The Nature of Things

Soul of a Place

Home isn’t just brick and mortar — it’s a feeling

 

 

By Ashley Wahl

When it comes to houses, you could say I have a type.

In a word: soulful.

In other words: quirky, colorful, old.

Given that Fisher Park is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Greensboro — a mosaic of grand and modest houses with as much variety as a jovial street fair — it’s little wonder I was drawn here like a hummingbird to foxglove. 

I love it for its tree-lined streets; the tipped tricycles dotting front lawns and sidewalks; the lush gardens that mingle and spill across property lines; the tree swings and wind chimes and wide, cozy porches.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

You may know by now that I returned to Greensboro last fall to edit this magazine. After tirelessly scouring the web for rental houses last summer, I gasped when I saw what I consider to be three perfect words: Fisher Park Bungalow.

Flash back a decade or so. Just out of college, while renting a one-bedroom apartment on the outskirts of Greensboro’s first streetcar suburb, I quickly fell in love with the eclectic mix of houses — and people — on every block. And then one evening at golden hour, I happened upon Fisher Park’s picturesque nature trails. Crossing that first stone bridge was, to me, equivalent to how Mary Lennox must have felt when she discovered the door to the Secret Garden. Or Lucy Pevensie, stepping into Narnia. You get the idea.

Now, back to last summer.

When I clicked through the photos for the Fisher Park listing, the hair on my arms stood up. I could feel the soul of the place without being there. 

“This is it,” I told my fiancé, Alan. “This could be our future home.”

We scheduled a tour for the following week.

From the outside, the century-old brick home was, frankly, unremarkable. But such was the architectural trend of the American Craftsman movement, a no-frills departure from Victorian-style influence. Inside, natural light filled each room, where high ceilings and hardwood floors created a warm yet elegant atmosphere. Just shy of 1,200 square feet, it was a humble space that had been cared for over the decades. Three bedrooms and one tiny bath, it had an open floor plan and minimal storage. But when we saw the funky kitchen, with its vibrant yellow walls and retro black-and-white tile floors, it was game over.

“This house has soul,” we agreed, exploring the spacious backyard, where rusting metal chairs, once painted a punchy shade of pink, surrounded a steel fire pit. Beneath the bright teal garden shed, the landlord told us, a pair of gray foxes had reared a litter of kits that previous spring.

Out front, rosemary hedges kissed the edge of the sidewalk, and lemon thyme, peppermint and sages flourished in massive concrete planters.

We felt like we were already home.

But houses like that aren’t exactly a dime a dozen in this neighborhood — especially not for renters. We knew there were other applicants with their hearts set, too. And so, while we hoped it would be our future home, we tried not to get our hopes up too high. 

On down the street, a white cat appeared like an apparition on the steps of a gracious front porch. Around the block, a host of dahlias peeked over a picket fence like an assemblage of nosy neighbors. But one yard stopped us in our tracks. Staked into the ground near the sidewalk was a tree branch adorned with a wild tangle of greenery and a miscellany of treasures: ribbons, dog collars, bracelets, crystals, shoelaces and hair ties. Attached to this vertical branch was a hand-painted sign that explained it was a “Wishing Tree.”

“This is exactly the kind of place I want to live,” I told Alan. “A place where good people still believe in magic.”

We made our wish.

And guess what?

We couldn’t love our yellow kitchen more.  OH

Contact editor Ashley Wahl at awahl@ohenrymag.com.

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