Mansion or Monstrosity?

There’s one in every small Midwestern town. Some have become funeral parlors, or bed and breakfast hotels. Others, boarded up and abandoned, fuel the scary fantasies of children on Halloween night. Only a lucky few survive as single-family homes.

I love the old Victorian mansions, with their gingerbread trim and wrap-around porches. As a kid I dreamed of a tower bedroom with curved walls and a window seat, straight out of “Ann of Green Gables”. My mother wrinkled her nose at the houses I admired. What I saw as charming, she saw as ancient, sure to have leaky pipes and astronomical heating bills.

My grandmother had a theory about those Victorian mansions. She said they were built by the railroad barons who settled along the empty prairie to manage the rail line. They brought their wives, kicking and screaming at being forced to leave civilization.

That’s where the houses came from, according to Grandmother. The unhappy wife said, “I’ll go, Horace, but you’re going to build me a mansion to live in when I get there.”

And Horace always did.

If my husband and I were handy and resourceful, not to mention rich, I’d live in one of those mansions. I’d lovingly restore it to its historically accurate time period, and Jon would install new plumbing and electrical wiring. But our talents lie in other directions.

For now, I content myself with enjoying the handiwork of other people. And re-reading “Anne of Green Gables”.


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