Friday, November 1, 2013

Sepia Saturday: First Home

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.




This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is the ancestral home.  Oh, if only someone would invent a gadget that would translate “Beginning at two red oak saplings on a hill thence east one hundred and ninety-two poles to a white oak in a glade” into a Google map complete with street view of that ancestral home!  In the meantime, I am just grateful for a few photos of my parents’ and grandparents’ first homes.

My maternal grandfather Orvin Owen Davis (1899-1963) grew up on Third Avenue in Shenandoah, Page County, Virginia.  It is likely he was born in that house too.  This photo of the Davis children with their Sullivan cousins is the only one that I can confidently claim shows the ancestral home.  

Davis home on Third Avenue, Shenandoah, VA before 1920
Back row:  Floral Sullivan, Orvin Davis, [unknown photobomber],
Laura Jollett Sullivan, Mary Frances Jollett Davis
Front row: Violetta Davis, Velma Davis, Elta Sullivan, Leota Sullivan

Davis home today, Shenandoah, VA
Snipped from Google Maps
And here it is today, still looking quite good for her age.


















Velma Davis at 411 Sixth St, Shenandoah, VA 1922
Velma Davis in front of the
house on Sixth Street
1922
By 1920, though, my granddaddy’s daddy Walter Davis moved his family into a “modern” Sears & Roebuck Craftsman bungalow which he built at 411 Sixth Street.  It’s where my grandaunts Violetta and Velma lived while they were in college and where Granddaddy lived until he married Lucille Rucker

Violetta Davis at 411 Sixth St, Shenandoah, VA 1924
Violetta Davis 1924
A low wall has been added
to the front porch




















Here is the house today, still well-kept and loved.  I know that because in the 1970s Walter’s only grandson – my mother’s brother – bought the house, and my aunt still lives there. 

411 Sixth St, Shenandoah, VA
The house Walter Davis built at 411 Sixth St
Look closely and you can see where the fence used to be.

When my grandparents married in 1923, they moved out of 411 Sixth Street to rent part of the house across the street.  That’s where my mother was born in 1929.  The house shows up in many photos because the Davises seemed to have prefered posing in the front yard.

Violetta Davis and "C.M." 1924
"C.M." and Violetta 1924
Momma's birthplace in the background
Velma Davis 1924
Velma Davis 1924
Momma's birthplace in the background




















She didn’t live there long because her grandfather Walter Davis was a carpenter, a builder of houses.  In fact, many of the houses in Shenandoah are Walter’s creations.  He and Granddaddy built the house next door at 414 Sixth Street.  It became my mother’s childhood home.  Apparently the house was built between 1930 and 1935 because in the 1940 census Granddaddy said they lived in the “Same House” in 1935. 

Mary Eleanor Davis about 1934 at 411 Sixth St, Shenandoah, VA
My mother Mary Eleanor Davis about 1934
at her grandparents' home on Sixth St.
Two things to notice:  (1) the fence is now gone, and
(2) Momma's childhood home is across the street. 

Mary Eleanor Davis, Shirley Temple doll, and friend Shenandoah about 1936
Momma with her Shirley Temple doll and friend.
The retaining wall, brick pillar and fireplace
indicate this is Momma's home at 414 Sixth St.


Today both the house where Momma was born and the house where she grew up look cheerful and well-maintained.  
412 and 414 Sixth St, Shenandoah, VA
412 and 414 Sixth St, Shenandoah, Virginia
Snipped from Google Maps


Meanwhile across the state in Portsmouth, my dad’s first home was with his maternal grandmother Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh.  The house on the corner of Charleston and Palmer Avenues is barely recognizable today with its addition of vinyl siding and absence of landscaping.

2017 Charleston Ave, Portsmouth, VA about 1920
Helen Killeen Parker at the Walsh home
2017 Charleston Ave, Portsmouth, VA
early 1920s

2017 Charleston Ave, Portsmouth, VA
The house at 2017 Charleston Avenue today
Snipped from Google Maps

But years ago Daddy remembered it.   He even had the nerve to march up to the front door, knock, and ask the current owner if he could come in and look around.  (Sounds much like Miranda Lambert’s song “The House That Built Me” – promising to take only a memory!)  But these are different times, and the only memory Daddy took from there was a door-slam in the face. 

