Top Things We Miss About Old Houses

12 07 2010

Hey, my house had one of those! (© Steve Lovegrove; Library of Congress)

Hey, I remember that!

For anyone lucky enough to own an old house, quirky features such as a hand-cranked dumbwaiter, gurgling radiator or shutters that actually work may be a part of everyday life. For the rest of us, such details now exist only in memories of visits to Granddad’s. The passion for old houses can start at an early age, as evidenced by all the letters and e-mails that This Old House readers sent in recalling special details from homes they knew as kids. In fact, it makes us wonder what today’s kids will talk about tomorrow — the silence of radiant heat?

Deep front porches

“My grandfather built my childhood home in 1936. Its front porch was 10 feet deep and ran the length of the front facade. It was a great place to play as a child and a great place to gather with the family.”

—Michael Purnell, Springfield, Ill.

Wooden screen doors

“I miss our old wooden screen door and my mother yelling, ‘And don’t slam the’—BANG!—’screen door!'”

—Hank Kennedy, Goffstown, N.H.

Milk-bottle boxes

“The house I grew up in had a metal milk box that held four milk bottles in an exterior wall. It had doors on each side — one was for the milkman to deliver freshly filled bottles and pick up empties, and the other opened into the kitchen.”

—Susan Allen, Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Floor registers

“In the floor of my old bedroom there was a heat register. It had an iron grate you could pull out and then peer into the room below you. Mine looked right down into our living room. Perfect for Christmas morning.”

—Kate Craney-Welch, Wauwatosa, Wis

Deep overhangs

“The thing I miss most about old houses is the eaves. Before air conditioning, the eaves extended far out from the roof on all sides to protect the house from the summer sun. Lying in bed at night when it rained, I could hear the water dripping off the roof. It was such a comforting feeling.”

—LaureL Glasco, Newport News, Va.

Dumbwaiters

“Our dumbwaiter took up the space of a chimney, but it sure was useful for moving laundry and trash to the basement and food and dishes to and from the kitchen.”

—Joan Phelps, Hot Springs, Va.

Steam radiators

“When I remember the 100-year-old Minnesota house I grew up in, the thing I recall most fondly is the old-fashioned steam radiators. In winter we used to come home after a freezing-cold day of ice skating, take off our mittens and socks, and drape them over the radiator. I can still smell the damp wool. Radiators make old houses feel so warm and cozy.”

Article By Connie Roth-Ames, Salem, Ore

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