20 March 2011

Building The 1950s American Dream Home

Having worked from the 1970s backwards through the massive archive of family 35MM slides, we now arrive at what was a pivotal event for my grandparents, Mom and her siblings... The construction of the home they all took such great pride in.  To hear my grandparents tell it (and they did MANY times, trust me) a great deal of saving, accounting for each penny and great preparation went into moving the family out of their apartment on Hoyt Avenue and into a brand new home with all the modern conveniences.  

This home was to house not only the Nelsens, but my great grandmother Mae Costello, who lived with my grandparents from their wedding day in 1950 until her death in 1981.  My Mom still says that she grew up thinking that everyone lived with their grandmothers and was surprised when she found out that most of her classmates at Saint Joseph Hill Academy didn't.  Granny (as I called her) was a constant presence in my life for eight years, since I spent a great deal of time in this house with everyone.  I can't really picture my formative years without her either.  

Above we see my grandfather Norman (at right) overseeing the pouring of a foundation and the framework being hammered into place (below).  He built this home from a series of purchased plans with a small crew of family which included his own father, who was born in Norway.

From what I was told as a kid, it's a Norwegian good luck blessing to have a tree (or in this case what appears to be a tree branch) wedged into the roof of a new home upon its completion.  I don't recall it having taken root through the dormer in my Aunt Susan and Aunt Karen's bedroom, so my guess is that this was merely a prop for a photo op.

The rear of the house is seen here from the back corner of the yard where a stone barbecue was later built in an arched form that resembled a grotto with a chimney.  The double window at far left was later replaced with a large bay window and the double windows to the right of that were removed in the 1970s to allow the dining room to be extended into the yard a few more feet.  I clearly recall ladders, a tarp, lots of tools, coffee cans of nails and seeing the wall simply being farther away than it once was.   

Nearing completion (above) and achieving perfection (below).

It doesn't get much more 1950s Americana than my Aunt Karen, Uncle Kevin and Mom in their 
neatly-pressed Springtime finery on the front lawn of a converted Cape Cod-Style home (on a corner lot at the foot of a dead-end street) next to The Greenbelt in a suburb of New York City.
This would not only be The Nelsen's home, but a home to everyone they knew, loved, socialized with and took in until they moved away forty years after this photo was taken.