Saturday, March 3

302 Park Avenue


Top: Circa 1951
Bottom: Circa 1957
This is the last house I lived in with my parents, before moving away after college. As you can see, they made a number of improvements to the house after they purchased it. The top photo was taken before they bought the house in 1952. It was not in excellent condition, and their purchase price was $12,500. At that time, no one in our family knew who the architect was and it was never even considered, I suppose.

Several years ago, an old high school friend of mine sent me a clipping from the Sunday paper, of an article noting the homes in that area of town, which had been named Luna Park after an old amusement park that had burned about 82 years ago. The houses there were all built between 1900 and 1930. Ours was built in 1905, and is believed to be the work of John Norman, the first black architect to register with the American Institute of Architects. The article said that the area was a good prospect for the National Historic Register, if the residents wanted to pursue it.
My parents left that home in the 1970's and moved away for several years. Had that house been for sale at that time, I have no doubt they would have bought it again. Everytime the house is for sale, I check the currect price and condition. I was very sad to hear last year that the home has been heavily damaged by burst water pipes, and the floors (beautiful hardwoods) would all need to be replaced or refinished. It is a shame that was allowed to happen. The previous owners moved away while the house was up for sale, and it remained unheated through the winter. That was a big mistake! The house had previously sold to an attorney for $80 thousand something, and the last time I checked it was on the market for much, much less, due to the damaged floors.

This was a great house. It was not centrally air-conditioned, but it was nearly always cool in summer and warm in winter, given that the walls were 12" thick. It has a full basement, which during the time we lived there, never had a leak. Originally, the house had only one bathroom, but my dad installed a shower and toilet in the basement which was a great convenience for him. We also had a garage at the rear of the house, which was not common for that neighborhood, and a pretty iron fence around the front yard.

The people who owned the home before we bought it were educators, who travelled a great deal. They built a concrete gold-fish pond in the backyard and it had a central fountain. They kept koi in the pond and grew water lilies. They had also planted a vine they had bought in Japan. I don't know if it was legal to bring that into the country back then or not. It grew up a trellis on the back porch.

The good memories I have of that house are neverending. When we moved there, I was 12. When I left, I was 22. I spent what were probably my most formative years there. It pains me no end to see what has happened to it. Sometimes I wish I could buy it and restore it to the former glory. But that would be futile, and I wouldn't want to live there anymore. This neighborhood is going the way of many older areas in every city in this country. A lot of the good people who lived there died off or went to nursing homes. The houses are beginning to be run-down and unkempt, and the current residents don't seem to care if they paint or cut the grass or pick-up trash on the street. I think it is a darned shame that this is allowed to happen, but I don't know what any of us can do about it.
Sorry about the long post. I could write reams about this house!

23 comments:

brendalove@gmail.com said...

Its an adorable house. Too bad it is going downhill.

surcie said...

Wow, they really did make it look cheerful and pretty. But time takes its toll and so do people. My not-as-old and formerly-pretty neighborhood in Mission Viejo, CA also went to pot. I can understand your sadness.

Suburban Island said...

Our old homes can hold such memories. I love that you have these pictures of the house over time.

Greg said...

You have written a very nice tribute to an old friend. It is smiling in its dotage.

Marty: said...

I went inside a house I lived in as a little girl and I wish I'd just stayed inside the memory. The rooms looked so small, and the hall so dark. The kitchen had been redone and the woodwork I remembered had been changed. The basement had been remodeled, and my room wasn't even there anymore. I decided I'd never do that again. When my family moved out, it became just another house. Our home went with us.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

I loved reading about the History of your old Homestead...And seeing these pictures, also, was wonderful. It is sad when people allow houses to bec ome so run down that to salvage them is a huge huge task...I hope this wonderful old house somehow does get saved and restored!

Alan G said...

I can really relate to this post. I have recently taken some photos of the house I grew up in along with other photos of the surrounding neighborhood. Most of those photos would mean nothing to anyone else but for me they capture a ton of memories. It does seem to send a warm feeling through the old bones to see the home you loved so much as a kid along with all the thoughts associated with those times.

