An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

September 30, 2017


     In the small courthouse town of Accomac on Virginia's Eastern Shore is a building that has always intrigued me. It looks like a Greek temple expressed in wood, and throughout the South you can still see many modest buildings that have been adorned with a few columns and a portico. I find it interesting that this architectural form has inspired so many structures, millennia after it first arose in the ancient world. This particular building started life in the late 1800's as the town's Baptist church, but it did not yet have the Greek adornments. It was moved to its current site for use as a school when the church built a more substantial building. At some later point the columns and portico were added. In the 1920's a more substantial "modern" school was built adjacent to the old school, which is now used only for storage.
Accomac School (1)

Accomac School (5)

Accomac School (9)

Accomac School (4)

Accomac School (10)

     On the right in this old photo you can barely see the building through the trees in its original location, and in its pre-Greek form.

     The "modern" school also has a temple form in the center of the overall structure. Unfortunately the fate of both buildings is uncertain. It has been a long time since either has been used to teach students, and money for nonessential renovations does not flow freely in one of Virginia's poorest counties.
Accomac School (11)

     However, I am taking it as an encouraging sign that the county is still keeping both buildings painted. A bright white has recently replaced the very dull ocher that was on the old building for years. This freshness is what prompted my photos, and made me ponder, for the first time, a crude resemblance between the temple in Accomac and another more famous building in Richmond, both with Ionic columns.

     Virginia's capitol building was designed by Thomas Jefferson and Charles-Louis Clérisseau, and it is considered the first neoclassical building built in North America. The two took their inspiration from the Maison Carrée in Nimes, France, a very well preserved Roman temple, and we know the Romans took their architectural inspiration from the Greeks.

     Out of necessity the capitol has changed over the years, most noticeably with the addition of wings and front steps.

     It has also survived several crises in its 200+ years, including this proposed renovation from 1973 (as if Jefferson didn't have enough to keep him from turning over in his grave).

     The building also served as the capitol of the Confederacy during most of the Civil War, and at the end of the war survived its greatest threat. When it became clear the war was lost, the evacuating Confederate forces torched the warehouses to keep the stores from Union hands. Unfortunately for the citizens of Richmond, the fire spread uncontrollably and much of the town was destroyed, however, the capitol was spared.

     With the city still burning, the mayor of Richmond and a group of citizens surrendered the city to nearby Union troops, who managed to quell the fire. Some might say that the citizens and their city deserved what happened, but recent history has led me to believe that there are times when some compassion ought to be considered for everyone, even those that make ignorant shortsighted choices, and back wrong causes.

(When you started reading, I bet you had no idea we would end up here, but that is how my mind works. Apologies to those that need it.)

September 22, 2017

Assateague in September

     Several weeks ago my wife and I attended a family wedding on the Eastern Shore, and at the last minute of packing I decided to throw my bike into the back of the truck. The wedding was not until late afternoon, so I headed up to Chincoteague and Assateague Islands to ride their bike trails. I always find it beautiful there, and I always leave feeling better than when I arrived. However, Assateague is changing. Recent storms have seriously eroded the beach, and a combination of erosion, sea level rise, increased exposure to salinity, and insects are turning the islands stands of loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) into ghost forests.
Assateague with Dead Pines (3)

Assateague with Dead Pines (2)

Assateague Marsh with Great Heron (1)

Assateague Beach 2

Assateague Beach

Assateague (2)

Aralia spinosa (Devil's walking stick)

Solidago (Goldenrod) (1)

Solidago (Goldenrod) with Spicebush Swallowtail (2)

Agalinis maritima (Salt Marsh False Foxglove)

Heterotheca subaxillaris (Camphorweed) (2)

Kosteletzkya virginica (Seashore Mallow)

Snapping Turtle

     If you would like to find out more about Assateague, click here, and here is link to a post I wrote a couple of years ago on a similar trip.