Posts Tagged ‘home’

I spent a fair amount of time at my grandparents’ house on Hope Street as a kid.

And through this blog, I’ve spent a fair amount of time revisiting it in my mind — most notably in a post from this week in 2012, when I wrote a room-by-room tour of the place from memory.

That’s why I was interested — though maybe not surprised — to discover that one of my grandpa’s recently discovered journals includes a year-by-year list of every significant improvement made to the house, starting in January 1946 and ending in October 1984.

The first page ...

The first page …

... and the last.

… and the last.

It would have been around October 1984 that my grandparents sold the house at 1107 Hope to developers, who tore it down the following year to make room for condos.

I can only assume that front porch roof really needed to be reshingled in the fall of ’84; I can’t imagine my grandpa enjoyed sinking $350 (about $800 in 2015 money) into a house he knew he was going to leave.

On the other hand, I am oddly touched by the $2.44 spent on a new toggle light switch for the bathroom medicine cabinet. It’s like a fresh young soldier reporting to a platoon that knows the battle’s lost. Here’s this shiny new part looking forward to a lifetime of service, and getting six months tops before the bulldozers come.

I won’t bore my Five Readers with a lengthy breakdown of what got spent, when. I know no one really cares about the details.

I will share some of the more interesting items, though.

For starters, here’s a list of the paint colors (besides basic gray, white, blue and green) applied to different parts of the house over that 38-year period. The house in my memory was fairly drab — maybe “plain” is a kinder word — but this parade of names makes it sound like a riot of color:

Pine green
Mint green
Light green
Kentucky green
Cordovan brown
Forest green
Dawn yellow
Pilgrim gray
Smoke gray
Park green
Misty gray
Blue moon
Provincial grey
Slate grey
Pastel pink
Battleship gray
Candleglow (it appears to be a light beige-yellow)
Mission rose
Antique white

And now for some journal entries:

October 1946.

October 1946. Twenty-five pounds of furnace asbestos. Wonder what that was — insulation, maybe? It was only a buck — good deal if you didn’t mind getting cancer years later.

April 1947.

April 1947. My grandpa splurges and blows eight dollars on evergreens. Wonder if they are the ones visible in this photo from circa 1973.

October 1947: Wood for the rose arbor.

October 1947: Wood for the rose arbor. This might or might not be the (heavily weathered) wood from the cover photo of Hope’s Treat, the official soundtrack to the Hope Street blog.

March 1956. Remember when a radio was something you got fixed?

March 1956. Remember when a radio was something you got fixed?

April 1957. Look, Ma, I made the newspaper.

April 1957. Look, Ma, I made the newspaper. Wonder how many of these building improvements — heck, how many of these buildings — are still extant today. Also, I have always thought of Stamford as a predominantly Italian city with a minority of eastern Europeans, and this clipping does nothing to change my mind.

August 26, 1967.

August 26, 1967. Home security is not a running theme in this journal, so the mention of a lock stands out. My grandparents’ home would be broken into in the early ’80s — perhaps a minor contributing factor to their eventual decision to sell.

October 18, 1968.

October 18, 1968. This is probably the same clothesline my grandfather photographed, encased in ice, after the ice storm of December 1973.

January-February 1975.

January-February 1975. Regardless of what Fela Kuti might tell you, water is the homeowner’s enemy. I think this is the only reference to an insurance claim in the entire journal. At least it’s the only one that sticks out now that I’ve been through it three or four times.

October 14, 1977. No idea why my grandpa saw fit to illustrate this, but here you go.

October 14, 1977. No idea why my grandpa saw fit to illustrate this, but here you go.

October 1979.

October 1979. It’s a family affair: John Jacobellis, who replaced part of my grandpa’s porch floor, is my cousin on my mom’s side. (He’s been active in the building trades in Stamford for many years, and is referenced in passing in this post from four years ago.) He shows up in my grandpa’s journal on one or two other occasions in the late ’70s and early ’80s, as well.

March 5, 1981. Salty Grandpa shows up for a moment ("crap trap").

March 5, 1981. Salty Grandpa shows up for a moment (“crap trap”).

Summer 1983.

