Some people traveling on north Tollgate Road near the Harford Mall recently might have seen a demolition in progress. The old gray stucco house with the large porch that belonged to my parents has come down. Giant machines with enormous metal teeth took big bites out of the roof and the walls, and the debris was being carted away in dumpsters. There is something quite strange about a large yellow set of jaws poking through a window like a huge dinosaur or Godzilla. For a minute it looks like a dolls’ house with the front removed, and then in the next minute, it better resembles a pile of Lego bricks.
In its glory days, this house sheltered my family and various friends who stayed here when they needed a temporary place to lay their heads. My parents threw big parties, culminating in my wedding. At other times, the house served as meeting space or a place for family gatherings. At Christmas, swags of white pine lay on the mantelpiece, and a boxwood kissing-ball with mistletoe hung from the tall ceiling. In summer, iced tea flowed, and it was pleasant to sit on the deck and feel the breezes. For 50 years it was my parents’ home and the base from which they interacted with the world.
They passed from this world in 2006, and the house has been an empty shell. Various structural problems made it impossible to find a use for it. The well was old and the septic tile field had been replaced three times, because the ground was impermeable clay. If it passed the perc test in the 1950s, it must have been in dry weather. Extending utilities to the house would have destroyed the woods that surrounded it, leveling oaks and hickories and tulip trees, and would have been very costly, too. One defect was a 1960s era fallout shelter, which had developed leaks and regularly flooded the basement. In our humid climate, the house became a Petri dish for mold. I could not enter it without a facemask. It has occurred to me that the fate of the house would have been different without the fallout shelter — a 14-by-18-foot room with murky water 30 inches deep. It was added at the last minute in 1962 in an atmosphere of Cold War fear that even the war on terror could not match.
After a lot of thought, in the spirit of simplicity, I decided that demolition was the way to go. I want to thank Tony Diem of Diemolition LLC for his help and understanding during this process. When the dust literally settles, my hope is that nature will reclaim the space and natural beauty can replace man-made decay. Farewell, Point of Woods! The house represented my parents’ vision expressed in wood and tile and glass; the urge to burrow underground in a nuclear attack came from the outside — it wasn’t their true nature. If there is one lesson I have learned from this experience, it is summed up thus: Build one’s hopes and dreams, not one’s fears and nightmares. And keep looking up!
ANNETTE CAMERON BLUM