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Archives for January 7, 2013

Hometown proud – Wilkes Barre Times

It started out as a plan to install a flagpole.

It turned into an outpouring of love and community pride.

And Charles A. Adonizio III was the man behind the vision.

Adonizio, the immediate past president of the Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce, was selected as Greater Pittston’s Person of the Year by the Sunday Dispatch for his work in bringing the Hometown Heroes Memorial from idea to reality on the lawn of the chamber.

The memorial honors the soldiers and police officers who lost their lives in the line of duty, and another who was severely wounded, from the Greater Pittston area in the past decade.

“Greater Pittston really has suffered a disproportionate amount of loss,” he said. “There are five men that lost their lives and one man critically wounded from our hometown. We needed to do something to honor these men.”

Ed Ackerman, editor of the Sunday Dispatch, feared Adonizio would balk at being honored, but was glad he agreed.

“When nominations for Charlie start coming in, I couldn’t help but smile,” Ackerman said. “The scene downtown on the day of the dedication of the Hometown Heroes Memorial was unforgettable. An entire community turned out to honor its heroes and provide whatever comfort it could to their surviving families. And that Captain T.J. Hromisin was included as a local surviving hero indicates that the project was well conceived as well as well executed.

“The award is about impact and this project had enormous impact,” Ackerman said.

Adonizio was reluctant to accept the award alone because his team at the chamber contributed so much to the project.

Rosemary Dessoye, executive vice president of the Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce, Office Manager Brandi Bartush and Administrative Assistant Shirley Bartos all deserve praise and kudos, Adonizio said.

“It really was a team effort,” Adonizio said. “They supported my idea and encouraged me to move on. They all worked tirelessly.

“Rosemary Dessoye shared my every thought on this and she added to it and enhanced it with her own ideas.”

Started with flagpole

Adonizio said he’s traveled around the country and visited various chambers of commerce, including ones in Vermont, Florida, Arizona and Colorado.

“The one thing that all the chambers had was a flag,” he said.

In November of 2010, Dale Kridlo was killed in Afghanistan. The Pittston mayor sent out a memo to all businesses to lower their flag to half mast.

“We couldn’t because we didn’t have one,” Adonizio said. “That really drove the whole thing home. That linked the flagpole and the memorial in my mind.”

Kridlo’s death hit the community so hard and Adonizio saw the community outpouring at his funeral at St. John the Evangelist Church.

“It stirred so much emotion in everyone,” Adonizio said. “It was profound sadness for the loss of Dale. And a prideful thing, the way the community came out to support the family. It really galvanized the community. It was sadness mixed with pride.”

He said the original plan was to place the memorial in the small yard on the side of the building, until the devastation of tropical storms Lee and Irene.

“We had three beautiful flowering pear trees in the front lawn,” he said. “Two of the trees were snapped off and the other tree was damaged.”

None of the trees were worth keeping and all of them had to be removed.

“Not to be corny, but it was like God’s hand came down and cleared the pallet for us,” Adonizio said. “It cleaned the way for us to put it in the front yard, where it belongs.”

“We have one of the best locations in Greater Pittston,” he said. “You can get a view from the West Side coming over the bridge. You can get a view coming down on William Street.”

Adonizio said once they presented their plan to the families of the fallen officers and soliders, there was no turning back.

“We had a meeting and unrolled this to the families and they were so touched,” he said. “Once we unrolled the idea to the families, we had a commitment, we knew we had to keep pushing forward.”

Jeff Deprimo’s father, Joseph, told Adonizio something like this memorial was all he ever wanted for his son.

“They want their children and spouses to be remembered,” Adonizio said.

Dedicated July 1

The memorial was officially dedicated on July 1, 2012, to U.S. Army Cpl. Dale Justin Kridlo, 33, who was killed in action. Nov. 7, 2010 in Afghanistan; U.S. Navy and PA Army National Guard Lt. Col Richard Joseph Berrettini, 52, who died Jan. 11, 2008, as a result of injuries sustained in Afghanistan; Pennsylvania State Trooper Joshua Daniel Miller, 34, who was killed June 7, 2009, in Monroe County; Virginia Beach Police Department Officer Rodney F. Pocceschi, 33, was killed on June 23, 2003, in Virginia Beach, Va.; and Pennsylvania Army National Guard First Lt. Jeffrey Frank DePrimo, 33, who was killed May 20, 2008, in Afghanistan. A living memorial on the side yard was also dedicated to Capt. T.J. Hromisin, who was critically injured in Iraq.

Albert Kridlo, father of Dale, honks his horn ever time he drives past the memorial.

