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History Photography Travel

The Hope Diamond

The Hope Diamond is a 45.52-carat diamond originally extracted in the 17th century from the Kollur Mine in Guntur, India. It is blue in color due to trace amounts of boron.

The earliest records of the diamond show that French gem merchant Jean-Baptiste Tavernier purchased it in 1666 as the Tavernier Blue. The stone was cut and renamed the French Blue (Le bleu de France); Tavernier sold the stone to King Louis XIV of France in 1668. 

On September 11, 1792, while Louis XVI and his family were imprisoned in the Square du Temple during the early stages of the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror, a group of thieves broke into the Royal Storehouse—the Hôtel du Garde-Meuble de la Couronne (now Hôtel de la Marine)—stealing most of the Crown Jewels in a five-day looting spree. While many jewels were later recovered, including other pieces of the Order of the Golden Fleece, the French Blue was not among them and it disappeared from history.

In 1812, a deep blue diamond described by John Francillion as weighing 177 grains (4 grains = 1 carat) was documented as being in the possession of London diamond merchant, Daniel Eliason. Strong evidence indicates that the stone was the recut French Blue and the same stone known today as the Hope Diamond.

Several references suggest that it was acquired by King George IV of the United Kingdom. At his death, in 1830, the king’s debts were so enormous that the blue diamond was likely sold through private channels.

The first reference to the diamond’s next owner is found in the 1839 entry of the gem collection catalog of the well-known Henry Philip Hope, the man from whom the diamond takes its name. Unfortunately, the catalog does not reveal where or from whom Hope acquired the diamond or how much he paid for it.

Following the death of Henry Philip Hope in 1839, and after much litigation, the diamond passed to his nephew Henry Thomas Hope and ultimately to the nephew’s grandson Lord Francis Hope. In 1901 Lord Francis Hope obtained permission from the Court of Chancery and his sisters to sell the stone to help pay off his debts. It was sold to a London dealer who quickly sold it to Joseph Frankels and Sons of New York City, who retained the stone in New York until they, in turn, needed cash. The diamond was next sold to Selim Habib who put it up for auction in Paris in 1909. It did not sell at the auction but was sold soon after to C.H. Rosenau and then resold to Pierre Cartier that same year.

In 1910 the Hope Diamond was shown to Mrs. Evalyn Walsh McLean, of Washington D.C., at Cartier’s in Paris, but she did not like the setting. Cartier had the diamond reset and took it to the U.S. where he left it with Mrs. McLean for a weekend. This strategy was successful. The sale was made in 1911 with the diamond mounted as a headpiece on a three-tiered circlet of large white diamonds. Sometime later it became the pendant on a diamond necklace as we know it today. Mrs. McLean’s flamboyant ownership of the stone lasted until her death in 1947.

Harry Winston Inc. of New York City purchased Mrs. McLean’s entire jewelry collection, including the Hope Diamond, from her estate in 1949.

For the next 10 years the Hope Diamond was shown at many exhibits and charitable events world wide by Harry Winston Inc., including as the central attraction of their Court of Jewels exhibition. On November 10, 1958, they donated the Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian Institution, and almost immediately the great blue stone became its premier attraction.

(Sources: Wikipedia and the Smithsonian)

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History Photography

Pittsburgh’s Concordia Club Now Part of the Pitt Family of Buildings

The Concordia Club was a noteworthy part of Jewish life in Pittsburgh from the late 19th century until 2009.

In 1874, a group of approximately forty Jewish men, primarily of German origin, met to organize an association, whose purpose, according to its charter, was “to promote social and literary entertainment among its members.” The first president of the Concordia Club was Josiah Cohen, a prominent teacher, lawyer, and judge. Jacob Eiseman was president in 1884, when the club was chartered. The majority of the Club’s early members and almost all of its early officers were members of Rodef Shalom Congregation.

Establishments such as the Concordia Club sprang up across the United States at a time when Jews were typically denied membership in prominent social and business clubs. Such discrimination was common in most major cities in the United States, including Pittsburgh. The Duquesne Club, in downtown Pittsburgh, did not begin to admit Jews until 1968. The Concordia Club was sometimes called the “Jewish Duquesne Club.”

