A Town of Storybook Houses and How They Came to Be

In 1924, a man named Hugh Comstock took a little trip to Carmel-by-the-Sea, California to see his sister and her husband. The town was becoming well known as a haven for artists and other creative types, so it’s not surprising that he met a doll maker named Mayotta Browne during his stay there. Miss Browne was the creator of Otsy-Totsies, cute little felt and cloth dolls meant more for collectors than children. The love bug hit Hugh and Mayotta almost instantly and they married within the year. Mayotta’s business was soon booming, with retailers across the country requesting loads of her merchandise. The dolls began to take over their home, so Mayotta asked her husband to build something to showcase them when buyers came through. Hugh was no architect, nor was he a builder. But he did have a good eye for the whimsical, so he thought he’d give it a shot. Inspired by British illustrator Arthur Rackham, Comstock constructed a little cottage full of handmade details and quirky architecture. He purposely didn’t use a level, so things were just a little skewed and imperfect in an absolutely charming way. The cottage, which he named Hansel (pictured), was just right for Mayotta’s dolls.

The Carmel Pine Cone, the local newspaper, took stock of Hansel and immediately declared it - and Comstock - genius. It wasn’t long before people were knocking down his door, asking for fairytale creations of their own. Because the town was full of artists and writers - Jack London, Mary Austin, Sinclair Lewis, Upton Sinclair and George Sterling among them - the unique style was extremely popular. In response, Comstock built numerous cottages over a period of just five years, hugely influencing the town’s flavor. Most of them have been kept up nicely (or restored) as the decades have gone by, and with good reason: it’s been recorded that Comstock purchased parcels of land on which the cottages were built for as little as $100, and his building materials were dirt cheap. These days, the small but totally original houses go for about $4,000,000. Not a bad investment.

All of the houses have perfectly suited names as well. There’s the Tuck Box, the only commercial building Comstock built; Gretel, the companion house to Hansel; the Honeymoon Cottage; Casanova; Fables and Sunwiseturn, among others.

Anyone ever seen these storybook homes in person? If not, this Flickr set by photographer Linda Hartong will make you feel like you have.

Hansel photo from Tales from Carmel

College Board Wants to Erase Thousands of Years From AP World History, and Teachers Aren't Happy

One would be forgiven for thinking that the Ides of March are upon us, because Julius Caesar is being taken out once again—this time from the Advanced Placement World History exam. The College Board in charge of the AP program is planning to remove the Roman leader, and every other historical figure who lived and died prior to 1450, from high school students’ tests, The New York Times reports.

The nonprofit board recently announced that it would revise the test, beginning in 2019, to make it more manageable for teachers and students alike. The current exam covers over 10,000 years of world history, and according to the board, “no other AP course requires such an expanse of content to be covered over a single school year.”

As an alternative, the board suggested that schools offer two separate year-long courses to cover the entirety of world history, including a Pre-AP World History and Geography class focusing on the Ancient Period (before 600 BCE) up through the Postclassical Period (ending around 1450). However, as Politico points out, a pre-course for which the College Board would charge a fee "isn’t likely to be picked up by cash-strapped public schools," and high school students wouldn't be as inclined to take the pre-AP course since there would be no exam or college credit for it.

Many teachers and historians are pushing back against the proposed changes and asking the board to leave the course untouched. Much of the controversy surrounds the 1450 start date and the fact that no pre-colonial history would be tested.

“They couldn’t have picked a more Eurocentric date,” Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, who previously helped develop AP History exams and courses, told The New York Times. “If you start in 1450, the first thing you’ll talk about in terms of Africa is the slave trade. The first thing you’ll talk about in terms of the Americas is people dying from smallpox and other things. It’s not a start date that encourages looking at the agency and creativity of people outside Europe.”

A group of teachers who attended an AP open forum in Salt Lake City also protested the changes. One Michigan educator, Tyler George, told Politico, “Students need to understand that there was a beautiful, vast, and engaging world before Europeans ‘discovered’ it.”

The board is now reportedly reconsidering its decision and may push the start date of the course back some several hundred years. Their decision will be announced in July.

[h/t The New York Times]

North America: East or West Coast?


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