“You can’t go down Kennedy Boulevard and stop at the light and not see my son looking at you,” he said. “That means a lot to me.”

He pointed to the Firefighters’ Memorial just down the street and revitalization going on in the downtown.

“It’s a lively area,” he said. “It’s all tied in. And Charlie and the Chamber were spearheads.”

Kridlo credited the forward thinking and determination of Adonizio and all of the Chamber team that helped make the memorial a reality.

“I’m happy and thankful,” he said. “Why wouldn’t people want to honor a bunch of young men who are heroes?”

Dessoye praised Adonizio’s relentlessness. “He stayed focused on his goal,” she said. “He was able to bring a lot of enthusiasm to the project.”

She said the memorial is important to different people for different reasons. “Each brick in that memorial tells a story,” Dessoye said.

She said local funeral director Paul Leonard bought several for his family members who served in the armed forces many years ago. Jim Tigue, a Vietnam veteran, suggested they fly the black POW/MIA flag beneath the American flag. State police troopers from the Tunkhannock barracks, where Trooper Miller was stationed, bought bricks in memory of their fallen comrade. Dessoye bought a brick in honor of her parents.

They spoke of a group of elderly ladies that walked down from Our Lady of the Eucharist Church and bought bricks for DePrimo, a member of their congregation.

“When the little old ladies from the church came down to buy bricks, we knew we had something,” Adonizio said. “It was so heartwarming.”

“Everybody came together,” Dessoye said. “Everybody was so receptive because there was such a personal touch.”

Mammoth undertaking

Adonizio, whose one-year term as the Chamber’s president ended in July, said he averaged about 20 hours a week working on planning and organization.

He and his team met every Tuesday at 9 a.m., each time with a different person contributing to the final outcome, including the design artist, the landscaper, the mason, the contractor.

He said “in kind” donations significantly lowered the cost of the project. In all, about $40,000 was raised and $10,000 is kept in a fund to for upkeep, maintenance and Memorial Day services and wreaths, which, he said, is planned to be a yearly event.

He said the in-kind donations were what put the project over the top. They included All Service Rite Inc., Balloon Works Inc., The Banana Hammocks Band, Sharon Carfora, Cilberto Masonry LLC, the Coffee Table Café, Coon Industries Inc., Cooper’s Seafood on the Waterfront, Dente’s Catering Rental, Dupont Developers Inc., Dupont Monument Shop, First National Community Bank, The Flower Tent, Mark Kowalczyk of Mark’s Landscaping, Joseph Makarweicz of Everest Business Services LLC, The Music Scene, Northeast Sign Service, Rexel, R.K. Lawn Sprinkler Inc., Jennifer Robinson of SEVEN Design, Rolling Thunder National – PA Chapter 3, Eric Sperazza, Patricia Stella, Susquehanna Brewing Company, The Sunday Dispatch, the Times Leader and The Citizens Voice.

He said efforts will now focus on rededicating the Capt. T.J. Hromisin Walkway on the side of the building. A fundraiser is beginning and bricks and blocks will be available for $150 and $1,000 respectively.

Adonizio said he was met with some opposition early on. Some asked why a Chamber of Commerce, a traditionally pro-business organization, got involved in the construction a memorial.

“My answer to that is if we didn’t have brave men like these, that gave their lives for freedom, we don’t do any business,” he said. “We don’t have a free country to do business in. These fallen heroes are the reason we’re here.”

“And I ask, why not the chamber?” he said “We have the perfect venue for this.”

Other critics noted the memorial is not honoring any fallen veterans from past wars. Adonizio said the plan was always to take a “snapshot in time.”

“It’s for the men from Greater Pittston who lost their lives in the line of duty in the last decade,” he said.

Greater Pittston roots

Adonizio’s roots in the Greater Pittston area run deep.

Adonizio was born in Pittston, the fourth child of Helen Adonizio of Butler Street in Pittston and the late Charles “Cugsy” Adonizio Jr. His siblings are Judy Yanchek, Gloria Blandina, the late Christine Thompson, Jane Lucas and Dr. Patrick Adonizio.

He attended St. Mary of the Assumption School and graduated from Pittston Area High School. He attended the University of Pittsburgh and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of New Haven in Connecticut.

After traveling for several months, he returned home. He eventually took over the family insurance company, Atlas Insurance Group in 1982, from his father, who founded it in 1938.

He later added a separate company, Atlas Realty Inc., in 1988, and the two companies are headquartered on state Route 315, in the Keystone section of Plains Township.

