Sunday, June 25, 2017

La Maison Pierre du Calvet

Located in the heart of Old Montreal at the corner of Rue Saint-Paul and Rue Bonsecours, La Maison Pierre du Calvet was built in 1725.  Pierre du Calvet left Bordeaux, France in 1758.  He intended to travel to New France and become a merchant.  Du Calvet headed to the port in Quebec City aboard the merchant ship, Le Lion.  The ship got into trouble about 100 miles from the port and sunk.  Although du Calvet survived the shipwreck the merchandise he had bought from France to begin his business did not.  

Once he arrived in Quebec City du Calvet was forced to seek employment.  Appointed by the government of New France, du Calvet became a storekeeper in Acadia, territory disputed between France and Britain.    He was responsible for ensuring that supplies were given to thousands of Acadians displaced by the British government in 1755.  He remained there until 1759 when he embarked on a mission transferring British prisoners of war to Halifax.  He traveled between Montreal and Acadia performing missions until 1762 when he settled in Montreal as a trader, establishing an import and export business. 

 In 1764 du Calvet travelled to London and Paris where he was well received and appointed as the Justice of Peace at the new Court of Common Pleas in Montreal.  

On October 3rd 1771, at the age of thirty six, du Calvet married Marie-Louise Jusseaume.  She was twenty years old and the daughter of a friend of du Calvet. The couple settled in the house in Montreal and had a son, Jean-Pierre, who died within a year.   Their second son, Jean Dumas, was born in 1773.  Their third child, Guy, also died within a year of his birth in 1774.  His mother died soon after him.  

Pierre du Calvet went on to become outspoken about the abuses of justice by some of those in positions of power in the colony, making him both friends and enemies.  The first Continental Congress addressed a letter to all inhabitants of the Province in which the form of government given to the people by the Quebec Act, an act of the Parliament of Great Britain, set procedures of governance over the people of Quebec.  Under an air of suspicion accompanying the entry of the Congress army du Calvet was arrested but he was acquitted and freed by a jury becoming part of a committee who greeted the occupying Continental Congress. 

 During the six month occupation du Calvets stores were requisitioned by the army. He later claimed back £56394 from the Congress.  It is said that Benjamin Franklin had meetings in the du Calvet home discussing the revolution against the British. Du Calvet was sued for libel and acquitted but in 1780 he was arrested as a political prisoner and imprisoned without a legal trial from September 27th 1780 to May 2nd 1783.  

Once released from prison du Calvet travelled to London with the intention of putting the governed Haldimand to trial for violating the British Constitution.  While in London and desperately neeeding finances to fund his lawsuit he decided to try and reclaim the money owned to him by the American congress.  He travelled to Philadelphia but was only reimbursed some of the money.  He took a Spanish ship from New York to travel back to Paris.  The ship disappeared and was declared lost at sea. 

La Maison du Calvet was built in the Breton style from local grey limestone and represents an impressive example of the type of architectural development in New France. The stone facade with three foot thick stone walls is reminiscent of a small fortress.  The huge walls have a special s shaped anchor to stop them from bulging and the steep sloped roof was designed to stop snow building up.  The residence has French windows with metal shutters.  

Following Pierre du Calvet the house was inhabited by Jaques Viger, the first Mayor of Montreal.  The founder of the Beaver Club and a wealthy trader, Gabriel Cotte then purchased the house.  Following his death, Cotte's widow, Angelique Blondea sold the house to Pierre Delvecchio.  In the seventies the building was purchased by the Ogilvys and restored to be used as an art gallery.  Eventually the property became the very elite Hostellerie Pierre Du Calvet .  The boutique hotel has nine rooms, a restaurant, a private dining room and a Victorian Greenhouse.  The building is adorned with antique furnishings, family heirlooms and artwork.  

La Maison du Calvet is said to be haunted by Marie-Louise Jusseame, du Calvet's wife.  She has been known to visit guests in their rooms, even flirting and winking at the men.  A male and female ghost have been reported sitting on the edge of guests beds.

I was lucky enough to attend a dinner in the private dining room in the Hostellerie Pierre du Calvet .  The staff informed me that they did believe the building was haunted and infact the exotic birds in the gorgeous Victorian greenhouse react sometimes to unseen things.  This building is so beautiful and has such an interesting history it is well worth a visit.



