I have a terrible affliction.
I want to save every old, endangered house I come across.
The affliction is powerful and debilitating.
When I was in high school, I was riding my bike along Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, Florida, and stopped dead in my tracks in front of a lovely 1920s bungalow. It looked immaculate, but all its window sashes were missing. This was an ominous sign.
The front door was also gone, so I walked right in.
And gasped. The living room floor had the most stunning and intricate wood parquet I had ever seen.
In the dining room was another wholly different pattern of dazzling, intricate parquet.
So, too, the bedroom hall. And in the two bedrooms.
Such floors are unusual even in mansions, so what were they doing in this sweet bungalow? And why all the rooms, when even in a mansion such floors would only be in the main rooms?
And why were the windows and front door missing?
Some research discovered that this fine home, which until just recently had obviously been deeply beloved (based on its immaculate condition, the missing bits notwithstanding), was being knocked to the ground to make way for Interstate I-95.
THIS fabulous home with THESE world-class floors was being bulldozed?
I could not get my head around the concept.
Had the world gone totally insane?
Many decades later I still think of the bungalow, and looking back realize that it had either been built as a showroom for a parquet company, or, as I suspect, was built by a parquet floor installer. This was his work. And he was proud. I would have been honored to have met the man.
So, as you can see, my affliction is of long standing.
725 Exchange, Emporia, Kansas
As I wander around Emporia I cannot help but notice houses which look endangered.
Two blocks due north from the Cross House is 725 Union. It has been condemned by the city. At a glance it does not look like much, and I have no doubt that very few people would see what I see. To my eyes, the house is a worthy restoration candidate, and, once restored, I have no doubt that buyers would flock to it — if I could get my hands on it.
The house is one of the oldest in the city, and may date as early as the 1860s. It is no later than the 1870s.
The house is petite, and I would make it more so by lopping off the rear, non-original addition.
I fear that there is zero hope for 725 Exchange but that will not stop me from making some calls to see if anything can be done to save the house. I fully appreciate that in its current condition almost nobody would agree that the house might have value. But the house does have value. Not only for its historical associations, but having an empty lot on the corner does not actually make the neighborhood better. An empty lot also reduces the tax rolls, so everybody else’s property tax will get a bit higher. And having one less family in the city is not good.
If the population of Emporia were in decline, as is not uncommon, then, no, this house just could not be saved. It would make no sense. But Emporia is not in decline.
And, I bet that this home, restored, would be a lot more attractive than any new home built on site. Morever, having the home restored is MORE a likelihood than anybody building on the site. New home builders tend to want more land.