He married the former Karen Delaney of Hughestown and they have two children. Kristie Adonizio, 22, is student at Champlain College in Burlington, Vt., and Chad Adonizio, 21, a student at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Both are studying business administration.

The family resides on Westminster Road on the Plains Township end, Adonizio noted.

In his spare time, Adonizio is an award-winning vintner. He recently won a gold medal for his cabernet sauvignon in Wine Maker Magazine’s International Amateur Wine Competition. In addition, he won a bronze medal for a merlot entry and a bronze medal for a Malbec entry. Adonizio and friends have been making wine for the last 14 years and to date have won numerous contests and awards for their efforts.

He has several professional designations and has received the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors “PAR Excellence Club Award” four times in the past six years. That award is given to less than 100 of PAR’s 25,000 members annually.

In 2004, both of Adonizio’s businesses received the Small Business of the Year award from the Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce. He is president of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Association of Realtors, past director and president of the Greater Pittston YMCA and a founding director of Landmark Community Bank.

Huge impact

Jaclyn Pocceschi Mosley, the sister of fallen Virginia Beach Police Department Officer Rodney F. Pocceschi, a Pittston Township native, said Adonizio made a huge impact on the whole Greater Pittston community.

“He’s genuinely full of care and concern,” she said. “His goal was to honor those fallen heroes and make the families proud. Well, mission accomplished.”

She said tears of sadness were shed because of the loss of their loved one, but tears of joy were also shed to see a community rally around such a worthy project.

“He has made a difference in all the families and the Greater Pittston family as a whole,” she said.

Adonizio said the award, like the memorial, is something that the entire community should be proud of.

“This is an institution,” Adonizio said of the award. “The Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce is one of the institutions, like the Sunday Dispatch, the Greater Pittston YMCA, the Pittston Memorial Library. These institutions are part of who we are. It represents our commitment to the community. The overwhelming support we’ve received from the community proves that we are vital and strong. We’re just so proud that we had the opportunity and the privilege to demonstrate the strength, love and commitment that this community shares.

“This evolved from a flagpole to a monument to Greater Pittston,” Adonizio said. “And everything that we’ve had to sacrifice.”

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New designs on outdoor space

Ideas may come from magazines, a TV programme or may simply be inspired by a neighbour’s garden, but it’s best to buy a notebook and jot down plans.

Whatever you decide to do, whether it’s creating a new bed or making radical changes with hard landscaping, work out how much time and effort you’re prepared to spend on the project and the subsequent maintenance that will require. It’s no use planting a garden full of high-maintenance plants if you’re not going to be there to deadhead, water, feed and keep everything under control.

Think about where you are going to site any new project. If you’re planning a raised bed for vegetables, make sure it’s going to be in a sunny spot with not much shade from overhanging trees, or you won’t be able to grow a huge variety in there. And remember that veg patches can be high maintenance too, as weeding, watering and feeding is likely to be a regular requirement.

If you’re a seasoned gardener, you’ll already know what type of soil you have. If not, a simple soil test kit can be bought from any garden centre which will indicate what type of soil you have and, from there, you can find out what types of plants will grow in it.

If your garden is dry, shady, or you have clay or acid soil, you need to work with it. Don’t try to fight it by changing the make-up of the soil because no matter how much organic matter you add, eventually the original type will come through. If you want to grow acid-loving plants such as azaleas but have alkaline soil, you’re best growing them in pots of ericaceous compost.

Other practicalities to consider when creating a new area include drainage, storage space, available electricity and water. If the garden’s on a slope, you may need to level the site or install a drainage system. If you’re planning a paved area, make sure it’s level but with enough camber to drain effectively or you’ll end up with puddles you don’t want.

Think outside the box and you may come up with a more interesting design. Never, for instance, make narrow borders along boundary fences, because following the boundary lines will just emphasise the shape of your garden and make it look smaller.

If you’re creating a new bed or border, the minimum width should be 1m (40in), and even that will restrict what can be grown. It’s better to go for a border twice or even three times that width for dwarf shrubs and modest perennials. Strong shapes are important and need to blend with your house, keeping everything in proportion and making outdoor and indoor space merge. The rule of thumb is one-third planting to two-thirds space.

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30th-annual show helps Kearney builders association raise money while …

KEARNEY— After the Christmas lights come down, it’s time to look ahead to possibilities of the new year.

That means the 30th-annual Home and Builder’s Show sponsored by the Kearney Area Builders Association, which comes to the Expo Building at the Buffalo County Fairgrounds Friday to Jan. 13.

The show, a 30-year tradition, will feature more than 100 booths showcasing floors, curtains, kitchens, wall coverings, ranges, carpeting, garage doors, cabinetry, electronics and landscaping.

