Our fabulously beat-up digital camera heaved a heavy sigh and conked out last week, so I have been camera-less for about 8 days. I have been totally lost without it. I don’t take particularly good photos, but I take tons and tons of them. Without photos, I could not fully share how pathetic the baby birds were, or how large our plants have grown. I couldn’t share Bruiser’s satisfied and sleepy face while he lounged outdoors in his newly gated kingdom. So I splurged today and bought a new camera that ought to add a whole new dimension to my house photos. Because I didn’t get just any old point-and-shoot…. I’m the proud owner of a brand new Nikon D40. The prettiest little thing you ever did see, with capabilities so far beyond our old camera it’s not even funny.
So of course, today being my first day as a D40 owner, I had to take photos of something fantastic. And since I’ve been meaning to show you all the Oneida Community Mansion House for about, oh, two years now, that is where I headed.
The east face – front portico
(Same “East lawn” entrance in the 1800’s – part of the Syracuse University digital collection)
I grew up about a block away from the Mansion House in a little village called Kenwood, New York. The structure, which was home to over 300 members of the utopian Oneida Community, was built in stages starting in 1868. Part of the house is now a museum, so much of the interior remains just as it was. Nearly very nook and cranny in the 93,000 sq. ft. building is familiar to me. As kids we played hide and seek there, darting through it’s seemingly rooms and endless hallways and up and down back stairwells. Even the basement was not off limits, though I would never dare pass through those dark tunnels alone. It is a labyrinth; there are 10 ways to get just about anywhere if you know your way around.
The South tower (click here to see a pic of this tower in the 1800’s)
I wasn’t allowed to take photos of the interiors, so you’ll have to settle for exteriors. But I highly recommend a tour; the “Green Room” (a sitting parlor) and the “Big Hall” are particularly cool. The schedule is on their website: http://www.oneidacommunity.org/
One of many side entrances
Cast iron urn
Front portico, close-up
North side (click here to see a photo from the 1800’s)
Last but not least, my absolute favorite part of the Mansion House – the “Summer House”, a rustic-style gazebo that we used to sneak off to as teenagers. It’s a nostalgic little place for me. In the shadows of that gazebo I smoked my first cigarette, chugged countless stolen bottles of Boones Wild Strawberry, and kissed a few boys. Always with my best friend Tianne, always hiding out from my parents – who were literally a block away. What a rebel I was…..
If you’re not sold on it’s charm, wipe away the image of me hacking my lungs out and look at it filled with small 19th century children:
The little girl posed sitting on the window ledge is my favorite. She looks so casual, especially when you consider how long theymust have had to sit still for this photo.
If you’re a history buff, there’s plenty of interesting stories about the Oneida Community; they are most widely remembered for their controversial sexual practices. These include the “complex marriage” system (every man and woman in the community was “married” and could therefore sleep together, but they could not form attachments or have babies willy nilly), “male continence” (their form of birth control, since sex was not discouraged but unplanned pregnancies were) and “ascending fellowship” (young virgins – about age 14 – were initiated into the Complex Marriage practices by an elder member of the community). But they had other strong beliefs, such as equality of the sexes, mutual criticism, and stirpiculture (essentially eugenics) that are interesting as well.
http://www.oneidacommunity.org/(main website, with tour info plus pics and history)
http://www.nyhistory.com/central/oneida.htm (NY History Net’s entry on the community)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oneida_Colony (wikipeida entry with lots of good info and links)
http://library.syr.edu/digital/images/o/OneidaCommunityPhotos/ (a great digital photo collection)
Stay tuned as I fall completely in love with my new camera, and hopefully nab some great pics to share with you guys!