I’m intrigued by the outside of the old stone cottage as I walk up the weathered steps. The door opens and a tall good-looking young man motions me inside. He’s wearing Levis and a tee shirt, his work clothes for the day. I thank him for taking time to talk with me, since I know he’s busy preparing the gardens and landscape for the 100-year anniversary celebration of the Museum set for this coming weekend.
His curly dark-brown hair is clipped short around his tan face but long in the back and in need of a trim. The high sculpted cheekbones and a noble nose work together to make him very handsome. The brief smile he gives me makes just-as-brief crinkles at the sides of his mouth. He runs a hand over the back of his neck and glances apprehensively at me with brilliant blue eyes which stun me with their depth, yet make me worry he’s nervous about this interview.
“I’m just getting some history for the article I’ll be writing about the celebration for the Farmington News,” I tell him. “This shouldn’t take too long. By the way, I’m Linda.”
He reaches out and offers me a large work-worn hand, and as I clasp it, I notice how dry, rough, and solid it feels.
“I’m Nate Manning, Head Landscaper here at Hillside Museum,” he says. “Things are in pretty hectic right now. This hundred-degree heat isn’t helping.”
“I know, we haven’t seen these high of temperatures in July in a long while,” I reply, glad there is air conditioning in the small cottage.
As we take a seat on the couch in the small front room, I glance around. A well-worn leather couch, two plaid-cushioned chairs, an antique desk with a high-backed chair, and a small entertainment center are strategically arranged in the room to give the best traffic flow. The wall behind us separates the kitchen, with a round oak pedestal table visible from the front room. A hallway to the side most likely leads to bedrooms and a bathroom.
“How long have you lived here?” I ask.
“This cottage has been passed down in my family for the last four generations, along with the head landscaping job at the Museum. I grew up here from age eight. I’ve been back here with my mother a year now since I graduated from college and my father passed away,” he says quietly.
I knew his father had passed away because I attended the funeral for the newspaper.
“You’ve made some great improvements here,” I say, hoping that will get him to start talking.
“I’ve mainly been working to rebuild the garden areas and bring back the landscaping. My father had been ill and unable to take care of the grounds for a while, so they fell into some disrepair.”
“They look lovely, as much as I could see driving in,” I reply.
“Thanks. I’ve also created two nature walking trails for the community,” he says, his eyes finally lighting up. “I remember playing down around the pond and meadows when I was growing up here and seeing lots of different animals and birds. I’m hoping to put something together with the schools to use this area for a nature study.”
“Sounds perfect. I know my son would enjoy that. We live in a condo in downtown, so it would be a real treat for him. What’s your favorite area here?” I ask.
“The Sunken Garden and the Rose Gardens are my favorites. I like the greenhouses also because they remind me of my grandfather. I learned a lot from him about roses, especially growing and propagating them.”
“The 100 year celebration is a special time for Hillside. What do you know of the history of the museum?” I ask.
“It used to be the manor home of George and Isabella Harris and their daughter Anna. In their will they donated it to the city to be used as a museum, complete with furnishings and art work. Many of the paintings here are from the impressionist era. It is pretty amazing to see.”
“Why were the cottage and this landscaping job passed down through your family?” I ask.
There is a pause while he stares out the window. “I’m not sure,” he finally says. “But I made a promise to my grandfather that I would continue the legacy, so that’s why I’m here doing this job.”