During the course of negotiations for buying the little red house, our real estate agent, Marilyn Lusher and I went to town hall and did a bit of historical digging. (Side note: Marilyn is a take no prisoners, real estate beast from Re/Max in Waterford, CT… I highly recommend!) The house was built in 1866 and has had only two families own the property in all that time! We are the third; I thought that was pretty interesting. The Gray family originally built the house along with a barn in 1866 (Maaaaaaan, I wish the barn was still there!), and was part of a 15 acre property. Educated guessing says that it was possibly a cattle farm… we think. There is a working cattle farm just up the road and is a cool field trip for the boys. The ownership I feel over the history of our house is weird. I look around at my neighbors and think, “at one point in time, I owned you!”. (Who let the CRAZY out?)
The property is now just under an acre. I also can’t help but wonder what made them sell off their land. I mean, money can be the obvious assumption. But money for what? Just to have or was there a more specific reason? Maybe to help their kids start a life? Maybe someone was ill and the money was a necessity for treatment or care? Maybe life on the farm got tiresome and they cashed in for an easier ride? I could go on and on with the what if’s…its’ fascinating to me. I did learn from a survey report done by the RI Historical Preservation Commission in 1976 that Ashaway experienced its’ first and most significant boost in population in the mid nineteenth century. (Right around the time our house was built). I also learned that in 1825 Captain Lester Crandall started an open air business along the river that runs through Ashaway, making fishing line. This location is just around the bend on our street. The company grew over time, and became incorporated in 1883 as Ashaway Line and Twine Manufacturing Company, which exists in operation today, almost 200 years later! Jaxon goes to an after school program at the Crandall House (the original home for Captain Lester Crandall). Josh picks up Jaxon there after work so I don’t have to make the 1 hour and 20 minute round trip twice a day! (Pheeeww!)
While from the outside, the little red house is the cutest Victorian style cottage you’ve ever seen, its’ what’s unseen that’s really desirable! It has what every girl could ever want in a dream home! It has mold in the basement AND the attic, termite damage, a rotted sill plate, left over knob and tube wiring, insufficient support columns, 4 layers of shingles, a sagging roof line, higher radon levels, lead paint… should I go on? I told you it was perfect!
We’ve made some pretty interesting discoveries along the way of our demo work. Some are just fascinating clues to the past and others equal dollar signs. ($$$$!)
One afternoon when Josh was at the house working with my dad, we had a special guest stop by for a visit, John. He and his family bought and moved into the house in 1940. John was 3 years old. His brother eventually took over the home from their mother and lived the rest of his life here, raising two boys. John helped with answers to some questions and speculations. The pink bunny wallpaper in a bathroom? That was actually “the baby’s room” he said, which his brother eventually converted into the 2nd floor bathroom. No one but a baby could have managed in there! The small space was probably big enough for a crib and a dresser… the end.
John also helped lead Josh to one of the most brilliant ideas in our plans for the house thus far. One of those “DING” moments… even though I’m referring to the ding of adding those dollar $igns to the budget! He told Josh that the original and only bathroom in the house, was located in the room that we were going to make into a 4th bedroom on the 1st floor. His brother enclosed the small back porch and created a very, very, we’re talking VERY small half bath on the 1st floor. Our initial plan was just to replace the half bath with new everything, but keep it as the one and only bathroom on the 1st floor; also making it the bathroom that Josh and I would share. (Huh?) This is where I found the wood plank ceiling from the old back porch painted with lead! We decided to go back to its’ roots and make the “4th bedroom” a gigantic bathroom; complete with walk in shower, separate tub, double vanity, and a secluded toilet room. (Aaaaaaaahhh….that’s more like it!) Did I say “Cha-ching?!”
Now, the biggest puzzle John helped us solve was the reason for the state in which the house was left for us to move into. Our contract clearly stated the house and property should have been left in “broom swept condition” when we took over the keys. Josh and Marilyn did a last minute walk trough before closing and found that the basement was still a disaster with broken furniture, decorations, books, memorabilia, and trash; as well as large items of furniture left throughout the house. We were ticked and tried to use it as a last minute negotiating tool, to no avail. We got a “too bad, too sad” response from the estate lawyer. We were so aggravated about the added work and headache! We grumbled and complained several times to each other and family about the mess. We assumed that whomever was responsible for cleaning up the property was probably lazy or angry that they didn’t get what they wanted in terms of selling price for the home. It took me 3 hours to clean out the basement, all hazmat suited up, looking like an alien!
After they went through a tour of the house and Josh learned a little about our home’s history while telling John about our hopes for the future, John stopped Josh to apologize. Apologize for what you ask? This sweet, almost 80 year old man, apologized to Josh for not being physically able to clean up the property and empty it out like he wanted to! (Whaaaaaaaaat?! Yes, you read that correctly). I felt like dying of embarrassment and regret swarmed my conscience. John 7:24 crept into my brain, nestled in and hasn’t let go since. “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”. We had no clue why the house was left the way it was. All we had were assumptions… the wrong judgment by appearances only!
I so wish we had known! Poor, elderly John, the same little boy who at 3 moved into his childhood home, was trying his best to clean and clear out his brother’s things; clearing out his past, his history, before we could start our future. Josh and I would have been eager to help! Seems selfish and self indulgent to have been so pre-occupied with the history of our future, while John was dealing with the future of his history. This is just another example of how I totally blow it on a daily basis; and how my blowing it can bring an invaluable life lesson from the Spirit!
Til’ next time… be blessed!!!