Monday, December 04, 2006


Here's the kind of thing that leaves me scratching my head.

Before I bought my house, I lived in another neighborhood on the other side of the city. I lived in that general area (homeowner & rental) for close to 15 years. When I first moved into the neighborhood it was filled with big old Victorians & Bungalows dating from the early 1900's. These houses are relatively big (2000+ sq ft) and full of the kind of details that would have been available to the upper middle class in the early 1900's. Some of the houses had been neglected for a while, but the neighborhood was on the upswing and people bought the old houses and restored them.

10 years after I moved in, most of the houses had been snatched up and restored. It was a fun neighborhood to take walks in for an old house lover. Plenty to look at & admire. No remuddling here.

Then the neighborhood became trendy. A new crowd moved in. A distict change in the neighborhood took place. People wanted to live there to say they lived there for the prestige. That's about the time I decided I wanted to move out.

Last year, I drove through my old 'hood and was surprised to see an astounding number of old houses being torn down and on those city lots, large McMansions were being built. It made me sad. The neighborhood originally became popular because of the charm of the old houses, but now they were being torn down.

Here is the latest evidence of this phenomenon. A local salvage place sends out information of houses that are being gutted or torn down. They show photos of the items that can be purchased as salvage. Take a look the photos at this link to see what is being stripped out of this old house.


John said...

There is neighborhood in Little Rock, AR, like that. It is mostly Bungalow from the teens and twenties. It's been kept in good shape for decades, but, over the last 10 years, developers have been tearing down a number of them for 4000+ square foot McMansions. The homeowners have been fighting back with some success, but it's still fairly sickening.

As to why this happens? I don't know, I guess money can't buy taste or class.

Chris and Mandy said...

That's just mind-boggling. And sad. I just don't understand it - and not in a "*sigh*, I don't understand it" kind of way. I, literally, cannot comprehend how you could throw out something like that buffet, or tear down that crown molding. At least you could snap it up?

StuccoHouse said...

I'm not against new construction. I actually like to take tours of new housing. Who knows, I may live in a new house one day. To me, though, it belongs in a new construction zone. It's hard for me to see wonderful houses, in good condition, in a neighborhood known for it's old houses....torn down to be replaced with something the neighborhood is not.

As far as snapping it up....the sad thing is that I receive emails notices like the link I provided on a weekly basis. Some just are more sad to see than others. I do think the Twin Cities has a strong market for these salvaged items among contractors, so hopefully the buffet and woodwork from this house will be put to good use.....though, not in the house where it belongs. Of course, my house has benefitted from salvage.

Jocelyn said...

Seems like this is happening in many places. In Chicago, the mayor enacted incentives to renovate bungalows and they are looking at doing the same for greystone buildings.

It makes me physically ill when perfectly solid (even stone) buildings are leveled for one reason and that reason (around here) is GREED. Why renovate a 2-unit dwelling when you can build 4 on the same lot. Green space? who needs it?

The individual cities really need to address this issue or at least the surrounding neighborhood. I guess the zoning in that area allows this to happen.

Greg said...

It's always sad to see old house go, but more than that, it's the appalling waste that drives me nuts. Sure you can salvage the good architectural details, but there is still a lot of building material that just gets tossed.

StuccoHouse said...

The thing that mystifies me is that these houses start in the ballpark of $500k and go on up. For the most part they are completely restored....the high quality stuff. The neighborhood is all about history. These are not those rundown properties in a neighborhood that doesn't know better. There are plenty of open lots (on a lake even) in surrounding areas that cost less and are waiting for new construction. I just don't get it.

Patricia W. said...

I recently found a person who posts pictures on Flickr and then followed a link to his homepage. He lives in Detroit and takes pics of everything, especially the old buildings and gorgeous old mansions. I was appalled at the pillaging and theft. One example was a multi-story building that had a beautiful terra cotta roof (still in wonderful condition) with incredible carved stone lions placed several stories up on the facade. They had been completely ripped off of the building and he was told they were bought by a developer to go on a new structure in Chicago. This really pissed me off. You can say, "well, it was going to fall down anyway, or it was empty" but still, there is something utterly disgusting about this type of thing. The building wasn't even in bad shape but they left an eyesore after they got what they wanted. Like a face with the eyes ripped out.

The Litter Box House said...

So depressing. The only glimmer of hope from this is that we do have reuse centers and everything won't go in the trash (at least not for some houses).

I'll have to remember this reuse center on my next visit to my family. My city's reuse center doesn't have such beautiful items since old houses are popular. I'm glad that we don't have such rich material in our reuse store (since it hopefully indicates that old houses aren't being torn down), but a tiny little devil on my shoulder keeps saying "Wouldn't it be nice to find beautiful replacements for your crappy plywood upstairs doors?" Smack smack. Be gone evil demon!


Anonymous said...

I think I am going to be sick. How could anyone in their right mind destroy something so beautiful. I guess it is greed and that alot of people think bigger is better. No thanks.


Poppy said...

Seeing that makes me want to cry! That built in buffet is so beautiful...why oh why would anyone want to tear it out?? Such a shame.

Mei said...

In New Orleans our preservationists are so active that we NEVER have older homes being torn down for McMansions, thank goodness. Recently a beautiful home on St. Charles Avenue fell in on itself because the owners neglected it. They wanted to tear it down and build a nice, ugly McMansion, but they were blocked at every turn by historical societies. So they just let the place rot. By the time it was seized by the city Hurricane Katrina had done so much damage to it that it just fell over. Isn't that sad?

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