Have I got a brilliant DVD for you to love on a cold beach night?
“From the Ashes: The Life and Times of Tick Hall” is the amazing story about the world’s first forensic architectural rebuild of a 125 year-old private beach home in Montaulk, Long Island in the late 1990’s.
In 1997, “Tick Hall” – named because the original owners spent part of their summer evenings picking insects off guests and dogs – was burned down and owners for the past 30 years, former talk show host Dick Cavett and his wife Carrie Nye, felt as if they “lost the moon” when the house burned.
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Weeks after the fire, Carrie became determined to replicate the home they lost, one of the first examples of American Shingle-Style architecture and built by shipping magnate Arthur Benson in 1883.
“I wanted not a nice copy but the same exact place,” said Carrie in the documentary. “The house had to be back, like the fire never happened. The feeling had to be recaptured.”
With no historical data such as the original building’s plans, Carrie empowered a team of architects, conservators and artisans as they went on a groundbreaking three-year research and rebuild journey documented by brilliant Filmmaker Scott Morris of New Jersey.
“When we first discussed Tick Hall, Carrie made it clear that she did not want the documentary to be a vanity piece,”
said Scott who also produced a short film about the Asbury Park boardwalk decades ago. “She wanted it to be inspiring, capture joy and be about art and how you cope with losing something emotionally valuable. The theme of loss and healing is woven throughout the film using the house as a metaphor.”
The film “Tick Hall,” which aired on PBS in 2004, captures the excitement and passion of the team as they replicate the house to exacting detail plank for plank, brick for brick using old photos, memories, charred rubble and old interior design sketches.
Carrie measured in “dog lengths” referencing a photo of her dog in the old kitchen and then using the dog in-person.
Specific stairs had to creak. Door saddles had to look like they had been walked on since the 1880’s. Gorgeous brass doorknobs had to show wear.
“It was hard to get the contractor to understand that we wanted the porch to sag and the ceiling in the living room to slump,” said Carrie in one scene. “We had to have reclaimed southern pine for the trim. The wood today is on steroids and just would not work for this house.”
She believed that some of the original mistakes in the house – decades ago called the “Dream Castle” by Tennessee Williams – were the best parts of the home’s character.
“Carrie always had the attitude of ‘as God as my witness Tick Hall will rise again’,” said Scott. “Dick was very skeptical the entire three years.”
The final scenes of “Tick Hall”, taken in October 1999, will make you smile and gasp.
“We went to bed as if nothing ever happened,” said Carrie.
This 57-minute documentary brings to life the sometimes heart-wrenching, sometimes-exhilarating process of rebuilding – or renovating – a treasure of a home that many of us in this TMZ (three-mile zone) can appreciate.
When I asked Dick Cavett to talk about “Tick Hall” he smartly replied that he is, “planning a blog on the subject in the near future and (doesn’t) want to give away (his) best lines.” Enjoy Dick’s brilliant “Opinionator” blog at NYTimes.com.
TickHall.com has more.
Special thanks to David Bates of Ocean Grove who introduced me to the documentary.
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