…. Landbank scheduled an appointment for us to look at the inside of the three homes. Paul and Deborah mark the date on their calendar and agree that Paul would join the agent to professionally determine what we were looking at.
We are to meet at the Primrose house by 8:30am, but I arrive an hour early. The street is quiet, there are no alleys for bad ideas or fast cars. A young mother stands at one of the street corners with her three children waiting for the school bus that is headed our way. The temperature is 38F, and frost is still visible on the ground. I park in front of the house and thank God for the peace I feel on this street, the quietness of the morning, my family, the church community I want to retire in, the property I am waiting for, my healing, my Godfamilies, those who have been martyred for The Gospel, and endless other praises.
My coffee in the thermos is weak and hot. I put a couple of drops of a warming essential oil on the back of my neck and turn the vehicle off. The dilapidated car port next to the house indicates a driveway is somewhere. Looking from my window, I see tracks hidden under dirt and weeds.
Knowing I have permission by the city to walk around, I pull my SUV into the drive just as Paul’s white contractor truck parks on the street. He optimistically smiles while surveying his surroundings. Ever the professional, he has his clipboard and flashlight with him. I am reminded of my father.
We both comment on the convenience of being so close to the highway, the large trees, the large lots, the number of churches and businesses within walking distance, and other neighborhood-related small talk. He mentions the potential ice issues related to the steepness of Primrose on that block and balances his statement with reference to the hilltop position we are standing on.
Neither of us reference the house and I guess he is reserving comment until the Landbank rep arrives.
A white compact sedan parks behind Paul’s truck. The driver unrolls his window after checking the address and looking back at his clipboard. We exchange greetings, confirming I am here to see this house. The rep is a tall, stocky man with glasses who must pull himself out of the seat by using the door and the steering wheel.
He would have been better suited in a vehicle two sizes bigger, but I recall the white cars I saw in Landbank’s lot and am impressed they provide their field agents something to drive. He flips through the papers on his clipboard before writing quickly on the third sheet. Paul introduces himself to Mr. Rep and they shake hands and talk real estate for a minute before looking at each others’ clipboards.
Mr. Rep trades his clipboard for a cordless drill and escorts us to the house. He says I am the first one to show interest in the property, but it is still early in the game. After removing the screws that held the barrier boards in place, he steps back and says we have 15 minutes inside. Mr. Rep stresses we need to be careful because the building has been condemned by the city and is considered unsafe.
Rubbish covers the majority of the floor from the front of the house to the back. Moldering furniture, grime-covered pots, clothing, broken toys, books, etc. Everything is blended together. Insulation hangs from the dining room ceiling like rotted spanish moss, and detached pressboard cabinetry lay on the ground in the kitchen, disintegrating into the trash beside it.
Paul finds the staircase to the attic. It is narrow and twisted. Before I enter the doorway, he gives a yell and a cat darts past my legs. I scream and Paul laughs. As a contractor, he has seen worse. I begin praying there are no abandoned kittens upstairs. A long stretch of rotted beams separate the solid walkways on either side that leads to the front. Old magazines partially cover the loose insulation and walkway. He says the area would work for a sleeping loft. Paul keeps releasing information, but I am still in alarm mode from the cat and can’t process his words.
We descend to the kitchen and try the door to the back porch. It can only be slightly opened as bags of garbage form a barrier about four feet high. We investigate the basement next.
The suspension steps are not level with the ground and he kicks a board under them for stability. Old bowling balls line a shelf above a work bench and an abandoned hobo camp is stuffed underneath it. Cobwebs hang from the low ceiling, a plastic Christmas tree decorates the floor amid the rest of the trash. The chimney stack sits flush to the ground with a hole for the furnace exhaust about 6 feet high. This is where the wood stove will go.
Random chunks of sunlight come through the places where Fon du Lac limestone is missing from the above-ground foundation. I can see light coming from a door frame along the east wall facing the street. Walking in the dark makes the basement seem longer than it is. I pull at the door’s edge and the room under the porch is revealed. Sunlight comes from the open window and reveals 4 beautiful limestone walls. The large porch above covers the room which is about 8 feet wide and 20 feet long. The trash on the floor ranges from 4 to 6 feet high.
It takes me a minute to process the thought that someone had used the window under the porch to drop their trash into the room. I try not to be offended at the thought of someone using a potential summer guest room as a dump.
Paul looks in and comments on how well the foundation is before we make our way outside. He points out the cedar shake shingles and says the house was built with top dollar material and has great potential. All the shingles will need to be wire-brushed before any new paint can be applied. The paint that remains is probably lead based, the insulation in the attic is probably asbestos, the roof must be replaced, the main floor must be gutted, windows need to be replaced, floors torn out, there needs to be a new door frame, doors, new plumbing, new electric, new furnace, cabinetry, etc…
Basically, a new house would need to be built within the house. He gets back into his truck and I let the agent know we are ready to look at the other two houses on the list. Mr. Rep seemed to be relieved we made it out okay even though we were in there for 12 minutes.
…. To be continued….