King Drake remembered…

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I’m often asked why many of Madison County’s locations are named as they are. Books have even been written about why streets in Huntsville are named as they are, just to satisfy the curiosity seekers and give them the information they desire. When I wonder why we are so enamored with seeing old photos and reminiscing about times gone by, I think it is because we are so inundated every day with change that many of us crave the simpler times of yesteryear. Times before rush hour traffic, computers/smartphones, constant communication and drive-thru dining.image

Now, the gentleman pictured above, Reverend John Henry Drake, might not have described his life as “simple” given that he was a circuit rider, farmer, land owner and educator in addition to head of a large family.  In addition to preaching for the Cumberland Presbyterian denomination, he started the Drake School, educating the children of the Big Cove community near the Drake Cemetery on what is now called King Drake Road. Having been widowed when his first wife died, he remarried and added 9 more children to his previous 2. His love for the Cumberland Presbyterian denomination even led to him naming 3 of his sons with names of founders of that faith. One of those sons was James King Drake.image

James King Drake’s parents raised him in a home located near today’s Sutton Road where Walgreen’s was recently built. The home was destroyed by a tornado in the 1920’s, wounding King’s mother so severely she never recovered. King and his wife built a home close to his parents on the eastern side of what is now King Drake Road. The home still stands there today.

James King Drake’s kids have permeated Madison County and married to become the Drake, Finley, Nunn and Brooks families. Many still live on family land throughout Brownsboro between Huntsville and Hampton Cove/Owens Cross Roads in Big Cove. There is even a Brooks Circle off of King Drake Road.
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 I love hearing stories from the Nunns, for whom I am listing 885 King Drake Road.  If you want to see this gorgeous home listed with my company, VV&W, click here

The stories reflect on Mr. Drake’s peach orchard on the hill south of the family homeplace, where the big house built by his grandson now stands; how Mr. Drake would give peaches to his workers in turn for their labor of picking and canning them so that entire families could enjoy fruit throughout the winters; sheep raising in the old barn across the street and the horn that Mr. Drake would sound from the front yard that would echo against the opposite mountain (now where the Ledges is located). They proudly show family archives and share copies of William Sibley’s The History of Big Cove, which documents all of the main events of this special North Alabama community. I think of the sleepy pace at which people operated, eating dinner with one another and everyone having to pitch in to do chores to provide for one another.

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These days, the mountainside behind these homes on King Drake Road is treed and plentiful. The family members still hike to the natural waterfalls, watch the birds and scout wildlife. During snowy days, a Gator pulls sledders to the top of the hill beside the house for a fantastic ride down on the powdery snow.. When power goes out, the generator at the big house provides power for heat, warm showers and movies in the theater: “simpler times” as defined by 2015…

imageBut looking out the front door, James King Drake’s memory still unfolds before you. The old barn in the distance with farmland and the family cemetery is just around the bend. The old facing mountain is still there waiting for the horn to sound and for the twilight to come over Big Cove.image

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Words for Graduation

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In 7th grade, my English teacher asked us to learn a poem by Edgar Guest called “Myself’ followed by Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If”.  We, typical middle schoolers, rolled our eyes as we read the verses we were to recite – in class – without notes or prompts, never really understanding why we needed commit any of these thoughts to memory.  Why does it matter?

Years later, when newscasters and politicians read from teleprompters and most people spout out their beliefs at random, the value of words get lost.  We have words all around us on screens, billboards, books, television, magazines.  Students get lists every week to define, use in a sentence and commit to memory long enough for the weekly quiz and then there is always a new list.  The old words are rarely seen again; words like harangue and admonish.  Words that just get digested into the next big batch to float out into the air.  Words are everywhere.  Words are a dime a dozen.

Until now, at 42, I look at my nephew graduating from high school and approaching college.  I glance at my oldest daughter, who this graduate held, with his chunky baby hands, and giggled at his, “new baby cousin.”  Wasn’t that just a year ago?  No, more like 14 years ago.  That young man has strong, sinewy hands now.  Hands that play guitar like one of the greats; hands that will accept a diploma in about three days from today.  And that “new baby cousin” will be in a cap and gown before I know it, walking across a stage and out of our house on her way into the wide world.

Times like this make you question every word you’ve ever uttered.

