Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Hawthornes Visit Airlie Gardens In Wilmington, NC.

The Hawthornes took a quick road trip to Wilmington, NC.
One of my Little Hawthornelets lives there.
Another was visiting there.
Three grand dogs and one grand cat were there.
The planets were aligned.
Rosie is happy.

First, some sights along the way.
In Nags Head, NC, we passed Jockey's Ridge,
the tallest natural sand dune in the eastern US.
If Rosie ever tells you to go fly a kite,
you can do it here.

We made a quick pass through New Bern.
When in New Bern,
we always stop at Moore's BBQ 
 for ... their fried oysters.

I wanted to get out and sit for a spell,
but Mr. Hawthorne said NOOOOOO.

And now, the Hawthornes are on a self-guided walking tour of Airlie Gardens in Wilmington.

Rosie always likes to research the histories of places she goes to and Airlie Gardens was no exception.  Colored me piqued.

Airlie Gardens began about 472 years ago, circa 1545, when a little acorn fell onto the coastal plain, a few miles away from the Atlantic Ocean, where Wrightsville Beach, Wilmington, NC, is today.  That little acorn grew into the tree you see above.  And oh boy.  If that tree could talk...

The Airlie Oak, by the way, is 128 feet tall and 21 feet around, making it the largest in the state.

In 1735, King George granted 640 acres of land to local leatherworker, Jonathon Ogden, and his brother, Solomon, a carpenter.  A portion of this tract included what is Airlie, today.

In 1800. Joshua Grainger Wright purchased half of the Ogden property on Bradley Creek for 110 pounds.  His wife, Susan Bradley Wright, named the property Mount Lebanon because of all the cedar trees on the property.

In 1835, Dr. Thomas Henry Wright, son of Joshua and Susan, built Mount Lebanon Chapel.  Dr. Wright was a physician, bank president, railroad director, merchant, and Episcopal minister.

According to Dr. Wright's wishes, the chapel and its 6 1/2 acre tract of land was deeded to St. James Church in Wilmington in 1875.

In 1884, Sarah Green purchased 52 acres of Mount Lebanon for $5000.  She married Pembroke Jones and extended the holdings to 155 acres.  Pembroke Jones named the place Airlie, in honor of his ancestral home in Scotland, and Sarah called it Airlie-On-The-Sound. 

Sarah began transforming Airlie into a garden estate, creating lakes and tree-lined paths.
 "The design of the garden develops into a naturally curving and mysterious style that appears effortless yet maintenance depends on scores of full-time workers."

  In the early 1900s, local florist, C.F.W. Rehder, was hired to create the gardens.  Later, Sarah hired Rudolph Topel, German landscape gardener, to develop and maintain Airlie Gardens.  Topel remained head gardener at Airlie for 31 years, until his death in 1937.  Magnolias, camellias, and japonicas border the mile-long winding driveway and Sarah and her team of gardeners planted over 500 live oaks, 1200 longleaf pines, 5000 camellias, and a quarter million azaleas.

Sarah and Pembroke Jones, wealthy industrialists, loved to entertain on their expansive estate, which at the time, included an 18-hole golf course, a 1300-acre hunting preserve, and a staff of more than 50 servants.  And we're talking legendary entertaining here.  $300,000 was allocated for entertaining each summer.  Lavish parties were thrown throughout the season and the guests could bask in the hospitality of the Joneses.  This was the Gilded Age.  A special train of trolley cars transported guests to the estate.  Picnic platforms were erected in the branches of the Airlie Oak with linen-covered tables set with sterling silver.  Elaborate hunts were planned where, according to my research (i.e. "googling) even the squirrels were dressed in little red jackets.  Now I'd like to have seen that.  Extravagant party favors were provided - diamonds for the women and gold watches for the men.  The expression, "Keeping up with the Joneses," is said to have originated with the Pembroke Joneses.  And now, you know.  You're welcome.

In 1948, Walter Albert and Bertha Barefoot Corbett purchased the Airlie property from Sadie Jones Pope, daughter of Pembroke and Sarah, for $150,000.  The Corbetts opened Airlie to the public seasonally throughout their ownership.  More azaleas, camellias, and rare evergreens were added.  The first annual Azalea Festival opened April 9, 1948 and has become a premier event in Wilmington.  The original festival was a downtown flower show sponsored by area garden clubs.  During the first festival, Queen Jacqueline White and her entourage paid a visit to Airlie which became a "royal tradition" that continues today and is known as the "Queen's Luncheon Garden Party." During the early years of the Azalea Festival, the Corbetts invited celebrities and guests to the luncheons and barbecues, celebrating the festival.  The property remained in the hands of the Corbetts until 1999, when 67 acres (of the original 155-acre estate) of the Airlie tract were sold to the county for $10.5 million.  Since then, the gardens have been undergoing restoration and are now preserved for public use.

I'll shut up now and let you enjoy the gardens.

Mama Swan on her nest.

Turtles sunning.

The "mystery grave," occupant unknown.  Best guesses date this grave back to the 18th century.

Now, this is what I really came to see - the Bottle Chapel, a tribute to Minnie Evans.

Minnie Evans, born in 1892, was first employed in 1916 as a domestic for Pembroke and Sarah Jones.  When the Corbets bought Airlie in 1947, Evans became the gatekeeper, a position she held until she retired in 1974 at the age of 82.

 When Evans was 43, a voice told her she must "draw or die."  On Good Friday, 1935, Evans produced her first drawing.  The next day, she did a second drawing.   Both are now in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art.  It would be five years before she produced another drawing.  "I have no imagination," she stated.  "I never plan a drawing.  They just happen.  In a dream it was shown to me what I have to do, of paintings.  The whole entire horizon all the way across the whole earth was out together like this with pictures.  All over my yard, up all the sides of trees and everywhere were pictures."

Evans began drawing compulsively, giving away her artwork to those who admired her work, and eventually hanging them up near the gatehouse at Airlie where she worked, selling them for 50 cents.  Her artwork, depicting delicate, surreal, fantastical, and ornately adorned figures from her private dream world, evoked her natural surroundings - the lushness and greenery of the gardens of Airlie.  Evans once said, "God has some 600 shades of green and He dressed the world with them."

 Evans had her first formal exhibition of her artwork at a gallery in Wilmington in 1961.  In 1966, she had her first New York exhibit, and in 1975, she had a major exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Evans work is so intimately connected with Airlie Gardens that local artists created a memorial sculpture garden at Airlie in her honor.  The Bottle Chapel and its sculptures and garden were constructed in 2004.

Well, Rosie has a new garden project now.
This was made from more than 5000 recycled bottles.
Rosie needs to start drinking.  STAT!

I need to go back and get proper photographs.
Lighting was not the best at the time of day we were there.
Plus, those pesky visitors were IN MY WAY!

Sadly, there were no butterflies in the Butterfly Garden.
Too early.

I want to recreate this fountain.

I look forward to another visit to Airlie.

And Rosie loves her Grandpups!
This is Joy.

Giada and Beau explore the backyard.

Sir Dogwood was unavailable that weekend for a photo shoot.
He was hiding in Daw Haw's closet.

Beau is quite the handsome boy.

Sweet Giadie.

I'll be back...

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