Monday, May 23, 2011

Adventures in Lecturedom, Part One

I think I left my heart in Cincinnati.

From the moment I walked up the steps of the Cincinnati Hilton (née the Netherland Plaza Hotel), I knew this would be no ordinary adventure.

Would you feast your eyes on this lobby?

A quick Google search revealed that the 1931 building is among the finest surviving examples of French Art Deco -- Brazilian rosewood panelling, silver-nickel light fixtures, soaring murals -- and was used as a model for the Empire State Building.

It was very "The Hudsucker Proxy." All that was missing was Tim Robbins and a hula hoop.

I had a double capuccino in the restaurant the next morning and basked in the glow of all that flattering lighting. For a few brief moments, I was un-jet-lagged and bags-under-the-eyes-free.

Suitably caffeine-laden, I walked two short blocks to the Mercantile Library to meet up with the ever-so-charming Albert Pyle, the library's Executive Director and his Literary Programs Manager, Mary Gruber.

Stepping off the 1oth floor elevator, I was greeted by this lovely vignette.
Light meets dark.
Curved meets straight.
Strong meets delicate.
Blogger meets smitten.

Then, on the other side of the heavy oak entrance doors, this.

To say The Mercantile Library is merely a readers' refuge is to grossly understate the emotional effect it has on a visitor. There's a palpable beauty to the interior that's inexpressibly poetic.

Honestly, the heart soars.

Mary beckoned me over to a table artfully propped with books. "I put a few things together I thought you'd like," she said.

I was so touched. In front of me was a collection of first editions by English writer Beverley Nichols. (And you know how I love my Beverley Nichols.)

Will you promise not to laugh if I tell you that I caressed their covers and spines and inhaled their papery scent with an ardent abandon?

In addition to Mr. Nichols, Mary had also chosen a selection of rare design books for me to pore over, including this uber-cult one by Edith Wharton. Leafing through it was so heart-poundingly exciting I was in need of a beta blocker.

Everywhere, everywhere, there were cozy reading areas just begging for you to sink into them.

I love the brass reclining rails on these vintage armchairs. Why can't La-Z-Boys be like this?

And can we discuss the color palette of these books for a minute? I want to design a room around all those muted jewel tones and gold accents. There's an incandescence to them that makes them almost seem lit from within.

Up at the far end of the room was a raised platform where Mary told me I would be speaking that night. So crazy chic. My heart did a quick Riverdance (72.2% excitement/26.4% trepidation/1.6% all-out fear), but I'm pretty sure she didn't notice.

The library recently went a multi-million dollar makeover and I love that they kept the original steel stacks from 1902. How great is the chalk writing on the ends of those shelves?

Membership to the Mercantile Library is just $55/year and you get to take home fascinating books like these and pore over them from the comfort of your bed. If I lived in Cincinnati, I would so have "Europe in Zig Zags" on my nightstand right now.

And "Footloose in India." And "Cannibal Quest." Duh.

After I had run my eyes over every book in the place, Mary led me up a soaring spiral staircase...

...and down a hallway... this gorgeous room which holds the library's rarest books (incredibly enough, you can still read them, you just can't take them home)...

...and which is painted with the names of some of the past speakers there.

No biggie.
Just everyday folks like George and William F.

And Tom and John.

And Julia.

And William Makepeace.

And Harriet.

Once again, my heart did a Michael Flatley.

* * * * *

After this introduction to the library, I met up with the glamorous Deborah Ginocchio, President of the Mercantile Board.

I liked her immediately, but when we got in her car and she drove me straight to her favorite auction house our friendship was cemented. She was One Of Us. It was exactly the kind of shop I love -- crammed full of unheralded treasures. (I've gone blank on the name; will get back to you.)

I couldn't help myself from bidding on these two fabulous old Venetian paintings done in verre eglomisé. (In a stroke of luck, I won them.)

After a whirlwind architectural tour of the city (including a trip to her house which I will detail at a later date), it was back to the hotel to relax for a few hours before the big speech.

Up Next:










Janell @ House of Fifty said...

In Ohio?! I once stayed at the Netherland, a beautiful hotel to be sure! Enjoy the trip! Janell

pve design said...

I do hope your travels will bring you back East.
I would love to be lectured by you while my heart would do a "riverdance!" loved that you said that....genius.

Sunday Taylor said...

I love the Venetian paintings you bought at auction. And the Mercantile Library is absolutely beautiful and its collection of rare books is astonishing. How exciting to see all those first editions of the Beverley Nichols. Sounds like you had the most amazing time!

Ode to Beatha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ode to Beatha said...

Oh, holy, holy...I never thought I might plan a trip around visiting a library, but this may happen. Any chance they will let you bring a sleeping bag and stay the night? I still want a "From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler" experience for grown- ups...I think the Mercantile should be the target!

Sue Blaney said...

Hi Lisa,

Lovely tribute to our wonderful Mercantile and Netherland...thank you! I just renewed my membership...such a gem and so glad you "get us"!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I thought you were speaking in a library in Cincinnati, not in an enchanted castle in paradise! What a place! They would have had to use the jaws of life to get me out of there! I know they loved you with a passion!!