Did they hear me when I told them to be careful of strangers?  Not to leave her glass unattended?  Not to go along with the crowd?

Did they hear me when I told them I loved them, that they were smart, that they had divine purpose from God himself that they must decipher and carry out?

Or did the words fade into the universe only to be drawn back again years later if and when something big happens?  Those vibrations never go away but sometimes are only felt when we pay attention to them again…

What words would I say today to my graduate?  What would I want him to remember?  Do I have to speak them or will a hug do just fine; render the same message:  I love you.  You’re a great kid.  You are growing into something fine and wonderful, someone who will change the world as long as you don’t let the world change you…

And, from the deep darkness of 7th grade that I forgot so long ago, comes the following –

If you can keep your head when all about you 

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, 

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Yes, words matter.  Memorization helped me remember helpful thoughts when life gets too tough and my own words fail me. Graduates, if you can survive, keep the faith, persevere, not put yourself on a pedestal and not waste your life, then you will have done more than most men on this Earth.  What you do from here is just the beginning.  What you do from here is a new start.

If you like where you’re headed: KEEP GOING!!  If you don’t: CHANGE!  The whole wide world is ahead of you.  And, as many of you were reminded every day at Blossomwood Elementary School: “Go out and make it a great day – or not.  The choice is yours…”

Backyard neighbors with Leroy Pope’s estate…

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Backyard neighbors with Leroy Pope’s estate…

Years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Leroy Pope Mansion in Huntsville, Alabama, for the purpose of marketing it for sale.  The home was in the same family for generations and was later  granted to University of Alabama in Huntsville for use as the University President’s home.  The experience was an incredible walk through history.

The then-owner told us of her family’s escapades on the property’s sprawling grounds, approximately 6 acres in the very core of the city.  Horseback riding on the back lawn, cool summer breezes on one of many porches, the groundskeeper’s “boxwood hospital” on the property were a few stories I remember vividly.  The “boxwood hospital” was populated with boxwood shrubs as tall as any person I’ve ever met and as wide as an automobile… The plants would be transplanted to this area when they began to touch so that the leaves could fill back in wherever touching had caused the leaves to wither and die.  Full boxwoods would then be transplanted again throughout the property.  Fascinating.

My favorite experience of the entire period during which we marketed and sold this unparalleled property was all of the visits to the “widow’s walk”,  a dramatic name for a viewing area at the top of the home.  Up, up, up through the attic and into the absolute tippy top of the roofline one can see – literally- a 270 to 360 degree view of Huntsville, depending on the season.  True to form, Leroy Pope picked the highest point of his “city” and built his home where he could view every square inch of it.

Other properties were later built around the Pope Mansion, development occurred on the mountain east of it and small cities began nearby.  One of Pope’s former friends even built a house in front of it, stretching the ceiling heights to 16 feet in a spiteful attempt to block the city founder’s view.  Today, 200+ years later, that house is still well known as the “Spite House.”

So today, when I visit another unique downtown house built downhill of the north of the Pope Mansion’s front portico, I imagine a girl on a horse in a warm summer breeze, looking down the ivy covered hillside at a cozy Twickenham cottage being built on Eustis Street.  I wonder, did she still call the street “Maiden Lane” as it had been called in the past?  Did the ancestors of the red foxes of Twickenham roam the land then as they do today?  Oh, to be able to travel back in time to have a glimpse of times gone by…!

I look up the hillside in the backyard and see the home on the hill built by Huntsville’s first owner.  It’s a quiet view of history that is full of mystery, fun and nostalgia.  The backyard is visible from these photos for 418 Eustis, that quaint Twickenham cottage to Pope’s north.  It has been lovingly renovated only steps from the historic Courthouse Square.  Enjoy!

http://www.valleymls.com/homes-for-sale/418-Eustis-Avenue-Huntsville-AL-35801-136286105

 

 

 

View from a Visitor…

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We recently hosted relatives who visited Huntsville from Brooklyn, NY.  We have visited them many times and always found the New York area filled to the brim with activities, attractions, landmarks, etc.  Little did we know that our city would be as appreciated by them in return.  The Botanical Gardens, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Alabama barbeque, Downtown Huntsville and others certainly added to the experience!  I thought this was a beautiful summary of what someone else recognized about our city.  It’s another reason to be proud and Happy in Huntsville…  Here is is:

