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Perfect: A Rant


    
The F. W. Knox Villa, better known locally as the Old Hickory, has been seen by thousands of people. I’m sure many of them have only ever seen it in photos. I know some of them have never been to the United States, or never to Pennsylvania, or never to Potter County or who have never made it into the small yet charming town of Coudersport. These people have seen the house because someone thought it was worth seeing, they shared a photo.  I absolutely love that. I’m thankful for that, that so many people can see the beauty in an old house. They saw that beauty years ago when it was really not looking it’s best. I’m thankful that they saw potential like we did. I hope more people keep seeing the potential in these amazing buildings wherever they live. 
    There is one thing that I don’t like. The comments about our location. It’s far from everyday but I sometimes get comments that we are in a bad area because we are downtown. You might not be aware of this because most of the photos I share don’t include the surrounding buildings. Would it be nice if the house was located way out in a field somewhere on acres upon acres of land? Sure, but it wouldn’t exist. The house only exists because of its location. Franklin Knox was a lawyer in Coudersport in the 1800s…he was going to live in town, not out on a farm. He did have land around his house when it was built which is why other newer structures have been able to pop up around it. 
    I’m told that the buildings closest to us are unsightly warehouses and that we should tear these down. We aren’t there to tear anything down, the only thing that was probably on the chopping block was the house if it didn’t find someone to save it. Those other buildings were serving a function, they are part of a community, and they are not warehouses. They are a bowling alley and a hardware store. These small buildings are far from warehouses, our house towers over them. The buildings directly next to the house might not be from the 1800s but they have purposes. Where would everyone be without their hardware stores, especially during the pandemic? I can’t imagine a small town or any town without one. The building sitting next to us was once a bowling alley. It provided entertainment to the town and surely countless memories. These aren’t just buildings they are parts of peoples lives. They surely aren’t warehouses or big empty boxes. They are places where people catch up with their neighbors and get the supplies to take care of their homes. We are certainly not strangers to the hardware store and let me tell you we have no complaints about being able to walk next door when we’ve left a tool behind or have ran out of nails. 
    
If you want to see the real warehouses come to the Lehigh Valley, where I grew up, or countless other communities. Do you know what you won’t see here? That beautiful stone farm house that I drove by every morning on the bus ride to school or the old brick house with the green shutters that caused jitters on the morning of an exam because the long bus ride would soon be ending. You will see an intersection that could be absolutely anywhere because all of the original landmarks have been torn down. There aren’t anymore big old fields, well maybe a few, but they aren’t the fields of my childhood. Those aren’t the fields that I stared at at through a bus window or later drove by while thinking about dinner after a tiring track practice. 

If Franklin Knox had built his house here in the field, I bet it would be in the ground right now, just like countless others. Luckily his house was tucked safely away in a small town up North. Sure the town has changed overtime but it still has countless landmarks that anyone could easily identify and most importantly it doesn’t look like they’ve brought out the erasers yet. I hope they never do. Maybe everyone else knew how easy it was to erase the past, maybe I thought my past was immune, I’m still shocked at how quickly it was done. It really hits home when you look up from the passenger seat and question why we are at the wrong intersection, only to realize it is the right one, it just doesn’t look at all the same. 

    I know it’s too late for part of my past but I hope we can all work on saving the past of others. I know I can’t do anything about big businesses but I hope I can encourage others to look differently at places, maybe reframe our view of perfect. It seems that people don’t want to save things if they aren’t in the perfect spot. That house is next to a grocery store, it’s too close to a gas station, that house is next to a warehouse. Honestly, I’d rather have my house be next to any of those things than under one of them. Overtime life changes, that doesn’t mean that the past isn’t worth saving, that we should just get rid of it because we don’t like what’s filled in the spaces in between. Just because an area has changed, it doesn’t mean that a building doesn’t have value. Any of these old buildings have immense value, they are priceless, they are banks of memories. They won’t grow back if we push them into the dirt. We need to realize how incredible it is that those places survived the changing times. 
    We should find the beauty in these imperfect locations. Life isn’t perfect and neither are the locations that have shaped our lives, the old movie theater where you still get an admit one ticket, the chessesteak shop with the old orange booths. I know that we love those places for their imperfections even if we might not admit it. If you woke up tomorrow and your town looked perfect, I really don’t think you would like it, I know I wouldn’t.  You know what looks perfect… those big rectangular warehouses surrounded by those unnaturally bright lights and huge retaining walls, with their perfectly laid out trees and curved retention ponds that weren’t there last year. I’ve always thought of myself as a perfectionist but I’ve come to realize that I hate perfect. I don’t want it and I will never love it the way I love our house and the town of Coudersport. It’s a real place with unique buildings, an incredible history, and I hope it is filled with people who will always care about all of that and never sell out for perfect. 


Comments

  1. So grateful for your insight and beliefs. You are correct on so many points and I for one am so very lucky to know you, and appreciative of all your efforts and hard work to maintain history as it was. You are doing a fantastic job and I can't wait to see the house in all it's final glory!

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  2. I love your perspective of the past. How I remember things and how they are now are very different. Even though my family left that area many years ago. I still have the picture of that area in my mind and heart. When I visited a couple of years ago I seen Old Hickory and fell in love. Keep posting it makes me think of home and the memories that go with it.

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  3. How quickly people forget that, odds are, the house was likely there prior to the majority of the other surrounding structures. The town continued to grow and evolve right around it.

    Was at my husbands camp last month by Cherry Springs, and of course drove by. Had to stop at the above mentioned hardware store. So happy to see this gem being taken care of! Good job! I waved at someone coming off the porch with a tool belt on that just gave me a puzzled look.

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  4. If I close my eyes I can still smell the hardware store in Coudersport, where I went with my dad as a kid on Saturday mornings to buy nails for projects or light bulbs to screw in and they even had a wall of yarn where I could find craft needs. It is the most special town and going back this summer to visit the place where I grew up, the place so much a part of who I am, seeing how much was still the same made me so thankful. Thankful for people that see the goodness in what was and still could be. Thank you for not just highlighting this incredible house but the places and people that surround it. They’re just as incredible.

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  5. If I close my eyes I can still smell the hardware store in Coudersport where I would go with my dad on Saturday mornings to buy nails or lightbulbs or even yard for crafts. I love the place where I grew up and is very much a part of who I am. I’m thankful for the memories at the theater, and candy at Buchanan Brothers pharmacy and festivals at the courthouse square. When I went back to visit this summer with my son I was just as thankful to see that so much hasn’t changed. I could point to things that were the same as I experienced growing up. So thank you for not only highlighting this incredible house, but also the incredible places and people that surround it.

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  6. I waited 30 years hoping someday someone would come along and save the Old Hickory. And here you are!! I have enjoyed SO MUCH what you are doing and I think 99% feel the same way. The 1% of negative Nellies will always be there. Try to ignore them.

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