Today is the day I’ve been waiting to celebrate for almost 14 years. December 15, 2020 is my house’s 100th anniversary, the day it turns 100 years old! The year 1920 comes from the city records, and the month and day December 15 come from the foundry date stamped into the bottom of the claw-foot tub in the bathroom. Happy Anniversary, Little House!
I bought my house in 2007, the year that marked the 300th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, Virginia. (Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement in the New World.) It is interesting to note my house’s neighborhood, Westhaven, was opened up for development in 1907 as part of Jamestown’s 200th anniversary celebrations. At the time this was “the distant suburbs” from the main downtown area of Portsmouth and there were still large family farms here along the Elizabeth River.
If you drive down High Street from the Olde Towne riverfront to the city’s border with Chesapeake, the neighborhood architecture tells the story of how our little city developed through the centuries and decades. Our neighborhood is at about the halfway mark and right across High Street from Maryview Hospital. (When I started doing some major renovation work on my house, it was nice knowing there was an emergency room right around the corner just in case I ever electrocuted myself or fell off of the roof!)
Rodman Avenue runs through our neighborhood all of the way from the original Rodman’s Barbecue Restaurant on High Street to Moseberth’s Chicken on Airline Boulevard. (Moseberth’s was renamed “The Chicken Place” in “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens.”) Airline Boulevard is also where you’ll find Norfolk County Feed and Seed. We get all of our garden plants, chicken feed, and chicken scratch from those good folks.
This is our neighborhood, and we love how it is tucked away from the main roads and has kept its distinctive “small town” feeling from decades ago. Even though we are right in the middle of a small city surrounded by even larger cities, you’d never know it. There are no stockade fences. Kids ride bicycles and play outside. I have chickens. My next door neighbor has a pig and a goat. Veterans have vintage cars in their garage and take them out for a drive on Sundays.
The main part of my house was originally just 28 feet wide and 30 feet deep. (Later a den and laundry room were added to the back.) My house was built on six city-sized lots, three along our street where the house faces, and three along the next street behind us where the railroad tracks to the port were. That was a lot of land for not a lot of house. But back then, that was how they started building homes here. At the time, I imagine the larger yards were good for gardens…and chickens! Over the years, portions of these generous yards were sold off and homes from later decades were built between the original homes. That is what happened with my house.
I’m really only pointing all of these things out for one reason: this is all real. From my little house to my chickens right in the middle of the backyard garden, it is all real. (But there are times when my imagination might get the best of me. The Bottle Cap Lady is actually a compilation of several different real people, not a single actual person.)
Often I wish I could be like writers who “create worlds” and “create characters” to fill those beautifully and elaborately created worlds, but I can’t. I just don’t have those skills, and it’s possible I never will.
But if your own imagination can fill in the colors and details that are missing here, if you feel like you know my chickens personally, and if you feel like you are sitting with us under the camellias surrounded by our backyard garden, then perhaps my limitations are not so bad. Thank you for sharing this Happy Anniversary with us!