July 12, 2014

Seaside Pleasures

written by Rosa Morgan

What a wonderful way to spend the day with the invigorating sea air and surf to enjoy.

There are donkey rides.

And Punch and Judy shows.

You can relax and watch the world go by.

Or enjoy a picnic.

Best of all is to brave the waters in your woolen bathing suit and stockings.

Just make sure it's not too revealing, lest the fashion police cite you.

Even men can make a stylish statement. Stripes are always in vogue.

So take the plunge and hold onto the rope.

And enjoy the pleasures the seaside has to offer.

June 14, 2014

Spite houses

written by Rosa Morgan

Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself, but when that oafish neighbor inspires your ire with a laundry list of offenses: blaring phonographs, shouts of obscenities, barking dogs, banging of walls and stomping of stairs at indecent hours, obnoxious drainpipes, rattling carriages, yards littered with empty bottles from a previous night's carousing, opium dens and brothels, what does the decent homeowner do?

Perhaps build a Spite House!
Or at least that's what some desperate souls have felt compelled to do.
Imagine going off to serve your country at war only to return to find your brother has built a large home on land the two of you inherited from your deceased father. Left with a slice of land and with revenge burning in his heart, the soldier built the four story Skinny House at 44 Hull Street, Boston with its narrowest interior point at 6.2 feet across. Blocking windows and views, brotherly love had no part in building this abode. 

Tiny Spite Shop in NYC at the corner of 161st and Melrose in New York City is another example of anger gone awry.When a tailor refused to sell his property to his neighbor, he instead built a four foot wide edifice which he used as his shop.

In 1882 Patrick McQuade, wished to build apartment houses on his property and offered $1000 to Joseph Richardson who owned the very narrow strip of land adjoining it. Richardson, who was a millionaire and had executed projects for the Vanderbilt and Gould families, and was responsible for the expansion of the original Grand Central Depot, was affronted by so paltry an offer and demanded $5,000. McQuade refused the price and proceeded with the construction of his apartment house.

In retaliation Richardson built The "Spite House" at Lexington and 43rd. It was 4 stories high, 104 feet long and 5 five feet wide with eight suites, two on each floor. Taking advantage of a building regulation clause that permitted corner houses to have bay window extensions, he was able to build rooms that were a little more than seven feet wide.

The halls throughout the house were so narrow only one person could pass at a time and all the furniture was lilliputian size. 

The wealthy Richardson being tight with his money, moved into one of the tiny apartments with his wife and rented out the other apartments for $500 a year. 

May 12, 2014

The Sisters of Pudding Lane

written by Rosa Morgan

They were once a happy family: mother, father and six daughters in all, though many believed they were too original in their thinking. They were staunch suffragettes and believed their bodies were not merely temples for men to adore and control, nor solely to beget offspring, and so they vowed to never marry, lest they lost their independence.
Fate soon dealt them a heavy blow when their father died under mysterious circumstances. In order to not lose the very roof over their head through inheritance laws to a feckless male cousin, they vowed to keep their father's death a secret.

Initially they economized, selling off much of their property including their horse. They went without heat and ate thin gruel, but eventually were forced to obtain a livelihood to sustain their family.

Myrtle was the eldest and the cleverest of the girls and did not find difficulty in finding a position as a teacher at the Ragged School for street children off of the Strand. She was a respected instructor though she refused to flog her students.

Elsie was next to venture out and possessing no marketable skills, it grieved her to resort to house cleaning. She became a parlor maid to a fine family and telling herself it was honest work, she put her back into it.

Blanche was the prettiest with a well turned leg and so became an opera burlesque star named Ruby Rose. She was popular for her dance of the seven veils and found fame and notoriety in Gilbert's show, "The Little Duck and the Great Quack".

Influenced by the courageous adventures of Florence Nightingale,  Dora became a nurse and changed many a bedpan at the Brompton Hospital for Consumption.

Charlotte was athletic and did not object to wearing flesh colored tights and so became a tightrope walker. Her greatest feat was doing somersaults on a tightrope spanning the Crystal Palace.

Bernice was the bravest of all and became the Tattooed Lady in a Freak Show, however she ended up in a Magdalene asylum for fallen women where Catholic nuns had her do backbreaking laundry for her penance.

April 26, 2014

Archibald and Lenore's Wedding

written by Rosa Morgan

It was love at first sight with furtive glances and shy smiles. Archibald stood amongst a group of men across the room discussing the 1850 Compromise, whilst I was perched beside the punch bowl wondering whether to signal my interest with my fan or hide behind a palm tree. I had no time for either course of action, for he requested the next dance and I happily accepted.

The night was enchanting and I was loathed to have it end. Days passed and I did not know my fate. It turned out Archibald and my father belonged to the same gentleman's club and so over a packet of pipe tobacco and a fine glass of sherry, they agreed upon my dowry. Marriage is for lovers but it is first and foremost a business transaction.

Of course Archibald formally asked for my hand in marriage upon bended knee and with sweet words of endearment. 

I was all aflutter with emotion especially when I espied my beautiful engagement ring. 
It held seven gemstones: Diamond, Emerald, Amethyst, Ruby, Emerald, Sapphire, and Topaz, which spelled out the word, Dearest.

Our engagement was official and we would now have more freedom to get to know each other better. We could hold hands in public and take carriage rides alone as long as the carriage was open.

We were a joyous match and soon set the day of our wedding:
Marry on Monday for health,
Tuesday for wealth,
Wednesday the best day of all,
Thursday for crosses,
Friday for losses, and
Saturday for no luck at all.

Happy was the day when it finally arrived though I confess I still was quite anxious when father walked me down the aisle.

But all my worries left me when Archibald took me by the hand. We were joined as one and his strength was now mine.

Postscript: Rosa is getting married today.