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Our old house | VRChristensen

Our old house

Poking around in the archives

archives-departementales-de-la-haute-loire.-magasins_imgI don’t know when I’ve had so much fun. And yes, I know that makes me sound like a geek. And I’m OK with that.

There were a few things I knew when I bought my house. Mostly things I’d learned from hearsay. I knew that my house had been owned by a woman named Evelyn Day. She was my neighbor, after all. (We rented a house nearby for a year or so.) I had never met her, but I do remember walking by and waving hello. I do that, it seems. I remember sneaking a peek, while her foyer light was on, into the house through the window in her front door. I wanted to know what it looked like inside. I wanted one of those grand old Sutherlin houses, or perhaps one on Holbrook, so bad it hurt. I had been told, after I bought it, and from a local old house and history expert, that the house had been owned by that family for perhaps a 100 years, but that he did not believe they had built it. He believed, in fact, that they had purchased it in the teens, maybe 1917. He suggested I go down to the archives to find out. Only I couldn’t quite remember just where I needed to go. To the courthouse? To City Hall? And, having just moved in, I had a million other things to do. I put it off.

But then the local Historical Society had that same expert come and speak on just how to do it. It was noted, while I was at the meeting, that I had very little work to do since everyone knew that the Days had always owned the house. With such conflicting information, I was understandably confused. Shortly after that, a very wonderful and generous neighbor brought me some photographs he had. I don’t know how he came by them. Perhaps, like me, he found them at the estate sale. I had picked one photograph up myself, though I don’t know who it was of. He had evidently asked around and had been told that the photographs were of  a mother and daughter, who had both lived in the house, and that they had been the only family to live here.

Day pic 1 Day pic 3 Day pic 2

(Elsie Saunders Day (?) left, Evelyn Day center, a photo I bought at the estate sale right)

With so many conflicting stories, I was curious, and so I headed down to the Circuit Court Clerk’s office, where the archives are kept. Now I was in for a treat, I’m telling you, because not only was I going to look through records, but I was actually going to physically handle THE records. Meaning all the deed books are there for people to look through, complete with indexes and maps. The actual books. Not microfilm. Not photocopies. Not digitized images. No. But the books, however old they may be. I gave myself two hours to search, and within and hour, I’d found everything I needed.

Now whether that first very knowledgeable gentleman told me they had bought it around 1917 or if that was just the date I fixed arbitrarily into my skull, there’s no telling. But I had found a cancelled check when we had excavated the fireplace in the bathroom. The check was dated 1915, so I had begun to wonder. Sure enough, searching back, I found where H. Fenton Day, the man to whom the former owner of the house, Mrs. Evelyn Day, had been married, had inherited the house from his mother, Elsie Saunders Day, her husband Henry F. having died in 1954. The will was dated November 1959. Now with deeds, you search for what you know and you go back. In my case, the last three deeds (the ones indicating the foreclosure, and then the sale to us) were listed on the tax records. Along with it was the will’s document number. And from there the trail ended. Each deed will list the document before it, usually another deed, so they are quite easy to search, but the will lists no other documents. Fortunately the indexes are easy to use, and so I was quickly on the trail again. Cole advert

The true story!

In September of 1915, Elsie Saunders Day bought the house from Oliver W. and Annie Bell Cole for $7,200. Interestingly, the deed stated “this conveyance includes the Mills Range now installed in the kitchen of said dwelling house, and all heating fixtures and appliances.” I’ve tried to search for an image of such a stove, but so far have had no luck. I looked up Mr. Cole in the directory and found an advertisement for his photography studio in the 1906 directory. He did indeed live at 134 Sutherlin.

Cole bought the property in August of 1904 from P.F. Conway and his wife, Maggie B. “a married woman holding separate property.” Mr. Cole sold the house for $5,000. It seemed, however, that Mr. Conway did a great deal of real estate transacting in the area, and so I wanted to be sure that he actually lived in the house and, possibly, built it. The next deed took me to a man named Robert Brydon. In that deed it states that Brydon sold the property in October of 1896 for $1,000 cash “All that certain lot of land situated in the city of Danville…” Then it goes on to give the lot description. No building or improvement is mentioned. I know the house was built in 1897. A plaque near the front door says so. In December of 1897 there is another deed, in which Mr. Conway grants the property, “all that certain lot or parcel of ground together with the improvements thereon and the appertanances thereunto belonging….” to his wife “in consideration of ten dollars paid by said Maggie B. Conway, and of the natural love and affection he bears to said…” So it looks like he bought the property, built the house, and gave it to her. They lived in it, it seems, from the time it was built until Cole bought it. I found them, too, in the directory for the years 1898-1899. And doing a little more digging, found reference to him in two books on local history, Virginia: Rebirth of the Old Dominion and Men of Mark in Virginia.

