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4:07 p.m. - June 03, 2006
A Visitor To Ye Olde House!
You remember my house?

Of course you do!

Well, I have always been intrigued by its history, and have wanted to find out more about it.

I know it was built in 1872 by someone who had some means in this here town. It was their ‘summer’ home, as far as we know, and they had at least 30 acres and some stables nearby. From what I hear, that family had 11 children, so they needed the space!

This was pretty much the outskirts of town back then. Sticksville in BFE land!

Well, life has basically been frenetic for the past few months and years, so there hasn’t been much time to explore some of the history of our house.

But today (Saturday) may have jumpstarted that effort.

I had just started mowing the lawn. I did the little side piece past our driveway, and had just finished the strip between the sidewalk and the street, and was about ready to start the main section when I noticed this older gent in this convertible give me a wave.

Then I noticed he turned around and drove back.

Then he pulled in the driveway, so I stopped the lawn more and took off my headphones.

He introduced himself, and I introduced myself.

He was a Wabash alum, back for his 50th reunion. I noticed he was wearing his reunion medallion and his nametag, and he had the words to the school song in the back seat of the convertible.

“I grew up in this house!”

My jaw almost hit the floor.

His father had bought the house back in 1939. It had been a rooming house before, and they lived in the house until 1955.

Wow!

Last night, while I was talking to some of our younger alums, one of them mentioned the house and said that he always remembered it as that “purple” house and was happy it didn’t look like that.

He said that he really liked the way the house looked right now. He always drove by it when he came back for his reunions and was happy with its current state.

I, of course, praised the former owners, who basically redid everything – put siding on the house, put on a new roof and redid almost every room except the kitchen. (Can’t have everything I guess).

He laughed, and said that kitchen always needed work even when he lived in it, though he said it was probably a bit different now anyway! But he did notice that the windows were different. Our kitchen now has replacement windows and not the big old lead glass windows that are around most of the house.

The first thing he mentioned about the house was that our big tree in front (that you can see in the picture) wasn’t there when he lived in the house.

They had a fish pond out front in that spot.

About a year or two after they moved out, he heard that they filled in the fish pond, so obviously that tree was planted just 45 to 50 years ago, and hasn’t been there 100 years or so like we thought!

He then noticed said that they had a screened in porch back in his time, so someone enclosed the porch. The storage room was called the ‘cold room’ because there wasn’t any heat in it. I said there still wasn’t any!

His father had put in the first bathroom downstairs. They had a ‘place’ that had some sort of stool, but it wasn’t really a bathroom area, per se. Wow.

When they bought the house, it was a rooming house, and he said that they separated the rooms with something called ‘beaverboard’ that his father basically ripped out to make it into the rooms that we know now.

His father worked constantly on the house each year while they lived in it. The studs in the house are yellow poplar, and there’s no way to pound a nail into them he said. He also said that the original wood down below (in the foundation – I will check it out next time I’m in the basement) has old fashioned square nails in the yellow poplar and it’s rock hard.

He asked if the funny stairway was still in the house. That’s our back stairway, from our guest room to the formal dining area. Yes, I said, it was still there. He said he fell down those stairs a couple of times, and I admitted that I had as well.

These stairs have not only a 90 degree turn, but they narrow AS they are turning, so it’s not really user friendly. In fact, I’ve christened the stairway and the white z-brick around it with some wine recently.

I said that the only thing we’ve really done to the house is put in a new driveway and had three of the six fireplaces become operable, and sealed off the other three so that they aren’t harmful to children nor do they allow air to escape or come inside.

He said that his brother had the only working fireplace in the house in his room. Ironically, his brother’s room is, I believe, Kristin’s room now so that fireplace is inoperable.

The living room, with the bay window, was the living room back then, but he said after World War II they didn’t use the fireplace, so he doesn’t know if it was broken or they just didn’t use it.

The most stunning thing he said was that the three upstairs bedrooms on the Market Street side were always rented out. His parents never stayed in the bedroom that had the bay windows!

This also confirmed what I suspected, so I told him that the old bedroom at the back of the house had been converted into a big master bathroom and walk in closet. (That’s what really sold us the house – it’s a Victorian with the best shower and bathroom EVER! What MORE could you want?)

We chatted for a little bit more and he was on his way. I am going to write him a letter when I get into the office on Monday and invite him to actually come inside and see the house the next time he’s in town.

Of course, I thought of a lot of other questions as soon as he left.

• How much did his father pay for the house?
• How much did they charge for rent?
• What room was his parents’ bedroom then? Is it our library, family room, or our formal dining room?

I also should have told him that back when I was in school and in college, the oldest son of the family who lived in this house was also a Wabash man (and a fraternity brother), so there have been three Wabash men who lived in this house, at least. And I know that it was a rooming house, and that meant college students, no doubt.

I do know that someone who works in our office also rented a room here back when she was first married, so I need to ask her about how the house was back in her day. Then I’ll ask my fraternity brother some questions, and I’ll get a good start on piecing together the house from 1939 to the present day.

And then, the fun part will be to figure out what happened between 1872 and 1939.

I have really been burning the candle at both ends and the middle, and was just tired and at my wits end, with more reunion stuff in the near future (i.e. tonight!)

But that visit, from that alum, really made my day. I was pleased that he thought the house looked great, and he was proud of the house and obviously had a lot of great memories.

I can only hope I have those same fond memories when I finally leave this place.

 

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