In The Neighborhood of Clarkson and Lawrence

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No One Gardens Alone: A Life of Elizabeth Lawrence written by Emily Herring Wilson is my recent purchase. I could not resist it as I toured the gardens of Elizabeth Lawrence in Charlotte, North Carolina. I visited a childhood friend this weekend. She ask what I would like to do and was delighted when she agreed to tour the gardens of Elizabeth Lawrence and Elizabeth Clarkson. Two avid gardeners who lived on the same street in Myers Park in the beautiful town of Charotte, North Carolina.

Please join me for a trip down Ridgewood Avenue and see some of the homes both new and old that belong to the neighbors of these two pioneering women. Over the next three days, I’ll be writing about the gardens of Miss. Lawrence and Mrs. Clarkson. Mr. and Mrs. Clarkson set up a foundation called Wing Haven which owns and maintains both the homes. You can not imagine how much I enjoyed my visit to both gardens with only a few houses of separation. My goodness what their neighbors must have thought. And a surprise–they weren’t the only famous gardeners on Ridgewood Avenue in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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This is not the home of either and yet it is one that they would have admired from across the street. The two Elizabeths lived just across the street from this beautiful Piedmont style home. There are many of this style throughout North Carolina and it has become a trdemark for current home designers who wish to maintain the character and personality of NC. Bob Timberlake has a Piedmont home in his collection. It’s part of the Southern Living collection. All homes in this catagory have a sloping roof such as above. The true Piedmont home can be found on the link provided.

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This front stoop is adorned with a bonnet which is popular with the historic Moravian homes of Old Salem, Bethania, and Bethabara. The curved roof was to resemble a bonnet worn by the Moravian women and represents a covering of protection for the women and the home.

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You can tell from the size of the trees that the neighborhood was established in the early 20’s. When Mrs. Clarkson built her home in 1927, it was an open field with a few pines scattered about hither and yon. When Miss Lawrence built her home in 1947, it was an established neighborhood with many famous gardens in front and backyards. I’ll talk more about that in my next post. It is believed that Miss Lawrence was drawn to this street because she already knew many of the gardeners who lived there.

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This is a neighborhood that beckons you to explore both sides of the street. It’s not enough to walk the distance on one side alone but you must make a second trip up the other side. How often have you felt compelled just because the scent of the next rose was irresistible or the curiosity of what lies ahead urging you yet one step further? My friend was more than generous to indulge me in my wanderings but I knew that had I been there by myself, I would have gone home only when the sun set.

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Did the two Elizabeths wander in to this garden and speak with the owner? Did they share from their own gardens and convince the owner to plant a particular variety for it could not be resisted? Who of us doesn’t want to take a close look beyond the gate. I respect a person’s feelings about keeping their garden private. I would only look beyond had I been invited. But my mind….oh my mind…willed me to do so. I very much wanted to peek over the pickets and report on the treasures. I wanted to know what grew in the shadows of the Clarkson and Lawrence gardens.

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The current neighbors on Ridgewood Drive are still in the spotlight of the two women whose gardens live in spite of a lifespan. The folks who have chosen to live in this light seem to take pride in the history and delight in the honor. Most homes are dressed so nicely with clean faces and polished appearances. You couldn’t help but walk softly and respectfully.

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The home above is truly beautiful but there is much controversy about tearing down the old and building new even if it is an updated version of the past. I don’t have an opinion about it. I suppose if a house that carries the history of Clarkson and Lawrence was torn down and replaced it would matter. But we see growth today around historic buildings and if it is done tastefully, then all can be in harmony. It is much better than a home is disrepair. The new homes being built on this street were certainly done tastefully.

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And who lived here? Why it was Elizabeth Lawrence. We’ll see more in the coming days. First, we will see the gardens of Elizabeth Clarkson and The Wing Haven Foundation.

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6 comments on “In The Neighborhood of Clarkson and Lawrence

  1. anna, i’ve been to wing haven many, many times and down ridgewood avenue regularly, both on my own and on school field trips with classes full of children. still, you told me things i’ve never heard! love those houses. great post on my hometown. glad you enjoyed your visit.

  2. Anna, a friend and I visited Winghaven the first part of May and were thoroughly engrossed in the history and loveliness to be found there. My oldest son lives in Charlotte and volunteers there one day a week. He had encouraged our visit, and I am so glad he did. I especially love the story of Tommy the Bluebird. What a wonderful couple the Clarksons must have been.
    How grand about your son volunteering there. I loved my visit and just today was reading more of my book about Elizabeth Lawrence—her best friend’s name was Tommie. That can’t just be a coincidence you know. Perhaps both Clarkson and Lawrence knew this same Tommie–does your son know how Tommy got his name?

  3. yeah, I would have stayed past sunset too. Love those old houses with their old gardens. Thanks for sharing that.
    Karen
    I’ll stay until there is no one left to talk to.

  4. I would love to walk through a neighborhood like that. My favorite thing to do is drive or walk through neighborhoods. I would’ve stayed til sundown too!
    I love seeing the architecture there, it’s a bit different from the older houses in Seattle.

    • These houses are so typical of Southern builders..and it makes me homesick. I’ll have to look for that book you mentioned. I love biographies and autobiographies. Those first two pictures of the flowers almost look like they would be in the hollyhock family, they are beautiful.

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