Leecia Bloss' First Column for the St Joseph Telegraph

 

August, 2001

Leecia Bloss, Administrative Director, Preservation Inc.

 Confessions of an Old House Addict

 

I want us to start this writer/reader relationship off on the right foot.  The best way for me to do this is to make a confession to you.  I am addicted to old houses.  There isnít an old house I pass by that I donít want to see inside.

Just how did a woman who spent the majority of her youth in a ranch house get such an addiction you might ask?  It began at first out of necessity.  The first old house in my married life was purchased simply because there was a housing shortage and nothing else was available in our price range.  Our starter home had been a small ranch house that required only painting.  Now we were facing challenges that even our parents hadnít prepared us for, but we were young.  We did the sink or swim method of home repairs.  I do believe this is when we were given the Complete Book of Home Repairs by my husbandís parents.

As we continued moving around the United States, we lived in both modern and old houses.  This was dictated by availability in our price range rather than ďthis is our dream house.Ē   I would guess that the closest to perfect house for both of us was the new Victorian we purchased in Palisade, Colorado.  It was the best of both worlds, the perfect melding of modern amenities and old-fashioned charm.  I knew at that point in my life that an older house with nine-foot ceilings, large windows and a dining room was my kind of home. It is funny how these addictions sneak up on you.

Another addiction was starting to occur and I didnít even know it.  The name of this one was the City of St. Joseph.  My former husband is Barry Birr, the News Director of KFEQ Radio.  We arrived here in 1984 and he began his career with Eagle Communications.  Our residence for seven years was a nice older home on Ashland Avenue.  It was in fairly good condition, needing only some loving care.  As we grow older what seemed perfect in our youth isnít always what is right for us later in life.  Barry and I parted company.

Once again my housing needs were dictated by monetary means.  The wonderful news was that I was in St. Joseph were a single woman with limited income could afford a home, especially an older home.  This was when I became involved with a cottage with a mansard roof on Green Street.  It came with its share of problems, but I was more mature now and had amassed enough moxie that I wasnít afraid of tackling the challenges.  Besides, all the larger pieces of furniture that I had acquired over the years from auctions would only work in an older home.  I didnít mind how small the home was, the furniture belonged there.  Did it matter if the only way the bed could get upstairs was through a window on the second floor?  Of course, it doesnít, besides my bedroom had a bathroom adjacent to it with a claw foot tub.  The cottage and I had a wonderful five-year relationship until the Victorian came between us

On Martin Luther Kingís birthday a little over five years ago, my good friend Carole Caw and I decided to go out to breakfast since it was a day off.  We decided to drive by some houses we had seen in the paper that were HUD repossessions.  Carole was contemplating the possibility of moving as things were changing in her life.  One of the properties was a tall thin Victorian on a very narrow lot at the corner of 26th and Olive, with a wrought iron fence around it.  It was love at first sight for me.  The oval beveled glass front door, natural woodwork, fireplace in the dining room, the list went on.  I was hooked. I did tell Carole that if she wanted the house she could have it because we were looking for her when I fell in love.  She graciously declined and I bought the house. 

Once you are hooked on old houses the urge to save them all starts getting stronger, at least with me it did.  I treated myself to the luxury of not moving into the Victorian until all the painting, papering, reattachment of the woodwork was done.  This was a mistake.  There were times when the house didnít need me.  So I put in a brick patio and sod in the back yard.  I was only in it for a little over a year when I started reading the houses for sale ads again.  What was wrong with me?  What could possibly be going through my mind?  I wanted to take on another home remodeling when I had this very charming nice and neat home. Itís too late; I need to save another home.  Enter into my life 2424 Faraon, a home that sat empty for 2 years, had 23 interior water leaks and not a single room that was livable, but it had space.

Into my life, while I was still living on Green Street, came the good friend who several years later became my husband, Wally Bloss.  My version of his dating me sometimes meant he would bring an extension pole over to help me paint the ceiling or walls on Olive Street.  Wally and his son Jeremy spent many hours keeping me company by reattaching all the moldings around the windows that had been stripped and were in the basement.  I believe all his children breathed a sigh of relief when the house was completed and they along with many good friends helped me move in.  The courtship continued, but it didnít stop my addiction, I bought the house on Faraon.  I often tell people that the reason Wally married me was because he was tired of dates that required his bringing along a scraper or a paintbrush. 

It has been three years since I bought 2424 Faraon and in January Wally and I will be married for three years.  Have we finished restoring Faraon?  The answer is NO.  Have I stopped looking at other houses to buy and save?  NO!  Does Wally get nervous when he goes out of town for fear I will buy something else to save?  YES!  Will it ever end? NO!

A new opportunity has happened now that will allow me to get others addicted to the homes that need to be saved in St. Joseph. This came about after the encouragement of my husband and my good friend, Ann Stephens.  After working for the City of St. Joseph for eleven years, I am assuming the duties of Administrative Director of Preservation Inc.  I am going to try and be as contagious as possible, spreading the addiction to old homes.  At this time, I will be bringing you the news of Preservation Inc twice a month.  I will be sharing our Mission Statement, coming events, featured homes that are in our Emporium magazine and doing my very best to get you addicted.  I would like to share with you my own mission statement:  St. Joseph, preparing for the future by preserving the past.

I encourage you to visit our pop booth at Trails West!ģ located in the Craft area.  Make your donation to the festival and Preservation Inc. by quenching your thirst with us.

Please call me at our office at (816) 232-8300 if you have any questions on how to become addicted.  Our office hours are 9 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

I feel a lot better now.  How about you?