Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Strolling round a Seminary

Thanks to Kota Kat, his accomplice Rosie Lee and their combined incessant wailing, stomping on my pillow and poking in my face during the early hours of Saturday morning, I finally dragged myself from bed feeling exhausted and downright annoyed. I was meeting DCUE in Silver Springs and really wanted to do nothing more than kick the cats out of the house and go back to bed to claim back my hours of stolen sleep. Why they had to be such pains this morning was beyond me but being a well trained Mom, I left the house after having placed a handful of treats in front of each of them, as though they'd been the best behaved fluffy little dears that ever walked the earth.
I grabbed camera gear and a jacket and headed to the Seminary. Driving up Rte 495, there are a couple of abandoned buildings visible from the road, part of where we were having a tour this morning.
The National Park Seminary started out as an inn in 1887 and since then has been a private school for women, a military recuperation facility and is now residential homes, mostly owned with some rentals. Most of the historic buildings were erected while it was a school with each building representing a part of the world to help the education of the girls from prominent families across the nation. There were gardens, grottoes, with pretty walkways and bridges which connected the buildings.
We all met next to the gymnasium and were led round by a guide, but unfortunately I had a hard time taking in her words because I was so tired. 
Many of the old buildings have been thoughtfully restored and are now private dwellings withing the park. The gymnasium above is currently being restored into condos.
The top right image shows the old swimming pool in the gymnasium. Esther Williams once swum here and now, the builders are in the process of raising the floor of the pool so that the new condo will have a living area that one steps down into, with the tiling preserved.
There are a few of the older buildings in the park that haven't been restored yet and so look lovely in their abandonment. We all focused mainly on these.
A restored 'Dutch windmill' sorority house.
The original building, Ye Forest Inne, restored and now is mainly rented apartments, with the original lounge downstairs used as a community room.
I loved this statue. the heartbroken Cyparissus mourning a deer's death.
We were given access to the restored majestic ballroom inside the inn. A raised floor was built during restoration surrounded by scaffolding so every part of the carvings and lights could be cleaned. Above shows how it was during the school years and I laughed at the one I took of our crowd getting involved in capturing their images.
Another of the sorority houses, a Japanese pagoda.
I loved this Native American statue on the outskirts of the park.
 The Statue of Minerva.
In the garden area stands an abandoned sorority house, formed after an English castle. In dire need of some TLC now, it looks almost beyond saving.
The Army acquired the seminary as WWII raged in 1942 and became a haven for wounded soldiers returning from Vietnam. But by the late 70's the place was empty and vandals moved in, damaging the grounds so much that demolition was becoming an option. The Save Our Seminary group was created by some staunch admirers who rallied to raise funds for restoration and the grounds became condos, single family homes and apartments.
There have even been some new townhouses added, built in the same style as their older neighboring buildings.
The Porch of the Maidens on the front of Aloha House.
We finished our tour after a couple of hours. It had felt a little odd to me to be walking around a complex which was now peoples' dwellings. We saw many of them leaving and entering the larger buildings but the old sorority houses which are now single family homes seemed to all be silent. There are all open to scrutiny from visitors on nearly all sides and I noticed many of the windows had shutters, shades pulled down or curtains closed. I felt like we were encroaching on their privacy but I guess they were aware of their 'goldfish bowl' habitats when they purchased the properties.
A few of the crew decided to go for lunch but I declined. I was exhausted and was looking forward to a nice catnap when I got home, sans cats!

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