Our Piedmont Recreation Department's Walking on Wednesdays group had another lovely, cool morning this week between rain storms for our weekly walk. There was a crowd of 50 walkers and a kennel of K-9 best friends at the Exedra to enjoy it.
Besides the good weather there was another reason for the large turnout. A special destination was planned. Some of the walkers remembered in 2021 we got to visit a home on Littlewood Drive with a truly unique yard. The group had gone to Littlewood to see the site of a historical Piedmont "Silk Farm." We went down the cul-de-sac to its end where there is a private driveway
that continues on to a red London phone booth in front of a home's gates. By chance, the homeowner, Laura Plitkins, was coming out and invited us to come inside and see the "tropical oasis" she and her husband, Michael, had created, which we did.
Swee L and Albert C are neighbors, and talked with Laura recently. They told her how much the group had enjoyed the visit, and Laura and Michael invited the walkers to come back. However, it needed to be soon, as they were planning on putting the house on the market in April. So, we were delighted to make the Plitkins' home our destination this week.
We started off crossing Highland Avenue and making the climb up Mountain Avenue. We passed the stately home near the start of Sea View Avenue with its beautifully designed and maintained front yard landscaping. This house was used in the 2006 Will Smith movie, The Pursuit of Happyness (sic). We continued on to Dudley Avenue, passing beautiful tulip magnolias in full
bloom, to the top of Littlewood.
We regrouped there to hear Piedmont Historical Society's surprising history of Piedmont's Silk Farm. In the early 1880s the Ladies' Silk Culture Society purchased 15 acres of land at the top and eastern side of Mountain Avenue, where Dudley and Littlewood Avenues are today. They planted mulberry trees, whose leaves are silk worms' food. Unfortunately, the Silk Farm didn't prosper. The canyon was not warm enough for the worms and the women would not work for less than a dollar a day, while Chinese silk workers were only paid six cents a day. In 1895 the farm closed.
We descended Littlewood's canyon where the Silk Farm's mulberry trees were once planted. Unfortunately, there are no mulberry trees now to give witness to the street's history. At the end of the street Laura Plitkins was there to greet us. She led us down their long, steep driveway to the side of their house and pool, which are guarded by a large dinosaur statue. Michael was
waiting for us. He told us their house is one of six homes built on land that was once of owned by the daughter of Domingo Ghirardelli, founder of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company. The Plitkins bought the house in 2014. Michael has a company that creates unique structures and virtual soundscapes. Over five and a half years the Plitkins transformed the area at the house's front into an incredible tropical garden with a pool, water slide, and pool house. Jungle sound effects enhance the other world imaginary. Michael encouraged us to walk below the pool on a stone path where we found replica Mayan tablets, bamboo and palm trees, and a natural creek running alongside. We emerged near the pool house where Laura had coffee and pastries waiting for us. We talked with Michael and Laura for some time before organizing everyone for a group photo by the pool and its wonderful waterslide.
We thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated the Plitkins' garden and hospitality, but all too soon it was time for us to retrace our steps back to the Exedra, which we unfortunately had to do.