INFILL-trated: the demise of the little old house
I live in the Westboro/McKellar Park neighbourhood of Ottawa, Ontario -- a part of the nation's capital that once qualified as borderline-sleepy and perhaps even unremarkable. But the past couple of decades have done the equivalent of a neighbourhood-scale Extreme Home Makeover and it is now arguably the most desirable neighbourhood in the entire city.
Westboro has always had great bones. But now she has Botox too. One of the staggering realities of living here is the never-ending residential construction. New builds on old, established streets are everywhere, and there's a real cachet associated with them -- particularly the monster detached infill homes that say "I spent 600K on my sweet, century-old, tree-lined lot and then built my 3,500 square foot dream home for another $600K -- I've clearly arrived."
I don't mean to sound bitter or resentful. In fact, I often find myself coveting some of these new builds. But what really sticks in my craw is the relentless slaughter of what I call "little old houses" -- largely of the post-war era, these are homes that are diminutive but eminently functional and not without aesthetic charm. They are modest in size but contribute something that is hard to measure. They remind us of a time when everyone needed much less than they seem to today. And they got along fine. These are homes with built-in spice racks and ironing boards, side doors with milk delivery boxes, no more than 3 bedrooms (tops) and often only one bathroom. And what the homes lack in square footage is often offset by a sizeable yard, where if you're lucky -- there might still be a clothesline and a concrete pad for your patio set and BBQ.
I know that many will argue these homes simply *are* too small for their modern-day family's needs, and that may be so. But I think there is something to be said about looking back and recognizing that living with less *was* once possible and it was actually quite pleasant.
I believe there's a real romance to these little old houses -- so much so, that I document them on Instagram whenever I happen upon one. I see them as a dying breed and I like to honour them in my own little way. You can see a few of few of those #litteoldhouses above.
It's hard to deny the monetary allure of the lots these little darlings sit on. If the street is zoned for semi-detached, small builders can potentially make a killing -- and many are doing just that. Rarely do you see someone snag a #littleoldhouse and do nothing more than swap out knob-and-tube and give it a lick of paint. They are veritable goldmines -- so long as you ground them to a pulp and build two units in their place.
For now I'll continue to hold out hope that I'm not alone in my love of these quiet little beauties. And maybe just maybe, a few will live on in their indisputable function and unassuming charm.