There will also be pools, spas, sunroom designs and more, along with what’s being called an Atlanta show home from Wardcraft Homes that will have three bedrooms and two baths in its 1,568 square feet.

“The house will be finished except for the floor and furnishings,” said Mark Weller, Wardcraft plant manager in Minden. “Whoever buys the home can pick those items out.”

“This show is the bread and butter for our association,” said Paul Fredrickson, owner of Fredrickson Cos. of Kearney and a KABA board member. “We have a Parade of Homes benefit every fall, but this is our moneymaker.”

In charge of the show for the fifth year will be Diane Jorgenson, executive officer of KABA. She is assisted by a committee that has been meeting since mid-July. Co-chairs this year are Kyle Flaherty of Platte Valley State Bank and Rich White, who is semi-retired.

The three-day show was the brainchild of Fredrickson and the late Gary Shubert, owner of Mid-Nebraska Cabinets in Lexington, who were pondering a new way to promote what was then called the West Central Nebraska Home Builders Association.

The organization needed a reliable source of income beyond member dues, which it shared with the Nebraska State Home Builders Association and the National Home Builders Association.

“No more than 60 percent of the dues income stays here, and we needed more money,” Fredrickson said.

At a meeting in Hays, Kan., he and Shubert began chatting with Irene Miller, who put on the North Platte Home Show every year. Grand Island had an annual home show, too, but Kearney didn’t.

“Following our board meeting, I brought up the idea: Why not start a home show in Kearney?” Fredrickson said.

The WCNHBA launched a show and hired Miller to run it for several years. Capitol Productions in Lincoln and others ran it, too, but when KABA hired Jorgenson as executive director four years ago, she was put in charge of it.

“She’s such a capable person, we finally had someone here to do it,” Fredrickson said. “She does a wonderful job, and the show keeps growing.”

In the last 30 years, the show has grown from about 80 vendors to the 110 who will be there next week. Each booth measures 20 feet by 20 feet.

The show offers builders and tradesmen a chance to meet the public and “gives our home builders good leads,” said Fredrickson, who sits on the committee. It also lets citizens browse casually to get ideas about new lighting, cabinetry, flooring and more.

Some vendors will offer demonstrations at their booths. Lifetime Cookware will demonstrate its products; Traeger will cook food on their grills and pass it out to attendees, Jorgenson said.

“We’ll have little mini-seminars at the booths, too,” Fredrickson said.

KABA is a professional association of 125 members primarily from Kearney, with a few from Holdrege, Riverdale, Elm Creek and Gibbon. It changed its name from the WCHB in the past year in order to eliminate the word “home.”

“We wanted to include all builders, commercial as well as residential,” Fredrickson said.

KABA promotes the “residential and light commercial building industry by serving anyone who is interested in buying a new home or remodeling their present home.

“What’s big now?” Jorgenson said. “Theater rooms. Big kitchens. Open floor plans.” Visitors can see all that and more next weekend.

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Park’s makeover includes fruit trees for all to enjoy

Del Aire residents got to enjoy the fruits of their labor Saturday with the unveiling of the state’s first public orchard.

Residents of this quiet, unincorporated slice of Los Angeles County had helped plant 27 fruit trees and eight grapevines in Del Aire Park and 60 additional fruit trees in the surrounding neighborhood. It was part of a larger renovation that included face lifts for a community center, basketball court and baseball field, all nestled in a green space just southwest of the juncture of the 105 and 405 freeways.

“Community gardens and farmers markets are truly the town centers of our communities,” County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas told the crowd of about 200 at the event. “These are the places where people gather and get to know each other.”

The county paid $4 million for the improvements — and used a little creative financing. The fruit trees were paid for from funds designated for civic art. The purpose was to blend food and aesthetics into “edible art,” Ridley-Thomas said.

A group of three artists, known as Fallen Fruit, helped design the orchard. “Art can be something more than something tangible,” said David Burns, one of the artists. “It can actually be an idea. They really understood and embraced the fact that this art project was about the idea of share. This is about creating something that is abundant that has no ownership.”

Another of the artists, Austin Young, said Boston, New York and Madrid are among the cities experimenting with edible landscaping. But in agriculture-rich California, Del Aire is the first place to follow suit, said Karly Katona, deputy to Ridley-Thomas. The idea is to create an edible landscape that will give the residents ownership and a stake in their park, she said.

Before its makeover, the park was something of a paradox. On weekends it bustled with families and children, but many came from other communities. They considered Del Aire Park a haven from the poorly maintained parks that had become gang hangouts in their neighborhoods.

