Friday, August 28, 2009

the money pit

It was 21 years ago this month that we moved into our beloved
Willow Manor. The stone lined culvert that cuts through the front
of the property was once lined with huge willow trees, hence "Willow
Manor", the name given to the place by previous owners. It's a
delightful old house, built in 1927, with lots of original fixtures and
glorious mature trees. Looking back, we've adored every single day
living here. Well, most days, that is.

As any of you who have lived in a older home know, there is always
something sinking or exploding. Do you remember the film
The Money Pit, when Tom Hanks and Shelley Long portray a
idealistic young couple who struggle to repair a dilapidated old house?
Well, it's a perfect picture of us and our first weeks at Willow Manor.

I'll never forget the first night here, when I turned on the water to
fill the tub for a nice hot bath, after a harrowing day of moving. Just
like in the movie, muddy water gushed out, filling the tub with thick
brown slop. Revolted, I let out a blood curdling scream. The romantic
bath in my new dream home was not exactly coming together like I

Putting the bath episode aside, the next morning I happily came
downstairs to make a lovely breakfast in our new surroundings.
When I plugged in the toaster, all the kitchen lights went out with
fireworks and a dynamic pop. After another desperate scream, from
this non-screaming kind of girl, I rushed into the dining room to find
WT poking at a soft spot in the ceiling. Just as I was opening my
mouth to tell him about the kitchen episode, a sizable (18' x 18') hunk
of plaster fell on his head, leaving a gaping hole in our newly acquired
formal dining room. Oh, I wish I'd had my digital camera then.

The following weeks were spent living among some unsavory
remodeling guys, one of whom I will never forget. The company
hired to install air conditioning, sent their slinkiest man. He, being
the only one who could actually fit inside the plaster walls to build
the duct work. Again, I let out some whopper screams, when his
unsuspecting, Norman Bates head would randomly slide out of a
register opening. I swear he was trying to catch me naked.

Newly dug well and years of plumbing, electrical and drywall
patching later, we adore this old place; and even more for the wear.
Yes, it's still a money pit. As I speak, there's a large hole in the
master closet ceiling, covered with duct tape and a plastic garbage
bag, the hot water faucet doesn't work in the kitchen bath, and the
air handler upstairs is out. One of these days, when our last is
finished with school, (we're starting our eleventh straight year of
kids in college) we'll take care of some delayed projects. Still, the
manor does have a comfortable old personality all its own. The cracks
and duct tape are all part of the patina that gives it that unique
charm we've come to love. So, I raise my glass in a toast to the manor,
our darling, crusty old money pit.

Where are you?
I'm in the den!
No you're not, I was just in there...
I'm in the den! I swear it! Please believe me!
Will you stop fooling around, Walter? I'm tired!
I'm right here.
Look, Walter, enough is enough!
In the floor behind the chair.

The Money Pit, 1986


  1. old houses are so much like people - the stories they have to share are tucked away behind the "patina" of wrinkles and blemishes they have earned over their lifetime. lucky you willow to have found a home. have a lovely evening at the manor. steven

  2. And you hadn't even met all the ghosts yet! :)

    I do remember going with you and peaking in the windows when you were thinking about buying. It is a treasure...and it is SO you!

  3. The "Money Pit" is one of my all time faves. Anyone who's loved and lived in an older home can appreciate your story. Thanks for reviving some of my old "money pit" memories! LOL

  4. Oh willow, I know exactly what you mean since the city house is over 100 years old. For many years we could not run the vacuum cleaner in the bedrooms if the air conditioner (window unit) was on. Even now, you can't run the faucets too full in the sinks because the water only drains so fast. I could go on. But we love our old houses, don't we?

  5. agree with steven...old houses have many stories...some you just got to chuckle at...enjoyed the movie...trying to sell our house, somedays i feel like it...

  6. It is clear reading your post how much you love Willow Manor - and your stories about it, I'm sure, have become part of the allure. Isn't it wonderful to know we are truly home.

  7. I really liked The Money Pit. So real, so funny.

  8. Willow, - thanks - I'm going to HAVE to get this movie. It looks so funny and so very familiar. Just yesterday, my daughter - working at scraping flaking paint from the ceiling said "Mam, I'm going to call this place Babushka".

    It's yet another of my many Babushkas in life...

  9. I JUST watched that movie about a week ago and so your account had me rolling!

  10. What can I say? I love old houses, both to look at and wander through. My contractor once said, "if you want an old house, build one to look old."

  11. I so understand this. Our house was built in the sixties-a custom home on a lovely lot with century old trees. We are slowly upgrading it; tearing the old vinyl, stripping the carpets and laying down hardwood. It will never be finished since something always needs upgrading.

