Thursday, August 09, 2007

Plans that You Know Won't Work

296 Mt Hope Street, my childhood home, the nest of all my pre-adolescent happiness and my now-embarrasing adolescent rage has been purchased by a developer. This developer plans to move the structure on the property so that he can build a second house on the property. I call bullshit. The house is impossibly old, haunted (it's true) and like many New England houses it was built in sections over the course of centuries. It is not a modular home that can be jacked off its foundation, loaded onto a truck and carted off to another less valuable locale. The plaster inside is brittle horsehair over lathe. The joists don't all connect with one another. Legions of inept plumbers and electricians have laid hands on the pipes and wires over the years. It's a creaky, sensitive old house and it needs to be left alone.

The developer made this promise because the town fathers like to keep old houses around. In New York and New Jersey it's a common practice to level a 1,500 sq foot house and replace it with a 10,000 sq foot abomination, replete with a frigging Great Room. (I will eat baby's feet before I buy, build or rent a home with a Great Room.) In Massachusetts it's practically a capital offense to flatten an old farm house. So now the developer will try oh so very hard to move it, and when my rickety old homestead collapses in a heap of kindling, at least he can say he tried. Call it the architectural preservation version of due dilligence.

So this makes me a little sad. By the time my parents were preparing to move from the home I was grateful they were leaving. I was sick of the place. Over the preceeding years I had entertained the notion of burning the building to the ground. Its walls were so steeped in bitterness and interfamilial fighting, just crossing the threshold was enough to put my teeth on edge. But I'm an old man now. And as an old man I'm obliged to get a little nostalgic for the back stair case-- which due to the structural ammendments built over the years was basically a stairway to nowhere--and there was an odd little door beneath the front staircase that covered a hollow spot in the core of the house--was it a dumbwaiter? But then where did the shaft go? We never found its terminating point in the basement. It was a pointless mystery and I liked it.

By the end of September it'll all be gone. The building that replaces it will be new and straight. It won't sag and shutter during a blizzard. Squirrels won't live in the attic. There will be 2.5 bathrooms instead of just the one. And some dull little kids will grow up there. Oh well.

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