Today’s no-waffle: my mom’s book!

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Growing up, it was not unusual for our family to be out on a drive when suddenly my mother would shriek, “Wait! Stop the car!” Did we run over a small child? Were we about to drive into a giant pothole? None of the above. “Just look at that Greek Revival,” my mother would enthuse. “Must be 1841. It’s in great shape.”

The Poorhouses of Massachusetts Heli Meltsner
These sudden stops were not surprising, given that my mom is an architectural historian (some parents drill their kids in the multiplication table; I was quizzed on what style of house we were driving by). Well, now my mother has written a book about one of her architectural passions and I am so proud.

Massachusetts poorfarm

Like the “town farm” above, many communities in the nineteenth century created poorhouses “in a valiant but ultimately failed attempt to create a critical social safety net to shelter the destitute, including the sick, elderly, unemployed, mentally ill, unwed mothers, and the orphaned.”  Or in other words, housing for society’s outcasts.

Amherst Poorhouse, Heli Meltsner The Poorhouses of Massachusetts

My mother’s book documents the poorhouses of Massachusetts, examining their architectural significance as well as the social life that went on inside them.  Many poorhouses are still standing, like the one below, and mom spent years driving around Massachusetts taking pictures and researching their histories.

The poorhouses of Massachusetts heli meltsner

Congratulations mom! Now that the book is finished you’ll have more time to spend on other pursuits…like teaching your grandchildren the difference between a Queen Anne and a Colonial Revivial style house.

For more information about her book, please see The Poorhouses of Massachusetts. It will be out in the spring; you can also ask your local library to order it.

Do you have an idea for a no-waffle? If you know of something so great it doesn’t need to be waffled over, let me know about it by clicking on the button below:

9 responses

  1. Wow, congratulations to your mom! What an accomplishment. Long ago, I think during my first visit to your family home, you explained your mom’s beliefs about the difference between a “house” and a “home.” I’ve never forgotten that wisdom, and actually still think of her when deciding which word to use! I’m glad she’s decided to formally share her passion and knowledge with others.

  2. Congrats to your mom…and now this begs the question: Molly, when’s YOUR book coming out? 🙂

  3. Yay for Heli. !!!! I can’t wait to read it.

    And yay for the Shiller/Spiegel voice I hear coming through your words. Your family has a distinctive and wonderful way with a story.

    love from cousin Liza

  4. Great Molly. Congratulations Heli Meltsner. Just returned from Boston last night. I have to say, I stopped to look at houses a few times myself. Look forward to reading the book.

  5. Wonderful Molly! Congratulations to the author, your mother is so impressive. Looking forward to seeing the hard copy very soon!
    ps: Here indeed lie the limitations of your Nook and my Kindle…

  6. Very cool and interesting. Congrats to your mom!