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 We struggled for years with an outdated heating system that woke us up with banging and clanking pipes all winter long.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 apartments.com 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.