Rocky Pastures in Seacoastonline.com

The Design Show at Rocky Pastures made the Year in Review for Seacoastonline.com.  Here’s a short blurb from the article:

The event helped to share the historical culture of Kennebunkport — including Rocky Pastures, the 6,000-square-foot estate formerly belonging to Kenneth Roberts — while highlighting local designers who uniquely designed the estate’s 12 rooms, some with whimsy, others with decadence, and many paying homage to the author.

The Designer Show House was not just a beneficial opportunity for the Historical Society, but a special chance for enthusiasts of Roberts, history or architecture. It was the first time the public had access to the 1930s estate where the author penned his popular novels of historical fiction. Roberts received a 1957 Pulitzer Prize in the Special Awards and Citations category “for his historical novels which have long contributed to the creation of greater interest in our early American history.”

If you’re in Kennebunkport in the surrounding areas, be sure to visit the designers who played a part in making the show a success!

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Rocky Pastures: Designer Show House in the News – Wrap Up

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve last posted due to a busier summer than expected.  During the course of my absence on the web was the Design Show House at Rocky Pastures.  Based upon the feedback I received, the show was phenomenal and well-done.  So, kudos to Paula Robinson Rossouw and other designers on a tribute to a great author in Kenneth Roberts!

If you follow the Design Show House on Facebook, take time to view their posts in which the Design Show House is the focus of various media outlets.  If you are not connected to this Facebook page, go to this link.  It’s exciting to see how well received the show was!

On another note, as my Ph. D. seminar winds down, I will begin posting with more regularity again.  In the meantime, feel free to share any stories you have about Kenneth Roberts, whether it be his works, his home, or whatever related to our favorite author!

Rocky Pastures: First News From a Visitor

Well, by now the Design Show House is well under way at Rocky Pastures.  I am sure the designers are glad the show has begun to show off their creative efforts and skill.  I had a comment on one of my recent posts from a visitor (Tracey) to the show, so I thought I’d share it in a post.  Paula and other designers, read on…Tracey puts in a good word for you!

I visited Kenneth Roberts’ former home in Kennebunkport on Saturday (6/23) and was one of the first people to don protective booties and wander through the rooms of the estate. What an incredible home! And what a wonderful job all of the designers did in inspiring “ooohs” and “wows” to everyone who visited. Every room was tastefully decorated and each designer or person representing the designer was very enthusiastic about explaining what was done and why. If I could I’d have made an offer on the house that day!

Great job!  If anyone has pictures and wouldn’t mind me posting them, let me know and I’ll be glad to show everyone who can’ t make it this great event!

Rocky Pastures: Paula Robinson Rossouw Highlighed in York County Coast Star

It’s hard to believe that the Design Show House (by the Kennebunkport Historical Society) is almost upon us!  This past month has been a whirlwind of work and school for me, and as I sit here grading, I am floored by the realization that the Show House begins this Friday!

Back at the end of May, Paula Robinson Rossouw, friend of this blog and a great resource, was interviewed by the York County Coast Star in their series on the various designers for the Design Show House at Rocky Pastures (click here for the article, “Design With an Author in Mind”).  The article highlights Paula’s inspiration for her design and some unique artifacts that will be a part of the design.

While this is a great read (the whole series has been a great read; it’ll be interesting to see photos of the finished product), Paula provided me further insight into her design concept that helps to clarify the article:

Kenneth Roberts once said of his historical novels: I wanted to give the people of Maine an honest, detailed and easily understood account of how their forebears got along.” 

Paula Robinson Rossouw wanted to do the same for Kenneth Roberts: the living room and terrace at Rocky Pastures have been designed as a tribute to the famous author’s life, interests and keen sense of humor.

To represent his love of nature and his abiding belief in the advantages of dowsing, the living room has been transformed into a garden room! Plants, trees and lichen-covered stone from the estate form the backdrop to period furnishings that echo the layout of the living room during Kenneth Roberts’s lifetime.

As a historical reference point, an oil on canvas by Parisian artist Stéphanie Lecomte depicts the room as it once was. The bookshelves hold many of Kenneth Roberts’s favorite titles, thanks to William T. Graves Memorial Library. Two books from the author’s personal collection and several magazines from the Thirties featuring his articles are just some of the many treasures on display. Most items are for sale – except for certain library books and two original photographs on loan from the Brick Store Museum.

Paula Robinson Rossouw is an international interior designer. Her private and corporate clients have included Sir Richard Branson and Virgin. She is a published author and a former columnist for the Sunday Times and Sunday Telegraph in London. She has contributed articles to numerous publications over the years, including a Master Class for Move or Improve magazine.*

One thing that I’ve been impressed about with Paula is her love of Kenneth Roberts and her drive to know Roberts not just as an author (though a great author he was!), but Roberts the man, for he was curmudgeonly but humorous, intensely private but a loyal friend, and so much more. With this in mind, the title of the article in the York County Coast Star is much more than a catchy title – it’s the heart of Paula’s motivation and purpose of her design.

