I grew up in the quintessential historic house – a rambling four-square Victorian with six bedrooms that I shared with my parents and eight brothers and sisters. It had tons of nooks and crannies perfect for rainy day games of hide-and-seek, a shuffleboard court inlaid in the basement floor and a teeny, tiny room built around a window seat where I could retreat with a book after school.
Now it wasn’t a showplace, and preservation purists might have fainted at the shade of orange my sister painted the cast iron radiators in our room, but it was a HOME filled with laughter and love and sometimes insanity (think Cheaper by the Dozen reduced by twenty-five percent).
It wasn’t until I turned eleven that I had any clue that our house was “historic.” I was doing a project on the history of my home town, North Attleboro, Mass., and as I turned the pages of a book produced by the local historical society, I came across a picture of MY HOUSE! In a HISTORY BOOK! I can still remember the pride I felt, the sense of importance and of a connection to something bigger than my 5th grade world. I’ll tell you, from that moment, I was a preservationist.
When I talk to other preservationists, including members of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, more often than not their stories mirror mine. Their preservation journeys also began at home , whether they grew up in a New England Victorian, a New York Brownstone or a New Mexican Adobe.
That’s why I’m so excited that the National Trust has officially launched @home – our new website for people who – plain and simple – love their homes. Don’t get me wrong, in the years since that 5th grade history report, I’ve become a real preservation geek – I can talk tax credits and form-based codes with the best of them. But sometimes I think we’ve gotten so technical that we’ve lost touch with the basics that bring people to preservation – those everyday values of home, family, neighborhood, and caring for a good thing instead of throwing it away when it starts to show its age.
So check out www.athomenation.org.
I promise, we won’t tell you what color to paint your house or insist that you be featured in a history book before we consider your home “historic.” We will, on the other hand, let you post pictures to brag about your kitchen renovation, share tips on how to make your home more energy efficient and be inspired by others’ restoration projects. You can also view historic homes for sale, including a few that are crying out to be saved from the wrecking ball.
Come visit – and tell your friends. Every home has a story, and we want to know yours!
Dolores McDonagh is the vice president of membership at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.