Our House’s Original Owners

One of our favorite posts in our entire archive is this one about hearing from our first house’s original owners. It was so much fun to see photos of their family in our house back in the 60’s, and we studied every inch of each picture and relished every detail that they shared in their letter.

We were also friendly with the people who sold us our second house, so although we never heard from the original owners, it was really great to know the sellers who had lived there for 22 years! So we always hoped to hear from the original owners of our current house. For a while… nothing. And then it happened! We actually met their daughter-in-law Chris at an event here in Richmond a few months back and big hugs ensued. There’s nothing better than hearing how special a house that you love is to another family, and she gave us permission to share some snippets from a letter that she sent us along with some old photos, so here it goes!

The house you are currently in has had a wonderful history of family memories. My husband’s parents bought it when his dad was transferred to Richmond from Cleveland, Ohio over 30 years ago. They had just become “empty nesters” so they searched for the right house in a perfect location for their future grandchildren to come visit. As a matter of fact, the first of their grandchildren was on the way during their move! It was a crazy time for them, buying the house under construction and moving from 500 miles away. They somehow fit in traveling to Texas for the birth of the first grandson, and saw the births of nine more grandchildren, and one great-grandchild while living there! They were dog lovers and brought their beloved dog, Chelsea, an English Foxhound, with them to Richmond. Sometime after she literally disappeared into the woods one day, another dog (Lady) followed my mother-in-law home. She was well loved and stayed with them a long time.

My husband and I lived in Richmond during the births of all four of our children. Before they were born we acquired our first “child,” a dog from the Richmond SPCA. We took her directly to the house to visit “grandma and grandpa” before even taking her to our own home!

All of our children remember the house as a place we celebrated Christmas Eve every year, plus multiple birthdays and other holidays (this photo was taken in the back porch, which you call the converted sunroom, around 20 years ago).

My father-in-law used to put a Christmas tree in almost every room of the house, and they were always decorated to perfection. He used to play a game with our kids, “find the ornament.” He would spy an ornament on the tree, and the kids would see who could be the first to find it. It wasn’t easy! He had hundreds on one tree alone! 

My mother-in-law was a fantastic cook and had us over not only for celebrations but just because she felt like cooking. The kitchen was extremely well used and well loved by all. She would spend days baking cookies to take to Virginia Beach every year, when some years all three of her children and ten grandchildren would also be there.

There was an antique chandelier hanging in the kitchen that was precious to my mother-in-law. It belonged to her grandmother. She loved it, but it hung so low everyone knocked their head into it at least once in their visits there! It was removed before the house was sold.

The outside deck and back porch were added by them after moving in. They used the porch on a daily basis, him reading the newspaper and her doing her needlepoint pillows (this is a photo of my mother-in-law presenting one of her pillows to my daughter in the living room).

The tree in the middle of the deck (that you have removed) was just a small thing when they decided to build the deck around it. They wanted to keep it for the shade it provided. It really got huge!

It is really nice to be able to see what you are doing to make the house your own. I love the hardwood floors you have put in upstairs and really like the stenciling you did on the master bathroom floor. Your daughter’s room is where my mother-in-law slept during her later years. She would be so happy to see new life there, with the fun girly room you have put together! I also really love how you transformed the half bath downstairs. It is so much brighter and clean looking! I’m looking forward to seeing more improvements in the future. I wish you many years of happiness in your home! – Chris

We’re so grateful to Chris for reaching out and sharing those details and photos with us! It was amazing to hear that the tree on the deck was tiny once. Remember how big it was when we had it taken down?

We realize this letter may not be as touching for you guys, but it was so heartwarming to us. To have a better sense of the life this house has lived and how it has been loved by so many people (filled with grandchildren, home cooking, and Christmas trees) makes us feel so grateful to be here. As a total bonus, we also heard from Erin, one of the grandkids who grew up visiting this house. Here’s her letter:

I’m one of the 10 grandchildren of the original owners of your current house. My mom shared your blog and I am blown away. The house looks wonderful! I have so many fond memories from that house. I am so thankful that you two have moved in and have posted pictures of your updates to the house. Thank you for providing a way for me to still feel connected to the house and for bringing new life to its foundation. – Erin

Amazing, right? It really is awesome to hear from others who are essentially strangers, yet you share something so personal with them: the love of a home.

