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Friday, September 23, 2016

Construction at the Hannah, and a pipkin



The Hannah Callowhill Stage is currently a roofless construction site that cannot be described as a building, let along a theater, without some intense and stubborn imagination. Things are going swimmingly, though, and I don't necessarily mean because a recent deluge left a pond-sized puddle of water in the middle of the janky slab.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

History of the Hannah: Cyberstalking Daniel Williams, Part 3 of 3

Slavery


Click here for Part 1 of Daniel Williams's story.

Click here for Part 2 of Daniel Williams's story.

Before we take up Daniel's story again, a brief photographic interlude! Back in Part 1, I mentioned the Schuylkill Fishing Company, an exclusive men's social club (drunken pseudo-Masonic frat) which Daniel Williams was a member of from at least 1760. According to their wiki page, they erected a monument on the banks of the Schuylkill River in 1947, so on a whim, Matt and I stopped on the way home and found it. Spoiler: from the road, it kind of looks like an electrical junction box, to be honest. And the elements have not been kind to the engraving, which reads:

Friday, August 26, 2016

History of the Hannah: Cyberstalking Daniel Williams, Part 2 of 3

The Revolutionary War


Click here for Part 1 of Daniel Williams's story.

When we left off, Daniel Williams was a successful merchant who bought 103 Callowhill Street on March 6, 1770. For the next part of the story, in which I look at Daniel and his family's lives during the Revolutionary War (1775-1783), I first want to backtrack slightly.

Daniel and his family were Quakers, and the Revolutionary War posed a problem for Quakerism because one of the major tenets of the religion is strict pacifism. Quakers could be kicked out of the society, aka disunited, aka disowned, aka "read out" during Monthly Meeting, for engaging in any kind of conflict or warlike training or even just for carrying a weapon; their philosophy was that any and all violence is wrong, even for the purpose of self defense.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

History of the Hannah: Cyberstalking Daniel Williams, Part 1 of 3

Since pulling a bunch of artifacts out of an 18th-Century privy, I have unsurprisingly thrown myself into expanding the scope and detail of my initial historical investigation of 103 Callowhill Street. Back then, all I could find to cover the period between Benjamin Mifflin's 1745 deed and 1872 was a single notice for a sheriff's sale in 1770. WELL NO LONGER. An advertisement Matt found in a 19th century newspaper gave me another name which I was able to use as a key to unlock the missing deeds and information. Behold, the very-nearly-almost-complete provenance of 103 Callowhill Street!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Artifacts from the Hannah Callowhill Stage


In my previous blog post, I mentioned the presence of large holes for structural elements that were being dug around the perimeter of the inside of the building. What I didn't mention is that while I was there that day, I found the base of an old wine bottle sitting half-buried in a pile of dirt:
Photo on left taken on-site, photo on right taken at home after cleaning
This excellent site on dating old bottles informed me that since there are pontil scars on the bottom and no side seams, the bottle was hand-blown and therefore definitely pre-Civil-War, ooh! A few hours later, Matt also stopped by the construction site after work, combed through some of the soil with his hands and discovered pottery sherds.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Hannah Callowhill Stage: Loan acquired! Construction begins!

Have you ever seriously said the words "I am going to spend about half a million dollars"?
Who am I. What is this life.
I had not, until I bought a theater. These are words that strike terror, and a good dose of imposter syndrome and existential anxiety, into my cheap little DIY artist heart.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Contacted by a Brisbanite with ancestral ties to 103 Callowhill Street

I have some construction news about the Hannah Callowhill Stage, and it's good! But I don't want to tell you about it until after Friday, when (hopefully, if even mentioning it doesn't jinx me) the deal will be closed.

In the meantime, for all the lovers of historical minutiae out there, let me tell you with inhumanly wide eyes about an e-mail I got from a stranger named Lyndon Garbutt a few weeks ago. I'm reprinting it with permission here:
Hi Melissa

I thought I’d reach out to you, as I stumbled across your website/facebook post on the history of the Callowhill Stage building you are renovating and thought you may be interested in some further information.

To explain this random email - ironically I am researching the history of my own property in your home town, Brisbane.  My apartment was used by Madame Lotte Lehmann as her residence during her 1939 season at Brisbane City Hall.  I had googled ‘Lotte Lehmann’ ‘Brisbane’ and due to you having won an award and coming from Brisbane you were one of the hits.  It sparked my interest as I it looked out of place and I wanted to work out why.  I then noticed you were in Philadelphia and my ancestors were some of the original Quakers who settled there with William Penn.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

The Hannah Callowhill Stage: Eyes on the Prize

Eyes on the prize, Melissa. Eyes on the goddamn prize.

What's the prize? The Hannah Callowhill Stage, with two apartments on top, one to live in and one to rent out, making this whole crazy theater venture financially viable.

What's in the way? A sum of money that doesn't seem all that astronomical if you live in Sydney or San Francisco, or if you earn maybe twice as much as we do, or if you're not in the arts. But to us, it's staggering. And it's money on top of what we paid for the property already.

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Lola Ridge songs, in one convenient blog post

Three generations of women composers at the Volti Choral Institute: me (duh), high school senior Morgan Orsolini, whose choral work Awaken Again was among those performed, and the incomparable composer/pianist/conductor Sue Bohlin

A few weeks ago, I returned to frigid Philadelphia from California and immediately came down with a nasty case of the flu. My bad for procrastinating getting a flu shot this year until I forgot about it, but I'm also feeling some animosity toward the lady who open-mouth-coughed on me at the Saint Louis Airport on the trip home. I'm sure it was her. 

Then my cat Tripoli passed away last week. She was about 14 and it was her time to go, but both Matt and I are still a bit choked-up over it.

It's time to get back on the horse, though, especially since I am in happy possession of the results of my California trip: live recordings of all of my Lola Ridge songs.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

My chickenshit Bohemian Grove adventure

I am writing from the Volti Choral Institute, where about 60 absolutely lovely and lovely-voiced Californian teenaged women are singing my three Lola Ridge pieces (they've already made me tear up in rehearsal). I'll post some video from the camp in due course, hopefully, but I have to document something very important first.

Shortly after I arrived, I was discussing with Barbara, the Executive Director of Volti, what I might do to occupy my time this afternoon, when the girls were taking workshops and classes unrelated to my compositions. "I guess I'll just explore the area."
"Have you heard of the Bohemian Club?"
"Is that ... you mean like Bohemian Grove?"
"Yes, Bohemian Grove is right here."

WHAT.

Sure enough, I looked at a map.