Long Live the Humble Ranch House


Every once in awhile I get to feeling nostalgic for my childhood. Maybe it happens more as we age and spend more time contemplating our mortality, I don’t know. It’s funny the things that will trigger memories and that feeling of wanting to go ‘home’. Things change so quickly now, it’s hard to feel any sense of belonging or roots or community.

Since I’ve started my new job and have been taking the bus, I get a daily trip down memory lane as the bus passes through a well-kept older neighborhood of modest homes. The houses all have immaculate yards, so I suspect they are under some sort of homeowner’s association. But it’s the houses themselves that I love. They’re all small, one-story affairs, but what they have that most modern construction lacks is real charm. I expect most date back to the 1960s, or 1950s judging by the architecture. Can’t you just see Darrin Stevens driving up to this house in Bewitched?

Of course, their house looked like this:

Ok, it’s two-story, but still quite modest by today’s standards. If you’re feeling nostalgic for the show and that time period, here’s a great site with tons of pics from the sets of the house. Oh, the memories! Quick, somebody rewind time.

I didn’t even grow up in a ranch-style house. The house I grew up in in Massachusetts was a three-story (four, if you count the full basement) farmhouse that dated to the 1850s. Sadly I don’t seem to have any photos of it. (I tried to find a picture online, but the Google streetview shows it completely obscured by trees and other foliage now. What a mess).

But anyway, there’s one house in particular that I love more and more every time I go past it. It’s a dark green/brown color, with shutters as interior window coverings, but the thing I really love about it is all the flowers planted around it outside are white. There are roses, hydrangeas, and I don’t know what all else, but all white. It looks a little like the photo below, although the one in the picture is more ornate than the house on my bus route.

I miss when neighborhoods were made up of these kinds of houses. I really REALLY hate the McMansions that populate today’s suburbs. I think they’re cold, unfriendly, uninviting, and I wouldn’t want to spend much time in one, even as a visitor. I’ve known people who own these houses, and I am always distinctly uncomfortable when I visit. These are not welcoming places, there is no warmth. I like to remember the banged up, muddy screen doors that usually lead into the kitchens of houses where my friends lived. You never felt like an outsider or intruder going into their homes.

Seriously, does this say, “Welcome” in any language? I think I’ll redecorate my house in retro 60s colors. I guess I had a happy childhood.

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29 thoughts on “Long Live the Humble Ranch House

  1. D. D. Syrdal says:

    So charming! And narrated by dear old Sterling Hayden 🙂 I think we were lucky to grow up when we did. It seems like that was the last time kids could be kids without worrying about everything under the sun.

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  2. Susannah Bianchi says:

    I really loved this and Bewitched, I can see their house inside and out. I too grew up amid pretty, cozy homes that were different yet the same in warmth and hospitality. You made me go back in time and think of neighbors I grew up with: Marge and Bill Pivirotto, Connie and Don Walters. The DeLorenzos, Detuzzis and Paul and Flo Diorio, the 3 big Ds. I’m smiling, I’m 9 or 10 cutting through one of their yards to get home. It’s twlight, Bewitched is about to start. Better hurry. Nice job Dame!!!

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  3. Eric Syrdal says:

    Wow, thanks for bringing back those Memories, D.D.
    I know what you mean about houses and the feelings you get from seeing them. Here in New Orleans we have a lot of old “victorians” that I am lucky enough to get to work on from time to time. There is one actually that was on Napolean Ave I got “attached” to. Over the course of about 3 years I had made many routine service calls to it and absolutely fell in love with it.

    The downstairs parlor was completely encased in intricate woodwork. It had a study/library with ceiling to floor in-set book shelves that would make anyone who loves books weep with joy at the sight. It was built back in a time when people took pride in their work and it was more “crafted” than actually, “built.” Minute details on things like the staircase banisters, and even the door casings and the baseboards.

    I did some work on the natural gas lines and had to go into the attic a lot. The rafters were charred in one spot where they had, had a fire in 1903. There were no need for repairs, expect to repair superficial damage because the solid oak planks only “blackened” a bit. The core of the wood was still very strong.

    There was something very cool about maintaining a structure that had been there since right after the civil war. It had been converted into a garage, but the carriage house was even still there.

    The man who owned it was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer a couple of years ago and passed away. I got a call from his wife to come out to the house and make sure it was up to code because she was going to have to sell it. (4 floors and the amount of time it took to clean it was a bit too much for her to continue to live there) I remember a distinctive lump in my throat leaving there for there last time. I drive by it now and again to see if someone has bought it and to leave my card in the hopes that the new residents might need something for it.

    Because of it’s location and it’s size I know it comes with a massive price tag but if I had the money i’d buy it just to preserve it. It still has the “for sale” sign out front.

    As far as T.V. land houses I love. The Brady residence was always my favorite. That sunken living room and Mike’s study off to the side was always something I thought was cool as a kid.

