Student blog of the Stanford University Urban Studies Department

A Tale of Two Farmettes


We think of cities as permanent, and man-made objects as everlasting. It is true that most urban materials don’t decompose at the eco-friendly rate we’d like them to, but our surroundings are more transient than we would like to believe.

I went to visit my aunt and uncle in Pennsylvania over the long weekend. They live near Bellefonte—a politically powerful town at the turn of the century, but now a quiet pocket of Victorian history. Their home—a beautiful three story Victorian-era farmhouse—was only occupied by the original owners for a short while before the wife decided it was too far from the main road (highway 64). She made her husband rebuild the exact same house about a ¼ mile away from the original, and the two “farmettes” have existed nearby ever since. The second homestead was run as a 94-acre farm until 2001 when the owner died and her kids made some bad real estate deals that left the house and external buildings abandoned.

Naturally, my cousins and I decided it would be fun to explore the property. It’s been only a decade, but to see the house and accompanying barns, you’d think they had been untouched since the 50’s.  The house is alternately decorated with shag carpet and climbing vines poking through the windows.  The walls have sickening floral wallpaper plastered against the unfinished bark growing through the walls. The house and the hay barn are as much a part of nature as they are in opposition. It was strange to see this deteriorating home, a replica of my aunt’s house, and think that her meticulously furnished rooms would too merge back with the materials they came from given only a short period of neglect.  The abandoned hay barn is beautiful—sections of the tin roof falling through, black raspberry bushes guarding the carefully harvested hay bails, and only your thoughts to imagine the people and equipment which have passed through. Even still, I’m not sure I’m ready to let my aunt’s garden shed or bedroom reach this point some number of decades from now.  So no, neglect will not be the next fad in home decorating, but the peace surrounding the lonely farmette reminded me that nature and civilization can work in unison quite effortlessly.                      



One response to “A Tale of Two Farmettes

  1. Teresa Nguyen August 28, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    What a beautiful piece Tay. Its funny, but you crafted your language to match the beauty of the farmette perfectly. Captivating writing for a captivating discovery 🙂

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