“There are certain people who seem doomed to buy certain houses. The house expects them. It waits for them.”

Last night it poured. The wind was so strong I could hear the trees creaking as they swayed. It was still raining when I woke up this morning. The dismal day made my decision an easy one. I’m staying home. I’m not getting dressed; however, I will brush my teeth and maybe even my hair but no promises on that last one. I wouldn’t want to overdo.

The town where I grew up was first populated in 1634. I didn’t know that back when I was young and even if I had, it wouldn’t have impressed me all that much. I’d have just thought it was old. It has all sorts of houses but few of them are made of brick. The newest ones when I was a kid were ranch houses all in rows and looking alike. Most of the other houses were build in the 30’s and 40’s and after the war. There are three octagonal houses, two of which are on the National Register of Historic Places. When I was a kid, they were my favorite houses. I didn’t know until later that they dated from the 1850’s. The William Bryant house was my favorite. It sits on a corner, has a small porch and a cupola on the roof. It was build for a shoe cutter. My town used to have a few factories where shoes were made. I remember when they closed the last one. It was the one right down the street from the square. The other house I like sits on top of a hill. It has a porch that wraps around the whole house. I used to imagine myself sitting in a rocking chair on the porch and watching the world go by.

The neatest place is the Dairy Dome on Main Street near the square. It serves ice cream in the summer and sells Christmas trees in the winter. When I was a kid, it was a gas station. The building is six-sided and really does have a dome.

On one street are huge white houses all in a row. I always thought the rich people lived in those houses. They are right up the street from the old train station, the end of the line.

When I go to visit my sister, I sometimes take a ride around town to see what has changed and what hasn’t. I always wish the railroad tracks were still there. They were part of many a Saturday adventure.

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8 Comments on ““There are certain people who seem doomed to buy certain houses. The house expects them. It waits for them.””

  1. Richard Says:

    No pour here. No wind. No rain. I’m so depressed now … matter of fact, I got SO depressed I had to go shopping – again – to get the rest of the ingredients to make the Potato Garlic soup this afternoon. I had red and Yukon Gold potatoes, but still needed some russets to give it that ‘mealy’ / ‘starchy’ quality. Now I’m ready – and I’ll even mix my own ‘Herbes de Provence’ as a flavoring agent. I’m not using lavender, tho’ – never saw that it improved anything made to be eaten. Oh – I always comb what’s left of my hair. I like to think I’m just growing taller than my hair now … that, or I tell people I decided to start wearing it on the inside.

    Our towns aren’t that far apart in age, it seems. New Orleans was founded in 1718, so yours had an 84-year head start. I loved the old houses when I was a kid. They had a ‘character’ about them. They were usually populated by individuals who could also be described by that word. It wasn’t until I began dating a girl in the suburbs in the ‘60s that I became aware of the ‘ranch’ style or ’split-level’ houses that were constructed (I won’t dignify them with the word ‘built’) on slabs instead of piers. In a city 14 feet below sea level, that’s a problem waiting to happen, and it was definitively proven by H. Katrina in ’05. The ‘burb houses reminded me of pictures I’d seen of places like Levittown, and if I knew nothing else, I knew I didn’t want to live in a place like that. No character, no style, no charm, no differences … sameness doth not equal ‘good’ … it’s definitely not ‘better,’ and will never be ‘best.’

    There are so many places from childhood that exist now only in my memory … the National Gypsum plant on Tchoupitoulas Street and the Grain Export facility not far from it; the original Zatarain’s manufacturing facility one block from where we lived and Milton Zatarain’s ‘shrine’ virtually across the street from my grandmother’s house … the cobbler’s shop on Magazine Street that always had old LIFE magazines from WWII in the bookstand waiting to be read, and the butchery two blocks from our house where we could buy veal rounds with the cutlet intact …

    The neatest houses I recall ever seeing and photographing in New Orleans are the Ship Houses on Egania Street:

    http://old-new-orleans.com/NO_Steamboat_Houses.html

    There are others, but these are especially nice.

    St. Charles Avenue was the Luxe District where the ‘swells’ lived … or those pretending the ‘Swell-dom-ness’ … it wasn’t until I was well beyond childhood days that I learnt many of the ‘rich ’n famous’ who preened with pretense were living on Other People’s Money or loans they couldn’t repay. The houses usually changed hands subtly, and without over-large signs to advertise that their ‘owner’ was in financial distress. Have to stay in character, y’ know. None of that ‘Shame Of The Poor’ stuff for them. They were, after all, our ‘betters’ … except in the eyes of their lenders.

