Monday, August 31, 2009

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A short walk in Greensboro as darkness falls

The blog and Nate went to Greensboro to have dinner with friends who live near the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) campus. We took a very pleasant short walk after dinner, enlivened by numerous bat sightings (with which we were assisted by our bat biologist hostess)...Jon took some photos, but it may have been too dark to for him to capture a sense of this campus-y residential neighborhood. UNCG, founded in 1891, is a venerable institution. The following quotation and the photo above are from This Month In North Carolina History, an online resource provided by the UNC library system: "On February 18, 1891, the North Carolina General Assembly passed "An Act to Establish a Normal and Industrial School for White Girls," creating the first public institution in the state to offer higher education to women. Called originally the State Normal and Industrial School, it became North Carolina College for Women in 1919, Woman's College of the University of North Carolina in 1931, and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 1963." Our dinner location has a walk score of 69: "somewhat walkable."

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Unanswered questions, somewhat answered

While the flu-stricken writing part of the blog did not exactly experience quarantine, it did have more quiet time than usual alone at home last week. This allowed several questions raised by earlier walks to be readdressed. We saw this on our walk from the Washington Park area to Marketplace back at the end of July. A day care? A school? A family resource center? I think the last is what it would call itself, if the physical location shown above matches with this online location: The Potter's House. The name comes from a Bible verse that I did not recognize (Jeremiah 18:4 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel as it seemed good to the potter to make), but the blog was glad to be disabused of its false notion that this was somehow related to the potter who owned the original "potter's field." (The blog still finds both etymologies rather gloomy sources for naming day care facilities.)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Over in the meadow...

Although the half of the blog recovering from the flu did not feel up to Friday wine,the blog did have a very nice Italian dinner with Erin at Paul's on Robinhood Road while it rained outside. There was some reminiscing over summer walks and a little bit of competition over walk scores. Can anyone beat Abe's 97? Erin's walk score when she was in Berlin was an impressive 75, but when she is in Winston-Salem she is only a 26 and when she is in Chapel Hill she sinks to a lowly 14. Abe claims he found a small section of Manhattan (Chinatown) that rates 100 - he's going to have to document that claim. The photo above was taken by Jon last June. It shows the meadows southeast of Reynolda House. Although we did not realize it at the time, this was the first summer of a new meadow planting project. According to Camilla Wilcox, Curator of Education at the Gardens, the meadow plantings have already induced Eastern meadowlarks to return to the gardens after a long absence. She also noted that the mixture of seeds planted was designed to germinate over different time periods and undergo a natural that this may be the only year the meadow is entirely yellow in June!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sneaking into Brookberry the back way...

...we found a school and some more building activity. The school, in a lovely quiet setting on Lyndale Drive, is designed to help dyslexic children learn to read. The website for the school is very welcoming, the average class size is 6, and the blog agrees that there is a lot of good evidence that brains are plastic enough for a systematic approach to work. The blog also knows enough about brain plasticity to be certain that the students and the teachers at this school are working very hard. Lot 217 is listed on the Brookberry Farm website as "under contract." The lot lists at $89,500, much less than the highest lot price of over $180,000. There is no way to relate the lot numbers to the site map other than by guessing, so the blog is guessing that $180,000 is a lake front view. Which reminded the blog to return to its favorite lake front home, the one at 4200 Cold Spring Lane. Still on the market at $789,900. Days on Zillow = 59. Walk score, 2. Of faithful blog readers, Maggie takes second place, with a walk score of 80. Abe is the winner with a walk score of 97. This begs the question of what one needs to do to get a walk score of 100? I tried several locations I know in Manhattan, but the highest walk score I could come up with was 94.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The blog is ill

The writing part of the blog has been overcome by a flu-like, feverish illness, hence no walk on Tuesday evening. Before fading entirely, however, the blog found a reminiscence of life on Brookberry Farm when it was a farm written by Bowman Gray, IV (; go to pages 10 and 11). The blog also discovered that the developer of Brookberry Farm is also the developer of Greenbrier Farm. It's a local company, but not the first that comes to mind when one thinks of real estate development. Here's a Business Journal account of how this came to happen.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Seen near Robinhood Road. Absolutely no apparent reason. Probably not Buddhist prayer ribbons?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Patio homes