Powhatan Fitzhugh Conway

PF Conway


Mr. Conway was born 11 Nov 1867 near Danville. He attended public school, but he was not a robust child and so was forced to quit his education early. Upon leaving shool in 1886 at the age of 17, he commenced work as a solicitor and collector for Messrs Bass, Brown & Lee, who, at the time, had the largest coal, wood and manufacturing business in Danville. He worked there for four years, until 1890, when he formed a partnership with F.L. Walker to start their own business dealing in the same. Six years later (1896) they bought Bass, Brown and Lee, consolidating with Anderson & co and incorporating as Danville Lumber & Manufacturing co. It grew to be a large firm, over which Conway served as chief executive and genral manager. They had an “extensive line of millwork, including interior trim, sash, doors, frames, molding, blinds and other materials.” Conway served as vice president of the Masonic Building Corp, which erected the handsome Masonic Temple on the corner of Main and S Union Streets.

On Feb 14, 1893 at Richmond, VA, he married Maggie Bradford Brown of Richmond. She was educated at Danville College for Young Women. She died Apr 2 1925. They had one daughter Margaret (Moore).

Digging around a bit more, I discovered that Mr. Conway bought the two lots east of mine at about the same time, built houses on them and sold them. In 1903 he bought two lots to the west of mine and built houses there. At one point they lived in a house on Main street, in which there was a fire that caused considerable damage. My next research project is to learn which houses he built and how many of them there are. It does make me happy to know he was such a big part of Danville’s development.

So now I know the history of my house, and, as history does, makes me feel like I am a part of something important. And this house will something significant once again. That I’m truly looking forward to.

 

 

 

 

Treasure in the attic!

Ok, well, it’s not treasure, exactly…

But I did spend part of the Memorial Day weekend cleaning the attic. Unfortunately, when the house went into foreclosure, everything from the attic, letters, trunks and trunks of memorabilia, photographs, books, was sold or thrown out. I went to the estate sale, and I did buy a couple of small things. Needless to say I regret now that I didn’t buy more, or that I didn’t go through the piles and piles of trash as it sat on the curb waiting for the trucks to come.

I had no reason to expect anything at all to be left in the house.

 

This is the view, looking toward the front of the house, as you come up the attic stairs.

Looking slightly to the right as you come up the stairs.

Still looking toward the front of the house, but standing opposite the stairs.

Turning right upon coming up the stairs.

 

Now the attic is huge, as perhaps you can see. And upon moving in, I just put all the boxes I knew were going to be in the way up there. But the thing is, I can’t see what I have. All my art and framed photos, all my decorative objects have been in boxes for so long, I don’t remember what I have or how it will fit. So, during these last cool days before the summer heat begins, I unpacked the boxes and placed the items on the shelves in the cedar-lined storage room. The framed artwork I stacked neatly against the rafters. I made sure all the other items up there were neatly organized and placed in strategic location for easy finding later.

Cedar lined closet in the attic.

It was as I was vacuuming up the dust that I found it. A photograph. It’s not in very good condition, but I consider it a treasure anyway. Is it a member of the Day family, who owned the house since 1917? Or is it a remnant from the original family, who built the house in 1897? I’d like to know, and I hope to find out.

Of course this find made me hungry for others, so I went and got my flashlight.

And look what I found!

It’s a flashlight!

I also found a rather decrepit looking collar, ages old and moth eaten, but it’s kind of a fun find, nonetheless. At least I think so. Perhaps there’s other stuff somewhere, fallen behind mantles and whatnot. I don’t expect to find much else. It doesn’t mean I don’t hope to do, nevertheless.

Yard work and the quest for hot water.

