Jackson, Growing up in New York City, Jackson knew his birthplace better than most. But as he entered his 20s and embarked on a career in theater, he always knew one place would always be his favorite: the house he grew up in.
For most of his younger life, he had been an actor, and his love of the stage remained his central focus. But at the same time, he knew he wanted to be a teacher, and a Manhattan school district job was exactly what he wanted. After nearly a decade as a New York City schoolteacher, he left to pursue a career in theater.
Now living in the mountains of North Carolina, Jackson is back home and exploring his roots as a way to pay tribute to his childhood.
Jackson grew up in a working-class neighborhood, and his surroundings always inspired him. As a child, he would play in the nearby woods, and as an adult, he still enjoys exploring the mountains that inspired his childhood. So when he returned to his childhood home in New York City after a decade away, he did so with a sense of purpose.
At the same time, he knew he would be returning to a place that was special to him. The house in which he grew up had many of the same elements. It was a tiny three-bedroom house, with a front yard that was a perfect circle of maple and oak trees. It had a wide, open hallway that led to the front door, and it had a second front
“We Belong in These Spaces”
When Jackson returned to his childhood home in the summer of 2012, he immediately set about archaeological his old rooms. He particularly wanted to find out what had happened to the oak tree in the front yard; it had been cut down when he was a child, and the stump was still there.
What he found was a fascinating legacy of changes and developments that had taken place in his hometown over the years. The house, which he had visited as a child, had been altered and expanded by his parents. In the process, much of what had been a forest in the neighborhood was now a parking lot.
Jackson’s Tribute to His Childhood Home
In the wake of that discovery, Jackson made one of his most challenging and personal artistic commitments yet. He and his wife were building a house nearby, and he wanted to use the materials from the old house to design his new home. So he chose a room in the old house to create his childhood space.
The room was large and open, and the walls were lined with bookshelves that were filled with childhood memories. As an adult, Jackson felt he could remain in the room and share those memories with his children, while also connecting with his childhood self.
Jackson’s Return to the Neighborhood that Inspired him
From the moment he stepped foot in his hometown, Jackson knew he had to pay tribute to the place that had so profoundly influenced his life. So he transformed the front hallway of his new home into the same open space that had inspired him as a child.
The space is lit like a stage, with a large picture window that looks out on a rustic wooden deck. It is filled with mementos and artifacts from his childhood, and it feels like a museum; children will love the animal figures and toys that decorate the walls.
Jackson’s New Home in the Mountains of North Carolina
When he first arrived in his hometown, Jackson almost didn’t move in. It had been years since he’d been back, and he had no idea what to expect. But he tried to keep his expectations realistic.
Most importantly, he tried to maintain his roots. So he began by carefully renovating the front of the house, preserving the existing walls and floors, and adding a new roof and shutters. Next, he focused on the back of the house, aiming to make the space feel as open and airy as possible.
To achieve this, he replaced the concrete foundation with native stone and filled in the backyard with a pond and beautiful landscape plants.
Jackson’s Key to the Neighborhood
After almost eight years of living in New York City, Jackson knows the neighborhood like the back of his hand. But he still gets surprised by some of the places he recognizes.
As a keyholder, he knows most places, and he has a list of about a dozen “neighborhoods to which he feels particularly connected.” When he moved into his new house, he began by writing down the first names of his neighbors on a piece of paper, and then he attached that paper to a tree.
As he moved inside, he replaced the paper with a personalized key to the neighborhood. This key is the most personal possession he has, and he carries it with him everywhere he goes.
In many ways, Jackson’s upbringing in the city is the opposite of what you might expect from a child star. While he loved being on stage and in front of an audience, he also loved spending time with his family, especially his children.
By returning to New York City where he grew up, and by transforming his childhood home, he has found a creative space in which to pay tribute to both his past and his present.
Now living in the mountains of North Carolina, he is able to escape the hectic pace of life in New York City, and he can continue exploring his past.