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The neighborhood Stanley

I live in Old Town.

A lot of people think that the neighborhood’s charm is in its old buildings, big trees, and easy walking to parks and downtown.

But you have no idea.

There’s this guy Stanley. He stands on his front porch in the mornings, cuts my lawn sometimes, and always says “Your boy is getting bii-iiig!” He’s hard to understand, but nobody in the neighborhood can tell you what his handicap is. He makes these birdhouses out of scrap wood and sells them for $10. I bought one once because I felt that I should.

Stanley is about the last of my neighborhood watchers.

There used to be this white-bearded neighbor, Bob. He lived in a little wooden cottage with his Mom. And when you worked in your yard, he would stand by, look on, comment. All day he’d stand there, until you were done. When he died, they condemned his house and replaced it with a modern 4-square. 2500 square feet. I haven’t met the new people yet.

Then there was Darlene. She grew up in this tiny green house down the street. After her brother and mother died, she’d sit on the front porch arranging donated flowers for nursing homes. One time when I was really low, she invited me to sit with her and it helped. When she moved on, they tore down the house and replaced it with the biggest “Craftsman” on the block. I haven’t met the new people yet.

Big new/old houses are replacing all the older neighborhood caretakers. The people who had plenty of time. The people who made me feel looked after. The kind of people who can’t afford this neighborhood anymore.

Okay, well, that’s the way it goes. But it’s why I keep going back for more of Stanley’s birdhouses.
birdhouse

8 comments to The neighborhood Stanley

  • Peter Fisk

    We are the Stanleys we’ve been waiting for.

  • lol! peter, i think that’s right on. although i hope i don’t end up being the old lady that will stand over you while you prune your bushes telling you how to do it. in fact, if i get to choose, i’ll be the doddering old fool that serves hot cocoa to all the neighborhood kids, whether its cold out or not. 😉

  • You nailed it. It’s a damn shame that the people who can afford the new houses are too busy out making money just to afford the house. For God sakes take time and meet your neighbors or make bird houses or something.

  • Teresa K

    It sounds like you are too busy mourning the loss of old friends/houses to properly welcome the new ones you just haven’t met yet. When we moved here last May, our neighbors made a point of catching us while we were outside so they could introduce themselves. It was very reassuring to have them extend their welcome to us and within about a week, we knew the names of everyone in the houses around us.
    I agree with Peter too.

  • catfc

    Aw, c’mon Teresa, you know I’m friendly. I think I’m more bemoaning the loss of socioeconomic diversification.

  • I don’t think it’s just a loss of socioeconomic diversity. I think part of it is that these people have been in the neighborhood for ages and ages and ages. They’re pillars that bring stability, not because they’re doing anything special or even necessarily being particularly involved in what’s going on around the neighborhood, but they’re always there. They stand in stark contrast to the rental houses with a new set of college students every year, and even in contrast to people living in houses like mine which had something like 4 different owners in just the 1990’s (after having only 2 or 3 owners for the 70 years before that).

    The fact that someone would move into a neighborhood and, before even getting to know anyone, they tear out the old house and put in a huge new one, says something about the kind of neighbors they’re going to be. Now, perhaps they wanted to keep the old house and add on, but they found that the foundation was beyond repair. That was the case for one of the new houses in the 1000 block on Oak (which is owned by a long time Oak St. family who would have gladly kept the old home, but the foundation was shot). But when you move into a neighborhood, especially an older neighborhood, I think it shows respect to live in the house awhile before adding on to it. And it shows respect to keep as much as you can of the original house both so it continues to fit in with the neighborhood and to preserve some historic value on the house (although preservation was pretty minimal on the two 1000 block renovations that took place a few years back where only 1 wall was preserved).

    OK, so now I’m blathering on. But I think my point is that the changes are just as much about homogeneity (keeping the neighborhood houses looking like they’re from a similar time period) as they are about diversity (as the new folks tend to be richer than the old folks who are increasingly either dying off or moving out of the neighborhood).

  • catfc

    You make some excellent points, Meg. Thanks. You would think that new neighbors would be more sensitive. And it does say something about a new neighbor when they land next door in the biggest “old” house ever.

    But when you think about it, often our new neighbors didn’t build the big houses–a speculator did and then sold it right away.

    That’s where Teresa makes good points too. I should be warmer to the new people. Even if their new house includes a turret.

    All that said, I wish more big housers would consider the approach Jim B. has in mind: Does this have potential?

  • i know that the folks in the “big new” house (popped top) on the 900 block of magnolia bought from a developer. i have to say, though, that the guy did a fantastic job on the inside. most of the original wood work was left intact and the new bits match really well. i’m guessing the folks on the 600 block of oak bought from a developer (who possibly had gotten it from another developer who made the “swimming pool” and then bailed?). i know the massive double house on loomis north of mountain was done by the new owners, though. they completely blocked the light from their neighbor’s garden. i’d love to know how they got that through the city planning board.

    i hope jim’s house move works. that would be really cool. i’ve always wondered how you move a house without it falling apart.