Feds Name New National Historic Landmarks: Ouija Board-Using Gay Poet’s Home, ‘Under World’ Relic and ‘Utopian Society’

By Penny Starr | November 10, 2016 | 4:21pm EST

James Merrill's house in New

London, Conn. (NPS)

(CNSNews.com) – The Department of Interior (DOI) and the National Park Service (NPS) have announced 10 new national historic landmarks, including the home of a homosexual poet, a relic from Shamanism, and the location of a “utopian society.”

“These 10 new national historic landmarks reveal important pieces of our nation’s diverse heritage through art, architecture and stories of community and identity,” DOI Secretary Sally Jewell said in a Nov. 2 press release announcing the landmarks.

“Today’s designation ensures future generations can trace, understand and learn from these properties, which join more than 2,500 other landmarks nationwide,” she said.

The poet James Merrill’s house in New London, Connecticut is on the list. Merrill, who died of AIDs in 1995, also wrote novels, plays and a memoir. He is described by the DOI and NPS this way: “Over time, he introduced more radical material into his poetry, including well-crafted examination about homosexuality, art and spiritualism. He wrote with subtlety and sympathy of gay life, illuminating its anxieties and fulfillments.”

Much of Merrill’s later writing, such as The Changing Light of Sandover epic, was based upon his use of the occult Ouija board and poetic expression of otherworldly voices.

The “Man Mound” in Greenfield, Wisconsin “is the only surviving earthen anthropomorphic mound in North America,” the text about the landmark said. “The form of the figure emphasizes both the skill of its designers and creators and the importance of the entity depicted – most likely either a shaman or a Lower World human/spirit transformation – and thus represents a figure at the very heart of the effigy mound ceremonial complex.”

“Shamans believe that unseen spirits permeate the world around us, act upon us, and govern our fates,” a 2012 National Geographic article said. “By turns doctors, priests, mystics, psychologists, village elders, oracles, and poets, they are the designated negotiators with this hidden reality, and they occupy an exalted position within their societies.”

The site of Zoar Historic District in Zoar, Ohio where a “utopian society” once was located also is on the list of new landmarks.

“Zoar was the only permanent home of the Society of Separatists in the U.S., a utopian society based in one location in the mid-to late-1800s,” the text about the landmark said. “The Zoar Historic District expands the understanding of communal utopian societies in 19th-century America by representing a significant and distinctive community reflecting the traditional landscape design, architecture, and way of life inherent in the Society of Separatist’s worldview and beliefs.

“Many of the intact 19th-century buildings reflect medieval building traditions transplanted by its German-American settlers as well as their customs, traditions and religious beliefs, including their varying attitudes toward gender equality and the role of women within the social and economic organization of these communities,” the text states.

The other landmarks include:

• The Athenaeum was the home of the Normal College of the North American Gymnastic Union for 63 years and the nation’s oldest, continuously active school of physical education.

• The Ames Monument in Wyoming by architect Henry Hopson Richardson that resembles a pyramid.

• Gaukler Pointe (Edsel and Eleanor Ford House), Macomb County, Mich.

James Merrill (1926-1995), an American poet whose later writing was based upon his use of the occult Ouija board and 

poetic expression of otherworldly voices. (Screenshot: YouTube) 

• The Mississippi State Capitol

• St. Bartholomew's Church and Community House, New York, N.Y.

• The Steward's House, Foreign Mission School, Cornwall, Conn.

Two more of the new landmarks are described as race-related – the Steward's House, Foreign Mission School, Cornwall, Conn., where an evangelical education was provided “for over 100 students from approximately 30 different nations, primarily Asia, the Pacific Islands and North America. The interracial marriages of two FMS students with local white women evoked a substantial public response and brought early 19th-century assumptions about race-mixing into the open, providing a context for national conversations on race and religion in the early 19th century.”

“Norman Film Manufacturing Company (located in Jacksonville, Fla.) is a rare, extant silent film studio and the only surviving race film studio in America; it never transitioned to sound production,” the text about the landmark said. “Richard E. Norman used Norman Film Manufacturing Company as a location for the production and distribution of what were known in the early 20th century as ‘race films;’ those that were made for African American audiences for exhibition in African American theaters and featuring African American actors.”

“During the National Park Service’s Centennial year, we are celebrating the places that tell America’s stories, and these newly designated National Historic Landmarks recognize important experiences that help us understand our history and culture,” NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis said in the press release.

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