Duquesne Club, Pittsburgh – © 2022, David H. Enzel

The Concordia Club’s first location was a rented home on Stockton Avenue in Allegheny City, now the North Side neighborhood of Pittsburgh. At that time more than 95 per cent of the Club’s membership lived in Allegheny City. By the late 1870s the club had grown sufficiently to need a dance hall, which was created through renovation of the original structure. The Stockton Avenue clubhouse property was purchased by the club in 1890 but a new building was later erected on the same Stockton Avenue site, at a cost of approximately $75,000. At that time the club had 175 members.

During the next 20 years, the Concordia Club became a significant social institution for the Jewish community, even as the community’s demographic center was shifting from Allegheny City to Pittsburgh’s East End communities, particularly Squirrel Hill. By 1913, when the Concordia Club moved to its new location on O’Hara Street in the Schenley Farms district of Oakland, more than 95 per cent of its members lived in Squirrel Hill. The new clubhouse was dedicated on Christmas Day, 1913, with a gala banquet. The building contained a banquet hall, ballroom, library, lounges, sleeping quarters, billiard rooms, and bowling alleys.

When the Concordia Club moved into its building on O’Hara Street in 1913, it was described as one of city’s most opulent with notably elegant china, crystal and linens along with profuse flower arrangements. A 1915 article in the Jewish Criterion commented that the new club was “entirely complete with billiard rooms, banquet hall, rest and lounging parlors, reading quarters and sleeping accommodations.” Later the club would add to its interior by installing elaborate dark-stained oak paneling rescued from the Fort Pitt Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh when the hotel was demolished in 1967.

The Club over the years staged elaborate themed dances, vaudeville performances, musical stage revues, amateur theatrical productions and holiday parties. Private social functions of all sorts were held in the clubhouse, which continued to be a gathering place for Pittsburgh’s Jewish community. At its peak, the club had nearly 300 members.

After 135 years, the Concordia Club voted to sell the historic building to the University of Pittsburgh due to declining membership and financial shortages. It closed its doors on December 14, 2009.

Pitt undertook $5.8 million in upgrades, preservation, and renovations that were completed in April, 2011 and provided almost 35,000 square feet (3,300 m2) of space in order to help alleviate shortages in student group event, meeting, and office space at the William Pitt Union.

Upgrades included tearing out walls, updating the heating and cooling systems, replacing the roof, and upgrading the lighting. The first floor contains the oak paneled space for studying or socializing as well as a dining room that can double as a meeting room. A staircase, with original wood railings, leads to a second floor contains a 450-person capacity, sound system-equipped ball room — shown above — that includes an open balcony, arched windows, and a small stage. From a previous renovation more than 50 years ago, the ballroom contains three chandeliers, one larger than the others, and a number of sconces. Renovations to the ballroom included restoring access to the balcony, applying gold leaf trim to the wall panels, and a restoration of the chandeliers, including replacement of the light bulbs with LEDs, by the original lighting fabricator located in Pittsburgh’s Strip District.

The former Concordia Club, now the O’Hara Student Center, at Pitt- Wikipedia

The basement of the Student Center is used as a storage area for student groups. The facility also houses the Math Assistance Center, the Freshman Studies Program, and the student Writing Center.

Pitt’s renovation of the Concordia Club was very respectful of the Club’s history. The University preserved the Club’s gorgeous oak paneling and its elegant ballroom which continue to be enjoyed by the Pitt community, which now dominates the Oakland section of Pittsburgh.


Sources:

Senator John Heinz History Center

Wikipedia

Historic Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle

Categories
History Photography Travel

Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with millions of books, films and video, audio recordings, photographs, newspapers, maps and manuscripts in its collections. The Library is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office.

Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress, Washington, DC (2022)
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History Photography Travel

Hôtel de la Marine, Paris

The hôtel de la Marine (also known as the hôtel du Garde-Meuble) is an historic building located on Place de la Concorde in Paris, to the east of rue Royale. It was designed and built between 1757 and 1774 by the architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel, on the newly created square first called Place Louis XV. The identical building to its west, constructed at the same time, now houses the hôtel de Crillon and the Automobile Club of France.

