50 Years of Old House Love

Magazine media people are typically forward looking, spotting trends and making predictions. But since history informs the future we are reminiscing too, on the occasion of OLD HOUSE JOURNAL’s 50th anniversary.

Twenty years ago when I had just inherited the stewardship of OHJ from founder and owners Clem Labine and Patty Poore my Mother celebrated my new role as OHJ’s publisher by making me a scrapbook.

She titled the scrapbook “Peter Miller’s Old House Journal”. In it she pasted photographs of all the houses we had lived in. I was well into my adulthood when Mother made it dawn on me how I’d come by my love of old houses. We always lived in an old house often in the historic district.

Our Old House in Granville, Ohio
Our Old House in Granville, Ohio

We moved around a lot growing up so there were 7 old houses in Chicago, Kalamazoo, Cincinnati, New York, Princeton, Annapolis and Granville. The oldest house was an 1830s Federal. The youngest a 1910 Queen Anne. The old house I live in now is a young 1924 Arts and Crafts.

Our Old House in Chicago, Illinois
Our Old House in Chicago, Illinois

Funny how a Mother can know us better than we know ourselves. I’m feeling particularly nostalgic about OHJ’s 50 year history including all that I’ve learned from working together with Patty Poore and reading her stories for forty of those fifty years. At the outset of OHJ’s 50th year Patty wrote her editor’s column about what we can learn from old houses:

  • Old houses save us from thinking perfection exists. “The house was there before you. Adapt to it!”
  • They put us in touch with the seasons. “Close the damper. Change the storm windows. Wear a sweater.”
  • Old houses teach our children about eccentricity. “The window glass ripples. The woodwork has patina.”
  • Old houses introduce us to carpentry, roof flashing, paint stripping. “You may not do it all yourself but you’re more aware of how things work than the average American is.”

Patty goes on to write, “what an old house can not do is free us up from time and money”. Fifty years of old house owners spending time and money is a good thing for those of us who serve the old house restoration and renovation market!

My anniversary reminiscences have also had me wondering how many old house owners are old? So I dove into some research to learn about old house owner demographics.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that old house inhabitants continue to get younger with the largest cohort between 30 and 50 years old.

Here’s to the next generation of old house owners! OHJ looks forward to teaching old house lessons for the next 50 years. 

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