The brisk afternoon breeze did not hinder the several dozen families living around Kleinhans Music Hall as they turned over a new leaf or two this Memorial Day weekend.
Community mothers, fathers and children broke out the shovels, turned over the sod and spruced up the neighborhood with some of nature's beautiful signs of spring -- tulips.
But planting flowers was by no means the only extent of the neighborhood cleanup. All 300 household members involved in the annual project have organized to form the Kleinhans Community Association, whose primary interest is reviving the beauty of one of the city's most historically significant neighborhoods.
"The flower business for us has become a really important focal point. We feel that this area is visited by hundreds and thousands of people through Kleinhans Music Hall, and we'd love come to a point some day where it's a showcase," said Ann M. Angelo, Kleinhans Community Association committee chairman and public relations director.
"We want our area to be unique, because we are in a unique situation," Ms. Angelo said. "We are the only community in the United States that has a major music hall and a major symphony orchestra next to a residential community. There is no other."
She explained that the six-block area located directly behind Kleinhans Music Hall is a historical gold mine that has several dozen residential and public structures dating to the mid-1800s.
Historical structures like the Engine 2 firehouse, said to be the oldest operating fire station, still stands on the corner of Jersey and Plymouth streets with its original mansard roof. Right across the street is the Plymouth Methodist Church, built in the 1850s.
The church, with a large stained-glass window partially intact, was saved from total destruction by vandalism when the association took an interest in having it established as a historical landmark last year. Community members predict that the new owner will begin restoration efforts soon.
Community leaders such as Bill Lindner, head of the group's steering committee, decided that preserving these structures as well as re-establishing the historical appearance of the surrounding community was extremely important. Lindner said that stately historical structures like the firehouse and his home prompted him and association Beautification Director Josie Bodami to work with the city leaders to bring back the original look of the 1800s to the community.
He added that, since he had learned about the history of the area, he wanted to reinstitute some of the original lighting that lined the streets. Cooperation from Public Works Commissioner David Comerford made it possible.
"These 25-foot cobra arch lights . . . don't match the architecture and integrity of the street," Lindner explained. "Ever since I'd become more aware of the historical content of the neighborhood, I would look down the street and I would see these beautiful homes and then see these ugly street lights which didn't match.
"I brought it up before the Kleinhans Community Association membership, and I said I would really like to work toward getting these taken down and get shorter, more accurate lights put in."
He added that with the help of Council Member Joel Giambra and Mayor Griffin, Edgewater Luminare lights now line the both sides of Normal and Jersey streets.
Rose Pinto, who has been a home owner in the area for almost 45 years, said the area is probably the best that it has been in years.
"I've seen the area go up and down . . . but now I think it's improved," she said. "Since we had our association, it has improved an awful lot. I know all of my neighbors, at least all in the association. We're like one big, happy family."