David and I took some time out of what has been a very stressful two weeks around here to do what we used to do all the time but never seem to be able to do anymore - go on a drive about! I've written before how we spent almost three years looking for an old farmhouse to bring back to life; we used to put H on the school bus and hop in the car and spend the day traipsing through overgrown lots upon which stood abandoned farmhouses. We'd throw our steel toed boots and a pair of sneakers in the trunk to change into from our flip flops.....it was most fun when we did the exchange....Just before we'd head home to meet H off the bus, we'd head to the little building used by the woman who ended up being our agent on this house and asking her all sorts of questions about the houses we'd seen.
Things have changed in the six years we've been here - now when we can find the time to go on drive about, we don't look for old farmhouses to buy and fix up, now we look for ones that we can maybe salvage some of the old bead board or window trim or built in armours to use in our house. Two years ago we struck gold with a house that was being torn down and snagged, with the owner's consent, window trim and bead board and a few other things that now can be seen in our house. But this isn't a post about salvaging....its related in a way yes - because even when we experience the joy of salvaging materials from another old house, we feel a degree of sadness at the loss of the old home and the history that goes with it.
There were, in our way of thinking, too many of these old buildings abandoned in this area six years ago. Today, there are even more. We see too many beautiful old houses with rotting scaffolding where someone had started to fix up the beauty but it appears their money ran out. We see houses where there were still family's living in them a year or so ago, now joining the abandoned ones.
When H was in 3rd grade, his classmate and family were chosen for Extreme Home Makeover in the little town we live near; the show didn't just build that family a new home..they also helped several of the neighbors with improvements and repairs - sometimes sprucing up a sagging front porch or repairing a whole roof. This energized the little town and we began to see improvement everywhere, down every street you could see it.....now, the signs of this economy are all too evident as we drive through the proverbial one stoplight town.
As we stopped to fill up the car and then drove slowly through the streets looking at the old homes, I wished I had brought my camera and I was glad that I had not. And its not just the houses in the town that are once again neglected for a lack of money and perhaps even a lack of optimism, the main street, once filled with what looked to be the promise of revitalization, is almost dead - like the homes we saw down the side streets, broken windows and rotting scaffolding dot the scenery.
There are some who say that these homes and buildings should not be saved, that they'll never be energy efficient or they're too far gone to even begin to work with them......but I can't see it that way. I only see the history that we could learn if only...as they say...."the walls could talk" in these buildings. As we've found out personally, its way too hard to get the grants that are out there and even with the tax rebates so often offered, if you make too much money you typically don't qualify and if you do qualify, well, then you have to have the money to make the improvement before you get the credit.....and as we've seen on our drive about - this, plus our current economy, makes for too many abandoned, history filled homes and buildings.