried in a new cemetery, especially one not consecrated by the church. In order to remedy this situation, the cemetery managed to secure the remains of La Fontaine and Molière and transferred them to the cemetery in 1804. Another public relations move occurred in 1817, when the remains of Pierre Abélard and Héloïse were also transferred to the cemetery. They were interred under a canopy made from fragments of the Abbey of Nogent-sur-Seine. Also of note are the Holocaust memorials, the Mur des Fédérés (Communards’ Wall), the lipstick stained tomb of Oscar Wilde, and Jim Morrison’s grave. … Read More

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The Casualties of War: The Hotel Belvedere in Dubrovnik, Croatia

In the lobby of our hostel within the walls of old Dubronik, we sat with new friends over wine. One backpacker whispered of an abandoned hotel where a traveler he met had found an intact wine cellar and undetonated grenades. It was decided that the next day, a few intrepid would go search for it. Nobody knew where it was — all we knew was that outside the city walls, we needed to follow the main road along the harbor.

About halfway there, we could see the ruins across the bay. The Hotel Belvedere was a 5-star luxury hotel destroyed in 1991 during an attack by Serbian forces on the city of Dubrovnik during the Croatian War of Independence. The hotel was only six years old – the cornerstone we found had the year 1985 etched in. During the course of the multi-month siege, significant damage was done to the old city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The old city, which was cut off from electricity and water, was host to 55,000 Croatian refugees while dozens had taken shelter inside the Hotel Belvedere. The siege of Dubrovnik is regarded as the turning point of international opinion against Serbia. … Read More

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Venture Behind the Scenes at the Society of Illustrators

Tucked away quietly in a beautiful yet unassuming block of the Upper East Side, delicate signage and a vibrant red door designate a vital, yet often overlooked, cultural institution. The building that houses the Society of Illustrators and the Museum of American Illustration blends in seamlessly with its surroundings, acting almost as a metaphor for the nature of the artworks inside. We encounter hundreds of wonderful (and, admittedly, some not-so-wonderful) images every day, yet the way they have been incorporated into our environments and the tools with which we run our lives makes them easy to overlook. Even within the art world, illustrators are often not regarded with the same respect as gallery or “fine” artists, despite how perfectly executed or deeply inspired a piece may be. … Read More

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Exploring the Thermal Baths of Budapest

It was cold outside in Budapest on the day I visited Széchenyi Bath (or fürdő in Hungarian), a Neo-baroque-style bathhouse built in 1913. Snow flurries were intermittent and wondrous, the chill broken by pockets of bright sunshine streaming between the cloud cover. It was about 34 degrees Fahrenheit and I wore only a swimsuit, my skin goose-pimpled as I crossed the outside courtyard toward the pool. Steam wafted from the surface of the thermal water, purported to be healing. I stepped in and sunk down, wading slowly through the vapor, the air smelling faintly of minerals, icy flakes melting on my shoulders. … Read More

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Science Fiction in the Suburbs of Paris: When Mass Housing Meets Postmodernism

The Parisian suburbs are known for their grands ensembles, massive suburban apartment complexes built in the 1950s and 1960s. Square, monofunctional and surrounded by open spaces, they are the materialization of the reigning Modernist ideology of the time and are the first view foreign visitors get from Paris as they arrive from Roissy Charles De Gaulle or Orly Airport, as in the view of Sarcelles below. … Read More

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