I’ve been thinking recently. A dangerous past time I know. Living in an old house brings certain responsibilities. One must respect the character of the house, while also making it comfortable and modern. I’m sure they’re having these same thoughts at Mount Vernon. Damn ADA compliance! George Washington would surely frown at all the wooden ramps detracting from his entryways. (Although it would be easier to bring the horses in.) I shudder to think what Thomas Jefferson would think about the alterations to his sweet Montecello.
But times change, and houses, like people, must adapt. To live as an originalist, after all, is to live in 1776. But character must also be respected. Elaine Stritch still wears her goofey hats sometimes, but they’re made by modern designers. And so, living in an old house is a responsibility. To uphold its rich history. While at the same time making it your own.
I was specifically thinking about this while looking at the new subway tile in the Orchard House bathrooms. Subway tile is so trendy. Perhaps too trendy. But it works in bathrooms…in fact, it’s sexy. And bathrooms are always evolving. Living spaces, though, including fireplaces and windows, should be altered with caution. What would the original builder of Orchard House, from 1850, think about the house today? Me thinks he would be distracted by the electricity, plumbing, and televisions. After all that, I think he’d be happy. It’s pretty. It’s new. But it’s still old.
I wonder what this house looked like in 1850. What animals roamed the pastures? Chickens no doubt. Peacocks? Dubious. Indian Runner Ducks? Me thinks not. But turkeys probably walked the land. Some form of sheep ate the grass. And llamas were no doubt in Peru at the time. I hear that vultures return generation after generation to the fruited areas of their ancestors. Today, there were 20 eating deer in a field. Could their great-great-great grandpas have seen Orchard House under construction? No doubt, to their great disappointment, they were looking for the subway tile and access ramps.