Friday, October 25, 2013

The Horse Run

This photo from the 1950s shows two remarkable features on the Veblen House grounds. The hay barrack on the left, with its adjustable roof for storing hay or, in this case, firewood, was unfortunately torn down six years ago, but could be reconstructed.

The horse run, on the other hand, is still very much present, with its massive boulders skillfully set one atop another to form a circle, within which horses were once run as a quick way to give them a little exercise. My understanding is that the Veblen's longtime groundskeeper, Max Latterman, needed to exercise the horses that were kept in the barn that used to be next to this horse run. The barn burned down in the 1950s. The horse run may later have become a part of Elizabeth's extensive gardens.

The article about Max posted on this website May 7, originally from the 1980 Fall/Winter edition of the Mercer County Park Commission News and given to us by his daughter in law Jean, documents the presence of horses back in the 1930s, before the house was bought by the Veblens.
"Latterman's responsibilities, while employed by Mr. Stuart, included caring for the grounds, the two houses, the barn, shed and hay barrack, and also the hunting horses. Saddle sore or not, Latterman rode the horses every day to give them excercise. "It was not fun by the time I got off all of them", he said."
It's unclear whether the circular stone wall was built by J.P. Stuart or the Veblens, and whether it was originally built for horses or for some other purpose. The internet search most likely to bring up images of circular stone structures such as this is "sheepfold", which is the word used in England to refer to a pen for holding sheep. Elizabeth Veblen grew up in Yorkshire, England, and it's tempting to speculate that it was her influence that brought this structure into being.

Here's a more recent photo, as volunteers with the Rotary Club of Princeton begin to free it from a sea of wisteria. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The (Not So) Empty Kiosk

This empty kiosk at the parking lot in Herrontown Woods, built years back by the county but never populated with maps or interpretive information, is indicative of the long slumber this nature preserve has been through. Kiosks are great ideas, and you'd think they'd be fairly easy to utilize and keep up to date, but most of the ones I've seen in my travels have been neglected. I know personally how easy it is to forget about them, having had a few that were mine to utilize or ignore.

So along with the incredible work of Kurt Tazelaar and Sally Curtis to clear the trails in recent months, this small step of putting a cork board on the solid steel kiosk runs counter to the laissez faire norms of human behavior.

The board, which looked surprisingly attractive when finally affixed, was a second hand acquisition, mounted by a volunteer. It symbolizes the way public investment in parks can often languish if not for the skill, commitment and resourcefulness of community volunteers. It will be even more symbolic, and useful, when it finally has a map or two to guide visitors.

Update: Nothing like posting photos of an empty kiosk on the web to motivate one to populate it with maps and a description.