The secret garden
As Edna Brennan, Martha Sullivan and John Bushnell look on, Karen Bushnell presents a plaque to the Friends of the Dimmick Library to honor the library's late director Susan Sterling. John Bushnell designed the trellis surrounding the bench.
The Friends of the Dimmick Memorial Library celebrated National Friends of Libraries Week a month early because they couldn't wait to unveil their new Friends Garden, a secreted garden behind the Friends House at 58 Broadway in Jim Thorpe. Its the latest addition to the secret gardens of Jim Thorpe-gardens that blossom behind the stately 19th century Victorian homes lining the borough's Historic District.
Officially, National Friends of Libraries Week runs from October 20-26, which would normally be the time that the Friends of the Dimmick Library would celebrate with its members. But this year is different.
They had two things to consider-one was to hold the get-together in their newly completed garden, and the second was to honor Susan Sterling - director of the Dimmick Memorial Library. With the impending autumn posed to bring cooler temperatures and a desire to honor Sterling's legacy, the Friends invited members and friends to a celebration at the garden on this earlier date, Wednesday, September 18.
Susan Sterling was remembered by the creation of a plaque that will be placed in the garden, and by the release of Monarch butterflies by Mari Gruber of the Bear Mountain Butterfly Sanctuary. "In four languages butterfly means soul because they are a symbol of hope," Gruber said shedding a tear. "They are representative of new life, and Susan certainly brought new life to the Dimmick Memorial Library."
Gruber released the Monarch butterflies with the help of Jack Sterling, the husband of Susan. The butterflies seemed to cluster about Sterling, and one attached itself to his face, as if it was planting a kiss, before slowly climbing to the crown of his head, flying to a nearby tree, soon to begin its final migration to the warmer climes of Mexico.
The garden evolved from a walk taken by Edna Brennan, Karen Bushnell, and Diane Schmidt. "One day we were talking about the secret gardens of Jim Thorpe," Bushnell said. "We thought it would be a fun thing to photograph." Soon she was helping with the used book sale at the Friends House and chanced to look out the rear window. "Oh my God," she said. "This is it!"
Bushnell asked Friends president Janet Hermann, "What is the rear area being used for?" When she learned that it was lying fallow, it seemed to speak to her saying, "Weed me." And she did.
For several years, Bushnell weeded the area behind the Friends House. The Friends House was built as part of a series of mansions from what is now the Dugan's store to the Dimmick Memorial Library in 1889 by James I. Blakeslee for George Belford. The area behind the buildings was isolated from Mount Pisgah by a stone retaining wall that allowed for a mixture of outbuildings and open space.
What is now the Friends Garden was originally a building that served as the servant's quarters. When servants were replaced by appliances in the twentieth century, the building became a storage and laundry room before collapsing around 1960.
After weeding and planting for several years, she enlisted the help of her husband, John Bushnell, an architect. In June, he began to help with the digging, and they decided to turn the backyard into a garden with a patio.
The biggest problem appeared to be replacing a missing top stone step, which in all good fortune appeared under some debris while preparing the patio for a layer of colored gravel. "That made a big difference because it would've been a major task to rebuild the steps," John said.
There was a bench already in place, and John designed a trellis to surround it. Janet Hermann helped secure funding through the Friends. Diane Schmidt helped provide plants.
"Coming here over the last month, it's serene. Sometimes, magically a hummingbird appears. It's like walking over the rainbow just to see the hummingbird and the butterflies. We plan to make this a pollinator garden."