By comparison, many Del Aire residents regarded the park as run-down. They often complained that the baseball diamond looked like a swamp from constant flooding, said John Koppelman, president of the neighborhood association.

So last summer, as the renovations took shape, Ridley-Thomas’ office held events at the park to entice locals to enjoy the public space right in their backyard. Those included a “fruit jam” where residents were encouraged to bring food items that could go into a jam everybody shared. Residents also came to plant the trees, which include plums, pomegranates, limes, avocados and apricots.

Saturday morning, under a brilliant sun, the saplings were taking root in the freshly turned earth, wood stakes holding up the thin, bare trunks. The first edible fruit won’t be ready to harvest for three years.

For now, a wooden sign overlooking the trees describes their purpose: “The fruit trees in this park belong to the public,” it says. “They’re for everyone, including you. Please take care of the fruit trees and when the fruit is ripe, taste it and share it with others.”

After the dedication, Al Luna of Del Aire watched his two young daughters as they played on the jungle gym. The 42-year-old father said he loves having fruit trees across from his home.

“This is something we have never seen here,” he said. “I know the public parks are very against having fruit trees in the parks, but I think this is a good idea. It will bring more people around and at least get free fruit out of it.”

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Finding Chicago’s food gardens with Google Earth

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Public release date: 3-Jan-2013


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Contact: Susan Jongeneel
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

Urban agriculture is promoted as a strategy for dealing with food insecurity, stimulating economic development, and combating diet-related health problems in cities. However, up to now, no one has known how much gardening is taking place in urban areas. Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a methodology that they used to quantify the urban agriculture in Chicago.

John Taylor, a doctoral candidate working with crop sciences researcher Sarah Taylor Lovell, was skeptical about the lists of urban gardens provided to him by local non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

“Various lists were circulating,” he said. “One of them had almost 700 gardens on it.”

On closer inspection, however, many of these “gardens” turned out to be planter boxes or landscaping and were not producing food. On the other hand, Taylor suspected that there were unnoticed gardens in backyards or vacant lots.

“There’s been such a focus on community gardens and urban farms, but not a lot of interest in looking at backyard gardens as an area of research,” Lovell agreed. An accurate map of these sites would be helpful for advocacy groups and community planners.

Taylor uploaded the lists from the NGOs into Google Earth, which automatically geocoded the sites by street address. He used a set of reference images of community gardens, vacant lot gardens, urban farms, school gardens, and home food gardens to determine visual indicators of food gardens.

Using these indicators and Google Earth images, he examined the documented sites. Of the 1,236 “community gardens,” only 160, or 13 percent, were actually producing food.

Taylor then looked at Google Earth images of Chicago to locate food production sites. This work took more than 400 hours over an 8-month period. He identified 4493 possible sites, most of which were residential gardens of 50 square meters or less, and visited a representative sample of gardens on vacant land to confirm that they were really producing food.

All the large sites and a sample of the small sites were digitized as shapefiles (digital vector storage formats for storing geometric location and associated attribute information) in Google Earth. These shapefiles were imported into Arc Map 10, a geographic information system (GIS) mapping tool, to calculate the total area.

The final estimate was 4,648 urban agriculture sites with a production area of 264,181 square meters. Residential gardens and single-plot gardens on vacant lots accounted for almost three-fourths of the total.

To map the gardens onto community areas, the shapefiles were joined with 2010 Census tract shapefiles and shapefiles of 77 community areas and neighborhoods from Chicago’s GIS portal. The tract information was subsequently joined with the Census Bureau’s 2005-2009 American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year estimates of demographic and housing characteristics.

The maps showed that garden concentration varied by neighborhood. “Chinatown, Bridgeport was kind of a hot spot,” Taylor said. Both of these neighborhoods have large Chinese-origin populations. Even outside those areas, many of the larger gardens were associated with households headed by people of Chinese origin. Neighborhoods in the northwest with large numbers of Polish and Eastern and Southern European immigrants also had a high density of backyard gardens.

They were not all growing the same kind of food. “There are distinctions between these cultural groups because the crops they select are sometimes from their home areas in addition to the suite of crops we can all grow in our backyards,” Lovell explained.

As people move across borders, they often bring seeds with them. “In a Mexican neighborhood where we were working, a lot of people grow a tropical corn that is 12 to 16 feet high,” Taylor said. “It’s grown not for the ears of corn but for the leaves, which are used to make tamales.”

