I have passed by this house on my way to work every day for over twenty years, I admired it for its steadfastness in the urban surroundings. It had once been a beautiful place with gardens, and a gazebo in the back, which had been a more recent addition. The garage was large and interesting in a rambling sort of way that appeared to have been converted from farm use to modern use, and there was an interesting little shed, painted to match the house, it looked like a house itself. The property also had several old trees, especially noted was a grand old oak tree in front. And especially of note, the mailbox at the end of the driveway had a pole with a whimsical second mailbox way up high hanging from an extended arm at the top of the pole, it was marked “Air Mail.”
Of course, this house sat at the intersection of busy roads, it had a front row seat to two stoplights, the city bus stops, daily traffic jams AM and PM, accidents, or almost accidents as cars on slippery days slid through the intersection on the downhill side, the street is a nightmare to drive through on any given day mostly because people drive like assholes and do not follow the rules of the road. There’s an apartment complex to one side, an old gas station stood empty next to it with a “For Sale” sign on it for many years, and beyond that several businesses and more apartment buildings. The house remained as a reminder of what had once been, and for many years, it was always beautiful. But of course, nothing lasts forever.
A couple of years ago, I began to notice the house was becoming shabby, the porch started to sag, the siding needed painting, and some boards fell off along the bottom edge where it had rotted, but the yard stayed neat, a service was coming around to take care of the basics, mowing, plowing. The “Air Mail” box must’ve fallen off during one of the many storms that passed through our area. Then one morning, I saw a U-Haul drive away with several vehicles along with it. The life went out of the house. No one moved in.
The abandoned gas station and the land surrounding it had been for sale for quite a spell and finally sold, and sometime last year the wheeling and dealing for the future of the land was being sorted out by the city and the developer. It’s some new multipurpose retail and residential construction going in there (including “20 Luxury Units” the sign says.) Yes, they even posted the layouts of their multiple use plan. Apparently, this house was the last holdout. This past week the bulldozers have been busy tearing up the land around the house. The garage is gone, the shed is gone, the old gas station gone, the gazebo gone, the trees that look to be over one hundred years old were cut down—these photos show all that was left as of Friday morning, the house and the old oak tree in the front. I knew this was my last chance, and as we drove by, I snapped a few pics on my phone. I was surprised to see that it was still there on Friday night, but I don’t think it’s going to be much longer.
As an owner of an old homestead where the surrounding land that had once been the farm for the farmhouse is slowly being built up, I feel a deep sadness for these old places that are being pushed out by progress. That old house has a history of its own. The walls were witnesses to the lives within and the windows watched the world go by. In one photo, the house appears dismayed by what has happened, and it fears for itself. The old oak tree, battered by many storms, had hung onto its last leaves well into January, is now preparing to unfurl its new leaves on schedule, unaware of its fate—but I’m certain it felt the loss of its younger brethren as they were cut down the other day. Or maybe it’s just me making it all up—my overwhelming empathy that sometimes gets me into trouble. Or maybe, I’m in fear for myself.
Added note 3/28/2017
The Old Oak tree was cut down today. The House is still standing, for the first time without the tree standing tall, it’s in pieces on the ground.