Eclectic, quirky, and sometimes edgy…this is how things look from my front porch.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Old Shea House at 256

What can I say about my beloved Shea House at 256 on a street unnamed for blogging privacy? Think 256 Main Street, 256 Oak or Maple or 256 Independence Street and you will have the flavor of my street name.

The first time I saw Shea House was on line, six months prior to moving to Virginia. For years, I had driven with my dog from my apartment in the Point Loma neighborhood of San Diego to the Mission Hills neighborhood to take walks. As I passed each historic home, I would dream of the home I would own and restore someday.

As I contemplated the move, I started looking at homes on line. There was one particular home in Portsmouth that tugged at my heart. I looked at it many times. Described as a “Four-Square American Colonial Revival,” it was everything I wanted. My dream home had to built prior to 1945, with a fireplace, in an established neighborhood with hardwood floors and enough distinguishing features that my home was different from all the others.

I rid myself of two real-estate agents who steered me toward developments with silly names like the “The Windmills at Chesapeake Hills” and street names like Bellechase Court and Leatherstocking Lane. My brother refers to such places as, “Pretensions at Broken Wind.” No, no…no arched windows for me, no fakey gas fireplace, no homeowner’s association rules that I can’t hang clothes on a line.

Finally I found Susan, my very dear realtor who led me to…guess where? My dream home was still on the market six months later! I walked up to the porch which extended the length of the front of the house, saw my built in bookcase with the glass doorknobs and the pilaster around the dining room chandelier. I knew I was home.

The Shea family experienced Black Tuesday and the Great Depression at my house. Flappers danced the Charleston, the Hindenburg exploded into horror, Pearl Harbor was bombed, FDR died in office, men left for the Korean War and 256 witnessed it all.

The house was divided into two units to support the war effort at Portsmouth’s Naval Yard, which worked three shifts to defend our country from Hitler. Men needed housing and Portsmouth met that need. The Korean War ran its course, JFK was assisinated and we lost our innocence.

The house stood as the school across the street was desegregated over the objections of many. It stood as men and women left for Vietnam. During the eighties, it was converted back to a one family house. 256 stood through the energy crisis of the seventies and still stands during our current energy crisis.

As I study the Bible and drink Earl Gray at the table in the corner of that old porch, shaded by a trumpet vine with ancient, gnarled roots and look over to the school which now houses the elderly; I think of those families who sat on the steps drinking sweet tea, waited for the kids to come in from school, rocked on a porch swing and caught fireflies right here where I am now.

It is 9 years that we’ve lived in the old Shea House at 256. It is a new roof, central air-conditioning, 30 new windows, two hurricanes, a cottage garden, many prayers and lot of dirt and sweat later. After many meals, lots of paint, jumping kids collapsing the plaster in the dining room…here I am.

As Psalm 16, verse 6 says, “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” And 256 still stands and let’s me call her home.

1 comment:

Laura Lee Lotspeich said...


My name is Laura, and I live at 131 Constitution Avenue, in Shea Terrace. Me and 3 of my room mates are renting from the previous occupants and we are desperately searching for more information on the neighborhood's history, and our home on the side. I was wondering if I could possibly gain an audience with you, if you don't feel comfortable with this I understand so in turn I will give you my email.

From what I gather you live in the neighborhood, I was raised in the south so to be honest I would usually just knock on the door and extend a hello. However I wanted to make sure this was your house, and I don't go confusing someone. LOL.

We would love to learn as much as possible and P.S. great job on the house its the first thing I notice when I come into the neighborhood. I am also very much involved in restoration projects and I can understand the passion for it. Your home looks great.

Thank again for your time and I hope to hear from you soon.

Thank You,