More than 30 years ago, I obtained my real estate license and became a bona fide Realtor in Portsmouth, Virginia. The very first house I listed was in Waterview (Portsmouth). Because I was so young (22 years old) and because I was such a neophyte, I spent a lot of time sitting in my client’s living room and holding her hand - literally and figuratively.
My client was an elderly widow who lived alone in the vintage Spanish Revival home. As is often the case with elderly widows, her old house was in mostly original condition.
And this woman was also a long-time neighbor. Having grown up less than a block away, I had always admired this house. In the midst of a neighborhood full of brick Colonial Revivals, this Spanish-flavored house really stood out.
I remember - as a little girl - approaching the house on Halloween night, and pausing to admire the beautiful wrought-iron sconces that hung high on the home’s brick walls and the three tall arches that protected the spacious front porch. (Pausing for any reason, whilst trick or treating with my brother, was always a poor choice, as he was likely to dash to the front door ahead of me and tell the homeowner, “Please don’t give my little sister any candy. She just got out of the hospital late this afternoon and she promised our mother she wouldn’t accept any sweets.”)
In 1982, I listed the house for sale at $51,500. About 90 days later, it sold for $45,000 cash. An elderly gent purchased the house for use as rental property.
For years, every time I passed the house, I’d wave at it and whisper sweetly, “Hello my Pretty. You’re looking especially lovely today.”
And then one day in the late 1990s, as I drove past this house, I literally gasped.
Someone had decided to commit an act of lewd remuddling against this classic 1920s home.
I stopped the car and stared in horror. Workers were busy as little bees, placing roof trusses on the home’s flat roof. A couple masons were adding a few bricks here and there. And those sconces were unceremoniously ripped off and tossed into a dumpster.
I felt like screaming. I wanted to stop them. I almost cried. But there was nothing I could do.
After a few minutes, I started the car and continued on my way.
Last month, I discovered that my first MLS listing was actually a plan book house, offered in the 1927 Home Builder’s Catalog. “The Celilo” was offered in two floor plans (”A” and “B”). The house in Waterview was the “B” floorplan (with a 1/4 basement).
The pictures bespeak the horror far better than words.
And if any folks from Portsmouth know more about the dates when this lewd act occurred, please leave a comment below.
The Celilo was a plan book house offered in the 1927 Home Builders Catalog.
Incredibly, the Celilo in Portsmouth had a quarter basement.
My "Celilo" was done in yellow brick, not stucoo (as shown above), but other than that, the house in the picture above was a spot-on match to the house in Portsmouth (pre-remuddling). Look at those wrought-iron sconces!
Today, the Celilo looks pretty mundane (and that's the kindest thing I can say about it). The proportions of the house are just "off." Stacking a gable roof atop a Spanish Revival was not a good idea. And the damage done to the home's unique architectural style is irreparable.
Even putting those sconces back up didn't help.
If you look closely, you can see where the brick workers filled in this notched roof with more bricks. And then they had to paint it gray to hide the mismatched bricks and mortar.
Today, the only remnant of this home's Spanish-flavored origins is the old wrought-iron porch light. I'm surprised someone didn't toss these in the dumpster, too.
Words elude me.
To learn more about the plan book houses of Portsmouth, click here.
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