(Disclaimer: This is strictly an opinion piece from The Chaos Fairy.)
There’s a part of me that just wants to let everything that’s old decay, rather than preserving monuments to the (misguided) ideal that humankind’s achievements are so phenomenally great. Yet another part of me supports preservation of the past–whether in its “natural” form via ancient, wise trees, restored natural landscapes, and older buildings and other iconic historic structures. It doesn’t matter whether it’s classical-style architecture that everybody thinks is so great, or the starkly unsettling, yet powerful, language of Brutalist architecture–I think it’s all worthy of preservation. Especially over the alternative.
I’m referring to the fast-growing trend towards brand new “McMansion” homes. Despite it being the trend on uber-elite places like Longboat Key here in Sarasota, I thought such people only existed on staged reality shows like House Hunters on HGTV. You know the kind: the potential home buyers that all parrot the same thing “stainless-steel-appliances-open-floor-plan-BRAND-NEW-HOUSE!”. And who turn up their artificially perfect noses if they walk into a vintage home with fixer-upper potential. “It’s just so dated,” they whine to the realtor. “We want a pool and five bedrooms for under 200K.”
But, then, the trendy home buyer scourge hit my neighbourhood. Beautiful old oak trees fall to the chain saw. Many of the older homes, instead of being restored, are being demolished.
This 1925 house (according to a previous real estate listing–no longer there for sale) was demolished to make way for this depressingly awful McMansion (under construction). I suppose I should be grateful they only mutilated the oak tree, not cut it down entirely. A silver lining, I guess.
I found out through the neighbourhood gossip grapevine that, purportedly, the person who owned the demolished vintage home and the lot next door (also going to be built with another McMansion), also purportedly owns this soon-to-be-vacated house.
I can’t imagine that it will escape the fate of the wrecking ball, either. Maybe someone will see this and at least possibly be given the opportunity to relocate the house.
One place, with two lots, used to transform into a fairy field of lilies after the rains.
They’re no longer there, of course–just two new depressing McMansions. I bet these new homes will come with “granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances”. *sighs* The McMansion down the street from these, along with a few others in the neighbourhood, have already had the sod laid so that the trendies can have their toxic, ecosystem-destroying lawns.
What bothers me most about this this, according to the media/social media is that there is a strong movement among the trendies (of all ages) for “sustainability” and “downsizing” and “tiny homes” but the evidence, in reality, seems to point to it as being exactly opposite of that. People seem to want the convenience of brand-new homes that are move-in ready, complete with toxic green lawns/water-sucking landscaping that can only be kept perfect by regular applications of Roundup and pesticides. Instead of taking the time to rescue and restore an older home. they prefer to waste resources, materials, energy, and negatively impact the local ecosystem, just so they can live like suburban royalty in their McMansions.
Sometimes, there are good guys. At least one person, if not more, that I know of in the area, has saved quite a few older homes by launching a movement to at least relocate them, and, when they weren’t able to do that, tried putting the word out via social media for takers to step up and save/relocate these older homes.
That’s all I can do, as well. Put the word out. I wish I could save them all, but, since I have no money, I can just put these closing thoughts out there. Please buy older homes and fix them up, even “green” them if you want (though, be careful, that can be misleading regarding products–kind of the equivalent of a company claiming the organic label for their product when it’s really not organic). Even smaller homes from the 1950s can become an awesome mid-century modern gem, if that’s your style.
Here’s some random articles I found in the local paper about people who have restored older homes, which may prove that you can “still have your cake, and eat it, too.”
Plant native landscaping, avoid turf lawns, plant butterfly and bee plants, and avoid applying chemicals, pesticides, Roundup, and commercial fertilizer in your yard. And don’t use Roundup on your driveways, walkways, and community sidewalks. And for the ecosystem’s (and the neighbours’!) sake, cut out the dang leaf-blowers. Just use the fallen leaves to form attractive mulch beds instead of raking them, or vacuuming them up off your lawn with a Shop Vac. (Yes, I’ve seen this with my own eyes!). And stop cutting down trees.
Check with your local extension service about native plants (though, a person manning a SRQ Extension Service table at a local library condoned the use of Roundup. :-p)
Buy used/antique furniture from antique and thrift stores. If you’re remodeling an older home, see if there’s a local Habitat for Humanity ReStore near you (like we have in Sarasota).
See if there’s someplace like the Sarasota Architectural Salvage where you live.
If nothing else, rely on the Internet and Craigslist to find vintage home items like bathroom fixtures, toilets, etc. Or go to garage sales!
Remember: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!