Saturday, October 31, 2009
Today I visited Charleston, South Carolina and snooped around the School of the Building Arts, all spooked out for Halloween. Not much to be done to transform this school, the Old City Jail, into a bona fide Haunted House. I did not get to experience the Haunted House they had on, but admired from behind the four-foot thick brick walls, barred windows, and iron gates. An ancient paddy wagon in the yard was surrounded by the students' building projects in timber framing, masonry, stone-laying, even a kiln.
Friday, October 23, 2009
The ultimate destination of this Road Trip Across the South was this old gas station, transformed by the creative antiques sleuthing (a.k.a "junking") and brilliant merchandising of the Waring family. It is the Ft. Alafia Country Store. We landed here late Thursday night, after a long day driving from Mobile. The shop was glowing and busy with Afton's mother, father, brother, and aunt putting on the finishing touches before the Grand Opening this weekend.
There is a patch of woods on busy State Road 60 in Brandon, Florida, an anomaly among the car dealerships and strip malls. There is a home, built in the 1800s by Julia Daniels Mosely which she named The Nest, that still stands today in that patch of woods. It is the private residence of Julia Winifred Mosely, granddaughter of Julia Daniels Mosely, and it is almost exactly the same as it was when the original Mrs. Mosely lived there. At that time, this area was known as Limona.Looking out from the driveway of The Nest, home of the Mosely family, toward State Road 60 in Brandon, Florida. Six lanes of constant traffic. Would you believe this is the road at the end of the driveway in the forest? SR 60
Signs read, No Trespassing and Private Road. We proceed with trepidation, hoping to be found friends, not intruders. Afton's mother and father have visited with Ms. Mosely years ago, but we have no appointment or recommendation to drop in on her private Friday morning.We find ourselves in a dramatically different landscape, just 1/2 mile from the highway. Even the traffic noise dissipates. We've gone back in time.Standing on the front porch of the house which seems to blend into the woods, I pull the ring attached to a long string attached to an old rusty bell. We wait for what seems like five minutes and a second ring brings a kind older face to the window. Ms. Mosely smiles and waves and we breathe a sigh of releif, though still a bit nervous until she opens the door and we explain that we have read her book, Come to My Sunland, a compilation of her grandmother's letters and the history of The Nest and life in wild, rural 1800s Florida. We just wanted to see the house and tell her how much we appreciate what she is doing to preserve it.Ms. Mosely used to be a piano teacher. She keeps a guest book on the piano which we were happy to sign. The painitng is by her grandmotherJulia. The columns of the fireplace are palm trunks.The most famous aspect of The Nest may be its unique wall-covering. In keeping with the house's innovative use of vernacular materials, all things found in the wilds of 1800s Florida, Julia knit palm fronds together to form a kind of wallpaper and painted vines and flowers as a final decorative touch. Ms. Mosely is seeking assistance on how to preserve the wall coverings.
We were invited to sit on the veranda, an open space between enclosed portions of the house. It's like a "dogtrot" but open to receive breezes from four directions.
Ms. Mosely notes the photos of this house in Afton's copy of Come to My Sunland. She kept her hand at a pad of paper as we talked and we both drew maps as she spoke of the road projects she has averted from her home and I spoke of the urban plan of Savannah and it's squares.
The original board and batten, painted red and yellow, were covered by cedar shakes in the 1900s. A silhouette painting of a picnic, the picnickers going out for the day (right) with energy and anticipation; the picnickers coming home after the day's picnic (left), tired.Ms. Julia Winifred Mosely is an amazing woman. She lived a full life and had several different careers before settling into her destined role as the keeper of The Nest and the Mosely legacy in Brandon, Florida. She is continuously engaged with historians, architecture students, planners, and neighbors as she seeks to preserve the special history of her home and her region. She has amassed a lifetime of stores which she freely shared with us. I will not share them here, they are hers. Afton and I agreed that someone must tell her story, as she told the story of her grandmother in Come to My Sunland.Original outbuildings exhibit the old board and batten siding which covered the house, in red and yellow.
I would be remiss, as an architect and urban designer, to not see Seaside, Florida. I appreciate the traditional architecture with a postmodern edge and the many ways to walk in Seaside - by street, lane, path, through small public greens. They've got some pretty good food, too. A row of airstream trailers were lined up on the edge of this large public green, along Hwy. 30A, each offering a different delicacy. Restaurants on the opposite side of the highway, too - offering a view of the sea (below.)Iconic forms as place-markers as well as useful spaces.Savannah Street: A nod to the quintessential model of good urbanism, "old" urbanismIt seems like almost every house had a perch or widow's walk, their own individual tower from which to survey the sheer genius of the New Urbanist plan.