This House

carportWe bought the house we’re living in eight or nine years ago from the heirs of the man who had it built in 1957.




The photos above show how it looked when we signed the contract. Over the years, we’ve made a number of changes – removed very old propane heaters, changed it over from fuses to breakers, added central heat and air-conditioning, torn out all of the old carpeting, repainted every room except the kitchen, added some bright sunny wallpaper to the kitchen, had the bathroom tiled, put new carpeting in the bedrooms and bonus room, etc. Because we really liked the open living-room-dining-area floorplan arranged around a central brick fireplace/hearth, and we’re too cheap to do extensive remodeling that the house didn’t really need anyway, we haven’t added on to or altered the structure.

Last week the post office delivered two letters from an insurance company, one of which was addressed to the man whose heirs sold us the house, and the other of which was addressed to another man with the same surname. I looked up the family name in the local telephone directory and found there the name of the one family member I remembered meeting at the time we bought the house. I left a message at that number, and the next day the man returned my call. He lives in a neighboring town, and said he and his wife would be in the area Thursday on their way home from another place.

They came by about 6:00 pm, and stayed and talked about 30 to 40 minutes. He said his parents moved up here from Boaz, Alabama, in the 1950s. His father was a welder, for awhile, at the base, until those in charge of the facility annoyed him. After that, he got work as a boiler-maker welder with a company contracting on the many hydro-electric projects throughout the Southeast. His mother taught middle school here in town.

The family raised four sons in our small house (and when I think of that, I wonder what’s wrong with us that we feel crowded here with just one baby less than a year old). He said the room his parents slept in was the smallest of three bedrooms, the one we’re now using for a nursery. The four boys all slept in the largest bedroom, the one my wife and I now use. They kept what I call the middle bedroom as a mostly unused guest-room, just like we do. He said the family rarely used the living-room, that it was kept immaculate for visitors, but spent most of their time in the den (which we refer to as the bonus room) which had originally been a carport adjacent the kitchen.

He told me about his mother’s portable dishwasher, which for about five years took up most of the kitchen’s floor-space. Told me about how he’d cut out the bricks to enlarge what was originally the space for a single oven in the kitchen-side bricks of the fireplace/chimney, then had held a cabinet, and had replaced that cabinet with plumbing and a dishwasher. Said that as bricks age, they become harder or more dense. We replaced the original no-longer-working dishwasher we found in the wall a year or two after we moved in. Great thing about a dishwasher at waist-level is it’s easy on the back.

He remembered looking at it that one of his brothers made the mantelpiece in the living room. Said that some memories he thought were completely lost had come back to him. I was glad to hear the history of this house, and to have as guest here someone who’d grown up in the house.

Here are a couple of “After” shots:




6 thoughts on “This House

  1. Wow, I’ve never seen a dishwasher up high like that – it seems so wrong – but I guess there’s nothing wrong with it at all, just unusual.

    Great pictures. Hope you’ll have some “after” shots. We just bought our house 2 years ago. Built in 1905. I’m always telling Paul it’s like the Tardis. Not because it looks like it, but because it seems so much tinier from the outside. Anyway, it was a rental for many years and inch by inch and penny by penny (’cause we, too, are cheap) we’re trying to make it look as charming as a 100 year old house should look, instead of floor to ceiling nicotine “white” and cheap apartment grade everything.

    • Much easier on the back when loading and unloading. I’ve got a bunch of “After” pictures on Facebook. I’ll see about posting a few here, too.

      1905, man, I’ve always wanted a big, old house. Any pictures of that one? One of the first houses we looked at last year was built in about 1955, a brick ranch-style house that I described in a blog post as somewhat grander than anything we’d previously thought about buying. The fellow who bought it from the heirs of the 103 year old woman who’d lived there since the 50s immediately slapped a “pearl white” coat of cheap, flat latex paint on every painted surface in the house, including the painted wood trim that ought to have been painted in semi-gloss enamel. I wanted to slap the guy even though I’d never met him.

      There’s one in a nearby county for sale in the town where my mother grew up. Dunno whether we could afford to heat and cool it. About two, three years ago in that same town the house my great-grandfather built for his family was on the market, but we couldn’t afford it then. I think I would’ve liked to have had that house.

      We’d talked about adding a bathroom to the master bedroom, or building a sunroom off the living-room, as well as building a garage, but we think we want a neighborhood where it’ll be safer to take little Seventy-Six for bike rides and family walks.

  2. There’s lots of grand old houses for sale around here these days. Just Google Chico, CA real estate and go nuts. Our house is TINY (I think about 1100 sq. ft, maybe 1200. I don’t remember), but has 10ft. ceilings which keep us from feeling claustrophobic. We don’t know the history, but it may have been a ranch hand type of set-up. We’re just a couple of blocks from several fine historic Victorians, the kind you’re thinking of, which belonged to the folks who owned this whole area, affectionately (or notoriously) known as Chapmantown. It’s not a nice part of town, but if someone had a truckload of money and made all the old houses as cute as they could be, and got rid of the soup kitchen up the street, and the ’70’s era apartments scattered here and there, it would be charming.

    It’s a great time to buy a house (if you’ve got perfect credit and plenty to put down that is). Ours has lost about $70,000 in value since we bought it two years ago! We’re living upside down – no wonder I’ve got a headache and can’t get my hair to lay flat.

    I’ve posted a picture or two (of the house, not my hair) on my blog (they may be tagged “pictures”).

  3. The weird California housing market is one of the reasons I left and have only been back once in almost, it must be close to 20 years now, for a visit. That and the parking lots also known as freeways. And the crazy numbers of people vying for living space.

    I saw the pictures, nice-looking house. One of our family friends, iirc, is an educator living in that part of the world. I liked the built-ins. Your husband and cat look pretty happy. Some of those old California frame houses (Craftsman?) had great built-ins. I guess I’d like to live in Pasadena or Long Beach or Orange County in 1911. Just got to find a TARDIS to move my stuff.

    Some years ago, in San Pedro, and later in Torrance, I bought books from a used bookseller and poet named j.b. kennedy. He spelled his name lower case. Ever run in to him? He must be very old now if still among the living.

    Actually, the floors in our house all need stripped and refinished. In two places, the boards don’t match – we replaced some that were damaged. In doing so, we discovered that the builder made a sub-floor, then overlaid that with felt (presumably for insulation and to reduce the likelihood of squeaking), then the hardwood on top of that. The lumber company in the Cumberland Plateau area from which the hardwood was purchased is still in business, but we didn’t take the time to go there to purchase the replacement boards. In retrospect, I think we should have.

  4. Yeah, the housing market. It’s not as insane in the area we live, but it is still pretty bad. I grew up in L.A. (Lived in Hawthorne, went to private school in Burbank) and spent several years in Orange County after graduation. Where we live now, about 80 mi. north of Sacramento is very rural and tame by comparison. It was a huge escape from the big city, and the kind of life I’d lived there, and a good place to raise my two kids.

    We don’t have any built-ins in our place, but I know what you’re speaking of, and I love that sort of thing too. We do have lots of wonderful Craftman style homes here in Chico, though ours is not one of them. Ours is much older. We have all kinds of old homes here, all mixed together. It’s an interesting town.

    My brother lives near Pasedena, in Arcadia, in a very nice old ranch style home, which came about 1/4 mile from being burned down in one of the big fires last summer.

    I’ll ask Paul about the poet/bookseller. He’s from Orange County, and he’s the literary one in our marriage. The bookselling was his business and I took over the running of it after we got married, so he could take a “real” job. I’m still learning the ropes and it made a lot more money before I came along!

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