The weather was a little uncertain for our Piedmont Recreation Department’s Walking on Wednesdays group when we met this Wednesday. The morning forecast had bounced around with no rain predicted, and then a 40% chance. However, our motto is “we walk rain or shine,” so an intrepid, large group of 39 walkers and one K-9 best friend were on hand, some with umbrellas in ready reserve.
Two weeks before we had taken a walk to Littlewood Drive where the story of Piedmont’s first and probably last manufacturing industry was told. It was here in the early 1880s that the Ladies’ Silk Culture Society purchased 15 acres of land where Dudley and Littlewood Avenues are today. The society planted mulberry trees, whose leaves are silk worms’ only food, for a “Silk Farm.” However, the business was not successful and closed in 1895. The trees and this history were the inspiration for the name of today’s Mulberry’s Market in Piedmont.
On our walk to Littlewood, no mulberry trees were found, but Piedmont Historical Society shared that there are mulberry trees at Hampton Park near the Piedmont Play School building. We were curious to see real, live mulberry trees, so the play school and the trees were our destination on this cloudy morning. We could learn about mulberry trees, leaves, and berries, as well as the preschool, in a single morning.
Rather than going to Hampton Park by our usual, most direct route up Hampton Road, we decided to go up Highland, Sheridan, Wildwood, and Crocker Avenues to LaSalle Avenue. Going this way would provide some walk variety and the opportunity to visit LaSalle Court, a cul-de-sac we hadn’t walked this year. Along the way, we stopped on Crocker to check out progress on an impressive, three-level garage that is being built in the front of an early 1900s, Albert Farr-designed, garage-less home. Further up Crocker, we also found a box of free persimmons, and stocked up.
We turned up LaSalle and stopped where the streets of LaSalle and Indian Road seem to overlap. There Mary Hedley pointed out that up Indian is an almost hidden, side road of the street. There are homes on it whose backsides are visible on LaSalle. We have never walked this road, so it is a
tempting destination for a future walk.
We came to and climbed LaSalle Court, and we came upon a curious, rustic statue in a home’s backyard. It looks like a large tree stump, about five feet talk, which has been cut into the figure of a man with outstretched arms and broken chains hanging from his wrists. It’s intriguing and we
guessed about its meaning. We were also surprised by an impressive home just beyond with a swimming pool at its right front. Its entire exterior was covered for work being done. Zillow research revealed that this an 8,492 square foot home that was built on 1925 on ¾ of an acre.
We retraced our steps back down LaSalle Court, and as we emerged we spotted another unique home across the way. It is a mission style home with a terracotta roof, a wonderful brick front wall, and two circular brick chimneys. One has what looks like a cat, or possibly a griffin, clinging to its side. Architect Jim Kellogg said it was one-of-a-kind, and the mason who did the brickwork was an artist.
It was on to Hampton Park, but gray clouds were now threatening. We entered the park through its LaSalle entrance near the play school. We were looking for mulberry trees, and Mike Gallant confirmed the large ones right in front of the school were prime examples of white mulberries. We posed for the attached group photo there and also attached are some images of mulberry
leaves. Some history and information about these trees was shared. Cultivation of white mulberries to feed silkworms began more than 4,700 years ago in China. According to legend, Empress Xi Ling Shi discovered silk fibers when sitting beneath a white mulberry tree, and drinking tea. A cocoon from the tree dropped into her tea and started to unravel. She realized the threads of many cocoons could be woven into fabric. The empress started cultivating the insects for their cocoons and the first production of silk began.
Mulberry trees can be deciduous or evergreen, depending on the growing conditions, and are found in forests worldwide. They are a fast-growing, small to medium-sized tree that can grow to 33 to 66 feet, like the ones in front of the play school. Leaves are also generally small to medium in size, averaging 7 to 11 centimeters in diameter and 8 to 13 centimeters in length, and widely vary in appearance. They can be oval, cordate, to deeply lobed, and all three shapes may be found growing on the same tree. The leaves have a variety of culinary, medicinal, and industrial applications. Mulberries look a little like blackberries, and can be eaten both fresh and dried. They're a good source of iron, vitamin C, and several plant compounds have been linked to lower cholesterol, blood sugar, and cancer risk.
Information about the play school was also going to be told, but rain drops started to come down. It was only shared that Piedmont Play School is a cooperative preschool with twenty-two children, aged between three and five years. They participate in a two-year program before entering kindergarten. The school meets five days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, and enjoy a life style based on morning activities that most people, including the walkers, would enjoy. But rain cut this talk short. We started a hasty return back to the town center. Along the way, the sun reemerged, and the raindrops on jackets and umbrellas quickly evaporated. It had been a fun,
two mile walk, and the rain did give the group a chance to also show that “we walk rain and shine.”