Sunday, June 11, 2017

Grauman's Chinese Theatre

Grauman's Chinese Theatre, located on Hollywood Boulevard, opened on May 18th 1927.  It was built by Sid Grauman, in partnership with Canadian-American actress Mary Pickford, her husband actor Douglas Fairbanks and Howard Shenck.  

Born in Indiana in 1879, Sid Grauman accompanied his father David to the Yukon in search of gold when he was in his teens.  Although they had little success discovering gold they did realise that providing entertainment for the miners could prove to be lucrative.  His father left the Yukon and when his parents had established themselves in San Francisco Sid left the Yukon to join them.  Sid and his father David opened a vaudeville theatre in San Francisco.  Situated on Mason Street it was called the Unique Theatre.  Following the Unique Theatres increasing popularity the Grauman's opened a second Theatre known as The Lyceum which hosted vaudeville performances and also showed motion pictures.  In 1906 the San Francisco earthquake destroyed both theatres.  Sid reportedly pulled one of the projectors from the rubble of the destroyed theatres and acquired a huge tent from a preacher.  For two years they showed films in the canvas tent.  The Grauman's constructed three new cinemas in San Francisco, the New National Theatre, the Imperial and the Empress.  They sold all the theatres to Adolf Zukor, the eventual owner of Paramount Pictures.  

In 1903 Sid Grauman opened the Unique Theatre, famous amongst other things for being the training ground for Fatty Arbuckle, in San Jose.  In 1906 the Theatre was destroyed by an earthquake and the Grauman's decided to move to Los Angeles.  Initially they built Grauman's Egyptian Theatre in 1922 and it served as the venue for the premiere of Douglas Fairbank's movie Robin Hood.  In 1926 Grauman and his three partners, Pickford, Fairbanks and Shenck approached LA real-estate developer, Charles E Toberman, to secure a long term lease from the actor and director, Francis X Bushman.  The property at 6925 Hollywood Boulevard was the location of Bushman's mansion.  In gratitude to him agreeing to forfeit the land a small plaque was erected dedicating the theatre to Bushman.  

Grauman approached LA architectural firm Meyer and Holler, who had designed the Grauman's Egyptian Theatre.  Robert M Kennedy was the main architect on the project.  The exterior of the building was designed to represent a giant, red pagoda.  The pagoda is an architectural style that took shape over many centuries in East Asia.  Two authentic Ming Dynasty guardian lions are situated at the entrance of the theatre.  These heavenly dogs were believed to have mythic protective powers.  Small silhouettes of dragons line the sides of the elaborate copper roof and a huge Chinese dragon adorns the theatre.  The Chinese dragon was believed to represent potent and auspicious powers in Chinese mythology.  Many of the decorative elements were imported from China including Temple Bells and a small pagoda.  

Grauman commissioned Jean Klossner to create a hard concrete floor for the forecourt of the cinema.  This forecourt beacme the site of the famous footprint ceremonies.  There are three stories about how this famed tradition began.  The first is that Sid Grauman accidentally stood in the wet cement and thinking it was amusing quickly told Mary Pickford to do the same.  The second story is that actress Norma Talmadge accidentally stood in the wet cement and the idea came from that.  The third theory is that Jean Klossner signed his work and Sid Grauman developed the idea from that.  

In 1929 Sid Grauman decided to retire and sell his share of the cinema to William Fox's Fox Theatre chain.  Not long after his retirement Sid Grauman was coaxed back to the theatre at the insistence of Howard Hughes who wanted to premiere his film Hell's Angels at Grauman's Chinese Theatre.  Following that Grauman retired again but was once more encouraged back to the theatre in the capacity of managing director, a role he performed until his death in 1950.  The Grauman's  Chinese Theatre was declared an historical and cultural landmark in 1968.  An American business man, Ted Mann purchased the Theatre in 1973 and until 2001 it  was known as Mann's Chinese Theatre.  

Following Mann's bankruptcy Warner Bros and Paramount Pictures acquired the Theatre.  Bent Bower architects prepared a restoration plan which began in 2002.  The original name Grauman's Chinese Theatre was restored.  In 2007 CIM purchased the land the Theatre is situated on and in 2011 Chinese Theatres LLC, a partnership owned by nightclub owner Elie Samaha and producer Donald Kushner purchased Grauman's. 

