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10:49 a.m. - September 21, 2005
This Old House...Yeah It IS This Old House.
As you know, we moved back to my Hometown in December of 2004. By all accounts, it’s been a great move for us all. We just love our house and how close it is to my work, church, and preschool. In fact, here’s a photo, chosen especially for you:

Of course, with every tale I must tell the backstory, so if this were ever made into a TV show right now the screen would dissolve slowly into a flashback……dissolving….slowly…..

Ok, now we’re in the flashback. After being married for about two years, and finally getting out of a mound of credit card debt, Liz and I decided that the time was right to buy a house. We had a lease that was up in August, but we knew that it may take a while to find the house we really wanted in the area we really wanted, so in late April of 1997 we decided to embark on our house search.

It so happened that the brother of one of Liz’s co-workers was selling a house in a town called Zionsville, which was one of the communities that we wanted to move to. It was in a nice housing addition that wasn’t new, but it wasn’t full of cookie cutter McMansions that had no yard. So we drove by, took a look at the house, and made an appointment to see it.

After we looked at the house it took about 10 minutes (the drive back to our apartment) to decide to make an offer on the house. We called, made the offer, and within an hour received a counter offer that was right between the asking price and our offer. Sold! We got financing and closed within a month.

So we missed out on all of the angst and pain and gnashing of teeth there. Please, don’t throw things at the computer. (I’m really sorry that our kids have slept through the night after 10 weeks and we didn’t have stress and strain in buying our first house. Well, not exactly sorry. I acknowledge our fortune, humbly. Nyeah! Nyeah! Nyeah!)

The caption on the screen would now read “October 2004”. (Thanks, director!) Liz had decided to become a stay-at-home, and because of that we decided it would be best to move to my hometown, where the college I work at is located. But we didn’t think we wanted to move until spring of 2005.

I have always loved big, old houses. As a kid, I always grew up in ranch houses that were definitely a product of the 60’s. Sure, they were nice houses, but there was no character to them. It was just a box with rooms in them. And the house where I did most of my growing up was a small box for sure. I was always jealous of some of the kids who lived in the old houses with multiple floors. Crawfordsville is full of them, and I knew that I wanted to see if we could find one that was reasonable.

Even though it would allegedly be a while before we moved, I wanted to get a sense of real estate prices in town. I noticed a nice old Victorian house for sale about two blocks away from work, and I found the house listing on the internet. When I saw the price, I immediately called Liz, who was just starting to transition from working all the time to taking care of Katie full-time. I knew she was stressy, but I HAD to tell her the news.

“Liz, I know you don’t want more turmoil in your life, but we NEED to look at this house.”

“Why?”

“Look on the internet, see the house and see what the list price is.”

“I’ll call for an appointment. When are you available?”

Just 40 miles away, the price of housing was greatly reduced. Small town Indiana versus suburbia sprawl, choose wisely, grasshopper!

So we went and looked at the house. It was a great house, with five bedrooms and a very reasonable price. However, there was one main drawback.

It had 1 ½ bathrooms.

This was before we adopted Kristin, but we had known that we wanted two kids. With two teenage girls, plus a wife, with one full bath in the future, I’d probably have to shower at the local truck stop.

So we passed on that house, and looked around for others. A co-worker said there was another old Victorian available, and we should take a look at it.

And so we did, and fell in love with it. We made an offer that night, and it was just flat out accepted. Not countered, accepted. (Nyeah! Nyeah! Nyeah!)

So then we put our existing house on the market. The first family to look at it made an offer, we countered, and they accepted the counter. (Nyeah! Nyeah! Nyeah!)

After inspections (and some negotiations on inspection, but it all worked out in the end) we closed on the houses and moved to Crawfordsville in mid-December. Mind you, not the ideal time to haul a bunch of stuff across the state, but we did anyway.

Ok, flashbacks over. I’m back to real time here.

