Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve view

From the hospital hill, facing north toward Hogback Mountain, overlooking the town. (Not a bad view, should you find yourself in the hospital.)

The bright white steeple of Lexington Presbyterian seems to be springing from Randolph Street Methodist's brick bell tower, with the silver steeple of First Baptist decorating the roof: A little illustration of just how many churches we have here in Lexington.

At lower right is the blacksmith's forge and the in-town stable for the horses of the Lexington Carriage Company.

Hope to show you much more of Lexington in 2009!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

School colors

The view from the Superintendent's box at the stadium at VMI. Center left is the rear side of Jackson Hall, the VMI chapel. This was the light on an unseasonably warm Christmas afternoon, showing the school colors of red, yellow and white (with a little blue thrown in).

North Main St. separates the larger part of the VMI campus (or "Post") from the stadium and other buildings on the east side. At lower left you can see the footbridge that cadets use to cross above the street.

Monday, December 29, 2008

200 miles from Lexington

Just back from two days in Washington, D.C., I had to post this picture of one of my favorite spots in the Capital.

In the foreground is a bust of Lorenzo de' Medici in the Italian Renaissance rooms of the National Gallery of Art. It is thought to be a later copy, in painted terracotta, of a wax sculpture designed by Andrea del Verrocchio. The wax original was made to commemorate Lorenzo's escape from an attempted assassination (during Mass!) in the Duomo.

His younger brother, Giuliano (center - also by Verrocchio), was not so lucky.

The gentleman in the dark suit is there to make sure I don't take them home with me.

Here is the grotesque on Giuliano's suit of armor:

(Tomorrow, back to Lexington.)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Church on Sunday: Column

Column and capital of the porch of the Trinity United Methodist Church on Main St.

I'd like to take more pictures of this church and its interesting details, but, alas, I'm going to have to get out a lot earlier in the morning to catch the sun on its façade!

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Interesting lines on a building at Jefferson and Washington streets.

I've been taking photos for this blog for a month now, and this is the first time I've caught any jet trails in the sky. Suddenly, they're everywhere! Must be the post-Christmas travel rush.

Friday, December 26, 2008

All is calm

Christmas afternoon light on the side door of the First Baptist Church on N. Main St.

This church has an interesting history that I will have to save for another time. We're off to the big city for a couple of days. (I'll still be posting, though.) I'll catch up with everyone when I return.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

No room at the inn

Nativity crèche in front of the Lauderdale Presbyterian church on Main St. (For the crèche in more context, see photo below.)

Merry Christmas to everyone!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Self-portrait with camel

I'm trapped inside making preparations for tomorrow, so all I have to offer is a fuzzy photo of your faithful blogger with a favorite Christmas ornament. Hope all of you are more ready than I am!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Gravestones and Holly...

...make a moving combination, I think.

This large holly tree is growing in the middle of an old family plot in Stonewall Jackson Cemetery in the center of town. Guess who else is buried in this cemetery?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Playground loner

A climbing structure in the playing field next to the elementary school. (The school is at the far left.)

I never see anyone on this structure -- it's too far away from the rest of the playground equipment. (If there was a soundtrack to this photo, you'd hear lots of children shouting and laughing off to the side.) It has the look of a piece of rustic sculpture out there, especially in combination with the fence.

Extra Post: Blogging awards

(I originally included this with the post above, but I decided that was too unwieldy, so I've added this extra post.)

Yesterday I received these 2 awards from Rob at Trieste Daily Photo. (See yesterday's post for a link to one of my favorite photos from his fascinating blog.) Thank you very much, Rob! It is now my privilege to pass the awards on to eight other bloggers.

As is my custom with chain messages of any kind, I will not request that anyone pass these on who does not care to. This is my tip of the hat to you, to say that I enjoy your blog and want others to see it, too. I especially like the idea of the Proximidade Award, above, in recognizing how these blogs bring us into proximity with others, whom we would otherwise never know.

I follow many art blogs, as well as daily photo blogs, so I will award mine half-and-half:

Liège Daily Photo - Greg Dimitriadis posts very interesting (and sometimes amusing) photos from Belgium.

