What's in an old house name?

By: Shannon Lee , Contributing Writer
In: Old Houses

Several years ago, I started naming my houses.

It definitely felt like the right thing to do. I spent so much time with every nook and cranny of old houses, meticulously scrubbing hardwood floors, stripping old layers of paint from single-pane windows, replacing trim and carefully applying vintage wallpaper. I learned every corner of the house, grew familiar with the language of the squeaky floors and embraced the little quirks.

In many ways, the house became a friend. Friends deserve a good name, don't they?

The proper moniker for your old house

Naming a house isn't a new trend -- it's been done for centuries. It has long been custom in England and other parts of the world to name their castles, manors, even small cottages. Sometimes these were named after the town where they were built, or after the architect who designed them. The home might be named after the owner or their ancestors. They could also be named for a notable feature of the area, such as "Meadow House" for a home surrounded by wide, open fields, or "Rose Manor" for a home practically taken over by blooming rosebushes.

What you choose to name your old house can be prompted by historical documents, stories passed down through generations or something unusual about your place. Look into old newspaper clippings and talk to the historical society about your house. Was it ever known by a particular name? Look up the previous owners of the home. Do any of the names speak to you? Look at the architecture of the home and the area around it. Do those gorgeous gardens and tall columns make you think of a "Garden Plantation?"

You can choose names that are important to you but don't actually have anything to do with the history of the house at all. My friend lives in a place called "The Summer House." It's where he and his wife spent their first lovely summer as a married couple. It was a rental then, but ten years later, they purchased it. The name doesn't pertain to the history of the house, but rather, to the unique history of their relationship.

There is another advantage to naming your home, and that's when you are ready to put it on the market. A house with a street address is just a house; a home with a charming name is a novelty that can stick in the potential buyer's head and make the property seem much more personal.

My houses have been named in a variety of ways. I once lived in the "Tolley House," named for a locally-famous woman who once owned the property. One of my childhood homes was "Overlook Farm," simply because it was a farm that overlooked the river. My current home is called "The Shipyard" -- it was once owned by a shipbuilder.

Are you tempted to scoff and say that your house is "just a house?" Ah, but it's not! You pour your heart and soul into your old house. It becomes an old friend. So why not give it a name, so you can address it properly?