This house has a lot of history. It was built in 1872 as the summer home of a notable merchant in Crawfordsville. Originally, it was on a 30-acre spread that had stables, and had an elaborate porch all through the front. One of the houses next door (a cute little pink hacienda) was the guest house for a time. Over the years, though, the land got subdivided and the house became a boarding house and apartments (you can still see some traces of that in the house if you look carefully). It then became a one-family house again. At some point, some weisenheimer decided to paint it pink (for authentic Victorian flavor, I suppose) and the formal living room was also painted pink with pink carpeting. However, in 2000, it was bought and extensively renovated, thank goodness. For various reasons, after reworking almost the entire house inside and out – they put it up for sale, and we snagged it.

It has four bedrooms and 2 ½ baths. The ceilings are 11-foot high. It has two ‘interesting’ stairways. The front stairway has about a 45-degree angle in it ¾ of the way up, which made the movers oh-so-happy. The back stairway is the old servant’s stairway to the formal dining room. It has an almost 90-degree turn and stairs that narrow to less than the length of my foot halfway through it. Yes, I’ve fallen down them. No I wasn’t drunk. Honestly!

While a lot of the things were renovated, there was still some work that needed to be done. For one, we had to re-do some of the electrical work before we moved in. I just didn’t think having exposed junction boxes was such a great idea.

There are six fireplaces in the house. Six! However, they were coal fireplaces back in the day, and so we were limited on what we could do. We hired a company to seal up three of them, and rebuild the other three put working gas apparatus in the other three. Now I’m not a fan of gas fireplaces – I love the crackle, crackle of wood. But because these were originally coal burning fireplaces, there wasn’t a lot we could do.

The people who worked on the fireplaces weren’t exactly the swiftest people in the world. It was almost as if we had permanent workmen on the premises. For a week after they were finally finished, Katie wondered if they were coming back.

The one thing that needs to be done is to redecorate the kitchen. The kitchen is very functional, except the décor stinks. I even think it stinks and I’m no décor expert. The kicker is that the ceiling of our kitchen has blue wallpaper. Yes, blue wallpaper on the kitchen ceiling. Having almost killed a spouse once when we removed wallpaper at our old house, I’m going to insist we hire someone to do that job. Although:

“Judge, there was blue wallpaper ON THE CEILING!”
“Case dismissed!”

So while the floors are creaky and a bit slanty, and it’s expensive to heat and cool the house (in fact, we had to put a window air conditioner in our bedroom so we wouldn’t die up there in the Indiana summer. Damn thermodynamics, with their heat rising and all that. Why couldn’t the laws of physics be broken for our comfort, huh? Tell me why?) we just love the place. There is plenty of room for a family of four to live, and I couldn’t be happier.

Again, stop throwing things!

But all is not well in Shangri-la. We live on the corner of a small side street and a busy US highway. Once or twice a night, we get a phalanx of police cars and other emergency equipemtn scream past our house at full-tilt boogie. Now we just see how long it takes until the return trip. (“I say 20 minutes.” “No, there were four or five of them. I say an hour”). But that’s not the thing of most concern.

These are houses that are across the street from us:

There are actually three houses that no one lives in across from us, but one seems to be well contained.

As you can see, the houses seem to be returning to mother Earth slowly but surely. They are not for sale, though. Someone cuts the yard every two weeks or so (usually with a riding more set at its lowest setting at about 8:30 at night), and for some reason they still do lawn service applications on the yard. Sure, they don’t mind that you need to scythe through the underbrush to get into the doorway, but by gum there are no weeds in the yard.

I wonder just what’s going on in those houses. Once in a while I see a car or truck parked out front or in one of the grass-laden driveways, but they’re there for just a short time.

My biggest fear is that everyone’s favorite Midwestern hobby -cooking meth - is going on in there. However, there activity is only occasional, and not daily. At least from what I can see.

I cruised the alley in back of those houses yesterday, and behind on of them there are a couple of cars parked. One of them was a newer model sedan with plates issued by the state government.

Hmm…a stakeout? Am I being watched?

I didn’t do it. Honest. You can’t prove a thing! I was acting under orders from Zuul!

 

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