 

“Huntsville Alabama. A place where schools and streets are named after Astronauts and Shuttles Missions. A small community that quietly won the Cold War and put the first man on the Moon. A place where Patriotism is not an abstract idea but instead a way of life. The warmth and hospitality that we’ve been shown this week can never be matched! Thank you so much to our family! I promise we’ll be back soon! Roll Tide  and War Eagle!”Image

Summer in Huntsville

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Summertime brings with it so many wonderful events here in the Tennessee Valley.  Here are just a few summer offerings that make us happy in Huntsville…

1.  Enjoying time on the Tennessee River, the Flint River, Guntersville Lake, Wheeler Lake or Tim’s Ford.  This includes crawfish boils at Ditto Landing and attending church at Guntersville’s Church on the Lake…

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2. Summer Concerts in Big Spring International Park.  Every Monday night, the dock of the Huntsville Museum of Art hosts a different local band.  Picnics, folding chairs and dancing under the stars are enjoyed by young and old citizens alike.  Now thru mid-August.  http://www.artshuntsville.org/our-programs/concerts-in-the-park

Reunion photo concert in the park

3.  Graduations and dance recitals at the VBC.  Rarely a day goes by from late May through mid June that you won’t see little kids in tap shoes and sequins running to the Concert Hall along with graduates in caps and gowns taking pictures by Thrasher Fountain.  http://www.flickr.com/photos/iceman66/5535991778/

4.  Neighborhood pools-  Most areas offer a selection of neighborhood pools that become the summer hangouts and social areas through the summer months.  For a base membership fee plus an annual dues collection, these neighborhood pools organize swim meets, social events on holidays and swimming lessons for little ones.  Some even feature tennis courts as well.

5.  Green Street Market and other Farmer’s Markets around town: Thursday nights have become wonderful “farm to table” nights in downtown Huntsville with the creation of the “Green Street Market” nights.  Local vendors offer fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh flowers, culinary dishes, gluten free fare and more.  Artwork, herbs, bath products and farm fresh eggs are staples for GSM as well!  It has become so popular that South Huntsville has started their own Farmer’s Market and other neighborhoods are following suit.  http://www.greenestreetmarket.com/See all of the latest and greatest events coming up on http://www.ourvalleyevents.com

For all of the upcoming Summer events, be sure to check out www.ourvalleyevents.com.  You’ll see why we are Happy in Huntsville, especially in the summertime!

Reading Night at Blossomwood Elementary

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Reading Night at Blossomwood Elementary

Dr. Cathy Vasile, former principal of Blossomwood Elementary and current Director of Performing Schools for Huntsville City Schools, comes back to the new facility as a “celebrity reader” for the school’s “Family Reading Night.” Families were invited for dinner and reading sessions by School Board members, principals, an Army General and a retired Judge. The evening culminated in Bruster’s Ice Cream and Nothing Bundt Cakes. Another reason to love Blossomwood and to be Happy in Huntsville!

To Everything, There is a Season

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I was saddened to hear of the passing of Ira Jones, an active Huntsvillian and good friend of my family.  Mr. Jones was active in the scientific community at Marshall Space Flight Center but made a name in my mind for his work with Historic Huntsville Foundation, an organization dedicated to preserving historic structures in North Alabama as well as owning and operating one of the southeast’s oldest continuously operating hardware stores, Harrison Brothers, on Southside Square.  

Mr. Jones and his wife, Billie, were also in a love affair with their historic home, Quietdale, located off of Meridian Street near Lee High School.  Built by the family of Madison County’s high sheriff, Quietdale has witnessed much of the history of Huntsville, standing from the eras of cotton farming to the space industry.

One of the things the Mr. Jones loved most was a 100+ year old field of daffodils on the property.  They don’t
know how the daffodils originated but speculated that there was once a nursery or greenhouse on the property.  That’s one of the joys of living in an historic home- discovering hidden treasures over the years and investigating how or where that gem originated. Today, one day after his funeral, I saw this article on About.com. How appropriate to remember the Jones family and to highlight everything in its season. From death comes life, and the daffodils of Quietdale are blooming.

http://huntsville.about.com/od/historichomes/ss/quietdale_4.htm