 

Like the previous (and original) owners of our house in South Carolina, the owner of our new house was a naturalist. I think it just means they didn’t have the inclination to do yard work, but the official statement seems to be “all nature should be allowed to live (and grow) to the full measure of its creation.” When the house went into foreclosure it was overrun by ivy and wisteria, similyx, and shrubbery of all kinds. Mulberries and hackberries were growing right up against the house, scraping their branches against the windows, and, in some cases, breaking the glass. Once the foreclosure company took it over, they did clear out much of the ivy and wisteria and other climbing vines, and even some of the weedy trees. What was left, however, were about 50 100 year old boxwoods. At one time they must have been planted as a sort of border, because they are about twelve feet away from the house and fenceline. And there’s still a ton of ivy, some has grown so thick that it’s begun to form tree-like trunks. There remains a cedar tree growing against the back side of the house and it leans on the phone line. That tree has to come out, but I’ll have to hire it done. On each side is a dogwood tree. They’re clearly very old, and really quite charming, only one of them has a huge hole in the middle of the trunk where it’s rotting itself out. The trees probably need to come out. The have bloomed however, and for now, it seems they are staying.

A month into our residence here and we are still without hot water. My neighbor who is a plumber offered his opinion. He didn’t think it should be a complicated matter, but he had to look into the code before he could give us an estimate on the installation of a water heater. The water previously was heated by the boiler, which has not really worked for five or six years (during which time the previous owner was still in residence.) I wasn’t sure where we would come up with the extra money. We had some set aside for emergencies, but then, after all, perhaps this was an emergency. About that time, our landlords from the place we were renting, returned our entire deposit, which I wasn’t expecting them to do, so right there we had the money for a water heater. Or so I thought. So I bought one from Lowe’s website.

In the mean time, we’re trying to get a loan to update the systems, and even though I know (pretty much) who I would hire to have the work done, we have to get multiple estimates, and they have to be from contractors. I find this so annoying. Nothing stresses me out more than talking to contractors. I found an electrician and a plumber I can trust. Why do I now have to deal with contractors? So we asked around and got several recommendations.

The first came, and I felt pretty good about it. He seemed to be a good guy, and he used the electrician we had already decided we liked, and so that was no big deal. He had a plumber, too, whose name I’d heard as reputable, and his heating guy was one of the ones I’d already spoken to, but had yet to get an estimate from. So far I wasn’t too worried.

With a good friend, I began tackling the overgrown ivy in the front yard. Two days of hacking and digging and chopping and pruning, and I had the front near the curb cleared out. We even found an old sign that had been put up and covered over with ivy. I decided to leave it. I liked it. And I rather liked the ivy that was trying to take it over. The trunk (for lack of a better term) had wrapped itself around the sign in such a way that to take out one would be to take out both. But I found it charming, and so left it. I’m hoping the ivy will grow back just enough to frame the sign.

The next day the second contractor came, and every job I wanted him to do was 10x more complicated than I had intended or felt it should be. Instead of just updating the electrical service, the whole house needed to be rewired or the insurance company wouldn’t accept it. I knew this wasn’t true. And we do intend to rewire what we can, bit by bit, but for now, it’s about having adequate service. When it came to the plumbing, it was all just so complicated. The plumbing was all over the house (in reality, the bathrooms are stacked above the kitchen and powder room, the asbestos would have to be dealt with (it’s an unfinished basement-yes the insulation should be updated, but that’s another thing we can do in time) and as far as installing a water heater… Well it just doesn’t get more complicated. The water heater would have to be vented up the chimney (which we had hoped to be able to restore for use with gas coal baskets in the fireplaces) and up to the roof top. A chimney cap would be required, and it would no doubt run us thousands of dollars, but it HAD to be done! My husband came home about that time and asked the gentleman what he thought, and he said it was all just so complicated he could hardly wrap his head around it. Not a good sign in my books. He looked at the repairs on the house, the paint, the landscaping. Just so much to do! True, but he was only there for the systems. Seemed pretty simple to me. But I was discouraged about the water heater.

And where was that water heater? I hadn’t yet heard from Lowe’s about delivery? I called them. It seemed I had ordered a special order model, and it would be there in approximately three weeks. Three weeks?!?!? I can’t wait that long for hot water! I cancelled the order, they connected me with the local store, and I purchased one they had in stock.

I knew by now I needed to call water and gas to see if I truly did have gas running to the property. We could find no meter, but since there were still gas jets and outlets in the walls from years gone by, I knew there had been gas at one time. And there were gas lines under the house that fed to the fireplaces on the first floor. The question remained, however, was there still a gas service to the property?

