Saturday, June 16, 2012

The McCallum Home


Mavis McCallum loves her home and she loves to show it off.

The home, Shady Nook, was built by the Lange Brothers in 1947. It contains both Canadian and German design motifs. There is the squirrel shape cut out of the window shutters, and little acorns carved on the ends of railings. 

The McCallum’s moved here from the home next door in 1999. They have been careful stewards of the home ever since their move. Mavis, with a keen eye for interior design, has set up nearly every room in the house for presentation and entertaining. They have worked to maintain the original character of the home while turning it into their own space. The walls are decorated with Tom’s fascinating artwork and the backyard has been transformed into an area for regularly entertaining friends, family, and guests.  

On Tuesday Mavis took my group on a tour of her home, showing us each room and pointing out each fine detail. Here is the name of the home, Shady Nook, lovingly carved into the mantle above the fire place, there is the spot where the incinerator chute was covered up, and be sure to notice the three spindles on each step up to the second floor. In every room be sure to look at the wonderful woodwork detailing done by the Lange family.

While there was much to marvel at on the first and second floors it was in the basement that the greatest discoveries awaited our spying eyes and inquisitive minds.

We descend the stairs into the basement onto yet another room designed with the specific intention of entertaining.  Comfortable couches and chairs populate the room, and on one wall there is an elegant and well stocked bar. Next to the bar there is something that looks like an old chest. This, Mavis explains, is a century old phonograph she inherited from a woman in Fox Lake and she inherited records to go with it. Does she have the records! Blues and jazz from the 1920’s and 1930’s! My eyes light up and chill goes down my spine. What I wouldn’t give to have a collection like this! Columbia! Paramount! The collection reads like a best of list for the era: “Ma” Rainey, Tampa Red, Lonnie Johnson, and many others.  Mavis takes one of the vinyl discs and places it on the ancient machine’s turn table and drops the needle. As the group falls silent the magical voice of Ma Rainey crackles out of the old box and fills the rooms creating a temporal rift which transports us to another time and place. This is how recorded music was meant to be heard. I assure Mavis that I will be back to catalog this amazing collection.

The final surprise of the day was also found in the basement: a fully functional kitchen. Just beyond the furnished rooms Mavis has installed an oven, a refrigerator, and a sink. She has everything needed to prepare a very large meal for a very large family. This is a truly unique home space, how many homes do you know of that have a complete second kitchen tucked away in the basement? When we interview Mavis we will have to discuss this kitchen and learn more about its origins and use.

The first week of the BLC field school has been exciting and edifying. I am happy I was able to try my hand at measuring and drawing the home of Mavis and Tom McCallum. They are amongst the most exciting and interesting homeowners we have met so far. I am looking forward to the coming weeks as we continue to work to document the homes and spaces of Thurston Woods and hear the stories of those who live and work there.