This house was built in 1853. My name is third 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 one final time above it all.
Now the house is mine, and no amount of gutting, renovating, rehabbing, deconstructing, constructing can remove all of the detritus of more than a century of lives lived in this house.
Four tons of debris were 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. And carpeting, three layers of wall-to-wall carpeting, one on top of the other covering two staircases, five bedrooms, three hallways, and four small closets. Each layer was a different shade of green. And the final layer was avocado green and matched the kitchen fridge and the sink. The carpet staples alone weighed more than five 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. The ancient cracked plaster walls had veins of horsehair still visible. Penciled notes were scribbled everywhere so the walls looked more like a book. There were mostly numbers, measurements and calculations. But in one spot there were names written. Stacked one on top of the other - Tony, Frank, Sonny, and Luca. These men reached out to me, and like Kilroy declaring, “We were here, we did this”, they said to me, "Now you make your mark."