The Cross House

When Superman Died

When I was, say, twenty, I had a built-in assumption: I was Superman.

This was never a conscious thought. It was, rather, just somehow understood.

I felt I could do anything. I could pick up heavy loads. I could climb ladders all day with impunity. I could work long, hard hours to no ill effect.

This approach to my body, the Superman Assumption, continued into my early forties. Then one day I lifted an incredibly heavy dresser into the back of my pick-up. And gave myself a hernia. Which I later spent $6,000 to have surgically repaired.

That was an expensive realization: I was not Superman. I was very human. I was also a human…getting older.

In 2014, I purchased the Cross House. I was fifty-seven.Today, at sixty-one, that sounds so…youthful! Ahhh, to be a mere fifty-seven again!

Since my hernia twenty years ago, I have recognized the limits to my body. In addition, about every five years I have to downgrade What I Can Do. I really hate this.

The big focus today on the house was to buy and install a temporary door between the second-floor sewing room and sleeping porch. The door was to replace a big piece of plywood installed two years ago which offered little protection against wind. With the house now heated, I am highly interested in keeping the heat inside the house. So, the plywood had to go.

The new door came fully framed. It was heavy, too. At forty, I would not have hesitated to pick up the door, place it atop my mini-van, drive to the house, haul the door off the minivan, take it up the front steps, and the main staircase, and into the sewing room.

But sixty-one-year-old me?

There was no way I was going to do that.

Since buying the house, I have relied on Justin for such tasks. Justin though is on a cruise. And Ross really wanted the door now. So, while ordering the door at the nearby lumber yard, I asked something I had never in my life asked: “Could you deliver the door, and could a young person help bring it into the house and upstairs?”

Home Depot would have scoffed. The local lumberyard said: “Of course.”

I felt instantly better.

Fifteen minutes later, as I stood in the parlor of the house, the Mark II truck arrived. I stepped out to greet it and young Collin. We hauled the door up to the sewing room and then I asked: “Have you ever seen the house?” Collin said no. He also said he was a history student and was fascinated by the house.

Oh. Oh! So I gave Collin a quick tour. Just as he departed, I asked his age. “Twenty-two.” Overcoming my instantaneous surge of extreme jealously, I replied: “Wow! And you love old houses?” He nodded yes. “That makes me so happy! I often worry that young people don’t care about history and old houses, so I wonder who will protect our architectural heritage after us old people are gone!”

Collin smiled. As he walked to the truck, I felt an upsurge of hope for the future.

 

The temporary door installed. I know, shocking that I actually brought something so horrible into the house. Please don’t tell anybody? It will be our secret.

 

The opening where I installed the door originally looked just like the adjacent window to the right. In about a year, if all goes well, it will again look as it did in 1894. The lost stained-glass window is being recreated as these words are written, and I plan to have a steel “window” made which will look just like the original sashes but will open like  door. I know, clever! (The new “window” will need to be steel in order to be used as a door.)

In 1894, one had to crawl through the open lower sash to access the sunporch. Really! The steel door, while looking just like a pair of window sashes, will allow easy access to the sun porch.

 

Looking to the sun porch. This is my current entrance to the scaffolding tower.

 

Thus, old Ross with the help of young Collin, managed to make things just a little better.

 

 

 

24 Responses to When Superman Died

  1. I won’t tell anyone about the door if you don’t. I think the steel frames window is an excellent idea. That porch fascinates me. It’s so cool. In Australia we had less than a million people when Cross House was built hence very few houses of this stature were built so I find gorgeous old buildings like this amazing.

  2. I’m 18, and I’m a frequent reader of your site. I hope that further raises your opinion of young people! I definitely want a fully intact older house when I grow old enough to buy one.

    • Hi, Jp!

      I have a very high opinion of young people.

      I just wasn’t sure that they cared about old houses!

      When I purchased the Cross House in 2014, my realtor told me that she could not make a sale of any house older than 1950 to a young couple. “They all want newer houses. This wasn’t true even a decade ago when I could show a young couple a house from 1920 or 1905 and could still make a sale. Today? I can only show them post-1950 houses and then only if they are fully updated.”

      That freaked me out, but several other realtors have confirmed this trend.

      This is why Collin made me so happy. And why you have made me happy!

      • I mean, not all younger people, or older people for that matter, care about old houses. I guess it takes a certain kind of person to be willing to buy a house like that, and it’s really inspiring to see a blog where someone is so willing to take it on.

        So, thanks Ross. Keep it coming dude.

  3. Always such a good thing when you make things just a little bit better. All those little bits add up to something big and beautiful.

    Way cool idea about the steel window! That sun porch is one of my favorite parts of your house.

    Yes that temporary door is shocking though!

  4. I really understand the “superman died” thing…had to admit I couldn’t do what I used to a couple years ago. Doesn’t stop me from trying, but I pay for it if I do. Sucks, but the alternative is missing all the wonderful things you’re doing to Cross House.

    Hopefully you will be able to complete the window rebuild before it rains too much. It looks like the porch is higher than the interior room… which is a bad thing for keeping the interior dry.

    • A favorite saying of my ex husband, and one of two useful things I learned from him. The other was “righty tighty, lefty loosey” *grin*

  5. Hurrah for Superman Ross for finding a way to make the sewing room weather-tight and the porch accessible! Hurrah for Collin for helping — and giving us encouragement about young old house lovers. (You too, Jp!)

    If the interior side of the door will look just like a window, you have me wondering what the exterior side of the door will look like. Shingles and siding to make it look like a window from the porch? 🙂

  6. As a 21 year old who is obsessed with historical architecture I wish I lived nearby because then I might have a chance to help volunteer at the Cross house with whatever you need help with!

    I live in Indiana though. In my town at least there are neighborhoods with many incredible old houses, so, for now I’ll have to content myself with plotting on how to own one for myself one day and reading old house blogs. Sigh.

    • HI Alex, here in Ft. Wayne, we have MANY old houses. The trend is now that people are looking at them because they’re so inexpensive. They do need some loving, for sure and they may need some work. Nothing a young, enthusiastic person such as yourself couldn’t handle though! Come on up to the Fort! Cool things are happening around here.

      • I live close by in South Bend actually! Same trend is happening here too, lots of revitalization happening and also lots of old houses going on the market for very cheap. When I was a kid I thought I would move far away from here but now I think it would be far more interesting to stay, in part due to how cheap it can be.

  7. Ross,

    I too am not Superman anymore. And I had a cool thing happen at my local lumberyard yesterday. I am in the middle of major structural repairs to my little house, and ordered 9 bundles of Roxul insulation (I refuse to use anything else…. stuff is AWESOME!)

    However, I have no room to store it, AT ALL. SO I tentatively asked if I could pay for it, but leave it there, picking it up as I needed it.

    “Sure, no problem!”

    You don’t get that kinda service at Home Depot! And I consider the extra few bucks I spent getting it to be fair compensation for the “storage fee”

  8. I kinda like the idea of hoisting up a window and making my escape over the sill to that lovely porch. I admit, though, that it wouldn’t be easy or graceful to do it with a wine glass in one’s hand. And the temporary door looks much better than the plywood. Another bit of the south face gets an upgrade (however temporary).

  9. The porch is way cool but with the opening so close to the floor what would keep you from tripping and just tumbling out? Or am I missing something?

  10. I’m 36 and so like your blog. I like the history and architechtural things and your way of showing readers how to restore this beautiful old house.

  11. I feel your struggle Ross. So glad to see JP, Alex and Collin interested in old homes. You are correct, when we are gone who will keep these beauties alive?
    Glad that door is only temporary. The house understands though.

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