Friday, May 16, 2014


I have been thinking about houses a lot lately. The house we are moving into and the houses I have lived in.

About the time of my birth a whole neighborhood of Levittown-type houses were built in the farm fields surrounding the 1830s house we lived in. Because of Facebook, several years ago I reconnected with friends who grew up on Rosemont Avenue. 

Rosemont Avenue houses behind me
My dad and his family had moved into the house in 1935. Grandpa was an insurance salesman, and the Depression destroyed his business and livelihood. He had to sell the new 1920s bungalow in town to rent half of a worn out old farmhouse.

Dad and Grandfather in the old house
After a few years he bought the house and fixed it up. Indoor plumbing was installed and three apartments carved out.  My cousins lived in one apartment, my grandparents in another, and my family in the third.

The house after my grandfather bought it and fixed it up
Before Rosemont Avenue and the housing project
In the 1940s grandfather built a gas station on the property in front of the house. Dad and my uncles and all their friends worked there at some time or another.

The house while grandfather was building a gas station along the main road
The Station
I was ten when my family moved to Michigan. We moved into a 1920s house on a (then) elm-lined street. I missed the old house and my friends and family. I dreamt about going back and buying the house. Then it was torn down and replaced by an apartment building. The lilacs and willows were torn up too.

The listing for the house my folks bought in Michigan
I went to college, married, and moved to twelve more towns; plus a move to a newly built parsonage during one four-year appointment. We have lived in the inner city, small towns, rural areas, and the suburbs. One parsonage was literally attached to the church, with a cement walkway between them. We could sit at the dining-room table and people would lean on the window sill and talk to us as we breakfasted.

city house

the new parsonage

small town house

village house
The neighborhood in inner city Philadelphia
When I was in college my family moved into the house I inherited and will move into next month. it is a mid-century modern ranch in the 'burbs.
My inherited house in the 'burbs
My nostalgia about houses started with that first move. When I was first quilting I made A House for All Seasons, twelve houses blocks to represent each month of the year.

Madison House quilt block
And when I designed my personal Album quilt I included a house block that was based on my first home, with a willow branch and lilacs. There were huge lilac bushes and willow trees surrounding the house.
My childhood home Album quilt block
I always wanted to make a quilt to represent the houses I have lived in. Now we are retiring to our last house I can start that project. I can also travel and see my paternal ancestral home in the Shenandoah Valley, and perhaps even the houses my mom lived in growing up in Kane and Milroy PA.

The Gochenour homestead in Virginia

Grandpa's birthplace in Milroy, PA
Almost forty-two years ago we married and moved into student housing at the seminary in Delaware, Ohio where we made our first home for three years. Oh, the places we've been and the houses we've been in!
The Methodist Theological School in Ohio dorm where we first lived


  1. It's really amazing how one leaves a footprint on landscapes upon passing through history. Houses can be a testament to that. They can stand as living proofs of everything we get by with. Real estate is indeed a venerable aspect of civilization and we should always make sure that we secure one for our familiesw as much as for ourselves.

    Kevin Fritz @ Iron Point Mortgage

  2. I love this essay! I too have thought of a quilt with the houses in which I've lived, but there are not nearly so many as yours.

  3. Nancy, you left out Estes Hall at Adrian College!

  4. Absolutely fascinating, thank you for sharing all these great places you've lived, so much more than just houses. I look forward to seeing your quilt.......

  5. So glad people have enjoyed this post. It is so personal, I did not know that anyone else find it interesting! Marty, I did leave out college. If I included every place I resided, I'd have to add three more addresses....