What’s Currently Cookin’

We bought a stove last night. For all the time I’ve been at 118 Henry Street, we’ve not had a cooking stove, just a small microwave. The Hucks’ had an electric stove that they were determined to take with them. My determination, pretty much from day one, was to have a gas cooking stove. Like so many of my ambitions and visions for 118 Henry Street, this was not something that could just be “bought”.

The kitchen remodel done in the 1970’s was very much a snapshot of the stylistic vision of the time. That is to say, dark, mass produced, and painfully bland. The old kitchen chimney with its original thick, cool skin of plaster was completely covered in plywood and drywall. The heart pine floor, covered once long ago with real linoleum, was covered again with a layer of particle subflooring and urine yellow colored vinyl. The original cabinets, sink, and/or counters were completely erased and replaced with dark wood veneer cabinets available at any discount construction supply store. As best I could tell, only a small shelf and the door/trim molding remains from 1921. Even the original panel doors were discarded and replaced with hollow core, veneer door-a-likes. I suppose that, rather than cut the old doors to fit the new floor height, it was “easier” to replace them.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I disliked the kitchen. I flatly hated it. Way too much like the brick ranch ghettos that I had escaped.

The raw capacity of my distaste was most blantantly expressed when I removed that icon of the 1970’s kitchen: the stove island. Of course, every remodeled kitchen must have miles and miles of counterspace and volumes and volumes of cabinets. Unfortunately for the design vision of the 1970’s, the kitchen at 118 Henry Street was laid out and sized in 1921. Actually, as 1921 kitchens go, it is a large and “modern” one. With all the available wall space taken up with miles and miles of counterspace and volumes and volumes of cabinets, there was only one place to put the electric range: the middle of the floor.

Suffice to say, the Reverend Rufus Morgan, when he designed 118 Henry Street did not design the kitchen to have the cook stove in the middle of the room. As such, the stove island and its hanging cabinets, completely disrupted the walking flow of the kitchen and used up every remaining bit of space.

I attacked the island with a vehemence completely out of character with the reverent, respective demolition I’ve done to any other part of the house. The cats ran and hid, DeShawn fled to the playroom and was not the least interested in the violence revealing itself in his safe zone. By the time I was done, I was sick to my stomach and the house, clearly, was upset.

The first Mrs. Hucks died of cancer about 3 years before I bought 118 Henry Street. When I was removing the built-up closets in the master bedroom, Lilly Boyd told me she remembered Ms. Hucks very sick in the bed, the closets on either side of the bed’s headboard. Alec (Elliott) and Lilly Boyd have lived at 117 Henry Street since the 50’s and were good friends with the first Ms. Hucks. Ms. Hucks would bring Lilly and Elliott sweets on the holidays. At the time of my purchase, I asked my realtor why J. B. seemed so anxious to sell the house. “Anxious” as in “jumpy” or “physically agitated”. My realtor, an older lady, replied with the pragmatism and practicality of her experience: “Because of the current Mrs. Hucks”.

118 Henry Street has always spoken very deeply to me. Carole, my fiance’, has no doubt that the history of the house still resides here. We are very blessed that the history has mostly been good. I felt very badly, not so much about the fact that I removed the kitchen island. But more about the anger that I let overcome me. Since that day, no matter how much I shake my head at the repair decisions of any former residents, no matter how short-sighted or tasteless their vision, those days belong to them. Not to me.

What about the stove? We’re making arrangements to go pick it up in Uniontown, PA. It, like me and 118 Henry Street, is a relic. We’ll know more shortly.