Comment of the Day: What the House Meant

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT THE HOUSE MEANT House with Flower Bed“My great-great grandparents purchased the land mentioned in the above article when there were just a few houses on the street, and the street was not yet paved. They built this house and 3 generations of my family lived together under its roof at one time. My grandparents met working at the movie theater that used to stand in the Village Arcade. My grandfather was an usher and my grandmother was a concession girl. He used to sneak her out of her bedroom window for dates when she was 15 and he was 16, a few years before he joined the Navy to fight in WWII. My great-grandfather planted rose bushes in front of his daughter’s bedroom window to stop her from climbing out. When my grandparents were first married, they lived in the house with her parents and grandparents. My parents lived in the house after they got married, and I lived my whole life on Chaucer until I got married. My grandfather remained in the house long after his wife passed, and himself lived there until he passed away early last year. All of my best memories were set within those walls, all the family meals, holidays and birthdays. Driving past the muddy, empty lot felt like looking at someone’s usual armchair after they’ve passed away and expecting to see them sitting there, right as rain. Seeing those beautiful bone-colored porcelain bricks trampled under tire tracks . . . It took the air out of me. I hope that by sharing this history, people will understand that sometimes, a house is more than just 4 walls and a roof; this house was more than just a location and a parcel of land. Sometimes, it is the root that anchors us to our past, to our identity, to our origin.” [B Ferguson, commenting on Two Home Demos Mark Rice University’s Continuing March into Rice Village] Illustration: Lulu

23 Comment

  • Beautiful story. Thanks for sharing.

  • That’s a lot of history. How did your family manage to lose the property? I’m not trying to be a jerk but it couldn’t have been demoed unless they sold it?

  • I hope your grandparents weren’t working in that theater while it was showing porno movies !!!

  • So if it means that much, don’t sell.

  • Is there something about an older home that makes one sentimental? I lived in a 3-story shoebox for 5 years, sold it and never really think about it (it was actually a very comfortable place to live). I now live in a 1940 home and already have a strong emotional attachment to it after one year. That’s not to say the older home has been more comfortable than the townhome – quite the opposite.

  • Beautifully written. A shame how little people think of such things. So many here see houses and apartment buildings as only property and fail to recognize their value as a ‘home’.

    @dag eff off. No need to be nice toward such a heartless comment.

  • Thanks for the kind words, all.

  • what a swamplot of jerks………………………

  • A similar thing happened to me. The log cabin my great-great grandparents built after moving to Texas in the 1800s was handed down from generation to generation until it got to my parents. By then there were too many heirs to keep it in the family any longer. No one wanted to buy out the other heirs so it had to be sold and the money split. After we sold it the cabin was demolished and the entire 17 acres was clear cut. Such is life, you can’t live in the past forever. The truth is no one wanted the place more than they wanted the money.

  • Thanks for the story. It’s not always possible not to sell. Personally in that area I remember the nun-like atmosphere at Universal Toys next door. And when eventually my grandmother passed away and then eventually my mother sold her mother’s house (sry– back to Montrose) where my mother had grown up and we had all spent many a year raking the leaves… now we drive by (uhm, my wife, kid-o and me) and wonder: well what’s next? Just like the other day; and just like the other week and so many before. I suspect we’ll all have that breathless moment, too, one day. I hate to think of my mom having that ton-of-bricks feeling that I know is called life sometimes. However, in selling the property her retirement is better; her future (and mine in a sense) is better. And, at any rate, I’ll never forget the dang dog turds in the piles of leaves I raked into a pile to jumped into; the way the kitchen smelled; the spartan closets; nor Aunt Isabel and all her antics who lived there for some time too. Hey: in the meantime we make new memories and experiences.

  • The whole Houston region used to be a beautiful coastal plain where my family and extended family lived harmoniously with nature before 5,000,000 people showed up and paved over the whole damn place and called in Houston. Now I’m sad.
    Karankawa Nation

  • @Bernard, *like*

  • always nice to see people share more background on a property, but after watching the grey gardens and jeremiah johnson in the same night while travelling (never even heard that Albert Maysls passed away this month, i’m terrible) i think it’s important to note the difference and that a house is not always a home and a home is not always a house. what we remember is far important than what remains.

  • A moving post, B Ferguson. Thanks for sharing.
    I agree with ChrisM. It’s sometimes necessary to sell for financial reasons. Or when your life situation changes. I bought a house when I was still single and childless. I loved the house and the neighborhood. But after I got married, and we combined all of my stuff and my wife’s stuff, the house was cramped. When we had our son, it suddenly mattered that the public schools nearby weren’t good. Personally I’d have liked to stay, of course – I loved that house. But we’re leaving nonetheless.
    That said, people in Houston leave houses, and neighborhoods, at the drop of a hat. It’s the cult of “don’t like it, leave.” New neighbor’s obnoxious – leave. Apartments go up down the block – leave. Traffic becomes a problem on the street – leave. A rash of crime hits – leave. And all too often, they leave for distant suburbs, which contributes to sprawl. I railed against this in the past. I’m fully aware of the irony that I finally succumbed to it, though in my defense we’re moving to an older suburban neighborhood and a new development.

  • Touching story. My grandmother’s house is the same way. My mom grew up in that house, our family had to make the hard decision to sell. Ironically, I bought a house not too far from where my grandmother’s house was. her house isn’t demo’d yet, but it has been changed inexorably. Luckily my family understood the day it was sold that what memories that we held onto were all that might continue of the house. I get it, you’re distraught, and I’m sure even in his own way, dag empathizes with you, but when the family sold the house, you should have prepared right then and there for what might be. If you weren’t ready for it, you should have found a way to keep the house.

  • I love this story, Thanks B.
    Sometimes you have to move on and open new chapters and doors. I know it was a difficult decision for you to sell but I think you did the right thing.


  • We need to start a kickstarter to move ZAW into the Heights or Montrose or some other inner-loop neighborhood where his kids are zoned to good schools. Then he’ll stop commenting in every thread trying to assuage his own personal guilt about leaving Sharpstown for Fort bend.

  • who in their right mind would feel guilty for leaving sharpstown.

  • Good post BF. Don’t know why the house was sold, nor does it really matter. What perhaps needs pointing out is that you should be able to wax nostalgic and pine for the ‘old long since’ on such an occasion without eliciting knee jerk responses that are most likely based on a ‘no emotions allowed in the boys’ room’ ethos. It is difficult for me to imagine anyone having grown up in this town not experiencing an at least occasional bout of ‘Dude, where’s my city’?.

  • being that Houston is one of the more income segregated cities in america what i find impressive is how quickly some parts of town change while others don’t. i don’t ever have to question what happened to my childhood home or town in pasadena. the cheap house is still there and most all of pasadena has been frozen in time since the day I was born. many parts of Houston are the exact same, but those folks won’t be reminiscing on swamplot.

  • B Ferguson: I wasn’t trying to be mean/heartless… I’m genuinely curious why the property was sold? It seems you and your family were quite attached.
    Is it like jgriff said? “The truth is no one wanted the place more than they wanted the money.” ?

  • Christ Cody, maybe they got old and died and no one left could afford the taxes. It still doesn’t mean Rice needs to swoop in and tear down the whole GD neighborhood. It was good story and I understand their disgust at it being leveled with out a care.

  • B Ferguson, thank you for sharing this. I’m sorry for your loss — and that some people don’t understand or empathize. It’s comforting to live where memories are tied to places, and it’s rather odd and disconcerting to drive around this city where so much is not what it once was. I hope that continuing to remember and share those stories with loved ones brings you peace.