In the mean time, a third contractor came out and thought the venting for the water heater should be simple. But all these differing opinions were confusing me. My neighbor checked with the inspector and it turns out that a regular water heater would need to vent through the chimney, but a high efficiency could go out the wall.

Was the one I ordered from Lowe’s high efficiency? Uh…no. So I went into the store and cancelled that order as well.

By now I had made up my mind that the boxwoods in the front had to go.

Water and gas came and showed me where the meter had been. Under the house! No wonder we couldn’t find it. I had never thought to look under the house. The guy told me to go ahead and have the plumbing done for the water heater (and my gas stove) and they would test the lines, and if the lines were sound, they’d set the meter where it had been. If they were not, they’d redo the lines and set the meter outside.

And then the third contractor came. He seemed reliable and honest, and came with high recommendations from more than one friend. He also used the same electrician we liked, and the plumber we had, by now, been hearing so much about. The plumber came, and he really seemed to know his stuff. He said it had to be a power vent model, and it could go out the side of the house, only not out the nearest side, since there was no place that was four feet from a window and not blocked by the chimney. He could vent it out the other side of the house, though, and that would not be too big of a problem. His estimate came in at roughly $1,900, which was a bit more than I had hoped to spend, but the price included a water heater, so I figured I could do it. The money I had set aside for the installation would pay for the water heater, and the money we got back from our previous landlords, which I had intended to use for the water heater, would pay for the installation.

He arrived the following Tuesday as promised and began running the lines. Wednesday I had the day off and looked forward to the finished product of his labors. Though of course I wasn’t sure how long it would take to set the meter. Wednesday he didn’t show. Turns out the water heater didn’t come in. Thursday, however, he was there, and had arranged for the inspector and the city to come out and set the meter. I was excited to say the least. I was looking forward to a good long soak in my clawfoot bathtub that overlooked my neighbor’s blooming cherry trees. The plumber (wise man that he is) cautioned me not to hold my breath about having the meter set that day.

Water and gas came, and what ensued was a heated argument between five of their representatives about where the lines were and whether they had been disconnected, and where was the gas, and what FOOL told me they could just set a meter under the house??? My plumber was interviewed. I was interviewed. The answers were found lacking. The gentlemen argued some more. They would have to do some digging to locate the lines, and if they had to re-lay them and set a meter outside…well, I still had four or five boxwoods blocking the path. I assured them, that, if required, I could take them out that night. “But you have to get the ROOTS and all,” they insisted. I assured them I could. They told me it would be hard. That I should tie them to my car and pull them out. (I have a Volvo. It ain’t happenin’.) But my plumber, wonderful man that he is, told them he had witnessed my boxwood removing efforts and assured them I was up to the challenge.

That is a first, I’m telling you. I’ve *never* in my life had someone back me like that.

So back to the water and gas. Well, the next day they came out, dug about the sidewalk and found the old lines. The next three days it poured down rain, while we waited for the state engineers, or whatever, to come mark the utilities. At last and at LAST they came, a week later, to block off the street, cut into the pavement and reset the gas lines. It took them the better part of the day, but in that ONE day, I at last had hot water AND gas to my stove!

Talk about deprivation. I think I’ve done my camping for the summer. If only I didn’t have to go on that blasted Trek reenactment a month from now. Ah well. At least I can say I’ve had some practice.

The house is ours! Now what?

 

I’ve been waiting to move for so long that most of my stuff was already packed. Still, there was a LOT to do. More than that, there was a lot to learn. Because of the terms of our purchase, we had waved the right to have our purchase contingent upon an inspection. Fannie Mae feared when we realized all that had to be done to repair the house that we’d back out. They were likewise reluctant to allow us to have one at all, contingency or no contingency. No matter. I’ve done this before and I knew pretty well what we were getting into. Besides which, we had three weeks to be out of our current house. There were no other options for us but to move forward. Still, I really wanted to know if the systems were working. The power was on so I knew it worked, but was it safe? The water had been turned off for some time, so whether it was working properly was anybody’s guess. And heat? Was there heat? It was late March, so the question of whether heat was necessary was nominal. The question of hot water was not. I can live without heat. I can’t live without hot water.

Oh how I’ve learned to love the taste of my own words! (Could someone pass the salt?)

