Whimsical free libraries — handcrafted miniature houses that look like birdhouses filled with books — are tucked into street corners. A thriving arts centre draws people from around the country to study everything from blacksmithing and bent twig furniture to the Cornish language. There is an outdoor theatre carved into a limestone quarry and a beautifully restored Opera House dating to 1914.
And it is one of the few places in the world — other than
But perhaps the most extraordinary thing about
"The whole town was pretty decrepit," wrote
Neal wrote that locals laughed when the men bought a crumbling limestone cottage on
They set about restoring it and, though they had little culinary experience, they opened a restaurant in the 1930s called
Neal had lived in
With money from their restaurant, the men began buying and restoring other buildings, attracting preservationists and artists alike. Old breweries were transformed into pottery studios, meat markets became galleries and so began a flourishing artistic community.
Today, costumed guides offer tours of Pendaris and other restored buildings on the estate, including a replica of a Cornish pub. The site is listed on the
But their spirit of preservation and creativity lives on among the town's 80 or 90 artists, many living in lofts above their studios.
Locals chuckle at how a newspaper report once described them as "pathologically friendly" — and promptly prove the point by inviting strangers into their homes and studios. "Everyone is important here and no one is too important," says
There is also figgyhobbin,
The town has retained a particular brand of quirkiness too. The century-old opera house, a former vaudeville hall, also functions as a free cinema. Because of complicated copyright issues, it cannot advertise the movies it shows. Instead a poster outside offers a vague description ("A riveting drama about two boys who find a fugitive — who is very nice-looking and often shirtless") and movie-goers are left to guess the film.
Or they can simply pop next door and ask the pathologically friendly folks at
PENDARVIS HISTORIC SITE: Open daily,
SHAKE RAG ALLEY, CENTER FOR THE ARTS: Visiting the campus is free, including historic buildings, gardens, stone walls and paths. Workshop details: http://www.shakeragalley.com/
ALLEY STAGE: Performance schedules, http://www.shakeragalley.com/show-schedule
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