The hôtel de la Marine was originally the home of the royal Garde-Mobile, the office managing the furnishing of all royal properties. Following the French Revolution it became the Ministry of the French Navy, which occupied it until 2015. It was entirely renovated between 2015 and 2021. It now displays the restored 18th century apartments of Marc-Antoine Thierry de Ville-d’Avray, the King’s Intendant of the Garde-Meuble, as well the salons and chambers later used by the French Navy.

Major historical events have taken place in the hôtel de la Marine:

  • On 16 September 1792, the Crown Jewels were stolen at the Hôtel de la Marine. At night, around forty people got inside the reception room where the jewels were displayed and stole goods worth around 30 million French francs. Most of the jewels were found again two years later. However, The French Blue (Le bleu de France) was not recovered. It reappeared 20 years later in England, completely recut with the largest section of the diamond appearing under the Hope name in an 1839 gem catalog from the Hope banking family. The Hope Diamond is now in the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
  • In a room overlooking Place de la Concorde Marie Antoinette’s death warrant was signed. She was guillotined on 16 October 1793 on Place de la Concorde. She was 37 years old.
  • On 27 April 1848, in the office of minister François Arago in the Hôtel de la Marine, the decree to abolish slavery in the French colonies was signed in Paris. Victor Schœlcher, an ardent defender of human rights, was the man behind this historic decision.

The renovation is beautiful. The views of Paris monuments are exceptional. It was a memorable visit.

La grande Loggia de l’Hôtel de la Marine, Paris – © David H. Enzel, 2022

You can see more of the photos I made of the hôtel de la Marine here, including extraordinary time pieces and a modern skylight.

Categories
History Photography

Looking Back and Looking Forward in Washington

Victory in Europe Day

On May 8, 1945, Victory in Europe Day, or V-E Day, Germany unconditionally surrendered its military forces to the Allies, including the United States. There were two surrender signings:

  • The first was on May 7, 1945, when German Col. Gen. Alfred Jodl signed Germany’s surrender on all fronts in Reims, France.
  • The second signing – insisted upon by Soviet Premier Josef Stalin – was by German Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel the next day in Berlin.

Jodl and Keitel were later found guilty of war crimes by the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany, and both were subsequently executed.

The 77th anniversary of V-E Day was commemorated on May 8, 2022 with a fitting ceremony at the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC. The U.S. Army Band performed at the ceremony. The U.S. Army Band, “Pershing’s Own,” (shown here) has been the premier musical organization of the U.S. Army since 1922.

© David H. Enzel, 2022

Scene at the Supreme Court

Further down the mall and up past the Capitol, the Supreme Court seems to be getting ready to announce its decision expected to overturn Roe v. Wade. The Court has been fenced off by order of the Supreme Court Marshal.

© David H. Enzel, 2022

A small number of demonstrators were demonstrating peacefully in front of the fenced off Court on Mother’s Day. We will see what happens once the Court announces its decision. I hope for the best.

© David H. Enzel, 2022
© David H. Enzel, 2022
Categories
History Photography

Thomas Jefferson Memorial

I have lived in Washington, DC for more than forty years. Washington is a beautiful city with many grand monuments. My favorite is the Jefferson Memorial.

The exterior of the Memorial is simple and elegant. The exterior of the Memorial is a circular, open-air structure featuring a shallow dome supported by a circular colonnade composed of 26 Ionic columns. 

© David H. Enzel, 2022

The interior is powerful. Thomas Jefferson stands 19 feet tall. He’s holding the Declaration of Independence and peering out to the Tidal Basin. The bronze statue of Jefferson weighs 10,000 pounds (4,500 kg).

© David H. Enzel, 2022

A rehabilitation project to replace the Thomas Jefferson Memorial’s three roof systems and clean all of the exterior marble was completed in in 2021. And the statue sculpted by Rudulph Evans has been cleaned. Evans was born in Washington, DC and studied in France. His fellow students in France included  Auguste Rodin and Augustus Saint-Gaudens. The Memorial was built between 1939 and 1943 .

Jefferson Memorial, Washington, DC (2020)