Old Houses and Old Memories

By: Conrad Neuf , Contributing Writer
In: Old Houses, Old House Musings, Old House History
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From time to time I vary my morning route when I walk my dogs. It’s like starting out on a great new adventure. That’s how I happened to meet Martha, who has begun to fill me in on the history of the old houses in our little town. I wouldn’t want to guess her age, but she doesn’t drive anymore–doesn’t even own a car. She has trouble walking, and her arthritis is bad enough that she has limited use of her hands. Most mornings she is sitting in her front porch swing.

Memories of the Town’s Old Houses

Martha has lived in her old house for 53 years. She said it was built in 1929, the same year that two American Four Square homes at the end of the street were built. It is also the same year that my old farmhouse was built. While 1929 was a bad year for the stock market, it evidently was a good year for home building in our little corner of the world.

Martha can remember buying milk for a nickel a bucket from the lady who lived in my old house. The house was in the middle of a farm which had cattle, goats, and chickens. She would get her bucket filled, and walk the several hundred yards up the hill to her house.

All that’s left of the farm now is my home. I was reminded of the story about the lady in North Carolina who lived 97 years in the same old house, and all the memories she must have had of her local area. I’m thankful I’ve had a chance to meet Martha, and I’m looking forward to more of her stories about the old houses in the area. I may be able to continue those old memories and pass them on to someone else some day. Maybe the room I’m typing in was the room where the day’s milk nickels were tallied.

More Old House Memories

I enjoy knowing the history of my old house and knowing that I’m becoming a part of that history, too. For old house enthusiasts in the Alameda neighborhood of Portland, Oregon, who want to know more about the history of their homes, the historic Alameda Web site even has copies of some building permits and names of prominent builders from various periods.

If you live in an old house in Metuchen, New Jersey, and want to find out more about your house, you may be able to research its history on the Web site of a gentleman who seems to have most of historic Metuchen covered, including some interesting stories to go along with the old house histories.

A young couple who restored a Victorian home in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, was actually able to find an article describing the house in a copy of the local paper from 1901. They also discovered that a relative had rented a room in the old house in 1946. Old houses are full of memories, and hopefully you can find out about yours. I hope to find out more about mine from Martha over the next several weeks.


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  1. 3 Responses  to “Old Houses and Old Memories”

  2. Aug 29, 2011
    That is a nice thing about small towns Fred, usually there is someone who has lived in the same house for years and knows the history of the town and its homes. I have lived in my house long enough now that newcomers probably feel that way about me. I moved here from a large metro area where everybody seemed to have moved from out of the area, so it's a nice feeling to live somewhere that people seem to have roots.
  3. Fred
    Aug 29, 2011
    If you want to find out about the history of your new neighborhood, you just need to find the oldest person on the block. It seems there is always somebody that has "lived here forever" and they usually have a detailed history a place and are ready to share.
  4. Marie
    Aug 29, 2011
    History gets lost everyday. If we don't seek out the history of old houses and record them while we are able, then old houses just become old houses. Knowing the history of a home, like who lived there and what they did, increases the chances that some one, someday, will feel the need to restore the house and add to the structure's history.