How to View Potential Rather than a Pile of Rubbish

Fascination With Old Buildings

When I visited Hockessin, DE two years ago, the site of the first Catholic Church in Delaware caught my eye as I drove on Lancaster Pike Road. It looked like a pile of rubbish. Old rubbish is so photogenic, so I knew I had to come back before I left town to do a photographic study of it.

However, Pastor Steve Trader from Trinity Community Church saw potential in it that most of us would have overlooked. Today, as you will see, the dreams are coming to life.

The First Church Building

According to one source, in 1772, the Catholic base in the area purchased the 16.5 acres at the order of Father John Lewis, a Jesuit missionary familiar with the area from his mission travels.

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According to Deleware Online, the first log chapel on the site was built 12 years later beside a hilltop cemetery that remains there today. Probably only the cemetery remains today, but here are two decrepit buildings that stood on or near the property two years ago.

A mystery writer might use this setting for a scene for a murder, a buried treasure, or some ghostly tale. What would you write about this picture?

pile of rubbishFor a time, the property housed the only Catholic church within some 100 miles, according to Joe Lake, president of the Hockessin Historical Society. That would have been a trek for people without modern transportation. Local historians doubted if they attended church weekly.

The Old Barn Ruins in 2016

One sign on the property called these piles of crumbling rubbish the “old barn.” The two signs also confused me because I don’t think of barns and churches pairing up in the same building.

Since childhood, I have loved old barns. My grandfather used large machinery and worked out of their garage. It became the family joke that on every trip through rural Indiana, we played the game, “A New Shop for Grandpa.” It kept my brother and me busy and peaceful pointing out the most decayed buildings we could find along the two-lane highways.

Our family particularly loved the advertising painted on the sides like Eat at Joe’s Get Gas, or Dr. Pierce’s Pleasant Pellets.  This stone barn resembled none of those.

Using my best investigative skills, I noted the candy wrappers and fast food containers on the dirt floor. My weak imagination conjured up pictures of kids playing castle in the pile of rocks. Barnyard animals keeping warm when ten inches of snow pressed against wooden doors and church services were the furthest images from my mind.

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St. Mary’s First Catholic Church in Delaware

I wondered how anyone could save this pile of rubbish, but the sign said that it was being reconstructed. At the time, I saw no signs of any construction activity except for the yellow caution tape around the entire project. The tape was no more sturdy than the crumbling walls.  Camera in hand, I plowed through the mud and darkening skies, like a reporter onto a big story for the evening news.

Life is no respecter of dried up bones.

The windows and doorways looked beyond repair.

‘This would not be the safest place to stand during an earthquake,” I reported to my imaginary audience.

April 2018 The Old Church Takes Shape

It was 4:30, the start of the golden hours for photographers. The cold April wind bent the trees making them groan as I pulled up my hood and picked my way cautiously across the boggy ground to check out the reconstruction site I had loved two years before.

Shadows of large nearby trees spilled across the cemetery and beckoned me to explore the reconstructed building. How could I resist?

pile of rubbish

 

The Mystery of the Barn Solved

With my limited imagination, I wondered who would turn a church into a barn? It seemed sacrilegious.

It turned out that the Mundy’s purchased the property from the Diocese as farmland in 1912. The Mundy’s maintained the old barn property as a dairy farm until the 1960s. Bill Mundy kept it as a cattle farm into the 1990s. Locals at that time called the property Mundy’s farm. I don’t know what they called it on Tuesday-Sunday.

Between the 1990s and 2010 property managers neglected the property. In 2010 it was burned and vandalized by teens.

Under New Ownership

In 2018 with a sturdy composition roof and completed walls, this edifice looked like it would withstand the winds and the rains. Trinity Community Church, an interdenominational Christian church that holds its roots in the Assemblies of God, plans a multi-use complex on this 16.5-acre parcel.

pile of rubbish

The windows and doorways have been shorn up. They look very tiny now compared to the more expansive stone walls.