Murcia Daily Photo - Pictures of a lovely town in Spain I would otherwise know nothing about.

Aurora Daily - Small town and rural South Africa through the observant eyes of an architect.

Hove Daily Photo - A new blog from the English seaside by a retired designer and writer.

René PleinAir - A very talented Dutch painter who has achieved an atmospheric, unique style.

Christopher Greco - This Ohio artist paints landscapes with wonderful light and color.

Artist Michael Mikolon - A California painter of figures, landscapes, and marvelous architectural sculpture.

Dordogne Painting Days - Adam Cope posts evocative paintings, drawings and sketches from this beautiful region of France.

Thank you, everyone, for sharing your photos and paintings with those of us far away!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Church on Sunday: Phoenix

The steeple of Lexington Presbyterian Church reaches for the heavens.

A Lexington landmark at Main and Nelson streets, the original 1844 Greek Revival church was designed by Thomas U. Walter, who later went on to design the dome of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. "Stonewall" Jackson worshipped here, and is remembered for the Sunday school classes he taught for both slave and free blacks in the town.

On July 18, 2000, a fire caused by maintenance operations engulfed the steeple, eventually causing its collapse - taking an 850 lb. bell with it - into the sanctuary below. (See a photo of the fire here.) The church has been painstakingly restored; in 2002, local school children were given a holiday to witness the dramatic replacement of the clock and steeple.

** Rob at Trieste Daily Photo has given me an award! (Actually, two blogging awards which seem to be making the rounds together.) Thank you very much, Rob. I will have to wait until tomorrow to respond, but in the meantime I want to send everyone your way to see your beautiful and evocative photos of Trieste and its environs, like this one.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Red, white and blue

I love the proportions of this wall and chimney, one wing of a handsome house overlooking the town from Liberty Hall Road. Very Virginia.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Pink shorts

This is the newest of the three footbridges over the Woods Creek ravine, which divides the Washington and Lee campus in two.

On a 40°F (4°C) day in December, the student's ensemble of choice will be: shorts and a down jacket.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Columns in a row

Probably the single most recognizable image of Lexington: the Washington and Lee Colonnade.

I couldn't go on with this blog much longer without showing the Colonnade, but I was reluctant to try it because it's something of a photographic cliché around here. I was lucky enough to back into these tree shadows -- one of the great advantages of taking winter pictures. I think they add something a little different.

Expected a black and white version (below) to play up the shadows even more, but I don't think it does. They seem more fantastic in green and black. What do you think?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Above Woods Creek trail

Another bridge over Woods Creek, this time on Nelson St./Rt. 60 heading west out of town.

The bridge is nothing much to speak of up top, but underneath - where it's constantly damp from the creek and the storm runoff - the concrete has acquired a beautiful patina.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Merry Christmas, W&L!

The original folk statue of George Washington that once graced the cupola of Washington Hall is decked out for the holidays at Elrod Commons, the student center at Washington and Lee University.

The statue was carved by a local cabinet maker from a single log of pine when the cupola was added in 1844. "Old George" was removed in 1990 and replaced with a replica, in order to preserve the original. (See the replica above the Colonnade, here. )

Who decides what Old George will wear? I have no idea. Perhaps someone will write in and tell me.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Secret door ...

... in an undisclosed location on the banks of Woods Creek.

The pre-school set maintains that the troll will answer messages.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Church on Sunday: Lee Chapel

Lee Chapel, seen through the columns of Newcomb Hall on the Washington and Lee campus.

Robert E. Lee requested the design of this chapel, and it was built during his tenure as president. After his death, he was buried beneath it. The building now hosts university events (a Christmas service of Lessons and Carols was sung there last week), as well as many a W&L wedding. Next year I'll have to get a summer shot of an afternoon wedding party, with the sun lighting the facade. I've found that the sun can't quite reach the front of the chapel this time of year.

The mountains you see in the background are the beautiful Blue Ridge.

Lee's funeral was one of the memorable events in Lexington history. See an 1870 photo of mourners lined up outside the chapel, here.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Along the creek

After days of rain the skies cleared today, and I went for a walk on the Woods Creek Trail, which follows the creek for 2 miles -- from the southwest end of town, through both college campuses, to the Maury River.

