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Porto, the Unvanquished City


I bring you some photographs of the city I was born in, Porto (or Oporto), in Portugal, from around the Edwardian Era. This is the second biggest city in Portugal, and one with a very rich history. It is known as the “Cidade Invicta”, or the “Unvanquished City”, for standing undefeated against many invasions.

Santa Catarina Road, circa 1875
Saint Anthony Hospital, circa 1900


In 1911 there were almost 190 000 people living in Porto, a city that gathered a lot of merchants and artists. Only one year before Portugal had had a revolution that put an end to the Monarchy and started the First Portuguese Republic, which would last for almost two decades.

Royal Theater of São João (St John), circa 1900

Since the city rests by the sea, its population was always very trade oriented, and it had a large bourgeois class (as opposite to Lisbon, the capital, where the nobility and the politicians lived). In the 19th century the city had a industrial revolution and turned itself into a very important hub in the Atlantic.

Lello Library, circa 1905 (still exists today)
D. Maria Bridge, circa 1877

This made it so many artists and creators of some sort went to Porto at least once. This bridge, for example, was built by Gustave Eiffel, known for the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty. This affluence turned Porto into a modern city, with a lot of caffés, theaters, bookshops, gardens, fairs, and exhibitions.

Clerigos Street, circa 1897


The outskirts of the city, though, were still very dedicated to agriculture (although decreasingly so). It was there that the famous Oporto wine was made, and still is, and the beverage was already one of the main trades of the city, and even the country.

Nossa Senhora da Guia Beach, circa 1900
Grand Hotel, circa 1900


Chinez Coffee Shop, circa 1907

And finally, some illustrations and older photographs of this quaint city by the river. I hope you liked this gallery!

Crystal Palace Museum, 1879
circa 1881
Alidos Avenue, circa 1900
Cordoaria Garden, circa 1900s


Before & After in a Birmingham slum


The late Victorian and Edwardian eras were the epoch of slum clearances. Philanthropists, Fabians, and the newfangled city councils were determined to stamp out poverty with action as opposed to donating sums to charities and hoping it would reach those in need. Yet, the process of clearing tenements and building more sanitary living spaces and council flats was controversial: the poor were forcibly ejected from their homes with no place to go, and frequently, these new buildings charged higher rents than the former tenants could afford.

In 1907, Birmingham had a population of a little over half a million, all of whom lived in 100,000 tenements–half were of four rooms or less, and 30-40,000 of the other half were of the back-to-back type. In one area, conditions were so poor, the death rate was 32 per 1,000, as opposed to 16 per 1,000 for the whole city.

In the year 1904, Dr. Robinson, the Medical Officer of Health for Birmingham, described the kind of dwellings dealt with by the [Housing Committee] as follows :—

A large proportion of the houses are badly constructed, and have unhealthy surroundings. Most of these have damp floors in the lower rooms through the tiles being laid on the bare earth. The walls are damp from absence of any damp course, from defective brickwork and pointing, and from defective spouting. The woodwork is decayed and rotten from damp. The surfaces of the walls and ceilings are not smooth and hard, and therefore allow of the accumulation of dust and dirt. In many cases the filth of ages is accumulated above the lathing of the ceilings and behind skirting boards and wooden dados erected to hide damp.

In addition to the above, the environment of such houses is distinctly bad. In many there is insufficiency of daylight. In a large number there is no chance of getting a reasonable supply of fresh air, from the fact that the houses are built in crowded courts.

In many of these courtyards pan closets still exist. The stench from these, even when the pans are empty, pervades the courtyard, and can be smelled in the interior of the houses. These closets, like the houses, are of the cheapest and most slim construction. They are constantly getting out of repair. They are, like the yards, used by more than one house, and it is only reasonable to expect that one tenant will object to cleanse away filth made by another.

Between January 1902 and December 1906, the Birmingham City Council Housing Department demolished and condemned buildings, repaired tenements, and built new housing for the poor at a cost of £30,000


Birmingham slum


Birmingham slum

Birmingham slum


Birmingham slum


Birmingham slum

Housing Up-to-date (1907)

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Downton Abbey in America: 15 Places to Visit to Recapture the Drama


Since most of us can’t pop over to England to wander about the halls and gardens of their great country estate, I thought I’d highlight a few of our homegown country houses that are just a car ride, or a plane trip, away. I have purposely omitted the Newport Mansions since they are a given.

Leland Stanford House

Sacramento, California

Leland Stanford Mansion – Stanford was one of the “Big Four,” which was the name given to the entrepreneurs behind bringing the Central Pacific Railroad to the West Coast. He was also briefly governor of California in the 1860s, and was later senator for the state. As one of the wealthiest men in California, he needed a home to reflect his standing, and his original 4,000-square-foot home was expanded to 19,000 square feet in 1871-72. (I once saw Arnold Schwarzenegger standing on its steps when he was Governor!)

Flagler Museum

Palm Beach, Florida

Whitehall (otherwise known as Henry Morrison Flagler Museum) – During the early 1900s, many wealthy Americans escaped the winter cold for Palm Beach, thus creating yet another colony of the super-rich. This was mostly at the instigation of Henry Flagler, one of the founders of Standard Oil, who was a key figure in the development of eastern Florida. Whitehall was built for Flagler’s third wife, and at three stories and with fifty-five rooms, was one of the largest winter homes in the area.

