Makes Me Mad: Charming Old Houses

Mad-MondayI grew up in a house built in 1885.  My parents tell me the heating bills were higher than the mortgage payments.  I loved that house for its spacious uniqueness, but I didn’t have to pay those bills.

After I married, my husband and I lived in a house built in the 1930s.  We struggled for years with an outdated heating system that woke us up with banging and clanking pipes all winter long.  During the summer, we had to remember to turn off the window air conditioner if we wanted to run the microwave. It had the cramped rooms and tiny closets typical of that era. We swore our next house would be better, and we saved for years with that goal in mind.

A few years later, we bought a house built in the 50s, then tore it down to the basement and rebuilt it.  All new framing, wiring, plumbing, heating and cooling, the best insulation, roofing and siding we could get.  It was the most perfectly designed and built house I have ever lived in.  I loved it… for all of the three months I lived in it.  (The already shaky marriage collapsed under the strain of a two-year long construction project.)

I moved to Philadelphia, and here I am in a house built in the 1800s again.  Right back where I started, spending more on heating than on rent.  The walls are actually colder to the touch than the windows.

People come to my house and they marvel at the odd sized rooms, large windows, spooky dark hallways, and dangerously steep staircases.  It’s just so charming, they say.

I hate this house.  I hate the dust and the cold and the mold smell that fills the air every time it rains.  I hate the inefficient heating.  The snow melts from our roof immediately, but I’m under six layers of blankets, huddled around the electric space heater, and wearing gloves to type this.  Charming is great and all, but it doesn’t keep your ears warm.

We moved into this house for the location and the price. And believe me, the rent is cheap!  We live in the absolute best neighborhood in Philadelphia.  Lots of great friends, shops restaurants and bars where everybody knows our names.

There are a few ‘new construction’ buildings rising up from old factories and abandoned lots all around us.  And lots of old ‘trinity’ style houses are being rehabbed into modern apartments.  It is incredibly exciting to see the way this neighborhood is booming.  (Recession?  What recession?) I only hope my landlord doesn’t notice how much more he could get for this place.  And that is the problem.  I can’t afford to move into one of the ‘new’ buildings.

I look up at them from the street and I look at the pictures on and I dream of lower heating and cooling bills and of modern wiring and plumbing…  Someday…

Someday I will feel like I am moving forwards in time not backwards. Someday I will live in a place where if the thermostat is set to 65, it means the inside of the house is 65 degrees, not the air above the roof.  Someday I will get to live in a place a little less charming and a little more warm.

4 thoughts on “Makes Me Mad: Charming Old Houses

  1. Recession? I’ve heard about that… it didn’t affect my housing market any, that’s how we ended up in a bidding war for our condo in 2009 – 50 something people all putting in offers and counteroffers for the same property. It went for 25,000 over asking… but, then somehow the appraisal came back at asking price anyway. Good times…

    However, I do love our little condo. It is exactly what we need at the moment. One of these days though, I’m going to wish we could just pick it up and move it to a nicer neighborhood.


  2. I’ve lived in the same house since 1998 and have hated it since before the day we moved in. It was just “ok” as far as I was concerned but the family fit well enough and it was bigger than the home we were renting. The kids are grown and gone and Mike has died and gone too and I wander this stupid 3200 sq ft home and think how much I hate it. I’ve changed the decor of rooms, changed furniture and changed the landscaping…I still hate it. I don’t like the floor plan, I don’t like that its located at the foothills of a large mountain range which gives me snow in the winter and 110 degrees in the summer, its sits on a corner, I don’t like that it faces East/West with the summer sun blasting into the main room I occupy….ugh…there’s NOTHING about this house that I like even though I’ve tried and tried to change my feelings. Friends come over and one guy actually says each time he comes that “it feels like your house hugs me”. Well goodie for you, why not buy it and let it hug you all day long? I just don’t get it, what others like about the stupid house. I’ve decided its time to sell it, get out from under the thing, the anchor that holds me in a place I don’t even want to be! Where will I go? I don’t care. Its away from the house and its a good start for me! You need to look at the place you live as temporary…even though it might be years of temporary. My husband and I agreed we would not retire in this house I live in and we’d move…15 years later I haven’t moved. My husband clearly lied to me. lol!!!! I do know how it is to live in a home that just doesn’t fit, is too expensive and is just not “you”. Hang in there and keep looking for that perfect place you want to live in.


      1. I do understand! You wrote (I think) about dark corridors in your house…I refer to my house as the “cave” and not in a good way as in a “Man Cave”. Even at brightest time of day I have to have a lamp on to ensure I don’t stub my toe or to read anything. I too hope you’re not in that house for 15 years unless you find a way to make friends with it! 🙂


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