Wednesday, December 12, 2007


After all the talk of my bathroom's birthday, I decided to revisit my research about the house's history. I'm not sure if this is common practice nation-wide, but in Arkansas, we don't get abstracts anymore-- we pay for title insurance. Yay for spending less money-- boo for not getting a detailed packet about the physical history of the house. At some point, I may shell out the money for this; and I will definitely spend some time in the library and county courthouse once I have the time. Maybe I'll take an afternoon to do so while the university is out of session...

Anyway, until then, I'm relying on the good old internet and a lovely little spiral bound book that a city resident put together about our neighborhood. He's published a few maps-- a late 1800s diagram of the lot numbers and a fire map from 1907. There's also a history of the 2 neighborhood schools and of the trolley that went down our street. He's also scoured the city directories and listed everyone who was officially listed as an "occupant" of the property address. Now this doesn't necessarily mean that a house was there, I suppose, or that it was the same house, but it does lend some interesting information.

For example, I do know that each house on the block occupies 3 (very skinny) lots and that there was a house on the lot next door by 1907, as well as a smattering of external buildings (barns, etc.) on our lot. At that point in the town's history, this was a little bit out in the country, so the development was mostly new. In 1922, the first occupant was listed as T.H. Brannan. I found out that he was the editor of the city newspaper. The property then changes occupants a few times and then in 1924 or 25 it's in the hands of R.C. Coffy, who was only a year or so earlier named the (operations?) Manager of the Light and Traction company-- these were the people who ran the trolleys and streetcars; the street car went down our street and was one of the big reasons that the area was even developed, since it was on the outskirts of town. I also know that the streetcars ceased operations in 1933. I wondered if Mr. Coffy got a raise and was able to buy a house in a new subdivision...And in a place where his work was able to provide transportation.

I understand that bungalows became popular during a housing boom in the town during the 1930s. Our neighborhood was a slightly upper scale subdivision, so I'm assuming it was a little bit ahead of the game. Also, our type of hardwood floors were becoming less and less available by the late 20s.

I also found out that one of the longest running occupants of the house-- from 1970-1990-- had moved to the town we now live in and passed away 2 weeks after we took possession of the house.

Anyway, none of this is probably interesting to anyone but us, but I am please with what I've gleaned with as little research as I've been able to do. HUD told us the house was built in 1940, but I think I can safely narrow the date to a 10 year period between 1922 and 1932. Hopefully a further inspection of the fixtures and a trip to the county courthouse books of deeds will get me a bit closer.

Update: I found a digital copy of the Sanborn Fire Map for our town. It was initially confusingly labeled; one version was the 1908 version and one was called 1908-1950. However, when I found our street, there was the outline of our house with it's distinctive porch, and a date stamp that read "New Sheet, Dec. 1924." So I thought I was in good shape. But then I looked at my mother's lot, and a house the same shape as hers was located on it, even though her abstract says 1949...Either it's a different house, or hers is older than we think...Or the date on the map is wrong. But since this is a photocopy of a physical piece of paper with a physical date stamp on it, I'm going with one of the first two possibilities...At any rate, I'm a bit closer. We seem to be pre-1924.


Definitely NOT A Goat said...

I heart your meticulous research methodology re. the house. Some people don't even put this much care into biographical research. Good luck with the pine floor, and with reconciling your friends and loved ones to the pretty pink tiles of your bathroom.

Anonymous said...

Sanborn Fire Maps were used for a long time and updated as the houses changed. I have seen them with new houses pasted over old ones--so unless there is a date like the one found on yours it is not an accurate way to date. City Directories will tell you when the house had occupants.

April said...

I also love your house research! I did the same thing for my 1924 house.

Your bathroom is totally pre-1950's. That sink actually looks like late teens (1910 decade) but the rest seems more 20's. And DO NOT change it! It is a treasure, ugly to others or not!

Our library actually had a lot of information on our neighborhood and home history. Do you think your house may have been a kit house? Perhaps doing research on those might help.