1902 Victorian

Bringing our old house out of the disco era and back into the Victorian.

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

His History and Mine

On Saturday we had Christmas with Darwin's dad's side of the family. Since we live near the place we both grew up, we have a million and one tedious holiday events to attend each year.

But this one turned into the opportunity I've been waiting for. Darwin's dad, Mac, still owns the old house he grew up in, a little farmhouse complete with can house and corn crib. The Christmas event takes place each year in an old schoolhouse nearby, the one Mac and his brothers and sisters attended in the '40s.

For once, I remembered to bring my camera. That's where the opportunity comes in: I finally got pics of the "old homeplace."

No one is certain of the house's age. Mac's parents bought it in 1941, but it had been there for a while before. In fact, before it was Mac's old homeplace, it was someone else's parents' old homeplace.

I know a bit about the middle class-and-up house styles - the Victorians, Greek Revivals, Craftsmans, etc. But I know just about nothing about these spare little farmer’s cottages, the sort of house where every last one of my and Darwin’s plain-folk farming ancestors lived.

It is L-shaped with a simple porch across the front. One side of the L is the front: two rooms with a center hall between. The other leg of the L is the kitchen. A tiny bedroom and a bathroom were tacked onto the back of the house at some point.

The house is not pretty. The windows are a hodgepodge. Some 1950s aluminum, some older divided lights. The exterior is covered with green, faux-woodgrain shingles. The roof is rusted tin. The walls inside are fake wood paneling.

It’s not a house someone took care to preserve, in terms of history. It’s a house people lived in, lived simply with no thought of old or new, or continuity. If a window broke or rotted, they replaced it with anything that would fit. If the top of the stone chimney toppled, they replaced it with brick. If they needed another bedroom, heck we’ll tack one on right here.

Usually, I despise a remuddle. But somehow, this jumbled little farmhouse has a certain nobility. We’ll probably never decipher its age, and it will certainly never be on the National Register. That’s okay. It’s a house that means something anyway. You can see it in the faces of the men in that family, whose hands helped mend the roof and prop up the falling chimney. It is a part of Darwin’s family’s history, a part of my history now.

The can house. This was where they stored the canned goods. (not really in cans, in jars)

The back of the house. The side of the house. The kitchen chimney.

The front porch. The front of the house.

The corn crib. They kept peanuts on top and corn on the bottom level. The curtain from the stage at the old schoolhouse, dated 1939.

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SmilingJudy said...

Yeah, may not be "pretty", but that's where the _real_ history is. Love the composition of the front porch pic.

1:15 PM  
Patricia W said...

It's nice. I bet there are a million happy memories there.

2:43 PM  
John said...

I wouldn't be too sure that it couldn't end up on the National Registry. There are a lot of homes of similar design in Arkansas, but few are being preserved since they are not particularly fancy. Another couple of decades and they may be a rare find.

There is a book called Vernacular Ozark Homes (I think)that may be of some use to you. It is about the old, common-man homes found in the Ozarks of Arkansas. The design of these homes (nearly identical to Darwin's) are based on those of the British Isles (Scotland and Ireland in particular) and adapted for the South's warm climate.

If you have any say in the matter, I'd make sure they maintained the house so it last for a few more generations. My wife's great-grandmother's house (nearly identical to yours) fell in on itself a few years ago. It wasn't much to look at, but it was sad to see it go.

If you think of it, post the front view. I'd love to see it.

3:32 PM  
Meredith said...

I love stumbling upon these old treasures in the country. My mom and I call them "hand-me-down houses."

4:27 PM  
Jenne said...

I am fascinated by the curtain from the stage at the old schoolhouse. Why? Because at the antique store in the little town where I live, there's a twin to it! Except it has local businesses on it. And a slightly different mountain scene [which is weird for Nebraska]. But the layout it pretty much the same! How interesting!

6:56 PM  
halloweenlover said...

How lovely to be able to visit places like that, with so much family history.

Both sides of my family moved from Europe to Argentina to the United States, so we don't have much history going on.

7:18 PM  
Kristin said...

Jenne, the mountain scene is weird for Alabama, too!

11:29 PM  

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