The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

Published 11:20 am Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Hidden Gem

By:  E. Bishop

It’s June, time to take a trip to the foothills to pick cherries (or just go by the orchards and buy them already picked). The latter is what I prefer now. And, while we are in the area, we like to find new places to explore. We found a gem of a house to tour in Mt. Airy that seems to have been hidden from us before.As the guide explained to us how this house was preserved, it reminded me of a Joni Mitchell song “Big Yellow Taxi”.

“Don’t it always seem to go

that you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone?

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot”

As the story goes, the last surviving owner of the house was continually being asked by the adjoining encroaching church to sell. Finally, she asked this church why did they so desperately want to buy her property. You guessed it – to put in a parking lot!  She politely told them  “over my dead body.” Cindy Puckett, executive director of the Gilmer-Smith Foundation, has graciously granted permission to use the following information in order to make the public more aware of this wonderful historical site.

Around the turn of the century, Jefferson Davis Smith built a late Victorian-Colonial Revival house overlooking North Main Street. Smith was a local merchant and landowner who operated a general store, several farms, and numerous rental properties. Upon his death, his oldest daughter, Gertrude, moved back to the Smith family home and assumed the management of the family businesses. Gertrude, who was an interior decorator, had previously worked with two prestigious decorating firms in New York City and owned her own interior decorating business in Greensboro for many years.  She used her decorating talents when she came back to Mount Airy by updating and enlarging her childhood home and filling it with beautiful period antiques.  Gertrude was also very involved in historic preservation and was one of the charter members of the Mount Airy Restoration Foundation.  It was her passion for preservation that caused her to form the Gilmer-Smith Foundation whose board of directors would oversee the perpetual care of her home.  When Gertrude died in 1981 at the age of 90, she willed that the home be left as though it was still occupied and that it be used as a ‘living museum’.

A tour of the Gertrude Smith House gives visitors the feeling that the Smiths just walked out the back door.  Furnishings, accessories, and artwork are displayed just as they were when the Smith family occupied the home.  Even the dining room table is set with Miss Gertrude’s china and crystal.  Personal items have been carefully placed throughout the home for all who come for a visit to relish, appreciate, and enjoy.

Original plantings of oak, ash, fruit and nut trees along with many flowering shrubs are woven throughout the Victorian landscaped grounds.  After a brief history of the family and home, visitors are allowed, at no charge, to explore the home and outdoor area at their own pace.  A gem indeed.

The Gertrude Smith House, 708 N. Main St., Mount Airy, is open April-December, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 11-4.  Christmas Open House begins Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

Our Travels, Part II

By Linda H.  Barnette

One of our favorite states to visit was Mississippi.  It is a beautiful state, especially the area of the Gulf Coast, the less traveled roads, and the Mississippi River, as well as its rich history.

On our way to Mississippi, we always detoured to Bellingrath Gardens Theodore, Alabama, just up the road from Mobile. The Bellingrath mansion is a beautiful home built by Walter Bellingrath, one of the first Coca-Cola bottlers in the south. The house and its expansive gardens sit on 65 acres of land with gardens that are as pretty as any I have seen. There are walking trails, many flowers, lakes, and more. It is located on the Fowl River, where we took a boat ride to see many beautiful homes along the water.

From there we took Highway 10 to Biloxi. Biloxi is famous for its many casinos as well as several historical sites.  Our favorite spot was Beauvoir, the home of the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis. It is a beautiful home that sits less than a block from the Gulf and was damaged a lot by Hurricane Katrina. Luckily, we saw it both before and after and the storm and saw several things that could never be replaced, such as Davis’s burial carriage.  The front porch is lined with rocking chairs, and we enjoyed sitting out there and feeling the cool ocean breeze.

Another favorite spot was Tunica, Mississippi, nicknamed “Little Las Vegas” because of all of the casinos there.  It’s very close to the Mississippi River, so one of the things we really enjoyed was a ride on a riverboat. From the view from the boat, the river looks massive, and at some points you cannot see all the way to the other side. Tunica sits about 20 miles below Memphis, Tennessee, and the drive back home via I-40 is about 650 miles. It’s interesting also that both Biloxi and Tunica were early Indian tribes.

I am so glad to have had all of these experiences, but I wish I had taken more pictures!