This is the little bridge over Woods Creek on Jordan St., next to the elementary school. The rusty color is beautiful in any weather.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Painting class

I wandered into Studio Eleven on South Jefferson St. the other day to see this month's show, and found the gallery full of easels and set-ups, ready for the painting class later that day.

On the walls are works by Richmond artists Karen Blair and Betsy Cunningham Morgan, and Lexington painter Agnes Carbrey.

The Lexington area has many artists and I hope to be able to show you much more of their work.

If you're interested in seeing more of the paintings in this show, here's a link to the gallery: Studio Eleven

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Facing South

This statue of Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, by Moses Ezekiel, addresses the parade grounds at VMI.

Jackson taught at VMI before joining the Confederate army in 1861. He was an unpopular professor (before becoming a beloved general), but his understanding of military tactics was so superior that his teachings and battles are still studied today at VMI, as well as - I am told - around the world.

He acquired his nickname during the Battle of Bull Run, when another Confederate general referred to him as "standing like a stone wall" in the face of the Union assault.

Jackson is often said to have cut an unimpressive physical figure, both on his feet and on horseback. This statue appears rather to reflect his moral stature as a man and a military commander.

An interesting photographic portrait taken of him not long before his death after the Battle of Chancellorsville is here.

Images of - and references to - Jackson are ubiquitous in and around Lexington. You'll no doubt be seeing many more of them in this blog.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Old Courthouse

The old county courthouse building, corner of Main and Washington streets. This is the main pediment, showing the arched windows of the second floor courtroom. See below for the full façade.

When it was first completed in 1896 (after a 1797 courthouse had been torn down), a local resident touted it as "the cheapest good building and best cheap building" ever built in the county.

This courthouse has been the center of much controversy in Lexington over the last decade or so. The county of Rockbridge, which owns the building, had allowed in to fall into disrepair. A former judge (now deceased) caused the state of Virginia to bring a suit against the county and city for repairs and upgrades. To make a long story short (and such things seem always to be a very long story around here, and often to involve lawsuits), a new modern courthouse 3 times the size of this one is nearing completion 2 blocks away. And no one will ever call it the cheapest good building ever built in these parts.

The Main street façade of the old courthouse:

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas star

A quirky Christmas display window at the travel agent's reflects buildings on the other side of Washington St.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Boxwood allée

109 Lee Avenue, "Beaumont," ca. 1824. Saved from demolition in 1964.

When first built, this house - and its neighbors - were not on a street at all, but out beyond the edge of town. Now the row of 3 grand houses of which this is a part are just a block south of the post office on Lee Avenue. They still have wonderful long, sweeping front lawns.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sirens and Lights

Fire engines stream down Main St. at the beginning of Lexington's annual Christmas parade.

Freezing your toes off, apparently, is part of the fun.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Men aloft

A folk statue of George Washington stands atop the cupola of Washington Hall, while an arborist trims the branches of a nearby tree.

Not sure this works, but it's what I've got. Those arborists were everywhere this afternoon.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Two generals

A bronze medallion on the memorial to the WWI dead at Washington and Lee University.

Washington and Lee is the other institution of higher learning in Lexington. (Of course, Washington and Lee would say that VMI is the other one -- I have no connection to either.) And W&L was here first, in 1780, initially as Liberty Hall Academy and later renamed Washington College, in gratitude to George Washington, who gave them a life-saving gift of valuable stock when they had hit hard times.

At the end of the Civil War, when Robert E. Lee had no place else to go, he was invited here to take up the presidency of Washington College. Five years later he died, and the school became "Washington and Lee."

I'm really taken by this image of these two men in profile, together. Hadn't noticed it before yesterday.

(I'm a northerner, by the way. But like many northerners, I have great respect for Lee. And it is an impressive event in American history that, after the war, he was left to live out his life in peace.)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Time for change at VMI

A female cadet checks her watch as the new addition to the VMI Barracks rises in the background.

Yesterday's photo showed the old barracks; today's shows the latest addition, almost complete. Female cadets are slightly less new: the first women graduated from VMI in 2001.

