Longwood Gardens

It’s been a long cold winter, and spring has finally sprung! I decided to visit Longwood Gardens to enjoy the beautiful weather, and get inspiration for my own garden. Sadly, I don’t have a staff of 1,300 employees and volunteers to maintain my garden.

If you have never been to Longwood Gardens I highly recommend it. In Kennett Square Pennsylvania, just a short hour drive from Baltimore, lies the former estate of Pierre Du Pont. In 1906, Pierre Du Pont purchased the 1,077 acre farm to preserve the trees. This estate also became his summer home and favorite place to entertain. Inspired by Italian and French architecture, particularly the garden and fountains of Versailles, Du Point set out to create his ideal garden. When the government enacted personal income tax, Du Pont incorporated Longwood in 1914. The estate was granted a tax-exempt status when it opened to the public in 1946.

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Longwood Gardens has numerous fountains incorporated in and around stunning floral displays. It also includes a conservatory, topiary garden, a restored farmhouse, lake, tree houses, and the former DuPont house.

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The DuPont house features the history of the estate, the building of Longwood, and its evolution over time. Photos of parties hosted over the years adorn the walls. In addition to the beautiful landscape, symphony orchestras, dancing troupes, and actors were often hired for entertainment. It’s fun to imagine the lavish and extravagant parties. I can’t help but wonder if Pierre Du Pont would have given Jay Gatsby a run for his money when it came to throwing a party and having a good time.

Longwood2The floral exhibits vary throughout the year, and after my third visit to Longwood, I caved and purchased a yearly membership. The tulips in the Flower Garden Walk are currently in bloom. The first garden planted at Longwood in 1907, it features over 100,000 tulips and is incredibly beautiful.

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Even the drain grates are gorgeous!

Longwood is not only beautiful, but very calming as well. Whether you are sitting in the rose garden, fountains trickling around you, or strolling through the quiet meadow, it forces you to stop and appreciate the remarkable beauty of nature.

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Baltimore Equitable Society Insurance Fire Mark

The first time I went to look at the house I circled the block twice. I thought I had the wrong property. A plaque with two clasped hands and 1794 written in gold lettering located on the exterior of the house was throwing me off. Initially, I thought the plaque was the address; however, several houses in the neighborhood had the same plaque as well. After a little research, I discovered that the plaque was the Baltimore Equitable Society Insurance fire mark.

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In Europe, insurance companies used to own the fire companies. These companies would only come and extinguish a fire if the home had the proper fire mark disclosing that they were insured. In the United States, Benjamin Franklin established the public and volunteer fire departments in 1752, so fire companies responded to all fires. Fire marks were still placed on homes to discourage arson, as this mark meant that the property owner had fire insurance.

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The Baltimore Equitable Society was founded in 1794 and is one of the oldest corporations in Baltimore City. It is also the third oldest fire insurance company in the United States. The company is known for its reputable reputation for payment, including during the Great Baltimore Fire in 1904. A total of 455 policy holders were affected by the fire, incurring a loss close to two million dollars. All policy holders were paid in full.

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Baltimore Great Fire of 1904

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The fire mark on my house was produced in 1927 and similar copies can be seen on display at the National Museum of American History. The Baltimore Equitable Society, now known as BEI, is still in business today and continues to give out fire marks to it’s customers. I attempted to find out the policy history for my house, but all policies are confidential.

External Links
The Baltimore Sun, An up-to-date, old-time insurer Equitable Society still makes its mark
Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Baltimore Equitable Fire Mark
Wikipedia, Baltimore Equitable Society
Baltimore Heritage.com, Baltimore Equitable Society

Baltimore Equitable Insurance.com

One Man’s Trash…

In addition to purchasing the house as is, I also agreed to take all of the stuff left behind. Much of it is trash. I now own over 15 different types of chairs, none of which are part of a set, numerous empty glass bottles, and more newspaper clippings then I care to count.

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It’s not all trash though. In fact, a lot of it is pretty amazing. The original mantelpiece was just sitting in a dark corner of the basement. It’s cracked in half and peeling terribly, but repairable. There are several elegant pieces of Eastlake furniture that were left behind. A large mahogany table with beautiful and elaborate leg carvings, a 1959 European vintage radio, and countless works of art just to name a few things. Walking through this house it’s like I’ve stepped back in time, there are so many vintage items and décor!

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I can’t start renovations until I can actually move around, and the challenge is going through and getting everything out. I absolutely love this old stuff, so of course I have to stop and research the history of everything I find. Over the next few weeks I’ll be sure to post some of the items I come across.

Home Sweet Home

When I purchased the house I agreed to buy it as is, well aware everything down to the electrical work would need an upgrade. I took note of the water stains on the walls, cracked ceilings, windows that needed to be replaced, and roof in need of repair. The kitchen had three different types of cabinets, part of the drop ceiling was missing, and appliances so dated that I immediately decided it needed to be gutted. Oh, and there was no air conditioning.
damageThe house had been vacant for five years and the previous owner had left everything behind. The place was packed with stuff, so much so, I had to move furniture around to walk through the house. I signed the contract of sale and crossed my fingers I wouldn’t find any major and expensive surprises waiting for me.

Clearly I have terrible luck, as two weeks before closing my termite inspector notified me that there were active termites in the house. Since this was an as is sale I had to deal with the problem.

I’m a Googler. I Google everything. This is not necessarily a good thing. Anyone who has ever Googled to diagnose a health problem knows that even a simple cough, or any symptom really, somehow winds up being “cancer.” Queue paranoid and dramatic freak out. So not knowing anything about termites I researched and researched and researched. Of course this led to imagining the worst, and by the time the termite company came to inspect and spray I was convinced the house was going to collapse from five years of neglected termite damage.
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There was a swarm under the linoleum floor in the kitchen, and after moving more stuff around I also found damage to a section of the dining room floor. There was only evidence of termites at the back of the house, but I had the entire house sprayed. With the permission of the current owner, we cut out a portion of the kitchen floor to gain better access to the termites. The termite company spent an entire day working at the house. They reported that there was no structural damage done and minimal damage overall. YAY! Huge sigh of relief.

At that moment I realized that I didn’t even own the place yet and it was already costing me money. Great…