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33 AStandard Oil of Indiana filling station stood across Church Street from the Lab and the Rapp-­MaclureOwen House, darkly foreshadowing the challenges of the journey on which I was embarking to reinvigorate New Harmony (11 on town map). Trucks roared noisily along Church Street, Highway 66, on their way to or from Illinois (see area map). This shining white station with its red, blue, and white torch, an ersatz imitation of the torch that ancient Greek athletes carried before their Olympic Games, bluntly proclaimed: “I am the only real thing in this town; I give gas and cold drinks to truckers all day and night, and they adore my Muzak.” There was no possibility of a full night’s sleep in the Lab. Fantasy kept pace with my indignation: “Even with your imitation torch, you’re not the truth and reality of New Harmony but rather a servant that pretends to be more important than the geologists who once lived across the street. Were it not for their intellect and devotion to geology , you might not even be on this corner.” My anger was not directed at ChaptER 4 Harmonist House Standard Oil Company gas station in 1930, a de­cade before my arrival in New Harmony. Don Blair Collection. Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Southern Indiana. Harmonist House 35 the attendants. The filling station itself represented , for me, Prospero’s servant Caliban, of Shakespeare’s Tempest, who stoked the fire and brought the water. All went well on the island until Prospero imprisoned Ariel (a spirit of imagination and of art), an act that elevated Caliban’s ambitions . Matters could not be righted until Caliban resumed his rightful place and Ariel could be set free and given liberty to create. I never doubted that the filling station would someday, somehow, disappear or that the aspirations of earlier generations would find contemporary expression. Kenneth and I ­ were unable to negotiate with the own­ ers of the Standard Oil Company gas station ; the asking price exceeded the resources at my disposal. The gas station remained for de­cades, an abomination and a gadfly to my efforts. From that day onward, I opted for the greater reality of the faded old ­houses and ­half-­ruined Granary. Setting my sights on what could be achieved in 1946, I bought a Harmonist ­ house three blocks southeast of the Lab on Steammill, so called because the Harmonists had built a ­ steam-­ powered factory on that street to manufacture shingles and weatherboards for the wooden ­houses of what historians now refer to as their middle period (12 on town map). The idea of creating a tranquil escape hatch for my family excited and challenged me. Years earlier, nomadic Indian tribes across the plains had hunted animals and stretched their hides for tepees. Later, Eu­ ro­ pe­ an pioneers supplanted them and cut down trees to build log cabins. In my time, I too would forage for building materials to repair and restore a ­ house that would be as protectively mine as ­ were those earlier shelters for my forbears. Notwithstanding my husband’s plea to friends—“If you see Jane with a hammer, for God’s sake, take it away!”—I persisted. I loaded my tools in the pickup truck of a local contractor, Fred E. “Silo” Cook, who knew where to find old barns and abandoned farm­ houses 36 New Harmony, indiana with weathered siding, ripe for my plucking. We pried loose old planks and a stable door; we gathered fieldstones for future garden paths. The joy of a hunter returning home with a bag full of fresh game would not have exceeded mine as we brought the quarry of my first expedition to ­ Number V or “No. V,” my name for the Harmonist ­ house on Steammill. Interior of my Harmonist ­house No. V on Steammill, late ­1940s. Blaffer-Owen family photograph. Harmonist House 37 A word of advice to young couples, wherever you live and what­ ever your bud­ get for building your first home: don’t let it reflect solely the expertise of an architect or a decorator, however considerable their talents. Abandoned barns and derelict ­ houses may lie beyond your reach, but not urban ware­houses filled with seasoned lumber and fixtures from dismembered ­houses. Paint at least one room of your ­house with your own hands! Such physical involvement won’t tire you as much as three sets of tennis. Yes, your hands will ache after using a wire brush...


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