This Old House
Oct 8, 2013 at 6:10 PM
Bill Scott enjoyed hiding inside spacious closets and dangling on a rope swing outside his childhood home.
While he’s fonder of other activities today, Bill still desperately wanted to relive those memories where they occurred.
So when his mother, Georgianna Scott, died three years ago, he moved back into his childhood home where she lived about 60 years on Ohio Street in Huron.
“We lived next door for 35 years,” said Bill, referencing the neighboring house he previously resided in with his wife, Carol Scott. “That home has been in the family since 1886, so we just couldn’t see giving it up yet and moved in.”
Built in 1837, their house has unique features, including several telephone polls doubling as foundation points entrenched inside the house.
But some of the home’s other characteristics hardly differ from many other houses in Erie County.
At 50, the median age of an Erie County house predates those, on average, built throughout Ohio and the U.S., according to a Register analysis of U.S. Census data.
The median year of a home built in Erie County is 1963 — three years older than Ohio’s average and 13 years older than the U.S. average.
“Homes are usually built in an area where the economy is growing,” said Michael Kimaid, a BGSU Firelands associate professor of history and geography. “Most of the homes in Erie County, along with many of the commercial buildings and the infrastructure itself, were built in the postwar building boom.” But, as the manufacturing industry peaked and then began to decline starting 30 years ago, fewer people had extra money — or even jobs — to build or buy new houses.
Case in point: Erie County’s population peaked to an all-time high of 79,600 entering 1980. Since then, however, it’s dropped 3 percent to 77,000 today.
“If an area takes a hit like Erie County did beginning in the early 1980s, along with the rest of the Rust Belt, the depopulation that results creates a lack of demand for new housing,” Kimaid said.
Though it not’s overly concerning, Erie County’s average housing stock age coincides with when Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.
“The age of a house is not as important as its condition and the degree to which it is maintained by its owners,” Kimaid said. “Any house that falls out of repair for whatever reason is a potential blight on a neighborhood, which threatens to drive down home prices and devalue the investments people have in their homes.”
While preserving its early 19th century charm, the Scotts are constantly modernizing their home, including updating the kitchen and installing a new furnace — ensuring they’re both good neighbors to others and maintaining a home so future Scotts can live there.
“It turned out really good,” Bill said.
Pros and cons of an older house
Michael Kimaid, a BGSU Firelands associate professor of history and geography, provided a brief guide of advantages and disadvantages of living in an older home:
Older houses, when properly maintained, are something that homeowners and the community tend to take a degree of pride in. It’s the intangible quality of character that drives market prices for older homes higher than some new builds. The cliche that “they don’t build ‘em like they used to” is pretty evident to anyone who’s ever been in a well-maintained home that was built in the 19th century through the end of the 1940s.
After that, the postwar housing boom saw a certain degree of mechanization at the expense of craft and trade skill. This coincides with the rise of the suburbs in the 1950s, and the idea of cookie-cutter, mass-produced homes.
Coding issues address some of the more obvious dangers of older houses, like lead paint, faulty electoral wiring, lack of insulation, inadequate roofing, leaking basements and crumbing foundations.
People should also be aware that a lot of basements in this part of the country emit radon gas, which is cancer causing.