Sweet Home, Guadalupe County, Texas – 1

Sweet Home Rosenwald School, Guadalupe County, Texas
Sweet Home Rosenwald School, Guadalupe County, Texas

Working with Trinity University history professor, and History Department Chair, Dr. Carey Latimore, Ph.D., and his students this semester has provided opportunities for field research in the San Antonio and south Texas region. We recently visited the Sweet Home African American settlement less than forty five minutes from downtown San Antonio. Mr. James Ussery, Mrs. Connie Quarles, and Mrs. Betty Young were gracious hosts at the Sweet Home Rosenwald School. Each shared personal memories of days growing up in the community.  Each offered amazing details regarding the school band, softball team, girls gardening class, boys gardening class, mattress making in the girls home

Mr. James Ussery shares oral history with Trinity University students
Mr. James Ussery shares oral history with Trinity University students

economics class, and the produce canning plant.  They described various ways that families and members of the settlement shared resources, skills, knowledge, and practical wisdom to maintain the community. Sustainable practices such as harvesting rain water from the school roof and use of local materials were part of everyday life. All retain vivid recollections of attending the Rosenwald School. They explained that the school served African American families from miles around, and outside the county.  This made it necessary for a number of the male students to find room and board with nearby families and girls to stay in the dormitory across the road.  Mr. Ussery also took time to guide

Dr. Latimore and students take notes at Sweet Home Cemetery
Dr. Latimore and students take notes at Sweet Home Cemetery

the students to the original Sweet Home Cemetery and point out the original church site, initially known as Elm Creek Baptist Church.  The church name was changed to Sweet Home Baptist Church after a storm damaged the first structure and the congregation moved to its present site in 1906.  The initial settlement formed around the Elm Creek Church beginning in 1864, and was one of the charter members of the Guadalupe Baptist District Association which formed in 1873.  At one point the association covered more than a dozen counties, and more than 3,500 square miles.  A number of San Antonio’s African American churches, such as Mt. Zion First Baptist, were active association members.  Though many Sweet Home descendants eventually moved to the city of San Antonio and beyond, significant physical and cultural traces of the community remain.

2014 Black History Month

Mr. Ruford Shepherd in his Eatonville winter garden
Mr. Ruford Shepherd in his Eatonville winter garden

The Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community, Inc. (P.E.C.), guided by N.Y. Nathiri, celebrated and produced the 25th Annual Zora Neale Hurston Festival for the Arts and the Humanities during the last week of January, 2014. One of the unheralded programs was the Eatonville Yards & Gardens Tours highlighting sustainable gardening techniques practiced by current residents, and linked directly to truck gardening courses taught at Tuskegee Institute more than one hundred and ten years ago. Despite uncharacteristically cold weather, Eatonville gardeners displayed impressive products, including turnip greens, mustard greens, collard greens, cauliflower, and papaya.

 

 

 

 

North Carolina A & T State University landscape architecture Eatonville studio
North Carolina A & T State University landscape architecture Eatonville studio

Professor Perry Howard, FASLA, and his advanced landscape architecture students from North Carolina A & T State University completed their semester long study of sustainable landscape concepts for Eatonville, Florida. A summary video, “Looking Back to Move Forward, The Reawakening of Eatonville”, is now available for viewing. The study covers issues ranging from environmental to human sustainability.

 

 

 

 

“Capote Cross” by Ellen P. Hunt, AIA
“Capote Cross” by Ellen P. Hunt, AIA

Also this month, Ellen Hunt has a special offer on one of her jewelry pieces. The Capote Cross is made from a casting of a nail that came from the Capote Church in Seguin, Texas. The church, built by emancipated African Americans in 1874 is still standing and under renovation. Ellen was intrigued by the rectangular nails, and the thousands of them used to build the church. Who made them? Was it an apprentice in a blacksmith shop in Seguin or did they come from a bigger factory? This sterling silver cross is a reminder of that earlier era and the questions we still have about that period of time in Texas. This cross is available in limited editions. The first one sold out, the second is in production and should be available next week. If you are interested visit HUNTDESIGNJEWELRY.

Eatonville Sustainable Visions – North Carolina A & T State University Landscape Architecture -5

left to right: Christian Anderson, John Dufort, Perry Howard (FASLA), Keana Graham review studio presentation
left to right: Christian Anderson, John Dufort, Perry Howard (FASLA), Keana Graham review studio presentation

Advanced landscape architecture students from North Carolina A & T State University in Greensboro, North Carolina have spent the fall semester developing a sustainable vision for the physical and cultural resources of Eatonville, Florida. The students, Christian Anderson, John Dufort and Keana Graham, have worked as a team to prepare a broad set of sustainable proposals tailored to the attributes and heritage of the town.

The A & T team studied the entire six hundred and forty acre town proper in order to develop goals for a green infrastructure and economic sustainability. A video overview will soon be available. The student visions are scheduled to

Eatonville Land Use Concept Study
Eatonville Land Use Concept Study

be presented in Eatonville, Florida at the 25th Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and the Humanities on January 31, 2014.

I served as independent studio advisor and participated in periodic reviews over the semester. I met with the students and their professor, Perry Howard, FASLA, at North Carolina A & T State University last week for a review of their final presentation. The day before the studio review I presented an overview of my Black Settlements In America (TM) applied research to the general.  Local coverage was provided by the A & T Aggie Dispatch and Greensboro News & Record newspaper.

