The Hillsdale Town Hall
by Matthew White
Before I moved to New York I lived in Pasadena, California. Anyone who has been there knows that it is a lovely city with restored historic buildings lining the streets of its commercial district, making it a true destination to shop, walk and eat.
Image by Grigori FateyevYears ago, downtown Pasadena was a dilapidated, mostly empty ghost town, but today it is a perfect example of what a good urban plan can create.
I now live in the small historic town of Hillsdale, NY which was founded in 1788. Unlike Pasadena it is a tiny hamlet, but it holds many beautiful historic buildings waiting for restoration just as Pasadena once did. In an effort to revitalize the hamlet, the town purchased the empty library building that will soon serve as our New Town Hall. This lovely neo-Georgian building is a little gem, perfectly proportioned and beautifully detailed. Next to the building is just enough land to create an intimate public garden, so I, along with my fellow members of the Hamlet Committee, have re-designed it to be a functional and beautiful public space.
The Town Board approved the garden design as well as our idea of who it would be in tribute to ~ The Hillsdale Farmer, Past, Present and Future. Hillsdale has always been (and largely remains) a rural farm community and it only seemed fitting that the amazing people who provide delicious food for our tables should get some long overdue credit.
The design of the garden takes its cues from the building itself ~ classic, simple and elegant. Off the central axis of the symmetrical side façade will be an oval courtyard - a gathering place with four garden benches in the shade of two mature maple trees. Directly behind the oval will be a tall hedge that will conceal the parking lot while separating the more formal front courtyard from the casual picnic garden at the back.
Fundraising is underway, and if all goes as planned, the garden will be largely finished by fall. To contribute to this beautification effort, please send a check in any amount to the HECDC, and note that it is for the Town Hall Public Garden. Your tax deductable contribution may be mailed to the Hillsdale Town Hall, POB 305, Hillsdale, NY 12529. A bench with your family name (or the name of a loved one) engraved on it may be sponsored for $1500. A bronze plaque will be mounted in the garden naming all those who contributed $250 and above.
If you love small, historic American towns, this is the perfect way to make a big difference in a very special little place.
Antiques ~ The Beauty of Botanicals
The world of antique botanical prints spans many centuries, various techniques of printing and an endless variety of herbs, flowers and fruit. European botanical prints were typically created as a larger work and bound in books or set into portfolios. The purpose of early botanical prints were varied, from "Herbals" which were educational manuals that shared the useful properties of plants to "Florilegia" which were educational picture books of ornamental and exotic plants, many discovered and documented on voyages to the New World.
The Herbal of Apuleius Plantonicus published in Rome around 1481 is a good example of an Herbal, while Emmanuel Sweert’s Floregium (1612) and Basil Besler’s Hortus Eystettenis (1613) are two examples of the Florilegia. Above is a 17th century sunflower by Besler which still appears to be bursting with life, 500 years after it was printed. Maria Sibyella Merian (1647-1717) is a favorite botanical artist of ours because of her bold renderings of plants and the insects they attract. It was also unusual for a woman to travel such great distances let alone be so well known as an artist. Below is a typical example of her work.
The tradition of botanical prints continued throughout the 18th and 19th centuries until the camera made this art form all but obsolete. Today, some collectors of botanicals might seek out certain artists or particular specimens of plants while others collect them merely for their beauty.
Like any genre of antiques, some are more rare than others, creating a wide range of prices. But wonderful antique prints can still be found for under a hundred dollars, making antique botanicals the perfect introduction into affordable collecting. We love the notion that one can invest money well while creating a virtual garden on your walls!