In 1990, the U.S. government brought a discrimination suit against the school. The case went to the Supreme Court, and VMI was finally forced to admit women, after 158 years as an all-male institution. There is still controversy about the change, especially among some alumni.

VMI has just adopted "gender norming" in physical training, after ten years of requiring women to meet the same standards as men. Do you think men and women ought to be held to the same physical standards in military training?

Update: I received some good advice about cropping from Benjamin Madison in the comments section, and did some experimenting. Do you prefer (A) above; cleaned up around the edges (B) below; or radically cropped (C) below that? [I think I like (B). I like the depth the tree gives.]

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Barracks

Jackson Arch and the Barracks at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), seen from across a corner of the parade grounds.

VMI is the country's oldest state military college, founded in 1839 on the site of the former Lexington arsenal. The first Barracks, designed by Andrew Jackson Davis in the Gothic revival style that characterizes the entire "Post" (as the campus is called), was not built until 1850; it was burned beyond redemption by General Hunter in 1864, during what came to be known as "Hunter's Raid." Almost the whole of VMI was left in ruins.

The Barracks was rebuilt after the war, and a new facade facing the parade grounds - with a central arch in memory of General "Stonewall" Jackson (who taught at VMI from 1851 until the outbreak of the Civil War) - was added. Later additions have had to keep pace with the now 1,300 cadets, all of whom live in the Barracks, in spartan conditions, for their full tenure.

For pictures that capture something of the spirit of this unusual school, see the slideshow on the home page of VMI's newly-redesigned website: Here

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Touches of red

Looking north up Main St. -- the center of Lexington; early winter sleet clouds overhead. This is quintessential American small town, with a Virginia accent. On the hill in the distance are the Gothic ramparts of the Virginia Military Institute. More on that tomorrow.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Theme Day Dec. 2008 - Circles/Spheres: Singular bricks?

These bricks are found in sidewalks all over Lexington, in various colors, and various states of decay. I have been told that the pattern is unique to the town, but that seems hard to believe. The graphic has been reproduced in jewelry and other items sold in local shops as well.

Have you seen this pattern in brick anywhere else? If so, please leave me a comment.

Click here to view thumbnails for all participants

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Francesca's at night

I went out last night in the rain looking for a Saturday night scene in downtown Lexington, but between having to hold my umbrella, struggling with night photos for the first time, and dead camera batteries, I came up pretty empty-handed.

This is the window at Francesca's Antiques on Nelson St. It looked captivatingly warm from the cold, wet sidewalk. The window in the picture is actually one of the antiques, propped up to form a backdrop for the window display.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Spared from the fire

The top story of the Alexander-Withrow Building, Main and Washington streets. It was built in the late 18th century, originally with a pitched roof. The Italianate roof was put on when the style became popular in the 19th C.

A fire in 1796 destroyed the original town of Lexington, which was built largely of wood. Only two buildings are said to have been left standing, including this one. It now houses an art gallery and an inn.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Open gate

The main gate of the Lexington Presbyterian Church, corner of Main and Nelson streets. The patterned bricks are said to be peculiar to the town.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving shadows

The clear, late November light casts interesting shadows.

The millinery shop advertisement on the side of this building at Washington and Main may look like it is from another era, but it's fairly recent. It was painted when scenes from the 1993 movie "Sommersby" were filmed in Lexington. I didn't live here then, but I've been told that the streets were covered with dirt to recreate what the town might have looked like during the Civil War. (The round shadow over the mural is from one of the street-light wreaths, already up for Christmas.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Robert E. Lee

Lexington, Virginia -- a town of 7,000 in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia -- is home to Washington and Lee University and the Virginia Military Institute, resting place of Civil War generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, and at the center of one of the prettiest counties in Virginia: Rockbridge County. I hope this blog will capture something of the unique character of Lexington.

Today's photo is of the Robert E. Lee Memorial Episcopal Church, lit by the late afternoon sun. This church sits across the lawn from the house on the campus of Washington and Lee where General Lee spent his last years as president of Washington College. The church was built and named in his memory after his death.