The more I practice this little exercise, the less intimidating it gets. I still don’t have the easy style that other writers do, but at least I’m enjoying myself now. Any building is more than just the arrangement of windows or the color of the siding; it was somehow part of someone’s life, and that’s what fascinates me about these old places.
Please note, by the way, that I have only the sketchiest knowledge of how to tell when a building or house was constructed, so I just use whatever estimate best suits my purpose. You can’t tell me no because you aren’t my mom. (But my mom has a very good sense of architecture and history and probably could tell me.)
The little porch was just big enough for two rocking chairs and a well-mannered dog. Lacy woodwork and elaborate corner columns gave a tasteful flair to the otherwise common-sense framing. The railing, constructed of whimsical cutout designs on teardrop-shaped panels, lined up neatly and in good order. All this decorative woodwork had probably been mass-produced and shipped by train to finish a house built from a kit. But that wasn’t the sort of thing one talked about on this porch.
Brighton Avenue was a casual jumble of history. The houses that lined the street reflected every era, from an eighteenth-century daub-and-log cabin, to late nineteenth-century townhouses with more window than wall, to a little 1920s peaked-roof cottage. Twentieth-century power lines crisscrossed the sky, while the street below was full of compact twenty-first century cars hurrying through their busy lives.
The house was mostly windows and rooflines. There were tall narrow windows, large square windows, double windows, single windows, half windows, and corner windows. Two squat windows peeked out from under an upper dormer, and an extra one overlooked the front porch swing. These windows were compassed about by an enthusiastic variety of rooflines. A flat porch roof underscored crested dormers, and all was crowned by a spreading upper roof piled high with peaks and gables and overhangs. What was life, the architect seemed to say, if you didn’t make room for windows and roofs?