The blog had noted the "patio homes" sign on its earlier visit to Brookberry Farm, and was eager to follow up. But what is a patio home (other than being cheaper than the big houses of Brookberry Farm proper)? A little research reveals that builders in other parts of the US would be unlikely to refer to these attractive smaller houses as patio homes. The Oxford English Dictionary reports that the term was first used in the US in 1967, and typically indicates a suburban development of attached single family homes. Wikipedia notes that an important defining element beyond a patio is typically the transfer of all exterior maintenance responsibilities to a Homeowners' Association. The following quotation from a very interesting article by Oscar Machado in a publication called the Town Paper suggests an entirely different concept: "While the more typical American single-family house occupies the center of its lot with setbacks on all sides, the patio house occupies the boundaries of its lot while internally defining one or more private patios. The yard is in the center, forming a garden open to the sky within the house. All the major rooms open to the porches lining this interior room of a garden. " None of these attributes with the possible exception of an active Homeowners' Association appear relevant to the Brookberry Farm patio homes, but the blog was able to identify one of the Walnut Park homes so well-situated that it could envision drinking its Friday night wine on that Jon's photo the gazebo of a pretty common area is just visible on the left.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Of course, a broken pediment isn't always the best choice

Sighted during a walk near Robinhood Road out near the building that houses the Unitarian-Univeralist Fellowship of Winston-Salem.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Zillow rules! (and some nice people should buy this house)

A recent audience participation feature on American Public Media's Marketplace program (Susan's favorite) invited listeners to compare results obtained with several on line real estate sites. Because Susan needs a new neighbor (above see 2710 St. Claire Rd, as photographed by the listing service this spring: 189 days on Zillow and counting) she decided to try the comparison. It turns out that alternatives such as Trulia and Redfin aren't really alternatives, as Trulia presents less information and is harder to use than Zillow and Redfin doesn't cover Winston-Salem. So, the good news is that the blog can continue to be lazy and rely on Zillow alone. The bad news is that even Zillow needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Susan often feels sad that the Walk Score for her house is only 28 (compared with Jon's score of 48). But she feels confused and even sadder when she learns that the Walk Score for the house next door is 34.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Google Maps vs. reality

Another view of Brookberry Farm...the blog needs to find some photos of this land in its heyday as a country estate...everywhere we walked (in red) is now a street, lined either with houses (some) or lots...some construction is ongoing, as Jon's romantic view of a resting backhoe shows.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Best fed blog in Winston

The blog accepted an invitation to dine at Fabian's Wednesday evening...and instead of waxing rhapsodic about risotto with shiitake mushrooms, will present a photo of an unusual screened porch (arrow) glimpsed on a newly constructed house in Brookberry Farm on Sunday evening. The Path Tracker record of this walk clearly illustrates how Google Maps lags reality.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Science Cafe

The blog lazily but smartly went to a Science Cafe presentation on nanotechnology at Foothills Brewing in downtown Winston. Despite the well-known affinity of science and beer, the venue was too noisy. We did learn, however, that we could prepare for a satisfying job in the field of nanotechnology with a two year degree. We also got to see the Nanosurf easyScan2 atomic force microscope, but we couldn't understand from the presenter's brief explanation how it worked. Turns out to be highly versatile: the teeny-tiny nanoscale probe can map a surface by touching it, tapping it, having the vibrations induced in it by a surface measured with a laser, or by monitoring the ability of the probe tip to form transient chemical bonds with the scanned material. The presenter didn't address the eerie beauty of the nano-images that can be created with the atomic force microscope, but the potential has not escaped the notice of scientists who secretly want to be artists. In addition to the contest entry shown above (NOT one of Jon's photos), more nano-images can be viewed here.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Faux fox, real thoughtful development

Faithful readers of this blog may be surprised to find that today's post has some positive things to say about new construction. The blog walked for the first time in the Brookberry Farm development on Sunday evening. Here, well-designed (in some cases, even beautiful) houses are being carefully sited in a new community around attractive common areas, including ponds, a pool, and an appealing clubhouse/farmhouse, the roof of which can be seen in one of today's photos. This will require future visits. Two items of note - the fake fox was completely unsuccessful at its task of repelling geese, and the development derives its sense of cohesiveness because it once was a single property: it is the country estate of Bowman Gray, Jr., designated by the Harvard Business School database as an "American Business Leader of the Twentieth Century."

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Susan's hawk

All summer long a young red-tailed hawk has been hanging around Ashley Forest. Often it watches Susan's driveway from a perch on the roof of the house for sale next door. Despite the added value of a resident raptor, few potential buyers have come to look at this house, although the price seems good (asking $177,900). 183 days on Zillow and counting...

