Stories of life on our farm in Northwest Georgia where every day is an adventure in this beautiful spot that God has entrusted to our stewardship.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

1163 Mary Street: The Amazing Chronicle of a House, Abandoned But Not Forgotten

This story began in 1962 when three little girls and their family moved--again.  They left their home in the countryside on Route 66 and moved into Springfield to a little rental house at 1163 Mary Street.  Susan and Barbara used to walk to school at Phelps Grove Elementary School several blocks away.  Susan, was in second grade, Barbara was in first grade, and little Karen was just two years old so she didn't go to school.

In the back yard of the little house on Mary Street was a gigantic swing set, like the kind schools have, that a man had given their father.  There was also a tire swing in a big tree.  The three little girls loved to swing.  One day Susan was spinning Barbara in the tire swing.  She twisted the rope around and around till the tire rose higher and higher, and then suddenly Susan gave the tire a hard push in the opposite direction.  Around and around the tire spun until it had completely unwound and started to spin itself back up tight again.  Again and again, Barbara spun around . . . and then she lost her cookies!

One day the girls' parents saw a possum outside.  They were afraid the girls would try to play with the possum, so they told the girls it was mean.  They got that message across so well that Barbara and Karen were terrified of the possum, but naughty Susan thought it was funny.  The girls called it "Possum Blossom."  Sometimes when they were playing outside, Susan would scream, "Here comes Possum Blossom!  Here comes Possum Blossom!"  And she would laugh when Barbara and Karen ran screaming into the house.

In the basement of the house was a little room in one corner.  The girls used to go in and play house in the little room.  It was mostly fun, but just a little bit scary because it was rather dark with only one little window up high.

And then, after just a year in the little house on Mary Street, the girls and their family moved again.  This time they moved to St. Louis.  They moved many times after that, but they never went back to Springfield again, and they never saw the house on Mary Street again.

Many, many years went by--in fact, almost 50 years.  One day Susan and Barbara were talking about all the different houses they once lived in, trying to remember the addresses.  They got on the computer and googled some of the addresses to look and see how the houses had changed.

"What was the address of that place on Mary Street in Springfield?" they asked.

Susan pulled out her old scrapbooks and looked through them (that's because she is the pack rat of the family and had kept everything!) until she found a postcard their father had sent to 1163 Mary.

"Hooray!" they exclaimed and googled the address.  All that came up was a South Mary Avenue.  They looked at the house and wondered if that was it.  Six blocks away was a former school that might have been their school, and it was in the direction Barbara remembered walking (she has a very good memory for directions!)  But how could they know for sure if that was the house?

"Just type the address into google instead of google.maps," Barbara suggested, and that's what Susan did.

Up popped a link that said:

  1. 1163 Mary Street: First Floor. - this is the Hand Drawn Map ...
    Sage sent us this map outlining the first floor of an abandoned house she's exploring inSpringfieldMissouri. The back reads, "For HDMA - 1163 Mary Street : ...
  2. Amazed, Susan and Barbara clicked on the link and found this website.  Below the intriguing picture were these words:
  3. 286 : First Floor
  4. Sage Dawson

Sage sent us this map outlining the first floor of an abandoned house she's exploring in Springfield, Missouri. The back reads, "For HDMA - 1163 Mary Street: First Floor." Interested? Check out more of Sage's work on her site: Her drawing, Study for Timeline, is also featured in From Here to There: A Curious Collection from the Hand Drawn Map Association. I'm also a fan of this photo showing Sage's drawing in one of our new flat file boxes (archival and waterproof, big time).
Springfield, Missouri, United States

They clicked on the link to her website and found more of Sage's artwork, including this image of 1163 Mary Street, An Abandoned House.  
Susan could not resist sending an email to Sage wondering if this might be the same house she had lived in as a girl.  Within a few days she received a reply.  Sage explained that normally Mary "Street" would be an avenue because of the direction it runs, which is why it comes up as Mary "Avenue" on google.maps, but the city made a mistake many years ago and called it "Mary Street" on the sign.  So yes, indeed, that was the house Susan and Barbara and Karen lived in as little girls.
It turns out that Sage Dawson lived across the street from 1163 Mary Street from 2009-2011.  She was intrigued by the only abandoned house on a street of houses that were well cared for, and she began using the house as a subject for her art.  She was interested in exploring the house to archive and memorialize it along with the many items that were left behind by the last tenants.  Although she was not able to find anyone who had lived in the house, neighbors remembered when it was loved and cared for, and Sage hoped to preserve the good memories someone must have had of the house through her art work about it.  
She explained, "I think it speaks to bigger issues about how the destruction and ruin of spaces and places affect communities and memory."
Imagine Sage's surprise and delight when she received an email from Susan.  More than a year after she had moved away, here "out of the blue," was a resident of the house.
Susan and Sage have exchanged several emails and plan to get together soon.  They have lots to talk about with their mutual love for old houses and the memories they hold and their desire to memorialize the houses and the people who loved them.  And of course they will talk about the old house at 1163 Mary Street and look at Sage's photos and art work while they talk about Susan's memories.  In the meantime, Sage has sent Susan a photo she took of the house.

If you ask Susan, she will probably tell you it is the old house that brought her and Sage together.  After all, the old house on Lookout Mountain used to tell her what to do to restore it.  Never underestimate the power of an old house!


  1. Note that I have added Sage's blog, MapMint, to My Blog List at right in case you want to follow her, too.

  2. wow! that is amazing! hope you enjoy visiting with Sage!

  3. Very good story! Too bad I don't remember any of it ..... I don't know if I remember Possum Blossom because I remember it happening or just because I've heard you tell about it so often. Oh well, I was only 2! Love ya! Karen

  4. I know we'll have a great time, Monique! Thanks!

    Poor Karen! One of the fringe benefits of being the oldest is that I can remember more things . . . well, until I'm so senile I forget them and you have to remind me! :D


I LOVE comments so please take a minute and let me know you were here! Sorry I have to use Captcha, but I hope you'll comment anyway! Comments make my day! :)