Friday, March 03, 2017

Houses I Have Lived in

 I just learned that my “doctor’s wife” house, the one I lived in for twelve years when my children were babies, has come on the market—for an exorbitant figuring too near $2 million for my comfort. I assure you we did not pay much more than 1/8th that price in 1969 and sold it in 1982 still under ¼ that amount. Times have changed—and so has the house. It has been remodeled, added on to, redesigned—much of which hid its good bare bones.

Originally in the Mediterranean style, it had turned pillars on the front porch, a large terrazzo entry way which made me immediately fall in love, Mediterranean tiles around the circular fireplace. Much of that was covered with synthetic substances in a misguided attempt to upgrade or modernize the house. The second owners after us asked for pictures because they wanted to restore it to its original state—today their efforts hardly show, although they are the ones who added a two-story garage with guest quarters above it, a wonderful addition.

Today the house is chic and modern and too fussy for me. When we moved in, ugly blue fiberglass curtains completely hid the lovely curved windows and the house had a general air of not being loved. We improved what we could on the limited budget of a new physician, but some of our furniture was old, none of it was expensive. I would call the house in our day comfortable, a lived-in home. We did add love—it was a happy house. I can’t say that for it today—but it is fashionable. I don’t know where I’d kick off my shoes and read a book.

We did gut and remodel the kitchen, taking out a lot of brickwork. Today the kitchen has been refigured and remodeled again and a lot of exposed brickwork added. What goes round, comes round.

My kids have been spare in their comments except to say they don’t recognize many parts of it. One son loves the new patio, as do I, but I sure wouldn’t have put a pool in that yard. It’s where my ex grew twenty tons of green beans—too bad he’s no longer alive to appreciate the irony.

The whole transformation—and the price—reminded me of my childhood home. We saw it on our September visit to Chicago. The kids were astounded when I said to stop, that was the house. I had talked about a changing neighborhood, and I guess that didn’t compute for them. They thought poor.

The house today, we guess, is worth one million. Built in 1893, it’s fashioned like a brownstone but made of red brick with elaborate stone work with a typical bay window. I think my dad bought it in the 1930s for under $10,000. It’s tall and skinny, with a half third floor. Whereas in my day the houses all had wooden front porches—we screened ours in summers and lived there, today the porches are all gone and the tiny front yards, once just a patch of grass, are now landscaped with Japanese maple and other exotic plants.

I visited the other day with the girl who grew up next door—then, my dad’s garden, an extra lot, was between our houses. Today, there’s a house there that the owner told us was designed to fit in with my home. But Judy (her name too) told me she always thought of ours as an upper middle class neighborhood. That’s even stretching a point to me but it was nothing like it is today.

Do you think my living in these houses has influenced the price? Can we advertise “Judy Alter slept here” as in the old saw about George Washington? I doubt that would have an effect. And somewhere along the way, maybe when I had an empty nest, I got over the craving for a bigger and better house. Today, I live in 600 square feet and couldn’t be happier. There’s a moral there somewhere but I’m not going to figure it out.

No comments: