In his poem “Mending Wall,” Robert Frost said, “Good fences make good neighbors.” I say: sometimes.
Take three, relatively new fences spotted nearby in the city. One is at Greenmount Avenue and 39th Street. It is a heavy, gray rock wall that looks as if might well belong at a fortress. I understand why someone would build it at that busy corner, where speeding cars are likely to end up in the front yard or, worse, hit the house. Still, it is massive and looks more fitting for a medieval property than a 21st century urban home. The owner seems literally to believe “My home is my castle.”
Not many blocks away, at another congested corner, a well engineered, thick stucco wall stands at the intersection of 39th and Charles streets. Tastefully colored to match the house, this front wall blocks the graceful setback and view of a stately Guilford home. From the owner’s point of view, I can easily understand not wanting bright car lights shining into the house at all hours, or again worse, a car landing on the lawn. So far the wall does not wrap around the house, but forms a handlebar mustache across the front with a slight bend around the sides, where a low wrought iron fence continues. I had thought that the Guilford architectural restrictions were similar to those in Roland Park and that fences in front of the house were prohibited. Clearly, I am wrong.
The architectural restrictions must have expired on a Roland Avenue house at St. John’s Road. A white synthetic fence extends across part of the front yard on Roland with more on the St. John’s side. It looks as if the fencing company did not finish its job, but the fence has looked like that for weeks. When the fence went in, some of the privet that once served as a green fence must have been destroyed. For weeks spindly pieces were tied to the new fence sections, but those ropes are now gone. If the fence remains, my hope is a thick green hedge is planted to cover it. The fence jumps out in a too-bright way, detracts from the appearance of the handsome house and breaks the green line of front yard hedges on this side of Roland Avenue.
Our green hedge of billowy boxwoods has grown too tall, so before I cast a stone at these front yard walls and fences, I’d better pull out my pruning shears.