Books, Brick Buildings & Backroads

Certain places will always tug at our hearts, filled with nostalgia, good memories, and chapters in the book of our lives that answer questions like: how did we become who we are? What has shaped us over the years? Where were we before this? These are places that may seem far away from the present, but if you stepped into them, memories would flood back to you. These are places that mean so much to us, places you will never forget and don’t want to forget.

Kenmore Plantation: where I spent many mornings cleaning the plaster ceiling with dental tools and toothbrushes.

Kenmore Plantation: where I spent many mornings cleaning the plaster ceiling with dental tools and toothbrushes.

Mary Washington College, dear in my heart.

Mary Washington College, dear in my heart.

Fredericksburg, VA.

Fredericksburg, VA.

Fredericksburg, Virginia, particularly the University of Mary Washington, is one of those places to me. It’s a chapter in my life that I keep with me still (hello, flamingos!) and cherish. Sure, the day to day worries of school exams and track meets and other issues have faded, but the brick lined campus walk, the historic preservation department, the streets that I’d walk or run everyday are embedded in my heart. Whether coffee at Hyperion Espresso, sleepless nights in the drafting lab or computer lab, learning from our professors, or admiring the beautiful historic buildings of Fredericksburg, Mary Washington represents my formative years as a historic preservationist (though I must have been one before I arrived) and it’s where the flamingos first flocked together, a group of intelligent, beautiful women whose bonds mean the world to me.

Flamingos flocked here.

Flamingos flocked here.

Hyperion Espresso in downtown Fredericksburg.

Hyperion Espresso in downtown Fredericksburg.

A visit to Hyperion Espresso.

A visit to Hyperion Espresso.

Suffice to say, when I was invited to be a part of the Center for Historic Preservation’s book prize jury, I was elated, honored and happy to be a part of Mary Washington in a different sphere (as a professional colleague instead of student). This included reading 17 books over the past few months, but it also entailed a springtime visit to Virginia, preservation chatter and scholarship, catching up with professors, meeting fellow preservationists, and visiting some of my favorite people. As evident by the photographs, Mr. Stilts came along for the ride, all in the name of Preservation in Pink entertainment.

The stack of book prize nominations.

See my challenge: The stack of book prize nominations.

Downtown Fredericksburg, VA.

Downtown Fredericksburg, VA.

I realized I was strolling the streets of Fredericksburg with Mr. Stilts peaking out of my bag -- totally not posed!

I realized I was strolling the streets of Fredericksburg with Mr. Stilts peaking out of my bag — totally not posed!

The book prize will be announced in May, so I can’t say anything about it now. I will note that the morning sun in the preservation conference room with coffee, stacks of books and good company made for an excellent segment of my Virginia weekend.

Strolling down campus walk at Mary Washington.

Strolling down campus walk at Mary Washington.

Following a stay in Fredericksburg, my sights were set on rural Hanover county, exploring on a sunny day and arriving at Ali & Hume’s in time for a flamingo mini-reunion evening. {If you revisit that post, the house has come a long way!} The roads to Ali’s were narrow and winding, and brought fond memories of learning Virginia architecture. The landscape struck me: large fields, farmhouses set in a cluster of trees far from the road. Small vernacular and modern houses are brick clad, as is typical Virginia. This was a good reminder of regional architecture. Vermont’s houses are often lined close to the roadway, valleys are deep, mountains reach high and roads follow waterways. Weatherboard is more common than brick in Vermont, storm windows are necessary, and gable front is a common form.

Driving in rural Virginia.

Driving in rural Virginia.

Narrow tree lined roads.

Narrow tree lined roads (blurry, sorry!)

Aside from visual reminders, the quiet rural night brought back memories. Lying in bed in the early hours of the morning, the sound of the nearby freight train rattled on the tracks, carrying across the fields near Ali & Hume’s house. I remembered how the sound carries differently when not in the mountains. And the railroad brings memories of Southern Pines, traveling by train along the east coast (various trips), and living in houses that physically shook when the freight trains passed through town. But that night I felt contently comforted by the rattling lull floating through the fields, lucky to be in the company of preservation friends who are so lovingly working on their Virginia home.

Dinnertime scenery in Hanover County.

Dinnertime scenery in Hanover County.


Flamingos, friends, books, coffee, preservation, winding roads, good food and some exploring in the sun. How could a weekend be any better?
Time to leave Virginia, flying back to Vermont.

Time to leave Virginia, flying back to Vermont.


Thank you Virginia for a lovely stay. See you soon.