Manchester's winter wonderland

/ Saturday, April 14, 2012 /
Derryfield Park Winter Carnival showing people ski-jumping, via Manchester Historic Association.

While doing research for an upcoming post, I happened upon several old photos of Manchester's discontinued Winter Carnival. The information available on the defunct annual event is sparse, but it seems that Manchester used to hold a multi-day event celebrating winter by holding parades and transforming city parks into devoted sledding areas, luges and ski hills.

Group portrait of eight people during the Winter Carnival, on a New Hampshire Fire Insurance Company horse drawn Parade Float, via Manchester Historic Association. (1920s)
Copy photograph, view of the Snow Shoe Carnival a girl or young woman is seen being tossed in the air as a group of people gather around, via Manchester Historic Association. (ND)

Manchester started the Winter carnival in 1924 to some great success until it was discontinued at the end of the decade for unknown reasons (maybe the 1929 stock market crash). The carnival surfaced again in 1957, and by 1967 it had become the second largest in the nation, Minneapolis' and St. Paul's being the largest. The event featured a parade of 30 floats, 50 clowns and a 16 foot high animated rendition of Sir Winterhurst, the carnival's mascot. Skiing, ice fishing, hockey tournaments, sledding, snow shoeing, ice skating and snow mobile races were featured activities. The 1967 event, in particular, showcased the Parashoeing Championship, a skydive/snowshoe race that sounds like something right out of the X-Games.

The usual fanfare of music, food and games were staples of the Winter Carnival, along with the crowning of a Winter Carnival King and Queen. Beyond 1967, the carnival's fate becomes unclear, but it was eventually discontinued again. Smaller iterations have popped up over the years under the title of "Winterfest".

A medal from the 1967 Queen City Winter Carnival.

View of the 1927 Winter Carnival, via Manchester Historic Association. (1927)

As we rely less and less on the entertainment outside of our homes, it seems unfeasible that Manchester would resurrect this event again, but it's a wonderful idea that the city once regaled against the collective loathing of the cold season by transforming its parks and streets into a winter wonderland, embracing the snow and ice that garners so much disdain the rest of the year.

View of the Manchester Winter Carnival showing Textile Field Hockey. Melrose American Legion is playing against the Manchester Hockey Club which lost 1 - 0. David Leslie is one of the players on the field, via Manchester Historic Association. (1928)

INNER SPACE: Dark to light, bright and airy

/ Tuesday, April 10, 2012 /

On the west side of Manchester, a local photographer with a keen eye for interior design has been fixing up her apartment over the past 2 years. She has graciously shared the fruits of her labor with Manchester Oblique. For privacy purposes, she has asked for her name to be omitted.

What kind of building is the apartment in?

It's a 1917 New Englander. It was converted from a 1 family to a 2 family and has a lovely, big back yard.

Do you know any history about the building?

I have a picture from 1922 (which I can't find at the moment.) It was one of the first houses on the street and it was owned by the same family for 60 years. It was last renovated in the sixties or seventies I believe. The father was a woodworker so he built all of the wainscoting and molding throughout the living room, office and bedroom. My bedroom today would have been the living room and my kitchen is disproportionately big because it's the original size, I believe.

How would you describe the place before the renovations?
Good bones, but too dark and very outdated. It had been a rental property for ten years so it needed lots of attention and love.

Did you find anything weird about the apartment when you started working on it?
Of course! The basement bathroom vent emptied into the heat vent in what is now the laundry room, which is obviously DIY gone wild.

There was newspaper for insulation in the kitchen. There is a secret, flat cabinet on the floor of one of the kitchen cabinets too which is really odd. The bedroom closet didn't have walls. It was simply a series of wood paneling layered together.

What kind of aesthetic and feeling were you looking to get from the place and what did it take to obtain it?

I wanted light, bright and airy. I loved all of the detailing of the built-in cabinets, wainscoting and molding, but wanted to freshen everything up making it a mix of traditional and modern. It took several tons of paint (and sanding), removing a sliding glass door that separated the kitchen from the living room, adding new floors that reflect light, new windows, relocating the exterior side door, replacing all of the lighting and adding more, and cleaning everything.

It's still not finished as you may be able to see from the photos. I am still in the process of decorating and adding furniture. I need a bed frame for example and a few pieces for the room with the orange wall. And I need to finish the kitchen- counter top, back splash, new oven, stove top, sink, and faucet. All in time though. It's very liveable in it's present state, just not perfect.

What's your favorite room in the apartment now?

I would have to say the kitchen because it spacious and I adore the color green of the cabinets. I also really love my bedroom because of the gorgeous muted pinky/ purple color which is only heightened by softest, glowiest, abundant natural light. It's also the first grown-up bedroom I've had and that feels good.

What's your favorite little detail?

There so many unique details in this house that it's really a series of unique details. If I had to choose one that came with the house it would be the wall oven. If I had to choose one detail that I'm responsible for it would be the door knobs. They were mismatched and brass mostly and didn't match the house.

More photos after the jump.

Have an innovative, creative, modernized, retrofitted, renovated, experimental, inventive or unusual living space? Share it with Manchester Oblique. Email your information to daniel dot brian at gmail dot com.

875 Elm Street

/ Monday, April 2, 2012 /
875 Elm Street by Manchester Oblique.
Manchester has a lot of historic and interesting buildings, but there are few that can contend with the downright classy aesthetic of the Citizen's Bank building at 875 Elm Street.

The Citizen's building stands on the southern corner of Elm and Hanover Streets, at the mouth of the Opera Block, the city's crown jewel of side streets. The building stands like a textbook pillar of early skyscraper construction, a style straddling the tail end of industrial revolution and modern architecture, its stone masonry hanging from a hidden steel frame with stone lions watching stolidly from the building's ornate cornice.

A corner of 875 Elm's cornice by Manchester Oblique.
Built in 1913, the building housed the now defunct Amoskeag Bank and was bought by Citizens Bank in 1993. When the Amoskeag Bank was built, architecture was in a precarious place with the idea of "form following function" hanging heavy over many drafting tables in America while the heavily ornate style of art nouveau ramped up in the upper echelons of Europe. The debate of ornamentation versus "pure function" raged in the architectural circles around the world, the most vocal argument being made by an Austrian architect, Adolf Loos, in his 1908 essay "Ornament and Crime". Skyscrapers (defined as anything ten stories or taller), were born out of the paradigm shift in building materials, favoring new steel super-structures in place of wood and stone, allowing the stone masonry and other materials to hang from the building as opposed to supporting it. The Citizen's Bank building embodies this time period very well.

A drawing of 875 Elm Street by Unknown.
The Amoskeag Bank being constructed in 1913 via Manchester Historic Association.
The building stands ten stories tall and is a text book example of a Chicago Style skyscraper, a column divided into three distinct parts: the first floors utilized as a store front, the middle floors lacking any decoration while the top floors have some ornementation. The whole building is capped off with an elaborate cornice, balancing form and function, albeit neo-classical form.

The cornice by Manchester Oblique 
The seemingly functionless balcony hanging from the facade by Manchester Oblique.

Corner mantelpiece by Manchester Oblique.
Pseudo-Corinthian columns emblazoned on the sides of the first floors. If you look close, you can see small beds of spikes atop ideal pigeon landing spots. Photo by Manchester Oblique.
Inside the original Amoskeag Bank in 1913 via Manchester Historic Association.
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