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Mark Twain

If The Mark Twain House Could Talk

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, also known as Mark Twain (November 30,1835 – April 21, 1910) was a prolific American writer. He wrote classics such as “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” and “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.” His writing style always contained his cleverly wicked sense of humor, and his stories were fodder for social commentary.

Twain’s home, now showcasing as a museum, is named as one of the 10 Best Historic Homes in the World and is also on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). It also offers tours to the public. 

Twain’s personal adventure began after his father died unexpectedly. At age 11, Twain became a printer’s apprentice, and shortly after that he began contributing articles for the Hannibal Journal. In 1859, he became a river pilot on the Mississippi River and continued until the onset of the American Civil War in 1861. He joined the Marion Rangers, a Confederate militia. He left after the Marion Rangers disbanded. He travelled with his brother and ended up in Virginia City, Nevada, where he worked as a miner, then soon became a writer for the Virginia City newspaper.

On November 18, 1865, a story written by Twain based on something he had overheard about a jumping frog got published in the Saturday Press in New York, and was a big hit with the readers! It was entitled, ”The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”

In his book “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” Huck Finn is based on a boy named Tom Blankenship who Twain knew growing up in Hannibal. The book was banned by the public library in Concord, Massachusetts over its language and low morals. Many called the book racist and removed it from school reading lists.

In 1891, Twain closed up his house, which he and his family had lived in since 1874. This house was designed by architect Edward Tuckerman Potter and built in the Victoria Gothic style. While living in this house, Twain wrote, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” “The Prince and the Pauper,” “A Tramp Abroad,” and “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.” The house was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1962.

Although Mark Twain doesn’t have any living direct descendants, the house located on 351 Farmington Avenue in Hartford, Connecticut is very much alive and thriving in his memory.

From the ADG Jobsite

One of our favorite chandelier projects from New York…


by Gerald Olesker, CEO, ADG Lighting

Capitol Records Los Angeles Historic Landmark

Capitol Records Building Remains a Star

It has been scientifically proven that music has a profound effect on the brain. Many of us non-scientific types just feel music is magic. Listening to an old song can bring up so many memories or transport you to an exact location, and even go as far as inviting who you were with for the full experience. That is the majesty of music, so it should come as no surprise that the Capitol Records Building would be among our choices for this list.

The Capitol Records Building, also known as the Capitol Records Tower, is located at 1750 Vine Street in Los Angeles. It is right smack in the middle of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It can be seen from the ever so famous corner of Hollywood and Vine.

The building was based on the designs using the graduate school drawings of Louis Naidorf of Welton Becket Associates. In 1955, the British company EMI purchased Capitol Records, and soon thereafter the construction began. The Capitol Records Building was completely constructed in 1956.

The Googie-style building was designed to resemble a stack of records, standing 13 stories high. Located approximately 30 feet underground, there are echo chambers, which were designed by the legendary guitarist Les Paul.

The building also has a rooftop spire that looks like a record needle from an old school phonograph, and on top of that needle is a red light that blinks continuously the word “Hollywood” in Morse code. Leila Morse, the granddaughter of Samuel Morse, had the honors of originally flipping on the switch. 

Capitol Records was founded in 1942 by Johnny Mercer. Just about every legendary musical artist recorded their music in the studio inside the Capitol Records Building, with Frank Sinatra being the first. On the south wall of the building, there is a mural titled “Hollywood Jazz: 1945-1972” by artist Richard Wyatt. On every Christmas since 1958, there has been a Christmas tree on top of the building.

On November 15th 2006, the building was designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument.  

All the musical artists involved in the creation of this iconic building have passed on, but one can’t help wonder if perhaps posthumously they still run the place. 

From the Factory Floor

Our artisans hard at work …

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by Gerald Olesker, CEO, ADG

Los Angeles Sherman Yang CLaEwNoIHyg Unsplash

Famous Los Angeles Architectural Landmarks

It seems that Los Angeles, California has the magic ability to bring fame, even if the person, place or thing has been in hibernation for a few lifetimes. The line starts at the left for the most iconic landmarks in Los Angeles that have made it to stardom.

Since we are talking stars, why not start with the Griffith Observatory? This star-gazing venue is 80 years young and built on land donated by Griffith J. Griffith, who also donated the park that surrounds the observatory. The architects who designed the Griffith Observatory were John C. Austin and Frederick M. Ashley. Austin also designed Los Angeles City Hall and the Shrine Auditorium. The Griffith Observatory has appeared in several films, including “Rebel Without a Cause” and “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” just to name a few.

Another Los Angeles landmark worth mentioning is the Watts Towers, also high up on the star meter. It was originally built by one uneducated laborer, Sobato Rodia, born in a tiny village of Ribottoli in Italy. In 1921 with his brother’s help he bought a small lot at 1765 E. 107th Street. 

Every day after he got off work, he would look for material to build his obsession. He lost his job, but kept building, despite the fact he didn’t have any permits or plans. His wife is buried underneath the tallest tower. The Watts Towers withstood earthquakes, and even after much of the neighborhood was destroyed in the Watts Riots of 1965, they stood strong and unharmed. Most of all, their fame is for being a symbol of pride for the underdog and a source of inspiration for the world. 