He noted that many older African-Americans in Chicago who came north during the Great Migration from the south from the early 1900s to the 1970s remember farming and growing up with gardens. “They are almost reproducing in miniature in their backyards the southern landscape and gardening practices that they associated with their youth,” he said.

Garden type varied by neighborhood as well. Home food gardens are concentrated in the northwest, where people tend to live in detached houses. Vacant lot gardens are concentrated in the economically disadvantaged neighborhoods in the south and west sides, as are the community gardens.

Lovell said that, in some communities, more than half of the lots are vacant, and making use of them could be a huge opportunity. Chicago has a program that allows people living next to a vacant lot to purchase it at a fraction of what it would normally cost.

The results of this study suggest that both backyard gardens and vacant lot gardens contribute substantially to Chicago’s total food production.

“Home gardens actually contribute to food security,” Taylor said. “They’re underappreciated and unsupported.” He noted that people grow not only for themselves but for their neighbors as well, which is particularly important in food deserts where fresh produce is in short supply.

“There is also potential for empowering people because they are using their own space to deal with their own food security concerns,” Lovell added.

The study, “Mapping public and private spaces of urban agriculture in Chicago through the analysis of high-resolution aerial images in Google Earth” by John R. Taylor and Sarah Taylor Lovell, published in Landscape and Urban Planning, is available online at

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What do a bathroom, museum, and garden have in common? Cool architecture.

 The inside of the main entryway of the Candora Marble Co. office building makes use of many varieties of Tennessee marble. The board of directors of the South Knoxville Arts and Heritage Center, as the building is called, has secured a $25,000 challenge grant for further work on the building, which the board wants to turn into a marble museum.  (Ed Marcum/ News sentinel)

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The inside of the main entryway of the Candora Marble Co. office building makes use of many varieties of Tennessee marble. The board of directors of the South Knoxville Arts and Heritage Center, as the building is called, has secured a $25,000 challenge grant for further work on the building, which the board wants to turn into a marble museum. (Ed Marcum/ News sentinel)

Savage House and Gardens stands as a monument to architectural and landscaping creativity in North Knoxville.

Savage House and Gardens stands as a monument to architectural and landscaping creativity in North Knoxville.

The Airplane Filling Station is no longer a filling station, but it is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Airplane Filling Station is no longer a filling station, but it is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The restroom at the park off Cherokee Boulevard in Sequoyah Hills is a little beveled stone chapel with womenís facilities on the left and menís on the right.

The restroom at the park off Cherokee Boulevard in Sequoyah Hills is a little beveled stone chapel with womenís facilities on the left and menís on the right.

photos Special to the news sentinelCompleted in 1923, the office building of the Candora Marble Co. in South Knoxville was meant to showcase the quality of Tennessee marble.

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photos Special to the news sentinel
Completed in 1923, the office building of the Candora Marble Co. in South Knoxville was meant to showcase the quality of Tennessee marble.

The Candoro Marble Works off Maryville Pike is like a little slice of Renaissance Italy in South Knoxville. A masterwork of marble craftsmanship that harkens to florid Old World European design, with a wrought-iron door, hand-carved flourishes and Tuscan columns, it’s a bizarre anachronism in the middle of blue-collar Vestal, circa 2012.

“You’re in this scruffy little corner of town, and there’s this little Italian villa,” says Matt Edens, a longtime local real estate writer and former Knox Heritage board member.

According to Knox Heritage Executive Director Kim Trent, the building was a showroom for the Candoro Marble Company, designed by prominent Knoxville architect Charles Barber (1887-1962) of Barber McMurry. “It was basically a way for them to show off what they could do.” She laughs, “When I first moved here, I immediately wanted to move in.”

Today, the building serves as a museum and, occasionally, an events center of sorts for the Vestal community. But there’s a lesson in the fact of its unlikely existence. That being, while Knoxville may not be a major urban center, due to its singular clashing of rural and urban sensibilities and unique cultural heritage, it’s a good place to see some weird, wonderful architecture in some unexpected places. “There’s always been pretty interesting architecture here,” says Edens. “Some of it seems pretty unlikely. You turn a corner and say, ‘Whoa!'”

For instance: It’s a rare day that people walk out of a public restroom having had a memorable experience. But when you mention the public facilities at the park off Cherokee Boulevard in Sequoyah Hills, people usually know what you’re talking about.

Because the restroom there, a beautiful little beveled stone chapel with women’s facilities on the left and men’s on the right, is just that memorable. And according to city parks and recreation director Joe Walsh, the neighborhood residents wouldn’t have it any other way.

“We’d been trying to put in a permanent restroom in the park for a while, and we’d worked with the neighborhood association because those aren’t necessarily the nicest amenities,” Walsh says. “They asked us to make them as nice as possible. We had a budget, but they offered to chip in.”

