Monday, March 21, 2011

Writers' Rooms - Paul Green Cabin

I've been reading the book American Writers at Home by J.D. McClatchy with photos by Erica Lennard.  It looks like a coffee-table book, but McClatchy's writing is so readable that I find myself with this huge folio across my lap for stretches at a time reading about the likes of Emily Dickinson, Washington Irving, and Ernest Hemingway.  Inspired by this reading, the Book Phantom took a field trip to the writing space of dramatist Paul Green, who won the 1927 Pulitzer for Drama for In Abraham's Bosom (he also wrote the outdoor drama The Lost Colony which still runs in Manteo, NC).  I got to spend a sunny day in the Botanical Gardens in beautiful Chapel Hill where Green's cabin has been relocated.


The cabin was Green's writing space for twenty-six years.  It formerly stood in the woods far behind his home at the end of Greenwood Drive in the Chapel Hill area.  It overlooked a red barn owned by Conner dairy farms (see www.chapelhillmemories.com/cat/12/93 by Bea Witten).  According to gardening author Peter Loewer, this cabin is where Green "kept his notes and observations on life, language, and plants" (Gardens of North Carolina: A Traveler's Guide, 53).  Here is a shot of the interior:

You can see there is a fireplace and an upstairs room (which was closed off).  Perhaps it was from the upper window that Green looked out upon the pastoral view of the dairy farm.  Sadly, there were no artifacts in the cabin save two photos on the wall by the mantle.  The top photo is of the cabin in its original Greenwood Road location:

Below is a picture of Green in 1925, reading in a rocker by the fire.  Looks cozy, no?  In addition to his love of drama, Green was a humanitarian who lectured against the death penalty.  He was known to write letters to the governor and keep vigils on behalf of condemned prisoners.  He also held deep convictions against racial discrimination and military conflict. 


As a boy growing up on a rural Harnett County cotton farm, Green taught himself the violin.  This love of music would lead him to help found the NC Symphony.  As a youth, he was a minor league baseball player who could pitch with both arms.  His foray into the sport provided him the tuition he needed to attend UNC.  As an adult, Green dabbled in land development.  In 1933, he bought 200 wooded acres outside Chapel Hill which would become the Greenwood neighborhood.  Green sold lots of this land to his friends and colleagues from UNC, where he taught drama and philosophy.  It's a wonder Green had any time at all for writing!

I was disappointed that I didn't see any of Green's personal items inside the cabin.  I have since learned that many of his effects are housed in the Chapel Hill Museum, including a recreation of his office.  On my next field trip to UNC, the Phantom will be sure to haunt it.

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