This weekend, Floral Park opened its doors and invited everyone to experience the history that we do, each and every day. This is our proudest moment… the annual Home Tour. It’s a chance to peek inside a handful of homes and gardens to see how they have been both preserved, and modernized, by the current caretakers. It’s also a rare chance to see how these homes have evolved over the past century, and how each caretaker puts their own unique stamp on the history of the home.
First, put yourself in the 1920’s and 1930’s when these homes were built. News was heard over the radio and through newspapers. World War I had just ended and the Great Depression had arrived in the US. Prohibition was in effect in the US. The automobile had recently replaced horse carriages. These important historical references have left their mark on this neighborhood. Milk doors were as common as mail slots, and some still exist today, treasured by their owners as a door to the past. Some homes have “radio rooms” where families gather to hear the news and entertainment of the day. This is where Orson Welles War of the Worlds would have been heard on October 30, 1938. Telephone niches are carved out of several hallways, used to hide away the old technological monstrosity. Virtually every front door features a speakeasy window, a reference to ongoing prohibition. For the fortunate few, butler’s pantries were used for their intended purpose. This was the time these homes were built.
Now think of how the world has evolved since then. Think of what these homes, and homeowners, have experienced, and been introduced to:
- World War II
- Invention of television
- The first atomic bomb
- Erecting the Berlin wall
- Moon landing
- Civil rights movement
- Vietnam war
- Microwave oven
- Jet airplanes
- Cuban missile crisis
- Oil crisis
- Personal computers
- Genetic mapping
- Dismantling the Berlin wall
- Gulf war
- Cellular phones
All this, and yet these homes remain the same? Or do they? Houses, like people, are adaptable. They evolve overtime and maintain the best qualities of the past, while adopting the new, modern, desirable traits. Each owner, selecting those traits which are most desirable to them and passing it on to the next generation of owners.
How to be neighborly: Respect the past. Share your evolution.
My neighbor’s radio room is now a den where they gather with friends. That butler’s pantry has been updated for expanded kitchen storage. The telephone niche down the street is a display area for art. Here I sit, in my 1930 French Norman, surrounded by the same 4 walls, windows and wood as the original owners, Mr. & Mrs. King. A light breeze wafts through my speakeasy window. I will take tonight’s left overs to the back refrigerator, in the garage built by the Baxter’s. Tomorrow, my husband’s cell phone will wake me promptly at 6:30 am, and I will get ready in the bathroom that was restored by the Urie/Fleming family. I will head to the kitchen, glance at the stove which Mr. Urie received as a birthday gift, and grab a to-go coffee from the soapstone counter Alex and I installed. I will drive out of the driveway we restored together, and look in my rear view mirror to make sure our new garage door and gate is closed, my dog barking at the sight of me leaving.
This is what intrigues me about these homes. Not only their age, but the adaptation of the homes from one family to the next, one generation to the next. How their current owners are adapting to what has been provided by the prior owner, and how they are also adapting the home for the future. So, for all the home owners on this year’s tour, thanks for sharing your history, and your vision of the future. It was fascinating.
For me, I’d like to thank the King’s for the great bones, the Baxter’s for the Tap Room, and the Urie/Fleming’s for the glorious kitchen and bathrooms. Finally, for Alex, thanks for sharing the past, present, and future with me, in this old home.