Biltmore House

Asheville, North Carolina

Biltmore – George Washington Vanderbilt II was quiet in comparison to his brothers, but he contributed to the Vanderbilt tradition of building grand homes all the same. Biltmore was seven years in the making, and not only employed a large number of people to clear the land and build George’s “little mountain escape,” but was designed to be self-sufficient like a real English country estate (with a poultry farm, dairy, etc).

Ventfort Hall

Lenox, Massachusetts

Ventfort Hall – This Jacobean-style mansion was built in the early 1890s for J.P. Morgan’s sister Sarah and her husband George Morgan. Situated in the heart of the Berkshires, then the place for an autumn retreat, it comprised of “50 rooms in a total of 28,000 square feet (2,600 m2) of living space, including 9 main bedrooms and 10 servant’s bedrooms, 7 bathrooms, and 17 fireplaces.”

Winterthur House

Winterthur, Delaware

Winterthur – Built by wealthy collector and horticulturist Henry Francis du Pont in the spirit of European country homes, Henry opened his home to the public in 1951. The house has “175 period-room displays and approximately 85,000 objects,” of which “spans more than two centuries of American decorative arts” and a library that “includes more than 87,000 volumes and approximately 500,000 manuscripts and images, mostly related to American history, decorative arts, and architecture.”

Pittock Mansion

Portland, Oregon

Pittock Mansion – Built by Portland tycoon Henry Pittock in 1909, this French Renaissance-style “château” has 22 rooms on 46 acres and provides a panoramic view of Downtown Portland.

Jenison, Michigan

Husband-Hanchett-Tiffany House – The Jenison twins, Lucius and Luman, built their fortune in lumber. When the brothers died in 1899, Margaret Hubbard, their bookkeeper, used the legacy they left to her to build this two-story, ten bedroom mansion.

Kimberly Crest

Redlands, California

Kimberly Crest – Though the home is named after John Alfred Kimberly, a co-founder of Kimberly-Clark paper company, who purchased the home in 1905, it was actually built in 1897 for Mrs. Cornelia A. Hill, one of the pioneers of Redlands. Its near duplicate is The Magic Castle, a nightclub for magicians and magic enthusiasts, that was built in Hollywood in 1909. The most striking feature of Kimberley Crest is its 6 ¼ acre Italianate garden.


Hyde Park, New York

Springwood – the birthplace and lifelong home of 32rd President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Nemours Mansion

Wilmington, Delaware

Nemours – Another Du Pont home, this one a 300-acre classical French mansion and estate built in 1909-10 by Alfred I. du Pont. The garden, in the French formal style, is patterned after the gardens of Versailles surrounding the Petit Trianon, and is the largest of its kind in North America. Inside are rare French 18th century furniture, artworks ranging from 16th century religious works to early works by Americans Frederic Remington and Sidney Lawrence, and a rare Louis XVI musical clock, which plays four different tunes on a dulcimer and pipe organ.

Glessner House

Chicago, Illinois

Glessner House – Located on Prairie Avenue, the preeminent address for Chicago’s Gilded Age elite, Glessner House was built in the late 1880s for John and Frances Glessner. Glessner earned his wealth in farm machinery manufacturing, and his firm and four others merged to form International Harvester, which became the fourth largest corporation in the country. The home was built to include a courtyard, which let in copious amounts of natural light in all corners of the house, and this distinct design raised the eyebrows of Glessner’s more traditional neighbors.

Decatur House

Washington, D.C.

Decatur House – This house is unique in that the first floor is decorated in the style of its year of origin (1818) and the upper floor is decorated in the style of its heyday (early 1900s), and it has one of the few examples of slave quarters in an urban area. So the house focuses on both the changes made to its interiors over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries and on lives of its African-American inhabitants.

Vaile Mansion

Independence, Missouri

Vaile Mansion – From the official website, which couldn’t describe it any better: “Built by Colonel and Mrs. Harvey Vaile in 1881. The 31 room mansion includes 9 marble fireplaces, spectacular painted ceilings, flushing toilets, a built-in 6,000 gallon water tank, and a 48,000 gallon wine cellar. This mansion is one of the best examples of Second Empire style architecture in the United States. David McCullough, author of TRUMAN was awarded the 1993 Pulitzer Prize in Biography for his book. On page 51, McCullough describes the Vaile: ‘The Vaile house on North Liberty, the showiest house in Independence, was a towering stone-trimmed, red brick Victorian wedding cake, with thirty-one rooms and Carrara marble fireplaces. The Vaile stable had mahogany paneled stalls. There was a greenhouse and four full time gardeners. If Harvey Vaile, who made his money in “pure water” and contract mail delivery, was not the richest man in town, he certainly lived as though he were.'”

McFaddin-Ward House

Beaumont, Texas

McFaddin-Ward House – The McFaddins were wealthy Texan ranchers, and this 12,800-square-foot Beaux-Arts Colonial Revival style mansion was built for William P.H. McFaddin in 1905-06. Also built the around the same time was an equally large carriage house, which had a stable, hayloft, garage, gymnasium and servant’s quarters.

Victoria Mansion

Portland, Maine

Victoria Mansion – This brownstone Italianate villa was completed in 1860 as a summer home for hotelier Ruggles Sylvester Morse, who died in 1893. The house and its contents were then sold to Joseph Ralph Libby, a Portland merchant. Opulent and ostentatious as were most homes built by wealthy Americans during the 19th century, it also boasted the latest amenities, including wall-to-wall carpeting, central heating, gas lighting, and hot and cold running water.