Why should we even care about lost houses
My original interest in the subject came when I discovered Anna Sproules THE LOST HOUSES OF GREAT BRITAIN for $3.50 at the Erie Street Bookstore in
The most memorable example of destruction by fire in Sproule’s book is Alloa House. Alloa was the stronghold-turned-mansion of the Erskines the earls of Mar of
Having survived through war, absent owners and seizure (and return) by the British Government the “agent of [Alloa's] final destruction” was a servant who used a lighted candle to look under a bed for something missing. The bed linen caught fire and the flames quickly spread. The local creek was dry and by morning the house was a ruined waste. Alloa II was built thirty-five years later but all that remains of either house today is the old tower which survived the 1800 fire. According to Anna Sproule the story of loss by fire has been “repeated time and time and time again north and south of the border.”
Having found a satisfactory answer to my question I put the book away until recently when I was trying to decide how to pare down my collection. Lost Houses held my complete attention for an hour (that is until the phone rang). That was enough to convince me that it was definitely worth keeping.
The book abounds with the history of houses and their owners, many of them familiar to those of us who spend a good part of our day in Regency England. Almost all the houses now lost were extant in the 19th century and include: Deepdene,
Yes, Anna Sproule’s book introduced me to the subject of lost houses. To be honest, much more information is available online. My favorite website is www.lostheritage.org.uk., Mathew Beckett maintains that over 2000 houses have been lost and another website says that 1700 of those 2000 have been destroyed in the 20th century. This is in
Here is an example from the Lost Heritage- England’s Lost Country Houses linked above. Derwent House in Derbyshire was builtin 1672 on the site of another house and went through a number of owners ranging from a farmer to the Duke of Norfolk before its final use as a youth hostel in the 1930s. It was “compulsorily purchased” and destroyed six years later in 1944 to allow for completion of a reservoir to serve the
I have lived in twenty different houses from childhood to 2008. I know two of them are no longer in existence and two are gravely threatened. One that has been destroyed is on Kodiak Island in Alaska, the smallest of all twenty I called home: a two bedroom, one bath duplex. It was my first experience of life beyond the East coast. I loved those three years and even though we moved to San Francisco next, I was sorry to leave.
The other house that was destroyed was as far east of the east coast as Kodiak is west. It was in San Juan, Puerto Rico and was the biggest house I have ever lived in – big enough for a pool table in the “family room” along with all the standard family room furniture. The dining room would seat twenty-four and did. Besides the living room, there was an additional room called the Rattan Room that ran half the length of the house which had six bedrooms and six bathrooms.
It was originally built as home to a Navy Admiral during World War II and later became a BOQ, then a child care center, then an Officers Club until it was reclaimed for use as a residence when the Coast Guard took over the residential base. While Paul was assigned there we did lots of entertaining (at our own expense, I assure you your tax dollars were not wasted) survived hurricane Hugo and tried to parent two teenage sons who viewed San Juan as a tropical paradise. Isla Grande, as the base was called, was destroyed in the late 90’s to make way for a container port.
The two houses that are gravely threatened are worth saving. They are on Governors Island in
The island is a seven minute ferry ride from Wall Street and had the only golf course in Manhattan. I loved it there and would have been happy to live there forever if the Coast Guard had not decided that it was just too expensive to maintain.
How many houses have you lived in and have any been lost? Have you seen or lived in any historical homes that are no longer in existence