The Little (Stately) House
For a pleasant period of time, I was a permanent dealer in a monthly barn sale in a bucolic spot about 2 1/2 hours from my home. Once a month for its open weekend I would travel there and stay the weekend in the same stately home in an attic AirBnB nearby. It was a monthly vacation for me.
The house was built in 1785, the year the dollar was chosen as the money unit for the United States. It took the present owners six years to lovingly restore the house in the 1980s.
The house is situated right on the street, now under a stoplight. But in the beginning this was a country crossroads and a visitor wouldn’t have far to walk after hitching his horse to a post in front.
As is the case in most all rural hamlets, developers see the profitability in what was long-ago farmland or forests. Over the years that I stayed in this home I was able to monitor, month by month, the ensuing changes.
The homeowner and her husband restored the house and out buildings true to the original materials, right down to the chinking between timber beams. They raised two children here. Now a widow, she is not bitter about the encroaching development. But I have a hard time with it. As a purist who celebrates the history, care and patience that went into creating a piece of furniture, I mourn the loss of round stone wells, listing barns and tiny detached kitchens, all for a selection of houses that looks like any neighborhood in any city in America.
I know; our country has thrived on development like this since men came home from World War II in droves. But I wonder if we don’t now have enough of these wholesale new builds. There are so many deserving historical homes that with a loving touch can be spectacular again. And then you’ve got something built to last, distinct from your neighbor. Something individual; like each one of us.