This house was made in 1853. My name is third name on the deed.
The first name is evidence of a house newly built and quickly sold in 1853. The second name represents 3 generations of a family of men and women who loved and worked and struggled and gave birth and died in this house.
Long before there were immigration laws, before the government legalized immigrant contract laborers, banned prostitutes, convicts, polygamists, Chinese, lunatics, idiots, and political radicals from entering this country. Before the Civil War and before there was an Ellis Island over ten million immigrants came to America. So for all I know this second name on the deed, this immigrant family could have been murdering thieves escaping from the long arm of the law in their homeland.
But I do know something of who they were. I know the last living member of the family was a single woman who had taken care of her parents until they died. Then she looked after her four brothers until one by one they married and other women took care of them. One brother never married and the two of them kept house together until she laid him in the ground. There was an electric stair chair for this last alone single sister. She rose to the second floor. Descended to the first. The basement and third floor stopped existing for her. And then the whole world stopped existing for her as she ascended on final time above it all.
Now the house is mine. No amount of gutting, renovating, rehabbing, deconstructing, constructing can remove all of the detritus of more than a century of lives lived in my house.
Four tons of debris was carried away to the landfill. I know it was four tons because I paid the price – charged by the tonnage. This house was cocooned by drop ceilings and dark paneling attached to plaster walls with pine furring strips - and carpeting – three layers of wall to wall carpeting covering two staircases, five bedrooms, three hallways, and four small closets. Each was a varying shade of green - the top layer was avocado to match the kitchen fridge and the sink. The carpet staples alone weighed more than a few pounds.
Once the house was stripped bare and walls started to come down and floorboards pulled up the house began to divulge its secret holdings.
Ancient cracked plaster walls were revealed with veins of embedded horsehair still visible. Penciled notes were scribbled everywhere so the walls resembled aged parchment pages. Mostly numbers, measurements and calculations but in one spot names were stacked one on top of the other - Tony, John Mark, and Luke. These men were reaching out, like Kilroy declaring, “We were here, we did this.”