Saturday 23 – Sunday 24 July 2011
I have been fascinated by the architecture of the pre and Civil War periods of American history, in much the same manner as the War itself has held my interest, or rather the stories of the people. I’ve written before, for me, it has always been about the people. But this time, it’s more about the building.
The heat was oppressive, but the three people stood in the full sun admiring the house.
‘It’s pre-Civil War by about fifteen years. Surprisingly, it weathered the war quite well. Guess the homeowners must have been well like by both sides,’ he snickered, obviously thinking that he had made quite a funny joke, but got no response from the young couple. The real estate agent spouted as many facts about the house as he could remember. He clearly wanted to make this sale. The unassuming, young couple didn’t appear to be impressed by his wealth of knowledge. As with many other potential new homeowners, Martin and Roisin O’Connell were only interested in the architecture and the price.
Although both from Irish heritage, the O’Connells were very interested in Antebellum architecture. The Greek Revival house in front of them was a perfect example of that period of architecture, and of American history. The instantly recognisable entry porch with tall white columns, narrow windows highlighting the front door, and symmetrical building shape were only a few of the features that drew the O’Connells to the home. They’d discussed buying a pre or Civil War home as their first house as a married couple. And externally, what they saw impressed them.
‘This is a Greek Revival, isn’t it?’ asked Martin, but knowing perfectly well what he was looking at.
‘Why, yes. Yes, it is, Mr. O’Connell. How did you know?’ the agent was visibly shocked that Martin knew the architectural origins of De Busson House.
‘Roisin and I head up our own architecture firm.’ His reply was straightforward, and delivered without offering a single ounce of attention to the agent. ‘Mr. Henderson, would you mind taking us inside now?’
Mr. Henderson, real estate agent, winced at Martin’s words. He had not anticipated that a client would want him to go inside as well. In his experience, potential buyers who were married, wanted the time and space to explore the interior alone.
‘Inside? You, um, you want me to take you inside De Busson?’ his voice waivered.
‘Yes, Mr. Henderson, my husband and I would like you to show us the interior. Is that a problem?’ Roisin stepped up and looked firmly at the agent.
Henderson wondered if he could get away with lying. Probably not, he decided rather quickly. Sweat beaded on his forehead at the thought of actually having to go inside. He fumbled with his briefcase, passing it from one hand to the other, and almost dropping it twice.
‘Well, to aaahhh, to ah, to be honest, I aaahhh, I really would prefer to stay outside if you don’t, if you don’t mind, Mrs. O’Connell.’
‘Oh, Mr. Henderson, surely you’re not swayed by the stories about this house?’ she giggled at the thought of a grown man believing in ghost stories.
‘As a matter of fact, Mrs. O’Connell, yes, I am,’ he replied sheepishly, ashamed that he was unable to bolster himself enough to go inside after the last time.
Ferreting about in the left hand front pocket of his pants, he pulled out the front door key and held it in the air, motioning for Roisin or Martin to take them.
‘I’d really rather stay out here. Please, take your time,’ Henderson lowered his voice, ‘Things have happened in there. Things that neither I nor anyone else can explain. I’ve seen – ’
‘Things?’ she was now mocking the visibly shaken agent.
‘Yes,’ he was quick to respond. ‘You have no idea. No idea at all, Mrs. O’Connell.’
. . . To be continued . . .