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Archive for Thursday, June 12, 2008

Historic roots

Garden connects owner to past

Beth Stella's garden in the West Hills neighborhood contains several historical pieces of the former owner's backyard. The Stellas are only the second owners at the home, and their backyard garden features a variety of hostas, a stone lined creek bed and a limestone path.

Beth Stella's garden in the West Hills neighborhood contains several historical pieces of the former owner's backyard. The Stellas are only the second owners at the home, and their backyard garden features a variety of hostas, a stone lined creek bed and a limestone path.

June 12, 2008

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Peonies display their color in Beth Stella's garden.

Peonies display their color in Beth Stella's garden.

Dianthus adds a splash of color along a limestone path in Beth Stella's garden at her 1135 West Campus home. The Stellas' backyard garden contains several historical pieces of the former owner's backyard.

Dianthus adds a splash of color along a limestone path in Beth Stella's garden at her 1135 West Campus home. The Stellas' backyard garden contains several historical pieces of the former owner's backyard.

In 1926, a one-story English Cornwall-style home was built of brick and mortar.

At the time, the home looked out onto a valley where a quarry was busily unearthing rock outside the city limits of Lawrence. Past the quarry a smattering of Kansas University buildings towered in the distance.

The vista was open, rather rural.

Today that English Cornwall home is in the heart of the quaint and coveted West Hills neighborhood. Its view is no longer of a quarry but rather the glorious Potter Lake area and Memorial Stadium. Where there was once a spacious vista of open land and men hard at work drilling and digging there is now a constant hustle and buzz of foot traffic with students walking to and from classes. Where there sat a brick home with very few neighbors, Mrs. Dorothy Stucker would plant her peonies, tend to her garden and report back to her friends at the Countryside Garden Club.

Fast forward some 80 plus years and you'll find Beth Stella hosting a Countryside Garden Club meeting in the home that Dorothy Stucker built. The oldest garden club in Lawrence was established in 1953 and has a prestigious list of present and past members, two of whom have shared the same garden in a 1926 English Cornwall home.

"It makes you feel connected to a time and place. It's more fun to tell the story of time, the history of the home and garden," says Beth Stella. "Old houses have stories, and we are the caretakers of the house and the story. Now we are a part of the story, which is why it is so important to salvage the old stones, plants, bricks, benches and so on. You get a lot of satisfaction bringing a house back to life."

This old house has been resurrected since 2001 when the Stellas purchased it. Only two families have owned the sprawling house, but the Stucker family rented the home for many decades, causing rather extensive repairs and updating to be a foregone conclusion. The yard and the home required copious amounts of labor, but the bones of both were ever present.

Why take on such a monumental project?

Stella replies: "We love the neighborhood. Everyone has a garden and they are outside working in it. It's the old-fashioned neighborhood where people talk over the fence. The energy is great at this location. It is actually very quiet but you look out the window and there is lots of pedestrian traffic. People forget how great pedestrian traffic is. In fact, we get a lot of people who drive up here and park to walk. All I have to do is open the front door."

When the Stellas began their lofty remodeling project they did their best to preserve items in the home and garden. Much of the brick sidewalks in the garden were salvaged from the actual structure of the home, an old stone garden bench that resides under an enormous pin oak and near gigantic "sum and substance" hostas originally belonged to Dorothy Stucker. Even some plants have lasted the test of time and renovations.

"Before we started construction I dug up these peonies, put them in a pot and had them there for over two years," Stella says. "We finally got them back in the ground. As we dug around the foundation hostas kept coming up, we divided them and moved them and now they are rooted near Mrs. Stucker's peonies."

Beth Stella looks at her garden as a catalyst to keep her outdoors, as another dimension to the space that she lives in and as a learning tool. But one of the primary draws of gardening for Stella is to understand her roots.

"A great way to make connections across generations is gardening" she says. "My mother and my grandmother gardened. I'm the caretaker of Mrs. Stucker's garden as well. I don't own it, I merely tend it."

Jennifer Oldridge, a Kansas University graduate, is an avid gardener who previously operated a landscaping business.

Comments

hawkperchedatriverfront 5 years, 10 months ago

Redwood, that Stucker home has some fine walnut in it. But wouldn't you really like to have a name like "Tucker-Stucker"?

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RedwoodCoast 5 years, 10 months ago

Oh, and by the way... I want your backyard!

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RedwoodCoast 5 years, 10 months ago

Funny, hawk squawk. Just kidding. I love history. I had no idea there was once a limestone quarry on campus. For me, time is a fascination. Before Lawrence or even the Egyptian pyramids ever existed, Native Americans may have killed some bison on top of Mt. Oread. One of the primary things that frustrates me with our society is the narrow temporal dimension in which it tends to operate. We really aren't that important, but at the same time, we are.

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hawkperchedatriverfront 5 years, 10 months ago

A house that when it was built had recycled lumber in it. And wouldn't you like to have been Dorothy Stucker whose maiden name was Tucker. Mrs. Tucker Stucker. a very fitting name for a Lawrence resident of 2008. There are a lot of people in Lawrence with nomenclature that rhymes with that name.Too bad Dorothy, her son Gordon and Margaret, Dorothy's sister aren't alive to see the renovation and addition.

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