Gentle editing of Jon's memories of Deerfield

From Maggie Christman, who actually knows this stuff (photos are of the Dwight-Barnard House in Deerfield). The main point, however, is that even reality (what we can see and photograph) has also been heavily edited. The borrowing is only obvious when a design element wanders far from home, as in the case of the Winston-Salem door...
"The Ashley House door is copied from an original I think in Stockbridge. The door on the house in Winston-Salem is a copy of the Dwight-Barnard door which itself is a Bill Gass original. Do you remember how we used to joke (with a considerable degree of truth) that there were Dwight-Barnard brick floor kitchens stretching from coast to coast. The same goes for the doorway I think, and I was really amused to find one in North Carolina. Sheldon Hawks is original. The John Williams house on the Deerfield Academy campus has the only broken scroll original."
In the book The Same Ax, Twice: Restoration and Renovation in a Throwaway Age, Howard Mansfield describes how the informally trained Gass created the Deerfield look in the 1950s and 1960s, acting in the words of one observer like a "Broadway set designer." (Thanks, Google Books!)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Started too late

The blog's walk through the Grandview area on Thursday revealed signs of stress in the local housing market that are extremely well-hidden in more-established neighborhoods. We found homes completed in 2006 that have never been occupied, foreclosure homes, and empty lots scattered among the finished houses. We noted that only a single home has been completed in Grandview Crossing. The few under construction are listed at $355,000. Given that they are smallish houses with the garage right up front and the fact that the developer apparently forgot about the promised sidewalks, the blog's guess is that the asking price is 100k too high, and that it's going to be a while before the single resident has any neighbors...recent delays in blog posting have resulted from a power failure in Susan's building on campus (which temporarily blocked her access to Photoshop) and, of course, Friday wine.

A mysterious bench in an unfinished subdivision

After a walk on Thursday through an almost completed (but stalled) and a barely begun (also stalled) subdivision (Lochrust and Grandview, respectively), Jon forgot to turn off the Path Tracker iPhone application and it loyally recorded the blog's drive back to Susan's house. Jon then went to the effort of deleting, GPS point by GPS point, the ride home to keep the blog's walking records "clean." More on the local housing market in the next couple of posts. Today the blog documents yet another Forsyth County mystery - a bench high over one of the empty lots of the Lochrust subdivision...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Still don't get it

The blog walked over 4 miles on Wednesday evening, exploring Windsor Place off Shattalon Road and the very discrete but elite Ryanvaille. The blog determined experimentally that Windsor Place DOES NOT connect to Brownstone, and discovered ATV tracks in the flood plain behind the houses. The Windsor Place community of larger custom homes had the predictable feel of a more-settled Greenbriar Farm, but was notable for the sheer number of cul de sacs the clever builders managed to squeeze in. The huge wooded lots off Ryan Way were really the only surprise of the evening. The blog then retreated to Jon's HDTV to watch Pedro Martinez' first start for the Phillies. Despite the happy outcome, the Phils made it a little less exciting than it might have been by scoring 12 runs by the end of the 4th. So Susan's mind turned to household surfaces, particularly some photos she recently had Jon take of the Corian counters and sink in his kitchen, features of his home of which she thought that he was, to put it politely, irrationally proud. But the recent opening of the Corian Design Studio in Manhattan suggests that she is missing the does the existence of the ultracool all-Corian Seekoo Hotel in Bordeaux, France. In this case, "all" includes the facade...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Rain in Winston on Tuesday evening, so the blog was forced to watch a little baseball (although not the Phillies-Cubs game it wanted to see) and review its cache of summer photographs. Today's photograph is of Susan's favorite place in Winston, not counting her kitchen. It's a little pool in the formal gardens of the Reynolda estate adjacent to the Wake Forest campus. This area of the Reynolda estate is known formally as the Greenhouse Gardens. It was designed by Thomas Warren Sears, the famous Harvard-educated landscape architect based in Philadelphia, and the first plantings are circa 1917. This was apparently one of Sears' first major projects, and he was deservedly very pleased with the outcome. I learned from the very well-organized Reynolda Gardens website that the formal gardens were always intended to be open to the public, as they are today under the stewardship of Wake Forest University. The historic aerial photograph was taken by Mr. Sears himself in 1920. The formal gardens are at the lower left in this photo, so the street that runs from left to right must be today's Reynolda Road. The Smithsonian website also features a historic photograph of Reynolda House. It turns out that the Smithsonian owns the plans for Reynolda Gardens! Pennsylvania readers of this blog have seen Sears' work at Pennsbury in Bucks County and on the campus of Swarthmore College...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Quiet night at RJR

