Pete DeMola interviewed Geo Davis and Katie Shepard to discuss the evolution, community involvement, and publication of Essex New York Architecture: A Doodler’s Field Guide. The article, “New book by local authors presents history with a dash of doodling,” appeared in The Sun Community News on April 16, 2016.
The article is archived online by the publication (as seen above). The full contents are transcribed below:
Essex- A powerhouse in the early 19th-century, Essex acted as the portal to an untapped area filled with extractable natural resources.
A bustling maritime economy emerged around the port, located 17 miles southwest of Burlington. The streets hummed with activity: shipbuilding, blacksmiths, merchants and construction workers all set up shop on the pitstop between Montreal and New Yorks City. With them, buildings sprung up to accommodate the crush.
The economy tanked before the Civil War — chalk it up to the birth of the railroads and changes in migration trends — but the structures remained.
Most towns modified and changed over time. But Essex was preserved by neglect, says George Davis, the co-author of a new book chronicling the town’s history through the art of doodling.
The town’s well-preserved buildings — mostly Georgian, Federal, Greek Revivial and Victorian-style architecture — remain a popular drawing point for the community, making it a popular summertime destination.
“Essex New York Architecture: A Doodler’s Field Guide,” co-authored by Katie Shepard, encourages visitors to discover new ways of interacting with these structures, say the authors.
The blueprints originated when the authors, operators of popular lifestyle blog Essex on Lake Champlain, learned dispatches on heritage and architecture were among the site’s most popular entries.
A year-long diving into the town’s architecture history acted as the foundation, with the exact building selected with help from materials originally produced by the Essex Community Heritage Organization for a self-guided walking tour.
The whole idea of the project is that the book is handmade like somebody’s doodling notebook, said Davis.
Alongside the 200-plus drawings of some of the town’s most prominent buildings — Greystone Cottage, John Gould House, and the Essex Inn — the 168-page version places the structures into historical context.
Take Billings Cottage, for instance, a small stone house located at the corner of School and Elm Streets. The mid 19th-century equivalent of the working class home was likely constructed with help from the mercantile families who acted as banks, Davis said.
Many structures have a distinct blue-gray hue because they were built with locally quarried limestone.
Davis and Shepard hope the book will lead visitors and residents into a “more architecturally informed experience” of the town, which now boasts a year-round population of less than 700.
Smartphones can be immersive, said Davis. “But they also have the effect of distancing.”
The authors see the book as a community-wide effort.
A raft of local residents aided in compiling a beta version, said Davis. The authors are also working with the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, who will steer visitors to the local retail outlets where the book can be purchased.
In doing so, the authors hope guests will explore other destinations, including local farms and neighboring communities.
The paperback book contains spaces for readers to doodle their own iterations of the town as they explore its hidden treasures.
“Everyone can doodle,” Davis said.
“Hopefully folks will build a relationship with this place.”
Essex New York Architecture: A Doodler’s Field Guide is now available through Essex on Lake Champlain.