Murals at Spencer Penn Center

One of the nice things about living on the west side of Henry County is that it is very close to the Spencer Penn Center.  The Spencer Penn Center was an area school until sometime around 2004 when it was slated to be closed and was instead converted into a community center by local residents and alumni.

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The Spencer Penn Center

It really is a beautiful place with a baseball field out back, a paved walking trail, a “wild” walking trail, pretty gardens, lots of arts and exercise classes and a library.

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The Garden in front of Spencer Penn Center

There’s even a little free library out back by the playground and the baseball bleachers.

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Free Little Library, Playground and Bleachers at Spencer Penn

The walking path runs around the Mary Jordan Ball Field and is a good, level path.  This is a safe area where anyone can walk without fear and the quiet country surroundings mean that you are more likely to hear birdsong than cars.

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The Mary Jordan Ball Field

I’ve already blogged about the Charles & Rose Hylton Library there, though I didn’t mention that it has a active reading program for kids.

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The Charles & Rose Hylton Library

And something else that rarely gets mentioned is their collection of beautiful murals.  Per Mary Jordan, Director of Spencer Penn, the murals are the work of Mt. Airy muralist Roger Carroll. The longest stretch of murals is a chronological storyboard that begins shortly before the office and ends at the end of the hallway just outside the auditorium.

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Hallway Mural at Spencer Penn

Light conditions in the hallway are not optimal for photography, so I’ve brightened these photos considerably.

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Hallway Mural and Spencer Penn

If there is a trick to getting better photos in a hallway with light constraints, I’m all ears.  I wouldn’t mind taking these photos over and over until I do them some justice.

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Hallway Mural at Spencer Penn

I don’t remember what was on the walls of the schools that I attended.  I grew up in Texas and I’m fairly certain that we just had single color brandings of our football team’s logo.

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Hallway Mural at Spencer Penn

The history does end at the Civil War but, in fairness to Spencer Penn, the wall space ends there too.  I love the idea of the murals and I wonder what pieces of our history would have been selected if there had been room for more.  The Spanish American War, maybe.  Henry Ford, almost undoubtedly.  The moon landing. Would they have nodded to the tobacco industry? The textile or furniture industry? Which wars … WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf Storm, Iraq? Which people? Martin Luther King, Jr. is an easy choice.  What about Jonas Salk? The Suffragettes? Hemingway and the Lost Generation? It’s fascinating to me to think about. What and who contributes to the definition of “American” after 1864?

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Hallway Mural at Spencer Penn

But there is one mural at Spencer Penn that is my absolute favorite. The mural below of Spencer Penn “back in the day” is in what they call Alumni Hall.  Mary tells me that this is from a photo in the 1940 school annual.  The school kids and cars were possibly added. There is a lot of love in this painting and you can feel it. This is a big mural – maybe, say, eight feet tall or more.

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Gymnasium Mural at Spencer Penn

Spencer Penn is a vital community center and I hope that you give it a visit, even if it is just to their website.  There is always a membership drive on and they can always use funds.

For more information, please see the following links:

 

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Shopping in Uptown on a Saturday

This past Saturday morning was a little bookish.  Mother and I trekked into Uptown Martinsville to renew a book at the local library and check out the new bookstore that opened this past week.

The Blue Ridge Regional Library has several locations and the Uptown location is on Church Street as you are heading into Uptown.

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The Blue Ridge Regional Library on Church Street

It’s a beautiful building with a lot of natural light pouring in.  It also has a huge selection of large print books.

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Inside the Blue Ridge Regional Library on Church Street

Across the street from the library is Scuffle Hill.  Now a parish office for Christ Episcopal Church next door, Scuffle Hill is most notable for the numerous local business leaders who called it home over the years but it is also an impressive landmark as you enter the Uptown business district.

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Martinsville’s Scuffle Hill

Next door to the library is what is called “The Grey Lady”.  It is now home to Rives S. Brown Realtors.

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Martinsville’s Grey Lady

Registered as the John Waddey Carter House, the plaque by the door reads:

This beautiful Queen Anne residence was built in 1896 by John W. Carter as a wedding present for his young bride, Miss Mary Kizzah Drewery, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Henry M. Drewery.  Referred to as the “Grey Lady”, the dwelling is a textbook example of the Queen Anne style possessing typical features of irregular composition, mixture of materials and surface use of Eastlake ornamentation.  Conspicuously located on one of Martinsville’s main thoroughfares, the house was appropriate for a prominent and prosperous lawyer and his young wife.”

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Martinsville’s Grey Lady

The new bookstore, Books and Crannies, also has a Church Street address but is actually on Broad Street, facing out towards a public parking lot.  We found it quite by accident since we were looking for addresses on Church Street and only pulled into the parking lot because another car was wanting to get past us.  Both selection and prices are good and it is a welcome addition to our area.

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The New Bookstore in Uptown  – Books & Crannies

There is not a lot going on in Uptown.  I rarely see many other shoppers out.  We walked down to Rucker’s Antique Store, which was open, and Serendipity Coffee House, which was closed.  Serendipity is another business that has a Church street address but has to be accessed from the parking lot behind the building.  I went to the upstairs door in back and, although the sign said “open”, the door was locked.

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Mural in Uptown Martinsville

Still, Uptown Martinsville is a pretty place to visit on a pretty day.  There is a 50’s and 60’s flare to the signage on the buildings and there are several colorful murals throughout the district.  The architecture is unique and in good shape.

We thought that we’d try to go see the old courthouse which is now the Martinsville-Henry County Heritage Center and Museum but it turns out that it is only open from 2 to 5 on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

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The Old Courthouse in Uptown Martinsville

So we swung around to one business that always seems to be open, Fido’s Finds & Kittie’s Kollectibles.  This is a thrift shop that benefits our local SPCA.  It always seems to have some name-brand furniture for sale and lots of small odds and ends.  It is a good spot for holiday items, like Christmas-themed cookie jars and animal-inspired greeting cards.  They also have a decent corner of used books, rounding out our book theme for this Saturday trip.

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Fido’s Finds – A Thrift Store Benefitting the Local SPCA

The Uptown district really is pretty but, with the exception of the Farmer’s Market on Moss Street, it feels like a bit of a ghost town on the weekends unless there is an event going on.  There are a few other businesses open on a Saturday morning and worth checking out.  If you are heading that way, be sure to stop in at:

Studio 107 – Gallery and Working Artist Studios

Pieces Boutique – Women’s Clothing

JunkBabies Antique Mall & Auction Store

Ruckers Antiques Emporium & Auction House

Fido’s Finds & Kittie’s Kollectibles SPCA Thrift Store

Books & Crannies Book Store

What else is fun to visit in Uptown Martinsville on a Saturday morning?