Despite excessive heat (or perhaps just typical August weather), the blog judged Monday evening to be safe for walking and managed a respectable 4.2 miles in the Polo Road area between University Parkway and Cherry Street. This area of Winston-Salem is characterized by modest homes on extremely large lots and some apartments complexes. One can stand at the corner of Howell and Cherry Streets and gaze at the RJR cigarette factory. The pleasant aroma of tobacco wafted across the neighborhood in the steamy air of the quiet evening, but there was little evident manufacturing activity. The blog then poked around the streets off Polo Road and found a house for sale with a remarkable retaining wall.

Monday, August 10, 2009


It's all about looking hard enough at Winston-Salem...the blog not only knows where Boneyard Road is, it has walked there and can even make an educated guess about how this street got its name...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Exotic hybrid

In common usage, "exotic" is typically understood to mean "excitingly foreign." But biologists and birdwatchers use the term to mean a "non-native species," that is, "a species whose presence in a particular region is due to intentional or unintentional introduction as a result of human activity." The blog was recently delighted to find a house in Winston-Salem that is not only an exotic (in the biological sense) but also a hybrid. We present the results with pride as our 99th blog post. Look at the door and window of this 20th-century house in the Stratford road area of Winston-Salem (it's the one photographed at dusk with the electric lights on). The detail of the doorway matches that of the Ashley House (1734) in Deerfield, Massachusetts; the window trim is from the Sheldon House (1754), also in Deerfield. Some exotic species eventually become "established" in their new locale (a good example, of course, is the honey bee, which is not native to the New World), but this Winston-Salem house seems unlikely to produce offspring in our area.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Eugene O'Neill in Winston-Salem?

A power substation on the Chickasha road near Vienna Elementary School triggered in Jon a vivid memory of the set for O'Neill's rarely performed 1929 play Dynamo. In the 1993 edition of his book Scenographic Imagination, Darwin Reid Payne noted that "Eugene O'Neill, at least on one occasion, even went so far as to visit a power plant in order to make a sketch of its interior and equipment to give the scenographer Lee Simonson so that he would more nearly obtain the effect O'Neill wanted for his play Dynamo." (P. 116). Blog readers can compare O'Neill's sketch, Simonson's set, and Jon's photos. Jon, it seems to me as if O'Neill might have been seeking a sense of enclosure and darkness (to contrast with light provided by electricity) lacking in our power substation. But I see how, in this case, reality mimicks theatre design.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The heartbreak of three cars, two garages

OK, this is not a particularly ugly house. But Jon's photo does inspire the blog to reflect upon the changing role of garages in U.S. houses, and how a poorly designed garage can make a whole house ugly. It turns out that there is actually some literature on just this topic, including this USA Today article that helpfully notes that three garages are now standard, but also that they make many new houses look "bulky and cheap."

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Under suburban skies

The blog is not walking because it is busy with the National Black Theatre Festival (Jon working, Susan and Nate attending). So it is an excellent time to appreciate one of Jon's many sky photographs, this one from the first of our recent walks on Chickasha Road. Jon, there is a web site that will take your photos...of course it is the site of the CAS.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Is it ever a good idea to incorporate a mailbox into your backyard barbecue grill? (Just curious.)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

In the vicinity of Vienna Elementary School

It took two nights, but the blog has now walked the length of Chickasha Road. Last night the starting point was the Vienna Elementary School parking lot. It seems hard to believe given that this school is 7.5 miles from 2700 St. Claire Rd, but this was Nate's school of assignment when he entered the Forsyth Country School system. It is now clear, however, why this school alone had space for a new second grader - it is located in a relatively underdeveloped, underpopulated area of beautiful pylons, streets leading to nowhere called "trails," and horse farms. The blog enjoyed its walks in the country, but now yearns to return to urban Winston-Salem...(Jon, we missed a few of the so-called trails).

Monday, August 3, 2009

An inexplicable fad

The void created by the removal of all the Obama and McCain-Palin yard signs seems, in Winston-Salem, to have been filled by monogrammed initial flags and mailbox covers. Those shown above are just a small sample from a single evening's walk.