The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Leave A House History

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1988

Issue: May, 1988

Have you ever moved into an old house and wished you knew more about it? Have you wondered about the people who built it and the lives they lived in it?

I have never moved into a house where the previous owners even left as much as a diagram describing where the septic tank is located, but then I have been guilty of the same thing myself. When you move out of a house, you are so intent in not forgetting to take everything you do not even think about what you should leave behind.

Consider starting a house history. Write in it all the practical information you had to learn the hard was such as "Don't bump your head on the attic doorway," and useful information such as names of exterminators, plumbers and other service people near by that have given you good service. But don't stop there.

To help new owners really feel at home, leave a history of the house, all the information you have learned about it during your stay. Include the year the house was built and the names of the original owners. Is there anything of particular historical or architectural significance about the house? If there are additions that were added to the original structure, list what you know about them also. Include information about outbuildings and landscaping as well. For instance, "The boxwoods lining the walk are a hundred years old" or "the wooden shed in back was originally a smokehouse," (corn crib or what ever).

Old houses are filled with personality and that personality is a combination of everyone who has lived in it and decided to change it in one way or another. The personalized touches are strokes of love, caring and human imagination. The house built by my great–grandparents passed to my grandparents. My mother grew up in it and I spent many wonderful childhood days in it. I haven't been back to it for more than 30 years, since it was sold out of the family, but I can still close my eyes and remember so many details. Perfect strangers live there now and I sometimes wonder if they know about the trap door root cellar under the kitchen floor, or that the little room off the kitchen wasn't a closet, it was a pantry complete with a roll open hand made flour bin that must have held a hundred pounds of flour. I don't know who the people are who live there now, but I can't help but think they would appreciate the house a little better if they only knew...

The next time you move, take time to make a history of what you know about the house you are leaving. You can leave it with the Realtor or on a kitchen cabinet to say "Welcome" to the new owners.