Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Notes From My Knapsack 2-06-05
By Jeff Gill

The name has such a ring to it: “Avalon.”
A place of wonder and mystery, Avalon appears in Malory’s “Le Morte d’Arthur,” the story of Britain’s mythic early king, his court at Camelot and his final battle with Mordred. Wounded, King Arthur is borne off by three queens to the Blessed Isle, with a Vale of Apples, Avalon, where he might heal from his injuries and weariness.
The word “Avalon” has looked over West Main Street in Newark for a century and a quarter or so, just across from the new library. An apartment block with bay windows and balconies, turrets and peaks, the mystique has in recent years been more one of the Castle Perilous, with decay exhaling from broken windows and cracked slate askew marking the roofline.
But no more! Healed from its grievous wounds, returning like the once and future king himself, the Avalon Apartments have returned to health and beauty, looking proudly back across to the shining windows of the library that reflect back a reborn building.
And what Merlin accomplished this wizardry? No less than the workaday magic of Licking County LEADS, our local community action agency headed by Ken Kempton. With yeoman (or yeowoman) efforts from Charlene Wray who now works elsewhere, and many, many other local partners, Ken proudly shared the restored and renewed building with the community last week.
Shirley Colley from Buckeye Lake was among the visitors delighting in the new apartments, reserved for older Licking Countians below certain income guidelines. She recalled visiting her aunt and uncle in brighter days, when the Avalon was an address claimed with pride, and marveled at the views, so different and still the same, out what would have been their windows.
For everyone involved, from public officials to architects to builders . . . but most especially, to the staff at LEADS, thank you for bringing Avalon back to our community as a place for secure rest and a base for new adventures. There’s more than a bit of romance in the idea of a reborn building, and with a name like Avalon, the mist clears and the magic is seen clearly by the bright light of day.
What blessed isles of refuge could yet be restored? Let’s support our public officials and organizations like LEADS and the Licking County Coalition for Housing as they work to preserve our built heritage for a very human but still magical present.

Jeff Gill is an Arthurian troubadour and occasional scribbler who can be reached, when not attending building dedications, at

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