Sunday, June 14, 2009
Which will it be in your fertile imagination? The ancestral home of Al Capp’s loveable misanthrope, Joe Btfsplk? Or the Arkansas vacation cottage of the Addams Family, that darkly humorous, goth-like Charles Addams tribe, which graced the pages of The New Yorker and gave rise to the Addams Family TV show?
This spooky ruin has gotta be one or the other. I normally scratch my head when observing and shooting old domiciles, pondering why this? and why that? in a morally curious sort of way.
This one was different. It was shot on January 4, 2009, east of Ola, Arkansas, although the wind chill factor made it feel like it was northwest of the Klondike. Perhaps that’s what made this crumbling structure appear so spooky. Perhaps it was the sharp gables and a mysterious looking second floor in concert with seemingly polar temperatures that brought on the shivers — and thoughts of Joe and the Addamses. Normally, my initial grasp of old buildings is a bit more reverent than the vein of Joe and the Addamses, but on that day, I suppose I needed some comic relief.
Enjoying the laugh at myself, and casting aside that fantasy, I did my walk around. The original part of the house probably dates back to the late 19th or early 20th century. Like many rural southern houses, this one had an addition, the largest room in the house. The part to the left of the large tree on the right side of the picture is the add-on. As families grew and prospered, more living space became a necessity.
The house has a shotgun breezeway as shown in the picture below. A room with a fireplace was to the right, probably the “living” room. There were two interconnecting rooms on each side. From what I have observed, people for the most part lived and took meals on one side of these houses and slept and stored stuff on the other side.
The house was well constructed by carpenters who knew their business. The floors — I reached in a window and scraped away some floor crud — are nicely grained oak. Despite my original comic approach, as I left the house I did start to wonder when it lost its value. And why.
Looking in the windows, I could see that the last residents left evidence of mid-20th century domestic society. There were also some more recent articles of flotsam and jetsam, probably left by someone seeking shelter for the night and not being too choosy about the conditions.
Once I thawed out as I drove away and gave some thought to what I had seen, I did have one last observation. I wonder. . . . What if Joe Btfsplk and the Addams Family knew each other and visited in the old house? Now wouldn’t that have been a howling hoot!
N O T E S:
Most of the time, there is more to the Photo of the Week story than can be told in an essay. And most of the time there are more pictures to be seen. Presuming that some folk will enjoy being privy to this trove of information, I have created a blog, “Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind,” where I am showing and telling “the rest of the story." There are also some blatantly commercial mentions of some of the things we do to earn our beans and taters. Click on the Weekly Grist logo and go to the blog. — J. D.