Kenneth Roberts in the News: Northwest Passage and Historical Town Markers

I believe that I can safely assert that Kenneth Roberts is no longer nationally known like he was just 50 years ago. I know that I had not heard of him growing up; it wasn’t until 1992 or so – as a junior in high school – that I picked up Rabble in Arms on a whim for a book report. Despite his lack of national recognition today, however, he is still known around his old stomping grounds of New England, particularly Maine and New Hampshire (at least Portsmouth, NH). Bookstores in the area carry rare copies of his books, news sites and libraries occasionally will write up a nostalgia piece on Roberts or his work. There was even an interior decorator event that took place at Roberts’ estate, Rocky Pastures back in 2012. In short, the memory of Roberts is alive and well in New England.

Portsmouth, NH; By http://maps.bpl.org – Bird’s eye view of Portsmouth, Rockingham Co., New Hampshire

What I find interesting when it comes to New England’s memory of Roberts is not so much of what they remember of the man; rather, it is in how they use their memories of him. For instance, J. Dennis Robinson at Seacoastonline.com recently penned a piece on an historical area in Portsmouth, NH. As is the case with many cities and towns in America, developers are wanting to transform a historical section of Portsmouth – the McIntyre block – with modern condos and posh hotels. In doing so, the developers will seek to “honor” the history of the McIntyre block (I place honor in quotes because – let’s face it – most developers care less about history and more about the almighty dollar).

In his piece, Robinson recounts the various buildings that stood in the McIntyre block, the people who bequeathed the land to Portsmouth, and other important historical notes of the area. In doing so, Robinson seeks to remind the citizens of Portsmouth that the building there are more than just buildings – they are physical reminders of where the town has been and of who they are (in light of their past).

Stoodley’s Tavern, courtesy WalkPortsmouth.blogspot.com

I found Robinson’s piece interesting (as one who is unfamiliar with Portsmouth history) in various ways, but particularly in his conjuring up of Kenneth Roberts. Earlier, I noted that it is interesting how New Englanders remember Roberts; Robinson serves as an excellent illustration. One building that was a part of the McIntyre block was an old tavern called Stoodley’s Tavern, which was once owned by a ranger with Roger’s Rangers. To help his readers “remember” this tavern, Robinson points to the tavern’s key role in Roberts’ Northwest Passage:

Stoodley’s Tavern is a key setting in the novel “Northwest Passage” by Kenneth Roberts, and in a 1940 Hollywood film of the same name. Technically, the historic visit by Robert Rogers depicted in the book and film took place at Stoodley’s first tavern on State Street. But his Daniel Street establishment was visited by Paul Revere as Portsmouth citizens planned their raid on Fort William and Mary at New Castle in 1774.

It’s one thing for a fan of Roberts to point out this connection; it’s quite another to use the reference of Northwest Passage as a memory marker in a publicized article. It goes to show that there are still readers out there who are well-versed enough to catch Robinson’s reference.

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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!

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 Pastures: Designer Show House in the News

As we get closer to the Rocky Pastures Designer Show House, the show is making the rounds in the news.  Seacoastonline.com posted an article titled “Show House to be Summer Highlight” in which they highlight the event and point out that this is the first time the estate has been open to the public.  IN addition they highlight some of the designers for the Designer Show House, particularly  Bree Clark, of Wright Interiors in Kennebunkport and Cathy Rowe of Kennebunk’s Well Dressed Interiors, who will be designing the family room.

Again, the dates are June 23 – July 14, and visit the Kennebunkport Historical Society website regarding tickets.  If you live in the area, don’t regret missing this event!

Kenneth Roberts in the News: “The wreck of the Wandby near Walker’s Point”

I’m quickly becoming a fan of Sharon Cummins‘ work – her brief glimpses into neglected or forgotten events of America’s past (particularly Maine, if I’m not mistaken).  The most recent article I’ve found – “The wreck of the Wandby near Walker’s Point”  (www.seacoastonline.com) – discusses the shipwreck of the Wandby in 1921 in which she briefly mentions Kenneth Roberts, which affords us a glimpse at Kenneth Roberts interacting with the events of his time.

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