March 2014 006

Lancaster’s Old Presbyterian Church retains the simple architectural beauty inherent in many 19th century brick structures.

Constructed in 1862, the Early Gothic Revival-style edifice is believed to have been the first brick church built in South Carolina’s Lancaster County, and its graveyard holds the remains of many of the area’s early prominent residents, in addition to several men who were killed or died during the War Between the States.

The Old Presbyterian Church was constructed on the site of the town’s first Presbyterian church, begun in 1835. The extant church’s walls feature handmade brick, stuccoed and scored to resemble stone.

The church features a Basilican plan, with a gallery along the sides and back of the sanctuary and an arched pulpit apse. Its interior includes hood moldings over the arches, cornice brackets with pendants under the gallery and round wooden columns supporting the gallery.

At the very end of the Civil War, troops under Union Gen. William T. Sherman occupied a large house just up the street and horses were stabled inside the church.

The structure was the house of worship for Lancaster-area Presbyterians until 1926, when the growing congregation moved to a new church on nearby Main Street.

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Boulevard Monmartre, Spring Morning

A streetscape by Camille Pissarro brought more than $32 million earlier this month, more than four times the previous record for a work by the Danish-French impressionist.

Pissarro’s “Boulevard Monmartre, Spring Morning,” a view of Paris painted in 1897, was sold by Sotheby’s in London.

The oil on canvas was part of industrialist Max Silberberg’s collection. Silberberg was forced by the Nazis to sell his artworks in the 1930s and later died in the Holocaust.

Silberberg’s collection also featured works by Manet, Monet, Renoir, Cezanne and van Gogh and was regarded as one of the best pre-war collections of 19th and 20th Century art in Germany, according to the BBC.

“Boulevard Monmartre, Spring Morning” was returned to Silberberg’s family in 2000. It had never before been sold at auction.

The previous record for a Pissarro painting was set in 2009, when “Le Pont Boieldieu Et La Gare D’Orleans Rouen, Soleil” sold for about $7 million. A quartet of the artist’s works entitled “Les Quatre Saisons” brought more than $14 million in 2007.

The new owner of “Boulevard Monmartre, Spring Morning” requested anonymity.

Another Pissarro painting has also been in the news recently.

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random-acts-of-kindness

Call me Scrooge, Grinch, Mr. Heat Miser or whatever other holiday-related term of derision you like, but I long ago had my fill of such amorphous concepts as “paying it forward,” “giving back” and the always-inane “random acts of kindness.”

The above actions celebrate that which was once recognized as simple decency.

But in today’s world, where the navel-gazer is king, it’s not enough to be good to one another: Lack of recognition would almost appear to invalidate civility in the eyes of many.

First, the terms “pay it forward” and “give back,” logically speaking, make little sense.

You can’t pay something forward.  You can do something nice for someone without them knowing it – but, of course, if you crow about it, you’re really just serving your own purposes.

And “giving back” implies that you took something in the first place. Athletes, entertainers and corporate bigwigs like to throw around the term “giving back,” particularly when visiting their old stomping grounds.

Unless they had their athletic, entertainment or business talents conferred upon them, like royalty bequeathing a title on a noble, they probably had to work very hard over many years to reach their level of accomplishment.

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mace_brown

A South Carolina businessman recently donated one of the most impressive private fossil collections in the world – totaling more than 1,500 specimens – to the College of Charleston.

Mace Brown of Mt. Pleasant, SC, began collecting fossils when he was in his early teens; today his collection, valued at more than $1.6 million, includes complete skeletons of such creatures as a giant armadillo, a cave bear and a saber-toothed cat, along with Tyrannosaurus rex teeth and Triceratops horns.

The collection focuses on North American land and sea creatures. More than 90 percent of the fossilized creatures in the collection inhabited South Carolina over a 400-million-year span, according to a College of Charleston press release.

“I wanted the collection to be in Charleston, in a location where fossils were the focus and a place where the public could see the specimens up close, not stored in cabinets out of the sight of the public,” said Brown, renown as an international fossil collector.

Brown’s passion for collecting and recording fossils was sparked by a rock collection when he was 13. By age 45, he had amassed more than 87 species of shark teeth.

Over the next decade and a half, Brown expanded his collection with fossils from around the world.

The collection, which will be housed in the Mace Brown Natural History Museum at the College of Charleston, also features saltwater mosasaurs with snakelike detaching jaws; skeletons of a warthog-looking, buffalo-sized pig; and a dog-sized horse and camel.

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Green buildings scam

For more than a decade companies have been highlighting the “environmentally friendly” nature of their new buildings, and for more than a decade the press has been lapping it up, generously doling out coverage that is all but impossible for businesses to secure through the execution of their actual work.

Ponder that for moment: An accounting firm, for example, in a major city that employs 250 people – many in high-paying positions – and has grown slowly but steadily over the past 20 years, will find it difficult to get media coverage until the times comes when it announces it is a constructing a new office, one that is environmentally friendly.

Never mind that stories of these sorts have been in the news for, yes, a decade or more, making them not very “newsy” at all; the media never tires of writing about anything “eco-friendly.”

