Monday, April 16th, 2007
We’ve decided the new motto for Eutaw should be, “Lookin’ good!” because we all love going around and spying on each other’s projects and making such proclamations.
This weekend we took a stroll around the block with some of our neighbors (gathering more as we went, actually) to check out the Little House on the Corner and various other in-progress houses. We ended up at the Murphy-Henderson House, which I think of as our house’s rich older sister. I’ve mentioned this lovely Victorian before – we helped tear out the plaster in the upstairs a few months back.
To recap, our house’s first owner, Mary Julia Murphy Dunlap, owned the M-H House when she was newly married to her first husband James Murphy. James died young, and MJ moved with her three children and new husband Clay Dunlap to a more modest house she built across the street on her brother’s land. Hint: that’s our house.
The whole situation fascinates me. What must it have felt like for MJ to stand on her front porch and stare across the street at the house that used to be hers? To be specific, the far larger and more ornate house that used to be hers.
Then again, maybe the house held bad memories for her. Maybe her husband died there. Or maybe she was less sentimental than I and thought nothing of losing a house that had probably become a financial burden.
But for me, houses have personalities. I imagine the M-H House, sitting slightly elevated and towering twice as tall as our house, looking down her nose at us. She is old money, and even if her elegant trappings are tattered, she is and always will be more dignified than us.
Our house is a young upstart, a tad too cheeky for her own good, with an open face compared to M-H’s carefully veiled one.
But maybe that’s only the jealousy talking. I love the old girl, and I wish she were mine. If M-H’s owner, Denise, wasn’t such a genuinely nice and wonderful person, I might have to hate her a little.
Instead, I’m just glad she’s a good caretaker for the house. And I’m glad she’s my friend, so I have an excuse to hang out and observe her progress. She’s finished tearing out the plaster upstairs and has several rooms worth of drywall hung. She’s got 97 brand-new electrical outlets and two refinished clawfoot tubs that are the biggest ones I’ve ever seen. She’s got plans for a dumbwaiter (something I’ve always wanted), a laundry shoot, a commercial kitchen for her barbecue sauce business, and a second living room upstairs where they’ll have a mini-kitchen and a big-screen TV.
It will be awesome when it’s finished. It is already awesome. It’s the kind of house where you can touch the woodwork, and it’s easy to pretend you feel magic vibrate against your palm. The staircase - with its original, unpainted wood and stained glass window at the landing - is what my childhood daydreams were made of.
Like me, the Murphy-Henderson House is the kind of older sister who works hard at putting on a show of aloofness. But when you get past the door, she is ready to embrace you.
More photos here: Murphy-Henderson House