    But old houses have personalities, and features not found in new construction.

  12. Oh, I loved that staircase scene from "The Money Pit"! Your account of the travails of moving into an older home & then discovering its secrets--even before the ghosts--is priceless. Thanks for sharing!

  13. It sounds like you have a wonderful home. Old houses have so much more charm. How are the ghosts doing?

  14. Oh Willow, I enjoyed this post, just as I did the movie. Having just gone through a complete remodel, complete with unsavory guys, I can relate. I'm not ready to do that again for a while.

    The picture of the front of the manor is captivating! What a beautiful home.

  15. I so understand. In four days we will have been in our new old home for a month. Our journey has only begun...

  16. Ohhhhhh the joys of duct tape. I remember when I got a roll for a Christmas present. I was so happy. I had my very own roll. Better than spit, gum, or a finger in the dike. And to think it holds the Manor together. It's like a family member now, isn't it. You, the husband, the kids, and the duct tape.

  17. The Manor looks positively charming. What a beautiful home. As I sit typing this comment on a rainy night, I'm listening to my sump pump failing, and can't do a thing about it until morning. I just hope against all odds the carpet will be dry by day break. Although my home is a money pit, I'm thankful to have one. Thanks for sharing your always delightful stories of the Manor!
    peace~ karen

  18. Loved this post Willow. There's nothing like that first week in an old house to discover things...and that "Money Pit" video was hilarious! I remember several weeks into a purchased old house. The cat was washing itself and froze, looking at me. I looked back thinking "what's up?". It didn't move.Absolute stillness. Then husband's voice from the kitchen ,"Holy S!#?t!!" The hot water service blew up, brown mud coughing and gurgling out the tap,and the cat running for its life, under a tree, the huge roots of which later proved to be distubing not only next-door's plumbing, but all the houses up the street.Just loved this post and glad you persevered!

  19. The Money Pit was hilarious and I could nominate my house to have a starring role in the Money Pit Part 2.
    (creak, creak, drip, drip). Can the stone work on our front porch be duct taped so it adheres to the step? In contrast, the front walkway of Willow Manor looks very inviting. A beautiful place to come home to!

  20. The home (built in 1927) I bought in Seattle was also a money pit. But I loved it (understatement)... I bought it in 1974 for $19,500. Since my payments were low, I always seemed to find the money to fix things. I lived there for 24 years and would be there still had I not met the man of my dreams in 1997 and moved to the island to live with and marry him. Some days I miss my old home.... Like now, as I read your post...

  21. What a lovely photo, and a beautiful home! I can't imagine having lived in one place for so long, though..

    The manor is absolutely stunning. I can hardly keep up with you, and have been reading all your past posts. Particularly loved the glass bottles, the post about trees and poetry - oh and will certainly try out the chicken/greek salad! I do love your blog :)

  22. We have one of these money pits, too! And yet there is nothing like the wonky, lived-in, individual patina of an old house. The entrance of your house looks SO inviting.

    Eleven straight years of college tuition? Oh my goodness.

  23. There's a short story by George Ade in Babel, Stories Of Chicago having to do with a house, telling from its point of view, about all the people passing through and living in it through the years.

    My great-grandfather came from Europe on a boat with George Ade to America. I might not have heard of Ade otherwise. His Fables In Slang books, although dated are quite fun. He also wrote a book about Prohibition that is a fun read, and telling as far as the police looking the other way a good portion of the time.

    Sorry, got on a jag. Having an older home does have perks, despite the $$$ invested ; )

  24. I don't think I have seen the film, but living in a house built 75 years ago I suspect I know the plot.

  25. You're right. I lived in an old palace (17 cent.) I know the situation. It's so charming. Unless you don't hear each night misterious noises. BRRRRRRRRR.

  26. I loved reading this post. I have never seen this movie but I'll have to get it. As you know old houses are my favourite things. It always makes me happy when beautiful old houses have beautiful people to care for them. I feel as if we are all official 'friends of Willow Manor' xx

  27. I love old houses! I've lived in two and know exactly what a headache it came be at times but their history and charm make up for it!

  28. What a lovely home you have! I remember my daughter's last old farm house. We had helped them move in all day. She was very pregnant with our first grandchild so naturally wanted a good soak at the end of the day. As she turned on the faucet, no brown sludge came out. There just wasn't any hot water. As her eyes filled with tears I determined that she WOULD have her hot bath. I told her to go lie down and wait. I had a big surprise for her. I found all her big pots, put them on the stove to heat, and made many trips back and forth to the clawfoot bathtub. When finally the tub was filled, I called her in. The look on her face was worth it all!