There have been many reported incidents of paranormal phenomenon in Grauman's Chinese Theatre.  Staff have reported the huge curtain moving of its own volition with unidentifiable sounds coming from behind it.  Many believe the disturbances to be caused by an apparition they call Fritz, thought to be a former employee who hung himself behind the screen soon after the opening of the theatre. There have been reports of strange shaped objects falling from the roof but disappearing before they can reach the ground.  Lights reportedly flicker for no apparent reason.  There have been reports of a feeling of foreboding felt in the downstairs ladies room.

A full male apparition has been reportedly seen in the forecourt, seemingly sad and searching for someone.  Many believe that this is the ghost of murdered actor Victor Killian.  Born in New Jersey in 1891, Killian was involved in vaudeville performance from eighteen years of age and became well known on Broadway.  He was summoned to Hollywood in 1935 and by the end of the decade had made fifty films.  Blinded in one eye in an accident while filming the John Wayne movie Reap The Wild Wind, he continued making films until he was "named" in the dreaded McCarthy Congressional hearings.  Following not being able to get work and the death of his wife who he had been married to for forty six years, he returned to a lucrative television career that spanned over fifteen years.  There are two stories regarding his death, one is he was killed in his home by burglars, and the other is that feeling lonely he had spoken to someone at a bar and invited them to his home.  He passed Grauman's Chinese Theatre on his way and was brutally beaten to death at his home.  The full bodied apparition of a sad looking man looking for something, that simply vanishes has been spotted walking around the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theatre on many occasions.

An amazing building with a fabulous history, Grauman's Chinese Theatre is well worth a visit.  I was excited to find the foot and handprints of my favourite stars when I visited the iconic theatre.  


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Ribe Cathedral

Ribe Cathedral is located in the city of Ribe in Jutland, Denmark.  The oldest surviving village in Denmark, Ribe is situated on a wind blown, flat landscape.  Originally Ribe was accessible by sea, the North Sea branching off into the Ribe River.  Sedimentation by the Wadden Sea during the late Middle Ages, closed this option. Ribe was a bustling trade town with an open trading market set up on the north bank of the Ribe River.  The markets attracted the Danes, Swedes, Norwegians, Germans, Frisian and the English, all with goods to trade.  The markets were sanctioned by either King Angantyr, a king of the Danes who reigned in 710 and known in contemporary literature, or King Harald Hildetard, the legendary king of the Swedes, the Danes and the Norwegians from around 705.  

The first church in Ribe was founded in 860 by the missionary monk known as Ansgar.  In 814 Harald Klak, a co-King of Denmark, was exiled by the other co-King, Horik I.  Harald Klak fled to Germany and approached the Emporer to assist him in getting back Denmark.  The Emporer offered him the Dukedom of Frisian instead if he would become a Christian.  Klak, his wife and children plus four hundred of his followers were baptised.  Klak returned to Denmark in 826 and brought with him the monk Ansgar.  The son of a noble Frankish Family, after the death of his mother, Ansgar had been brought up in Corbie Abbey.  He was later educated in Picardy at the Benedictine Monastery.  He eventually became the Archbishop of Hamburg and was ordained as a saint.  After Klak fled from Denmark again Ansgar was able to win the favour of King Horik I.  With Horik I's permission a small wooden church was erected by Ansgar.  St Rimbert, a friend and contemporary of Ansgar also on a mission to bring Christianity to Scandinavia, succeeded Ansgar.  The church bells soon had the people of Ribe complaining that they may frighten away the land sprites, landvaetter, who were believed to help places flourish.   Horik II closed the church for some time.  By 888 the mission to christianise Scandinavia was abandoned and the church was burned down to remove all evidence of a foreign church.

Under the supervision of the Archbishop of Hamburg and with the permission of the Roman Curia, St Leofdag was ordained as the first Bishop of Ribe.  That same year St Leofdag was martyred by his housecarl, a sort of body guard, who skewered him with a spear as he was fording the Ribe River.  The first stone for the cathedral was laid 1110 by Bishop Thur, and the building was completed in 1134.  The cathedral was built from Tufa stone, a type of limestone formed in ambient waters by carbonate minerals precipitating.  The stone was imported from Germany and was constructed in the Romanesque Style.  It was built with a flat timbered roof, supported by half-rounded arches.  The basilica style building was built similar to churches in Northern Germany of the time.   In 1145 Bishop Elias founded a school and chapter in the Ribe Cathedral.  Bishop Elias was also responsible for completing and consecrating the Cathedral.  

