Posts Tagged ‘experimental homes’

At some point in the past, the singer Prince decided he wouldn’t have a name.  He became known as “The artist formerly known as Prince.”  How is that not a name?  I thought a riff on it would be fun for the title of this post which features the door to our house in South Euclid, Ohio.  (Eventually, Prince went back to being Prince.  Good move.)

Although we didn’t know when we bought it, our house had historical significance.  Here’s a short article about it and a photo of the house, a photo taken when we were actually living there.  If you look on the left side of the entryway (as you look at it), that’s our windsock.

The house was designed by Charles Bacon Rowley and built in 1932 by the Ferro Corporation.  It was the first of its kind in the world: a steel-framed house covered with dark brown porcelain enamel shingles.  By the time we purchased it, there was siding over the shingles.  The original windows were still there: single-pane casement windows that either wouldn’t open or wouldn’t completely close.  We replaced them all, a rather large cost we didn’t expect when buying the house.

This is, however, a door challenge.  All the doorways were extra-wide, which the movers loved, and our front door would never have been kicked in by the police!  The rose bush was purchased for $1.99 at a store called Just Closeouts and grew into this giant, flower-covered beauty.  Every year I had to cut it back, as it tended to head for the roof at a rapid rate and, for some reason, a few of the flowers were pink, rather than the deep red of the rest of them.  This was our front door for 27 of the first 28 years of our marriage.

© janet m. webb 2012



I enjoy driving. Unless the weather’s bad or there’s a traffic snarl, I often get into the zone, listening to a book on CD or one of the new, cool, smaller-than-a-pack-of-death-sticks ready-to-play books, and looking at the beauty of the countryside. Saturday the sun was shining around white fluffy clouds, there was just enough snow in Indiana (where else?) to look cool and the land was waiting. There were fields of green. What is the crop? Winter (or spring) wheat? I can never remember which over-winters and comes up in spring. Maybe it’s something entirely different. No matter; it felt like spring, even though spring is a long way away. The six hours flew by, fueled first by the end of the Donna Leon book, then by David Baldacci’s The Collectors. Unfortunately, I still have quite a bit of the latter.   I enjoy listening but when I get to the end of my trip and I still have a lot left, I want to immediately get the book from the library and read to the end.

I love our house. I know my husband if not actively hates, intensely dislikes it. I understand. Because it was an experimental house, many things about it are unusual. Unusual in house terms means, among other things, that any repairs will cost more and/or aren’t simple or normal. For instance, we have stairs going up to the second floor. The steps themselves are wood, the backs are metal. Thankfully the kids never discovered it while they were still into magnets or the fridge would look good as a magnet center! The tiles in our half bath are metal. The ones behind our current tiles in the shower are metal. If a large magnet ever comes by, our house is gone, especially since the frame is also….metal. Unusual also means that repairs that should be relatively simple generally aren’t. But….

This house has all the things mentioned in The Not-so-Small House—tons of storage, all sorts of cool “stuff” around the mantle/the stairs/wherever, a marble hearth in front of the fireplace and marble around the fireplace, a built-in bookshelf in the living room and a built-in china cabinet in the small room between the kitchen and dining room, things that aren’t found in most of today’s houses. It has a personality; it’s not a cookie-cutter house, even a nice one. There isn’t another one like it (which could be good or bad, depending on what you’re looking at or your point of view!!)

It doesn’t have gutters. If we’d been paying attention, that would have told us something. The roof has a small parapet around it and at both the east and west ends, in the middle of the “gutter”, are two drains, that go into pipes located in the walls of the house and thence into the sewer system. We found out the hard way that you have to get up on the roof and keep the leaves and helicopters off the roof so that they don’t clog the drain. Otherwise the water builds up and water can always find a way in if it hangs around long enough. The garage has a flat roof which, if I had the time and money, I’d now turn into a green roof.  From the garage roof, I scale a ladder to get to the main roof to denude it of leaves in fall, helicopters and red seeds in spring and anything else that might make its way up there and not be blown off again.  For someone who doesn’t like heights, this was a considerable accomplishment, only done when my husband moved for work and I had to take the job over.  The first few times I forced myself up there, I moved around more or less on my bum.   The parapet that looks so high when I have to climb over it to get on the roof, doesn’t look like much from the other side!!  I’ve gotten so I can walk around, carefully.  Progress!  I especially love it when someone calls trying to sell me new gutters.  The last time, I told the man our house didn’t have gutters.  Long silence.  Then he told me that wasn’t good, until I explained a bit of what was up there.  He didn’t really know what to say.  Not as much fun, though, as telling people who call to refinance our mortgage that we don’t have one.  One man said, “Wow, that’s great!  I wish I could say that.”

This house has windows, large windows, one of the things that originally drew us to the house. We didn’t see the single-pane casement windows that wouldn’t open because they were painted shut or, in some cases, wouldn’t completely close. Our realtor, bent on her commission, didn’t help us, suggesting that we offer our best price because that was how to get the best deal. Where did she go to school?? Turns out she kick-backed goods to the “friend” who recommended her. Live and learn. I saw her once some years later and she mentioned she’d be happy to sell the house for us if we ever moved. Over my (or, preferably her) dead body!We didn’t see the problems, we saw the sunshine streaming through the windows, four enormous ones in the living room, two in the dining room, two (although one’s much shorter as it’s over the sink) in the kitchen and two in each of the four bedrooms upstairs. We saw the new, bright white paint, not the specks of paint all over the floors and other places. We saw the bones of a house that could be something special and I only regret that we couldn’t (at one time) and didn’t (at another time) put more money and time into fixing it up. I regret that I didn’t overcome my desire to do everything perfectly to attempt some of the work that needed to be done. But I still love the house, the way you love a friend who may not look her best but has a beautiful personality.