For us, our house was not unsentient matter—it had a heart, and a soul, and eyes to see us with; and approvals, and solicitudes, and deep sympathies; it was of us, and we were in its confidence, and lived in its grace and in the peace of its benediction. We never came home from an absence that its face did not light up and speak out its eloquent welcome—and we could not enter it unmoved.
—Mark Twain, 1896
This week marks the one year anniversary of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut. (December 14, 2012)
One of the stories of hope that came out of that terrible day was the story of the little yellow house down the street from the school.
This is where a group of first grade children fled after escaping the gunman and witnessing the death of their teacher (Victoria Soto) and many of their fellow classmates.
The small story-and-a-half historic home with green shutters is owned by a man named Gene Rosen.
Mr. Rosen is a 69-year old retired psychologist and grandfather.
Rosen told reporters that on the fateful morning, he had just finishing feeding his cats and was heading out to visit a local diner for breakfast. As he was going down his driveway, he noticed a small group of children huddled in a neat semi-circle at the end of his driveway. A school bus driver had seen them too and pulled over.
“We can’t go back to school,” one of the children cried, “Our teacher is dead!”
The kids recounted the unthinkable carnage they had just witnessed. This was the first time Mr. Rosen had learned of the school shooting – he told reporters he had indeed heard gun shots earlier but just assumed it was some hunters in the woods.
The school bus driver took down the names of the children and proceeded to radio their information to headquarters where the staff would try for the next several hours to track down the children’s stricken parents.
In the meantime, Mr. Rosen invited the children into his cozy home on that chilly December day.
On a sunny fall day not too long ago, I had the opportunity to visit Leadville, Colorado.
At over 10,000 feet above sea level, it is the HIGHEST incorporated city in the United States!
You feel up high in Leadville – the City in the Clouds - not only because of the thin air and high elevation, but because the sky seems even more brilliantly blue up there.
I can’t say enough good things about Leadville.
Okay, okay, I should qualify the above statement by telling you that Leadville has the most God-awful, brutal, punishing winters, so House Crazy Sarah could NEVER actually live there. Nonetheless, it is a fabulous place to visit (when the weather is nice).
Leadville was home to many legendary figures of the wild west (including: Buffalo Bill Cody, Baby Doe Tabor, Poker Alice, Texas Jack, Doc Holliday, Margaret Tobin Brown – a.k.a ’The Unsinkable Molly Brown’) and the places they frequented like the Tabor Opera House in the center of town:
Leadville is small but it has a plethora of old house museums. Unfortunately, when I visited with a friend in October, it was ‘off-season’ (meaning not the short 3 month summer tourist season) so most of the old house museums were closed for the year.
I always gravitate toward levity and humor on my blog, but I’m going to veer sharply from that today. This post is an extremely tragic story and there is no light or humor to be found in it.
Regular readers of my website know that I’m endlessly intrigued by abandoned houses, villages and towns and the stories behind them. But when I learned about this small town in France I actually cried.
Here is the story of this uninhabited town, frozen in time and grief….
Oradour-sur-Glane was a village in the west-central Limousin region of France with roots going back 1000 years in time. The majority of the town’s inhabitants, plus a couple of unfortunate souls passing through on bicycles, were killed on June 10, 1944 by the German Waffen SS soldiers in World War II.
642 innocent men, women and children ranging in age from one week old to 90 years, were rounded up and slaughtered. The village was then pillaged and burned.
On the order of then president of France, Charles de Gaulle, the remains of the town of Oradour-sur-Glane were preserved as a permanent memorial and museum.
A new village named Oradour-sur-Glane was built nearby, but the ruins of the original town survive to this day, bearing witness to the horrors that occurred there.
On the morning of June 10 1944, a German SS battalion sealed off Oradour-sur-Glane with the aim of exacting revenge and teaching the French a lesson for a purported kidnapping of a Waffen-SS officer by the French Resistance movement.
In a sad twist of fate, the occupying Nazis mistook Oradour-sur-Glane for their intended target village with a similar name: Oradour-sur-Vayres.
This past Labor Day weekend, I dragged my reluctant family on a jaunt up into the Colorado high country to find a certain ghost town known as Ashcroft. Located 11 miles outside of Aspen, Ashcroft is easily accessible and the site is well-tended by the Aspen Historical Society.
On a bright sunny Colorado day, we traversed the short trail and came upon the remains of Ashcroft…
Not much of the 1880′s town has survived the harsh winters at 9,521 feet above sea level. But a few tenacious old cabins and commercial structures have hung on through the changing of the centuries.
Ashcroft began as a mining town in the early 1880′s when silver deposits were discovered nearby. There was such a rush to the site that a courthouse was built and streets were laid out in just two weeks time!
After going through a succession of names, the town finally settled on “Ashcroft” in 1882. By that year, the town’s population had grown to 2,000 and it was home to 13 taverns.
At its peak, Ashcroft eclipsed nearby Aspen’s population and boasted 20 saloons along Main Street. (That’s how you can gauge the importance of frontier towns: the number of saloons in town.)