Category Archives: city boys

This American House: Orson Welles’ Birthplace

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Our long commute between Chicago and Iowa takes us past and through a number of towns that contain their own treasured “American houses.” On a recent drive, we pulled off the highway into Kenosha, Wisconsin to find the birthplace of the legendary filmmaker, theatrical titan, and actor Orson Welles.

Welles was born in this house, located in Kenosha’s pretty Library District, in 1915. He wasn’t a Kenosha resident for long, relocating to Chicago at age 4 upon his parents’ separation. After an affluent, nomadic childhood marred by his parents’ untimely deaths, he finally found a true “home” at the Todd School for Boys in Woodstock, Illinois, where his prodigious talents were nurtured and his illustrious career launched.

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Thereafter, Welles would express conflicted feelings about his hometown of Kenosha, at once calling it “vital and charming” and then saying it was “a terrible place.” Our brief tour through downtown Kenosha (including a delightful ride on a vintage trolley) revealed a vibrant if faded city outshone by its sparkling lakefront.

Welles’ Citizen Kane famously opens with its aged, dying protagonist gasping out his final word, “Rosebud” – a remembrance, we learn at the film’s end, of (spoiler alert!) his beloved childhood sled. I’ve not read that Welles, on his own deathbed in 1985, muttered anything at all related to Kenosha, Wisconsin or this still-lovely house, but who knows. Perhaps in his own mind at the end, he was picturing an innocent, wintry scene outside of this very house, and himself a happy young boy, but he expired just as he was about to say…

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DIY + OCD = OMG

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Sometimes I think that projects would be so much easier if I wasn’t such a neatnik.

Take the task of stripping the fireplace brick, for instance. Not only have I created an ornate plastic bag and taping routine to keep the surfaces surrounding the fireplace protected, but I also clean and put away the entire operation at the end of every weekend.

I’d probably save a lot of time by leaving the ladder and plastic bags and other stripping supplies sitting in the living room even when I wasn’t working on the project. But, well, that just wouldn’t be me. I like a neat and clutter-free home – whether projects are finished or not.

And, hey, carrying that ladder up and down from the basement is a good workout!

Wild for Wildflowers

A bouquet of wildflowers in the bathroom

One of my favorite things about summer is that I can walk around our yard and gather a bouquet of wildflowers. This little bouquet includes a few day lilies, some fern fronds and some other leaves and branches. And even though the upstairs bathroom is in a state of disrepair, having this little container of flowers by the sink helps me forget all about that.

Going the Distance: Miles and Milestones

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Buying a house that’s just over 250 miles from your primary home means that you’re going to rack up a lot of miles on the odometer. We were, of course, quite aware of this when we bought our house. And yet it wasn’t until we actually saw the numbers ticking by on the odometer and scheduling more frequent oil changes that it really started to sink in for us.

We bought our 2007 Toyota Prius from friends who were moving to New York. That was in early 2013 and the car had about 60,000 miles on it. We hit 100k really quickly! One of the expenses we hadn’t considered when we bought the house was the contributions to the new car fund.

 

Here’s to you, Pepper Prius! May you be strong and powerful for another 100,000 miles!

Take a Tour of Our City Apartment on Curbed

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We spend so much time thinking about and working on This American House that it’s easy to forget how much work we put into our city apartment. Fortunately, little things like a house call on Curbed are there to remind us that that work was not in vain.

We opened up the apartment to Nick Fochtman, a super talented interiors photographer, about a month ago and then played the waiting game until the post went live on Curbed. Nick did an amazing job in making the apartment seem much larger than it actually is. On the day of the photo shoot I left him alone in the apartment to do his work. I took a walk around the neighborhood for about an hour and then returned to find him just finishing up. I had no idea how the apartment would look through his lens. That it looks so incredibly stylish and spacious is quite a delight!

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I think the title of the post – How One Couple Rode Out the Recession and Transformed Their Rogers Park Home – perfectly encapsulates the point I was trying to make in my answers to the Q&A. While it has been very tempting over the years to follow the lead of many of our neighbors and let our apartment go into foreclosure, we’re ultimately very happy that we’ve stuck it out. The value of the apartment is still nowhere near what we paid for it in 2007 but we’re still proud to call it home. I’m proud of all the projects I’ve completed that have come together to make the apartment feel comfortable yet handsome. And, most importantly, had we let the apartment go into foreclosure we wouldn’t have been able to get a mortgage for This American House.

One funny thing about this house call is that just one month later the apartment looks totally different. About a week after we had Nick over for the photo shoot I got the itch to redecorate. Such is life with me – our homes are in a constant state of evolution. I’ve rearranged some furniture and started working on a project that is going to transform the mantel into something a little more useful. Stay tuned for more details on those projects soon.

Meanwhile, take a tour of our apartment on Curbed and let us know what you think!