Point of Reference – 1

Dr. James F. Veninga, Director Emeritus of Humanities Texas
Dr. James F. Veninga, Director Emeritus of Humanities Texas

I had the great pleasure and honor to participate in the Humanities Texas 40th Anniversary celebration in Austin, Texas this week. In the preceding months I had received a number of requests for a single linked index of products from my projects, including Black Settlements In America, across the United States. Whether a matter of providence or not, Dr. Jim Veninga (Director Emeritus of Humanities Texas) challenged me directly to do this during the Humanities Texas events. So, the following list of links represent the first set of which I am aware:

Another comprehensive update will be posted in 2014 as the next series of projects begin and becomes available. Thanks to Jim, et.al., for the final “                                                                                      push”!

Sustainable History & Landscape Techniques : Eatonville Yards & Gardens Pro Continuing Education Pending – 2

Lester Cunningham / Eatonville, Florida
Lester Cunningham / Eatonville, Florida

Mr. Lester Cunningham’s yard and garden will be included in the coming Professional Continuing Education Course to be held in Eatonville, Florida on January 28, 2014.  Mr. Cunningham produces a rotating crop every four months using sustainable techniques.  This and other landscapes will be used as case studies that demonstrate successful outcomes and techniques.

Course content will include the following:

  • Historic resources in community development, planning, landscape architecture, architecture
  • Secretary of the Interior Standards (overview)
  • National Register of Historic Places (overview)
  • Sustainable resources (overview)
  • Sustainable materials, practices, techniques specifics

The course will be hosted by The Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community, Inc. (P.E.C.), and I will serve as the program faculty.

Each registered participant will receive a copy of the Eatonville Yards & Garden Primer/2nd Edition (TM) as part of the instructional materials.

Registration and logistics details will be available at the P.E.C. 2014 ZORA! Festival website.

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

Sustainable History & Landscape Techniques : Eatonville Yards & Gardens Professional Continuing Education Pending

Franklin Family Yard / Eatonville, Florida
Franklin Family Yard / Eatonville, Florida

Approval is pending from the Landscape Architecture Continuing Education System (LACES) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) for 6.0 HSW Professional Learning Units for the Eatonville Yards and Gardens Tour scheduled for January 28, 2014 in Eatonville, Florida. Attendance will be monitored, and attendance certificates will be available after the program for most individuals who complete the entire event.

Actual yards and gardens in Eatonville will be used as case studies that demonstrate successful outcomes and techniques. Participants will meet the resident owners of the yards and gardens to discuss theories and practices in sustainable landscaping and gardening. Course content will include the following:

  • Historic resources in community development, planning, landscape architecture, architecture
  • Secretary of the Interior Standards (overview)
  • National Register of Historic Places (overview)
  • Sustainable resources (overview)
  • Sustainable materials, practices, techniques specifics

The course will be hosted by The Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community, Inc. (P.E.C.), and I will serve as the program faculty.

Yards & Gardens Primer, 1st Edition
Yards & Gardens Primer, 1st Edition

Each registered participant will receive a copy of the Eatonville Yards & Garden Primer/2nd Edition (TM) as part of the instructional materials.

Registration and logistics details will be available at the P.E.C. websites:

www.zorafestival.com

Capote Church Nails-3

Capote Nail Cross by Ellen P. Hunt
Capote Nail Cross by Ellen P. Hunt

For several months Ellen P. Hunt, AIA Architect (http://ww.epharchitect.com), and I have collaborated on landscape and architectural documentation and interpretation of the historic Capote Baptist Church in Texas. Every component has some significance and represented some part of the history and culture of its creators, even the nails.
Inspiration (Ellen P. Hunt, AIA) - Something as simple as a nail can be very inspiring.  While working on restoring the Capote Church outside Seguin, Texas, we found handmade iron nails.  The Capote Church was built in 1872 (now more than 140 years old) by freed slaves.  The skill and meticulous attention to detail in the construction of the church and all of its materials leads us to believe that these freed men were talented, trained and dedicated to building a new life for themselves and their families. I was inspired by these nails, and those long ago founders of the church, to design a cross to honor the memory of those creative and resourceful people, and to help fund-raise for the restoration of this historic church.  All the profits from the sale of these crosses will be donated to the Capote Church Restoration project.  They are hand cast of solid sterling silver with sterling silver 18″ interlocking chains.  Each cross and chain is available for $100.00.  Please contact me HUNTDESIGNJEWELRY if you’d like to purchase one and contribute to the continuation of this inspiring bit of Texas and US history.

Historic Capote Church nails (L); Modern Nails (R)
Historic Capote Church nails (L); Modern Nails (R)

Interpretation (Everett L. Fly, FASLA) - The original church structure was erected only using nails as fasteners. Bolt or screw connections were not added until repairs were made in the 1940‘s or 1950‘s. All of the major structural joints and connections were fastened with hand made and square cut iron nails. Of course this helped us verify the historic construction period of the church. As documentation proceeded it became obvious that the freedmen actually planned and built the church using several hierarchical systems, including the nails. That is, they used specific sizes and types of nails for specific conditions. The largest 30 penny nails (30d, 4 1/2″ long) used in floor beams, 20 penny (20d, 4″ long) for floor joist connections, 12 penny (12d, 3 1/4″ long to secure floor boards, and the smaller 6 penny and 8 penny nails (6d, 8d) in the interior wall paneling. And, they were strategic in placing the nails. The nails were driven in locations and alignments that produced the strongest joint or connection. The nails, especially the large 30d spikes, were driven with great human skill. We did not find multiple holes, split wood or hammer marks at any of the nail points. They also used the nails very efficiently.

30d iron spikes @ beam splice, Capote Baptist Church
30d iron spikes @ beam splice, Capote Baptist Church

Nails were not wasted or duplicated unnecessarily. I believe that Capote Baptist Church was built by experienced, intelligent and skilled craftsmen who planned layouts, and designed spaces, in advance of their manual labor.  They serve as examples of the kinds of carpenters, many who went on to become some of the country’s first African American contractors and architects, who helped build the United States.

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