picture of a white onion

Onion House

This guest blog is another in a series of blogs by Marie Stewart.

As you may recall hubby and I bought the house on the corner with the perfect location, and a history of nearly 50 years as a rental, and three apartments (officially), and over one hundred years of history. It’s a project, we knew this walking in.

We’ve been here a year now.  Watching the garden, seeing what might pop-up and surprise us. Finding all the places and innovative uses for spray insulation. Trust me, there is a whole rant about spray insulation in my future. The year has let us get to know the house, what works, the quirks and the disturbingly long list of what doesn’t work. But, hey, we expected that.

We have also had the opportunity to talk to our neighbors and learn more of the house’s history. It was a frat house, unofficially, for a while. That, in itself, explains a lot of the things we have found tucked into spaces.  And the pornographic lampshade we found in the attic. And the heel marks on the ceiling.  And the stippling effect on the hardwood floors in a couple of areas.  Yeah, the mind kind of boggles. I wasn’t much of a partier in school, more of the science nerd, but still, you have to admire the joie de vive. It’s a good sign.

And while, it was three apartments apparently there was also another person, an older resident of the town, living in the basement.  I haven’t heard further of that story, but I’m still digging. And upstairs in the attic, at the time of our purchase, there was duct and supplies for the air conditioning.  So it looks very much like there might have been plans for a studio in the attic.  Hence why we say three apartments (officially). Because, unofficially, there were likely four and it looks like there were plans at some time for five.  Yikes.

I tell you this because it will help you understand why we call this house, “onion house.” The answer is pretty easy to guess if you think about 50 plus years as a rental and 3-5 apartments in it. The poor house, pretty as it was buttoned up when we purchased it, is very much like an onion. Every time we peel back another layer I end up crying.

Well, not really crying, more like swearing a blue streak and asking the useless question of “Why?”.  Why did they think that the proper way to fix damage from a leak upstairs was to install a new drop ceiling in the bathroom downstairs? Answer: It was cheap.  Why did they think that shoving a stove against a wall was smart? Answer: It was cheap.  Why on earth would anyone build a kitchen on a porch, and I mean right out on the porch? Wooden slats and no insulation.  Answer: It was cheap.

That is the legacy of 50 plus years as a rental property. Needless to say, it’s going to be an adventure.  One long, cider fueled, at times head-banging, adventure of digging out the ‘cheap solutions’ and putting in the ‘right solutions’.

I just have to keep repeating, “It’s a project, we knew this walking in.”

Pass the hankie.

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