A fire ravaged Ribe and damaged the Cathedral.  The cathedral was repaired and extended using red brick.  The enlarged church had a nave flanked by double aisles on both sides.  Parts of the old flat ceiling were vaulted in the gothic style.  In the late 12th century a beautiful doorway was carved for the cathedral.  Called the 'cats head portal' in honour of two lion statues on each side of the door, a carved relief of Jesus being taken down from the cross decorates the nave across the door.  In 1283, just before morning Mass on Christmas Day the north west tower of the cathedral collapsed killing several people.  Replacing the tower, the Commoners Tower was erected.  It was taller at 62 metres high and was crowned by a copper, Rhemish Hemut, with a spire.  The higher parts of the tower were used to store archival material from the town and serve as a watchtower.  In 1402 part of the cathedral burnt and the repairs were again completed with red brick.  

During the Danish-Sweden Wars, cannons were mounted up the tower to defend the city from attack.  In 1644 the cannons fired at Swedish ships.  The cathedral was closed in 1536 when Denmark officially became Lutheran.  The monks were sent from the Cathedral and the it was left neglected and open to vandalism.  Leading Lutheran theologian, Hans Tausen, became the Lutheran Superintendent/Bishop of Ribe in 1542, a role in which he remained until 1561.  A statue of Hans Tausen is at the base of the Tower.  By 1560 all of the Catholic artwork, statues and paraphernalia had been removed and the paintings were plastered over.  

The town centre of Ribe was destroyed by fire in 1580 but the Cathedral remained.  In 1594 part of the Commoners Tower collapsed and it was rebuilt ten metres taller with a flat roof.  Around this time the famed Odense sculptor, Jens Asmussen carved a new pulpit for the cathedral. A violent storm hit Ribe in 1634.  This storm resulted in what became known as 'The Great Drowning', an event during which 8000 people drowned in one night.  The flood reached the pulpit of the cathedral.  That year the cathedral got a new organ.  The organ was made by a Fiensberg organ maker called Johan Heidi who had been an apprentice to the Royal organ maker, Nicholas Maas.  The Commoners Tower had a clock installed in 1696.  

Hans Adolf Brorson became the Bishop of Ribe in 1741.  He was responsible for creating the first hymn book for the Danish Lutheran Church.  Restorations where carried out in 1843 and then between 1883 and 1904 the entire cathedral was renovated.  Artist Anne Marie Carl-Nielsen created a bronze door in commemoration of the restoration.  In 1973 a new organ was built and then enlarged again in 1994.  

Carl Henning Pedersen, the artist described as the 'Danish Chagall' and a member of the avant garden movement known as COBRA, was commissioned to decorate the Apse of the Cathedral in 1983.  His proposed designs were met with controversy initially, but after much debating the modern design was accepted and went forward.  

Among those interned at Ribe Cathedral are Hans Adolph Brorson and Hans Tausen.  Eric II of Denmark the King of Denmark between 1134 and 1137, was killed by a subject.  He was buried at Ribe Cathedral. Christopher I of Denmark the King between 1252 and 1259, was staying with the Bishop of Ribe when he died taking Holy Communion.  Some believe that his communion wine was poisoned.  He was buried in front of the high altar in Ribe Cathedral. Albert Skeel who was the Admiral of the Realm from 1616 to 1623 was buried in Ribe Cathedral following his death in 1639. 

Being such an old building with such a turbulent history Ribe Cathedrak is said to have a cursed item. On the third pillar in the centre of the cathedral there is a small brass candleholder said to have been placed there by a knight.  There is suppose to be a curse on the candleholder directed at anyone that tries to move it from its position.  During renovations in the church in 1845 no one would move the candleholder until one young man decided to do it.  He climbed a scaffold to resume his work and the structure collapsed and the man fell to his death.  

I love Denmark and visiting Ribe was a memorable and fascinating experience.  The beautiful cathedral was a pleasure to explore.