13 July 2008

My Space

My house would be considered "old" by some. It was built in 1941 and is more or less what you'd expect for a space from that time. It's small (living space <1000 sq. ft + unfinished basement) with short board hardwood floors, coved ceilings, eat-in kitchen, a tiny bathroom, and two very small closets. It sits at the bottom of about a half-acre hill. Out of the nine houses I remember living in over the years, this one is my absolute favourite. It fits me just right.

But as I do things to maintain or improve the property---both inside and out---I can't help but think of the other people who must have loved the house, too.

Someone was really into trees. I have a California Redwood in the back yard. It is a giant of a tree, as you might expect, and must have been planted around the same time as the house was built. My reading about such trees indicates that this one has been mature for some time. It may be the only Redwood in the yard, but it is not the only unusual tree on the property. All the way along the property line are different types of trees: various firs, maples, and more. Who planted them? Why?

Inside the house, there is evidence of changes over time, too. Who built the staircase and created the loft out of the attic space? Materials suggest something within the last two decades. What happened to the old octopus furnace in the basement? Its location on the concrete in the basement is still present. One of the doors to the outside appears to have been the main door at one point---but how did that work with the rest of the house? The configuration now doesn't make sense.

I want HGTV to do a show where they reunite all the owners of a property. What a great opportunity to find out whose grand idea it was to have pink bathroom fixtures (as I had in one place) or to put outlets in the middle of a wall (as I have here). But also, I'd like to see pictures of this place in its various incarnations. There must have been birthday parties, Christmases with small happy children, tears of sorrow, and all manner of memories created here. Someone must have documented all kinds of small moments over the last 67 years. There should be family photo albums or scrapbooks with these pieces of history. Several people out there remember this house differently than I will. Perhaps they came here to have Sunday dinners with grandparents. Maybe they remember walking across the street to the beach. They might even remember who planted what. If I were independently wealthy, I could see writing a book about this---the search for former owners and connecting to the history of a house.

I'm the custodian of this space for now. I am doing some small things to the interior---like paint, updating the bathroom, and (eventually) new carpet for the loft. Outside, I am trying to maintain what was here---including beds of blueberries, strawberries, and hydrangeas---and add a few touches of my own. At some point, I will likely move on and someone else will have their chance to make this home their space.


Michaele Sommerville said...

I've been wondering the same kinds of things lately! The house we've rented isn't as old as yours, but it's definitly dated, so we can tell what was popular in the 80's by the floorplan, size of closets and locations of things like outlets, etc. How people use space changes so much! On military posts, if you live in "historical" quarters, your name gets added to the house's registry, where it is permanently posted in the residence, but that's the only clue as to how the home might have been used. I'd love to see your trees- their variation sounds wonderful!

Pam Kueber said...

What a sweet post - 50s Pam at RetroRenovation.com