The History Of A House That Is My Home

To move or not to move? That seems to be the question for my peer group of seniors, most of whom are still living in the homes in which they raised their families. While I am certainly not ready to give up this old house, I have to acknowledge that day may be closer than I care to admit. On the other hand, it feels plain wrong to live elsewhere.

Our house is 105-years-old and, on October 1, we will have lived in it 41 years. That makes my family the house's longest owners. When we bought the house, the first and last one my husband and I have ever owned, it was a different era. For one thing, the house cost less than 10 percent of its current value, so we could afford to purchase it. And times were very different in 1975. I think it was the second house we looked at and, despite its lack of the most modern amenities, we bought it by bidding slightly under the asking price. We didn't really have a list of "must-haves." The house just felt right to us.

I found the listing in our local newspaper's real estate column and asked our agent to bring us to see it. We were attracted to it because of its location, which would not require us to change neighborhoods, schools, or the friends we made in our apartment that was three blocks away. I will also confess that I thought the house number, 1010, was lucky because our son was born at 10:10 on June 10th. So at the ripe old age of approaching 30, we went ahead and bought the house.

No one staged the house. In fact, when we came to see it, the Hinz family, its current owners, were there and actually helped our realtor show us around their home. That's exactly what it felt like -- a home. The dog ran freely, their personal pictures and knickknacks were displayed everywhere, and it had a happy vibe. They had lived there for about a decade and needed to find a place without stairs.

They shared that the owner before them was Glenn Snyder, a man who worked for the Chicago radio station WLS. And before that, big band leader Griff Williams lived in the house. The long, rectangular living room accommodated his two grand pianos, one at each end. We always meant to find out more, and finally walked over to the Evanston History Center last weekend to poke around in the archives.

A building permit from 1911 described in beautiful script a house with three water closets and two screened porches. The cost back then was less then one percent of its current value. The first occupant, Joseph Pearson, owned a tanning company (we are not talking suntans here) and had two live-in maids who probably occupied the attic floor of the house. During our era, that space was first a playroom for the kids and later their guest room. Mr. Pearson died in the house back in 1921, and his funeral was held in the living room. Apparently, his widow and children continued to live there until around 1950, making them the second longest occupants.

The next owner, Griff Williams, enclosed the second-floor sun porch to create a huge bedroom. When we bought the house, not much had changed since that improvement, and we took that room for ourselves, creating a small office-like space in the back part of it. Clearly, the room was never intended to be the "master" as one of the front bedrooms featured an adjoining bathroom. But there was a second bathroom just across the hall, so we opted for space and didn't see any problem with actually leaving our room to take a shower. With the arrival of our third child a couple of years after we moved in, the bedrooms were all happily occupied.

We made a few changes in 41 years. The first thing we added was a play structure in the backyard that our kids loved for many years. We also enclosed the first floor porch to create a home office for my husband, put a hallway door into that adjoining bathroom so our son could no longer deny his sisters access to the bathroom, added space pack air conditioning, modernized our bathroom, and just recently opened the wall between the kitchen and dining room to create an open concept floor plan. Actually, we did it because it was getting more and more challenging to get through the small door leading to the kitchen without dropping the food or dishes we were carrying.

As our friends continue talking about downsizing and when they will sell their houses to move to one-floor living situations, I struggle with what it would mean to live somewhere else. How would I host big family dinners? Where would my out-of-town children and grandchildren stay when they visit? What would I do with all of my stuff, which multiplied after my mother died last year?

I picture having to stage this house. Removing every precious photo I have displayed. Packing away so many of my knickknacks. De-cluttering so my house looks like the ones on Property Brothers, so it is no longer my home. And hearing from my realtor that the place I love and have enjoyed for over 40 years comes up short in the eyes of today's buyers. The third floor should have been converted to a master suite with an en suite and walk-in closet. And speaking of closets, while they are lots of them, they are not what folks on HGTV want. The kitchen cabinets are old and the counter top is corian, not granite. The appliances are relatively new but not stainless steel. Well, at least we added an island when we opened up the kitchen. That counts for something, right?

What I really wish when it's time to sell our house is that we can find buyers who don't need to see it as a staged neutral palette devoid of any personality. I know. It is 2017, not 1975. But my dream would be to have a young couple like we were walk into this house that holds so many precious memories for us and love our home as it is, family photos and all.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

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Multigenerational Homes: From The Accessible To The Extravagant