I cannot wait to bring to you guys the virtual exhibition of the archives we inherited along with the purchase of our house. I was just going through all our 200 or so photographs and 20 or so legal documents to figure out what kind of window dressing came on the place (white blinds, even the front glass door) and also figure out when the angled driveway posts were replaced with straight posts (more recently than we thought -- last 10 years?)
I also discovered that the front porch lightbulb lived most of its life wihtout so much as a lamp covering, which makes me feel better about having removed the "old-timey" style lamp that was there and replacing it with something that expressed her modern lines better. I thought it was original but it was not.
I couldn't discern when the bronze doorbell was installed or whether it was a Hopkins artifact. We are not wired for an electric doorbell but have a medium flared bronze bell with leather thong attached to the clacker. People use it and grin -- its a real throwback! If we remove it I'm all for installing it out back to use as a Suppertime!
bell for all our barbecues.
Shuffling through the photos I'm discovering just how house-proud the Hopkins' were -- Dr. Hopkins with all her roses and hedges and shrubbery and irises which she (or he?) so lovingly documented first in black and white and then in blazing color. These folks took TONS of photos of the house through the ages, focusing very much upon the corner chimney volume and the white pillars. The shrubs that surrounded that space have changed much through the decades, easing my quandary about what would be appropriate to plant there. Whatever I feel like, apparently. That's what Doris did.
I have positioned my first smaller-vegetable garden on a south-facing wall where she used to grow grapes, and has clear evidence of trellises that vines once clung to. I'd like to have a grape arbor of my own someday.
I also saw the privet out in the courtyard as it was originally intended as a neat waisthigh hedge, not the gangly towering monster that it has turned into now. I've been told it will never look good again now that it has been allowed to grow so high. The courtyard concept is all that might remain of that original detail.
I glimpsed for the first time in the photos the fabled cat kennel that resided at the back of the property we call The Wasteland, a little 2X4 stick shanty with chicken wire holding it together. This spot is where I am digging in my first major big-vegetable farm on this property: corn, beans, squash, tomatillos, chiles, tomatoes. I like to know where my food came from and not drive far to get it. Folks have jokingly warned me to look out for cat bones as I dig, lest I unearth an entire pet cemetary. I just hope Dr. Hopkins is not offended by my re-use of the space. As a fellow gardener I think she would understand.
Lastly, I saw the original lamp post planted upright between kitchen and kennel, which now lies in shabby disassembly out on The Wasteland, but could easily be recreated by any good welder here. The severe lines are good enough to keep, and I could imagine several of them positioned around the courtyard casting pools of light, and leading out further onto the property.
If there was one thing I learned about looking at the evidence over time, it is that the Hopkins' let this place grow organically from their immediate needs. Just like any other family would.
This home and its family have different needs than they did, and live in more complicated times. This is the first time, for example, that a child has ever lived in this home. The children and parents in our lives adore the place for its unfinished, malleable character. The backyard itself posesses such rich possibility as a place for design and exploration with raw materials lying around waiting to be shaped. Digging and gardening tools lie strewn about, as does chalk and string waiting to be used. Mark up the concrete! Dig out the dirt! Make a train and issue tickets our of leaves. It is the ultimate play garden, much as Bucky described.
I am so, so excited about the transformation of this place. We are very much in dialogue with the past, and feel we must heed it much respect -- but we have both agreed that this place will not become a museum to postwar design. It will grow along with us and with the times.