Mys­tery gives way to merriment

The Covington News - - Opinion - Bar­bara Mor­gan Colum­nist Bar­bara Mor­gan is a Cov­ing­ton res­i­dent with a back­ground in news­pa­per jour­nal­ism, state gov­ern­ment and pol­i­tics.

The ghostly vis­age of a grand four-columned, two-story home alone in a broad field of al­falfa ap­pears in a pho­to­graph likely taken some­time in the first quar­ter of the 20th cen­tury. It sat be­yond the east­ern edge of Cov­ing­ton, now at the end of Floyd Street and be­hind the New­ton County Li­brary, but at the time the house was built — some­time be­tween 1910 and 1918, it is thought — Floyd Street went only as far as Adams Street, ac­cord­ing to lo­cal his­to­rian Charles King. Copies of the photo be­long to Mrs. Nell Mundy and to Stan­ley Ed­wards, who found them in a scrap­book left to him by his grand­mother. Much of the his­tory cited here comes from Mrs. Jinx Faulkner.

The home be­longed to a lo­cal man named E.G. Martin who mar­ried Suzie Ram­sey, for­mer Mayor Sam Ram­sey’s greataunt. The ap­proach to the home was up Ram­sey Drive — then dirt — and was planted with sturdy oaks on ei­ther side. It is de­scribed in the photo’s ac­com­pa­ny­ing cut­line as be­ing a “ mod­ern farm home.” It boasted two tall chim­neys, a porte-cochere to the right and, on the left, a bump-out and columned porch. Sur­rounded by land un­der cul­ti­va­tion, the house lacked a cool­ing canopy of trees. Mr. Martin is de­scribed in the His­tory of New­ton County as hav­ing had “ large farm­ing and dairy­ing op­er­a­tions as well as ex­ten­sive grad­ing and road build­ing con­tracts.”

When Mr. Martin died in the 1930s in a ma­chin­ery ac­ci­dent, Mrs. Martin moved fur­ther east of town into a small house across the road from a for­mer Wal­Mart build­ing on U. S. High­way 278, near the Martin dairy. The dairy barn would be con­verted later to a drive-in ham­burger restau­rant called “The Cow Palace,” now long gone.

The big house was sold at auc­tion to a Pat­ter­son fam­ily who planted the com­mu­nity’s first broad, slop­ing grass lawn.

Billy Travis, who vis­ited the home as a boy, re­calls that it had two spi­ral stair­cases and was filled with beau­ti­ful fur­ni­ture, in­clud­ing a grand piano in the foyer and a ma­hogany pool ta­ble with pearl in­lay in the sun­room on the back of the house.

When that cou­ple di­vorced, Mrs. Pat­ter­son, a teacher, re­tained the home, but it soon fell into dis­re­pair.

She moved to what was called “The Teach- ers’ Cot­tage” in Por­terdale where she con­tin­ued teach­ing, but she left pos­ses­sions that would make one think she’d be right back, in­clud­ing a car.

Sto­ry­teller Andy Ir­win ex­plored the aban­doned home as a boy.

It was still fully fur­nished, and he even “ played” the grand piano.

He and his friends found laun­dry hang­ing in the base­ment and gro­ceries in the car trunk.

Some­time in the ’80s, he vis­ited the home again and found a neatly made up mat­tress that in­di­cated some­one was liv­ing there.

The site grew up in bri­ers, vines and privet, be­com­ing al­most im­pen­e­tra­ble.

As it de­cayed, the home be­came a mag­net for cu­ri­ous chil­dren and teens. It was a great place to come and “ scare the girls,” as Scott Fuss and Mark Rea­gan now re­call.

The house had burned ei­ther be­fore or just af­ter the county con­demned and ac­quired the prop­erty some­time in the late ’ 80s, says Billy Smith, a county com­mis­sioner from 1980-1992.

Ch­eryl Delk, New­ton County’s Spe­cial Projects Man­ager, “ dis­cov­ered” the re­mains of the old house in its wild space while work­ing on the con­struc­tion of the New­ton County men- tal and phys­i­cal health build­ing next door.

“ I thought I was walk­ing into ‘ The Se­cret Gar­den,’” she re­calls, cit­ing a beloved chil­dren’s book.

Im­me­di­ately, the site seemed to sug­gest its po­ten­tial as a pub­lic ac­cess park, and thus the seed for to­day’s Chim­ney Park was planted.

For the third year, the park is host­ing its Fairy House Fes­ti­val, al­ways on the first Satur­day in May, this year May 7, from 2-5 p. m. with a rain date of May 14.

Young and old are dust­ing off fairy wings and elf and gnome cos­tumes and fi­nal­iz­ing de­tails of fairy homes made with all nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als that will be hid­den in the woods that day.

Guests can make their own fairy houses with ma­te­ri­als gath­ered on site. A pet­ting zoo has been added to the lineup this year, along with mu­sic, crafts, sto­ry­telling, a dance around the May Pole and re­fresh­ments. A $ 3 en­try fee will be charged to off­set costs to the pri­vately funded Friends of New­ton Parks, the an­nual spon­sor. On that day, mys­tery will give way to merriment.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.