The Cross House

Trippin’ Down Memory Lane


August, 2014. One day, a woman approached…


…and she said: “Flowers?”

I did not understand, and said: “Sorry?”

She looked up/down the huge facade of the house, and repeated: “Flowers?”

I still did not understand, and simply looked at her, clearly not understanding.

She repeated, again: “Flowers?”

It seemed that she was, somehow, upset about the two pots of flowers to each side of the front steps. And she seemed unhappy about them. But why? So I asked: “Yes, flowers. Don’t you like them?”

She shook her head. “Flowers??????”

Then she left.

This made NO sense to me. Until today. For, today, I came across this image. And the image scared me. Did my house REALLY look this bad once? So pulled apart? So devastated? Because, it has not looked like this for several years and the human mind has an amazing ability to…forget.

Today, when I looked at the image, I belatedly understood what the strange woman was trying to convey.

With a house so obviously a near ruin, why bother with…flowers? This is akin to being in a terrible car accident…and rushing to clean the car windows. Or, fluffing pillows on…Titanic.

Today, I looked at the above image…and smiled. Flowers. Yea, crazy.

But but but, maybe not so crazy.

Maybe not.

In 2014, the Cross House had looked SO bad and for SO long that a huge concern of mine was to let people know, STAT, that things would now be, well, different. I could not wave a magic wand and have the house instantly transform into FULLY RESTORED but I could do some things:

  • Keep the lawn meticulously mowed. And edged! This simple effort, vigorously maintained to this day at the Cross House, can convey to people that, while an old wreck might be, well, an old wreck, somebody cares.
  • Flowers. A few pots of flowers can do wonders in letting people know that, again,ย somebody cares.
  • Clean windows. Dirty windows profoundly blight a house. A house with dirty windows looks unloved and abandoned. Clean windows will transform a near-ruin.

Today, I would do nothing differently. In buying a wreck of a house I strongly urge three things:

  • A crisp lawn.
  • A couple of flower-filled pots.
  • Gleaming windows.

Such efforts will not only make you a better neighbor, but will convey to every passerby that love is in the air.


Today? Nobody questions the flowers.



26 Responses to Trippin’ Down Memory Lane

  1. I know what you mean. I can’t remember the reason why, but a policeman was standing on my lawn and telling me that overgrown bushes signal a vulnerable property. Then, half-way through his spiel, his expression changed and he looked and saw everything I had done and was doing to my property. The overgrown bushes are gone now. Sometime after that I had the money to have someone cut them down and dig the roots. It is important, always, to let people know that someone cares.

  2. Then, the flowers stood out because the house was such a wreck; today they are almost invisible because the house is so grand!

  3. Ditto to all the above!! As usual I am laughing uproariously @ analogues such as–cleaning car windows after MVA or to the comment–fluffing pillows before Titanic sank…. hahaha– Ross the incredible wit!!!

    • I am still laughing as I type — & chuckling to other Ross-isms & varied anecdotes & tales such as –stoner voice of AT&T troubleshooter who stated–“I have solved your problems for all time”…every time I revisit that tale as retold only as Ross can do– with spellbinding & creative panache!!!

  4. Yes, I agree! The little details that show you care are just as important at conveying the message as the big work, which takes much longer to show it’s fruits.

    I am also anal about edging lawns. It’s not even that hard or time-consuming, but it makes it look so much more “finished” and crisp!

    • I am anal about edging lawns, too. Last summer, I spent a big chunk of my outside time edging the lawn, which I hadn’t done in several years. I used a clunky metal tool and edged it all by hand, so it was a good workout. I don’t live in a grand house — I live in one of those little shoe boxes that were tossed up in the 1950s on VA loans for the soldiers returning from WWII. But it made the lawn and house look so much better. Bonus: I live in a state that gets a lot of snow, so it’s much easier to shovel the walk this year. Little things make a big difference in a house.

        • I inherited this thing from my grandfather. Using it takes a lot of muscle, but I love to cook and I love to bake and I really love to eat, so I need the workout ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Flowers in front of a wreck of a house convey the message that someday the Cross House will be beautiful too. Ross, you’ve accomplished so much in four years. Keep up the good work.

  6. My dear friend, may I call you that? I have followed this blog for years. I, too, bought an old home in Kansas and have been slowly working on it. The flower comment made me laugh as ever since my husband and I bought it he has been saying he is working toward getting the yard of the month award in the small town. I would love to talk to you sometime.

    I have a 120 year old stone home and I am only the fourth owner. Continuously lived in all that time. A unique story and we are almost neighbors.

  7. It’s interesting, but I caught the meaning from the first picture immediately and must wonder why your confused visitor could not. Flowers always add cheer and polish. Great job. Your hard work is always inspiring.

  8. I’m not sure that I could plant enough flowers to make my old house look loved right now, LOL…I will be happy when my contractor clears all of the debris and old (80s) kitchen cabinets off my front porch! Nothing like tarps flapping to welcome visitors! But I know the feeling you are talking about; some might say I am polishing a turd right now, but…I take a lot of satisfaction that my windows are gleaming while the siding between them is being stripped…

  9. Back when the house was a wreck, the contrast between the house and the flowers was striking. Now that the front of the house is mostly done, the flowers hardly stand out. I love that you did that. It was like posting a banner that said: Resurrection is on the way.

  10. The flowers are great but clean windows are my thing. I’m no Martha Stewart but my windows are always clean on our fixer-upper.

  11. From day ONE when I saw those flower pots on the entrance porch, I KNEW that house was loved. I totally understand that it’s the little things (when done to perfection by the caregiver), gives such satisfaction, and pride (and much understandable bragging rights!). I’m a new owner of a 90 year old home with lots of character, and I feel much love is always needed to preserve the building’s style history.

  12. You have to have made a large investment in Regency Gold for your woodwork. The house is AH-MAZING! It was lovingly crafted to begin with so its not hard to love it now. If I had an actual comment, it’s in need of a proper paint job. It’s a painted lady; the trim is jewelry. I get the green but its has to be right to do her justice. I’m imagining an old lamp that I’ve seen that has a cream shade and the base looks brass but the actual vase I guess you’d call it is green w/flowers, leaves and a branch with a bird on it. The colors are greens, pinks, oranges, lovely browns, yellows and variations of all the colors combined and mixed thru out. Just me. However, if you did that the traffic would be ginormous (AHA! well played, Sir, well played!) God bless you for saving this house. It’s truly wonderful.

    • Hi, Angie! It’s very nice to meet you! And thank you for the kind words.

      Also, the term Painted Lady originated in the 1960s when hippies purchased “dowdy” Victorian-era house and supercharged them with a LOT of colors. The look became popular and there are numerous books on Painted Ladies.

      But no Victorian-era house was painted as such when new.

      I have actually worked hard to avoid the Cross House becoming a Painted Lady!

      • And you deserve much credit for this, Ross! You’re doing the architectural community a great service in educating many in authentic details like exterior colors, windows, hardware, and interior millwork stain colors. I prefer the authentic earthtone Victorian paint schemes over the Painted Lady style too ๐Ÿ™‚

        If you look inside, however, you’ll see that Ross has no fear of bold color. I’d go as far as to call the living room a bit of a painted lady ๐Ÿ˜‰

  13. When I saw your flower pots the first time I breathed a sigh of relief, โ€œsomeone is finally home in that house.โ€ I thought. Welcome home.

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