Tuesday, April 28, 2009

House muse

Today's the birthday of my home state's most famous author, Harper Lee, born in 1926 in Monroeville. Nearly everyone here who loves literature thinks she's a goddess, maybe even more so because she's published just one book and avoids national attention like the plague.

So it's fitting I post pictures today of my muse house. See, I'm deep into plotting my next novel, a post-WWI Southern Gothic tale. My genius sister has been the best sounding board I could have asked for, offering advice as I work through characters and plot kinks. And, as a bonus, she's getting her master's degree in historic preservation in one of the most quintessentially Southern cities in the country, so she's a wealth of knowledge on Southern architecture and the way it influences culture. This is a bonus because of the house.

It's me writing this book, so you knew there'd be a big, creepy, dilapidated house, right?

She sent me a link to an antebellum mansion in west Alabama called Rosemount Plantation. I looked at the photos and fell in love:

I fell in love not with the grandness, but with the disrepair. These photos were taken in 1934. The house is still there today, and probably in mint condition now, but...but...just look at it in the dead of the Great Depression. The broken shutters, the dirty siding, the exposed brick. Love, love, love.

Here's the back:

And another view:

The front door:

The schoolhouse:

And a few remaining outbuildings:

The slave quarters is the house on the left, which burned soon after this photo was taken. The well house is on the right.

And while we're talking slave quarters: I don't romanticise the antebellum South. It was not a good time for the majority of people living in it. I'm much, much more interested in life after that period - after all the grandness was stripped away. How white people coped, surrounded by relics of a grand age that wouldn't come again, and haunted by the behavior of their ancestors. How black people coped with freedom not bringing equality with it. How both had to learn new ways to interact, and how both cultures formed different - but not always better - relationships with each other, and how those changed over time.

Whew, the tangents today. Sorry.

I think my sister and I inherited a love of old things in large part from our mom, and in small part simply by being raised here. It's a bad cliche, but it doesn't make it less true: as Southerners, we're fascinated by history. We can't help it.

If you want to see more pics of Rosemount taken in the 1930s for a Historic American Buildings survey, click here. I promise I'll try to stop posting photos of old houses...unless I come across some really cool ones.


Bevie said...

That is one of the more gorgeous old houses I've ever seen. It would be great to walk through it.

moonrat said...

ooo, pretty

Justus M. Bowman said...

Ha ha. I do think of you as a lover of old houses.

Marty said...

I did not know that Harper Lee only wrote ONE book! These are great pictures!

Davin Malasarn said...

This is a really interesting post. Thanks! The pictures are great. The school makes the setting pretty perfect. Good luck with the plotting!

Melissa said...

Fantastically Wonderful house. I love it!

lotusgirl said...

Love those old houses. I grew up in the south too and have been surrounded by things like that and stories to go with them. The old houses like that do seem to be getting a lot of refurbishing lately, don't they? Good luck getting the story shiny with no broken down shutters.

KLo said...

Sisters are fantastic resources for us writers : )

Gorgeous houses tap our imaginations and make us wonder ...

And Harper Lee is just amazing : )

Joyce Wolfley said...

OMG I absolutely love this. (And now I can't believe I said OMG- because I never do that!) But the house is just screaming for a murder to happen.

Duluk said...

Growing up in the MS delta (Greenwood), and now living in Charleston, SC - I know places like that. But that house is indeed particularly delicious. The schoolhouse looks like an outhouse.

Nice find.