Americans are getting tired of looking inside historic homes (but I’m not).

Tracie Rozhon’s article Homes Sell, and History Goes Private [NYT] struck a chord with me because of the similarities to my personal housing situation. In her article, she talks about the falling interest in historical homes as museums and the loss of history to the public when these properties go private.

A few years ago, when my wife and I purchased our current home, we found we had a very limited window of opportunity to find out its past history from the sellers. That sense of history is what drew us to the home in the first place. A salt box built in 1825, the listing disclosed that the now-sealed tunnel in the basement was used extensively during the Civil War in the underground railroad. The house is “plaqued” in front showing that it is registered with the local historical society, who recently used our home in a calendar of other historical area homes as a fund raiser.

We first visited our then future house on the day it came on the market, and my wife and I were bursting with questions and wanted to pepper the sellers about the history. However, we felt we had to contain our excitement before the purchase was a done deal. Even after the the contract was signed, it was tough to ask the right questions about the history of the home with the agents in tow, our kids, etc. I think I found out more at the closing than at any other time, but even that was in front of all the people at the closing. The sellers moved out of state and my link to the past was ended.

This sort of loss of history doesn’t apply to historic homes either. Our prior house was built in 1938 and a former resident from 40 years prior was passing through the area and was curious what her former home looked like. She saw us outside and shared fun facts such as when the extension was built, where the old kitchen used to be. None of it was particularly useful, but it was still fun to know about nevertheless. In fact, the trivial details like that are what makes a property owner more connected with the property… to see how it changed over time, to appreciate that people raised families and had lifetimes there. Of course to those seeking new construction, thats exactly NOT what they want to hear.

I am all for new and improved, but there’s nothing like knowing a little history.



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