One's teardown is another's treasure

Our house is a very fine house. When we moved into our split, it was a compromise of sorts. The house - around 50 years old - was not new, yet not really old. Instead, it was affordable and fixed up. Nice and new to us. No weekends would be spent rehabbing.

A compromise because I'm an old house person and my spouse a new house person.

Give me quirky layouts, stairs in the kitchen, musty smells from summers past, spirits left behind.

My husband likes pristine. Fresh paint, sparkling fixtures, no bother, new everything.

A house of compromise it was. We could both live in it.

Shortly after we moved in, a woman came over to measure for the wooden shutters I'd wanted.

"Shutters are like fine furniture," she sniffed, "always with the house. I'd reconsider since your house is ultimately a teardown."


Then she pointed out every house within view that was doomed for destruction.

Shame on me. I liked my teardown of a house. She left and I went to the park with my kid.

Later I called her a name to my husband.

And just like that I was introduced into the drama of the house. No need to explain, if you live here, you know. You could write a book about it, comedy or tragedy, you decide.

Don't get me wrong, I love living here. And I know, a lot of towns have joined the teardown craze. It's just that I'm an old house person.

On our walks, my dog Sasha and I would regularly pass by a house on Washington that caught my eye. The lot was huge, full of trees, evergreens, a gate. The house looked a bit rickety. But as we passed, I'd imagine what a magnificent Halloween house it would make. Ghosts and skeletons floating in trees. Spooky music blaring. Then I'd fence the property, adopt too many dogs that would annoy the neighbors. Stuff like that.

One day it went up for sale. Jackpot. Wasn't going to happen, it's bones too old.

I watched and waited as the old girl lingered on. Saying a quick prayer, 'cause you never know. Then one day I drove by and damn, if they didn't clear cut the whole property. I knew demolition was next. I'm no tree hugger, but was that necessary? I burst into tears; it made me sad.

I suppose one day we'll move. To the West Coast. We agree on that. And when we do, I'd love to put my little teardown of a house on my back and carry her with me wherever we land. She's done good here in the Dale.

- Lisa Seplak of Hinsdale is a contributing columnist. Readers can email her at [email protected].