Friday, October 29, 2010

When Is A Farm Not A Farm?

Following up on last week’s discussion of Legacy Rape, we now take a closer look at a “farm” development that manages to degrade the word “farm” with a faux bucolic image while also insulting Virginia’s status as the Birthplace of Presidents. (One realtor’s website for this development encourages readers to “Enjoy the privacy of virginia foothills.” That opening line clearly tells you there won’t be much respect for the Old Dominion’s glorious history when they can’t even manage to use an initial cap for the proper name of a US state. Makes you wonder how reliable their contract documents are.)

Little River Farms offers houses in their “Executive Collection” named after former Chief Executives. The models are called Harrison, Jefferson, Tyler, Wilson, and Zachary. Maybe it’s mere coincidence that those are the names of five of the eight US presidents born in Virginia. (One can only assume they opted to use Zachary Taylor’s first name to avoid confusion with John Tyler, certainly a better choice than calling one model The Taylor and the other The John.)

Except for Jefferson and Wilson, this is a less-than-illustrious group of Chief Executives, their Virginia nativity notwithstanding. I’m not sure I’d be comfortable spending a million bucks on a house named for a guy who was so vain, and arguably so stupid, as to insist on delivering his hour long inauguration speech in a cold driving rain and died 30 days later from pneumonia.

Harrison’s successor, John Tyler (pictured above), is one of our least noteworthy presidents. Can you name one thing for which the man is remembered? Go ahead, give it a try.  (I’ll hum the Jeopardy™ theme while I wait.) Come on, just one thing. Nope, I didn’t think so.[1] Zach Taylor lasted only 16 months in office. A serving of milk and cherries at a July 4th celebration resulted in severe gastroenteritis that laid Old Rough and Ready low. Jefferson and Wilson, of course, did the Old Dominion proud. But I have to assume the developer opted for the other three names because Washington, Madison, and Monroe were already taken.

With this as an example, it’s possible to imagine that a hundred and fifty years from now a builder will be marketing space pods with names like The Carter, The Reagan, The Clinton, The Bush (two models to choose from), and The Obama. When those names have all been used, a desperate developer, banking on the public’s lack of historical knowledge, might even offer The Nixon. Or maybe he’ll stick to The Zachary theme and call that one The Dick.

As the builder of Little River Farms chose to befoul the memory of US presidents rather than the image of foxhunting, my only gripe with him is the misleading use of the word “Farms” in the project’s name.

There are no “farms” at Little River Farms. The bugle-toting fox of Fox Gate is a cartoonish sham. There is neither heritage nor hunting at Heritage Hunt. These few examples serve as a stark reminder that progress trumps preservation and that marketers will manipulate any messages they can to sell product.

I will, however, agree to make a personal appearance at the grand opening of the first presidential-themed housing community that includes a model named The Dick.

© 2010 J. Harris Anderson

[1] Unless you’re of a certain age and attended school when American history was still taught, you probably never heard the wonderfully alliterative campaign slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.” Tyler’s only other claim to so much as a footnote by Doris Kearns Goodwin is that he was the first vice president to assume office on the death of the incumbent (a rain-soaked chap who died of pneumonia). He was also instrumental in the annexation of Texas. It remains to be seen how well that will work out.