Sunday, August 22, 2010

Frances thinks about living in Fernbank

Today's letter from Frances is historically interesting in that she describes a bit about the early stages of the Fernbank Museum of Natural History.  I remember as a child visiting Fernbank when it was what I thought was just a big bug collection in a small old building.  From what I can gather online, the house that Frances talks about below was owned by Col. Z.D. Harrison and was purchased in 1938 by a group wanting to set up a conservancy.  Frances drew a floor plan/property map of the house, which I have scanned below.

April 8, 1946

Dearest Angel,

The lacquer ware came .  Also the brocade bag with the green silk.  Margaret's doll (most gratefully received) and the Victrola records arrived in excellent condition.  The records are most interesting.  The children's record is darling, I think.  I guess I am not accustomed to such vocal renditions as the male voices gave, I think.  American sense of tone is much easier on the ear.  Anyway, I certainly enjoy playing the records.

The postcard holder is simply lovely.  As you said, it will be interesting to see how the new lacquer pieces wear.  I have been reading up on lacquer ware in the book I have on Japanese art.  It mentioned that the oldest pieces of Japanese lacquer ware were on exhibit at the museum at Nara.  Of course, the book was written before the war.  The pieces I refer to were made around 700 to 800 A.D.  Like everything else, lacquering was imported from China and Korea.

There are only black, red and green lacquer ware, as no vegetable dyes will mix with the lacquer.  The finest pieces are black or red encrusted with gold.  Also rare, elaborate pieces have been inlaid with mother-of-pearl.

I was interested in your account of the art exhibit and the tea connected with it.  We were all amazed at the size contrast in the pictures of you and the Japanese lady.  Emily said that she could understand why you sent such small things to us -- the people were small.

Today I took the girls out to Fernbank.  You turn off of Clifton Road, opposite the golf course of Druid Hills Golf Club.  The property extends from there to the to little road you and I went on to see the sun rise one morning after a Pan Hellenic dance.

It is the former estate of a wealthy land owner.  The house is still there.  The house is built in the style of the Snowden home in Memphis.  There is the former stable, servants home, gardens and woodland.  The Scouts, Campfire Girls, etc., us it in summer as a day camp.  Weisiger is president of the Fernbank association, which hopes to make it a children's recreation area.

A little theater group had made a stable playhouse once, but things have been neglected during the war.  Emily and Monty were entranced with the old stable to roam through.  They enjoyed the woods and paths.  We found some sweet shrub.  Find one enclosed.  The woods were so full of memories for me.  The trees, violets, the hills, the earthy smells brought back visions of you.  Once, I started to run a bit to catch up with you and show you a sweet shrub bush just covered with blossoms.  Then with a little pang of remembrance I realized that you weren't just ahead in the path but thousands of miles away in Tokyo.  Anyway, I did pick off the blossoms to send you with all my love.

I think I could get the three-room servant's house if I agreed to be caretaker.  It would be a place for us to start in if you come home in June and start with the telephone company here.  I talked to Mr. Weisiger about it and he thought I might make a deal with it until September at least.

The house is in need of repair, but it has water and electricity and a good roof.  The ceilings are high and there's a fireplace in each room.  As soon as I saw it, I thought that it would be fun to fix it up and that I'd love to live in it, because it would afford the children such wonderful places to play.

There is the floor plan -- [see below]

I guess it would not be practical as there are no closets and we'd have to move to something larger, but I start wanting to make a home at the drop of a hat or something.

And the Scouts will be having day camp out there.  It would be company and nice companionship.  Anyway, I had to write it to you.

Tomorrow I shall write you in detail of the recent pigeon funeral we had around here.




Below is the floor plan and property map that Frances drew.  Unfortunately, the last part of her letter from the other side bled through, so it is difficult to see everything.  Be sure to click twice on this image.

1 comment:

martha said...

A few years later when Martha was about 4 years old, Frances gave nature walks at Ferbank Forrest. I would go with her and at the time I knew the names of most of the plants.
The little house she was thinking about moving into is about the size of the farm house at Camp Civitania where the family actually moved into during the summer following Bill's return.