Anne Spencer’s Home and Garden
Recently we toured Anne Spenser’s home and garden located at 1313 Pierce Street in Lynchburg. Our tour guide was Shaun Spencer-Hester, the granddaughter of Anne Spencer and daughter of Chauncey Spenser, one of the Tuskegee Airmen. Walking through the home was like stepping back in time. There were photos, letters scattered around the home. The “phone booth” in the home has names and phone numbers scribbled on the walls. The furnishings belonged to Anne and Edward and you got the sense that they would be coming back from the store any moment. There were invoices and cancelled checks sitting on the desk and Anne Spenser’s cookbook was on the kitchen table. You could tell that these were real people and this was their home. All too often house museums have been “sterilized” with the removal of many personal items, but not in this case. All too often it is easy to clean house and throw things away, fortunately the family keep all these treasures so that we can now enjoy those traces of the past. The attic hosts a train set and it is easy to visualize Anne’s grandchildren playing in the attic and listening to records on the old record player.
We heard stories of how Edward, Anne’s husband built the home and how he recycled many items by using them in the home. Edward was a parcel post carrier (mail man) who also raised chickens so it wasn’t unusual for him to deliver your mail as well as some freshly laid eggs. Edward was a man of many talents who not only built his home, but several others, built Anne’s private writing retreat, Edankraal , in the garden. The name Edankraal was derived from Edward, Anne and kraal, the Afrikaans word for corral or homeplace.
Anne Spencer (1882-1975) was an internationally acclaimed poet during the Harlem Renaissance period of the 1920’s and she continued her writings throughout her life. Because of the historical significance of her body of work, it was turned over to the University of Virginia to be catalogued and preserved for future generations. When Anne wasn’t writing, teaching, raising children you could often find her in her garden behind the house which served as a place of inspiration for her writings. Today many of Ann’s bulbs, peonies roses and shrubs still survive and offer visitors a burst of color when visiting the garden. Today,Lynchburg’s Hillside Garden Club has adopted the garden and is responsible for maintaining it.
The gardens are open to the public November-March , but the home is only open on special days or by appointment. This private museum is a must see. To schedule a tour please call the museum at 434-845-1313. Admission prices $5.00 for seniors and $10.00 for adults. Of course donations are always welcome. If you will be staying with us while in Lynchburg and are interested in touring this home (we highly recommend it) let us know when you make your reservation and we will call to set up your tour. Ideally, two weeks notice would be appreciated.
A poem by Anne Spencer about her garden:
This small garden is half my world
I am nothing to it-when all is said,
I plant the thorn and kiss the rose,
But they will grow when I am dead.
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