Windows on the Past

IMG_0353_2After years of dreaming and planning and tearing down the Strong Avenue bungalow, watching a beloved home vanish and wondering about the wisdom of deconstruction, we’re reached the stage where our carpenters are shoring up the 94-year-old Craftsman-style windows and slipping them into place at the Holmes County cabin. It’s been a tough journey for these old beauties, and they’ve not all survived. Some lie in shambles in the shed yard, their clouded glass in shards and their wood warped beyond salvage. Others are essentially intact, looking just as they did when Howard gathered his chicks in the side yard in 1925.

2015-02-07 13.20.04 HDRIf there was one turning point when I knew we had to do something to preserve the dignity of Howard and Jessie’s dream home, it was when I drove by and saw a shattered pane of glass. Somehow, up to that point, the mindless vandals who roam the old neighborhood had pretty much left the house alone. No graffiti, little trash, no broken windows. Maybe they had more satisfying targets, or perhaps this bungalow had an aura left from Howard: “I built this and I will protect it, though I’ve been gone from this place for the better part of a century. Move along.”

Who knows what shielded the bungalow from destruction? Nature was taking its slow and steady toll, as shingles rotted and mortar cracked, but that is the same with the 15-year-old house I live in today. But when I saw that broken window, the artwork of someone with no conscience, just a rock and a strong arm, it struck a nerve. Once the elements and the bored have access to an interior, it’s all over; I’ve seen it time and again all over Mississippi. It was time to fish or cut bait.

Miles Dickerson magically moved every brick, beam and rafter, by himself, from Greenwood to West. The only task that required the help of his brothers was transporting the windows. They are massive, elegant, perfectly proportioned and graced with those thin strips of decorative wood that speak of the early 1920s, when an ambitious young man could build “the first brick bungalow in Greenwood” for his bride. Those windows poured light into the house, especially on the west side, into the two bedrooms where Tiny, Mamie and Sara woke up each day, and the living room where they played on the floor with their paper dolls and tickled their baby brother, Howard Evans, Jr. They kept the rain out on gloomy days like today. They provided a safe spot to keep an eye on eccentric Miss Pearl McClellan and her even-more-eccentric mother, living next door in a truncated section of Greenwood’s oldest home. They overlooked games of tag and hide-and-go-seek and tea parties and somersaults.

2016-02-20 14.14.20And now those wonderful windows are finding new life in the cabin at West. The whole shebang was designed around them, so once again they serve a serious purpose, much better than the sad fate of targets for rocks and bricks. The dark bricks that outlined them for nine decades will be mortared back into place and we’ll shine their panes up with Windex and elbow grease. Those shown here will look out over the woods on the north side of the cabin; the main bank of windows will look over a screened porch and the lake. Not such a bad outcome for a set of city windows, is it?

2016-02-12 14.47.30There may not be tea parties and doll houses out in those woods, but I plan to see my grandchildren “bear hunting” and tree-house building and exploring those woods in the years to come. And I hope their grandchildren will pester them to tell them the story, just one more time, of a little girl named Sara, who lived so long ago, who shared her memories of a special place and a magical childhood and set this whole amazing story in motion.

About sec040121

Hello....I'm in possession of a priceless collection of memoirs and memorabilia left by my mother, Sara Evans Criss. She was a native and lifelong (88 years!) devotee of our small town, who covered this peculiar and volatile corner of the world for 30 years as the Memphis Commercial Appeal's Greenwood bureau chief, a job that started out with debutantes and high school football and wound up spang in the midst of one of the twentieth century's most enduring social upheavals. This blog is dedicated to her memory and the legacy she left behind, both for her family and her community.
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2 Responses to Windows on the Past

  1. jemiller25 says:

    Wonderful, Mom. And from what I heard Grandmama say of her father, he would have loved to have a place out in the woods.

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