In his feature of the Calvin Coolidge Homestead a year ago, Bob Villa presents the unmistakable character of Vermont architecture as it continues to live on in the Plymouth Notch home of the former President. While it no longer includes the addition put on by Coolidge in the summer of 1932, to house his library and the overflow of gifts acquired during their stay in the White House, it remains a visual testament to the practical sense and organic growth – form following function in a sense – that is such a trademark of the Notch in particular and Vermont in general.
It bears the same kind of structural signature that recurs all across our nation wherever the sensible prevails over the ostentatious and the practical over the polished, where accomplishing the task against the challenge of the elements means more than a showy appearance or photogenic exterior. Isn’t that simply a reflection of the character of the men and women who lived there? They were more concerned about the day-to-day work and demands of the land and farm than packaging the house as an ornamental showpiece or gauge of status. This emphasis on the down-to-earth things is an outlook on life that captures its own beauty, don’t you agree?
As Coolidge thought about the house where he grew up, he wrote,
“About it were a considerable number of good apple trees. I think the price paid was $375 [this house stood across the street from where he was born, the Homestead pictured here being built upon two acres with a number of barns and a blacksmith shop, all bought by his parents when he was about 4 years old]. Almost at once the principal barn was sold for $100, to be moved away…Some repairs were made on the inside, and black walnut furniture was brought from Boston to furnish the parlor and sitting room. It was a plain square-sided house with a long ell, to which the horse barn was soon added. The outside has since been remodeled and the piazza built…Whatever was needed never failed to be provided.”
What does your childhood home – whether it still physically stands or not – reveal about you and your people? Perhaps, if we took a moment to listen carefully, we may hear what the walls have to say.