Again, if you’re in Kennebunkport between June 23 and July 14, take time to stop by Rocky Pastures to see the Design Show House.  Also stop by the Kennebunkport Historical Society, the Brick Store Museum, and other great local establishments devoted to the history of Kennebunkport and the great state of Maine.

Rocky Patures: The Necessity of Dogs for a “Well-Conducted Home”

Kenneth Roberts posing with his dogs by the fountain in the walled garden of Rocky Pastures. Courtesy “Vintage Maine Images” and the Maine Historical Society
http://www.vintagemaineimages.com/bin/Detail?ln=1381

Kenneth Roberts on dogs (such a great quote!): 

Dogs have always seemed to me an essential part of every well-conducted home….I had visions of leading  an ideal life in a rambling farmhouse  of great simplicity but extreme comfort…Those visions were rosy and indefinite, except for the dogs.  I had clear ideas on the dogs that would surround and inhabit the farm.  I would have several utilitarian dogs: a few setters to assist me in gunning for partridges; two springer spaniels to precede me through swamps and alder thickets during the woodcock season; a dachshund to make things uncomfortable for foxes and woodchucks that have retired to their holes; and above all I wished a lot of wire-haired terriers, for no particular reason except that they pleased me, even in their obtuse and imbecilic moments.  In all, I figured, I would need about forty dogs (“Dogs In a Big Way” in For Authors Only).

Be sure to visit Rocky Pastures, the fulfillment of Kenneth Roberts’ “ideal life in a rambling farmhouse of great simplicity but extreme comfort,” from June 23 – July 14 during the Kennebunkport Historical Society Designer Show House.

Here are Paula Robinson Rossouw’s dogs in the spot where Kenneth Roberts posed with his dogs 73 years ago. (Photo courtesy of Paula Robinson-Rossouw)

Rocky Pastures: Before There Was the Walled Garden, Part II – Rocky Pasture’s Predecessor

Perhaps I may be regarded as allergic to noise.  Possibly I am – and then, again, I may merely be one of a multitude who realize that noise is a form of torture created and tolerated by idiots.

-Kenneth Roberts in I Wanted to Write (pg. 189)

***The following is part of a series to promote Rocky Pastures and the Design Show House the Kennebunkport Historical Society is sponsoring at the estate on June 23 – July 14. You can visit the KHS site here. One of the designers, a friend of this blog, can be visited here.*** 

1 Linden Avenue, Kennebunk Beach, ME – Roberts’ predecessor to Rocky Pastures, and the subject of his essay “The Little Home in the Country.” Courtesy Portland Monthly

Kenneth Roberts’ search for solitude culminated with his building of Rocky Pastures in 1938, but as stated in my previous post, his search first led him to what he eventually called Stall Hall.

Stall Hall is the subject of his humorous essay “The Little Home in the Country” in For Authors Only.  In this essay, he comically relays his toils and trials of making his home a fortress against the outside world and the noise it brings.  I contrasts his toils of renovating Stall Hall with the supposed ease of renovating as presented by the “experts” of his day. 

These experts paint a picture of idyllic serenity, where foliage and flowers bloom with ease, and one “by digging occasionally in the damp and fragrant earth, one easily induces unbroken slumber and raises gargantuan vegetables.”   Just as easy is the remodeling of a farmhouse, where:

In most of these whimsical pieces, a young wife leads her husband into the country, shows him a semicollapsed  cottage, and talks him into buying it.  Then the two of them, with an old hammer, a borrowed saw, and a few secondhand nails, proceed to hammer it into perfect condition.

Little did he know, he would be renovating or remodeling some aspect of Stall Hall practically every year he lived there.  He says:

I do…desire to cry a bitter cry against the manner in which occupants of little homes in the country, and prospective occupants of such homes, are led to embark on ventures without being warned of the grief that may await them if they permit themselves, as I once did, to believe implicitly in catalogs and incomplete directions.

In honor, I’m sure, of his toils with Stall Hall, Roberts’ developed a motto for his home, “Nobody Ever Told Me About That.”  As stated in my previous post, the solitude of the area in which Stall Hall resided would soon be disturbed by the “first green, first and second fairways, and second tee” of Webhannet Golf Course (see an article dated in Oct. 2010 on the then-sale of Stall Hall from which this quote came) and his neighbor’s garages.  Upon making the decision of devoting his energies to writing historical fiction, Roberts, along with his friend Booth Tarkington, purchased another stable nearby and converted it into a “New England-Spanish workshop with a courtyard capable (I fondly imagined) of frustrating people determined to drop in for a cozy chat when I was most eager to work” (I Wanted to Write, 169).  He would name this Blue Roof.

