The Hall farmhouse on Whirlwind Hill set the standards for all the houses I’ve lived in. Its staircases, wallpapered rooms, tall windows, wood plank floors, attics, odd-shaped closets, and paneled doors with round knobs formed my notions of the way a home should look.
In 1973, after living in Alaska for several years, my husband and I were ready to buy a house. Expecting our first child, and eager to start nesting, we were dismayed by how few houses were for sale in Anchorage. Finally, through a friend, we found a downtown house about to go on the market. It wasn’t pretty – certainly not by Connecticut standards. This big pinkish box with brown shutters had a cement front stoop whose left side sank into the ground. But when I walked through the front door I came face to face with a center staircase leading to the second floor bedrooms.
As I walked up the stairs I pretended not to notice the red shag carpet, lumpy plastered ceilings, and shiny black louver doors. I was hoping I wouldn’t be disappointed, and I wasn’t. On the landing, at the top of the stairs, the afternoon light shone through a tall window and cast patterns and shadows on the walls and floor. The bedroom doors were paneled, and they had old round metal doorknobs. It felt like home. We bought the house, and a few years later I did a painting of the landing window. I still have everything in the painting (yes – the plant lives!) except for the window, which, during a 1982 remodel made way for a door into a new bedroom.
In the farmhouse, at the top of the back staircase, there was also a landing with a wood floor, multiple doorways, and a window. I have no pictures of this window from the inside, but I do remember the importance of having that light at the top of the dark, narrow stairs. I also remember the view, which in my great-great-great-grandfather Aaron Hall’s time would have been to Muddy River and his farm’s pastureland. From the outside the window is not striking, but like much of the rest of the house it was on the inside where the memories and the views were made.
On Wednesday: Wildflowers