Eatonville: Material Culture – 4

Ella Dinkins’ “scrap quilt”, Eatonville, Florida
Ella Dinkins’ “scrap quilt”, Eatonville, Florida

It is difficult to visit Eatonville without encountering some expression of its material culture. That is, some food, clothing, furniture or artifact that represents traditions or customs that could only be authentic “Eatonville”. During my most recent trip Mrs. Ella Dinkins put me on notice that I look at her latest quilting project before I left. She belongs to the local quilting guild. Mrs. Ella and her fellow members have displayed many quilts in area exhibits over the years, including 2007 and 2013. As soon as Mrs. Dinkins began to unfold the quilt I knew it was special. She explained that she was “piecing” it completely from scraps of fabric that she had collected over the years. While she was sorting bags and

Embroidery thread from Nadine Fly’s sewing basket
Embroidery thread from Nadine Fly’s sewing basket

bags of her scraps into color groups she realized that she had enough in the same color range, and came up with the idea for this particular quilt. Once the quilt was open she was able to tell me some small anecdote about many of the pieces since none of them had originally been the same size or shape. I could not have received a better lesson in color theory in an advanced art or design class. She also explained that she uses embroidery thread to sew all of the stitches by hand. According to Mrs. Ella the embroidery thread is stronger and adds to the aesthetics. She also explained why a machine stitched quilt does not have the same character as one that is hand stitched.

Preservation Piedmont: Cultural Landscape Lessons – 3

Sammons Family Cemetery, Albemarle County, Virginia
Sammons Family Cemetery, Albemarle County, Virginia

This past May I had the opportunity to participate in “Preservation Week” produced by Preservation Piedmont in Charlottesville, Albemarle County, Virginia. I wrote about a group of historic Black settlements that I was able to visit while I was there. One in particular, the Jesse Sammons house, built c.1850, had just been placed on Preservation Virginia’s Most Endangered list. Its existence, along with the family cemetery that contains Mr. & Mrs. Sammons’ graves, was threatened by a proposed highway project. A contract resource survey that focused primarily on architectural significance had dismissed the property as “…has no significant association with any event or person important to our nation’s history and does one appear to have the ability to yield important information. This architectural resource is recommended as individually not eligible for National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) under Criteria A, B. C, or D”. The survey made no mention of nearly twenty eight acres of land once owned by the Sammons family and containing the house and cemetery.

Jesse Sammons House, Albemarle County, Virginia
Jesse Sammons House, Albemarle County, Virginia

Sammons family descendants and Charlottesville area historic preservationists, including Preservation Piedmont, were successful in requesting an eligibility review from the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places. The Keeper sent a representative to inspect the site first hand. Approximately two weeks ago the Keeper issued a written letter stating that the Sammons property is eligible under Criterion B (association with the lives of persons significant in our past) and Criterion D (for its potential to yield important information related to the physical extent of the cemetery). The Keeper’s full letter of determination may be accessed at the following link: http://s3.amazonaws.com/cville/cm%2Fmutlimedia%2F20130827-Keeper-Determination.pdf

The Sammons case provides several lessons for this phase of preservation:  1) All of America’s significant history has not been documented.   2) America’s significant landscape architectural and architectural history is not exclusive to classical design styles.  3) Collective efforts of a group of Americans may be just as significant and heroic as a that of an individual.  4) A significant amount of American, and African American, history lies in the cultural landscape.  These are resources composed of embedded layers of environment, land, building and culture.

Eatonville Sustainable Visions: North Carolina A & T State University Landscape Architecture – 3

Christian Anderson, Perry Howard, Keana Graham,<br />John Dufort
Christian Anderson, Perry Howard, Keana Graham,
John Dufort

Advanced landscape architecture students from North Carolina A & T State University in Greensboro, North Carolina will spend the fall semester developing a sustainable vision for the physical resources of Eatonville, Florida. The students, Christian Anderson, John Dufort and Keana Graham, will work as a team to prepare a broad set of proposals tailored to authentic attributes and heritage of the town. Eatonville is widely recognized as America’s oldest African American municipality, the childhood home of Zora Neale Hurston, and the annual Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and the Humanities. The project will provide unique field experiences in an underserved community.

Eatonville interpretive map, ©2010 E.L. Fly
Eatonville interpretive map, ©2010 E.L. Fly

I met the students and their professor, Perry Howard, FASLA, in Eatonville over the past Labor Day weekend for an intensive introduction and overview of the historic, cultural, and environmental background of the community. We met with residents, civic leaders, and toured the town on foot and by car. I provided interpretive materials gathered over the past twenty five years on Eatonville through my Black Settlements In America (TM) applied research.  I will also serve as a resource person for the team as it works through the planning process. The student visions are scheduled to be presented in early December, 2013.

Perry Howard, Landscape Architect/FASLA
Perry Howard, Landscape Architect/FASLA

Professor Perry Howard, FASLA, is Coordinator of the A & T Landscape Architecture Program.

www.ncat.edu/academics/schools-colleges1/saes/academics/nred/landarch/index.html

Perry received the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) President’s Medal in 2012 in recognition of unselfish and devoted service to the ASLA at the national level over a period of not less than five years. He also served as ASLA President in 2008. He was the first, and only, African American to be elected to the ASLA presidency in its one hundred and fourteen year history. In 1995 I had the honor of being elected as an ASLA Fellow (FASLA) with Perry in recognition of significant contributions made to the profession and the public through works, leadership and management, knowledge and service.

A summary interview covering Perry’s career may be found at the following                                                                                   link: www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/perry-howard-42

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