Have you ever heard from your home’s original owners? Or uncovered anything cool in the house (like this stuff that we found buried under the original cabinets in our first house’s kitchen)? I can’t wait to see if we’ll discover anything when we open up some walls and redo the kitchen! So far all that has turned up is an old water bill from ten years ago in the bottom of the trash compactor.

Comments

  1. Amanda L. says

    We moved into our current house in January 2013. It was built in 1910 and has had several owners. About 30 days after we moved in, we found a packet of old plans and newspaper articles. It turns out that our house was built on what used to be the property of a Jesuit monastery. More specifically, it is built on what used to be a graveyard. Many of the graves were moved to another cemetery down the street, but it sounds like some were not. Luckily, we’ve had no odd ‘bumps in the night.’ It was definitely neat to see the pictures of the land before our house was built.

    We also have been lucky enough to go inside several of our neighbors houses that were built at the same time. It is so interesting how different owners have put their ‘touch’ on these homes.

  2. Erin says

    The house I grew up in is one street over from the house my parent’s moved to when we were a little bit older. My mom and I love to walk by it every day. It has had about 3 owners since we lived there (and my parents COMPLETELY transformed it back into the 90s) and my mom chats with the new owners sometimes. We are secretly hoping it will go up for sale again so we can see the inside – but I’ve been itching so bad to go back there ever since I have been pregnant! I just know one day the hormones will get to me and these people will have a bawling huge pregnant lady on their doorstep begging them to let me inside and share with them all the history that my family put into the house!

    We did have a niece of the owners who lived in my parent’s current house come by at a garage sale and tell us about how the house was in the 60s when she lived there with her aunt and uncle, that was really fun for us!

  3. catherine says

    First and foremost I have to say I LOVE your blog, love love love it!! I check it daily for updates! I purchased my first home 2 years ago, I am the second owner of a home that was built over 60 years ago. Just a few months ago I was in the basement looking for something and came across a binder with the original catalog order for my house, picture and everything and the original blueprints. My plan is to frame them for my living room, how much more original could you get for artwork, and such a conversation piece!

  4. says

    Are you kidding? I’m sitting here bawling like a sentimental nerd!! I absolutely love they provided you with a history of a house well loved by one family and now loved and improved upon by yours. Where’s the Puffs, I’m dyin’ over here!

    • Daphne says

      Made me cry too! Especially at the lady of the house spending her later years in Clara’s room!

    • Charlotte says

      Absolutely! I’m currently procrastinating from school work for a few minutes and trying to hide my face to stop passing students from seeing my tear streaked face!

    • Dawn says

      The only reason I looked at the comments was to see if I was the only sentimental sap with tears rolling. LOL! Glad to know I have some company :)

  5. Anya says

    This weekend I helped my aunt and uncle move out of their townhouse they owned for 7 years, and I was struck by the sense of it’s not so much being a home-owner, but a house-caretaker. Taking care of your home and enjoying it so that it can be passed on to others later on. How touching to have history of who has lived in your house.

  6. says

    Oh my gosh!!! I also JUST found some previous owners to my house. Our house was built in 1956, and, just like you, the daughter in law contacted me through Facebook! The family weren’t the original owners, but lived there from 1960 – 2001. I can’t even tell you how excited I was to hear from her (her and her husband now live in Italy!) and vice-versa. I had always wondered about the previous owners and the history of the house, etc. She had only a few pics, but I was ecstatic to see them! I sent them pics of what the house looks like now, and they really liked it. I told her that I always felt like it wasn’t just my house, that this house had been loved before, and that now that I knew someone who lived there, it made it even more special to me. In the house, there is a beam down in the basement that says “PR was here” which was one of the boys that lived there, and there’s a set of old keys that hangs on a beam by our garage door that I haven’t touched since we moved in. I like them there, and they always make me think about the others who lived there.

  7. Allison says

    For some reason I really thought there would be some ‘reveal’ about the origins of the blue trim!

    I know that we have seen the blue trim in other areas around the blogosphere but I still find it one of the more quirky things about your house!

    The fact that you can work around things that aren’t considered modern these days really helps me not turn my nose up at houses with full pink bathrooms while we search for our fixer-upper.

