A couple of weeks ago, I got into the A&E TV show Hoarders. It was my escape from dealing with 1.) sending Leigh and Juliette back to the shelter, and 2.) deep-cleaning my house so that my new roommate and subletter can feel comfortable moving in starting next week. The latter still hasn’t been accomplished. But I did begin.
I watched an episode about a historic home near downtown Greensboro, the Julian Price House. It was a well-executed 2-hour special, but also very very sad. The happy news is that the family moving into the home is focused on not only returning it to its former glory, but making it a great family house for raising two twin daughters.
Then I read an article about the architect, Charles C. Hartmann: http://ncarchitects.lib.ncsu.edu/people/P000118
Long story short, this guy is the architect of Greensboro. He designed the Jefferson Standard Building, Grimsley and Brooks schools (the “million dollar school” for white students), Dudley High (the black-student counterpart), the facade of the infamous Woolworth building (hint: February 1960 sit-ins), and several prominent houses such as the Price one.
Which got me thinking. I don’t give the Triad architectural community a lot of credit. Cities like Greensboro and Winston-Salem are expansive, serious, and somewhat urgent projects. A lot of development has been happening in my beloved Greensboro, but I just don’t pay much attention.
At my job last summer, I saw that the coffee-shop and micro-brewing scene on South Elm has gained significance in Downtown’s new identity. But then I came back to school in New Orleans and forgot about it all again. I had been a tourist in my hometown:
-I watched the demolition of War Memorial Auditorium
-saw with dismay that the Steven Tanger PAC construction was delayed for lack of funds
-discovered the new Center City Park that was part of a larger master plan for the development of Downtown Greensboro
-discovered that the architecture firm I worked for had close contact with the Carrolls, a very wealthy family funding a lot of Greensboro’s redevelopment. (High-school me had performed a string quartet gig in their brand-new penthouse apartment for an arts fundraiser.)
It doesn’t end there, as I recall the architectural significance of all of my coming-of-age Greensboro adventures:
-Blandwood Mansion, with my junior prom in its carriage-house
-the sprawling First Presbyterian Church, where I hung out after Kindergarten while my sister took extracurricular classes
-the heavily-secured American Hebrew Academy, where I was a cafeteria-lady for a summer…
-and on that note, the well-hidden Greensboro Jewish Federation with its labrynthine layout (I’m not Jewish! Who let me into these places?)
-the old houses in the Tate-Mendenhall neighborhood east of UNCG, where otherwise-studious college kids throw excellent parties (New Year’s Eve crew, wya?)
-UNCG’s beautiful music building itself, where I had lessons and youth-orchestra rehearsals since I was 12
-the ancient simplicity of Guilford College, which was a major underground-railroad hub and also weirdly my high school
-the Greensboro Public Library’s giant Church Street branch, where I helped hand out meals to hungry people on Tuesday evenings as part of Guilford’s Community Kitchens club
-the Greensboro Urban Ministry, another CKC site and not far from North Carolina’s largest food desert, where I also went to middle school across from Dudley High (see above)
-the train station, yet another CKC site and where I joined the Greensboro Philharmonia last summer for rehearsals while the Cultural Center (where I went for artsy summer day camps as a little kid) underwent renovations.
But I’m really from High Point. Dozens of my elementary-school peers and neighbors would leave their houses during the yearly Furniture Market, which repurposed people’s homes as showrooms for wares from the furniture capital of the world. Red House Furniture, the location of Rhett and Link’s famous commercial, is in the center of town. High Point Theatre is where I saw such acts as Stanley Jordan, Chuck Mangione, and The Machine with my parents as a groovy young teen. John Coltrane grew up in High Point.
Then there’s cute little Jamestown, with its creepy public library, quaint shops, first bar where I enjoyed a drink with my dad and his coworkers on my 21st birthday, and, of course, the church where I went to preschool, Sunday school, and Girl Scout meetings up until high school.
Everything is significant. Every spot has a complicated and fascinating history. I wrote an editorial for a class in fall 2015 titled “New Orleans is not better than your city”–I’m proud of that paper, but I don’t practice what I preached. In middle school, my friends and I would make fun of our city as a typical Southern barren wasteland. Many of us thought anywhere could be better. I went through high school dreaming of earning a big enough scholarship to an out-of-state university that I could go somewhere “cool” for college instead of the cheaper close-to-home options. I achieved this, and I’m in New Orleans. I love this city; I’m extremely thankful to be studying architecture and music here, of all places.
But geez, how on earth can I not be homesick? You don’t appreciate what a rich upbringing you actually had, surrounded by loads of interesting sights and scenes, until you spend a long time elsewhere. That’s when you want to go back and appreciate your home from a new perspective. For me, I realize it’s a gem.
All of this to say: don’t underestimate the place you grew up in. I haven’t been home in 7 months, so I miss it a lot these days.