The old Applewood Apartments have at last come down, gone, leaving little evidence of the thousands of lives that were lived there. Demolition complete, the grounds have been smoothed over and seeded with grass, an era passed.
I travel Hillside Avenue a lot. Nearly every time I go out, in fact, I head East on West Outer Dr., down Illinois Ave., and take a left on Hillside, and from there, either turn right on Highland or Pennsylvania Avenue.
Over the years, I've watched many children get off the school bus at the Applewood Apartments; seen many a soccer ball kicked around; and waved at many people sitting out on the steps, cooking on their grills, or just standing in front of the apartments talking to neighbors and enjoying the evening.
When the Applewood Apartments were vacated, I felt a little sad. They weren't elegant, but were always the most affordable shelter in Oak Ridge. When I was a girl, they were the go to place for newly weds just starting out; in later years, they were the destination of migrants (of which we have a surprising number in Oak Ridge) and others who found themselves down on their luck.
Shelter is an interesting word. Related to the word 'shield,' shelter is a place of protection, a safe haven. Shelter is, however, a foreign concept in Oak Ridge; we don't have a homeless shelter.
We Oak Ridgers are all about growth, prosperity and home values. Our chichi little burg is not tolerant of the shabby; shoot, zoning doesn't even permit mobile homes within City limits lest they diminish the value of the faux English and French McMansions that have sprung up like mushrooms.
Admittedly, the Applewood Apartments were old and in bad shape. Over a number of years, the owner took measures to make the apartments safer and more attractive, painting and shoring them up. However, as a citizen observer, it seemed to me that the City was intent on shutting them down. From my perspective, the City gave little indication of being interested in working with the owner.
Last May, I parked my car on Hillside and walked around the old apartments with a camera. Though demolition was already underway, the place was quiet, nobody else around.
I ignored the signs
My approach, wild flowers in the yard
The bulldozer was silent, not another soul around
A lot of life happened on those long, communal porches
Someone rushed away and forgot their ball.
Clothes left hanging in the closet suggest a hasty departure.
The screen is testament to someone's effort to create beauty in her home.
Green flower vases
Mattresses, TVs, tables, chairs, cat trees, clothes, lamps, dishes; everywhere evidence of hurried departures. Did people abandon their possession because they had no where to take them?
I saw lots of abandoned cleaning supplies. This was the only vacuum cleaner, but I saw several mops, brooms and buckets. Also, jugs of bleach, fabric softener, detergent, etc.
What lonely looks like
Half way gone
Never heard of a drink called Wicked Apple. Makes sense: if not The Garden, something was lost here.
Oh, but the wild flowers! Here, early dandelions.
Last look back