7.29.2008

Progress

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In the current Issue of Preservation Magazine the very last page features a book review by Dwight Young of the book entitled The Place You Love is Gone by Melissa Holbrook Pierson. I just recently bought the book after reading the review.

Some excerpts from Dwight Young's review The Sound of Her Fury...

Far from being merely a nostalgic reminiscence, this is a denunciation of what Pierson calls our ability—and, more damning, our willingness—to "pulverize … into unrecognizability" the places that we should fight hardest to protect. The first section of the book, in which the author recalls her childhood haunts in Akron and reflects on what has become of them, is the most affecting. Here's her wry summation: "The hometown of my youth is now recognizable only in the places they haven't got to yet, though I hear plans are afoot."...."Change is always called 'progress' so you can't oppose it."
Read the rest HERE
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Yesterday afternoon, after work, my daughter and I gathered together some stale crackers to bring to the ducks at the larger lake outside of our neighborhood. Turning a corner off of our street I noticed too many landscaping trucks parked near the two lots that lay next to our back yard. The owner is the man who tore down a fantastic mid century lakeside house to build his Mediterranean Italian Villa. Last I had heard he planned to build a larger one on these two lot (his current home is about 7,500 square feet). But, the lots were recently for sale, and I am not sure if they have sold or if the other house plan is under way.

I heard a lot of buzzing from chain saws and needless to say, I was a bit more than upset. When we got home I went out back to investigate. I walked through the back yard noticing too much light streaming through from where 70 year old Camellias once stood (these acted as the "fencing" that separated the yards). And I only made it half way down the yard before I turned around in tears and literally ran inside. Dramatic maybe, but I wasn't trying to be. I was just that upset.

I like the lots how they are..park-like with remnants of the 1930s built beds, birdhouses and benches. The lots are the remnants of the backyard (the house is in front and now fenced of from these) of a professor who built the house and several other houses in the neighborhood in the 1930s. All the flower beds still brick lined, birdhouses, birdbaths, wood duck nesting boxes, an old tea house and cabana (built for his daughters), and even the benches were handmade by this professor. He died in the 1990s and his daughters sold the house to one couple and then the two remaining lots to a couple who own another lot (on the other side of my yard). They lived in my house for 20 years. The lady of this couple was a gardener and was friends with this professor. She still has a greenhouse on one of the lots that is called, by neighbors, a bird sanctuary. She lovingly maintained the professor's gardens and his many many Camellias (which were individually tagged ).
She added her own plants here and there among his many Southern Heirloom Bulbs and flowers. I can only imagine what it looked like when it was well maintained.

A couple of years ago, when they moved, she sold the two lots (where I noticed the landscaping trucks yesterday) to the Italian Villa man.

I have always hated to think of all of the professor's things being bulldozed for someone who wants to built a house with travertine tiled showers, granite counter tops, and a media room. I knew it was only a matter of time though. And I have wished more times than I probably should have (because it teeters on obsessing) that I could buy the lots. I would just fix up the cabana/tea house and maybe add an area in there with a mini greenhouse. I would keep up the professor's garden beds..and replace food in his bird feeders and bathes..make sure the bird houses were still sound...

Pictures of some of the professor's Camellias from February of this year.
There are so so many, some over 70 years old..









My favorite bird bath the professor made, marked 1940 on the bottom...

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And pictures of the Tea House he built for his daughters.
Through the Bamboo..




This is maybe the first stove of the original Tea House, it sits right outside of the left wall..

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And since yesterday I haven't been able to look again, after seeing the huge Camellia that was the screen for my own little bird arbor I made this year...cut down..on the ground surrounded by its own cracked branches and fallen leaves.

I think they are bulldozing the entire area. And so tonight I would like to try to gather some clippings and maybe try to propagate some the Camellias..and maybe dig up some bulbs too (there are soooo many Heirloom Bulbs out there)...

*EDIT No bulldozing or major destroying after all! It seems to be a huge cleaning up and yes,some Camellias were taken down, but they did keep and clean some up too. And the Tea House survives, thank goodness*
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7 comments:

lsaspacey said...

I am SO SORRY. I can just imagine how you feel.

If only that gentleman had made the time to contact local garden clubs and let anyone who wanted anything to comb his yard before he laid waste to so much beauty and history. Also that rubble and brick could be salvaged by someone else trying to restore.

Here in Richmond they are knocking down gorgeous old buildings left and right, all with security construction company fencing in place. This one building had the most beautifully detailed lion heads surrounding the floors, just small enough that you could see them resting on your mantelpiece or piano. But did they offer those to people? NO They were probably randomly pulverized or smart construction workers sold them for tons of money.

Again, I'm so sorry.

day-lab Blog said...

I always see the demos going on..and the old mill work or tile sitting in a pile, just completely torn apart..hacked up..completely useless at that point..and I always think the same thing...why not at least try to see if you can find someone to come take it out who may actually want to reuse /repurpose it. hell, i would gently de-tile a turn of the century floor for free if someone offered me the tile.

I would love to visit Richmond one day, btw. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry... this type of thing just slays me.

In the city I live in, there are only a few old neighborhoods left, and these gorgeous old homes, built anywhere from 1890 to 1930 are being bulldozed for the horrid "fake old" stucco houses, way too large for the lots and the neighborhoods.

One neighborhood is totally gone now, replaced with these horrid new houses. As my husband put it, living there would be like living in an outdoor mall.

Our city recently gave thought to designating some of the "more important" houses as historic structures. But this misses the entire point... these whole neighborhoods are historic and irreplaceable.

Ugh.

Pencils said...

I am so sorry. How totally heartbreaking. And what a waste!

Lillian said...

Oh Amy, I´m so sorry. This is so sad. In my neighbourhood they recently tore down the nicest old villa and garden just to build a GARAGE for the stupid rich man who also lives his marble Italian fantasy in a once historic setting. It´s just happening everywhere. I SO hate this.

day-lab Blog said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
db said...

I live near Atlantic City, where bulldozing Victorian homes to make way for garish monstrosities has been part of the culture for three decades. My family's in construction, and one of their most heartbreaking reports is that at least as of a few years ago, nobody on those demolition jobs was allowed to salvage any of the "garbage" -- all those beautiful doorknobs, fixtures, and other artifacts were instead carted to a landfill.

Ironically, right down the coast are little towns whose tourists come for quiet beach vacations, not gambling, and in one of them I just saw an antique store charging a bundle for the exact sorts of fixtures they threw away by the truckload two towns north.

Meanwhile, a waitress in an AC restaurant whose bay view was just ruined by a new eyesore of a casino was raving to me about how incredible it looks now, with the lights from the casino flashing all night. I feel like we need to have aesthetic training in our schools.