Saturday, December 21, 2013

Handful of Keys

I found myself walking down the street Thursday morning whistling Handful o' Keys, Fats Waller's 1930's swing classic.

Although the songwriter was talking about a piano and I had in mind a different sort of key, the happy melody suited my mood. I was on the way, for the first time as owner, to explore my new Mérida house.

This was a hectic week, with the sale of my old home sealed on Monday and this purchase closing two days later. But it all worked out. After we'd signed documents I passed the sellers their checks, and one of them handed me this large tangle of keys. The entry keys were isolated on one smaller ring, but beyond that the use of many of these keys was a mystery to be resolved.

But once past the front gate and main door, I put the jangling key ring aside and just wandered around.

I've purchased a two-story Art Deco house that's long been empty and under appreciated. The structure is sound, has a good roof and interior walls are dry and in good condition. With repairs and some thoughtful changes, it promises to be a wonderful place to live.

The reason for all the keys is that to accommodate three heirs the original spacious family home had been split years ago into three sections. The larger of these was later subdivided into rental apartments. This resulted in a property with three entry doors and chopped-up rooms, some with scant light and airflow where partitions were built and original windows and doors covered over.

I liked this house from the street when I first walked by it more than ten years ago. More recently I looked at it several times after it was put up for sale. The interior was a huge disappointment behind an inviting facade. The back patio was so overgrown and full of junk and ruins that although ample, it also felt small and claustrophobic. In addition, the original asking price was high.

One of the items I discovered in the house as I poked around Thursday was a prayer, written by hand on a sheet of spiral notebook paper, seeking spiritual help in selling the house. It was dated July 30, 2013. Not long after that date I revisited the house and began to negotiate its purchase in earnest. I guess that with my purchase the prayer was answered.

I believe the daunting interior appearance of the house and the elevated original price were reasons why it had been on the market for several years without arousing serious interest. But I spent enough time there trying to see through all of the clutter that I got far beyond my first impressions. I've bought two thirds of the original building, and will put the pieces of this house back together.

The exciting, creative work begins now.

My first project will be clearing of growth and demolition of partitions and unwanted structures indoors and out. With the removal of unnecessary walls and the hauling away of many truckloads of debris and rubble, the beauty of the original structure will begin to reappear.

Before purchasing, I went through the place with an architect. More appointments with him are on the calendar.

Text and images copyright 2013 by Marc Olson


  1. This is going to be fun to watch. I love seeing a great old neglected house brought back to life.

  2. Oh, one of my greatest loves when I had my design firm was historic restoration. I restored a 1920's hotel to its original splendor. Such a great experience. Enjoy your restoration. As you know at the conclusion of the process the sense of accomplishment is overwhelming. I'm envious.

  3. This is so exciting, Marc. It sounds like a wonderful and rewarding project is in store for you.

  4. This is going to be an exciting project for sure! Can't wait to see the before and after photos!

  5. Ah, punning song titles. Where would we writers be without them.

    It looks as if you have found the project you need to get your mind settled. I am still looking for mine.

  6. This sounds very exciting. I can't wait to see what your architect designs.

  7. Good for you! I'm sure that the upcoming months will be hectic, and perhaps, at times, frustrating. But you will enjoy the project, and the finished product will be wonderful. I will be traveling to Mérida in January. Hopefully there will be time in your busy schedule that we can get together.

  8. Well, there just went the theory about you moving to Cuba or joining a monastery. Felicidades on the new house!

  9. Yay! Looking forward to a chronicle of the new project and many more pictures. You've got a great staircase to start with.

  10. Sounds like a fascinating project. But weren't you trying to downsize and simplify? I seem to recall having read that when you first posted that you'd be selling the house you just sold.

    Buena Suerte! You'll need it.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where renovating our current house has given us pause about ever renovating a second one. Of course, never say "never."

  11. WOW! WOW! WOW! I hope you'll let me see the "Before" prior to it becoming an "After" What potential... and no one better suited to realizing it than you... Merry Christmas Marc


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