The Sunday porch: Franklin, Louisiana

thibideaux-cabin-st-marys-parish-la-1930s-fb-johnston-library-of-congress“Thebideau cabin,” near Franklin, St. Mary Parish, Louisiana, 1938, by Frances Benjamin Johnston for her Carnegie Survey of the Architecture of the South, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

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Detail: a small recessed gallery or loggia porch

The front yard is very neat. Two old tires protect the daisies and the little tree.

Frozen in vines

C. Highsmith cabin with vines, LoC 2Monroe County, Alabama, May 2010, by Carol M. Highsmith, via The George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The infrared treatment of the late spring scene gives it a wintery appearance.

Highsmith has specialized in photographing America’s architectural heritage. She has donated the rights to her work to the Library of Congress for copyright free access for all.

The Sunday porch: the hollows

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There seems to be a potted oleander on the left side.

The front porch of a home of the extended Nicholson family of Nicholson Hollow (top three images) in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, October 1935.*

The Shenandoah National Park is a narrow strip of supremely lovely wilderness along the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. It begins at Front Royal, about 75 miles west of Washington, D.C., and ends west of Charlottesville.

The park was authorized by Congress in 1926 and fully established by the end of 1935 — two months after these pictures were taken by Arthur Rothstein for the U.S. Resettlement Administration (later the Farm Security Administration).

In order to create a fully “natural” environment, over 450 families were moved out of the park area under the process of eminent domain. Most were small farmers who had been portrayed in a widely publicized 1933 sociological study as desperately poor, primitive, and cut off from 20th century society.

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After they were gone, the Civilian Conservation Corps destroyed their homes and outbuildings. The only structures saved were some log houses and rail fences around Nicholson Hollow.

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In the mid 1990s, the National Park Service sponsored an archaeological survey of 88 pre-park human settlements in Nicholson, Corbin, and Weakley Hollows.**

The findings of the study strongly refuted the earlier claims that the families (who were indeed often poor) were cut off the modern world. Researchers found china plates, mail order toys, 78 RPM record fragments, pharmaceutical bottles, and automobile parts.

CorbinPorch view of Corbin Hollow from one house of the Corbin family (above and below).

The Corbins were very hard hit by the Depression-years decline of the nearby Skyland Resort, which had previously given them employment and a market for their crafts.

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There are two very good papers on the displaced people of Nicholson and Corbin Hollows on the National Park Service website, here and here.

Corbin Hollow farm, Shenandoah Natl. Park, 1935, LoCAbove: another Corbin Hollow farm.

ViewAbove: an abandoned house in Nicholson Hollow.

More of Rothstein’s Shenandoah images are here. Recording the last days of the park’s human inhabitants was his first assignment with the Resettlement Administration.


*All the photos here by Arthur Rothstein, in 1935, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

**In 2000, not long after the study was completed, a forest fire destroyed all but two of the remaining above-ground buildings.

Fields of grass

I love these two pictures of a well-cared-for antebellum mansion in 1939 Alabama with a tall grass lawn — early no-mow or at least seldom-mow.

Above and below is the W.P. Welch Mansion in Selma, Alabama. It was built in 1858.

Years ago, we had neighbors who tore down their house and built another on the same spot, in the style of a Victorian farmhouse. While the contractors were finishing the interior, the small bare front yard was covered with straw. Tall grass soon grew up through it, and the effect was something like the above. It was beautiful — remnants of beige straw, wavy green grass, and one old peegee hydrangea limbed up into a small tree.

Of course, as soon as they could, they tilled it up and put down sod and foundation shrubs. I always thought it was too bad. Before, it had actually evoked some real ideas and emotion about real farms.

Long Lane Farm (above), St. Mary’s County, Maryland.

A lot of the houses I’ve looked at in the Carnegie Survey of the South collection are decrepit or abandoned. They have “lawns” of tall grass, weeds, and a some remaining flowers. But they are beautiful resting in their wavy, ragged negative space. Their foundations aren’t obscured by shrubs; their porches float.

Beauregard House (above), Chalmette, Louisiana.

Cabin (above), St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana.

(above) Moccasin, Louisiana.

Uncle Sam Plantation (above), St. James Parish, Louisiana.

Prospect Hill (above), Airlie, North Carolina.

Driscoll Farm (above), St. Mary’s County, Maryland.

Greenway, aka Marlee (above), Charles City County, Virginia.

(above) New Roads, Louisiana.

Elizabeth Hill (above), St. Mary’s County, Maryland.

Woodlawn Plantation (above), Napoleonville, Louisiana.

All photos by Frances Benjamin Johnston, taken in the late 1930s for the Carnegie Survey of the South, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.