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100-year-old gems

Linda Wilk

The other night, my husband Larry and I walked downtown to be part of the Boston Hill Center ribbon cutting and open house. What a proud moment for Steve Sapp and all at Marion Housing Authority who have been involved with the project. It also is a proud moment for Marion, as we continue to see growth and possibilities.

Another area of growth I was pleased to see was a house at the corner of Fifth and Garfield that has sat empty for four years. The house, more than 100 years old, had been overgrown with brush and other kinds of weeds. As my neighbor and I would walk by the house picking up trash, there was always that wonderment of what would happen to that house. It is one of many houses in our neighborhood that in the day I am sure was a stately home that probably entertained business entrepreneurs and socialites.

Friday evening, as Larry and I walked down Fifth Street, we stopped to comment to the man who was clearing brush from the front of the house with his long blue rubber gloves and trimming tool. He told us he had recently bought the house and was working hard to clear all the debris from the property, as well as remodel the inside of the home.

We told him how much we appreciated him cleaning up the property and welcomed him to the neighborhood.

A couple of hours later, as we walked back home after touring Boston Hill Center and eating at Los Amores, the man in the house came out and asked us to come inside and see his home. As we walked up the steps to the front porch, he told us there were 18 rooms in the house, and that didn’t include the basement or attic. So, we went into the front room and walked with him through the main floor, up to the second floor and then to the third floor that he commented would be his man cave.

While to me, the amount of work that needed to be done would be astronomical, the new owner seemed in his glory, detailing all the work he had already done and plans to continue to turn this sadly neglected house into his home.

There were so many unique parts to the house, from the sink and counter tops and back porch on the second floor, to extremely large walk-in closets and rooms that just didn’t stop. It was also sad as the new owner commented how the pocket doors had been taken out of the house and the house had shifted, resulting in one of the rooms’ ceiling plaster cracking and falling from the lath. The man quickly commented that all he needed to do was put a piece of sheetrock up to repair the hole where lath still held the ceiling in place.

The work that will be required in some respects reminded me of the work we undertook when we purchased our house 25 years ago. The difference being, we were young and naïve. As this man beamed with pride, so we as well looked beyond the wall falling down in our kitchen, the overwhelming stench of cat urine throughout our house, the carpets that had to be torn out and the buckets upon buckets of crap that we hauled out of the basement.

For us, the fireplace with the oval-shaped mirror that I would learn years later was the same fireplace as was originally in my grandparent’s house, and the stained glass piano window in the dining room and back staircase, sold us. It also didn’t hurt that we had an extra room right off of the entryway for Larry’s pool table that also has French doors and pocket doors, or a front porch that now has a swing.

We had been looking for something as newlyweds that we could afford, and while my husband preferred to be in the county, we just couldn’t find anything we could afford.

It was as if God was telling us, this is where you belong. Our house too is old – 140 years – and like any older home has its quirks, like the basement that I only go in to if there is a confirmed tornado to seek safety.

And, honestly, our home on Fifth Street has been good to us. We have raised three children in our house. We have always had incredible neighbors and a park right near our house.

It is encouraging any time we can see someone choose to invest in our neighborhood. Too often people seem to shy away from fixer uppers. Had it not been for the fact that my husband is very handy when it comes to construction and remodeling, we too probably would have kept looking.

There is just so much character in an older home that I would say can’t be found in ones that many times seem to be cookie cutter in nature.

So, as we welcome and encourage our new neighbor down the street, we also are hopeful that others will take a chance on one of the other vacant houses in our neighborhood and choose to make the investment in Marion that will improve the quality of life not only for the new homeowners, but all in the neighborhood, city and county.