Wednesday, March 8, 2006

I'm Just The Chaperone

It seems we are being descended upon by a camera crew this weekend from HGTV, who want to feature the house in their "National Open House" program. My wife is always getting us into these things, and I am dragged along like a rube who has been hit on the head and has no idea what the hell is going on. All I know now is that there are a million little projects which need to get dealt with before they show up.

We're incredibly lucky to be in this house, lucky for the alignment of planets which had to occur for us to find ourselves here. There were about 20 things, little and big, that we had no business expecting would go in our favor, any one of which would have killed the deal; it was a long enough shot that I wouldn't have put a hundred bucks on the likelihood of it all working out. And yet through gentle but insistent pressure and a huge dollop of luck, here we are.

One of the things with a house this old is that you always feel like a privileged visitor rather than an owner. The house was built a hundred years before I was born, and will be standing here long after I'm gone. There's a real sense of a stream of history connected to a place like this, a stream into which we step for our few short years, adding our names to a long list of those who have come before and those who will follow. In this light we become stewards of a thing much larger than our own story, and it is then incumbent upon us to leave things better than we found them.

The house was built in 1870, and was at one time on the outskirts of town. It was originally owned by the Richmond family (of local paper mill fame), and the matron of the house was a poet, Elisabeth Yates Richmond. (We have a letter written to her by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow concerning a folio of her work which she sent to him for his perusal.) Over the next century the place gradually fell into disrepair, and when the owners previous to us bought it in 1991 it was a triplex rental unit, and one of the biggest drug busts in Appleton's history is reputed to have taken place here a few years before. They took the house's rehabilitation in hand, and brought it to its current state. We've been here now a year, and are busy plotting how we might continue and extend the previous owners' efforts, making a worthy contribution to the house's own history.

In other news, I appear to have had a visitor who found my site by way of an MSN search for "crack whore confess." I can't remember any crack whores in my past, let alone one I beat a confession out of, but it's apparently right there. With such a search string I join an elite crowd, like The Dirty Whore Diary and The Honest Whore. I've found my place. I think the least I should expect for providing this kind of valuable public service is to have such a lurker step out from the shadows long enough to tip his or her hat in thanks. I won't really be happy though until someone finds me by way of "manic-depression on parade" or "ping pong blogging."


Heather B. said...

When I was little, a lot of my friends lived in these really old houses around my area with secret passages and silos. I would've given anything to live in an old house. Of course, it was lost on me that old houses require much maintenance. I'm still enamored by them though.

Joshua said...

In Kansas we bought a house (and by we, I mean my mother, I was but 12 years old) that was once a plantation house. It had since been swallowed by the city proper, but it still had the "secret" passageways for the "help" to get from teh third story rooms to the kitchen (where, presumably, they worked).

The best part, though, for a boy of 12, was the library. In the rear of the first floor, behind sliding french doors (I think that's what they were called) was a full library, with big cedar floor to ceiling shelving. Behind one of the free standing ones was a bathroom. The previous owners had thought it cool to hinge the shelf, making it a "secret" bathroom. I always thought that was the coolest thing.

When does your house go on HGTV? My fiancee and I watch that ALL THE TIME, and it would be neat to see your shining face (and shiny head) on TV.

wunelle said...

Heather--we're lucky in that the previous owners gutted this place to the bare walls, so the things that might normally need maintenance are pretty new--heat / plumbing / electrical, etc. So that takes care of some of the headache. The downside is that their renovation is now about 15 years ago, and stuff is starting to need work. But that helped it be relatively affordable. Now it's our turn to sink some money into it.

Joshua--Secret rooms = way cool. Alas, no secret passages here. Or they're so secret I can't find them! The house isn't actually very big, but the basement / bottom floor has a certain Buffalo-Bill / house-goes-on-forever kinda feeling. It has twice as many rooms as the top two floors together.

Not sure when it will air, but I imagine the crew will have some idea. I'll have to let you know.

(I wonder if they have some kind of filter to protect their equipment from the kleig lights reflecting off my dome?)

Lizzie said...

Yes, definitely let us know when it will air! I think I'm a little too excited to know that I may see a fellow blogger on tv.

Esbee said...

Our house in Georgetown was over 200 years old, but the most exciting thing that ever happened to us was when we finally took out the ceiling upstairs that had blocked access to the cupola, a petrified, as in dead not scared, pigeon fell out. Like a rock.