googleearthAccording to Trulia, the house I grew up in measures 2,454 square feet on a 2,427 square foot lot.

Trulia is full of it.I did not grow up in a 2,454 square foot house that spilled over the boundaries of its property.

I grew up in the first floor apartment of a two-decker my mom owned.  Each apartment had six small rooms and a bathroom. The lot is conceivably that small, but the living space of each apartment was undoubtedly less than 1000 feet and likely closer to 900 feet..

The image above from Google Earth tells the story

It is a tiny lot, with a small side yard that is little more than a walkway, and a second side yard that is shared with the neighbors. (You can see the small side yard along the bottom edge of the picture, and the second one between the house and the next two-decker.) The backyard really was more like a patio, and there was no front yard. The cement front steps reached the sidewalk.

Except for the bay window at the front of the house, it’s a perfect rectangle. I can make out the chimney and the trap door that led from the back porch up on to the roof.

The house sits in an asphalt canyon. The houses at the very bottom are two three-deckers and every other surface is covered with vehicles –the narrow street, the small lot at the bottom of the picture, the plows and other construction gear in a lot behind the house. The lot with the construction gear had two trees in it when I was growing up, one crab apple, one cherry. The parking lot at the bottom was an unkempt yard, but it was still a yard.

It felt bigger when I was a boy, but smaller each time I returned. I remember asking my boys–when they were boys–what they thought of the house and one said “it’s small.”

Trulia might be wrong about the numbers, but it does prove my boys right. It really was small. This picture brings it all back to me.


This is looking from the front door through to the kitchen. That’s the stove dead-center. The dining room would have been on the near left, then one of the bedrooms past that (it had two doors, oddly, and led into another bedroom). The door to the near right would have been my bedroom after my brothers left for college and my sister married; the door past that was the bath.

My great-grandfather, John Fox, was the first owner of the house, in 1910. My grandfather (and his son-in-law) Wilbur Halliday, Sr., purchased it from him in the 1920s. Wilbur Sr. died in the 1960s, leaving the house to my mom and uncle, and my mom bought my uncle out. I lived there from 1960 until I finished college in 1981, though I didn’t spent much time in the house once I graduated high school in 1977.

My mom lived there for as long as her health would allow her, moving into a nursing home in 2001 when she was 70. By that point she had lived most of her life there. My stepdad sold the house when my mom died in 2004. At that point, it had been in my family for 94 years.

It was never much of a house. It was clearly designed for people like my teacher mom and her machinist dad and my laborer great-grandfather. It existed for people of modest means to own a home and for the tenants to maybe start to get a leg up. In our case, it worked.





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