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The recycle police would be proud to see the pile of stones that the builders have used to create the new building. The ongoing pile of rubbish still looks like a daunting work to me. But my only tool is an iPhone. Bancroft Construction Company has a few more resources and talent from which to draw.

pile of rubbishAs the afternoon shadows deepened, the headless shadows seemed to raise their arms and praise the Lord. Upside down they looked like headless dancers. Either way, the bid me farewell from the 1880s burial place of locals and Irish immigrants killed in nearby powder mill explosions.

The Diocese of Wilmington still owns the resting place for the heroes of the past. But the future looks lively for the Old St. Mary’s Church, Mundy’s Farm and new Trinity Community Church in Hockessin, Delaware.

Additional Posts About Delaware

 

What Makes a Cottage Magical?

#NaBloPoMo #Winterthur#3 #Delawaretrip

The odd-shaped thatched roof?

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Week 46 Roofs

It was morning; through the high window I saw the pure, bright blue of the sky as it hovered cheerfully over the long roofs of the neighboring houses. It too seemed full of joy, as if it had special plans, and had put on its finest clothes for the occasion.                Herman Hesse

On this September day the sky, though blue, filtered through the trees until it became transparent, blending into the enchantment of the forest in the Winterthur Gardens.

I looked for the pictures I remembered taking on that magical day as I strolled with Hal, but they weren’t there. Have you ever had that happen?

You know, you just know, that picture is somewhere, but it’s not.

I am persistent. I found the picture of the medieval English-style roof I wanted to share with you. But it’s a video! Woe is me!

This quick post turned into a two-hour ordeal. I shortened the video (a new skill). Next, I added some beautiful bird sounds chirping after the rain cleared the air that I downloaded for free. Google helped me learn how to erase my own boring intriguing narration which I had already chopped to bits when I cropped the video. Finally, I uploaded it to YouTube.

If you are wondering about the woven branches, I’m not standing on a twig roof shooting this video. Hal and I are standing opposite the enchanted cottage in a gigantic roofless bird’s nest replete with three wooden eggs the shape of king-sized watermelons.

The little box on my YouTube channel tells me that I now have 56 videos. Guess how many followers I have of my YouTube channel?

Back to the thatched roof

Once I finished the video, I learned about thatched roofs. I looked for roof shapes so I could be more precise. After I searched through all the common roof shapes, thatched and cottage finally paired.

Guess what?

Thatched roofs are odd-shaped. Duh! No wonder they are so quaint.

Although they once denoted poverty, the wealthy put thatched roofs on their homes to be more eco-friendly. Did you know that thatched roofs can last up to 50 years? The English used thatched roofs from available resources such as dried vegetation like straw, water reed, sedge, rushes, or heather. Experts contend that thatched roofs do not burn as easily as some roofing materials.

Maybe it’s thatched, and maybe it’s not

This simple Woodlake home looks elegant with a cottage-style roof.

 English cottage style
English cottage style

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So what do you think makes a cottage magical?

Documenting Chaos Like an Expert

Delaware First Catholic Church #2 #NaBloPoMo Day 5 #chaos #dailyphotochallenge

Our real discoveries come from chaos, from going to the place that looks wrong and stupid and foolish.”
Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters

Can Discoveries, Even Order Come From This Chaos?

When I think of the best documentaries of chaos, I think American Pickers and some of the hoarders they visit. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of hoarders. The closest I can come to chaos is the old church in Delaware that begs for restoration.

Save the Old Barn
Save the Old Barn

There is so much work here to create order from chaos. I wonder whether the organization raising money for restoration will ever reconstruct order from chaos. In order to document this building, I journeyed beyond the road, even ventured past the caution barricade and the quick snapshot. I used my Canon XTi Rebel and not my iPhone. The zoom lens creates higher quality photos than the iPhone.

