Saturday, February 20, 2016

Home Sweet Home

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Click image to enlarge.

Click image to enlarge.

The Civil War-Era house you see above is the home in which I was raised. It was begun in 1865 and finished in 1866. From what I can tell from pine boards in its shell, the lumber wasn’t cut until after the first heavy frost of 1865, since there were no pine borers started under the bark that remained on a few corners. My guess is that they roughed it in and let it stand through the winter before finishing it the next summer. There was evidence that they may have lived in the kitchen that winter. The kitchen is where the last regular window is on the left side of the long side of the house.

The garage-like addition on the back was put in at some unknown time, perhaps by my grandfather, after he bought the place around 1910. It covered the 44 foot hand-dug well and may have temporarily been the milk house (NOT the milking parlor) for the dairy he ran for several years. It also covered the back door of the house and the steps to the cellar, which abutted the back left of the garage. Once I was old enough to remember, my dad used the building as a garage and workshop, but the narrow second “room” that covered the cellar steps had been removed, leaving the area between the house and garage a sort of three-sided dog-trot.

There was a tiny winding set of stairs between the kitchen and dining room windows, with an even tinier closet underneath. Both had doors into the dining room. The half-story attic room above was made up of a larger and a smaller bedroom, with the dividing wall above the kitchen/dining room wall. The front room on the long side had originally been the family sitting room, and was used similarly by us, as a living room.
Looking at the front of the house, the sitting room was on the left, of course. Behind the front door was the main staircase against the left wall, and a hallway on the right wall which went clear through to the back porch, for ventilation, I assume. The room to the right served as my parent’s bedroom, but it had originally been the parlor, and had woodwork a tiny bit fancier than the rest of the house. There was a single window on the back wall, providing a view of the back yard and ventilation for the room. It strikes me as odd that the parlors of that day were saved almost entirely for entertaining visitors, not everyday use. The builders were obviously not wealthy. Incidentally, The woodwork in the front two rooms and hallway is pine with poplar doors, faux-finished to look like a dark oak.

It’s eleven steps up to the stair-landing, where a window provided ventilation. After making the turn, it was four more steps to the second floor. Another window was in the front of the upstairs hall. At one time, there had been two narrow bedrooms to the left (the RIGHT side, if looking from the front yard), the back one with one window, and the front one with two. When I was little, I remember sleeping in the folk’s bedroom, and Dad tearing out the dividing wall of the two little bedrooms. He then insulated, rewired and dry-walled the room for my sister, who’d been sleeping across the hall. I then moved into her old room, which I think was the original master bedroom for the home.

I thought it was neat that there was a door in the back wall of my bedroom leading to the attic rooms above the back ell. Sometimes, when I couldn’t sleep, and the folks were in bed, I’d take my flashlight and very quietly explore the attic. A lot of old stuff was stored up there! When it rained, I’d often open the attic door, so I could better hear the drumbeats on the tin roof. I thought it was neat, too, that I could look into the plastered closet in the front corner and see a spot of sky. My room never got updated, so there were times that even with the gas space heater burning high, I could still see my breath of a morning. Thank goodness for those warm quilts and comforters that my great aunt and grandmother made!


I realize things were probably pretty tough for the folks at times, since life on a farm can be rather feast or famine, but I never felt deprived, or thought of us as poor. There were too many neighbors living similarly to consider that. And too, I never went hungry, or ill-dressed for the weather, or felt unloved. All in all, I have some wonderful memories of that old place. © 2016
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4 comments:

Chickenmom said...

Oh, what a wonderful home, Gorges! Love the front door with the sidelights and the transom! Was it stained glass? Tall windows - wish I had them here. Thanks for sharing!

Pumice said...

You say they were not wealthy and yet it seems like a gracious house even by modern standards. America was not a third world country even when it was a minor power on the earth. Now we are destroying the building of centuries.

A good look into the past.

Grace and peace.

Gail said...

What a wonderful place full of memories.

Gorges Smythe said...

No stained glass, Cm, just the old wavy kind.

Well, Pumice, it was nice when it was built, but they didn't bother to put it on a foundation, just stone piers, which did NOT reach below frost line. It eventually got all out of level and leaned slightly to the right. Naturally, the plaster was always cracking, there was no insulation (except for my sister's room), and the back ell was slowly rotting into the ground for the second time. The folks were just beginning to get ahead and fix the place up, when they decided to send my sister to college. After that, they never had two dimes to rub together. Still, they were good, decent, loving parents and I have fond memories of the place and time.

Yes it is, Gail.