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Sunday, September 13, 2009

History and Community

What a weekend! The Elgin Housewalk tour was Saturday. The Elgin Housewalk is a wonderful, volunteer event that involves people who enjoy history, appreciate old houses, and love the people of the local neighborhood. Annually, more than a thousand people walk through the houses on tour.

I helped as a house co-captain, and earlier had assisted housewalk veteran Bill Briska with some writing for the booklet. As a writer, I researched four of the homes and talked with their current owners, learning more of the history of Elgin and its inhabitants. As house captain, I worked with thirty volunteer docents and talked with many of the visitors. I loved hearing their stories.

The homes on this year's tour were mostly built between 1870 and 1910. Just walking down the streets of Elgin, you can see the tremendous variety of architecture. This year's tour featured an elegant Romanesque revival brick mansion, a cute little second Empire style house with Mansard roof, a traditional American foursquare, some Queen Anne's and a bungalow.

Inside the homes, you can feel the sense of history, and also see how our lifestyles and attitudes have changed. Kitchens and bathrooms have become more important. Smoking rooms and parlors have gone out of use, replaced by family rooms and dens. Servants, with their own quarters and own stairs, are no longer common for middle or even upper middle class families.

But, the families who lived in these houses experienced the same pain of loss when babies or husbands or family members died, when houses were lost to bankruptcy or when the local economy suffered. They also celebrated life milestones, loved decorating their houses and serving the community in their own unique fashion.

Certain aspects of life change, but the fundamentals do not. How quickly we all come and go from life's stage. What lasts seem to be the things that people do with love and care for others - both in the short term and the long term.

Jeremiah 29:11 'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'

Luke 12:16-21
Then Jesus told this story: "There was a rich man who had some land, which grew a good crop. He thought to himself, 'What will I do? I have no place to keep all my crops.' Then he said, 'This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and other goods. Then I can say to myself, "I have enough good things stored to last for many years. Rest, eat, drink, and enjoy life!"'

"But God said to him, 'Foolish man! Tonight your life will be taken from you. So who will get those things you have prepared for yourself?'

"This is how it will be for those who store up things for themselves and are not rich toward God."

1 comment:

  1. I would love to have gone on the house walk Laura. I did one once in Algonquin and loved it! How great that you were a part of it.