Summer 1983. My grandpa tackles a home improvement task — and, by his own concession, does a “lousy job.” The roots of the sale of Hope Street and the move to Rochester might lie in moments like this, as my grandfather realized he was no longer as capable of this sort of repair as he used to be.


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I wonder if there is anyone alive outside the Blumenau family who remembers anything about the interior of 1107 Hope Street.

(Some obligatory context for anyone who came in late: That was my grandparents’ old home in the Springdale neighborhood of Stamford, Connecticut, from the early 1940s to the mid-1980s.)

The Blumenau homestead, 1966.

1107 Hope was torn down more than 25 years ago, along with many of its neighbors, to make way for a row of condos.

So anyone who might remember what it looked like inside is probably starting to get up in age. Or, to put it more kindly, any such person has had a lot of other memories and experiences that might have crowded it out in the ensuing quarter-century.

Most likely, some of my great-grandma’s piano students from decades ago might recall their visits to 1107 Hope. I heard some time ago from one former student from the late 1960s who still had clear memories of my family and their home.

In the grand sweep of things, it doesn’t mean much whether anyone else remembers the house. But when a place is important to you, you like to think it might have made an impression on someone else, even if you’ll never meet that person.

I doubt the guy who visited on Sept. 14, 1970, remembers the place, if he’s still alive.

His civic employment must have required him to visit homes all over the city. And if any stuck in his mind, they were probably the mansions in the wealthy parts of town, not my grandparents’ humble blue house.

Sept. 14, 1970.

I wonder what the assessed value of the home was in 1970, and how much my grandparents paid in annual taxes.

I doubt the city of Stamford still has that record on file. I bet the property files for 1107 Hope Street went into the trash when the house was torn down. Just as well; no point in saving the records for a property that no longer exists.

I’ve already set down specific memories of different parts of the house over the past 17 months of writing this blog.

This week, to get it out of my head and down into print, I’m going to write down a room-by-room walking tour of 1107 Hope Street from memory, throwing in pictures wherever I can find them.

That might not sound interesting to the average non-Blumenau reader, so feel free to go get some tacos if you want. Come back next Monday, won’t you?

For everyone else, take a moment to look at the picture above. We’re gonna meet on the front porch, and enter through the green-painted front door visible in the picture. (The door had an American flag sticker and a Stamford Little League sticker stuck to the glass by the early 1980s, if memory serves.)

1967. Do come in.

We pass like wraiths through the front door and into the living room. To the right are stairs up, covered in some sort of nubbly dark vinyl, with a cuckoo clock at the base of the stairs.

But we’re going into the living room. From left to right, looking around the perimeter of the room, we see an armchair; some wall-mounted bookshelves; a small wooden table laden with Time magazines; a matching armchair; a TV set; some permanently drawn curtains; an upright piano; and a couch.

1975. Apparently there was a Popeye the Sailor Man punchbag in this room as well. I can only assume my older brother broke it before I could play with it. Thoughtless bastard.

We pass through a doorway and into the dining room.

At left is a low-slung wooden cabinet, presumably filled with fancy dishes, and topped by various knickknacks including a crystal bowl full of hard candy. At the rear of the room are my grandfather’s desk, at far left, and a single bed I do not remember anyone ever sleeping on. (I remember putting a hole in the bedspread once with a pair of scissors.)

Following around the edge of the room, we see a white exercise bike (yup — they had to put it somewhere); a china cabinet (no, that was where the good dishes lived); a second door out to the front porch; and the door to the basement. Of course, there was a family-sized table right in the middle of the room, host to countless holiday dinners.

1975 again. My Uncle Steve, Aunt Elaine, great-grandma Grossee and Grandma. Behind Uncle Steve is the door to the basement; behind Aunt Elaine is the doorway leading to the living room; and behind Grossee and Grandma, not really visible, is the low-slung wooden cabinet.

Still stuck in 1975. Behind my family is the china cabinet and the other door out to the porch. You could almost attach this to the pic above and make a panorama; immediately to Toddler Kurt’s left is the chair my Uncle Steve is sitting in above.

