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123 The first reborn of my adopted family of Harmonist ­houses was No. V on Steammill Street. Kilbinger House, on the southeast corner of Main and Granary, became my second child and, like its sister, a hungry orphan (25 on town map). An arm could reach through a wide crack in the brick of its west wall. If these bricks could be carefully reknit, the state might be shamed into doing necessary repairs to its building next door, Harmonist Community House No. 2, an approach I called “whitemail,” as it encourages positive action by example rather than coercing by extortion. Missing roof shingles from the Kilbinger ­ house invited rainwater. The ­ house, built in the 1820s, tottered on the brink of the same steep cliff that New Harmony has hovered upon since its inception and from which it has been, so far, consistently and mercifully rescued. The last own­ er, Mary Catherine Kilbinger, affectionately known as Miss Mamie, had been custodian of the ­ state-­ owned Community House No. 2, also called the Dormitory, while residing in the adjacent family ChaptER 14 Kilbinger House Kilbinger House, after initial exterior repairs, and adjoining log room, 1959. Harmonist Community House No. 2 to the right. Photograph by John Doane. John Doane Collection. Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Southern Indiana. Kilbinger House 125 home all of her life. She, like other genteel ladies in town, had lacked the wherewithal to stitch cracks that scarred and endangered the Kilbinger House walls. The safest Harmonist room was its log cabin annex, one of only two remaining log structures in town (26 on town map). I have left Miss Mamie’s rocking chair by the south window, where the good woman read her Catholic Bible or sewed. A large ­ cast-­ iron Harmonist cooking pot is still imbedded in the brick grate, its slanting flue intact, a reminder to ­ present-­ day architects that straight chimneys invite downdrafts and dampen fires. After Miss Mamie’s death in early 1951, I eventually bought the Kilbinger House from the heirs of her estate for two thousand dollars.1 Seeing the dire condition of the ­house, I realized more slowly and soberly that my exuberant play days with restoration ­ were over. I clearly needed professional and costly help. Heeding the counsel of my New Harmony friend Ena Long, I contacted the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington and its gracious first director, Fred L. Rath Jr. Wisely and generously, he dispatched his right arm, Helen Duprey Bullock, to my aid. I shall never forget this remarkable woman’s entry into my life through the doorway of my No. V and into its large, ­ barn-­ like room. The ceiling at the lower end was left unplastered to expose the ­ mud-­ covered and­ straw-­ wrapped wooden bats the Harmonists had used for insulation and to which I would point when curious visitors asked me, “Who lives ­here?” Iwouldanswer,“Can’tyouseeit’sa­horse?Hishayisupthere.”Placingahand on the faded red door that I had salvaged from an abandoned stable, I would add, “He goes out through ­ here,” and then, indicating a venerable poplar column that stood midway in the room, “And there is his hitching post.” For ­ cold-­ weather guests, I kept a fire going in the ample hearth, which Harvey had built with red and black brick. Into this hybrid space, Helen Bullock was blown in by a gusty wind one wet night and headed straight toward the fire, which fresh air had bellowed into a sudden burst of flame.2 She stood silently, an indecipherable dark mass, until she lifted the hood of her rain cape, uncovering a cheerful countenance that did not fit my preconceived image of Williamsburg’s first historian, the author of its cookbook, and the principle troubleshooter of an emerging National Trust for Historic Preservation. Every feature of that ­ red-­ cheeked, ­ rain-­ soaked face was circular: the rounded small nose, the dancing ­ gray-­ blue eyes, and the pursed lips that parted easily and often for laughter. I helped my Kilbinger House 127 long-­ awaited guest remove her cloak and led her toward one of two small rocking chairs opposite the hearth, where we could both rock and talk. She began in her soft, musical voice, “How good to be ­here, Jane Owen, and not where I’ve been. After a horrendous flight from Washington to Indianapolis, I was told that the commuter plane would not leave for Evansville until the weather cleared the next morning. Guess what happened ?” Exuberant...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780253016638
Related ISBN
9780253016249
MARC Record
OCLC
903357020
Pages
400
Launched on MUSE
2015-03-20
Language
English
Open Access
No
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