Instead of hiring an inspector, we decided what we needed were some reputable professionals in electricity, plumbing and heat. But, the house, not being quite ours yet, we needed permission. I could get into the house, that wasn’t a problem, but I did want to abide by the rules (whatever they were), and so, after some arguing and haggling, we at last got them to agree to let us call in the experts. The first to appear was an electrician, and one I liked and trusted (SO hard to find). I think I’ll hang onto him. He told us what we needed to know about the fuse box. Yes, I said FUSE box!

We knew already that we would have to upgrade. The insurance demanded it, and yet it would be a couple of months before we had the money to do that. I needed to know that it would be safe for the duration, and how to put in fuses, where to buy them, what sizes, all of that.  He told us that so long as we did not use higher than 20 amp fuses, we should be safe. He was concerned, however, by the fact that we have a 60 amp service but a 120 amp fuse box feeding off of it. He said it wasn’t safe, nor was it hooked up to any kind of code (the sub-panel is wired improperly) but as we are not huge electricity consumers, as long as we’re careful, we should be just fine.

With that done, the next person to call in was the heating specialist. We have a boiler, so that means before we can call him in we had to have the water turned on and the house dewinterized. Again, the sellers dragged their feet, but at last it was done.

And to our slight chagrin, we immediately saw several leaking pipes. The worst of these did not appear to be a big deal. Clearly it had been leaking previously and as the water was draining onto the back porch, I decided not to panic. I called the boiler man first.

Yes, we have a boiler. It isn’t ancient, but by no means is it new. I needed to know if it worked. If it wouldn’t heat the house (radiators) would it at least heat my water? The man believed it would. In fact he’d worked on the boiler before when the house was owned by Mrs. Day. It was oil fueled, and there was even oil in the tank. He got it running for us, and sure enough we had hot water! But in order to conserve fuel, he suggested we disconnect the thermostat so that the boiler wouldn’t be heating the whole house while we weren’t living in it.

So it was time to move on to the plumbing. Our neighbor, as it turns out, is a plumber. Why did I not know this? So I called him up and begged for help. The longer the water was on, the more leaks appeared. And by the time we were actually living in the house, it became apparent that we had some serious plumbing issues. The first and foremost was that leak on the back porch. It took taking down the porch ceiling to get to the problem, revealing a knot of repaired drains and supply lines simply crumbling apart. The leaks had been running for so long that one of the joists had rotted through. The pipes weren’t salvageable and no one wants to risk a clawfoot tub falling through the floor, and so our dear plumber/neighbor/friend cut out the bad spot and put a cap on it. We were down to 1 1/2 bathrooms. No biggie. We just left 1 1/2 bathrooms, and while it’s certainly not the ideal, I can live in almost any kind of deprivation for a limited period of time.

(Where did that salt go?)

So now it was time to tackle the kitchen, because I simply cannot live in this kitchen. The potential is here, and I see in my head what it could be. Mustard yellow and terracotta walls, soapstone countertops, rescued oak cabinets from the extinct textile mill on the river, Dan River Mills, an island and these really cool pendent lights I found at Lowe’s. But at the moment…it’s frightening. The only works space is a cast iron sink over an aluminum cabinet that is completely rusted out. We bought a slab of laminate countertop (as a temporary fix), a large stainless steel sink, and those rescued oak cabinets we picked up for a steal at the local antique store, and decided I could put it all together on my day off. Yeah. Right. It took me nine hours, and by the end of the day, I had a sink that wouldn’t quite lay flat against the countertop. I hate those stupid clips you have to screw on. They simply wouldn’t hold onto the particle board substrate and kept slipping off to go flying across the kitchen. My hands were so tired, I couldn’t twist another screw, and I finally gave up. And the faucet I had unhooked, which was, by all appearances, a wall mounted one, turned out instead to be piped up from the floor and through the backsplash of the sink, so I had to cut notches out of the new countertop in order to put it back in. And the hot water pipe was leaking. Fantastic. I’m not proud of my work, but as I said, it’s temporary, and I’ll redeem myself when the whole thing is finished for real.

 At last closing day came, and we began what turned into a two week move. Why was moving two states away easier than moving across the street? With my job, I really didn’t have the time I needed to pack everything as I should, and so many, many trips were made across the street. My books were packed, and we did have a lot of furniture and heavy items, so we rented a truck to make the work easier. We had help from friends to move, and I promised them I’d hire someone to move my piano. It turns out I could find no one to do it, so after renting another truck so that we could retrieve the last of our stuff from our house in South Carolina, we decided the best thing to do was beg a few more friends (the brawny ones) and have them put my piano on dollies and wheel it down the street. So that’s what we did.

