Nearly Every Day I walk or bike my way to my favourite beach entrance which happens to be the Chauncey Howard Park Beach Access. Which means I pass the same houses. Oh, there are small differences each day of course. Different flowers blooming, someone painted their house, different car in the driveway, dog outside sniffing things, cat in the window peering out, people to chat with along the way. But I was truly surprised to see this.
805 Ormond St. used to be a very cute little grey house with white trim. It was for sale the very first time we came house hunting in Venice. I guess I was so accustomed to seeing the "For Sale' sign in front of it that I didn't notice when it was gone. Tim and I actually saw the inside of the house once. There was an open house. It was advertised as being two bed/two bath and just over 1000 square feet. It was a dollhouse! Each room was perfect but miniature. I could stand in the middle of the kitchen and touch everything in it. The second bathroom was in the carport so literally, outside. But the house, built in 1953 so the exact same age as I, was adorable though too small for us. The only reason we checked it out at all was the location. 3 houses from the beach. Wow. We tried really hard to figure out a way to make it work for us before deciding against it.
This is how it works on the island. There is limited space and very few lots that aren't businesses, parks or houses already. So people buy houses, tear them down and build anew. You have to bear in mind that even a teensy little older house like this one still had a price tag commensurate with it's proximity to the water. And houses on the island are not cheap, merely by virtue of being "on the island". But it still surprises me every time another house is purchased, torn down and then a new house springs up in it's place.
I did look the original house up on line and was surprised to see that the last time the house was sold was in 1987. So the first owner lived there for 34 years. The second owner had the house for 29 years. And now the third owner had it torn down. Don't misunderstand, please. I'm not saying the new owner should not have torn the house down. Not at all. Remember I saw the inside. It was very circa 1953 and had very few updates since then. And it was so very teensy. Hey, the first thing we did in our house we completely tear out and redo the kitchen. I get it. But it's a little bit sad too.
Maybe it was the little red and white checkered curtains still remaining on the window of the ruined wall that made me sad. Once upon a time, that was the kitchen window. Someone either purchased or made that silly little curtain which doesn't really fit the window anyway, but when they put it up it brightened that ittybitty room and helped to make it feel like home. It still looks pristine, doesn't it. Oddly appears to be freshly washed and ironed which is so out of place in the midst of all the destruction. The other thing that I was curious about:
Someone went out of their way too remove this one door and move it out of harms way when the entire rest of the house has been taken apart, willy nilly. Isn't that odd? I mean it's a great door. Rather handsome in a solid, traditional wood door sort of way. Do you suppose it was saved to be used again in the new house? I would be surprised if that were to be the case. In the vast majority of these "tear it down and rebuild" situations, the houses that go up are very similar to each other in appearance. New, to be sure, up to date, yes indeedy, shiny and sparkling with contemporary do-dads and thing-a-ma-jigs.
Once again, I am not against new homes either. You will note that we had the opportunity to buy this house and passed. It was too small and needed far too much updating inside even for us. What I'm saying is that 95% of the new construction looks exactly the same. Each house is a clone of the other. Right down to the colour of the exterior. And this left behind door does not suit those houses at all. Most new houses here look a lot like this:
This unfinished house is also on a lot where the existing house was torn down. The older houses, while "old" at least have some character. They look different from each other. They are unique, they have character and personality and quirky charm. And they are different colours too. While initially the rainbow of house colours made my eyebrows raise a bit, I'm accustomed to it now and I find it appealing. Instead of tan. Lots and lots of tan on the new houses. Occasionally some rebel paints theirs a pretty ocean-y blue but that's it. 80% tan 20% ocean blue. Two choices, apparently.
I'm happy for the new owners. I'm sure they are very excited about the progress. But I'm also a little sad for the old house. It's been there for 63 years. And now I'm anthropomorphizing a building. Maybe it's the memories that I just know were locked into that structure. In all those years there had to have been a lot of laughter and probably a few tears there. I think about the meals made in that kitchen, the sand swept out the door and picture a family playing Scrabble around the table on a rainy Saturday afternoon. I get silly and romantic notions about a house. Probably because we moved so much when I was growing up. We rented houses, usually, so I grew up comfortable with a house that already has it's own history. I like seeing those little indicators of previous owners, the charm bracelet I found on the top shelf in the back corner of a close, the pencil marks of a child's growth chart on the inside of a closet door, the slightly faded photograph of an unknown couple smiling into the camera..... These are the things you cannot find in a brand new home. Those are the things you end up leaving behind.
I know new memories will be made there in the new house that will be built. But I sincerely hope someone is still cherishing the old ones. Because the house is no longer there to remember.
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.