So……I do believe that April will be my favorite month for daily photos, so far, and will likely go down as my favorite over all! Time will tell on that one…..I just may come up with a theme I like more, but it is highly doubtful. I have chosen to combine two of the things I love about Albion and the surrounding area: 1) the stunning architecture and 2) the rich and fascinating history and call the theme for April “Architecture and History”! Here’s how I think it is going to work – my daily photos will either be an example of beautiful or otherwise interesting architecture – old or new – or something that has historical significance of some kind – and sometimes (likely a lot of times) the daily photo will represent BOTH architecture and historical significance! I plan to focus on local points of interest (in and around Albion), but won’t limit myself to that, in case I am off on an adventure and something that fits the theme catches my eye. Where possible, I will do a little research to find the back story, but that will depend on my time, resources available to me, and whether or not I have somewhere to start searching….so, not going to promise every photo will be a history lesson or have an interesting story – it just may be a really cool photo!
I wanted to kick the month and the theme off with a photo with some Wow Factor behind it. I knew when I first started thinking about doing a month about architecture and/or history that I wanted to include a certain home on one of the days. I happen to know the owner – he’s a classmate of mine from high school – so I sent him a note and asked permission to use a photo of his home and to get a little history about the house. Here’s what I ended up with:
The official Photo of the Day for April 1st
The current home of the Bannister Family, Excelsior Farms, and Bannister Beef
I adore this house!!! Every time I go to Point Breeze (which is pretty often, since it is one of my most favorite places on earth), I slow down as I pass by to admire the beautiful details of this amazing home. I picture myself sitting and reading on that incredible front porch while watching the traffic go by to and from the lake or curled up in a window seat or comfortable chair in that gorgeous bay window on the north side. (Don’t worry, Roger, I’m not a weirdo stalker, I promise!)
Some history on the house:
The house was built in 1860, just a year before the Civil War started, by John Pratt (1816-1901) for his wife. The house was built on the farm that the Pratt’s owned and operated for some years, where they originally lived in a house that, as the story goes as per the history page on the Excelsior Farms website, Mrs. Pratt was embarrassed by – hence the new, impressive home he built for her. The farm was owned by the Pratt family for over 60 years. John Pratt was not only a successful farmer, he was also an astute businessman. He also built the Pratt Building on Main Street in Albion in 1882 and the elaborate Pratt Opera House, located on the third floor of the Pratt Building (which will surely be featured as a daily photo sometime this month).
In 1900, Melvin Garrett purchased Excelsior Fruit Farm and owned it until 1958.
In 1958, LeRoy and Doris Bannister purchased the farm to make a home to raise their seven children. The farm was renamed Oak Orchard Angus Farm, where the Bannister family raised corn, cucumbers, apples, 30 Angus cattle, and over 100 sheep. A fire one windy, stormy night in May 1976 destroyed the barns, along with all the sheep and a few replacement heifers. Mr. Bannister built a successful farm focusing on beef cattle.
In 1985, LeRoy’s son and daughter-in-law, Roger and Christine Bannister, purchased the farm and renamed it to its former name of Excelsior Farms. Roger, Christine, and their five children have continued to expand and run the farm with great success and are still the proud owners. They currently maintain 54 fruit tree acreage and 68 head of cattle. And, I can personally attest that the beef purchased from Bannister Beef is incredible and the peaches are the best anywhere around!
Here are a few bonus shots of the house from different angles and one zoomed in on the gorgeous detail work along the roof lines:
Check out the web site links above to read more about Excelsior Farms and Bannister Beef and be sure to make the trip to pick up some peaches when they come in season……or just drive by and drink in the beauty of this incredible home – you’ll surely fall in love with it, like I have!
OH……and, another point of interest for me – when I discovered that the house was built by John Pratt, of the Pratt Opera House fame, I realized that one of his descendants was the beloved Gaines Town Historian and author, J. Howard Pratt (1889-1988), who just happened to be one of my Grandmother’s teachers when she was a young girl and someone she greatly admired throughout her life. Here are two photos of them together in May 1982 – Grandma (Ada Miles Freeman) is 66 and J. Howard Pratt is 92: