Thursday, January 5, 2012

Glimpse of the past

Guilty as charged: I'm an old house nut. I love the craftsmanship of bygone times, the love for detail and the sense of history you get living in an old home.

While house hunting in 2010, the husband and I also looked at a number of younger houses. Modern houses outside our historic neighborhood. Not only did it feel like cheating but we were baffled at how, well ... empty those houses felt to us. Now, mind you, both the husband and I have lived in newer homes prior to moving to Historic Springfield in Jacksonville just fine. Guess we didn't know what we were missing, right?

Back to the whole history part.

[The Sanborn Map Collection at the Jacksonville Main Library]

Our darling Ugly Duckling of a house has changed hands many times in its almost 100 years of existence and has been home to even more. If you check out the page called "House History" (find the navigation button at the top of the blog or simply click here), you can find out about past tenants and the bit about the builder I was able to dig up.

So far I have

searched the city directories (check out this blog post here)
checked out the Sanborn map (read more about it here)
investigated the Springfield survey

Over the holidays I decided to take the plunge and signed up for a trial membership in I also discovered the site courtesy of the LDS church and tend to get the better results using their search engine.

What better way to dig through an old US Census than from the cozy comfort of your couch, socks and tea and a cookie nearby?

Best. time. drain. ever!
Well, at least for somebody like me. It excites me to learn more about the men and women who called our house their home and to tease their story from old records.
I have managed to unearth a few more details about the people who shared the Ugly Duckling with us and I just have to figure out a good way to share these story bits.

Every old house owner's dream is it to find an old picture of their house. You know, from the time when the varnish was still fresh and the plaster not quite dry. So far, no luck, but I'm hanging in there. Who knows I might just find that one shoe box with the family pictures taken our street in 1915.

Wouldn't that be cool?


  1. i'd love to do that! we actually have the entire history of our other san marco house (luckily, previous owners had kept records), but not for the place we just moved to. i tried hunting down some information from the preservation society, but got no where. there was a halfway decent arial shot in a recent book that they published, but that was about it. i did manage to come across some old advertisements from when the area was first developed... so neat!

  2. Oh, you're so lucky! I wish we'd gotten such a packet along with the keys to the house. Hopefully the pages will give up your house's story easily! I still need to check out what materials they have here at SPAR and I'm in the process of touching base with a prior owner who is still living in Jax and the Jacksonville Historical Society. One picture is all I'm asking for *LOL*

  3. If you haven't done so already, you should contact SHEC (located in the Spar office) and see if they have a photo & old info on your house.