The first week in our house (without heat) it snowed. Yes it did. I’m so OVER this winter!

The first week in our house, that cap on the back porch came loose and shot off into the bushes around midnight one night, spraying the neighbor’s house. They rang the doorbell until we woke up and I, in my pajamas, in the middle of the night, went out to turn the water off at the curb. The next morning I texted my neighbor, the plumber, hoping he could spare some time after work to help us get the water back on. He came right away, that very morning, and recapped it.

A few days later, the pipe in the half bath burst and flooded the basement. So we were down to one bathroom. Oh the joy!

And guess what? Turns out that our boiler only heats enough water to last a few minutes. Not enough to fill a tub. So I’m certainly eating those words. It’s now been three weeks and the plumber is here today to install a new hot water heater at last! I’m so glad we have such good friends here who let us use their shower. In exchange, we make them meals. I hope it’s a fair trade. It feels like such an imposition.

BUT, despite the lack of heat (it’s been in the 70′s lately) and the leaky pipes (so far we are holding steady with one bathroom) and the fact that I don’t really have any hot water to speak of, I’m so happy to at last be in a house of my own. I really do love this house! It has some amazing spaces and details and it’s so nice to be in a house where there’s room to move and we’re not always tripping over each other. My daughter, who has had to share a room with her two brothers for the last year and a half, is really enjoying having her own room. It happens to be the largest room in the house. Lucky her!

Attached to our room, through the bathroom, is a delightful sunroom, with windows on three walls. Just outside, our neighbor’s cherry tree is blooming and it is simply heaven up there. The cats love it too.

Finding the House

It started with a sign:

Estate Sale

I wanted to see the house. It was run down, it was shabby looking, had been allowed to fall into disrepair. But I wanted to see it. And so we went.

It was the third day of a three day sale, and all the good stuff had been taken. I wasn’t there to buy anything, not really. I simply wanted to see the house. I suppose it would have been nice to see what had been there, how it had been furnished, that kind of thing, but I had waited for the crowds to dissipate. I had a feeling this would be a meaningful experience.

I should perhaps rewind just a bit and explain something about this journey. We had a house, a beautiful house in South Carolina—a 1918 Colonial Revival that we lovingly and painstakingly restored. We weren’t finished when my husband decided he couldn’t stay with his current employer and so began looking for work elsewhere. We had decided not to move, not till the house was done, so when he got a job offer in Virginia, and accepted it, I was both unprepared and discouraged. It meant he would leave and I would remain to get the house ready. It took another year and a half before we could join him. The separation, to put it lightly, was Hell.

Part of the problem was, obviously, that we were trying to sell our house during the worst real estate slump in history. Part of the problem was that there was no alternative for us but to remain. We could not rent in Virginia—or we thought we could not—for a price we could afford, with three kids, a dog and seven cats. We tried several times to buy, but each time it fell through. I think we tried six or seven different properties, mostly foreclosures, but for various reasons, they turned out not to be viable options.

We at last decided on a property, which must by necessity be temporary, to buy and move into. We moved in, but at the last minute, the loan fell through. I have to say I was relieved. I hated the house, though I liked the neighborhood. It was a historic neighborhood, one of two, once prominent streets, that border Sutherlin Mansion, the last capital of the Confederacy. The neighbors were friendly and watched out for each other. Many of the city’s prominent historical preservation folks live around here. And the houses, both run down and restored, are beautiful.

So we went to the estate sale. I fell immediately in love with the place. There was so much light and charm to the house. It was exactly the right

Books I bought at the estate sale.

size. And while it had not been updated since the 60’s, it had been owned by the same family, if not since it was built, then certainly for the last 90 years or so. I could see what the house was meant to be, and I knew I could make it so again.

I had to have this house.

So I asked one of the auction people if they knew the situation. I was informed that the house had gone into foreclosure. I was at once hopeful and anxious. The house we were living in (across the street) we had been renting for the last year and a half since the loan fell through. It was still on the market and might, at any minute, be sold. Foreclosures sometimes take years to go through. Sometimes, not often, they go through a little faster. We didn’t have years, I knew that. But if it were available sometime in the spring…it might just be possible.

