Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Aspen Grove: A Southern Tale of Haunting Part 1 of 3
(Above: From the roadway. Best damn sled run ever, except you ended up in the creek!)
(Above: How it looked when I grew up there)
(Above: how it looked in the 1890s)
(Above: How it looked in the 1860s post Civil War)
(Above: How it looks today)
(Above: The grounds in the wintertime)
(Above: The grounds in the springtime)
(Above: Only a small portion of the artifacts)
A wonderful blogger with a blog about southern spirits mentioned an interest in the story of my upbringing at Aspen Grove. It could be a book, so I'm going to put it into parts each day.
Gather around, kiddies, for a southern tale best told by a gal who grew up in a very idyllic setting, although with a good deal of ghosts and a family that, well, I swear Pat Conroy wrote about in "Prince of Tides." This will be a multiple-part series this week and next week I'll do one about our Victorian summer home on the Chesapeake.
Aspen Grove was built in the mid 1700s. My mother told me it was a fort against Indians and the windows were slanted above to thwart arrows. I'm not sure about that, but the windows were, indeed, at a bizarre angle. (See post Civil War pic above)
It was originally called the "Springfield" because it had the most amazing fresh springs. In fact, those fresh springs fed our well that gave water to our home and the outbuildings which at the time we moved in included two carriage houses, a barn and stables. The water was so good, people often brought containers when visiting.
My parents had 5 kids and my mother was an art teacher and historian. The home was surrounded by property owned by George Mason University in Fairfax. It was a nice decent jaunt from dad's job in DC. All in all, an idyllic place to live. There was a glass-lined room in the front of the house that mother turned into an art studio for her classes. There was a glass lined library, as well. The downstairs contained, a pantry room, kitchen, breakfast room, art room, library, living room, dining room, bathroom and music room. The basement was unfinished and rough with a dirt crawlspace and a storm door to the outside. The upstairs held 3 bedrooms and a closed in porch made into another bedroom, as well as two bathrooms and a linen closet. The attic was a huge unfinished one never used by us.
The front yard was made up of a huge pasture, a creek with a bridge where the gravel driveway sat, an English boxwood maze in front and another in back. There were lilac, a wisteria arbor, grape arbor, magnolia, apple orchard, sour cherry orchard, walnut trees, persimmons, pears, berries, wild strawberries, a vegetable garden, and we owned a horse and boarded others.
In nice late spring weather, mother would have art shows on the grounds.
(Above: One of the artists)
The artists would set their work up within the "rooms" of the boxwood mazes. My parents entertained a lot and we had formal parties, as well as nice outdoor ones with badminton, ping pong, croquet, horseshoes events.
My parents rented the cottages out cheap to students from George Mason University. Everyone who ever visited Aspen Grove or lived in the cottages, came back over and over again and again to wander the grounds, enjoy a glass of sweet tea, and tell stories of the good old days. It was one of those places that was a retreat from all that was suburban sprawl and time actually seemed to move slower on the estate than in the surburbs surrounding it.
It was so idyllic that us children built tree forts, explored the woods and creek.
(Above: Can you blame me for wearing a hole under my favorite swing in the world?)
We made forts inside the boxwoods, built huge snow forts, had amazing sled runs where we would use a heavy weighted roller to make a path from the back door down to the cherry orchard, hose it down, put a spotlight on it and then do sledding all night long.
(Above: My best friend, Reed, and her mom trying out the backdoor to the cherry orchard run)
We lingered around the berry bushes, apple trees and grape arbor munching, played in the barn like it was a giant submarine, enjoyed flashlight tag and catching lightning bugs, camping on the property, and all the things young children adore when they are left to their own devices and no DVD players or computers and game systems.
In fact, it was so beloved, my parents vowed to haunt it...
(Tomorrow, another installment)