Sunday, September 25, 2011

Of Grandeur and Neglect

The Carpenter House, 2011
The stately old home is tired; fragile after years of neglect and abuse.   Once, one of the most beautiful structures in the state, she droops and sags more with each passing month. 

Originally a show-place, the home whispers of a glorious past.  Within her spacious rooms the ghosts of long-ago parties move across polished parquet floors.  Genteel men in dark suits escort women wearing flowing long dresses who's hems gently dust the ground.  Above the grand staircase, light filters through an enormous, exquisite stained glass window which features a delicate woman enjoying an exotic garden setting somewhere far from this small Kansas town.

Stately porches grace two sides of the home, wrapping around in gentle sweeps, offering shelter as one waits to capture an elusive breeze on a hot Kansas evening.  From the second floor, balconies reach out toward views of the lawns below.

A century ago, the home's gardens were known throughout the country for they featured species rarely found in the States.  The owner spared no expense - importing his precious  peonies and irises from Holland and Japan, paying as much as $150 per bulb, (plus shipping and import taxes) - a shocking sum even 100 years later.

Today, the expansive lawns sport a few willful plants which summon the strength to push through the weeds, refusing to surrender to the neglect which encourages their demise.  

The Carpenter House, Early 1900's
I pass the house often, recalling it in a happier time.  Built  a century ago by members of my family, The Carpenter House slowly falls victim to her very spender, for her stateliness, her grandeur, have been, in part, her undoing.  She's dying, not from being unloved, but from being held too closely by the wrong people.

Sold in the middle part of the 1930's to a local physician, it was inherited by his daughter who hadn't the will to sell, nor the funds to maintain her from where she lived 150 miles away. Unoccupied, the home began her steady decline.  Paint peeled from her walls, the porches began to sag.  Beautiful balusters fell off one by one and weeds took over where priceless gardens once stood.

Through neglect, she became known as "the big haunted house".  Kids looking to scare themselves, or show they were brave, broke in to take their own private tours under cover of night.

Today, the home only hints of her early magnificence. An old utility truck is parked at her side, as though to catch pieces as they fall from her.  A tractor sits along the other side.  Again, she rests in the hands of one who, through lack of interest, funds or energy, has failed to reconstruct her to her former beautify.  And yet, he can't quite seem to part with her and entrust her to one with the dedication to restore her to her original splendor.

Human nature is a funny thing.  The Carpenter House - its beauty, its demise - hurts my soul.  I pray for her saving, but fear that, within a few years, she will be beyond all help.  Seeing her is painful, but I keep driving by - perhaps in hopes of finding her back in her original state, with men in dark suits and women in long dresses, strolling the grounds, stopping occasionally to partake of the delicious fragrance of a graceful purple iris.

1 comment:

  1. We do a "drive by" EVERY time we are in Oswego also, with the same hope. I've taken many photos of this glorious creature of a house; have peeked in the windows; have refurbished her in my mind many many times. How wondrous it would be to see her restored.