Exactly one year ago today, during a record-breaking stretch of a few 70 degree days in February, this house became ours. I’ll never forget it for a couple of reasons – because I never (ever) thought we would own it, and probably more likely, because it also happened to be my birthday. Next door is the sister house to ours, almost identical in many ways. Recently the Berwyn Historical Society presented our neighbors with a plaque to signify it being a dwelling of significance and I was lucky enough to get a copy of the nomination which gives quite a bit of insight into the history of our own house. Primarily I was taken by the following passage outlining why people are so taken with George F Barber houses:
The surviving Barber designed homes still captivate the public in a way that current architects could only hope for. When asked why this is so, most Barber house homeowners struggle to explain it, but in many cases people describe it as “being drawn to them”. For reasons that they most likely don’t understand, present day homeowners often speak of their houses as being full of life and character, as being unique and special, and for simply being, what they feel a home should be. Without really knowing it, what they are really saying is that they feel their house is harmonious in form and proportion. That it contains the appropriate amount of ornamentation to go with the functionality they seek. And that they feel it was somehow designed just for them, even though it was actually designed for someone completely different, from a distant walk of life.
This past Christmas, we got a bit of snow and the first taste of having to clear an entire corner’s worth of sidewalk. I wasn’t sure if our neighbors were home so we went ahead and cleared theirs as well, and soon after, they rang our doorbell with a very sweet gift. It was a book of Barber’s homes and I quickly got lost in the pages of houses from all over the country sharing the same architect as ours (Mike even did as well – I find that he’s more concerned with getting us the “Ferrari of air conditioners” and insulating the basement rim joists or something like that). On page 217 I was surprised to see a picture of our house. 217. My birthday is 2/17, we bought the house on 2/17, and the picture of our house is on page 217. And…..George F Barber died on 2/17/1915. That’s all I really need to know this house is ours for a reason. And maybe “ours” is a relative term, as we once heard that buying an old home is not so much a transaction as it is a changing of the guard. We are simply the caregivers of a place that has, and will, live far beyond our years.