Thursday, February 12, 2015

Seeing is believing: 20 Victoria Avenue

Date Listed 10-Feb-15
Address 20 VICTORIA AVE, CHATHAM, Ontario, N7L 2Z6
View map

Bedrooms (#) 4 bedrooms
Bathrooms (#) 2 bathrooms
For Sale By Professional


Brokered And Advertised By: BARBARA PHILLIPS REAL ESTATE BROKER Brokerage

More Details MLS ® : 365042004711300

By the holy, here it is, after a long, long wait. The house I grew up in, 20 Victoria Avenue in Chatham, Ontario, is a home once more, and up for sale.

In fact, I don't know  how long it has been a home. The last information I got was that it had been converted into a doctor's office, a fact that made me sad. There are only details here and there to anchor it, it has changed so much. The outside, now white instead of yellow, is almost identical, except that (like everything from childhood, for some reason) it looks much smaller. That fireplace, sadly boarded up, was fully functional, though we didn't start using it until sometime in the mid-60s. There was a red-brown terrazzo floor just in front of it that is still there (along with a beautifully-tiled vestibule, a little room that led from the front door to the front room). They don't make houses like this any more.

Oh, and - someone finally ripped up that "luxurious wall-to-wall carpeting" to reveal the gorgeous hardwood beneath. Back then, only poor people had hardwood.

Is this the dining room? The table seems enormous.  I can see a chandelier here - is it the same one? It had plaster fruit on the ceiling, which had been painted over but which (I was told) used to be in natural colours. Is that moose horns on the wall? Ye gods, we were NOT a moose-horn family, not by a long shot. The angle of this photo is so weird that I can't tell what part of the house it is. Oh, wait - now I see, it has been taken FROM the dining room, pointing out toward the front windows in the living room. Where my mother put those electric candles out at Christmas. The Christmas tree resided on the left-hand side where the leather sofa is.

The kitchen now has an island. Granite, by the looks of it. It has been vastly remodelled. The original was very old-fashioned. I see some sort of room beyond the door - what is that, where? I don't know my way around my own house. But I do sort of remember those cabinets.

The nice thing about it being a doctor's office for so long is that parts of it probably weren't ripped out or used, so original cabinets, cupboards, etc. would be preserved. If they were out of date for decades, now they're fashionably retro.

Now I see where we are - the downstairs bathroom, with the tub on the right. It's funny how they converted the old fixtures to "modern" ones, then back to old-fashioned ones. I remember one day that the huge rectangular mirror over the sink fell on my head. I wonder if the big medicine cabinet is still there. It was so high-up I had to stand on the edge of the tub to reach it (before the tub had a wall). I would steal Benylin cough syrup and drink it out of the bottle until my ears buzzed.

The upstairs bathroom - and yes, even back then we had two bathrooms, an impossible luxury. I remember this because I see the relationship between the tub (now a hot tub) and the toilet. My brother and I used this one, and later, when everyone else had left,  just me.

Compare and contrast.

I think my photo from the early '60s looks much, much better. It shows off the actual size of the place, rather than making it into a dinky cottage. I am not sure about square footage, but four bedrooms, a den, and a large living and dining room don't make for a dinky house. The basement was huge, and though it was unfinished, we had a pool table down there and used it all the time as a rec room.

The house next door looks different now. It used to be old brick, but was likely torn down. I look at the fairly empty space to the right and wonder if the other house was torn down too, where the Peet kids lived. They had a pigeon coop that I absolutely adored, and I could get to it by climbing the gnarled cherry tree that sprawled across the white picket fence. And yes, my Mum made pies out of those cherries, sour cherries, pitting them laboriously. I taste them now, stringent and sweet, like Proust's madeleines.

But 20 Victoria Avenue, Chatham, Ontario, Canada, still exists, still stands, and I hope will house a family. Such a house would be upwars of a million dollars here, perhaps more in places like North Van.

20 Victoria in colour, a nice shot that has not faded with  time. This must have been a good camera. You can see the yellow, fairly intense. Here I'm walking my dachschund Willie, after school, or I never would have been in a dress.

I guess I was seven years old. I never could keep my legs together. My goofy expression ruined this shot. My mother looks characteristically severe.

This is one of my very first attempts at Photoshop, and it's nice, I think. You have the indigo moon and cloud, and the purplish house.

Anyway, I hope it sells, so it won't be turned back into a doctor's office.

POSTSCRIPT: I've found a few more photos, and one of them just jumped off the screen at me! I have a little setting on my Adobe photoshop program that restores original colour. I clicked it, and a yellowed old shot suddenly burst into vibrant colour.

This is a wacky shot, purposely I guess, and I'm the one sitting on the back of the sofa. I remember that blouse, it was a sort of gauzy material. My brother Arthur, long since departed, sits in the Thinker pose.  I happen to know that all of us are drunk.

This is, however, a nice interior shot, showcasing the old-fashioned front windows (the "storm windows" that had to be put up in the fall) and the awful wall-to-wall travesty that covered gorgeous hardwood. Somehow hardwood stigmatized a house and a family, like a dirt floor.

And there WAS a dirt floor, a little root cellar in the basement that I used to wonder about, plus a dumbwaiter that my mother used as a laundry chute.  That means that at one time or another, there were servants.

And, yes, the sun porch. I struggle to remember it, but there were lovely big screened windows in it in the summer, relieving the wretched melted-rubber heat, and I'd sleep out there on a fold-out bed and listen to the crickets. Bliss.

At the back of my bedroom closet was a door, and the door led to another closet. I have never seen anything like it. Did they hide refugees in there, I wonder? Chatham was one of the termination points of the Underground Railroad, a fact I never learned in school. So one never knows. Who would think to look for a closet inside a closet? The historical dates may be wrong. So I wonder how such an Alice-in-Wonderland feature came to be. And I wonder if it's still there.

Post-post.  Here is an attempt to clean up, enlarge and crop the realtor's crappy photo. I don't know why they used that one - half of it the house next door. The house is barely in the frame, and looks like a tiny cottage. It isn't. I lived there. I know.

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