Sunday, October 23, 2011

Somerset Magazines and More Thoughts on Abandon Houses

We have always loved the Somerset magazines. They are like buying a book everytime we pick one up so we don't buy them often but when we find good ideas for things to make the investment becomes very worthwhile for us. 
In about a week and a half CJ will be doing the Beneath the Wreath Show here in Grand Rapids(more on that from her later). So we have been looking all over for good ideas for things to make using vintage parts and pieces. In our search we came across two Somerset magazines that had some great ideas.The first magazine we found was the Holidays and Celebrations magazine. If time permits I found at least three things I will be making for the show. It is really a great holiday magazine and worth checking out the next time you are at a good book store. We always love the book stores that have coffee shops in them. That way we settle down together with a stack of magazines and a good cup of coffee and get inspired together.

The second magazine we found was the Somerset Life magazine. The great card/pictures holders made from doorknobs on the cover was hard to resist. We may attempt a few of these for the show along with one or two more ideas we found inside the magazine.
We have always loved hand crafted items around the holidays and love even more items crafted from vintage.

A week ago in my last blog I talked some about an abandon house we passed on our trip up north. The blog seemed to touch something in many of you. So I decided to share a few more pictures with all of you and some additional thoughts. I will end by posting two poems that two of you sent.
I have a long love affair with old houses. Some of you know I was a contractor for more than fifteen years and specialized in historic renovation. That business was born directly out of my love of old house. Over the years I have gone thru many old houses, many of them abandon.
For a period of six years I worked as a construction manager for a non profit housing developer here in Grand Rapids. One of my jobs was to go thru and assess all of the houses the city got thru the tax reversion process. Most were empty and often boarded up. Sometime they were filled with stuff people had left behind and sometime they were completely empty. Many of my experiences still haunt me yet today.
One of the reasons I love old things is because they come with a history. Sometime you can actually feel this and old houses are often convey that same feeling when you walk thru them.  It is almost like people leave behind something of their spirit in places and with things. Often finding personal items left behind such as pictures or letters add to the mystery of a place. One time I remember finding in a attic of a house stacks of old business ledgers. The house had been owned by a family that had owned an old hardware store only a few block away. The ledgers were dated 1880's thru 1920's. They were all old , wonderfully hand bound, and full of hand written inqueries. There were stacks of these and I think of them often these days when I look at what vintage ledgers sell for these days on eBay. But, back then the vintage paper ephemera craze that is going on today had yet to catch on.

However, many of my most haunting old house experiences however do not involve the city. I originally moved here from Minnesota. Over the years I have had much cause to travel back to that area and even make trips into North and South Dakota. Most of the country I lived in was filled with family farms and small rural towns. Many of these farms were settled by northern European immigrant families in the late nineteenth century. Yet, as our economy has changed over the years the family farm has been slowly disappearing. The landscape as you get out in western Minnesota and the Dakotas is filled with empty farm places and abandon buildings. There are even many towns in North Dakota that are completely empty.

For those of you that have been to this part of the country you know that this is often very flat,
treeless country. This means that you see what sometime feeling like a forever horizon. The site of an empty farmhouse in such an environment with often the only sound being a creaking windmill or the sound of the howling wind has been for me a very haunting feeling.
My mother's family had a farm in Minnesota that fell in to disrepair after the land had been sold. I remember each time I went home I would visit the place. The farmer who had purchased the land slowly cut down all the trees and than one by one tore down all the buildings until eventually all had been converted into a field for raising corn. One day when I was home for the holidays I made a trip to the family farm and all I saw was a plowed field with only a water pump left that had once been a part of the farm yard. Eventually even this water pump disappeared and now all that is left are two very large cottonwood trees by the road that marked were the approach ways to the driveway once were. The images of all of this loom large in my memory.


Because we lived our several lives
Caught up within the spells of love,
Because we always had to run
Through the enormous yards of day
To do all that we hoped to do,
We did not hear, beneath our lives,
The old walls falling out of true,
Foundations shifting in the dark.
When seedlings blossomed in the eaves,
When branches scratched upon the door
And rain came splashing through the halls,
We made our minor,brief repairs,
And sang upon the crumbling stairs
And danced upon the sodden floors.
For years we lived at peace, until
The rooms themselves began to blend
With time, and empty one by one,
At which we knew, with muted hearts,
That nothing further could be done,
And so rose up, and went away,
Inheritors of breath and love,
Bound to that final estate
No child can mend or trade away.

-Mary Oliver

                                                         THE HOUSE WITH NOBODY IN IT
                               Whenever I walk to Suffern along Erie track
I go by a poor old farmhouse with its shingles broken and black
I suppose I've passed it a hundred times, but I always stop for a minute
And look at the house, the tragic house, the house with nobody in it.

I have never seen a haunted house, but I hear there are such things;
That they hold the talk of spirits, their mirth and sorrowings.
I know this house isn't haunted, and I wish it were, I do;
For it wouldn't be so lonely if it had a ghost or two.

This house on the broad to Suffern needs a dozen panes of glass,
And somebody ought to weed the walk and take a scythe to the grass.
It needs new paint and shingles, and the vines should be trimmed and tied;
But what it needs most of all is some people living inside.

If I had a lot of money and all my debts were paid
I'd put a gang of men to work with brush and saw and spade.
I'd buy that place and fix it up the way it used to be
And I'd find some people who wanted a home and give it to them free.

Now, a new house standing empty, with staring window and door,
Looks idle, perhaps, and foolish, like a hat on its block in the store.
But there's nothing mournful about it; it cannot be sad and lone
For the lack of something within it that it has never known.

But a house that has done what a house should do,
a house that has sheltered life,
That has put its loving wooden arms around a man and his wife,
A house that has echoed a baby's laugh and held up his stumbling feet,
Is the saddest sight , when it's left alone, that ever your eyes could meet.

So whenever I go to Suffern along the Erie Track
I never go by the empty house without stopping and looking back,
Yet it hurts me to look at the crumbling roof and the shutters fallen apart,
For I can't help thinking the poor old house is a house with a broken heart.

-Joyce Kilmer

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Do you also work on contract as an interior designer? We are going to buy a house in Allegan, and I would love the help of someone who could help me improve the style into a vintage style; or would you know a local interior designer for this job?