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Posts Tagged ‘Victorian house’

Some time ago – can it really be back in 2014 I wrote that post? – I featured the last home I lived in, a beautiful stone farmhouse, the oldest part of which was 1724. The bulk of the house was built in 1810, and then the homeowner who lovingly restored the property added a modern kitchen and bath about 40 or so years ago. I’d promised to share the house I’d lived in prior to that, an 1870 home, technically Victorian I guess, but not of the gingerbread style as the community was more farm oriented than fancy.

As mentioned in that earlier post, all my life after college, including where I live now, has been in homes or apartment buildings from 1810 – 1920. I have enjoyed 9′ ceilings as my standard, deep porches on all the homes, stunning hardwood floors, and more “wildlife” than modern homes allow by sheer dint of better mechanics, technology and sealing. It was usually a small price to pay.

Above you see the first house I lived in when I moved to the western side of New Jersey in a tiny rural town called Pattenburg, once a center of basket-making and peach growing. These were all taken to market on the trains that ran the (still active) tracks at the far back of my property. The land itself was 1/2 acre and an absolute marvel to this girl who’d been living in an (albeit huge) apartment. The property was on the narrow side and quite deep with 14 deciduous trees, and I sure got my exercise raking each fall and mowing.

There you see an aging apple tree which was a major attraction in the fall. It was not unusual to look outside and see deer, rabbits, and groundhogs all together enjoying what had fallen to the ground. As the ancient tree had not been well-cared for, the apples were not really edible or pie-worthy, but few went wasted. At the right, the ubiquitous outhouse, an often-rescued fixture on every property on Main Street.

And this is Main Street, photographed from the road in front of my house. When I first moved here, people were always talking about “downtown”. Needless to say, I was curious as to where that might be, so I asked. I was told,  “You’re standing in it!” This was a far different life than I had ever known, for sure.

Every time I was out walking the dogs total strangers driving by would wave at me. At first, taken a bit aback, my hand would flail lightly at my side reaching in an upward direction. I’d never lived anywhere where strangers just waved at you. But it didn’t take me long to catch on – people were just downright friendly. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to have landed here.

The backyard in snow. And this only shows a portion of it. There’s another third of the land beyond that farthest point you can see. Plus this doesn’t give a hint of the lush blossoming of endless perennial plants, shrubs and trees that were on this property. I have so many photos of the flowers all about – small areas of blossoming beauty – that I’d be here for days just trying to find and scan photos of the riot of color that abounded in spring and summer.

I don’t have a lot of photographs of the interior of the house. It had original hardwood – walnut, I believe – floors and stairs. The kitchen’s wide planks had already been painted, so  once settled in, I gave it a new high-gloss paint job. Out the kitchen door was a patio.

Another photo in the kitchen. Here was my old girl, Chloe, then nearing 15 years – the most lovable, trustworthy and phenomenally stubborn dog one could ever hope to own. (Yes, she’s on the drop cloth.) Behind her was a complete wall of original wood cabinets and drawers, any kitchen-lover’s dream. The original wainscoting was also intact, unpainted. Throughout the house there were chair rails with beautifully coordinated colonial colors and petite flowered wallpaper above the rail. There were also closed-over fireplaces in the living and dining rooms and the master bedroom. Again, just as well for one with no knowledge of building or watching over fires.

And here’s what qualified our little stretch of maybe 24 houses and an old red schoolhouse as a downtown – we had a church and an antique store which was once Pattenburg’s general store. I was soon surprised at how many people visited the shop filled with antiques and collectibles. It turns out the owner had cleverly gotten her store listed on an “antiques trail” where people would drive about following a map for fabulous finds in and around the county.

The house at Christmas, my tree in the dining room at right, not visible in this photo. I decorated the garland with white lights, gold bows and small pink roses to complement the house. It always looked wonderful. At the holidays, our little Main Street was all aglow, looking for all it was worth like a slice of another time with beautifully lit houses, and neighbors happier still, all of us waving at one another, wishing each a warm Merry Christmas. Life was good.

p.s. For another insight into this country life, take a peek at this post about the train trestle at the far end of Main Street.

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You’ve all heard that line from a song, “A house is not a home …”, and while that’s true in some ways, I beg to differ. A house is surely a home when you love where you live.

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As I’m crawling out from a week with way too much work, I’m contemplating cleaning off my wonderful deep porches, and getting together what it takes to sit out there, pot some plants, etc.. This reminds me of how lucky I’ve been that the houses I’ve lived in in this side of the state have all had fabulous porches, sometimes more than one. Then I drifted further in my continued wonder/curiosity that every place I’ve lived since I left home and left my college high-rise dorm has been in a specific time period, 1810 – 1920. So for those of you that love homes, I thought I might share some of my photographic, and other house-related, memories.

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The house you see here is the oldest I lived in. The front of the house, top photo, is 1810 and that was added on to the smaller part of the house built in 1742. The 1742 portion is now the dining room, and has another room above it, connected by a narrow circular staircase. It was once the home of the farm workers who worked for the gentleman farmer who lived across the road. In the photo just above, what looks like a large addition in the back is the original house. The small section in front with hedges was my entrance and housed a full kitchen, a full bath and a huge walk-in closet, (just to give you a sense of scale.) This was added on about 30 years ago by a woman who restored the house down to the last authentic detail of each period and added those modernizations.

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The dining room has original, unpainted wide-plank floors, a beamed ceiling and a walk-in stone fireplace with a bread oven and original wrought iron hooks to hold pots of cooking food and meat. When I was looking for my next place to live, I walked into this room, and knew this was it. It was so warm and cozy; I loved sitting in this room. The 1810 part of the house was built by the gentleman farmer and included two stories, a full attic and basement. He brought his family to live here after his home across the road had a fire. The 1810 portion included two large rooms in the front and the same above with another full bath. The main bedroom was approximately 18′ x 18′, and did I mention, every room had a fireplace, (all non-working, which was a good thing for me, as I know nothing about building fires, properly or otherwise.)

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I painted much of the house when I moved in, keeping more or less to what was there before, but a bit nicer. The bedroom had in it, left by the previous owner, this gorgeous replica antique rope bed which she had custom built. The cats loved playing underneath it, and it was quite an experience at first, sleeping that high up. This house, excepting the dining room, had wonderful 9′ ceilings throughout.

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Because it was a stone farmhouse, the walls were about 18″ thick and provided outstanding built-in space for cats to enjoy at every window. Above, dining room window with Claude.

If there were any drawbacks to this house, I’d say the heating system, which was forced air and left the house feeling cold again as soon as the heat went off, but on the flip-side, it felt like air-conditioning in the summer with  nothing more than a dehumidifier in the DR and an occasional fan. And then there were more than enough small creatures – centipedes the size of alligators and plenty of field mice. The centipedes were too big too kill, for me anyway, so they got used to being herded, and the mice? I had a humane mousetrap and plenty of farmland all around me where they could start a new life.

These were a small price to pay to live here – two porches,  deck on the back, a wide circular staircase in front and bright, airy rooms upstairs, cozy ones down. It was a great house, and indeed it was a home.

Stay tuned … we’ll soon be going forward to 1870.

“There is no place like home.”  – L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

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