Thursday, January 18, 2018


Before I built new homes I bought old houses and rehab them in the 1970's and 80's. This house was an extream makeover. The house, a four-plex was built around 1835 or thereabouts. Located in a rundown part of town where drug dealers were on every corner and muggings, break-ins and carjacking were common everyday occurrences. The duplex next to this building was a drug house and ownership changed hands frequently because all the traffic to that place became too dangerous to the owners.
  
I grew up in that neighborhood and was used to the human drama, filth, and crime of such rundown places where even the police kept their distance and avoided it if at all possible. I paid 6 grand cash for the place because banks would not lend money in that crime infested ghetto. I had to do "ALL" the work myself because I didn't have the money to pay contractors. I did the tear-down, removed the second floor, removed tons of lumber and plaster, cast iron tubs that weighed hundreds of pounds each, four of them, and filling many huge containers/dumpsters with all the debris. Because I couldn't get a loan I had to do the plumbing, electrical, rough-in and finish carpentry, insulation, sheetrock, plastering, painting, repairing and sanding down oak floors, and the roofing on the house and detached garage by myself.

Restoring the beautiful four-plex at the time would have been a waste of money because the neighboorhood was that bad, and this property was located in the worsts part, right next to public housing with all the gang wars and other such activities. And no one would pay rent to live there. Nevertheless, I put my family in that house.

The few people (old) that lived on that street were trapped in that hood because they couldn't sell their homes, often the homes they live in their whole lives, and ended up dying in their dilapidated houses. 
Slowly but surely the area changed, years after I moved to the suburbs. Now that area is like gold, the most expensive hood because of its proximity to downtown, which has made a huge comeback the last ten years. I didn't make any money on that house, a lot less than what I had in it, having sold it way before the turnaround.

That place was crowded with ghosts. I fell off the roof twice and both times climbed the ladder back up without a scratch, perhaps saved by one of the ghosts. Several other incidents similar that should have landed me in the hospital or the morgue yet, I kept on working as if nothing happened. That apartment building seen many souls, families, come and go since it was built in the early 1800's. One of the more violent times was during the bootleg era, when many of the occupants of the houses in that hood had their own gin production in the basement or in their bathtubs, to feed the huge demand for cheap liquor during the roaring twenties (1920's) and Prohibition, where the sale and production of liquor was against the law. 

One of my neighbors who lived two house down from me was an old spinster (a woman who never married), and she often called me over for companionship and to help her take groceries up the steps into her house, and to make repairs to her place for little or no charge being she didn't have the money. As a reward, she told me tales about the old days and the violence that plagued that area. Her dad was a bootlegger and was killed one day by others in that business when she was a young girl. After that incident, her mother wouldn't let her out of the house or to date anyone and so she grew up without a father and never had a boyfriend, husband or children. When I brought that street back to life with the rehab of the four-plex she and others on that dead-end street thought I walked on water, gave them hope that they wouldn't be consumed, swallowed whole by the wicked evil people that had taken over that hood.

 As children, my daughters never said much about the poltergeists that lived in that house with us without paying rent. When they were older they both said they saw ghosts walking around the house. My wife and I didn't see the ghosts.

Lou Baldin