Inside the 1761 House

Come, come and peep inside the 1761 House – a dream that didn’t come true.

One morning, after I’d eventually conceded I’d have to leave my personal piece of paradise, I saw an ad for an old house I’d often seen on the hill, driving home from Mo’s.  Poached on a little at one side, it stood on an otherwise huge, empty piece of land;  a little down at heel, but down at heel doesn’t bother me, especially  when the bones are clean and well conformed – and what a project it would be!  Assured it might be affordable, off I went and indeed, once past the ugly port cochere built during the English colonial period, the building fired my imagination.

The 1761 House 2

The 1761 House, PlanBuilt in 1761 – during the Portuguese colonial period – and simple in the extreme, the proportions of the spaces called out to me.  The cool breezy interior soothed skin prickling from the tropical sun, and my feet – immediately divested of sandals – felt alive with the sensations of walking across tiles laid down 250 years earlier, hardwood boards two handspans wide.  Other than two new (and über cool Channa Daswatta-designed) bathrooms and a brilliant privacy wall at one end of the front veranda, it had barely changed in centuries.  I’d need to build a kitchen – but already I could see myself living there.

Desperate to keep his ancestral home a home – even though none of his family (or anyone else, for that matter) had lived there since the death of his parents decades previously – the owner was quite keen to ‘give’ me the house on a peppercorn rent in return for my proposed improvements.  In the end, though, I couldn’t win out against his need for retirement income, and the allure of international-standard rents blandished by his friends and family, now the war was over.

Some months later I was invited to join him and some of these friends as they unveiled the new lighting he’d commissioned and had installed, and to take photographs for international magazines, putting it out there for rent.  These are some of the shots they took.

I drove by, just before I left the island, and saw that he’d got his rent, but lost his home.  I didn’t go inside

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44 thoughts on “Inside the 1761 House

  1. Dear Meredith,
    This is a fascinating post! What an amazing peek into a little piece of history! I love to get snatches of life in other places and other times. I have dragged my poor kids into more open houses!
    I hope you are well.
    Warmly,
    Naomi

  2. Oh, this is so sad. I know you only a very little bit, but from your writing when you were in Sri Lanka, I know that you would have made this an incredible home. I love that last photo, and would have loved to have walked through those two stone columns on that rock path.

    • Wouldn’t it have been terrific, to have driven (or walked) up through those gate posts every day? I spent quite a lot of time trying to design gates because of course without them, The Girls would have been out there, creating havoc and stealing food from everyone around the place!

  3. a fine dream, such simple beauty, I can feel those old tiles and broad boards under my feet too … it would have been the project of a lifetime Meredith, so much history, so much pleasure, and that magnificent privacy wall, true elegance and grace!

    • Oh yes – you’ve got it, Christine. I was almost beside myself with anticipation and plans but deep down inside I suppose I knew I didn’t have the money to take it on … But it sure was grand while it lasted and I was very glad to be asked to its unveiling. 🙂

  4. I remember that feeling, from a whole lot of years ago – the delight with a place, the passion to live in it, the positive vibes from whomever had it up for rent, and then the total letdown. Crashing disappointment, even if I didn’t have to experience a ghastly makeover as you did.
    Some things just aren’t meant to be, they tell me …

    • It was a really exciting opportunity, Patti. You know how you go in to grand old buildings that have been turned into museums or stately homes into hotels and you start dreaming … here, for a moment, was an opportunity and I couldn’t not give it a go. 🙂

    • Well, yes, it did Jo – though the intermediate step was falling down the stairs and shattering my ankle … 🙂 But it did lead to making the decision to return to Australia before something really bad happened to me where I’d be in a bad situation if I were still living in SL. Which was good and necessary for me – the realisation had to come and had to be dealt with.

  5. Nothing comes back to life the way an old home does! Wow, is that one ever a beauty! Before we moved to Florida, we had an old Queen Anne Victorian and it was MAGNIFICENT in every way except affordability! Nevertheless, all old homes have personalities we feel honored to know when lucky enough to spend even the tiniest span of time within their walls!

  6. So beautiful Meredith. Reminds me of R’s house, but even nicer! I hope the rent was compensation enough, but I have a feeling he is going to regret his decision someday. R’s family home is on the market…..just a matter of time now 😦

  7. What a beautiful home, I can just imagine the parties held on the verandas when it was first built. I’m fortunate enough to live in a 1730’s home that we restored and often think of the people who lived in it before me. I’m sorry that your dream didn’t get to come to a reality…perhaps there will be another someday.

    • How lucky you are! I’m so glad to hear it wasn’t weird to think of the generations of family gatherings swirling around the dining room and verandas! Now I’m back in Queensland I’d be lucky to live in anything even 100 years old, but it was a beautiful dream and for that I’m grateful.

  8. Loved your photos, Meredith. What a wonderful place to call home. I don’t think one can look upon a home like this, built so long ago, without wondering about its earlier inhabitants. More so when the home reflects such a distinctive period’s style. I cannot see one of our South’s antebellum mansions, for example, without seeing Scarlett O’Hara types seated on the veranda. I try not to think about the 100 slaves working the fields behind the manse.

    • Know exactly what you mean, John! There won’t have been slaves in quite the same way, behind the 1761 house, but a small army of hereditary retainers will have made their lives very comfortable.

  9. What an amazing house that would have been for you to care for. I hope you’ll find something in Australia that you can turn into the beauty you envision!

  10. What a wonderful house 🙂 Oh, the possibilities, could’ves, would’ves – real estate is like that. I have a couple of houses I revisit in my head from time to time and think, oh what if things had been different.

  11. una casa meravigliosa che permettere di vivere una vita intensa circondati dalla bellezza…sono incantata!
    grazie mille, felice giorno

    a wonderful home that allow you to live an intense life surrounded by beauty … are enchanted!
    Thanks a lot, happy day

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