  29. Willow,
    Our 100+ year old home of 34 years is experiencing the creation of a new bathroom at a cost far exceeding the original price of the house.

  30. Over the years we've done quite a few remodeling jobs on our house. Some of the jobs are fun to work on, while some are distasteful and/or expensive to do.

    I love our quirky home.

    While watching "The Money Pit", we laughed till we cried. Your post makes me want to watch it again.

  31. Hello Willow,

    I hope your experience with the manor hasn't been quite like 'The Money Pit'! We have owned two old house, both late Victorian, so I know what you mean. As guesthouses, however, we could never just leave fixing something until another time! Hope you enjoy the next 21 years.

  32. That was a great film and one to which we can relate. I have always thought of our house as being fairly new, built in the 1930's, that is because a couple of homes on our road date back to the 1600's.

    I am sure you would not trade Willow Manor for a newer home, it looks gorgeous.

  33. Ha, at least the nasty water went into the tub Willow! On our first night in our 1905 money pit house, I had cleaned one bathroom and when Sandi went in to take a shower all the water went into the basement... because none of the pipes were connected, they were just there! We, too, have many funny, wonderful, and sometimes frustrating stories about renovating our old house but we love it, pure and simple.

  34. Wonderful post. I can relate,though our house is one my husband built himself -- in increments over the past 30 years -- it's now old enough to need things rebuilt and replaced -- he just spent two weeks tearing out an old crummy shower stall and building and tiling a new one.

    From the pictures you show of Willow Manor, I'd say you have dome a wonderful loving job with it.

  35. girl, i've been wondering when THE MONEY PIT was going to make it up here [having been where you are and having done what you're doing more than once] - but, gee, all the wonderful funny stories for the kids and their kids and - the contractors and neighbors!!!

  36. I have wondered since first coming here if the picture was, indeed, Willow Manor and now my question has been answered with a lot ot laughter!
    Old house owner too. For twelve years. Not even half-way there yet.

  37. Our house is very newish, and still it is always something....we love our home as you do the manor. Home is where we feel most ourselves me thinks.

  38. Whenever I get envious of you or any other lovely home owner I will come back and re-read this post ...

  39. Great post Willow. We live in a money pit of sorts as well but wouldn't change it for the world.

  40. I think I laughed all the way through this post. I have been there and done most of that as our first house was old Tommy Rice's blacksmith shop and it was never quite right. Like some of my cousins.

    Here is my reply to (you) Willow left on my blog ...Abraham Lincoln's Blog and for the comment you left me there.
    Abraham Lincoln's Blog

    I do have all of his photos. I also met and visited Lloyd Ostendorf who made some famous paintings and drawings for Lincoln Life Insurance. So you may have one of his works. He also wrote a number of books and illustrated them with his drawings. I have several of those drawings. Lloyd also had an extensive Lincoln collection of death masks, and all sorts of things that he collected over the years. I will publish one of his drawings on this blog, of him writing me a note. Abe Lincoln that is. I asked him to make one for me and this is it.

    Team of Rivals. I read it when it was first out and enjoyed it. Getting it for a dollar is a bargain.

    Thanks for your visit.

  41. Oh I can only imagine! I think the muddy water would have been the most terrifying for me. I'll bet the ghosts just topped all of that off nicely. ;)

    For what it's worth, I'm glad you stuck with it. After all, there would be no "Life at Willow Manor" without the manor itself. :)

  42. What a great post...if walls could talk!!! Its so clear how much you love your home....although I hope its not quite as bad as that movie clip.

  43. An old house is like a always needs lots of TLC.
    And i love Betsy's comment: You haven't met all the ghosts yet!

  44. Willow-LOL!I can't remember how many times I've seen this movie!

    Liking the ivy on the front, here and hoping any other "visits" are friendly ones, wot?

  45. Well, yes.
    Houses are quite extraordinarily good at swallowing up HUGE amounts of money.
    No sooner than one has finished one thing.............

    Loved/hated the sleazoid guy working on the house.
    Such a comfort to be ancient now....!

  46. The entrance to your home is gorgeous and so inviting!
    My eyes, not being what they were, thought that the air-conditioning company sent their 'Stinkiest' guy. Had to read that one again, but it gave me a hearty laugh.
    Have a happy weekend at your delightful Willow Manor.

  47. Your post did make me laugh willow - I recognise the signs as I have lived in old houses in the past - pull up a bit of old lino and discover dry rot underneath; switch on a light and all the rest go out - yes it all sounds familiar. But do enjoy - the good outweighs the bad doesn't it?

