Bookshelf

Bookshelf provides descriptions and notices of recent publications on Pennsylvania subjects.

Livable West Chester: An Architectural Over­view

by Alice Kent Schooner
Chester County Historical Society, 1985 (83 pages, paper, $13.50)

In celebration of West Ches­ter’s two hundredth anniver­sary as county seat, the Chester County Historical Society has published an over­view of the architectural devel­opment of the community. The volume is the result of two publicly supported projects undertaken over the past five years by the author, Alice Kent Schooner, principal architec­tural historian of John Milner Associates, Inc., a local firm. Livable West Chester is divided into two sections: a brief his­tory of the community’s devel­opment through 1910, followed by a two-part collection of late nineteenth and early twentieth century photographs provided by the historical society. The first group of photographs is concerned with individual properties, arranged chrono­logically, while the second group includes streetscapes and panoramas which place specific structures within the historical context of the turn-of-the-century. Explanatory notes accompany each illustra­tion, detailing the architectural and historical significance of the building and any altera­tions that may have been made through the years. The brief history that introduces the book traces the develop­ment and growth of West Chester from a small cross­roads tavern in 1760 to the significant Delaware Valley community it became as county seat.

 

The Vital Gesture: Franz Kline

by Harry F. Gaugh
Abbeville Press, 1985 (188 pages, paper, $22.95)

A stunning catalogue accom­panying a sensational exhibit, “The Vital Gesture: Franz Kline in Retrospect” (on view at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, through September 28), this liberally color-illustrated publi­cation discusses the native Pennsylvanian’s life and work. Kline, born in Wilkes-Barre in 1910, went on to become a leading member of the famous “New York School” of the 1950s. Internationally known for his huge black and white canvases, the artist produced small – but spectacular­ – figurative paintings and draw­ings during his early years. Several of these relatively smaller works include senti­mental views of the Pennsylva­nia landscape, including Pamerton (1941), Lehigh River and Winter (1944), and Lehigh­ton (1946), a large mural painted for the American Legion Post 314 in the Carbon County seat. His prized ab­stracts, for which he received critical acclaim, were often titled with names of Pennsyl­vania towns and areas: Thorpe (1954), Hazelton [sic] (1957), Shenandoah Wall (1960), Luzerne (1956) and Mahoning (1956). The author includes both color and black and white illustra­tions of these Pennsylvania­-related pieces. The Vital Gesture goes far beyond serving only as an exhibition catalogue. It explains Kline’s work and the exciting period in which it was created. It also is entertaining, brimming with personal anec­dotes and recollections shared by friends, patrons and deal­ers. One chapter, “Pennsylva­nia Landscape,” is particularly fascinating in that it proves that the artist – even as an important art figure – never forgot his roots in the coal country of the Common­wealth’s northeastern coun­ties. Not only is this publication neatly organized into different subject areas, but it includes a well-detailed section of notes, extensive chronology, record of exhibi­tions, selected bibliography and a list of public collections in which Franz Kline is repre­sented.

 

John­stown: The Story of a Unique Valley

by Karl Berger
Johnstown Flood Museum, 1985 (743 pages, cloth, $22.50)

Johnstown, known primarily for the great flood which dev­astated it in 1889, has prompted many historical studies addressing the impact of the catastrophe. But John­stown: The Story of a Unique Valley is the first general his­tory of the community ever available. It is the result of an intensive three-year commu­nity project which involved dozens of area writers, artists, researchers and editors. Yet, strictly labeling this book as a history is not quite accurate, as it examines in detail and in depth the many factors – ­natural, social and industrial­ – which shaped the community. The unique interdisciplinary nature of Johnstown was in­spired by “county book” publi­cations used in Swiss and German schools, with which the author, a native of Ger­many, is familiar. Through the use of these local publications, European students apply the various humanistic and scien­tific disciplines to the study of their immediate area. Simi­larly, Johnstown explores local ecology, industry, flora and fauna, geology, ethnic groups and history in order to offer a complete understanding of the community. The development of any area is the result of numerous physical factors, people and events, and John­stown is no exception. The book contains nineteen chap­ters by twenty-four authors and co-authors and each chap­ter is a study complete in it­self. Topics include geology, soil and agriculture, Indians of the Conemaugh, city plan­ning, sports and music.