Going back to 1959, my Aunt Elaine does homework at the same table. If you go back to the first picture from 1975, she would be sitting next to where my grandma was sitting. Behind her is the low-slung wooden cabinet and the door to the kitchen. The spot that appears to hold a sewing bench held my grandpa’s wooden desk by the time I showed up. Note also the camera case on the table.

So yeah. See that door behind Aunt Elaine? That went into the kitchen. I don’t remember much about that room but I’ll give it my best.

From left to right you had various cabinets along the near wall; the stove and dishwasher along the back wall, as pictured in this previous post; the sink and kitchen table along the wall nearest the driveway; then the entrance to a tiny bathroom memorialized in this post; an old round-bellied fridge; and an exit onto the back steps that led out to the driveway and back yard. I think my grandpa’s calendar usually hung near that back door, as well.

We’ll step back into the dining room and pretend to go downstairs to the basement. The basement at 1107 Hope Street always creeped me out — it was dank and dirt-floored and shallow-roofed and stone-walled and generally funky in a way that did not appeal to Young Me.

So we’ll just say there was a workbench down there, and probably a bunch of cans of paint, and maybe an even older fridge than the one in the kitchen,  not to mention one of those hatchways leading out into the backyard. And then we’ll scoot back upstairs into the dining room.

Fall 1975, again. The neighbor kids rake the back yard. Visible behind them is the hatchway from the basement to the yard, painted blue to match the house.

So we walk back through the dining room, into the living room and to that set of stairs we saw a couple hundred words ago. We take them up, holding the dark heavy wooden railing. In the wall on the right-hand side of the stairs is a colorful stained-glass window — nothing wild, just nine panes of differently colored glass that add an artistic touch to what is otherwise a fairly plain house.

First door to the right at the top of the stairs is the painting studio that was repurposed as a spare bedroom when my family visited, with a cot set up across from the single bed that was always there. I got the cot; my older brother got the bed.

I remember a utilitarian metal work table that held my grandpa’s painting supplies; an easel moved out of harm’s way; a cabinet or two; and a magazine rack that held an old catalog of plastic models that I always found fascinating.

July 1978. This doesn’t show much of the painting studio-slash-spare room but it’s the best shot I can find that was taken there. For my fifth birthday I got the single bed instead of the cot. Thanks, bro.

Also on the second floor (from left to right, if you’re standing at the top of the stairs again) were the doors to my great-grandma’s bedroom;  the main bathroom of the house, the only one with a shower or bathtub; and then my grandparents’ room, which had a small walk-in closet that impressed me more than it should have.

Pix of the second floor seem to be fairly rare, and I didn’t go into other people’s rooms very often, so my memories of the other rooms are limited. I remember my grandparents had separate single beds. And I remember the smells of Irish Spring or Ivory soap in the bathroom, which I recall as being a fairly bright-seeming room.

October 1980. There was a small cabinet in the hall between the painting studio/bedroom and my great-grandma’s room. It had a phone on top. My great-grandma is marking her 94th birthday with a phone call to someone, sitting on a clothes hamper. The door behind her leads to her bedroom. Note also the manual pencil sharpener mounted on the side of the cabinet.

We’ve almost seen the whole house but there’s one more stop to make. Next to my grandparents’ bedroom is the leftmost door at the top of the stairs — the one to the attic.

Now, the attic at 1107 Hope Street was not some dusty forgotten storage room. It had been my dad’s bedroom growing up. It was where my grandparents kept the various games and toys they reserved for us kids. And it was where my grandpa kept the old newspapers and magazines I enjoyed pawing through. So it was a pretty regular stop for me whenever we visited.

I remember some funky old linoleum that had illustrations of nursery rhymes on it; and creaks and squeaks; and all kinds of cabinets with plastic sheeting drawn across them.

1977, sometime around Easter. Playing darts in the attic with my brother. Not a great pic but the attic was another place we didn’t take a lot of pictures of. You can see some clothing storage units to the left, and an old fan in the rear window behind us.

And that was 1107 Hope Street. It probably didn’t take much more time to walk through the place than it did to read about it.

Like the city assessor or my great-grandma’s piano students, you don’t remember it in person. But now you know more about it.

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