My affair with antique houses started when I was a child. I grew up on the NJ shore in a town consisting of newer neighborhoods circling the original village. Historical homes lined the few streets in the downtown area but like a lot of towns, they were mostly converted into doctor and attorney offices or shops. Why is that? Anyway, every time I passed an old house my heart would skip a beat. I was envious of the people who lived in those homes and thought their lives must be filled with love and traditions as old and strong as the walls that surrounded them.
Old houses seduce you with architectural details. They lure you with a welcoming front porch, stained glass, transoms, enamel and crystal door knobs, planked hardwood floors, tin ceilings, substantial molding, plaster walls, gingerbread trim, corbels, slate roofs. long windows with original wavy glass, claw foot tubs; to name a few.
If you are anything like me, you automatically consider the history of these houses, the charm, the character, perhaps if it’s in decline, the hidden potential. I never once thought about the age, the deterioration, the out-dated infrastructure, the repairs and certainly not the cost. Thank goodness The Man grew up in an old house and knew exactly what he signed up for.
We were soon moved in and planning renovations and restorations when the Fairfield House started to remind me of her age. I lit a candle in the kitchen and had a blast of cold air blow it out. Was it a g g ghost? No, I should be so lucky. An exorcism costs less than our monthly oil bill. Insulation was unheard of when this house was built. It was so bad that we got in the habit of bringing an ice scraper into the shower. The Man installed the much needed and appreciated insulation and again we focused on a project that would leave our mark on the house. That was postponed the morning we woke up with no heat and had to purchase a brand spanking new furnace. Now back to that project, Where were we? Oh yes, we were …postponing it yet again because the hot water heater missed the original furnace and died of a broken heart a few weeks later. Hot water heater replaced.
We still haven’t converted the knob and tube electrical system that will prevent the upstairs hall light from winking at each person that passes by or install a new central heating and cooling system. We currently have cast iron radiators–dust magnets, but much loved by our two cats. The Man has to install window unit air conditioners in the summer (talk about antiques!). I scolded the dog for a puddle on the floor. Further investigation revealed a leak in the roof. As recently as two nights ago, a loud bang roused me from my sleep.
Did someone fall out of bed or worse, break in (perhaps to steal one of my valuable antique window unit air conditioners)? I found a chunk of plaster on the floor and a gaping hole in the ceiling the next morning. Thank God it happened at night, I could have been knocked unconscious. Each project is a Pandora’s Box.
Am I still inlove with old houses now that I know the good, the bad, the ugly? Hell, yes! Would I do it again? In an instant! Each day I pass by one of the unique Victorian features in our home and think I am one of the lucky people living in one of those old houses.