Who Lived in Your House? (A Post by B)

February 1, 2012

This is a little something from B...

So, have you ever wondered about who lived in your house before you did?  What they did there?  Whether they were happy there or not?

Jora and I have.  Our first house was 100 years old and we couldn’t fathom all the possibilities.  We would wonder who might have been born or even died there.  Whether they liked living there.  Whether they ever drove by, wondering about us.
  
Our house now is different.  It had only one prior owner, as all the neighbors made clear when we moved in.  They each would tie us to the property by the only prior owners: “so you’re the ones who bought Dr. Hindman’s house.”

We learned that Robert Hindman had the house built for his young family (his wife, Spence, and his two kids) in 1962. 
{Robert Hindman, 1961}
 Dr. Hindman lived in the house until the day he died, from cancer, in 2006.  He was 85 by then.

Although the neighbors all spoke of Dr. Hindman’s energy and work around the property, by the time we came along you could tell the house and its owners had aged together.  The house sagged in certain places and was overgrown in others.  “Entropy” is the word I would later learn to describe what was happening.

So, we spruced up the house and property before we moved in.  In the process, I searched for and found the architect Dr. Hindman had hired 45 years before to design the house.  His name is John Mock.  He is living in retirement not far away.  Sounds like it would be easy to find him, but it wasn’t.

John and I talked several times before I could finally convince him to come out and see the house and the ongoing remodel.  Over time, he told us stories about how special the house was for him all those years before; how it changed his life.  He was only 28 years old when he designed it, as a “moonlighting” job.  He described how he rocked his kids to sleep with his foot while he was drawing the plans, late at night.  (Plans we now have, drawn with pencil on a rice paper of some kind.)  John explained that the house changed his career, gave him the momentum he needed to start his own firm. He spoke very highly of Dr. Hindman, and what a great client he was.  And, for the 100th time, we heard how much Dr. Hindman loved the house.

(As an aside, I was getting a historic designation for the house when I met John.  I raised the fact that the house had classic “Mid Century Modern” stylings.  When I said this, John said that he had only recently even heard the term--“Mid Century Modern”—and, when he heard it, he thought it was a reference to the mid-1800s  He said he couldn’t imagine having grown so old as to hear of his work referred to by the century.)

Over time, John searched his files and gave me Kodak slides of the pictures in this post.  Here is one with Dr. Hindman, with his wife, Spence, and their son during construction in 1961:


Anyway, we moved in.  Time passes, as it always does.  And, as it did, you make this change and that to the house.  You start to forget that it is “Dr. Hindman’s house”—not yours.  Then, from out of the blue, you get a card postmarked from a town in Idaho you’ve had never heard of.  And, this is what it says:

“I am Bob and Spence Hindman’s granddaughter.  A few weeks ago I ran across some online pictures of the renovations you have made to the home.  I felt compelled to send a note saying what an amazing job you have done.  My Grandpa loved that house and would have been so pleased his home is so obviously loved and well taken care of.  I wish you many happy memories and a home filled with laughter and joy.  Sincerely, Leasa Greer.”

Being me, I found Leasa too.  And called her.  Later, after she moved back to California, Leasa came over one day and shared stories about her granddad and the house he loved so much. 

Here is Leasa’s mom as the house was being built in 1961:


So, this should be the end of the story.  But, within a week or two of Leasa’s return to her granddad’s house, Jora received an unsolicited email.  It was from someone who grew up—40 years before--in the same neighborhood.  He had found Jora somehow.  Turns out, he has more to say on the subject:

"In 1997 when my Dad was dying of cancer, Dr Hindman told him to not worry about my Mom, that he would watch over her and make sure she was OK.  He fulfilled that promise.  . . .  Dr Hindman was a man of good character and went out of his way for many people."

Okay.  At some point in all of this, it dawned on me that 45 years from now will pass.  This is obvious, but not what you are contemplating with three kids who are so small. 