And like the home you grew up in, mine along with the old neighborhood has suffered dearly over the years. That is what tends to salt the joy with some measure of sadness. Nevertheless, it is home and always will be.

Star said...

Gee. My parents home had no air condtioning and only one bathoom as well. How did we ever survive it! Michele sent me this way, although I ould have been by on my own.

PI said...

Judy that was very interesting. The opposite seems to happen here so that some of the houses I lived in would be beyond my means now. A Victorian one, for instance has been tarted up to getting on for a million pounds. I suppose we must be grateful we had the pleasure of them.
Here from Michele's

Crimson said...

So much character in that house! I feel that way about my childhood home, as well. Luckily my dad still lives there, but I'm fearing that soon he'll be "down sizing" and the house will gone from us. My folks bought that house for $49,000 a little over 20 years ago. It appraised last year at $165,000. Not too shabby! It was a total fixer upper when they bought it. I remember pulling up carpet and finding maggots!!! Imagine that! My dad is an architect/engineer and so was able to remodel it all without labor costs. So many fond memories, now I guess this comment turned into a post of its own!

ET said...

In our neighborhood we blame the "renters" for the deterioration.
Around here renters don't seem to take pride in the house or the neighborhood. Here today, gone tomorrow, so why should they bother?

Bob-kat said...

That looks like a lovely house and obviously has many memories for you :-)

Thanks for the kind words on my blog. They really are appreciated. I'm feeling pretty awful still so those who have visited me with supportive comments, like yourself, have been most welcome.

rosemary said...

When ever we return to California we go by my childhood home. I will never be able to go into it again...long story...my sibling lives in it...it has become shabby and looks like it needs a hug. I remember every nook and cranny and so many memories like you have. Wonderful pictures as always.

srp said...

It is a shame that this couldn't be modernized while keeping the overall look and feel of the place. I went by the house I lived in in Roanoke last fall. It has had a better fate. The people have taken down the old apple tree and painted and kept the brick fixed up. It had a paved driveway (short) and a new carport. Very nice curb appeal and I was nine when we left there.

Carolyn said...

Your parents turned it into a darling house! I hate to hear it's been let go so badly. Someone should restore it and if it qualifies, register it.

We looked at a house on Park Ave. in Charleston. It was a cute small dutch colonial. Your post reminded me of that one :)

Linda said...

what a shame....too bad it wasn't better taken care of. But what great history!

Michele sent me tonight!

sage said...

great memories--you could have gone on telling more about a house (a few authors have even written books about them!)

Wordnerd said...

You grew up during such a wonderful time -- what a great post!

Weary Hag said...

This post reminds me of my "old attic" post. I love reminiscing and it's great fun to read someone else's memories as well. I love that you have the two pictures up together too - great stuff!
It was a nice house ... you must be a bit heartbroken that the neighborhood and the house are being let go.
One of my later teenage houses (that I lived in with my parents) has since been torn down and an ugly four story brick condo building put in its place. It pains me to see that stupid building every time I pass it.

Sonia said...

Your old house looks very nice!
I have many photos of the houses I live in and I miss them so much!

utenzi said...

It amazes me how much bigger "normal" houses are today, Judy. Even when I was a kid they'd gotten a lot bigger than the one you grew up in and today it's hard to find anything under a thousand sq feet. Why do we need so much space??

Fran aka Redondowriter said...

I just love to look at the photos of old homes we have lived in--and Judy with the knobby knees is just too adorable. The planters are really cute, too. I have never seen the Vanderbilt estate you show here, but have toured their home in Shelburne, VT. And I think they had one in Newport, RI. I can't even imagine living in one of these big, old mansions, but then they had servants galore.

Raggedy said...

The condition of the house is so sad to hear.
I am glad the house brought you so much joy when you lived there. It is hard to realize that not all home owners care about the home the way you did.
Hugsssssssssssss