Tuesday, November 25, 2008


This is was my house.
This is was my house circa 1998 on drugs.
Word on the street was that the white van had been parked there for over a year quickly becoming a haven for neighborhood cats. I still have no idea how the van was able to fit in the driveway due to a large wooden fence installed directly on the lot line (right side of photo).
Oh forgot to mention the drug bust shortly before the bank took ownership.

10 years earlier this home had been accessed for over $ 70k.

On the day I viewed this property with a realtor it smelled so bad that my 3 very young children wouldn't enter, instead planting their feet firmly on the plywood porch floor covering their face with their hands and vigorously shaking their heads NO. Seems that there had been an altercation with a baseball bat & the original toilet in the upstairs bathroom. The resulting flood soaked all the first floor carpet.

The fashionably dressed realtor jumped at the chance to stay with the children while myself & my then husband took a look around.

After a very brief tour ending in the cellar, my soon to be ex asked me if I was on drugs for even considering this as an option.

2 days later armed with work gloves & a flashlight I came back for a good go thur.

What can I say ... one too many episodes of This Old House, and the fact that it was the only house in my price range.

Almost 9 years later this is my urban homestead.
I had thought that by now all the restoration & rehab would be over with. But then life takes over with raising children single all the while learning how to rewire an outlet.
Still needs a new roof (main portion), and as of right now only 3 windows left to be replaced of the original 14, along with countless wood work that is covered in 30 + layers of paint. Then there is the bathroom remodel that we have been collecting materials for over 4 years for. What can I say when you are offered a 1920's claw foot tub for free.
Then there's installing a wood stove from scratch.

Details; built in 1902 as rental income, 3 original upstairs bedrooms with 1 downstairs, parlor, dinning room, kitchen with a pantry closet, no indoor toilet, 3 coal/wood stoves. Cellar sported a large cistern (now holds all my home canned goods). Garage/shed added in 1929 floor paved with slate perhaps from a city works project?
Sometime in the late 1920's the owner's two children lived here as young adults to be close to employment as their parents had moved out to the country. Their mother died in 1928, father remarried then succumbed to work related injuries (city plow truck mishap) at which point the house stayed in the 2ND wife's possession for many years.
Interesting fact found in her obit was that her wake was held in their home 3 blocks away in a house that is still standing. I was able to find hers son's grave but not hers nor her husband's.
I believe that the stepmother & the owner's daughter had a falling out because in 1936 she signed a quick claim deed giving the new wife all rights to this property. On all the paperwork the house was owned by the wife. I found that very interesting that in the early 1900's a married woman owned a home separate from her husband's name.

Sometime in the 1950's a family with 6 children lived here. It was at that time that there was a kitchen fire caused by a stove. An elderly neighbor delighted in retelling how both her & a GF ran into the house and scooped up what seemed to her dozens of children before the fire trucks came. At the time I truly thought she was just telling tales then on a remodel of the kitchen ceiling charred beams verified her adventure.
Even though the deed & title have been a wealth of information I haven't been able to find out exactly what my house sold for in 1902.

~~ pelenaka ~~

P.S. 7/5/2010 per the internet the average cost of a home in 1900 was $1500. Still unable to find out what my home sold for in 1902.


  1. Wow, it sounds like you were able to find out a lot of the history of the house. We've remodeled old houses but not had confirmation of the history. The most interesting was a house built in a mining town in 1906.

    In our neighborhood, we had the only site-built house. The rest were houses relocated from what became a copper pit mine. The tailings hill stretched behind our house, but the house was built prior to its existence as indicated by a horse barn with stable doors now facing the tailings.

    The original house had 25 foot long tongue-in-groove pine plank flooring. By looking at the original floor, we determined layout of the main room. It looked like there had been French doors in the middle of the room that could be latched into a handmade copper plate in the floor. We found the original stove location.

    As we remodeled, we learned several important lessons: 1. When remodeling or fixing up a place, estimate the cost and time involved. Then double these numbers. 2. Cost and time will actually be at least triple your original estimate. 3. There will always be more projects so don't assume you'll ever finish.

  2. ROFLMAO, ooohhh Chile I long ago realized that 1)I won't ever be enough $ to complete my old house & 2)much like laundry this is a never ending story. The best I can hope for is that there won't be unders lying all over the floor when company comes over.
    Don't you just see red when you think of someone removing those French Doors ?
    My first floor bedroom/dinning room once had pocket doors.
    Makes a gal wanna drink.

  3. Someone on Homesteading Today forums mentioned your blog, and I've been reading it for a few hours!

    My wife and I bought a 1906 home right in downtown in our midwestern town (the city has a ton of history, and this house has seen the last century or so). Tiny lot, and someone build a big garage in the back, but I'm working on getting things started. On the HT forums, it seems like everyone has acres and acres. Great to see someone putting small spaces to use.

    I've learned that, in our town, in the late 1920's, the vast majority of food was grown within about 50 miles of town, with most people on tiny lots in the city growing a large portion of their own vegetables, and only going to the 400+ (!) grocery stores for staples.

    Now, most people don't have a tomato plant (although one person a couple blocks away (closer to the heart of downtown) has some chickens!), there are around 12 or fewer grocery stores, and food is shipped from all over the world so we can have out-of-season fruit all year.

    Also, everybody walked back then. Fortunately, our home is in walking distance of most places we have to go frequently (including the potential co-op grocery that people are trying to get off the ground, assuming they get their intended location).

    Due to busy-ness with getting house livable (meth-heads had stripped the wiring, 1 reason why we got the abandoned property for as cheap as we did), we didn't plant a garden yet (in over a year). Tomorrow, my goal is to get our first bed planted with some crops to mature before the first Indiana frost.

  4. Congradulations on the urban homestead! Gotta love seat equity. And hello to a fellow HTer. I know what you mean about the type of homesteading that is discussed on HT forums but I have gleaned alot of knowledge from peeps who have all that elbow room.
    Our local paper recently ran an article about all the M&P corner stores in my city. Hard to visualize that it worked out to one store every 3 or 4 blocks.
    An elderly neighbor who was born in a house her grandfather built 7 blocks from here didn't own a car until she was in her 30's/late 1950's. Shoe leather express or a friend with a car. Both her Grandfather & Father were delivery men for the larger stores that handled items like fresh meat. Apprently not every corner store carried meat unless it was smoked sauage or ham. They also delivered bulk items such as 50 pound sacks of flour & sugar to homes & bizs. They also cleaned horse stalls back when every fourth house owned a buggy (1900's).
    Her Grandmother had a thriving home biz growing berries in her huge city lot of 100' x 400'. Clients woudl give her their orders a few days indavance & by late afternoon on teh day of pick up baskets of Strawberries or Blackberries would be cooling on the cellar floor. With this income plus selling fresh eggs she was able to pay the taxes on their urban homestead.

    Since my home & hood is based on a 1900's lifestyle I have found postive results from going with the flow. That is to say not rework my house into a modern day split level ranch but to enjoy & reap the benefits of an old fashioned cellar, double hung windows, and doors that close off rooms. There was & is good reasons for our style of architecture.

    I have found alot of useful info from turn of the century urban farming books. Not to mention the PBS series 1900 house.
    As to the garden - think cold frame I bet bartering or selling salad greens would be a good thing.


Thanks, good to know there are other's with this interest