    • says

      I think it was really in when the house was built (“Colonial Blue”) since a bunch of neighbors told us they had the same look going on when they moved in!

      xo
      s

    • carol g says

      I have had not one, but TWO houses with trim painted that exact shade of blue. I have to admit, when we bought the first house in 1976 I thought that was a selling point….when I bought the second house in 1991, not so much.

    • Ellen says

      If you do a search on Williamsburg and look at photos of interiors, you’ll see lots of homes with woodwork painted blue, green, or gold(ish). Several paint companies had paints in historically accurate colors, though “colonial” wouldn’t necessarily mean exact reproduction. The traditional furnishing style often showed up in reproductions. Since it is a classic style, I’m guessing it will eventually come around again in some form.

    • Kirstin says

      I wonder if that look came back in with the bicentennial in 1976. Would that would make it colonial revival revival? That is, a revival of the colonial revival style from the early 20th century.

    • Jason says

      Look into savethepinkbathrooms.com and retrorenovation.com to see the possibilities in the fixer-uppers from that time period.

  8. Marianne Feller says

    I moved into my house about 5 years ago and one Halloween several years ago, a young girl about 10 years old came to the door Trick or Treating and told me that she loved what I had done to the house! It turns out she was the daughter of the original owner.

    • Allison says

      I’m currently renting, and my first Halloween had a visit from the previous tenant’s daughter (she wad probably about 7 or 8). She told me “Wow, this house is waaay cleaner than when me and my mom lived here!!” lollll! But I had to agree… When the landlord took me through, she kept apologizing for the mess, haha!

  9. Alani says

    This is awesome!
    I often drive past the house I grew up in, that my parents built. It looked like it was to be demolished but then a family moved in and have spent quite a bit of time renovating it. I have so many beautiful childhood memories of that house. I often think about calling in with some old photos of the house when it was first built… But then I think the new owners might think I’m crazy :)

  10. Megan says

    I love this post! I love history and I can be so sentimental about this kind of thing. While we have never heard from the original owners of our house, which was built in the early 1940’s, we did find an old newspaper. We were in the process of ripping out the original bathroom (with green and black tiles) and discovered the local newspaper dated June 16, 1942. It was stuffed in the walls. All the headlines were about the war, which was so interesting. There were grocery store and furniture ads, the prices were amazing…wish we could go back to those times with money from now, lol! We even googled some of the local military men that were listed just to see if we could find out what happened to some of them. It was such an awesome find!

  11. Emily says

    I teared up while reading this because the photos remind me of days spent at my grandparent’s house. Theirs was in Oakwood, a suburb of Dayton, OH. It was a wedding gift to them in 1938 — they never paid a mortgage. Fashionably decorated in the 1940s, it sported that look until the early 2000s when it was sold. It had original everything — floors, ovens, stove, pink and baby-blue bathrooms — and smelled like french perfume and moth balls. I’ve often wondered how the new owner has modernized. Maybe I’ll send her a letter. After all, I know the address by heart.

    • Caity says

      I live in Dayton…and Oakwood is so beautiful!! You definitely need to send the new owner a letter. I’d love to receive something like that from the original owners of our home! :)

    • Sherri says

      I grew up in Dayton. Oakwood was THE prominent community to live in. I agree. Send the homeowners a letter. Hopefully, they would be as touched and moved as Sherry and John were.

  12. says

    SUCH a cool letter to receive! And that’s so sweet of them to fill you in like that! Very touching. *sniff*

    In our house, the biggest thing we found was something that creeped me out. My husband was in the crawl space/duct area of the house adding a filter, and we found an OLD, nearly destroyed violin that had been stuffed in a nook somewhere. I’m pretty convinced that it belongs to a ghost still in the house (seems legit, right?), so I put it RIGHT BACK and haven’t moved it since. No need to piss off a violin-playing ghost, am I right?

  13. Rachel H says

    This was so sweet. My mother raised me on her own and we had a little brick house my whole life. When I was in high school we moved to a better neighborhood with a better school district. Not that many months ago (I’m now 24), we drove by just to look at the house I had spent so many years in, and the owners were outside and invited us in. They had rehabbed the whole interior and it looked INCREDIBLE. Their 3 year old daughter inhabits my once-bedroom, and it’s so great to see another little girl learn and grow in the same space that I did.

    This may not be an all-appealing post, but I sure did love it.