As you can see, many of those first homes can still be visited, even if only from the street.  However, not all my ancestral homes were so lucky.  The home of my great-great grandfather James Franklin Jollett hosted the much anticipated family reunion for many years (although not during MY lifetime).  So far I have not found a “full frontal” view of the house, but pieces of the house can be seen in the background of many photos giving me a sense of what it was like:  a tall 2-story white clapboard house outlined with an irregular picket fence; a grape vine arbor shaded a back porch. 

4 Generations Jollett Reunion
4 Generations 1925
Orvin Davis
Mary Frances Jollett Davis
Orvin Jr.
James Franklin Jollett
Jollett Reunion 1923










James Franklin’s home came to be known as “Jollett Springs” because of the fresh water springs on his property.  People came from miles around to fill their gallon jugs with his water. 

Today the house is gone.  In its place is this:

Jollett Springs Mobile Home Park, Grottoes, VA
Jollett Springs Mobile Home Park
Grottoes, VA
Snipped from Google Maps

Jollett Drive
Snipped from Google Maps


A mobile home park.

The only reminder that James Franklin Jollett was ever there is the street that bears his name.

Addresses inside the park are either North or South Jollett Lane. 











I’m glad for the ancestral homes I can still see and sad for those long gone until I remember this:

“Home is people. Not a place. If you go back there after the people are gone, 
then all you can see is what is not there anymore.”


The Sepia Saturday HOME TOUR starts now.  Enjoy your visit.



© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

51 comments:

  1. This is a great post - I love all of the history. I'm sorry your dad had the door slammed in his face - my dad had a completely different experience at his childhood home. Several years after the house had been sold he knocked on the door and was welcomed inside to see what changes had been made. And now 30 years later, I have found a "new" cousin who lives in the area and knows the people who own the house now. All I need to do is get to the area and I'm inside!

    My childhood home was just sold a few weeks ago and we're been told it is going to be featured on a "flip" show on HGTV. I won't even have to knock on the door to see it!

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    1. It should be fun to see your house featured on tv although its being a "flip" means it fell into disrepair, I guess. My childhood home was officially "condemned," so that someone could get it cheap and flip it.

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    2. The home was beautiful at one time and is in a GREAT neighborhood but yes, it is in disrepair. My parents just never had the energy to fix things and after 55+ years it looked sad and tired. I hope we get to see it all fixed up!

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  2. Homes and their ownerships change and the new owners have new ideas that don't always seem better to the original owners. The folks who bought the home I grew up in, tore up the front lawn & planted a mish-mash of easy-care shrubbery in it's place which I think looks awful. They also removed the nice hedge around the bay window & stuck solar panels on the roof & they're not the new less obtrusive kind either. They stick up. And from what they did to the outside, I have no desire to see what they might have done to the inside! But oh well. I live far away now & don't have to see it at all. I like the way you were able to show what your ancestral homes look like today. Isn't Google wonderful. Neat idea using their service that way.

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    1. My childhood home doesn't look as good either. We had 2 front entrances. The one we used the most actually went into our den which originally had been a breezeway between the house and garage. Whoever bought it closed off that door and now the sidewalk goes to nowhere. What is worse though is what has become of my grandparents' home next door. Sickening!

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  3. I find it amazing, Wendy, that you have so many photos and so much detail about all these homes where your parents and ancestors lived. How wonderful! I have to say I miss all the gingerbread on the remodels of the old homes. I know it went out of fashion, was probably hard to maintain, and may have deteriorated much more quickly than other parts of a home, but still, I think it's beautiful to see. Of course, all the homes look really well maintained so even if the owners took off the gingerbread, at least they're taking care of the homes.

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    1. Yes, I noticed the "streamlining" of the remodels. Even if they didn't want the gingerbread, a fancy post would still be a better option than just a straight one. But no one asked me.