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With every passing day the chaos increases due to weather eroding the mortar that holds the structure together. If nothing happens to make the repairs, soon there will be nothing left standing. The weather is not the only force that erodes. Humans have already done their part in the building’s demise. They might continue the demolition work they started.

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During the week I spent in Delaware in September, the weather treated the chaotic church kindly. The clouds threatened, but they did nothing but add charm to the old building. I captured these shots during the golden hour before sunset.

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This scene looks like broken Humpty Dumpty to me, only it is the wall not the good old egg. To make it more menacing and artistic I could have darkened it and added filters, but I chose to document only and not become artistic.

What are some of your chaotic moments? Please share!

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Delaware First Catholic Church #1

First Catholic Church in DE Under Reconstruction

#Travel Theme: Dried #Delawarechurch #1 Day 21 Ultimate Blog Challenge #blogboost

Ezekiel 37 1The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of theLord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

Save the Old Barn
Save the Old Barn

As I drove to my mother’s cousin’s I passed a sign in front of this old building that read, “Save the Old Barn.” When I inspected the “barn,” Ezekiel came to mind.

I tried describing the building to Hal, and he couldn’t place it even though it was two minutes walking distance from his home. It’s really a church!

Years of sunshine and rain
Years of sunshine and rain have left nothing but a dried up shell. Kind of scary in this light!

Delaware is the first state in the United States, and St. Mary’s is the first Catholic Church in the state. Even its bones are interesting.

Dried up plaster, dried up wood frame
Dried up plaster, dried up wood frame

The danger fence they wrapped around the project had gaps that I easily slipped past and hiked down inside the old church barn. I wonder if this was once a stained glass window?

Life is no respecter of dried up bones.
Life is no respecter of dried up bones.

Life marches on growing up, around, and within the old structure even as the dried building crumbles around it.

Human life left its trash
Human life left its trash.

Scattered across the floor of the structure I found litter and more weeds, lying with brittle wood and stones that had fallen from the once useful edifice.

Would you contribute to this project, or bury it?
Would you contribute to this project, or bury it?

But are the dry bones truly dead? Even if no one comes to restore them? The living communicates mortal thoughts on the deceased. Will the dried up edificial bones will preserve these shallow expressions?

Rhetorical questions. Nonetheless, this stain is part of the structure now. From the looks of the progress on this project, I doubt that anyone will come to paint it over. So the paint becomes part of the drying process. Soon the words will be bleached and faded, or painted over with new life.

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It probably wasn’t safe to go into this building, and I did not waste time. I felt like an intruder first.

Someone besides the building's owners painted a warning to others.
Someone besides the building’s owners painted a warning to others.

As I looked at all the fallen stones, I hurried less because I was an intruder and more because of the danger of being there. No one could predict when the next bit of decaying mortar would give way, and a shower of stones would rain down on my head. But I would be the one to suffer if the dried bones let loose.

Large stones crashed to the floor of the old barn
Large stones crashed to the floor of the old barn.

For that matter, a huge beam or a large boulder might be the next to fall without warning.

Arch, tiny windows that did not let in much light
Arches and tiny windows that did not let in much light called out to my camera, “Look at me!”

But I couldn’t leave.

The dried up barn-church begged me to shoot it. Not to put it out of its misery, but to make it known. It really wanted to be on my blog. I was just waiting for the right time to show it off.

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The sun sets on another beautiful day within these walls.

Alisa’s challenge gave me my first opportunity to showcase the decaying building. Although I have more pictures of this old church, I don’t want to bore you all at once. I hope you enjoyed traipsing through these dry bones.

What dried up ideas do you have to share with Alisa at Where’s my backpack?

Brandywine, What Better Name for a Relaxing River?

Winding Through History on the Brandywine

#blogboost #Delaware trip

WordPress Photo Challenge H2O

Everything in Delaware winds. Driving from the airport in Philadelphia, I turned off the freeway onto a state road and headed towards Hockessin, DE. It felt like I had entered a land of make-believe.

