Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Little Pink Houses

      Little Pink Houses.  That's a song by John Cougar.  Or John Mellencamp.  Or John Cougar Mellencamp.  Whatever his name is today.  But what about big pink houses?  Or how about one big pink house in particular?  That's what I want to talk about right now.  One particular pink house perched on a cliff above Lake Superior.  And what an interesting house it turns out to be.
     It's a big Victorian tucked on a quiet street in a neighborhood filled with big Victorians.  But this particular one stands out for a number of reasons.  First of all, it is not meticulously groomed and maintained like all the other houses on its block.  It looks a little shoddy and worn, almost like that sort of middle aged woman at the dance in the 1800s who has just lost her husband, and so she has pulled out her slightly tattered and faded pink dress because she hopes that she still just has enough left at 42 to get a second chance at romance.  That's the feeling I got the minute that I saw The Pink House for the first time.
      I could totally envision that woman standing on a widows walk and staring out at the lake on a gray and ominous day waiting for her sailor husband to return.  He, of course, is never going to return.  Anyway, that is the image I get and it turns out to be appropriate because there is a giant windows walk on top of the house, which is just one of the amazing architectural features.  There are towers and gables and dormers and a wrap around porch.  There is this funky stairway that runs up the back of the house to access an apartment that is on the third floor.
      Yep, the house has been partitioned into apartments.  Well, let's be fair.  At present there is only one apartment on the third floor; the rest of the house functions like a normal house.  But as you walk through you can see that it was partitioned into a bunch of apartments at one time.  And you can tell that a lot of people have added and subtracted and divided the place over time.  It kind of lends an air of awkward sadness to the poor house.  But as you sort of sift through all the changes that have been made: from giant house to many apartments and back to house with the one apartment, you start to notice some patterns.  Like there are similar moldings all around.  The doors look the same from area to area.  There is still some semblance of continuity all throughout the house because most of the original fixtures from the 1800s still survive.  It's a little bit of a miracle if you think about it.  Most of the time when those types of houses get partitioned up like that they lose all the original stuff.  It's sad.  But this one as survived and it just adds to the quirkiness and the charm.
     You might be wondering how I got to know so much about the ins and outs of this particular house.  You are probably curious as to how I know there was a giant cat painted on the wall in the creepy basement.  You are probably attempting how to reconcile the fact that I was all up in, on and around that house.  Well, that's easy.  It was for sale and there was an open house.  Oh yeah, and old fashioned open house.  None of that "Shown by Appointment" bullshit for this place.  They threw the doors open for all the public to see.  So Sister and I went and took the tour.  She has an eye for architecture and she loves pink, and I love historic houses so off we went.  We put on our best khakis and made it look like we were young entrepreneurs with three quarters of a million dollars to blow and took the tour.  It was really interesting and fun, I have to admit.  It was a fantastic house from the outside, but honestly the inside just sort of make me sad.  And while a lot of the original stuff was there it really would have taken a lot of work to bring it back to it's full glory.  
     In mind, however, that's part of the neatness.  I love the fact that everywhere in that house one found things that one wouldn't suspect.  A stairway here, an old apartment door there.  Here is an amazing molding in perfect shape, there is a rotted out board on the veranda.  Oh yeah, it had a veranda.  So I don't know.  But every time I pass a nice big Victorian, with the big veranda and colored glass in the big, single-pane front window, I can't help but think of The Pink House.  I think of it fondly for what it used to be, and what it could be, sort of like someone who was in love with that lady in pink way back when she was single the first time, before she got married the first time, and sort of feels a stirring of the embers way down deep inside.  I'm not sure I can explain it.  But I admit that I have a thing for The Pink House and I probably always will.  I guess that I will always be standing on the widows walk, waiting for The Pink House to return.


Anonymous said...

Jeez, Dave, that's a good story!!!

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