Anonymous said...

My sister and I made the short road trip from Indianapolis to enjoy your lecture at the Mercantile Library. I'm so happy we did. I love love loved the place. Someone had broken into my sister's apartment that morning (when I was there!) so we were both distracted the whole day. We drove around downtown Cincinnati looking for somewhere interesting to eat and decided on the Bistro. A block from the library, it had circus font lighted letters in the windows, a great Dr. Seuss print framed by apple green walls & red leather banquettes & half price draught beer...We were beginning to perk up. Dinner highlights were the duck-fat fries, better than crack brownie and wonderful coffee. We walked the block to the library and soon began to forget the awful morning all together. The library itself was a haven full of old world charm, interesting & warm people (someone mentioned their Italian villa - hello) and you. What a long-winded way to say thank you - for keeping us so marvelously distracted, for sharing your lovely homes, and for your warm & genuine lecture. Wish we had said Hello! - Megan

Margaret said...

Cincinnati, Who knew!

Pete said...

Wonderful !!

Kate @ Savour Fare said...

I am a SUCKER for libraries, and that looks like a particularly fabulous one.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

OMG - great auction finds!! I'll be in LA myself in 2 weeks for a long weekend...would love some tips!

Dianne said...

Oh how I would love to have been there. I know you were a huge success. The paintings you purchased were fabulous as you are!!

24 Corners said...

Could there have been a more perfectly tailored experience for you there?? I think not. To be surrounded by so much of what you love and to be taken care of so just doesn't get any better.
The specialness of it all is just so lovely!
xo J~

Anonymous said...

Lisa, we really enjoyed your talk, and I thrilled you were able to see some of the sweetest, but generally unheralded pleasures of our lovely city.

Come back, any time!

DM said...

I'm in the middle of A Thatched Roof now (he never fails to lift my spirits)! How wonderful for you. I'm on pins and needles for the next post. Can you give a lecture in South County, Rhode Island? I promise board!

helen tilston said...

Dear Lisa
The Library and Hotel look like they were decorated and appointed by you.Both have your personality and colour scheme. I love your unintended pun when you state you wished to decorate a room around the colour palette of the books and your saying "there is an incandesence to them that makes them lit from within (lit=literature).
I will look forward to your next post with bated breath.
Thanks for this beautiful escape to Cincinnati.
Helen Tilston

Lisa Daria said...

I agree with "Ode to Beatha" - I would love to plan a trip around visiting this library - the steel stacks from 1902/chalk for labeling - what a great idea, no wonder they kept them! I could go on, but I won't.

Acanthus and Acorn said...

Congrats on completion "the speech". The audience looks like such a happy and friendly bunch. The library tour was fantastic and I just love that you smell your books, made me laugh as I can relate!

Anonymous said...

It was such a pleasure to be hear your lecture last week. I have become a fan of your blog.

I’m so glad you were able to see more of our wonderful city and great architecture. I remember the first time my friend introduced me to the Mercantile. I thought I had walked back in time.

Did you notice that the Mercantile takes off all the dust jackets on the new books. It helps to blend in with the older books and colors. I started doing that in my library.

nanakat said...

I also left my heart in Cincy about 35 years ago. Still go back to my hometown twice a year - its a great town for culture and especially shopping. The Netherland still looks beautiful and the Library has really changed since I last visited it. Glad you enjoyed your visit.

Maria Speidel said...

Wow! Who knew? So glad places like the Mercantile still exist and are treasured. Love the title of your lecture.

Karen Smith said...

You're a fabulous speaker! Your talk was thoughtful, engaging, very well-presented and thought-provoking. I was only there by a twist of fate, having decided at the last minute to go. I love the Merc and now I also love A Bloomsbury Life. Thank you for such a wonderful evening.

Karena said...

Lisa I am so astoundeed by all of this beauty and culture.

A dream hotel, and the library, in love.

Art by Karena

Do Come and enter my Great Giveaway from Serena & Lily! Ends tomorrow the 25th at 12 am EST

You will love it!

Karena said...

Oh and the venetian paintings, ahhh!

Art by Karena

Miss Whistle said...

God, mine would do a Michael Flatley too. I hope everything went well. xx

Suzanne said...

What an exciting experience, thank you for sharing it with us, I love books libraries and bookstore, and I had never seen an original of ''Decoration of houses''. Great posts.

Have a good week end.


Emily said...

Magical, just magical! So glad you had this experience and thank you for bringing it to us.

KellyMellyBoBellyBananaFanna said...

now THAT is a library!


Rowan said...

So Lisa, I think you should contact La-Z-Boy tout de suite and suggest the lounger. I'd buy it. Thanks for this post. I have no idea how you do it but keep doing it. I was transported.

SheMel said...

You Presented it well!I truly In love and enjoy reading with your fascinating adventures in Lecturedom!Impressive library as well as the Hotel!So Great, Great Blog-Site u have :)

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