01 September 2011

The Shackletons Make A Home

Long before Mr. Blandings built his dream house, Elizabeth and Robert Shackleton set out on similar path with their Adventures in Home-Making. As best as I can tell, their house sat somewhere in upstate New York, as they are always mentioning items they bought there, though they often mention items from other far away places, like Pennsylvania! Published in 1922, the book takes you on a virtual room-by-room tour of fixing up and decorating.

After looking around for their dream house, the Shackletons paid $10,000 for this house, barns and eleven acres.

Upon seeing the house they remarked that the, "outward ugliness gave us pause."

The barn would later be painted and stone columns added.

Time marches on...

...and the ugly house becomes a home. While the Shackletons are more than happy to tell us what they paid at the outset, the book is rather lacking on such details as how long it took for their transformation and what their additional costs were. In the section on the bedrooms we are told:

"It was surprising that there were quite so many changes to make as we found necessary; ordinarily, the home-maker would not find, in a house that was finally to fit his ideas, quite so much that needed altering; but that we did find so much to do, both outside and in, will the better show that any one who loves his home and aims to make it comfortable to his ideas can freely alter and transform and successfully meet innumerable obstacles with simple expedients. It is an excellent idea, and worthy of repetition, that luck may be counted upon as one of the resources of the confident home-maker."

Yes, the writing is a bit purple, and run on, but it is quite charming. After reading and re-reading, I am still not sure of the exact bedroom count in the house. I must say, however, that I am hoping, as a "confident home-maker," that luck will always be on my side.

One of joys of old books is finding that special something tucked or written inside. (Generally, I loath anything scribbled inside a book, but I am giving this a pass, largely because they though enough to quote poetry, especially poetry that I love.) On the front free endpaper was this drawing, a quote from William Butler Yeats and a list, one might assume, of the people giving this book as a gift.

The quote is from one of my favorite Yeats poems. As a child, Yeats' father read to him from Henry David Thoreau's Walden, and the impact of those early readings can be seen here.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I WILL arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

Ah, to live alone in a bee-loud glade...


  1. Its curious this story can engage you to mysterious ways to modify your house.

  2. I just finished reading Elizabeth Shackleton's TOURING THROUGH FRANCE circa 1925 and found your blog as I thumbed through net looking up citations for more info on her. You could write a post on every page of TOURING, the country character, customs, costumes, extant circa 1925, yet, mostly, vanished now...or self-conscious re-creations of past... things not rooted in daily routine and neccessity. Delighted to read your post! ALL of your posts! I have read many of your entries and will try to savor & enjoy each and every one! I thought I found a facebook link, but then lost it...? Oh my, did you really throw a party for Scott & Zelda? I'm pinching myself! I'm following you now, so can't wait for your next post...Sharknado hilarious! Cindy

    1. Cindy,

      Welcome. One could do a whole "Shackleton" blog. Yes, we do love having "theme" parties. If only Scottand Zelda had been in a Sharknado!


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