History, houses and homes

| No Comments
Bates Street 1968-1972
Bates Street in the 1960s

The Washington Post with MRIS (real estate database) is sponsoring a historic house contest which you can read about here, or dig up your Saturday newspaper and find it in the Real Estate section. The basics are any home 50 years or older and judging is based on aesthetics, historical accuracy and contemporary creativity. There is a bit more in the dead tree version and there was also an article about buying a "historic" house, historic as in registered with the National Register of Historic Places or the DC Inventory of Historic sites.
But I believe history is everywhere and not just where it has been designated by some federal or municipal body.
Anyway, I also noticed that the Post is calling it a "Historic Home Contest," using home instead of house, though it isn't clear if the elements being judged are those parts that separate the definition of house and home. I mentioned this to the Help, and after we joked that in less than 50 years Suzane Reatig's stuff will be eligible, we got to talking about homes, houses and history.
He remembered a time when he was visiting a friend who had a 1940s retro kitchen. The movable stuff, the things that don't tend to convey with the sale of a home over time, the fridge, the stove the little kitchen table where he sat and the decor gave it the feel of a past age. But what really made it feel like he was in a time warp was when a broadcast (maybe WAMU's Ed Walker's program) came on from the same period. It would not have surprised me if the hostess was serving a snack or meal keeping with that era. History is so much more than the architectural elements.
For me, the idea of home over house is how it is experienced. The rules regarding houses in historic districts focus on the exterior. A home is experienced from the interior. Unless one does a lot of yard work or spends a lot of time on the porch or patio, we tend to experience where we live on the inside. It is where we tend to sleep, watch tv, make coffee/tea, eat, and shower. And those interiors change with each new set of occupants. From there those occupants add to the history of a place. The cop who lived here and died of fever at home, the 11 residents who somehow crushed themselves in 1000 sq ft and the alcoholic mother and her mentally disabled son, all added to the history of the place I call home.
Cities are wonderfully dynamic places, with all sorts of stuff going on, stuff that will be history as time passes. Maybe your cousin's puny punk/ska/jazz fusion band constantly crashing on your floor may be part of history when that band (or just 1 member) makes it big. Or you can just be you, going about your life as many Washingtonians have done before, decades and a century or two ago, being part of the history of our town.

Leave a comment