It also occurred to me that 45 years from now our kids, and maybe even grand kids, will have memories of our house.  May they find the inspiration to write a note to the then-owners about their time in the house, and the love, and the memories, and the laughter, and the joy, and—should we be so lucky—the “good character” they knew there. 


29 comments:

  1. Oh, I really love this. How lucky to have these photos. It's obvious that your house is incredible-looking, but it's even more special b/c of the story and people behind it. What a gift to know about the people who also love(d) it.

    I find a lot of meaning in the question 'who lived here' -- Our home is from 1930 and we're just the 3rd owners... the previous owners were here for 50 years, so we too were given photos and recollections (a cow once lived in our yard!). They loved this place, raised two boys, but also grew old here... entropy resided here for a while too.

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  2. B, you have such depth, I love it and these posts and your writing (past birth announcements included), exquisite. I am so happy to know you guys.

    I always wondered the same (like Blake) of our old 1912 craftsman. Our "new" home hasn't had such a long history, and according to our neighbors the previous owner's characters were not so honorable. I guess it is up to us to make up for all of those surly years and fill our home and 'hood with joy. That is, unless your neighbors in the pink house sell to us someday ;)
    -Mel

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  3. What a fabulous post, B! You have definitely inspired me to seek out more info on our house. All I know is that the man we bought it from was related to Howard Hughes and that an architect from Los Angeles was responsible for the unusual-for-Vegas old Hollywood/Mediterranean style.

    PS. You should add that beautiful drawing of your house to this.

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  4. this is amazing. it left me tearing up. I often wonder the same thing about our house. It was built in 1924 and I have no idea about the history from then. We have met the daughter of the family who lived in it before us. She grew up here, the family lived here 40 years. It's amazing the history.

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  5. I love this post. When we bought our home we found the old, original, blue prints hidden in the workshop. Such a treasure! The couple had the home built in 1946. They raised their family there and stayed in the home until they passed away. You can see their love for the house and land (even through the "entropy"). We love it too and have even been unable to take the original knocker down off the front door which has their initials engraved on it.

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  6. B-
    This in an incredible post. It brought tears to my eyes. Sounds like the house will have a history of folks with good character!

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  7. I agree with Julie Machen. Wonderful and inspiring post. Makes me feel good...
    P.S. Yes, I know who my previous owners were. I saw them once before we bought our house.

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  8. This was lovely to read. And I'm glad to be acquainted with the people who did your remodeling work...they done good!

    jbhat

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  9. Such an amazing post. Can you believe that when we had lived in our new home for less than three weeks we got a knock on the door from one of the previous residents, who had not been here in over 35 years -- since she was four years old! She was visiting from the opposite coast and had spent years longing to come back to her beloved childhood home. Sadly, she and her mother and brother had left suddenly after the tragic and sudden death of her father in an airplane accident. Her story was so sad, but I was really moved by how much she associated this place with happiness and love and the most joyful times of her life. She went from room to room telling me stories and recounting how in love her parents had been, how full of life and parties and friends the rooms had been. I considered it an incredible gift to have been visited by this piece of my new home's history -- and I made a new friend in the process. She was very grateful to have the opportunity to see the house and connect with the current occupants, and we have stayed in touch since! She even sent me some amazing photos from her babyhood, taken in/around the house. Beautiful.

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  10. What an amazing story! Such beautiful history of your home. I loved reading this.

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  11. Wow, what a fantastic story! And a nice reminder that houses aren't just possessions, that homes have their own feeling and character that comes from the people who live in them. I agree that you and Jora are excellent stewards of the house and am glad to hear you plan on living in it for a long time!

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  12. Beautiful story, it really is very intriguing to find out who enjoyed the comfort and intimacy of your home before your did. How did it look before. Did they love it as much as you do. Because of this we are so curious about the past owners of our houses.

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  13. A fabulous story and one which I am sure wil be told many many more times by your own children.