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  4. Having lived and loved in many houses, I can relate to your theme, Wendy. Next to the fireplace hearth in my present home is a small wooden barrel that was one of the kegs of nails used to build my grandparents home in 1936. They lived next to the carpenter/builder who built many of the houses on their street. He also made a plant stand as a gift for my grandmother which now lives on our front porch. Small mementos of a handcrafted home like these that will never change in my memory despite a hundred Google photos.

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    1. I would love a barrel of nails from an ancestral home. While I'm glad to have my great grandmother's corner cupboard, I LOVE having her canning jars, wooden spoon, and the lifter from her wood stove. Reminders of that real life in day-to-day living are extra special to me.

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  5. Truly enjoyed this post! I have a few photos of the house I grew up in....and I can just imagine my grandkids checking it out in 40 years :)

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    1. Now I'm wondering whether leaving pictures of this junky room where I blog is a good idea or not.

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  6. Some very distinctive homes. It's just as well we have our photos to help keep the memories fresh.

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  7. A wonderful posting of houses and of the people who lived in them. With such a distinctive name, did Orven Owen Davis have Welsh connections? Fascinating to see your "then" and "now" photographs and thank you for the Google tip. I have always had a soft spot for the American "gingerbread" style of houses with verandas. We don't have them here - perhaps because of our weather. It must be good to feel your ancestor is remembered locally through the street named after him. . . .

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    1. I do believe the Davises trace back to Wales, but I have not done the due diligence to prove it. What I have found online suggests my granddaddy's great-great-grandfather was Lewis Davis and that he came from Wales. The problem comes with Lewis's son Leonard - just too many Leonard Davises and not enough records to say for sure whether MY Leonard is Lewis's son.

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  8. A great collection. I love how you can barely see some of the houses for all the people happily gathered in front - a true home!

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    1. Like the quote says, it's the people that make a house a home.

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  9. Great post. You are lucky to have so many nice pictures of your family and homes.

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    1. Yes, I am lucky. At one time I grumbled over having all these dusty black-papered albums, but they become more important to me every day.

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  10. hahahaha, yep Daddy did get the door slammed in his face! Daddy sure loved that house on Charleston Ave. I am sorry he didn't get to see it.

    I love all those Shenandoah homes, especially Scoop's house. So cool on the inside. We have a great family.

    Great post girl.

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    1. Thank-ya mucho. We should check periodically to see if the Charleston Ave house goes up for sale -- might have interior pictures online. Or we could pretend to be interested buyers ha ha. I wonder which room was Daddy's.

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  11. Really enjoyed reading this post, thanks!

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  12. Terrific collection of photos and interesting to see them change. How nice that most have endured and been kept in reasonably good condition. It's always a bit of a shock to see how other people re-decorate your past homes. Sorry to hear about your Dad's experience. A great post - I enjoyed reading it.

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    1. After reading the various comments, I've gone looking for other homes that SHOULD still be around but apparently aren't. Or maybe house numbers changed between 1930 and the present.

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  13. What fun, and I must confess I also checked out google again with a few of our old places as well. Your first photo from google maps, wow, how they captured that lovely view with all those clouds and such a rich blue sky. Not to forget your own lovely family photos to treasure as well! Thanks for spectacular tour!

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    1. Funny that you noticed how pretty Shenandoah looks on Google. And it really does look like a lovely town. Actually it's a rather struggling town in an economically poor county. But in the early 1900s it was a boom town with the railroad being a major employer.

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  14. When I look back at houses we once lived in they all seem incredible small not that our bungalow now is all that large. To see them as they are now on google is something I shall have to try - but one is still within walking distance and that's the one we altered as the children grew up and wanted rooms of their own.

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    1. I'm always surprised by front yards. My memories are of huge front yards and the house far from the street. When I go by my childhood home or that of my cousins, I swear they moved the house closer to the road! Where did the yard go??

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  15. A great post. Very interesting tour through your family history. That is sad that the new occupants would not allow you Dad to see the home; I know how he must have felt. Today my only childhood home and where Mom lived all her life is owned by a nephew who has never ever invited me to see it when I am back there visiting. A pox on all such people. I use Google sometimes too. Interesting how some old homes survive and live on and others, gone.

