The wife and I own a classic American Bungalow, built in 1925. This year, of course, marks its 90th birthday. When we bought the house nine years ago, we had no idea what an American Bungalow was, but since then, we’ve bought magazines and books to learn about its unique architectural structures and the meaning behind it. Our house has had some remodeling done to it, most notably a gaudy picture window which was designed for a ranch house, just like the ones built twenty years later, right down the street. The trim doesn’t even match the rest of the house.
We’d know that, now that we walk up and down the streets, peering with interest at other people’s houses, looking for stylistic similarities and differences. Over on Hawthorne Street there is a remarkable house, very tall, with one of those spiral staircases which creates a delightful turret on the corner of the house. The main floor of the house was built from stone, like from chunks of brownstone you see in New York City–the chunks, not the nice square-hewn blocks. The mortar has long since rotted to a deep black.
It rotted because the house is flanked by two misshapen Colorado Spruce trees. Someone tried to prune the bottom branches, with poor results. Moreover, the shade thrown by the trees is still year-round and dark, which does not lend to wind or sun to help dry the exterior of the house. A closer inspection of the exterior reveals a miasma of silverfish, pill bugs, and centipedes. I thought I saw a vole creeping around the foundation of the house.
The several windows are set out from the house a little bit, almost like nice little nooks would be, but these are some sort of perversion of that ideal, hanging almost haphazardly from the framing of the house so that they stare blankly down toward the dirt. An old-fashioned tricycle lies on its side near the front entrance, rusted out, missing one of the rear wheels. It has never moved, not in the nine years we have walked past that house. The nameplate on the door hangs by one end. The house belongs to the Nathanael family.
My neighbor, the policeman, has repeatedly told me that the house has been abandoned for twenty years. Every time he mentions it to me, I ask him why it is abandoned, and he won’t tell me. “Ah,” he says. “The family felt like they needed a change of scenery.” The taxes on it are paid, and everything else about it is in good order, but the neighborhood is wary of the place. Kids are forbidden from playing on the property, and even the big kids and teenagers find other places to haunt.
It is the oldest house on Hawthorne Street, and, as it was built before a uniform building code was implemented, it hangs over the street with those doleful eyelets of sagging windows, casting its own shadow upon the neighborhood. It snows the least of all at that lot. The trees, I’m sure, prevent snow from making its way to the ground.
My policeman neighbor swears that it was just a reflection from a neighboring house that I saw when I told him I saw lights in the upstairs windows.