Monday, June 22, 2009

The Demolition of the Old Stone House - june 2005

Life is full of strange twists, turns in ironies. We owned 804 Moro Street for 32 years. Several generations of our family, from my mother, who lived there 16 years, to Peter W. and me and our children and grandchildren, my nieces and nephews and their spouses and children all spent a lot of time there over those 32 years. We took a vine-covered old wreck of a house and turned it into a home with a lushly green and tree-shaded yard, but the roots we had there, that "homestead" was to end in 2005.

When we bought the old place, the neighborhood was full of young families and retired couples, but over the years the student neighborhoods of Kansas State University encroached, so that we were surrounded by houses carved up into apartments. The street was parked full of cars, and so were what once had been back yards. Days were quiet but nights, especially weekends, were noisy and raucous. Houses were torn down to make way for apartment buildings. Landlords who rented the older homes out to students didn't take care of the properties and let them go to ruin.

It was during this time that Peter W. and Leif started campaigning to move to Florida. Both of them found the cold, greenless, bleak winters depressing, and for Leif, it was worse because of his cold weather asthma. He couldn't breath well. We started making trips to Florida to see where we might want to move.

At the same time, we were approached by one of the Manhattan developers who wanted to know if were were interested in selling our property. At the time, we weren't. We hadn't planned to move for another 3-4 years but not long after that, but an unusual lineup of events changed all that. the builder purchased the two houses west of us and was planning to tear them down (they were in awful condition) and build an apartment complex. He had already built one behind us. if that happened, our old stone house would be isolated on the corner, surrounded by apartment complexes. It became clear to me that the house was doomed. No one would want to purchase it if we wanted to sell it after the apartment building was built to the west of us.

One day in the fall of 2004 when I was walking to work at KSU, the builder happened to see me and asked again if we wanted to sell. Although we hadn't planned to move that soon, it suddenly struck me that this was our golden opportunity to sell and that no matter what, the old house was doomed. We decided to consider his offer. He asked how soon we could be out of the house if we decided to sell it. If he could get our two lots in addition to the two he already had, he wanted to build something different, a townhouse development.

in November 2004 we made another trip to Florida with Leif and found the community and a house we wanted. Leif had put a deposit down on an apartment in Tulsa where his friend Michael was living at the time, and was going to get out of Manhattan no matter what. It was clear that he was dying on the vine in Kansas, pining away for J. and not finding any career opportunities. He couldn't afford to move on his own and other than the fact that it would get him out of Manhattan, we couldn't see how moving to Tulsa was going to improve his situation. Although I couldn't make the move until a year-and-a-half later, we decided to buy the house and move Peter W. and Leif to Florida, hoping to give him a new start in a place he really wanted to go.

So, December 30, 2004 we closed on the house in Florida and moved Peter W. there, then Leif in March 2005. I stayed in the old house until April 2005, then moved to 710 N. 9th Street. The old stone house was torn down June 20, 2005 to make way for the townhouses.

Many people in town were angry with us for selling one of Manhattan's old stone houses to a developer for demolition but they didn't see how the neighborhood had deteriorated and what would have eventually happened to the house if it hadn't been demolished.

Before I moved out, we had big moving sales and people came in droves to see the house, inside and out. Leif helped us get ready. He wasn't there when the house was torn down. I don't think he ever looked back.

People asked if it was hard on me, seeing it demolished, as I was living on the same block when it happened, but by the time they had stripped away all the trees and bushes and emptied out the house, taken out the windows and doors, it no longer looked like our home, the one we'd lived in with our sons. It looked like a sad old derelict. I wasn't sad when I saw it in the end, just a pile of stone rubble.

I don't feel that way now. I know I can't go home there again, neither actually or figuratively, but it's gone just like my son is gone, and I had them just about the same number of years. There is no equating a house with a son, but their time in my life was roughly parallel, and although at the time in 2005 when the house was destroyed I had no idea that in three years my son's life would be destroyed, too, now I feel sad that the house no longer stands.

Leif would not and did not care, or at least he would have insisted he didn't. Places and homes didn't hold the same meaning for him that they do for some of us who are sentimental like me. The literal blood, sweat and tears we put into that house gave it a significance that another dwelling might not have had.

Leif never owned a home. Sometimes I wonder if he ever felt at home once he left this house. The photo of him in this post is the last on taken of him in that house, on December 18, 2004, when we celebrated a early Christmas with him, my mother, Holly, Chad and their boys, Tim and Natalie, because we were flying out to the DC area to be with Peter Anthony, Darlene and Marcus, and my sister, Lannay and her family, for Christmas. When I think of that house, I think of Leif. It was a part of his life for 30 years.
The photos above are:
1. Leif Garretson, December 18, 2004, the last photo of him at 804 Moro Street, Manhattan, Kansas.
2. 804 Moro Street on June 20, 2005, after the house was bulldozed.
3. 804 Moro Street on June 15, 2005, ready for demolition.
4. The back of 804 Moro Street on March 15, 2005, before the trees leafed out the last time the forsythia was in bloom there.
5. The path along the west side of 804 Moro Street leading to the side door and on back to the white frame detached garage that stood on the alley behind the house. Taken June 1, 2005.
6. The big yard on the east side of 804 Moro Street, along 8th Street, taken on June 1, 2005, before it was stripped for demolition.

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