    I won’t ever be back to New Orleans in this lifetime, but I still have my mental photo book and the images I created during my 61 years there. I will not have those memories destroyed only to be replaced with the reality of what’s there today in place of the real New Orleans.

    And now, some Gen-U-Wine N’Awlins muzik for ya … it’s Mr James Booker (now deceased), and he is definitely a Mos’ Scoscious piano player … give it a listen and see …

    • katry Says:

      Richard,
      Here on the Cape it was 1649 when the first settlers arrived in Dennis.

      It is still raining here but not as hard as it did last night. Tomorrow will be cool but the rain will end sometime during the night. I do have a few errands to do tomorrow but not back to the grocery store. My larder is now filled.

      I’ve had to mix my own herbs a few times. I bought some empty spice bottles which came with labels so I gave a few of them away to friends. I have a few more I want to make and will put in Easter baskets.

      The square where I lived has changed. The police box was hit and ruined and not replaced. None of the original stores remain but the buildings are still there. The last shoe factory became high end condos. The fish market is an excellent Italian restaurant. The diner is gone and a hardware store was built in its place.

      We all have cellars though really old cape houses don’t. They have dug out cellars which are very small.

      Keep your memory drawers full!

      Love the music!!!!

  2. Bob Says:

    That slow moving upper level low pressure that brought us a week of steady rain has finally worked it’s way up the coast to New England.

    Here in Dallas there are no buildings older than the late 1900s. Urban preservation is a very low priority in Dallas. The basic theory is that just because a building is old doesn’t mean it has historical value. In the 1600s this area was open range land inhabited by the Commanche and Appache tribes.

    Today the high temperature was in the mid 80s with clear skies.

    • katry Says:

      Bob,
      Yup, we have rain today but it is more a constant drizzle than real rain.

      Buildings on the Historical Register have to go through a vetting process before they are included. Not all who apply are given that status. New England has many many really old houses and buildings. In several towns are historical districts overseen by commissions. My town has a huge historical district with houses built by ships’ captains. No changes can be made to those houses without going through the historical commission. They have the final word. Even my town’s library is on the historic register.

      The buildings get younger as you go across country. I found some of the historic buildings in Dallas:

      http://traveltips.usatoday.com/historical-attractions-around-dallas-texas-3607.html

      • Bob Says:

        Thanks Kat. I’m familiar with all of those historic places. It’s other buildings that bite the dust as the developers have the zoning commissioners in their pockets. We don’t have a ‘historic’ district as the city spread out from it’s earliest days. Old City park’s buildings were renovated to their original style and moved to the park to give visitors a feeling of what Dallas might have been like in the late 19th century.

      • katry Says:

        Bob,
        You need to mandate somehow the historic commission. The law should say no buildings are torn down without the OK of the board. That has saved many buildings around here, a lot of them art deco.

  3. Caryn Says:

    Hi Kat,
    The settlers bought the land that became my town from the widow of a Saugus chief way back in1638. It was all Lynn Village for a long time and then became Reading. It didn’t incorporate as South Redding until the 1830’s and then some years later it changed the name to Wakefield in honor of one of its residents who owned factories and donated a lot to the town.
    There are a lot of old houses from the 1600’s in the town. Most of them are of the old salt box type. A friend of mine lived in one. All the rooms had fireplaces but none of them worked. The rooms were small and had really low ceilings.

    Other friends lived in some of the high Victorian houses downtown. They had beautiful features inside. Grand entryways with sweeping stairs. High ceilings and tall windows. Front parlors and back parlors. Dining rooms that connected to butler’s pantries that connected to kitchens that connected to auxiliary pantries. Front stairs and back stairs. One had a huge soapstone farmhouse sink with massive drawers beside it. Since the family had lived in the house for several generations, the drawers held every kind of weird kitchen utensil you could imagine and some you couldn’t. I still covet that sink and those drawers with their contents.

    Today was a cold, windy, drizzling day. The dogs and I have been out in it several times. Nobody was pleased about that either.

    Enjoy the evening.

    • katry Says:

      Hi Caryn,
      Stoneham’s oldest house is on Green Street, and the rest are strewn about the town. I have no idea how Stoneham came to be. I know about Dennis and the rest of the cape.

      Here many of the old houses are enormous, built by wealthy ship’s captains. There are some salt boxes as well. I live in a full cape which means two windows on each side of the door. The oldest are single capes meaning one window in the front.

      I don’t know anyone with such a majestic house. By the sounds of it, I’d also covet the sink and utensils.

      Enjoy the day!


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