I have an obsession with the house on the corner.
The house on the corner sits at 17th and Homan, and I pass it every time I drive on Bosque to go to Cameron Park. It’s been abandoned for what looks like quite a few years. It’s a simple, one story white Victorian home with light blue trim on the door. There’s a long wrap-around porch that seems to beg for a rocking chair and iced tea glasses. It must be over 100 years old. It has sat there quietly at the corner while cars pass it endlessly, all day long. I feel sorry for it, being such a pretty house in a pretty run down part of town.
Last month, the house next door, also vacant, burned down. Then the house across the street burned down. The Waco Police said in the paper that arson was suspected. There was nothing left of either house but a blackened pile of death. I feared that my house on the corner was next.
And then something interesting happened.
Two weeks ago, Husband and I were driving to the Farmer’s Market and the yard of the house on the corner was filled with people tearing shingles off the old roof and scraping the paint off the side of the house. They worked all weekend, and by the end, a new roof appeared on the house. At the end of two weeks, progress has been made scraping the paint off the back half of the house.
Someone is fixing it up.
Husband has his theories that someone intentionally set fire to the other house so they could buy the lot and make the house on the corner a more attractive sell. I’d like to hope that the Waco PD have already explored this avenue. It does strike me as odd that the house next door burned down and then all of a sudden the house on the corner is being renovated.
But I’m happy for it.
In the city of Detroit, there are over 30,000 abandoned homes. I grew up looking at them, sighing after them, wishing I could do something to make them whole again. There are a lot of reasons for the decline of Detroit, most of which are ignored by anyone who hasn’t seen Detroit or isn’t from there. In Detroit, whole blocks of houses are burned to the ground, set on fire for the enjoyment of watching something burn. The home my father grew up in is abandoned and absolutely trashed inside. My brother has broken into the house to take mementos for my father. No one saw him, no one stopped him. World-renowned photographers have padded their resumes taking beautiful, devastating photos of that city.
Yesterday, NPR was interviewing a woman from Detroit about the cost of demolishing a public eyesore: her childhood home that someone had torched. She expressed reservation about the fact that her home was a blight on the neighborhood, and also revealed that the cost of demolishing it far exceeded its actual value.
In Detroit, so many homes are owned by the city after dozens of years of back taxes. You can buy one at auction for less than the price of my monthly mortgage payment. One of my brother’s friends bought one for $1,000. As in, a complete house.
I think growing up in the shadow of a ruined city shaped a lot about me as a person. The longing to change something for the better, and the deep sadness one feels when they know that beyond that hope, there’s nothing that can be done.
I hope that the house on the corner receives its renaissance. That whoever is choosing to turn it back into what it used to be will do the job right, and take care of it after. It certainly deserves more than to be a pile of ashes at an ugly corner of Waco.