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    • D. D. Syrdal says:

      Oh that place sounds spectacular. I think you would have liked the house I lived in in MA, it had so many distinctive features. The dining room was an octagon and had its own fireplace, along with an enormous fireplace in the living room. There was a hallway behind the living room that ostensibly was for the servants to take the food from the kitchen at the back of the house to the dining room in the front of the house without having to walk through the living room. The dining room had a single “french door” to close it off from the front foyer, and there was a set of french doors that lead into the living room on the west side of the house. The house was built (we were told) by an old sea captain, who had had some kind of wood brought up from Florida for the construction (I’ll think of what kind eventually. Might have been cypress.). Of course I haven’t actually researched it, not sure where that info came from. The original barn still stood, which we used as a garage and for storage. Even the barn had a cellar with a dirt floor. When I read “Charlotte’s Web” as a child I saw it all happening down there in the barn basement. 🙂 All I know is the place was magic.

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      • Eric Syrdal says:

        Definitely sounds magical. 🙂 I just love the fact that in older homes, every room has a specific purpose. (like the ones you described) When you see those rooms built into new houses you know that they are just attempting to mimic the old uses for them.

        I would have loved to have seen that house and been lucky enough to work on it. Would have been fun to see.

        I think one of the most spectacular things I have seen in all my time spent at these old houses has been a massive furnace in the basement of one house on Esplanade. It was so beautiful. It had amazing detailed designs such as oak leaves, laurel branches and acorns worked into the cast iron. The hinges and the pipes and metal grates were bronze and had minute details on them as well. The door was a massive portrait of a Sun, smiling with the word “Hercules” written in a type of old english script underneath.

        I couldn’t believe someone worked on this thing knowing it was only going to sit in a basement and heat the house. It had long ago been converted to natural gas from coal and then been abandoned for a newer unit that sat right next to it.

        I laughed when the man told me, noticed it caught me eye, but he had already been given two offers of several hundred dollars for it and was considering selling it.

        Simply amazing though.

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      • D. D. Syrdal says:

        Incredible! Amazing how even functional items like a furnace used to be so ornate. Now everything’s as boring and bland as possible to save money. That’s how we ended up with the boxy ugly architecture of most buildings. I need to get some photos of some of the old buildings where I work, the details and ornamentation are gorgeous. The older ones were built in the 1920s or thereabouts. It’s easy to tell the new construction 😦

        The oil furnace in the basement of my childhood home was a big white thing, I’m guessing it was covered in asbestos.

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  4. gypsyscarlett says:

    The house you grew up in sounds lovely. And the mention of the sea captain made me think of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. (yeah, my mind often goes to weird places). 🙂
    My home was a one floor ranch….but I always dreamt of having a huge attic to pay in.

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  5. gypsyscarlett says:

    oops. Meant *play in*.

    Though I usually dislike remakes, I think updating the general idea of Bewitched makes sense and could be a lot of fun. Darren’s character will have to change the most. No way will audiences today put up with him forbidding Sam to use her magic…or her taking that nonsense. He’d try it once and she’d be flying out the window. 😉

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    • D. D. Syrdal says:

      Very true. There’s no way they could simply parallel the original. They might be able to stick with the basic premise of a witch married to a ‘mortal’ but apart from that it would have to change substantially. IIRC, Samantha was already supposed to have been over 200 years old, wasn’t she? I recall an ep where someone put a spell on Darrin and made him age, and she magically ‘aged’ herself when he wondered what people would think of an old man like him with a beautiful young wife. Now that’s a series I’d like to have on DVD 😉

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    • Bunny Blumschaefter (@ottermoonski) says:

      my mother-in-law has a lot of her original Harvest Gold appliances, but when the old oven died she had to settle for sort of an off white, same as my own mom when her Avocado Green appliances gave out. They both have their original 1960’s range tops and hoods, though – the kitchens are painted sunny yellow, and it’s kind of stylish. I’m trying to remember if my mom still has her green wall phone or not …

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  6. Eric Syrdal says:

    There she is. My old flame. Please understand that a paltry photo taken with a cell phone can not fully express her majesty. She is far more beautiful and charming in person.

    And she’s still empty. 😦

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  7. chris says:

    Thanks for taking us down Memory Lane! I agree with you on the subject of mcmansions. Ugh. Can’t say that the Bewitched house is exactly my style, but I love the one with the flowers and stone path that resembles the one on your bus route. And then there’s the one at the link Eric posted. Oh, my! Beautiful. Where is it located?

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    • D. D. Syrdal says:

      That Victorian gem is in New Orleans. One of these days I want to get some photos of at least parts of the yards in the neighborhood I like so much. The houses there, even though smallish ranches, go for fantastic sums of money. I think it’s the location more than anything. They have some charming features in many of the yards, like stepping stone paths between two stone retaining walls that looks like it was made for the fey. They make me want to rip out my entire yard and start over, if only I had the money!

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