When I was a little girl, probably around the age of eight, my father took me to my great grandparents’ farmhouse. It was just down the road from where my grandparents lived and it had sat empty for years. Even as a child I could see the beauty of the architecture of the turn of the century house. The porch had beautiful woodwork with intricate details and tulips carved on the posts and railings. The trim inside the house was thick and was believed to have come from oak trees cleared from the land where the house sat. Sadly, the house was beginning to deteriorate. The slate roof had been leaking for some time, and the water damage was so great that the wood floor was beginning to get soft in certain areas. All of the windows were broken and the solid oak interior doors, also built using wood that was milled from trees grown on the land, had been stolen years ago.
As we entered the back door my dad warned me to watch where I stepped since the floor was weak. I carefully tiptoed around a hole in the floor and examined my surroundings. There wasn’t much left in the house, but I did see a white enamel bowl in the corner. My dad told me that my great grandpa used it to wash his face every morning. I imagined a typical morning routine, my great grandpa pumping water outside at the hand pump and getting ready for another day of hard work on the farm. I picked up the bowl and studied it, then asked my dad if I could keep it. He looked puzzled. Why did I want to keep that old bowl that had been left behind when the family had divided the household belongings? What did I plan to do with it? I didn’t have the words at that young age to explain that this connection to my family and their way of life was deeply important to me. I simply said that I liked it and wanted to keep it. My dad shrugged and agreed. We walked into the front room and I gasped. Covering the walls was the most beautiful wallpaper with rows of delicate roses. I could tell it was very old, and the feminine floral pattern thrilled my very soul. It reminded me of something out of my favorite book Anne of Green Gables. I stood in the middle of that rose patterned room gazing out of the empty windows and door frame at the vast fields and glorious northwest Ohio sky, and my heart felt full. I want to live here, I remember thinking. To be surrounded by history and nature and beauty. What a fantastic place to grow up!
We gingerly walked up the rickety wooden stairway. In the upstairs hallway I noticed a bubbled glass globe over the light bulb. The design of the glass was so pretty, I asked my dad to take it down for me so I could keep it. This really confused him. Why would we save this old light? What did I, an eight year old girl, plan to do with it? Apparently I’ve been a collector of antiques all my life, because I told him I wanted to save it and hang it in my house when I grew up! He smiled, removed the glass globe and handed it to me. I was thrilled! The textured glass was heavy in my hand. It was so much prettier than our lights in my childhood home. Why, oh why did we not live here in this glorious old house full of so many fascinating details?
I knew, even at that young age, that there was romance in vintage items, a beauty that can’t be conveyed through brand new shiny things. Antiques have soul. This home had history, a deep personal connection, and beautiful architecture that even as an eight year old I appreciated. My childhood home didn’t give me that same feeling. I grew up in a 1970’s split level house in the suburbs. Nothing about the architecture of our home inspired me. When I looked out of my window I saw the vinyl siding of our neighbor’s house, not the peaceful sight of fields and sky.
I desperately wanted to live in the old farmhouse, to fix it up and be surrounded by beauty. On the drive home I begged my dad to let us move there. It needed so much work, he explained. I confidently reassured him that we could do it. He was not convinced by my eight year old optimism. He went on to describe how the old farmhouse would need a new floor, new walls, a new roof, and new electric and plumbing. It would basically be like building a new house. I wasn’t deterred. I kept insisting that we could fix it up, and think of how beautiful it would be when it was done! He smiled and agreed that it would be beautiful, and I spent the rest of the car ride dreaming my wonderful dream.
Over time the house continued to fall into disrepair until, with heavy hearts, my grandparents made the difficult decision to tear it down. It was common in the area to contact the local fire department and have them do a controlled burn of an old home. I was heartbroken. I knew, even as a young girl, that when that beautiful house burned to the ground a piece of history would be lost. The thought of that intricate woodwork on the porch and the rose wallpaper being destroyed literally hurt my heart. Years later my dad told me he wished he had listened to me when I first tried to convince him to fix up the house, before the damage became so extensive. At the very least he regrets not salvaging the wood trim and other special details of the house that could have been saved.
He and I went back to the old farmstead recently. The barn is still there, along with the stone foundation of the house. I stood and gazed at the view of the fields and sky just like I did when I was young, and it inspired my soul. If you’ve never seen the northwest Ohio sky you are missing a stunning view.
My dad pointed out the farm machinery he used in the fields when he was growing up and explained how the farmers collected the hay and designed a pulley system to lift the bales into the lofts. I loved climbing the wooden ladders and discovering all sorts of treasures stored in little nooks and crannies.
The weathered barn wood was amazing and the light shining through the open barn windows was simply beautiful.
The hardware on the sliding barn doors was so cool! Using barn doors inside of houses is so trendy right now. I can only imagine what my great grandparents would think! I really wish I could find a place in my house for this gorgeous hardware and barn wood!
What about you, friends? Do you have any special memories of old family houses? Was I the only eight year old obsessed with restoring old homes? I’d love to hear your stories! Find me on social media using the gray icons below. And be sure to sign up for my newsletter to get updates from the blog!
Have a beautiful day!