Even state highways were paths through a deep, mysterious forest. And water showed up at almost every bend.

The day after I arrived, mom’s cousin Hal suggested a drive to the historic district of Wilmington. He knows I love historic buildings and babbling streams. This spot along the Brandywine was the perfect stop.

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You can never say corner in Delaware, it seems. Points are obliterated in curves, drown in the gurgling streams. How could this pastoral scene be part of the 9-11 Battle in 1777?

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Mr. Dylan Duck stands on his rocky lookout over the Brandywine surveying his family activities. Donovan and Dana Duck discovered something fishy in the Brandywine.

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The twenty-mile lower stem of Brandywine Creek winds lazily around the historic district of Wilmington, DE. Maybe Dylan’s ancestors watched for Redcoats.

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Possibly Dylan’s ancestral family watched Peter Minuit who founded New Sweden in 1638 along the Delaware River and inland to the Brandywine. He died in a hurricane on his return trip, but his colony remained. I can imagine the Swedes lounging with their feet dangling in the stream sipping a mug of home brew on a beautiful September day after harvesting crops all day.

Gossip Along the Brandywine in 1644

Overheard by Dylan Duck I

“This here is mighty fine wine, you’ve made, Peter.”

It’s not wine. It’s brandy, Beatus. Made from this gurgling stream right here. It’s the water that makes it tasty.”

Brandy? Wine? Whatever. It is delicious. ” Abram added.

“Sounds like a good name for this river to me, Brandywine,” Beatus said.

Don’t tell that old Swede, who built the grain mill, Andreas Brainwende. He thinks this stream is his, and we should call it the Brainwend River after him,” Peter said.

Brainwend, Brandywine, his hearing’s so bad, he won’t know the difference.

“You got the water in just the right place, didn’t you, Peter?” Abram said.

Yeah, a couple miles from here the creek pours into the Christina River,” Peter told them. “Ah the beautiful Christina, named after our queen. She’s a spoiler.”

“Yeah, she looks sweet, but looks are deceiving, so I hear.”

“Shhh, you two! Someone might be overhear you. You don’t want to mess with our governor!”

“I’m talking about that brakish water two miles yonder at the confluence of the two rivers. Christina’s waters would make a brandy that even you wouldn’t drink, Abram,” Beatus said

“You don’t think much of my tasting skills, Beatus?”

“Not so much.”

“OK, fellows, better finish it up here before you get us in trouble. The wives will wonder where we are.”

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Hey, Marsha,” Hal called interrupting my reverie. “Haven’t you seen ducks before? What are you doing?”

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What looks like placid waters now, once powered grist and gunpowder mills. Mills fueled the industrial era before the onset of steam-powered machinery. The DuPonts made their fortunes here. Ah, this was the place to learn history.

Ah, this was the place to learn history.

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I could see that it was no wonder why many nineteenth century builders used stone to construct Wilmington buildings along the Brandywine. Mmmm, I wanted to put my toes in the cool water and feed the ducks, sip some wine and…

“Marsha,” Hal called again. “What is so interesting down there? Come up here. I want to show you something about this old post office building.

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How do you ignore a 91-year-old retired engineer who was tired of Dylan and Donovan, the dark-feathered ducks, and wanted me to move on to something more mathematical? More than likely he wanted to go home and eat, my stomach reminded me that it was getting late.

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“Did you notice the way the sun is casting a shadow on this stairway of Breck’s Mill?”

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Hal scores again – something I would not have noticed without him.

The shadows had crept up on me as time swirled dreamily down the stream. But the sun was dipping in the sky. Strawberry-rhubarb pie in the fridge was beckoning us to come back to the 21st century and go home for dinner.

What wonderful, lazy afternoons do you remember sitting by a gentle stream, or lovely lake, waterfall, or even a water fountain?

Does water make your mind wander, too?

Catch more water pictures here.

I participate in WordPress' Weekly Photo Challenge 2016
I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2016

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