The Husbandry of Houses

Husband: 2. management and conservation of resources

Husband, in its archaic sense, denotes a caregiver.  Someone who watches over and tends to something else: an orchard, a crop a herd, a house.

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Almost a year has passed since I completed renovations on the Foster-Murfee-Caples House, and this is the role I have stepped into.  Instead of being a ‘housewife’, I feel that I have become a ‘house husband.’  I am the caregiver to my old house.

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Of course, there are still many projects to finish at 815 17th Avenue.  My ‘to-do’ list seems only to grow.  New projects are added quicker than old ones can be deleted.  As well, there are the ever-present challenges of cleaning, maintenance and seasonal chores. But, the spirit behind both the projects and the everyday chores is one of watchfulness and care.

Friends often ask how things are going with my old house (perhaps you have been among them). I have learned to gauge from the tone of their voice whether they want the short answer, “just fine”, or the long one.  There are always stories to tell.  There are always victories to laud or messes to bemoan.

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So, I live with an old house in my life.  I visit weekly.  I troll antique and thrift stores looking for a list of odds and ends.  I chat with the students who live there about history and preservation.  We talk about the importance of honoring the past and caring for our legacy of historic buildings.  They are always polite, but I am sure I sometimes bore them.  I manage and conserve.

My task is endless, but by no means thankless.  I feel the house is living now in a way it didn’t before restoration.  I am satisfied that it again plays a vital role in the community.  It shelters young lives and adds new chapter to its long story.  It breathes.  It has been here for 176 years and all is well within.