I’ve yet to find in any of the resources I have what Roberts’ thought of Rocky Pastures after its construction, but I can only imagine that he had found what he was looking for.  Surrounded by natural beauty, his study walled in by the walled garden-far away from any neighbor or golf course-and separated from the highway by a half mile driveway, Roberts could now write without the distraction of the world.

***Note: Stall Hall was for sale at the publishing of the Oct. 2010 article “Kenneth Roberts and His Beloved Money Pit” in the online version of Portland Monthly. According to verani.com, Stall Hall sold in March of 2011 for $755,000.

View of the outside of the walled garden from potting shed. Courtesy of Paula Robinson Rossouw

The french doors of the study lead out to the walled garden. Immediately to the left upon exiting is the water feature. Photo courtesy of Paula Robinson Rossouw.

The last photo here is of Roberts’ study today.  This room, among others in the house, will be transformed by various designers, including Paula Robinson Rossouw, from June 23 – July 14.  Be sure to visit!

Rocky Pastures: Before There Was the Walled Garden, Part I

Walled Garden with the water feature (missing the statue). One can only imagine the greenery and flowers that filled this garden. Photo courtesy of Paula Robinson Rossouw.

***The following is part of a series to promote Rocky Pastures and the Design Show House the Kennebunkport Historical Society is sponsoring at the estate on June 23 – July 14. You can visit the KHS site here. One of the designers, a friend of this blog, can be visited here.***

In his biography, I Wanted to Write, Kenneth Roberts tells of his search for a quiet place in which to do his research and writing undisturbed.  The genesis of this long search for solitude is difficult for me to pin down (in I Wanted to Write, page 143, in the midst of retelling his travels in Europe as a foreign correspondent on immigration [I believe this is correct], which is roughly around 1919 if my reading is correct), but what can be said is that Robert searched high and low in both Europe and America for his ideal spot in which to write in peace. 

Roberts’ first attempt was an old stable he converted into a home and named Stall Hall (the subject of Part II of this post).  Though he spent several years at this place, his wish for complete solitude was not fully realized due to the nearby golf course and the encroaching neighbors.  In his essay “The Little Home in the Country,” Roberts says of Stall Hall: 

No subtle premonition warned me that the local golf club might build a practice tee beneath my workroom windows: no ominous portent indicated that neighbors would feel an urge to place garages in my front and rear.

One method Roberts pursued to gain privacy from his neighbors and the seasonal golfers utilized his love of nature.  In “The Little Home in the Country,” Roberts provides a humorous account of his trials and errors when trying to plant bushes and vines that were to serve as a barrier to the outside world.

The focus of Roberts’ wit and sarcasm are those “persons who write whimsical pieces for the papers, giving readers the idea that a farmhouse can be remodeled as cheaply and as easily as one can buy a second-hand automobile.”  The implicit target of his humor and sarcasm, though, is himself and his sometimes futile attempts at growing greenery with the ease promised by the experts in the nurserymen’s annuals.  Roberts tells of his battle with unruly hedges (the Laurel-leaf Willow), stout snout beetles that were to ants as cows are to humans, and fruitless fruit trees.  Roberts most trying battle was with the bittersweet vines. 

In the case of my vines…the tip of each bittersweet tendril acts as a summer resort for innumerable aphids; and when these tips rest against a painted surface, the aphids leave unsightly smudges on it – smudges that can be obliterated only with two coats of paint.

The tendrils are long and springy.  When pruned, they sway convulsively, slapping the pruner across the mouth with tips heavily populated with aphids. As a result, for every five minutes spent by the pruner on bittersweet vines, he spends five hours removing aphids from himself…

Roberts search for solitude, then, seemed elusive while at Stall Hall considering his battles with encroaching golfers and neighbors, and the endless pursuit for the perfectly behaving greenery.

Roberts' study opened into the walled garden. These two spots best encapsulate Roberts and his passions. Photo courtesy of Paula Robinson Rossouw.

When Roberts built Rocky Pastures, though, he succeeded in finding his long sought-for solitude by having his study surrounded by a walled garden.  Though the walled garden is now more of a walled courtyard, one can only imagine the greenery and flowers adording the walled garden, easily viewable from Roberts’ study.  In my opinion, these two spots – more than any other at Rocky Pastures (except the duck pond) – encapsulate Kenneth Roberts the man, especially his passions.

Roberts’ hard-earned solitude was not easily gained though, as recounted above.  In addition to his yearly battle with nature, Roberts had to fight yearly with Stall Hall itself…

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