Once I Had a House


I paid $1,000 for it. It had not a single pane of glass. One working toilet, which sat in the middle of ruins from a fire in the back two rooms of the first two floors.You could see the sky from the basement. Built in 1880, it was ten rooms of heartache.

I had never seen anything so beautiful.

It was surrounded by houses in similar condition, lived in by people who were as besotted as I. They were the most creative and generous people I’ve ever known.

These down-on-their-luck Victorian mansions surrounded a beautiful 30-acre park which had been the Disney World of St.Louis in the mid-to-late 19th Century. Swan boats plied its lake, and trolleys carried people there to see wondrous plants in summer, and skate on winter ice. I want my ashes scattered there, where my heart still lives.

As years passed, this house took shape again as hardwood was shined, bannisters returned to tightened staircases, and walls, bathrooms, paint,water and light loved it back to life. Children grew up there. Thanksgivings and Christmases were grand affairs.
Friends married there, mourned there, laughter and music filled it like grace. The house was featured in magazines and opened to house tours.
Maybe the house loved me back. It certainly helped me grow up, express my creativity, and allow my generosity and bravery to thrive.
Yes, I had a house. And,obviously,it still has me.

15 thoughts on “Once I Had a House

  1. I’ve heard you talk about the place before. Never was quite sure why you left there? That’s an essay in itself . . . In my whole life, I have never had a home that meant so much to me, at least until now. And where I am now, it’s not the house, but the land that holds me.

      1. I think my aunt’s house was neighbor to yours. I knew the moment you mentioned its proximity to the lake, swan boats, and winter ice skating. However, she died and the bank saw an opportunity in that. Goodbye St. Louis summers.

  2. You were a lucky girl to have had this beautiful memory. This would be a lot of people’s dream and you lived it..

  3. I feel the same way about the house just up from yours! Ours is oh, so lonely on the holidays! Makes me want to return so badly … but then there’s the drafts, utility bills, leaks, ants. But we are still friends with the fantabulous neighbors on one side. I DO miss the Old Place!

  4. You became a great friend. We became twins as the house next door took shape right along with yours.
    I made the best and trustworthy friends there. Some of my best stories happened in a neighborhood that still holds my heart.

  5. We bought our first house for $6000, did not know to have inspection or to bargain. Owners financed so no record of a mortgage. We did that in 1970, bought the next two in 1995 &1999 for $500, $800. Then selling the big house, telling the real estate agent if they mention taking out the walls or woodwork NO DEAL. Thankful the people who have it now are carrying it forward.

  6. The worse thing about having pieces of your heart and soul in a place like Lafayette Square, is….you can’t really ever “go home again”! As we’ve all grown older, those memories become more precious. I remember thinking we’d “do it again”, maybe not there, but somewhere…..and the shock, that there’s NO WAY to do it again! What a life it was!

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