This is tiresome on several levels:

  • One, space and coverage, particularly of business news, have shrunk dramatically in recent years. To devote limited resources to writing about environmentally friendly construction while ignoring the actual accomplishments of the businesses in question, be they accounting firms, banks, advertising agencies, etc., is bad journalism.
  • Second, it’s no longer newsworthy when someone builds a structure that meets the standards of the U.S. Green Building Council. That entity was formed in 1993, and more than 7,000 green building projects have been built in the US alone since then.
  • Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it appears that the concept behind building environmentally friendly structures may be flawed – very flawed, in fact.

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operation last chance poster

Nearly 70 years after the end of World War II, a campaign has been inaugurated in Germany to track down the final remaining Nazi war criminals and bring them to trial.

Some 2,000 posters featuring the entrance to the Auschwitz death camp are being displayed in Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne.

They ask individuals with information to contact the Simon Wiesenthal Center, according to the BBC.

The US-based Wiesenthal Center estimates there are five dozen war criminals – ranging from death camp guards to members of Einsatzgruppen, mobile death squads responsible for mass killings – still alive in Germany and fit to stand trial.

“Unfortunately, very few people who committed the crimes had to pay for them,” according to Efraim Zuroff, a leading international Nazi hunter and the center’s Jerusalem branch director. “The passage of time in no way diminishes the crimes.”

As part of its “Operation Last Chance II” project,” the center is offering rewards of as much as $33,000 for information which helps in the prosecution of war criminals in Germany.

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dornier do 17 raised

After more than 70 years on the floor of the English Channel, a German bomber shot down during World War II has been raised.

The Dornier Do 17 aircraft was downed in August 1940 off the coast of Kent during the Battle of Britain.

It is believed to be the only intact example of its kind in the world, according to the BBC.

The aircraft, brought up last week, was found to be badly corroded, with the fuselage twisted and held in place only by a strut inserted by the salvage team. The plane’s engines were found to have come apart from the plane and had to be brought up separately.

The existence of the Dornier Do 17 – nicknamed the Luftwaffe’s “flying pencils” because of its narrow fuselage – became known when it was spotted by divers in 2008 lying in 50 feet of water on a chalk bed with a small debris field around it.

The Dornier will be restored at a site in Shropshire before eventually going on display at the RAF Museum in Hendon, north London.

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fort moultrie guns

Federal forces spent four years trying to silence Confederate guns on Fort Moultrie, but the massive iron weapons face just as formidable a foe today: the environment.

To protect the 10 historic siege and garrison guns still located at the Sullivans Island fortification, preservationists have turned to technology, including computer sensors, in a bid to defend them from the salt and humidity omnipresent along the South Carolina coast.

The guns of Fort Moultrie are of particular historical significance because they were among the weapons that were used to fire on Fort Sumter April 12-13, 1861, officially beginning the War Between the States.

“The last of the guns, a 7-ton Union rifled Parrott gun suspended in a yellow sling held by a crane, was slowly jockeyed into place onto a new concrete base last week,” according to The Associated Press. “It completes what the fort refers to as Cannon Row, where seven of the heavy guns are lined up next to each other.”

The conservation work, which included coating nearly all the guns in rust-retarding epoxy, is being done through a collaborative effort between the National Park Service and Clemson University’s Restoration Institute.

The price tag for the multi-year conservation effort is $900,000.

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33rd north carolina flag

Efforts have begun to conserve a North Carolina state flag captured by Union forces during the Battle of New Bern.

The banner was carried by the 33rd North Carolina State Troops during the March 14, 1862, battle at New Bern, NC. The encounter marked one of Federal leader Ambrose Burnside’s few highlights during the war, when his troops overcame an undermanned Confederate position and captured what was a key supply point.

New Bern would remain under Yankee control for the remainder of the war.

The conservation of the 33rd North Carolina regimental flag is the latest project of the Society for the Historical Preservation of the 26th Regiment North Carolina Troops, the largest group of War Between the States re-enactors in the Tar Heel State.

The 26th Regiment is working with the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh to conserve the 150-year-old standard; the effort will cost an estimated $7,500 to $10,000.

The 33rd North Carolina State Troops was organized in Raleigh in September 1861 and saw its first action at New Bern, according to the New Bern Sun Journal.

During the battle, the 33rd North Carolina suffered the greatest number of casualties of the six Confederate regiments engaged, with 32 men killed, 28 wounded and more than 100 taken prisoner, including its commander, Col. Clarke Avery.

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Fort Pitt Blockhouse

Preservation efforts began Wednesday on Pittsburgh’s oldest-known building and the oldest authenticated structure west of the Allegheny Mountains.

The Fort Pitt Blockhouse was built in 1764, in the immediate aftermath of the French and Indian War. Much of the stone foundation, bricks and timber in the two-story structure are original, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The blockhouse was built to reinforce Fort Pitt, the largest British fortification in North America.

The project will take 10 months and is being funded by an anonymous donor and the Colcom Foundation, according to the Fort Pitt Society, which owns the structure.

Fort Pitt was completed in 1761, amid the lengthy French and Indian War, a good bit of which took place in the Ohio Valley. During Pontiac’s Rebellion in 1763, a weakness in the fort became apparent when British forces noted that the structure’s design impeded efforts to repel snipers.

In response, Col. Henry Bouquet constructed several redoubts, or blockhouses, for sharpshooters in 1764. The structure being renovated is the lone surviving remnant of Fort Pitt.

A key aspect of readying the Fort Pitt Blockhouse for its 250th anniversary is inspecting its timbers.

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