When Elizabeth VanUmesseren recollected her views about a vacant lot on the corner of Master and Lawrence Streets many years ago, she said plans for cultivating the lot into a community garden didn’t look promising.
VanUmesseren said the Catholic Worker house, located a few blocks away on 430 W. Jefferson St., played a big part in helping revitalize the vacant lot. And VanUmesseren, a lifelong Fairmount resident, met frequently with Catholic worker house folks because she knew some people who worked there.
But more importantly, VanUmesseren met with Catholic worker house folks because she had a precise vision: transform the vacant lot, which she said was used for dumping bricks and other leftover concrete, into a beautiful community garden.
“I talked to them about doing something about the brick lot because there wasn’t a garden in the neighborhood at that time,” Elizabeth VanUmesseren said.
And although VanUmesseren was a Fairmount resident, it didn’t stop her from continuing to advocate to have the lot cleaned up. Eventually, progress was made and she began to contribute as a gardener at what is now a small urban farm called La Finquita, located on 428 Master St. in South Kensington.
“The Catholic worker house has a house to help people in blighted neighborhoods,” VanUmesseren said. “And sometimes it specifically helps people who don’t have permanent homes find places to live,” VanUmesseren said.
VanUmesseren said the people at the Catholic worker house whom received help from a group of Villanova students, dedicated to spend their spring break clearing the bricks, decided to help this garden.
“They got all the city permits, got all the bricks cleaned off and gave plots to people who wanted them,” she said.
La Finquita, meaning the Little Farm in Spanish, was officially founded in the spring of 1982. It was named after Puerto Rican men who lived in the neighborhood and had plots at the brick lot on the corner of Master and Lawrence Streets.