I may have previously mentioned, I live across the street from an achitecturally significant house by a famous architect*. Said house is under restoration to the tune of some $25 million. When it is finished, it will be a significant tourist attraction, on par with similar properties across the country that were designed by the same architect. The restoration corporation has estimated that sixty to 120 thousand visitors will tour the property each year once the restoration is complete.
The money was raised first. Then, after several years of master plan drafts, community meetings, traffic studies, and other research, the restoration plans were finally approved by the various governmental agencies last year. Some work was done last year; apartment buildings that had been built on the original property were torn down to make way for re-building some of the original structures. This year the work has begun in earnest.
On the four corners of this intersection are that house, an 1890’s mansion, a beautiful old stone church, and me. My house is a 1950’s two-story double, a brick box that was built on property that was originally the side yard of the enormous, well known house next door. When she sold the house to me, the previous owner joked that it is the most architecturally insignificant house in the neighborhood. Most of the homes in the neighborhood are large and were built between 1850 and 1910. Most are in excellent condition and this is one of the more well-to-do communities in the city. Demand is higher here than any other place in the city and houses for sale in this area are rarely on the market for more than a week.
I consider myself lucky to be in this nice neighborhood. Were it not for the fact my house is an income property, I probably couldn’t afford to be here. I knew about the restoration of the house across the street when I bought my house, but what I didn’t know was how it would impact me. Now that another construction season is upon us, things are getting rough. Since Mel works second shift, and I’m on a flexible schedule, we’re often home during what’s considered normal working hours so we notice this much more than our neighbors.
The flow of contruction vehicles and noise seems constant. The access drive for trucks is across from my driveway. The workers who drive to the site take up all the surrounding street parking. I’ve had trouble getting out of my driveway occasionally and our visitors sometimes have trouble getting a place to park by the house. There are construction workers hanging out curbside under my windows every day; drinking coffee, smoking (leaving their butts), talking loud, swearing, etc.
One day about two weeks ago the roach coach (food service truck) driver actually parked her rig in my driveway and started to open up shop. I was in the bathroom, almost ready to leave the house, when I realized what was going on. She moved the rig right-quick after I yelled out the window. It was a good thing too, because if I’d gotten all the way to the garage and expected to pull my car out while she was parked in my driveway I would have really given her an earful. As it was, I wanted to call the owner of the roach coach service to inquire if they allowed their employees to park rigs in private driveways. I was ready to get pissy with someone but Mel talked me out of it. I can’t wait for it to happen again though!
Despite the construction, the visitor tours of the property have continued. There is a large army of docents giving at least one or two tours a day. Whenever Mel or I are outside with the dogs, or working outside with a noise generating appliance (mower, blower, hedge trimmers), during a tour you can usually see the annoyed look on the face of the docent-du-jour as they lead their group down the sidewalk to the annex house on the property. How dare you make any noise, can’t you see I’m giving a tour here? It’s not like we can help it. Even if we had a schedule or their tours and activities, we have to do the yard maintenance when it’s convenient for us and weather permitting. Dogs need to go out. I can’t help if they bark at groups of strangers walking by. (We do try to control it but it’s pretty much impossible. And forget trying to control the barking if another dog walks past the yard.)
The house is also rented out for business meetings and social events (including weddings) – approved caterers only – to folks who have donated large sums of money for the restoration efforts. Once last summer there was some sort of fancy function happening on the veranda. Mel was outside doing yard work and hadn’t realized there was a party underway. Someone from the party came across the street to tap her on the shoulder while she was using the blower and ask her to turn it off “because we’re filming over here”. She agreed to turn it off, but made a comment about how they would be the first to complain if her yard wasn’t kept up.
The director of the restoration corporation lives a few houses away from us on the other side of the street. He used to work for a law firm I worked for many years ago, and I met him again after moving into the neighborhood and attending some community briefings on the impending restoration efforts. I see him fairly often, walking around and doing inspections of the property. We’ll chat on the sidewalk occasionally, he tells me what’s going on over at the house. He’s generally a nice guy, but still a lawyer from the ‘good old boys’ club of caucasian, middle-aged privilege. He’s the kind of guy who must live in suits because I’ve never seen my neighbor wear anything but a suit. Even on weekends.
Today, as I was leaving the house, he spotted me and came running over to ask me if I’d gotten a new dog. (Molly was going nuts as he stood at the gate trying to talk to me. She has become quite the guard dog and will bark at most people who walk by. Especially men.) I pointed to Molly, gesturing the answer to his question. I then left the yard and had him follow me down the sidewalk to the garage so we could talk. He said he realized I’d gotten another dog because he’d been hearing a “new sound” over here recently. (I think that’s bull, probably another neighbor told him.) Then he told me he’d been woken up in the middle of the night – “three or four a.m.” – last night by dogs barking. I said, “Not my dogs, not that late” and made the mistake of telling him that we were out at midnight for the last time. So then it was “Oh, since I go to bed at ten, midnight would have seemed like the middle of the night to me.”
He goes on to say that he loves dogs and that it’s really no problem for him but he wanted to remind me that the special chamber music performance sponsored by the restoration corporation was being held at the church across the street on Friday night. I should have received an invitation because “all the neighbors did” and he hoped I could make it. Then he starts speaking in fragments “it’ll be warm, we’ll probably have the church doors open, we’ll probably record it,” blah, blah, blah… Finally getting to the point, which was to ask me to not leave the dogs outside between 7 and 9 p.m. I told him we never leave the dogs outside unattended, but not to worry because no one would be home then anyway so the dogs would be inside.
Sheesh, all he had to do was ask directly. “Would you please keep your dogs inside on Friday evening?” Why bother to ask me if I have another dog and tell me the dogs woke him up if it’s supposedly not a problem for him? It must be a problem. So, I’ll register it as a complaint from a neighbor. I never wanted barky dogs either, and Mel and I will do what we can to mitigate barking at passersby. Loaded SuperSoakers™ at the ready!
At the same time – really the point of this lengthy missive – I’m starting to get sick of living so close to a national landmark. I’m not sure how I’ll feel once it’s finished and in full operation, but I’m certainly not enjoying the restoration construction and the general feeling of frostiness or high-brow attitude from folks who are affiliated with the property whenever I encounter them. Heh. The attitude sure is not likely to change either… it’ll probably get worse. As I previously alluded to, we don’t really fit the socio-economic or age demographic of most of the rest of the neighborhood. Our house gets a lot of attention by default and we don’t really have much privacy. In the sublest of ways, it’s continually clear to us that two dykes with three dogs and a parrot, in an architecturally insignificant rental property that isn’t perfectly landscaped, don’t belong here. Regardless of the inconveniences that we endure.
*Property and architect not named to avoid search engine queries. (That, and the fact that I’d bascially be publishing my address.) If you can’t guess and want to know, ask.