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  14. What a beautiful post. A house's story can be really moving. And how lovely to have pictures of your house during construction!

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  15. So so special! Thanks for sharing. :) I've heard our house was in Sunset Magazine back in the day, Im gonna dig deeper and try and find it.

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  16. This is such a magical story. Thank you for sharing this.

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  17. What a wonderful post. It reminds me so much of the home my grandparents built (another doctor and his wife who built what ended up as a "midcentury modern"). I have many beautiful memories of visiting their home. The people living there now are also only the 2nd owners. I think you've inspired me to write a letter to them!

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  18. Another beautiful post by B. I'm sure your children will have equally fond memories of sharing your house with you.

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  19. What a fabulous post. Reminds us of our connection to 'home' - however it may be. Our children are in their third homes, in as many countries and are just four and six. I think of the memories they will have of where they have lived and laid their heads. Parts of me longs for that attachment you are able to give your family. Truly a wonderful gift.

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  20. I loved this post. Your family is cultivating joy in that space, so I don't think it will take much luck to leave a beautiful legacy there like Dr. Hindman and his family.

    You can tell that a ton of thought and time was put into that space from day one and it continues with you and Jora. Lovely.

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  21. As a long time renter anxiously awaiting the day that we buy our first home, I was completely moved by this post and the love you have for your home. I am a new reader at this space and last weekend, I made my husband look over my shoulder as we oohed and aahed over your lovely home and family. Thank you for the inspiration that your blog provides.
    Oh, and to answer another post...we just moved to the Pacific Northwest (Seattle) and find it to be pretty outstanding. I think it would be a fun summer vacation spot for your family. Excited to here how you find your rental and where you decide to vacation..

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  22. This was such a touching post. Thank you for sharing it with us.

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  23. This is fantastic "B" - I always wonder about the people who lived in our house - I know it only had two prior owners but I don't know much about them. Our back neighbor Paul, who is now in his 90s, sold the lot to the people who built the house in 1958, and remembers when they blasted the hillside out to create the yard. He's given us a few tidbits here and there, but I would LOVE to have some pictures.

    Your kids will definitely have lasting memories of that house and your life there - the chickens, the bees, the garden, the pool, the playhouse - it is really quite a world you have created!

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  24. Beautiful. You have me all teary-eyed thinking of our house and the memories our children and grandchildren will have. Our youngest daughter who was accidentally born in the bathroom while the older one slept soundly. The nooks and crannies filled with "collections"...buttons, toy animals, LEGO pieces, dust bunnies. The open kitchen/family room that we were able to create with lots of work and where we congregate every single moment of every single day.
    What a wonderful energy your house began with and what wonderful love and energy your house and its loved ones will continue to exude.
    Thank you for sharing. I so enjoy this lovely blog.
    Jennifer R.
    Indianapolis, IN

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  25. This one got me thinking...

    We moved into our current home almost 5 years ago. It was built in 1963 and the original owner raised her kids and grandkids in the home. Our neighbors have told us that she was very sweet (her husband not so much but he had passed a while back) and that she was a secretary at the local art school and had a great collection of original art which I love. We'd like to raise our kids here too- great location, love the neighbors, etc. We hope they have the loveliest of childhoods and that the people around us have nice things to say about us too.

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  26. reading this left me with a smile on my face. we are house hunting for our first home right now, and this really struck a nerve with me.. thank you for sharing!

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  27. Great post, B! I'm so happy you were able to make the connections you've made with the previous owner's family. Their stories, photos, memories, etc. are priceless. It absolutely adds a new dimension to your home's character. Enjoy!

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  28. What an amazing story! Thanks for sharing!

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  29. What a moving post. I am sure your children will cherish not only their memories of the house but how their parents went out of their way to honor its history. Your house is beautiful and you seem to be a beautiful family. Thank you for sharing glimpses of your life with us.

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