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Golden Heights

© Jo Hewitt THE TEAL MANGO, 2010

There is a place downtown along the river.  It was the refuse of factories and the playground of perpetrators of pernicious deeds.  But it has changed; the city, well big business and big wallets, changed it. Now it is a park with summer festivals and music, part of the walking tour of greenways, restaurants and picturesque summer days and nights of the city for visitors and residents alike. There is an amphitheater built into the ground, terraced up the hill for blankets and baskets to catch the spray of music of riffs and rhythm and of starlight nights. There are statues along the water, in the style of Frederick Hart, of children playing, or fishing, and, otherwise depicting life as it was when the city and downtown was founded.

Green Street runs along here toward the east, along the old warehouse district, which has also had the luxury of new attire, until it meets Clifton Blvd. Past this point, to the east, it is the gray and grime of wear and tear and poverty. It seems the wallet thinned out along the way. Spending money for business is one thing, spending it for the quality of human life is another.

As the direction of travel changes, the neighborhood changes. Leaving the peace of gentrification, Clifton runs toward the northeast, its gracious curves alternately flirting with the river and then the canal as it  journeys through this decay of rotted wooden boxes and weeds peppered with abandoned warehouses to emerge in the refreshing air of the Parks district. As it enters the parks district, it veers to the north, to where the money  hides, when it fled years ago.  At this point, there is a little street, rarely noticed by those who have their eyes focused on the grandeur ahead, Red Bud Row. It traipses away from the parks, beginning a small incline to the southeast, angling its way quietly to Jewel Square and the Jewel Box in Golden Heights.

Jewel Square is a two block square expanse of soft emerald grass bounded by Golden Place North, South East and West. There are little shops, boutiques and theaters on the east, south, and west sides, overlooking the canal and below it the river. On the north side are the old residences.

There is a pathway of amber bricks that bracelets the square. Spaced along it are little flower beds like gemstone charms, each a different color and a different assortment of flowers that change with the seasons.  In the center, where decades ago stood a bandstand to celebrate the summer social season, is now a circle of yellow cobble stones, like nuggets, with arbored benches on the periphery.  Flowering vines and climbers entwine the arbors like filigree on a band, enveloping the occupant with  subtle mists of fragrance. In the center is a fountain whose spray dances over gazing balls and blown glass like a setting of pearls and black opals.

The shops around the square, the first tier, stand shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm with their gaily painted Italianate façades, typical of the period from which they were formed. Every so often there is a break in the ranks, perhaps revealing a seductive little courtyard with urns flowing with blossoms, colored leaves, grasses or trailing vines, with iron bistro tables and chairs peeking out from under bright parasols or perhaps a pathway that leads to the shops that laugh at the edge of the canal and the green spaces along the banks of the river.

But if you turn away from the shops, place your gaze over the square, and up the winding road to the top of the hill in Golden Heights, letting your eyes pick a bit of blue through the breaks in the tops of the trees, you may see a glimpse of the Bauer Castle, the Romanesque mansion built for Opal Bauer wife of Klaus Bauer who platted Golden Heights. The styles of the houses along Opal Way change as you descend-Queen Annes, Sticks, Tudors, and other period revivals. The last house, the one at the very bottom, on the west side of the street where Opal Way, Golden Place North, and Redbud Row angling in from the northwest converge, built at a time of change, when the superfluous of the Victorian began to step aside for the understated charm of the Craftsman, and which is neither but some confluence of architecture, of time and place, houses the Teal Mango.

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