Saturday, December 10, 2011
My Crazy Quincy Dream
The Underhill-Wedeles House in Quincy's historic district
Ever since I was a little girl, I always wanted to live here, in Quincy, Florida, which is, I guess, a rather strange ambition. Most people wouldn’t want to live in Quincy. It’s a decrepit little town, almost a ghost town. But yet, I love it—maybe because it seems like a place that time forgot. The pace is a little slower in Quincy.
But it wasn’t always this way. Back in the early twentieth century when shade tobacco was king, Quincy was a thriving place. In fact, it was once one of America’s richest cities per capita. Shade tobacco made people rich--and so did a local banker’s belief in the universal appeal of Coca-Cola. You see, in the 1920s and ‘30s, Pat Munroe, president of the Quincy State Bank, encouraged his customers to buy stock in Coke. People took his advice and, as a result, Quincy is still famous today for its legendary “Coca-Cola millionaires.”
I don't know if any of them are still around. I haven't seen a whole lot of evidence of millionaires. There are a few grand houses where they might live, but the town itself is a little on the shabby side. Yet even in its worn and tattered state, Quincy is still charming and lovely to me. There are white wooden churches, very well used, and there’s a stately courthouse made of yellow brick, surrounded by magnolias. The cemeteries are nothing if not romantic, draped in Spanish moss and dotted with sad stone lambs. Old gardens frilly with daffodils and spider lilies hide themselves behind lichen-spotted brick walls.
J.L. Davidson-Suber House. How old must this live oak be?
My weird, crazy dream of moving to Quincy was born one summer day when I was nine. Mom had a friend who had moved to Quincy, to one of the old mansions on King Street, and I was absolutely fascinated by this turn of events. I loved old houses. Finally one day in July we got to go and visit. Right away I felt I was in heaven. The house had secret passageways, and Kris and I got to run through them, playing hide-and-seek. In the yard there were huge old pecan trees, and we had a picnic lunch in their shade. I never forgot that perfect day; it stayed with me and steered the course of my life. I lived in Tallahassee, then Atlanta. And then in 2004 I finally did it. I moved to Quincy, to my own old house, built in 1850.
The front gate at my mother's friend's house (the Davidson-Thomas House)
The Davidson-Thomas House
What do I like so much about old houses? Why are they such an obsession with me? Well, I don’t really know. Let me think. I guess I like that they are special, one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted, detailed, “human,” personal, that they’re made of natural materials, that they are (usually) simple and harmonious in design. I like that they’re often surrounded by tangled old gardens and great shady trees, and (of course) I like that they have a long history and many stories to tell.