Wednesday, June 29, 2005

This House

I am not an architect, nor a student of architecture, but buildings have played a serious role in my life so far.

I had zero interest in my undergraduate alma mater… until I fell in love with its eclectic campus. I resisted moving across the country for graduate school… until I was charmed by the Twin Cities’ 1920s-era bungalows.

My beloved St. Paul house went up in 1909, but it bore layers of history from the 1930s and later. I used to lie on the carpet to admire its stained glass window and the gawky lines of its brass chandelier (complete with toggle button wall switch!).

In 1890, our Rust Belt farmhouse stood quite alone in the neighborhood, save for the company of an old horse barn. The garden soil still turns up horseshoe nails, plus the occasional bead from the jewelry artist who had once kept a studio there.

This house—or our little part of it — was strange to me at first. "I don’t speak late 1700s," or so went my private joke when we first laid eyes on this place. I was more overwhelmed than impressed by the house’s broad plank floors. I thought I would drown in all the dark wood. The four-foot-high fireplace looked as if it might swallow us. And what to make of the gravestones just beyond the kitchen windows?

This is a very strange house.

It has but one doorknob. All the other doors have latches.

The floors slope. Really slope. If I lift my feet and take my hands off this keyboard, my chair will roll backwards into the center of the room.

There used to be four fireplaces. We use the mantle of one as the headboard of our bed.

There is a ghost who, lightning quick, will lock you in the closet every time, even if you remember to kick backwards with one foot as you enter. Fortunately, the closet door has a latch on both sides.

At night, it gets very dark here. But I can walk confidently from room to room by following the cracks between the floorboards, which are illuminated by the basement light below.

I don’t speak 1700s, but I get a good feeling from this place. I'm surprised by how much it already feels like home. Whatever ghosts and stories may lurk here must be of the generous sort. Whatever history is made here will be our own.


At 10:14 AM, Blogger anbruch said...

Sounds like a neat house. And you describe it so wonderfully.


At 11:05 AM, Anonymous New Kid on the Hallway said...

Oooh, I love 1700s houses! You must be in my part of the world (that is, not where I am now, but where I wish I were).

At 2:11 PM, Blogger Yankee T said...

What a lovely description. I love 1700s houses, too.


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