The yellow brick house

Posted on February 2, 2010

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Sunday night I opened my weekly email from Babs Young. She wrote: This elegant simple yellow brick home is on the way to Central Lake on M88. The snow sets it off very nicely.

I’d passed the house many times on my rounds, but until I looked at it through Babs’s lens I never stopped to think that it must have stood for more than 100 years. I had to find out more about it. So there I was on Monday afternoon, knocking on the door. A very nice family lives there. They prefer not to be named in the post, but were happy to tell me about the house. They also sent me to Carolyn Brown, who was born there and knew a lot more of the history.

In 1879 George Dawson and his young bride, Jane, began their life together on the property. There was “an old wood structure” up in the woods, perhaps a log cabin. The Dawsons used a team of horses to move that structure down to the present site on big log rollers. Eventually they added the two-story double-brick section to the front; the old wooden section at the rear served as the kitchen and dining room. George and Jane–Carolyn Brown’s grandparents–raised four children in the yellow house.

Carolyn says her grandmother planted the two graceful trees that you can see at the left in the photo to make a place for a hammock. The trees quickly grew too close together to string a hammock between them, but years later they made a fine place for a swing for the grandchildren.

George and Jane both died before Carolyn was born. Her father and mother, Gordon Dawson and his bride Zella, moved into the house to care for George after Jane’s death, and it became their home. Their children, including Carolyn, were born in the upstairs bedroom that faces the road.

Carolyn remembers that her mother loved pine trees and tall hardwoods for their beauty and the shade they gave. Her father had no use for any trees that didn’t produce fruit. He was a hardworking farmer who liked to plow straight rows. The house would be very cold in the winter. Carolyn’s mother curtained off an upstairs closet next to the chimney to make a warm place to get dressed. There was no electricity, but there was a gas engine clothes washer that ran on white gas. “Everyone knew when we were doing the wash,” Carolyn said. “The exhaust pipe was out the door!”

One of her earliest memories is of the huge cupboard that stood in the old wooden kitchen. “It went practically to the ceiling, and must have been at least five feet across,” she said. It had a flour bin, shelves for dishes, storage space for cooking equipment.

Carolyn loved sitting outside on the front porch. Ah, she remembers when there was a porch there? No, not that front–the front by the driveway, where there’s a little porch today. “I don’t ever remember there being a porch on the side that faces the road,” she said. “Everyone always wanted to build one there, but they never got around to it.” There were always more important demands on time and resources. Children to raise, orchards and potatoes and cows to tend, good years and hard times.

Sometime around 1960, the old wooden kitchen/dining room was torn down and replaced with a modern concrete block addition. The house passed out of the Dawson family. About 20 years ago the present owners bought it. Carolyn said she wondered if they’d tear down the yellow brick house. She was very happy when they went to work fixing it up. They love the house too. Someday, said the Mom, they’d like to add a porch across the front of the house. She’d like to sit out there in the evening and watch the foxes in the field across the road. Right now, of course, she’s busy raising children.

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