As it happened, the total cost came in within the city’s budget of about $150,000 for the 600-square-foot facility, even with the perks. “It’s got nicer gutters, a more elaborate interior, better material on the outside,” Walsh says. “It’s closer to the architecture you’d find in Sequoyah Hills.”

Perhaps less graceful in character than other examples, the Airplane Filling Station at 6829 Clinton Highway is nonetheless a little slice of classic Americana, a bit of roadside bizarrerie that harkens to the popularity of both a hero of American aviation and mimetic architecture of the 1930s.

“Brothers Elmer and Henry Nickle built the filling station to look like the Charles Lindbergh airplane, the Spirit of St. Louis,” says Roch Bernard, who heads up the Airplane Filling Station Preservation Association, a non-profit committee that is working to preserve the site, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“This was the early 1930s, right around the time of Lindbergh’s flight, and it was kind of a gimmick to attract customers,” he continues. “There was a lot of mimetic architecture in those days — roadside buildings in the shape of pigs and planes and all kinds of stuff.”

The filling station remained in business until the mid-1960s, Bernard says. For several years after, it served various other purposes; it was a mobile home repair supply, a bait and tackle store, a car lot (more than once), even a head shop, Bernard says.

In 2003, a local antiques dealer came in and placed a down payment on the property. Bernard joined in, and the Preservation Association was born. The organization is a nonprofit, and the volunteer members hope to find a new permanent owner interested in preserving the character of the old station.

There is a prosaic area of North Knoxville, in Fountain City, where, on the journey past Central High School toward Broadway, one suddenly experiences a brief, beautiful ripple in time and space. Because on the right, the flow of suburban clutter is suddenly interrupted by a little slice of the orient, a beautifully-kept little garden with stone walls, trails, exotic plants, a century-old bungalow surrounded by a pagoda/pumphouse and other oriental flourishes.

The property is known as Savage House and Gardens; its construction began in 1914, and continued as a labor of love for Arthur and Hortense Savage.

“They were avid gardeners; it earned Arthur the title of ‘father of rock gardening’ in Knoxville,” Trent says. “For a time, they lived in the bungalow next to the garden, and continued to work.

The bungalow itself, where the Hortenses lived for a time, is a neat little cottage with a weatherboard frame and a hip roof, a gabled front porch, and a greenhouse the couple added on a few years later. Gradually, they built the elaborate gardens around it in stages and layers, heavily influenced by their extensive travels abroad. “A lot of oriental influence was common at the time it was constructed, all over the world,” says Trent.

Over the years, they added various pools, a couple of water towers, the pumphouse, a rose arch overlooking a horseshoe-shaped pool, a sundial pedestal. The property is no longer occupied; it’s owned by the proprietors of the nearby Montessori school. It’s listed now on the National Register of Historic Places.

“They weren’t architects; they were just a couple who wanted to create a beautiful place in East Tennessee,” Trent says.

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GARDEN DOCTORS: Tips for properly staking a tree

There’s nothing worse than seeing badly staked trees. Has anyone seen trees that are tied so tightly to a stake, whether it be made of wood or metal, that the tie and even part of the post have grown into the bark? Or a tree lying on its side with the roots out of the ground and a stake still attached to the trunk? Or perhaps a tree that snapped in half after a stake was removed?

And all because someone didn’t know how to properly stake a tree and/or know when to remove it.

First of all, throw away the stake that came with the new tree in the pot. Leave it on until you get a better one, but don’t even consider keeping it because that stake was intended for nursery use only.

Instead, you want two stronger stakes that are long enough to reach the lowest part of the tree’s crown, with an additional 18-24 inches, which will be pounded into the ground.

Place the stakes about 6-8 inches on either side of a small-diameter tree trunk and further away, about 12 inches, for a larger-diameter trunk. For young trees that will be planted in an area that’s protected from strong winds, a 1-inch by 1-inch wood stake will work.

But if the young tree is going to be planted in an area that gets stronger winds, it should have 2-inch by 2-inch stake.

The tree then needs to be tied between these stakes in such a way that it can still sway back and forth with some movement in the breeze, but not tied too loosely so it can be blown over or snapped in half. Remove the nursery stake and slide your hand up the trunk until the top of the tree stands straight up. That’s the spot where the tree needs to be supported.

On young trees in protected areas that won’t get strong winds, 1-inch green plastic garden tape and the 1-inch by 1-inch wood stakes will work fine. This tape is used more often than twine and twist ties because it’s easier on the tree. It won’t rub the bark off, and if you forget to take the tape off, it won’t strangle the growth, but will stretch along with it for a short period of time. (It can still work its way into the bark and girdle the trunk.)