The Watts Towers have appeared on numerous album covers, and Rodia himself appeared on the cover of the Beatles’ album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Watts Towers are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Rodia died one month before the Watts Riots erupted.

From the Design Studio

“Working it Up!”

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by Gerald Olesker, CEO, ADG Lighting


palm springs pool architecture

Palm Springs Is California’s Hidden Treasure

Once upon a time, Palm Springs attracted two types of visitors. The first group was mostly movie stars and wannabes. The second group consisted of those who desired a healthier way of living, which was due in part because of the location’s mineral springs and their apparent healing properties.

Although Palm Springs past was somewhat unattainable to the average individual who was healthy and wealthy, today’s Palm Springs is attainable to all, and boy does it have a lot of interesting history to offer. Architectural styles anyone?

After World War II, there was a huge construction boom. Since it was known for its wealthy inhabitants, many top architects were attracted to this quiet area hidden in the Coachella Valley. 

By this time, the modernism style of architecture had made its way to the United States and more importantly, had given Southern California architects food for thought and creation.

They were inspired by the Bauhaus approach to design, as well as the International Style of architecture, which had created an elegant yet functional look. This is referred to as desert modernism.

Desert modernism embraces the exterior environment and incorporates its celebration into the architectural design. So in this case, the warm and sunny climate of Palm Springs was welcomed by houses designed with expansive glass walls and huge windows, open floor plans, and of course dramatic roof designs.

When you think about it, it seems that houses were designed to hide from its surroundings, a way to take refuge. But embracing the beautiful surroundings as part of your interior decor seems to bring the genius of this style into the spotlight.

Every year, Palm Springs holds Modernism Week, which celebrates the countless mid-century modern houses in Palm Springs. It is worth the trip and find yourself exploring the historical architecture and culture. 

From the Factory Floor

…Brass Balls

kinetic chandelier

by Gerald Olesker, CEO ADG Lighting





Modernist Architects Arthur Fehr and Charles Granger

It was as though both Arthur Fehr and Charles Granger were sent here in 1946 from the future on a time travel mission to make their impact on the industry of architecture and design! Although they were two separate men walking their path of education and experience in the same industry, it wasn’t until 1946 when they became partners and established Fehr & Granger (F&G) in Austin, Texas that they experienced great success.

Their designs would captivate many and move the industry into the era of mid-century modernism. Post-World War ll was a time for new economic growth and opportunities, which helped pave the way for modern (or more commonly known as modernist architecture). Modernist architecture followed the belief that “form should follow function.” This style of architecture also gave birth to new innovative construction and use of glass, steel, and reinforced concrete as building materials of choice.

Fehr & Granger labeled themselves as Austin modernists, and rightfully so as they were instrumental in designing some of the most important buildings in and around Austin, staying with their progressive, modernist style. Some of their most notable accomplishments in both residential and commercial architecture include:

  • Sneed Residence in Austin (circa 1953)
  • O. Henry Junior High School Austin (1954)
  • Saint Stephen’s Chapel Austin (1955) 
  • Clifton Hall at Texas Lutheran College in Seguin (1956)
  • Robert Mueller Airport (1959)
  • Austin National Bank (1961)

Charles Granger died in a car accident in 1966, so Arthur Fehr held down the fort at F&G until his death in 1969.

The firm of F&G received many awards over the years for their designs, including two separate awards for their design of the Robert Mueller Airport, in 1959 and in 1961. 

Charles also built the Granger House and The Perch, a pair of historic homes in Austin, in 1951. Both homes were both recorded on the National Register of Historic Places. Not bad for a modernist. 


Sydney Harbor Cityscape

The Story Behind the Design of the Sydney Harbor Bridge

The Sydney Harbor Bridge is located in Sydney, Australia. On March 19, 2007, the bridge was added to the Australian National Heritage List, giving the bridge historical significance. The SHB opened and was ready for business on March 19, 1932. It is considered to be the world’s tallest steel arched bridge, erected at 440 feet tall and is one of Australia’s quintessential landmarks. 

The bridge was originally designed by Scottish-born architect Thomas S. Tait, who designed buildings around the world and was a big proponent of Art Deco and Streamline Moderne styles. He designed it along with Dorman Long & Company. Other architects who were in the running for designing this iconic bridge include:

Norman Selfe: Australian-born engineer, naval architect, and urban planner. Selfe had entered a cantilever bridge design, but due to a downfall in the economy, it didn’t make the cut.

Francis Ernest Stowe: English-born architect, engineer, and inventor. His idea of a three-way design was considered radical. There were other implications that made this design undesirable for that time in history. 

Peter Henderson: This Sydney engineer submitted one of the earliest known drawings of the bridge connecting Sydney with north and south. It was a simple, straight across type of design.

David B. Steinman & Holton D. Robinson: Both are American architects; they submitted a design that mixed elements of cantilever and suspension engineering. The panel of judges did not like the design; they said it ”would not have a pleasing outline.”

McClintic Marshall Products Company: This company in 1924 proposed a design that incorporated elements of a cantilever bridge, suspension bridge, and the arch bridge, but the judges said that it “wouldn’t harmonize with its surroundings.”

The purpose of a bridge is simple; it connects an island to the mainland. The bridge is able to bypass the greatest obstacle between that island and the mainland, which is a body of water. It does this by simply taking up residency as the upstairs; but for us mere mortals, it must be perfectly designed.