Can you date this home?

dixieinmotorcityOctober 14, 2010

I intend to purchase this home. The current owner says it was built in 1890, claiming a stone with the 1890 inscription was once there but thrown away by the owner previous to her. Public Record (according to says it was built in 1914. Current owner says there was a fire in the courthouse that may have destroyed original deed and 1914 was the first transfer of deed.

Much of the inside was remodeled by current owner. The front door and two front windows with stained glass transoms are original. As well as transoms throughout the home. The original pine floors are under the new pine floors. Some of the decorative ceilings are original as well. I don't have pictures of these features, as we don't occupy the home yet.

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Besides for curiosity, does it really matter in the purchase decision?

I'm sure someone will venture a guess, but honestly, it is just a guess. The only way you can know for sure is if something original to the house is dated or labeled with something equivalent to a date.

Otherwise, all people will be able to say is that this style was popular approximately x year. If there is some defining feature or product used, they might be able to say it has to have been built after Y year because that product wasn't available until then. Public records are often unreliable.

Ballpark, it looks like a turn of the century home. Around that time, the fanciful asymetric homes of the victorian era were falling out of style and people started building more straight forward buildings.

If you are in the motor city, the auto boom kicked off in 1899. In the next 30 years, the population increased by a factor of 5, so about 80% of the older homes in the city were built in those years.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2010 at 2:50PM
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Once you buy it look around in the might find a few clues. Seems for whatever reason bits and pieces of a homes past get stored there waiting for the new care taker to come along and discover them.

It's a process. Sometimes it takes years to piece all the clues together.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2010 at 3:34PM
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it is only for curiosity's sake. it actually isn't in motown, but in west tennessee. dixie is returning home!

it sounds like the owner's story is going to be the best source. they completely renovated from the foundation up. i don't think there is much left untouched by them.

i just wish i had something more concrete than hearsay about some stone that may have belonged to the house.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2010 at 4:25PM
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No I wouldn't date her. I like redheads!!!!!

    Bookmark   October 14, 2010 at 5:42PM
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You can research it, if you want. The city or county may keep old records of transfers (though maybe not if there was a fire!), and old Census records may tell you if someone lived there before 1914. Years ago my dad and I researched the house I grew up in, and eventually dug up the original sale of the land and construction of the house, putting it in 1889 instead of the town's 1910 date, which was when they first started formally recording deeds, so they just put all of the existing properties in as "built in 1910."

    Bookmark   October 14, 2010 at 9:19PM
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You could also check your local library/historical society for the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps. If I recall correctly, the maps were produced every 5 years. Find the year your house first appeared - you can at least get it to within 5 yrs.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2010 at 5:37AM
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Census and Fire Insurance Maps.... both great ideas. Thanks!

    Bookmark   October 15, 2010 at 11:41AM
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What ever the age of the house, I like it very much. Clean lines, nice proportion, an air of relaxed, welcoming comfort. I wish you all the best in your new house.


    Bookmark   October 15, 2010 at 7:25PM
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Hi Dixie, and welcome back home! You might be interested in the attached article about a Memphis landmark -- it is very similar to your beautiful home!

    Bookmark   October 16, 2010 at 12:39AM
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Nice house!
You might also check with your town's water company to see when the house first used may be older than that if it had a well.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2010 at 2:51AM
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Could be 1890 with additions dating to 1914.
I wonder why they built the hip roofed part with the little tip visible on the front elevation. Where otherwise they went for perfect symmetry. That would lead me to believe that the twin front gable bays were added to an earlier structure. If they had built everything together, they could have avoided that bump in the roof.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2010 at 2:16PM
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rose- thank you! we are very excited.

fuzzy- interesting article. i'll have to take a drive by that home.

columbusguy- another good idea. the house does use city water now... but i don't know if there was a well earlier.

mongrel- there is an 1950s addition on the back right side.

but the current owners renovated it again. the interior space is now a pantry and laundry room. This is that same addition now from the back side of the house.

There was also once a chimney on the right side that the current owners capped off in the attic. This is the condition when they bought it in 2005.

Thanks everyone for your help!

We will be new 'old home' owners, and I am excited about the history. My grandfather is into geneology and he just sent me the transcript to the 1900-01 diary of my grandmother's grandmother who lived in the same small town as this home.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2010 at 10:35PM
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