Friday, July 8, 2011

House on Houston

It was August of 1969. With five active children and harried parents, our St. Charles Missouri home was too small. One official bedroom, one bath, and an attic converted into two bedrooms just wasn't enough living space. We must have thought small in those days - we even had a tw0-door Dodge Dart to carry our seven member family (a particularly challenging experience if we took a long trip). So, we began to house shop and in fairly short order we found the above house near the high school on Houston Street. But it didn't look like this when we bought it for 11 thousand dollars and got an additional 11 thousand dollars to rehabilitate it.

The trouble started Labor Day weekend when we moved in. It had been converted to three apartments. It had two furnaces, knob-and-spool wiring with sixty amp fuses, and plumbing from the dark ages. We discovered the first of the plumbing problems the first weekend we were there when the sewer in the basement backed up and no sewer service was available on a holiday weekend.

That was the beginning. As time passed an outside stair was torn off - a closet and bathroom was added to the master bedroom - the kitchen was completely redone - plumbing and fixtures in the main bathroom were replaced (Joyce's dad somehow got the old clawfoot bathtub down the stairs and a new one up to replace it). The bathroom was tiled and re-plumbed. The entire house was carpeted and painted inside and out. The job lasted nine months to get finished and we jokingly called it our sixth pregnancy. But it became a lovely place with a lot of good memories of exchange students and fun in a sprawling old house which, reputedly had been built in the 1880's using lumber from a project involving the construction of a bridge across the Missouri River. Oh, by the way, we also converted the main furnace from oil to gas. (The other furnace was already gas.) In the process, I learned to do plumbing, carpentry, roofing, plumbing work, tiling, electrical and decorating. I found I have little talent when it comes to painting but fortunately my wife and daughters were good at that and installing wallpaper. We learned, in no uncertain terms, what it was like when Mr. Blandings built his dream house.

It's nice to go back to some place where we have lived and see our old house in nice condition and still being lived in. When we last saw the Houston Street house we met the current owner who said it was back to being apartments. But he did not invite us in but if the outside is any clue, the place is still cared for and that is good.

1 comment:

  1. They were complicated times but I remember falling in love with that big old house. It was a wonderful place for our large family.