  48. I just had to pop back and say thanks for your visit to my Pick a Peck of Pixels Blog and for your comment there about the squirrel with one ear stuck flat down on its head. She is sitting in the snow eating a peanut. Pick a Peck of Pixels

  49. Your house looks beautiful! I've never owned a home older than 15 or 20 years, and mainly they've been new or almost new construction. In fact, I haven't even lived in a home for every long. But you make it sound wonderful, even if expensive! And I agree with Betsy, your home does sound like how I imagine you are... (and not the falling apart bit, I mean the treasure part :))

  50. The thing about money pits (we keep telling ourselves this, don't we?) is that they have ALL the character and charm that those new-builds just seem to lack. Am I right?
    Ours is circa WWII, so we have our share of surprise breakdowns. When we first moved in, we had water dripping right from a roof-valley into our bedroom! We now have a steel roof, guaranteed never to leak. It is a comfort in some of the more recent downpours.
    It's all worth it, isn't it?


  51. Kat, yes it is definitely all worth it.

  52. Maybe I will have a manor someday. :)

    Loved the bit about the slinky man!

  53. Definitely bears a resemblance to the movie, which brought tears of laughter to my eyes..and with the adorable, young Hanks and Long! But weren't we all?

  54. lucky lucky you!! Despite all the money and time... I can see so clearly why you love the place. Enjoy. x Oh,and I love that film too... such a giggle.

  55. I had a money pit. And as a single mother there were constant worries related to the sorry looking roof and the tree root-clogged outtake pipe.

    But the 1920s house had loads of beautiful oak trim and original stained glass windows and a wide front porch. I loved its smell when I washed all that wood with murphy's soap, and the stairs had a marvellous creak and it looked gorgeous when decked out for Christmas. And it was haunted.

    My daughters and I have happy memories of life in that house, and to this day I have no desire to live in any new home. Sure - home is where the heart is, by my heart is happiest when it is surrounded by beauty, charm and history.

    Cheers to your pretty home Willow!

  56. well at least it is a charming money pit

  57. I remember seeing this goofy movie years ago. As one who currently has my studio torn up--- we started with having our builder remove the wall between my studio and a bedroom to make it larger and so much had to be moved and now they want to do more changes and paint and.....

  58. That was a really funny scene, when he was dangling there in that rug through the floor. I'd forgotten all about that movie, Willow. Your house sounds well loved and well lived in...looks like a lovely place. Happy birthday to Willow Manor.

  59. What an excellent post. Thanks for sharing this.

  60. The Manor has a twin in the Money Pit stakes & we're living in it! Although separated by birth & a mere 42 years, their demands are the same. We sure found a lot of things that our Vendors had 'forgotten' to mention once we moved in. E.g. no hot water, non-functioning fires, leaky gutters, etc. etc. I made a pair of voo-doo dolls to resemble these good folk & every time we receive another 'surprise', I take great comfort in sticking the pins in very hurtful places.
    Millie ^_^

  61. W
    you are such a great painted a perfect scene for me. i was there right with you.HA HA

    i grew up in an old house on the water in miami beach. it was always needing something.



  62. I'm with you I too live in an old house but theres always something needs doing, but I wouldn't swap an old house for a new one and I feel you wouldn't either. Your place looks beautiful.


  63. Watching that clip from the Money Pit brought to mind an episode of a falling chimney in our old money pit of a house. Our 1st home was had it's aggravating moments. I'd love to own an old home again...but I couldn't afford it. My best wishes to you and WT!

  64. I love when you talk about your house and I completely understand why it's called a money pit. Loved that movie, too.

  65. This post reminded me of a rural property I had where the lane in from the county road ate four loads of gravel. I gave up after awhile.

  66. What a gorgeous entrance! You definitely live in a beautiful house!

  67. Boy do I have a money pit in my hands right now!!!!
    We bought an old house and are currently remodeling it, while living in it! Yes, I must have been crazy to do it that way, but moving my daughter to a new school right in the beginning of he new school year was a priority last September, and so we did it.
    And then the sale of our previous house didn't go through and we are now stuck with two mortgages and more repairs than I can think of, but reading your post made me smile because I remember our first night, the long to-do lists we still have, and yet I would do it all over again. The surroundings are well worth it and when I have to tackle remodeling task, I look outside and take strength and energy from the beauty of the world around these parts.

    Now, the thought still dealing with a duct tape art work on the ceiling 21 years from now...scares me a little bit ;)

  68. I'll never complain again about the small stuff, promise! What a gorgeous house though - and all that love poured into it was worth the money spent, right?

    Seeing the video makes me realize I've never see that movie. Think I'll put it in my queue - it will make DH & I think ourselves fortunate...............and give us a laugh for sure!!

  69. Oh dear. It really is exactly like something out of that movie but glad it's been a home of so many good memories overall.


Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)