Save 1802 Madison

In the name of branding, the City of Montgomery has declared itself to be “Capital Cool,” a marketing phrase designed to attract people to the state’s capital city.

I have another suggestion for attaining that elusive state of being  cool: Get on board the 1802 Project. A group of neighbors have come together to save the grand old home at 1802 Madison Avenue. It’s a big project and we are thankful for support from city officials, City Councilor Tracy Larkin, Landmarks Foundation … I’m sure I am leaving someone out  because the response has been great. However, this house needs a lot of work including a roof. Now, I don’t mean it just needs a new roof. I mean the second story has a lot of natural light, air, water — you get the idea.  That part is notcool, but we’re working on it.

The flyer. Get involved!

Saturday was the first organized volunteer day — an all-out assault on years of neglect inside and out. After many days and nights of being alone and hiding behind towering magnolias filled with wisteria, thorns, ferns, and even other trees, the house hosted not only neighbors from her own community, but friendly folks from all over Montgomery. It was the place to be that spring Saturday morning. Starbucks furnished coffee and Jack Ingram Motor brought water. There were scones from Louisa’s, donuts from G&S, and a cinnamon coffee cake from the Curb Market. Like I said: cool.

Then there were the men with chainsaws. Not scary, weird men with scary chainsaws (well, unless you were an unruly wisteria vine or an unwanted upstart of a weed tree). Whirr! Crack! Swish! Yep, cool men with cool chainsaws. As the morning went on, the Sleeping Beauty-type yard gave way. In its place appeared some fairly orderly boxwoods, a double sidewalk to the porch, and several brick stairways leading down to the public sidewalk. The dueling magnolias in the front yard again started holding court, and the house can be seen from the street.

The men with chainsaws were not the only humans with cutting tools. There were women with clippers and loppers. I do hope the Master Gardener on hand was correct regarding the advice on the azaleas. One of my own objectives for the day was to save the azaleas. A man with a chain saw had, at a planning meeting several days before, expressed his desire to have his way with the large twiggy bush beside the house. I came equipped with string hoping to gather and train it. However, the advice at hand recommended a severe pruning and that is what it got. Goodness. Well, the Master Gardener is cool, so what could I say?

More activity bustled inside. Carpet was ripped up revealing gorgeous wood floors with only minor damage. Trash was pulled from every room and stacked into one room for a large major disposal event. The kitchen was emptied of all contents, but all old cabinets and appliances were left intact–regardless of age or condition. Future financing requires a kitchen. So there it is. It’s a fifties kind of thing. It was cool in its time.

Yes it was quite the day. A cloud cover kept the people working cool. A good humor drifted through the entire area. Afternoon arrived and along with it homemade sandwiches, more water, beer and chips. How cool is that?

It’s an old house, but the project is headed by young cool people (I get to hang out with them) and they have created a Facebook page, “Save 1802 Madison Project,” so you can take another step toward coolness and join that. It includes pictures from Saturday’s efforts. Then there’s the blog, with more photos and info on the house and the group created to purchase and preserve it.

So come on, get in with the “in” crowd. Go where the crowd goes: 1802 Madison on June 1, the next big volunteer day.

Before then, I’m going over and put string around those azalea stalks and mark what they are — before somebody digs them up. That would not be cool!

Karren Pell is a writer, teacher, and performer who lives with her husband, Tim Henderson, and an assortment of cats and dogs in Capitol Heights. She is the author of three books. Her musical compositions range from commercial songs to theatrical works, with five musical adaptations to her credit.

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