When I went to North Carolina to work 2003 my husband decided he wanted to continue to work at a different college in Ohio. So we did not sell or rent our house, because he was living in it. When he moved down to NC in 2010 we discussed doing something with it, but I knew I would never sell it and renting it meant landlord issues and not having access to it whenever we wanted to, so we simply kept it. Because I was making good money and his retirement was good we could afford to keep it open, turn down the furnace, and maintain basic cable. The cost of keeping it up and running was about $150 a month, not counting the mortgage of course.
When it came time for me to retire from UNC, or more accurately when I decided they had lost their minds and were never going to address diversity in any relevant way and I might as well leave, I was excited to go back to my old house in Ohio.
My condo in Cary was built in 1986 and has had lots of renovations to make it modern, wood floors, new windows new faucets, paint, etc. My house in Ohio was built in 1927 by Dr. David, a professor at Wilberforce University and later at Central State University. We have owned it since 1982, well us and a few banks, and have done some work, new windows upstairs, etc., but it still needed and needs a lot of work to approach being what anyone would call modern.
The problem is I do not want it to be modern. I love the fact that the downstairs windows still have wavy glass in them, true they are not the most weather proof windows, but lined curtains or drapes take care of most of that, along with some super caulking. The bathrooms are both tiny. If you are over 6 feet you probably cannot sit straight on the downstairs powder room toilet without hitting your knees on the wall. But they are functional.
There are doors and windows everywhere. In the kitchen there is a door to the utility room, a door to the back stairs, a door to the dining room and a door that leads to what we call the In-betweens, a small hallway that leads down to the basement or to the kitchen or to the downstairs bathroom or to the living room.
There is old, big woodwork everywhere, holes in the floors in corners of the rooms where gas stoves used to sit. When we moved in and had the plumbers come to update the plumbing one young man came upstairs and asked me quite earnestly if I wanted to keep the gas in the walls since it was still being piped in for now non-existant gaslight fixtures.
There is a built in china closet in the dining room, back stairs in the kitchen, which is also tiny by the way, a large living room, big dining room, small study with floor to ceiling bookshelves.
I love my old house, not because it is perfect but because it is unique. . As odd as it sounds I like it because you could not build it today without spending a fortune, and in some cases you could not build it at all, the materials no longer exist or are not code. The walls are plaster, not drywall, except in the kitchen, which we had to gut since when we pulled off the paneling in there the plaster came with it down to lath and plaster. The floors are not level, but they are not laminate either, they are hardwood. The hallway upstairs is small, but the doors to the three bedrooms and the bathroom are all wood five panel doors, not some hollow core things.
The small bedroom which is also serving as my dressing room has one wall that is almost all windows, and it has a tiny closet door that leads to a big closet back under the eaves, but looks like it belong s in a hobbit house.
New house are formulaic, and people spend all kinds of money trying to make them unique, different, quirky,, individual. I do not have to do that. I just have to figure out how to store modern stuff in an old house. We had to have the furnace replaced ( the old one was the size of a room and still worked well, but with climate change we also needed air conditioning) and the electrical outlets upgraded to grounded fixtures to allow for a three pronged plug. We had the ivy yanked off since it was growing onto the roof and covering the back of the house, and the house painted. We still have miles to go, concrete works, a new porch, etc., but we will get there eventually if our pocketbooks hold up.
Whether we do or don’t I love my old house even when it makes noises I cannot explain ( one of the advantages of having cats is you can always blame it on them) and when something breaks and the person who comes to repair it says wonderingly ” I have never seen anything like this before.”
If I ever become rich I am going to roam the countryside looking for old houses to renovate. We are a disposable society, if the house has flaws tear it down and build a new one. But, old houses speak to me, they tell me they still have potential, even the capacity for excellence. All they need is a little love and a lot of money!
In a world that is becoming more and more standardized my old house is my rebellion against uniformity. I am sure some of my friends think we are mad to put so much into such an old barn, but I personally believe that one day, if I live, I will look at what we have done and say ” There, I told you I would bring you back to your old glory girl.” Now if I can only figure out how to stop having my guests have to enter off the deck into the utility room, and take down that big cabinet that serves no purpose and find a spot for that cabinet I want moved out of the study and figured out how to put a sink bigger than 12 inches across in the little bathroom and ……