Small Home Gazette, Fall 2002
by Tim Counts, editor
I don’t recall now but I’d probably already fended off a couple of telemarketers by the time this poor guy called, and he bore the brunt of my frustration.
“Hi,” he began cheerfully. “We’re a premier home improvement company, and we’re doing some work in your neighborhood, and I was wondering if your house needed any improvements. Gutters and downspouts, perhaps? Vinyl replacement windows? Maybe some vinyl siding?”
“Actually,” I heard myself say, “I think vinyl siding is the mark of the devil.”
He handled my shot across his bow with more grace than I expected. He asked if I had an historic home. Well, no, I responded, if he was asking whether my house was on the National Register of Historic Places. “But it’s more than 70 years old,” I said, “and I think old houses should be respected and maintained with the type of materials they were built with.” He rambled on for a bit about some nice old neighborhoods he’d seen until he sensed by my silence that there wasn’t going be a sale and ended the call.
Since then I’ve thought of a hundred wittier, more articulate responses to being presented with what I consider an offer to mutilate my home. But I comfort myself with the fact that I at least tried.
I got to thinking–what if all of us said something when faced with a similar situation? We don’t always get opportunities such as the one handed to me, but there are moments when we might give a gentle nudge that could save an old house or at least a piece of one.
I was recently admiring a beautiful mosaic tile floor in the entryway of a magnificent St. Paul bungalow. One of the owners mentioned that a neighbor had an entry with an even more intricate design, “but she was planning to tear it out because she said she was tired of looking at all those little pieces of tile.”
What if the couple who heard this comment had objected gently? What if they had told the homeowner how beautiful the floor was and that it would be a shame if a work of architectural art that had survived this long were lost?
A friend and Bungalow Club member related a conversation he’d had with his new neighbors who had purchased a large bungalow across the street for an enormous amount of money. He noticed a dumpster in front of the house and went over to introduce himself. While chatting, he glanced in the dumpster and saw the screen insert to the home’s storm door.
“Are you throwing that out?” he asked casually.
“Oh, we won’t be needing it,” was the response. “We’re getting rid of the storm door.”
The home’s original wooden storm door was in near-mint condition. It had screen and glass panels that could be switched with the seasons. It was rounded at the top to match the cottage-style wood door it protected, and its detailing complimented the house perfectly.
“Maybe you could just put it in the basement,” my friend offered. “Who knows? A future homeowner might want to put it back on.”
The couple sheepishly fished the screen out of the dumpster. They might have sneaked it back in later, my friend said.
But maybe it’s still in the basement, waiting for a someone who will restore the home’s original integrity and beauty.