June 28, 2005

Demolition Man (and Woman)

Saturday, while the boys were taking a break from gate-building, I walked over to the next block to meet with a developer who is building a lot of historic repros in the neighborhood. Some are on vacant lots, but he is also tearing down some houses. A lot of neighbors hate him, but I can't strongly dislike someone who fills in overgrown lots where illegal activities were taking place or tears down rotting houses where illegal activities were taking place, and in their place builds nice looking, non-cookie cutter houses where law-abiding, productive citizens want to live.

I wanted to meet him though to get a look at the house that is scheduled to be demolished tomorrow. It's always been one of my favorite houses in the neighborhood and you can tell it was once absolutely beautiful, but it had long ago been robbed of most of its character and in the three years we've lived here it has sunk farther and farther down. After seeing the inside, at least two people strongly in favor of preservation, who have rescued old houses before, knew this one couldn't be saved.

Before it comes down, I wanted to know if there was anything worth taking out, so I went over to have a look with the developer. Inside, the place was pretty ghastly. Besides having had smokers in it for years and nasty carpet and all the usual things, before the people moved out of the place a few weeks ago, they had one last blowout party and spread trash, food stuffs and who knows what else all over the place. It was definitely a place you wouldn't want to breathe through your nose while you were in.

Most of the place had long ago been "remodeled" and was missing anything nice or charming, but there were a few rooms that still had original woodwork and the developer offered to me and other interested neighbors anything in the house that we could get off and out of there before Wednesday.

We may not be hard core, period renovators, but we are cheap and there are lots of neat old house things we'd love for our house, when the price is almost free except for manual labor. Sunday afternoon instead of napping, mowing the lawn or working on the gate, Justin and I got a babysitter for the kidlets and trotted off with crowbars, work gloves, screwdrivers, mallets and assorted other tools and set to work removing all the window and door casings that were still intact (because those in our house were not saved and we miss them), a couple of 5 panel doors that match what's in our house and that we hope we can perhaps retrofit into the spots in our upstairs where our home's remodelers put hollow Masonite doors.

We also brought home the mantel and hope to find a way to put it around our fireplace, because our home's fireplace surround(s) was(were) also not saved.

My husband may not agree, because he's the one who got fleabitten during the experience, but I think our haul will be worth it in the end and at least some neat old things will find a new home instead moving on to the dump.


Good work! I so hate to see old houses torn down. At least you salvaged some good from the whole thing. And I love the opening sentence of paragraph #5 =] Sounds like me!

Posted by: Lenise at June 29, 2005 01:38 PM

The fireplace surround was worth it alone.

Isn't it a shame how people let homes go like that?

I want to take my camera around and photograph all the homes that have been abandoned. There are so many of them. It always makes me sad because I know that somewhere down the line in history there was a family who built that home with pride.

Posted by: Mary at June 29, 2005 02:00 PM