My morning started with a sky clad in it’s confederate grey cloak. The humidity clung to me with sticky fingers as I walked up the street. The impending rain would most likely make the afternoon more unbearable. Rarely, at this time of year, does the rain cool anything off. Its this time of year that the kudzu and bushes seem to encroach on us from all sides. Intense shades of green press in spurred on by the humidity and seasonal rains. My walk, as normal, took me along ridge street. I walk there all the time, because I live there and well…you really cant beat the view.
Once again, as I have done countless times, I looked at the crumbling façade of the Hilltop House Hotel and sigh. Maybe it was the grey of the morning, maybe it was the quiet, pre-rain atmosphere, maybe it was the broken windows looking at me like as I walked past, maybe it was a combination of it all. But I felt a pall of melancholy fall over me.
This once thriving hub of this tiny town, lies crumbling. This building that held so much joy for so many, over so many years, lies in tatters and ruins. The front of the hotel is decayed and exposed to the elements, her bones laid bare by the flaying of time. Her skin torn away and discarded. The foliage that once was well kept and trimmed back has threatened to overtake the grounds. Bushes, once decorative and small have turned into verdant green monsters rampaging along the cracked and uneven sidewalk. Paint hangs from the concrete in large scabby flakes. Myself and John, who does what he can to take care of the grounds, wager daily on when the back half of the hotel will finally collapse. We both lost the wager as to when the front of the hotel would finally crumble down. I said late July, john theorized it would be early August. It collapsed 3 weeks ago.
The iconic tower that was the signature feature of the hotel is now almost completely overgrown. The kudzu vines have taken it and made it their own. The tower rooms have vines now growing inside, hungry tendrils of green searching for purchase in the rotting plaster of the walls and ceiling, and finding to resistance to their advances. If the roof weren’t still on it, on might think it was a massive alien tree. The entire front façade of the grand old hotel is slowly, but surely being overgrown by the dominating kudzu. In truth it’s impressive. I often wonder if the greenery is one plant or a colony of the vines that have gotten together and formed a cabal with the intent of making the hotel their own. Whichever it is…the kudzu is succeeding in their blitzkrieg along the crumbling plaster and stone.
I laugh to myself. “It’s a great metaphor….for what, I have no idea.” I say to no one at all as my sneakers kick gravel from the crumbling road that, at one time not so long ago, I had to watch for traffic. Now, I walk down the center of the street with absolutely no concern, or fear of traffic at all. Occasionally there are sight seers and tourists from the lower town that venture to the top of Harpers Ferry, but that is all.
I can feel the first drops of rain start to fall. they spatter and splat against my bald head as I turn to walk back home. A swift breeze picks up behind me. Blowing up cool, cool air from the valley below. It washed through the broken front teeth of the hotel. The breeze passes through doors held slightly ajar by debris and rot, fills the halls that once pulsed with the energy of life, and swirls into the empty rooms at the back of the hotel where once humans had left memories ingrained into the woodwork. That breeze then blew through the windows that looked like something from a war-torn epic.
The old hotel seemed to sigh. Longingly, mournfully, the grand dame of Harpers Ferry sighed on her foundations as she crumbles away to nothing.
I passed a few hikers that were trying to get to the Appalachian Trail Center that lies a block up the road from me. I was thankful that the rain had picked up…they couldn’t see the tears running down my cheeks.