Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Book Review

I'm starting to write this book review after noting that Blogger has a Save feature.  I kind of knew the feature was there, just wasn't too sure about how well it would work. I won't be publishing this right away.

But I really want to write about this book.
I don't have anything good to say about it..

This is the book.
THE book
I heard about it from a fellow SBHS board member.  She found it while browsing at the library.  I reserved a copy...placed it on hold...and headed down the next evening to see what I was missing!

I wasn't missing much other than a good deal of aggravation!  The majority of the text is about Dogtown rocks and boulders.  Mostly it covers material already covered in previously published books by other authors.  And they did a better job of it. In fact, the only new information in this book seems to be an analysis of the lettering styles on the Babson Boulders.  Wow!  The author says that the various styles proves that they were carved by several people!  No kidding.  (Or...maybe one guy was just having some fun trying out new styles?  No, not that, but a little lack of research can be a dangerous thing.)

She goes on to indicate that there are numerous Native American cairns in the area woods.  Well, maybe, I say.  But after reading the next section of suppositions and fictionturnedtofact by Ms. Gage, in my opinion doubt is cast upon everything from her pen.
The stone mounds
Ms. Gage claims that the stone mounds at the Haskins Estate (Haskins Park, Poole's Hill) are Native American cairns.  Or to be specific, the cairns are under the neat covering stones.  She feels that these loose rock cairns were not in keeping with the other stonework of the estate claiming that their covering stones are not cemented out of respect to the origins.  She indicates that the pools were cemented stone, as well as the entry pillars.  But what about the 'dry' stone walls?  No cement there.  Even much of the foundation work was not cemented. The author would have done better to have researched more thoroughly before adding guesswork and misinformation to her publication.  If she had really wanted to convey the truth about the mounds, rather than making them into something she wants them to be, she would have found out that the mounds are most likely just the remnants of clearing the land for Haskins to build his estate in 1892.  The hill was originally referred to as Popple Hill because of the enormous amount of stones covering its surface. Oh and that was 1892 NOT the 1880's as claimed by Ms. Gage. the early 1960's, Frank Glynn, a noted Connecticut archaeologist examined the stone mounds of the Haskins estate and found nothing predating "American flowerpot".  Sorry Ms. Gage.

As to the rest of Ms. Gage's suppositions about the Haskins property...
The upper pool 2012
The lower pool 2012
She writes:  "In the wooded area beyond the lawn he built stone-lined landscaping pools...The pipes were part of an elaborate landscape pool system...The pipes were used to add aesthetics to the water flowage from pool to pool...The vertical pipe produced a bubbly fountain affect...The horizontal pipe added an additional quantity of water at the bottom to create a waterfall affect into the lower pool.  It was an illusion amplified by the sound of a waterfall...The pools...were not part of a formal garden...This is the complete opposite of the gently rolling open lawn..."  She continues to add that there were paths through the woods meandering around the landscape pools.  Hah. 
Period photo showing the upper pool in its manicured setting
Truly in error. Had she done a bit of research at the SBHS (which is just down the hill from Haskins Park), Ms. Gage would have found many photographs showing just the opposite of the landscaping details she goes on about.  If she had checked around, she even could have spoken to former residents of the property!  Indeed, the 'wooded' pools WERE a part of the formal landscape. The 'top' pool was a swimming pool, not just a landscape feature!  The bottom pool was a run-off pool for overflow from the pool above.  Both pools had beautiful 'island' gardens.
An aerial view c.1930.  The double set of pools shown as numbers 5 and 6 and obviously included within the lawn area.
A slightly different view from the upper pool.  House to left, cottage to right.  Stone mounds surrounded by young trees and shrubs just right of middle.

And the pipes that Ms. Gage is sure were for the elaborate landscaping pools?  Mr. Haskins had a complex  system of pipes because he was providing his own water supply for the estate.  Pumps drew well water up into the estate's own storage tank and then the resulting pressure from the elevated tank supplied the water to the houses and to the barn.  You can find the remains of these pipes all over the woods in the area because the burned leftovers of the buildings were bulldozed off to the sides taking all the piping along.

Ms. Gage also claims to have found a cistern near the cottage.  What she fails to realize is that her 'cistern' was actually a cesspool.  One of two on the property.  A shame to mix up those usages!
Photo taken during the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 showing the water tower in the background.
Ms. Gage's lack of thorough research about the Haskins property leads me to wonder about all her other suppositions presented as facts and the feeling that this is a book she should have never published.  Thank goodness she only paid to have 100 copies printed!

Sorry, Ms. Gage, that's just how I see it after a year of research.


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