2. LITTLE GIRL LOST
Whenever I visited Morristown, in
the old days, I'd be sure to go to the
abandoned Vail Mansion. This place
had quite a history, and a magnificent
layout to boot. By the time I discovered
it, funny enough, it had completed its
run as Morristown's Police Headquarters
as well, and just remained a massive,
strange, and totally different remnant.
The evidences of the recently-abandoned
police use were still there : communication
towers left atop the roof, holes where the
bracketed radar dishes had been, a few
poles for wired beacons, parking-area
markings, the remains of a police office
and reception behind the main, large
glass on the entry floor. They'd really
mucked it up - but it had been long
abused before that too. I looked up its
dates and photo-archives and things
but I do forget it all now. The place
was once a beauty - stretching out,
long, from the front of it was a reflecting
pool, lit with 1930's deco fixtures, and a
walkway, a sloping lawn behind it.
Everything was, once, perfect. Vail had
been an Bell Telephone kingpin or as it's
called a 'telephone industrialist' in the
early AT&T, which then became Bell
Telephone - he worked his way in
and up, somehow got gobs of money
doing so, married, built this mansion in
Morristown, had a gigantic place in
Vermont, conference centers, Speedwell
Farms. And then, wouldn't you know it,
he died. How come that always happens?
I am, by things like this, always reminded
of Shelley's poem, 'Ozymandias' : 'look
on my works, ye mighty, and despair.'
By the time I got to it, the mansion had
long been abandoned and was falling in
upon itself. But that was the best part of
it : they allowed open access, the town no
longer seemed to care, you could walk
around the grounds at will. There were
big old trees left in place, gnarly and
twisty, or stately and huge, the old
fountains and statuary along the
walkway at the pond had all been
disfigured, wiring ripped up, hanging
everywhere, old, dirty, green and
sluggish water stagnant and in place.
The big globe lamps were all missing.
No one ever around except a few bums,
people eating lunch, or marginal types
smoking and glaring. Out back, down
the slope, the old garages and stables,
where last the police cars had parked.
There were stories and mysteries here
all about : it was a massive paean to the
ruination of whatever gentility, perhaps,
this land or state had ever had. I used
to refer to it as 'Little Girl Lost', and
always felt it amazing that a municipality,
with this smack dab in its center, would
let it remain so. I knew it was the last
thing they would have intended to do, but
they'd allowed it to stay there, in its vacant
state, as an eerie, beautiful, quiet piece of
Art, slowly to deteriorate in and by its
passivity, in the building of the otherwise
bustling burb. An old style library across
the street, a concert and performance hall,
in active use, next to it. Then, slowly, so
slowly, visit after visit, it became apparent
that someone had designs on the place : one
by one, down came the great trees, slowly
the varied leftover remnants of things got
scratched away, and then, yes, one day, the
site-fencing and the big sign announcing
development - sky-high price, exclusive
and highly-desirable ( so they claimed, even
before construction) condos to be erected.
Utilizing - at least not 'destroying' the
usable parts of the building and the site.
It's all still there, new things have been
added and, yes, it's all filled up and
running smoothly. I never thought I'd
see it happen, but it's all in place.
Look up 'Vail Mansion Morristown' -
see what they show you, with the
barest hint of a historical back-story.
So, I extol nothing - instead I'm
just telling you the story of
something I saw: 'Little Girl Lost.'
Isn't it amazing how this species :
'Homo Faber', Man the Maker,
does things, reworks the lands
and spaces of our consciousness to
forge ahead with the terms of a
progress that is only seen
the mind, first, and then
later brought forth.