I kept my eyes peeled. The Day house can easily be seen from our little, rundown rental property, and you’d better believe I watched it. I watched when the men came to winterize it, to clean out the remaining memorabilia of one woman, and one family’s long residence in the house (how I wish I’d had the courage to dig through those garbage bags they had piled out on the street). And I watched as they cleared the vines away and revealed even more of the faded and sad exterior. They were preparing it to go on the market.

I also watched the internet. I found a notice stating that the house would go up for auction on December 18, on a Tuesday, before Christmas. There would be no showing. It was a cash only sale. They were hoping to get the $70K owed, but it being an auction, who knew. I felt it would not sell. I could not buy it, not for that price. Not on a Tuesday in December for cash. I sought advice. I took a lot of ibuprofen for my stress headaches. I was told it would certainly sell. An investor, someone, would buy the house.

It did not sell.

I continued to watch. And then one day a sign appeared on the door. It was just a letter saying the property had gone into foreclosure, and that a certain real estate company would be representing it. I called the man. He had no information on it. Not yet. But he took my name and told me he’d call me back in a couple of weeks.

A couple of weeks went by. I heard nothing. About a month later an ad appeared in the paper, along with a sad looking picture of the house. There was no price, no MLS number. Just: “Needs major repairs. Seeking offers.”

I called the real estate agent once more. He didn’t have a price yet, but would get back to us.

I continued to wait.

And then, at last, we were allowed to see it. I’d seen it already, of course, but I wanted to see it again, I wanted to get my name on the list, I wanted to be the first on the list of interested buyers. And there was a price. They wanted $31K.

Holy cow! This might actually happen.

We went to see the house. Major repairs. I find this a relative term. Our house in South Carolina, when we bought it, had been owned by one family since it had been built. It had outdated electrical, sketchy plumbing, peeling paint, a porch that needed replacing, a kitchen and bathrooms that needed updating. No heat. What are major repairs? This house was in exactly the same condition. We could do this.

Only how much would we need to borrow? 50K? 70k? 100k? We still own a house in SC. It limits us a great deal. But I was determined to make some kind of offer. My parents had offered to help us out if we needed it. 30K was hardly anything at all. But houses had sat, were sitting, on this street, for less than that. There was a precident to ask less. And if I could borrow the cash… Maybe 20K was not so bad an offer. We decided to do some research. We would find out just what we could do and we would make an offer.

The following day we had to be out of our house in order to allow the agent to come and show it. We got up, it was snowing. We prepared to leave.

We own an outhouse!

The man who greeted us was not the agent, but a home inspector. An offer had been made and accepted. If the inspection passed, we would have 45 days to be out of the house. There was no choice now but to move forward on the Day house. There was no alternative but to offer cash. A loan would take 60 days at least.

So I called my parents, and they came through. We made the offer. And waited.

It was rejected.

My migrains returned.

We made another offer.

It was countered. They wanted the asking price. Another offer had also been made. That other offer had been countered with the same. Was it a matter now of who accepted first? Was it a matter of who made the best offer? Did the fact that I had made contact with the selling agent FIRST, that I had made my offer FIRST, that the house was MEANT to be mine count for anything? We accepted the counter, but offered a couple thousand more (though I didn’t know how we’d come up with the money).

We waited.

I took more ibuprofen. Sometimes chased with acetaminophen.

I did a lot of praying.

And at last out offer was accepted. They accepted their counter, and told us (does this happen anywhere else but in the South?) that we did not have to offer the extra couple thousand, that their counter of the asking price was sufficient. The house was to be ours!

I truly believe the Lord works in mysterious ways, and though I rarely wax religious, this is not the first time that a property came to us by truly providential, even miraculous, means.

The house does not have adequate electricity. The plumbing leaks. The boiler works, but does not heat enough water to bathe in. There is no heat.

But it’s my house. Mine! And I’m so grateful, and so excited. This is going to be one gorgeous house!

There are butterflies in the stained glass. Can you see them?

And something else of passing interest . . .

We live on property that was once owned by a man named Holbrook. It may not mean anything to you . . . yet. I wrote a book a few years back. Five or six years now, I suppose. The hero’s name? Daniel Holbrook. Coincidence? A sign. Whatever it is, I think I’ve come home!

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Regarding Annie
Regarding Annie
The Bath Novels of Lady A~
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