Vintage landscape: Birdsnest, Virginia

Bird's Nest Tavern, FBJohston, 1930s, Library of Congress “Old Birds’ Nest Tavern, Marionville vic., Northampton County, [on the Eastern Shore of] Virginia,” ca. 1930s, by Frances Benjamin Johnson, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. (Marionville was also known as Birdsnest.)

Beautiful summer meadow around the house. . .

Johnston’s notes on the photograph call the building a “sailors’ tavern.” It was probably one half to two miles from the creeks and marshes of Hog Island Bay on the Atlantic Ocean, maybe closer.

Her notes also say that it was “the first three story house in the country [county?].”

According to a 1927 economic and social survey of Northampton County, “[f]rom the low room in the middle of this building originated the name of ‘Bird’s Nest’.”

Unfortunately, I can’t find anything to indicate that it has survived to the present day.

When the world turns completely upside down
You say we’ll emigrate to the Eastern Shore
Aboard a river-boat from Baltimore;
We’ll live among wild peach trees, miles from town, . . .
We’ll swim in milk and honey till we drown.

— Elinor Wylie, from “Wild Peaches

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.

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.