So as usual I find myself (Harpie, this time) compelled to wander the lavish Duke Estate on the hottest and most isolated day of this week. Thankfully, I was in good company. Despite starting the day out without a tram service (which is fine, not many people were there, admittedly, but still…) This particular day was the first time either of us had been to visit the cemetary that Miss Duke kept for her beloved animals, which included her camels, Princess and Baby. There was a common theme that emerged on this crispy September day: it appeared rather clearly to both of us that the stonework incorporated into the landscape has become broadly neglected… or at least profoundly disregarded either on purpose or otherwise.
Since our first stop was the Fox Hollow hill where the pets were laid to rest, it was a shady and cool walk. I noticed right away as we rounded the curve that these stones were mostly made of slim black stones with names stenciled into them in weatherproof white ink. What struck me in this area of the property was the sadness of each stone left in pieces in the grass, some with portions of the headstone still standing and the broken fragments sitting at their base. Perhaps with too much empathy, I thought of my own parakeet’s little marker and how devastated my family would be if something happened. Needless to say, it would be rapidly replaced or fixed. I’m not seeing the same sense of immediacy here, which is troubling since this is the illustration of Miss Duke’s love for animals- it was only the greatest devotion she had at Duke Farms besides plant life.
In walking back from the cemetary, I wondered if our old friend, Mr. stone balluster was ever fixed. Then, I realized, most likely not if this is a pattern of behaviors. I could argue all my life that this is a maneuvered landscape and that these stones that Mr. Duke himself laid are respectfully integrated into any environmental concepts to be applied, I’m still falling on deaf ears and cold feet.
Time to go home already? Sadly, yes. Today was a shorter-than-normal visit. We cut through the stairs to the old foundation and here is where I may have gotten most frustrated. Not only were the stones previously mentioned in need of serious love and attention, but the edges of the old foundation’s series of stairs were separating from one another at the seams. This one really tugged on both our heartstrings because of just how much this old foundation was used for in its lifetimes. It has the mark of James B Duke, Doris, the staff, James Cromwell, and a bunch of stories attached to each of them. It feels like the very essence of the Dukes is crumbling, literally away in the very property it was meant to be heralded at. This wasn’t just one instance: these fractures in the stone work were evident on each set of stairs we walked down.
Now really, I get it. It’s an expense. Everything in the world costs something if it’s worth doing. Trust me, we are young people who cringe at the word ‘afford’. But let’s change the perspective and the lens for a moment and put that cognitive therapy education to good use: What if you were alive during the estate’s most magnificent years when Miss Duke was in residence? How would you feel after years of natural decay occuring to a place you once called home? It hurts! People feel for this place and there are dozens of instances where historical integration into the landscape is an environmentally appropriate approach (consistent with the status quo at the farms today). Take fiscal challenge on and take a little extra to keep the property from falling apart… gradually. Last I remember, this is called neglect.
Stay curious and stand against wrongful erasure of out history. #RetroLife #VintageLife