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  16. Isn't it amazing how much space there is between the houses. These days houses are stamped out so close together that I'm sure you can hear the neighbors all the time. I find it very uncomfortable to be that close with windows facing each other.

    This was a fascinating post.

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    1. A big yard was always seen as a necessity. Now people are lazy and don't want to cut grass or maintain the landscaping.

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  17. Great that so many of the homes are still standing. It's a fascinating subject. Other than Google Maps I've used house sale ads online to see what the houses look like - they have so many indoor and outdoor photos added to the sale ads now.

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    1. Good idea -- I have just checked the addresses of some of my distant relatives and ancestors to see if there are any interior photos. So far I found one, but none from the houses featured in this post.

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  18. Great post, amazing how you retained all those pictures. I agree with BooBook, real estate ads now include exterior and interior pictures of their listings. ( I happen to know as I work for Remax real estate and am responsible for posting such photos.

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    1. My dad was with Remax for awhile.

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  19. Our homes are very special. They welcome us, shelter us & change with us.

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    1. Good point about how houses change with us. As we update the decor, we change with the times. I remember when dark kitchen cabinets were considered "dated," but now they're back in. Natural woodwork was dated, so we all painted, and now natural is back in. I've painted more den paneling than I care to think about -- dark paneling can come back if it wants, but that is not a look I plan to return to!

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  20. My parents have told me many stories about the homes they grew up in, and I've always wished those houses were still standing so I could visit them. Sadly, they're not. How wonderful though that most of your ancestral homes are!

    One of my favorite things to do is to look online at photos of old, abandoned houses. There are some remarkable ones out there. I like to imagine the people who might have lived in them—what their lives might have been like, etc. I'm also fascinated by all those old, empty houses one often sees on the sides of freeways. Oh, how I would love to get inside them! There's so much history there!

    I've rambled enough for today. ☺ I hope you're having a lovely weekend.

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    1. That's the writer in you -- imagining stories for those abandoned homes.

      I hope your weekend has been a good one!

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  21. Your post reminded me of a book that I did for my mother. She, my sister and aunt made the tour (several times) of all of the homes in which my mother and her family lived in Klamath county, Oregon. Such a wonderful time as Mom and my Aunt Loise told stories that they remembered from each house. Your post had much the same feel of belonging to the past through the present.

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  22. If I were the house owner I would have welcomed in someone who wanted only the memories. And with tea. I enjoyed viewing the houses as shown how they looked before and how they look now.

    Hazel

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    1. Thanks Hazel. You're a good person!

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  23. This is a great post Wendy! It's so cool that some of your ancestors' homes are still standing.

    That's really sad about your dad getting the door slammed in his face though. Wow!

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    1. Hi Jana, thanks. I am glad to know where these homes are and to have seen them, at least from the outside.

      I don't know if Daddy's story is as sad as it is funny. As a woman, I'd be skeptical about letting a strange man in my house too. These days you just never know.

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  24. Great collection of old house photos! What is a flip house exactly? It's not a term used in Australia.My mother was invited into her old childhood home where she was born when she stopped to take a closer look a few years ago, which was really nice. When I noticed the house was up for sale again, I emailed the agent with a few details of my grandparents who had built it back in the 1920s, and she thanked me and said the new owners would be most interested to hear about its history.

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    1. Jo, a "flip" is a term we use when a person buys a generally run-down property cheap, fixes it up, and then sells it for a profit with no intentions of actually living there themselves. The idea is to do it quickly, "flip it." Some people make a living at flipping houses. There are tv shows featuring professional "flippers" and their project homes. Typically they have a budget and a deadline of a couple weeks. Of course, the drama is all the structural problems or timing of delivery of new windows or appliances in time for the Open House, all impacting the profit they anticipate earning.

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  25. Lucky you to have so many pictures of houses from your family. Great idea to use google to see how they look no - I might try that. The quote at the end is so apposite.

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  26. Don't you love being able to revisit the family home today and see that it's still standing? I wish my mom's home was still there, but it's just an open patch of ground now.
    Did they fancy having their picture in the front of the house because there was only a small backyard, I wonder?

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