PLATTSBURGH — The Kent-Delord House Museum hasn’t looked the same since the Virginia creeper came down.
The incident happened on June 18, as preparations were made to paint the building. Two painters and a member of Building and Grounds at the museum were moving the roughly 150-year-old vine away from the house and off the hooks that held it.
“Everything was going well until the vine cracked off,” said Donna Bell, secretary of the Kent-Delord House Museum Board of Trustees and the Kent-Delord House Museum Garden Club.
The Garden Club cares for the vegetation on the property and raises money for the museum’s maintenance and restoration.
The plant has been a part of the house since at least 1850, said Bell, who gives tours of the museum.
All that is left of the creeper is a 4-inch-thick branch protruding about 6 feet, straight up, out of a bush next to the front stoop.
“There it is, sticking up in the air and not one leaf,” Bell said.
After the vine snapped, the painters and the grounds worker immediately called members of the Garden Club to see if the plant could be salvaged.
They reached Bell first, and she rushed right over.
She said she had never seen three men who looked so upset.
“They were devastated because they knew how important it was to the identity of the museum.”
Bell called in two specialists, Ben Kravitz from Kravitz Landscaping and Steve Frazier from Arbor Ops Tree Service, both of Plattsburgh.
They attended an emergency meeting of the Garden Club the next afternoon.
Kravitz and Frazier removed the Virginia creeper from the house, and Kravitz cut the stump to lessen the chances of infection and create an environment conducive to healing.
He also cut the plant so sap would race to the site of the injuries and could possibly jumpstart regrowth.
The two companies didn’t charge the museum for the work they did that day.
“Neither of them talked money, and they both came out of interest for the museum and the Virginia creeper,” Bell said.
“I can’t say enough nice things about them.”
Frazier and Kravitz came to an interesting conclusion after examining the vine and familiarizing themselves with its habits.
Not only was it a historical plant that had become a recognizable part of the house that it grew on, they came to believe the creeper is unlike most others of its kind.
Usually, Virginia creeper can’t be contained to one area and grows haphazardly, sometimes blocking the sun of other plants, thus killing them.
But the Kent-Delord vine has kept to the area in which it was planted, covering the overhang that stands before the front door.
It is hoped the creeper will regenerate, but as a precaution, Kravitz and three members of the Garden Club took home clippings, hoping to nurture them for possible replanting.
And if those don’t grow, Bell has a backup plan.
“I have tried for years to bring it home and grow it on my fence,” she said.
And this year, two pieces of the vine she planted last year have started to grow.
Bell said the absence of the historic vine has significantly changed the look of the Kent-Delord House, which was built in 1797.
Pictures taken throughout the years show the creeper in various states of growth, some years fuller than others.
And the vine had a way of softening the look of the house, which currently looks quite stark with its new coat of bright white paint, she said.
No one knows what the house will look like next year, after the paint has aged a year.
In the past, museum workers and the public looked forward to the changing of the seasons because the vine’s color would change along with them.
“It turns beet red (in the fall) and lime green when it starts (budding) in the spring and deep green in the summer,” Bell said.
“That’s part of its beauty.”
All they can do now is wait.
Kent-Delord Program Coordinator Anni Lorenzini will be posting two pictures of the Kent-Delord House on the museum’s Facebook page showing it with and without the Virginia creeper to see whether the larger community prefers the house with or without the vine.
But what happens next, Bell said, is “just a guessing game. We’re at the mercy of Mother Nature.”
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