Thursday, June 10, 2010
My mother was from the south, and when I was a little boy she filled my head with wistful - and mostly apocryphal - tales of Louisiana plantations. She really hooked me on the big old house thing. I loved them not just as objects, but as symbols. And I'll have to figure out what I really mean by that, before indulging in any more highfalutin' language. There's something wistful about great country houses, especially the ones down on their luck, which, not coincidentally, are the ones with which I've had the most personal experience. There used to be a great house called Thorncrest, located near my home in Millbrook. It was torn down in the 1940s and its once manicured estate has grown back to virginal looking forest. A friend and I visited the foundation recently for a column I write on Old Houses for our local paper, the Millbrook Independent. It's strange to walk around a 70 year old mulch pile with trees growing out of the middle of it, surrounded by faint traces of foundation walls that correspond to a postcard printed a century ago. This was some kind of a house, as you can see, designed in the 1860s by Edward Tuckerman Potter for the founder of Millbrook, George Hunter Brown. It's the sort of place people used to call "ugly," but I wish it were here today. I know I'd love it.