Where the winds are stronger and/or the trees are bigger, you’ll need the bigger stakes and some sturdier ties, like cut-up sections of a bicycle inner tube.

The idea of staking a tree is to use the minimum sized stake that will support it, so the tree trunk can move in the slightest breeze and flex its “muscles.” Compare it to your arm or leg in a cast. If you keep the tree immobilized, it won’t develop any strength and it will lose what strength it had.

So if you let it bend and flex, it will eventually become strong, and you’ll be able to remove the stakes within 18 to 24 months.

When using the plastic tape to tie the tree to the stakes, don’t make simple loops between the stake and tree. Make a figure-eight loop, so the tape will be less likely to slide down the trunk. Where possible, put the tape above a branch that will hold it in place so there’s no way it could slide down the trunk.

(Send your gardening questions to The Garden Doctors at The Garden Doctors can answer questions only through their column, which appears twice a month in the newspaper and online at

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Old castles of Europe can teach us about urban gardening

The great old castles of Europe have a lot to teach us about urban gardening.

Actually, castle heights are in many ways like clusters of multistory apartment buildings that often surround a small patch of open space. Like an elevator shaft, all the rooms that look out onto this space have the same point of view as Rapunzel did, straight down to the ground.

A thousand years ago, they needed a steady supply of aromatic herbs to season not-so-fresh food and to cloak the odors of what that era would dub “the great unwashed.”

Fresh clippings of santolina, rosemary, thyme and sage were strewn onto the floors, scattered into bed sheets and stuffed into less-than-clean garments. But when the barbarians swept through the neighborhood to pillage what they could, everyone ran to the castle for protection until the invaders moved on. And that meant there were more unwashed bodies within the castle walls, and the need for herbs was unceasing.

Then somebody got the bright idea of making an herb garden at the bottom of that space within the battlements. There they could grow herbs and greens without venturing out into risky open country. Now these folks could have just grown in rows, but, thankfully, they reached into ancient Celtic art where they found patterns, a lot like large knots of different-colored chords. Those first crafty gardeners decided to lay out the herb garden at the castle in a pattern that could best be seen from high above. It was a bird’s-eye view that drove this design.

Today these ancient herb plots of the medieval castles are called knot gardens. Every time the herbs were sheared to generate more clippings to use indoors, the knot pattern was refreshed. Over time they grew more elaborate, larger and yielded more colors and a powerful three-dimensional effect.

When the Dark Ages passed, the knot gardens of castle grounds were expanded outside the walls. In France, these patterns upon the ground grew to many acres in size. In time they evolved into the parterre, which reached its zenith at Chateau de Villandry, the world’s most decadent food garden.

One of the greatest truths of garden design is that there are no new ideas; only the applications change. Therefore, gardens thankfully tilled in vacant lots and small plots between buildings should be seen on two planes. First, of course, is the ground plane or the human-eye level. Here the garden must produce vegetables or greens and other edible plants. That is the functional aspect of its existence.

The second plane is called “plan view” by designers. This is the view of a Google Earth satellite photo that shows your home and grounds from above. Inside a castle garden you may not even perceive the pattern at all, and only when looking out a window above does the graphic become apparent.

Imagine what would happen if urban gardeners who live in apartments above began to view these practical cultivations as visual opportunities. If those spaces were laid out in interesting graphic patterns, whether inspired by modern art or ancient knots, they would be productive and beautiful, too.

It’s really all about how you lay out raised beds. The parterre at Villandry is all rectilinear in form, with the beds laid out at easy-to-build 90-degree angles. This eliminates the complex knots with their odd angles and curves. Whether it’s a simple four-square garden or a detailed parterre, accuracy is what makes them pop when viewed from above.

The beauty of knowing history is that we can draw from ancient ideas and give them modern applications. This medieval knot garden is an idea perfectly tailored to our modern urban plots. So as we grow to resolve contemporary problems of high-density living, pollution and a limited food supply, with a thousand-year-old solution, we contribute more than just gardens to the beauty and livability of our cities.

(Maureen Gilmer is an author, horticulturist and landscape designer. Learn more at Contact her at mogilmer(at) or P.O. Box 891, Morongo Valley, CA 92256.)

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MU student designers create 29 dresses for Mizzou Botanic Garden Fashion Show

Six MU student designers created 29 dresses inspired by  plants for the Mizzou Botanic Garden Fashion Show on Saturday.

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