Mount Vernon, North Carolina: Part One

The European settlement of North Carolina’s piedmont took place primarily in the mid-eighteenth century, when Scotch-Irish and German migrants, travelling south from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and other points north, passed through the Shenandoah River Valley of Virginia and entered the wide, thinly-settled region of North Carolina that lay between the seemingly inhospitable mountains to the west […]

East 61st Street, New York City

A new installation at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City reprises the first one-man photography exhibition MoMA ever mounted: “American Photographs” by Walker Evans, which opened seventy-five years ago, in 1938.  More than fifty of the original one hundred prints by Evans are included in the new show, which runs through January, 2014. […]

Audubon Road

I first saw Audubon Road in the spring of 2012.  That May, I took my bike out of the kitchen, where it had leaned against a wall since the previous fall, and began riding daily.  That wasn’t unusual: I had biked with some frequency since moving to Northampton in 2006; but my riding had always […]

The Way to Williamsburg

Our nation’s love affair with the car continues to wane.   As the New York Times reported recently, “Americans are buying fewer cars, driving less and getting fewer licenses as each year goes by.”  This decrease in “automobility” is especially striking for young Americans, who are clearly less smitten with the car than their parents were […]

Searching for Ulmus americana

Last Wednesday afternoon, while driving home from campus, I heard a story on National Public Radio about New York City’s ongoing effort to re-plant its storm-damaged beaches with native grasses.  It turns out that seeds from those grasses have been painstakingly preserved at the city’s Greenbelt Native Plant Center on Staten Island, and those seeds […]

44 State Street, Northampton

In late 1864, a twenty-one year old Henry James spent four months in Northampton, Massachusetts, taking the “water cure” at the Round Hill Hotel off Elm Street.  Having grown up in New York City, Cambridge (Massachusetts), and Newport (Rhode Island), and schooled in Europe, he must have found the city provincial, even vulgar.  According to […]