The neighborhood I lived in until just after my ninth birthday was crammed full of kids. I counted 31, not including my brother and me — and that was just on our street. So prolific were the parents up and down our street that they all called it Rabbit Hill.
The houses were small and plain. Mom once told me that the homes were manufactured, the pieces brought to the site on trucks and assembled in place. There were a handful of floor plans, all repeated throughout the neighborhood. Ours was the second-to-largest floor plan at just under 900 square feet.
During my 1970s childhood, these houses were about 20 years old. The owners took pride in them, and Rabbit Hill looked good. Here’s a photo from about 1971, looking up the hill. I’m the boy in the blue shirt. The house I lived in isn’t visible, but the yard is; we kids are just about to walk in front of it.
I have just one photo with our house in it. I shot my first roll of film in August of 1976, just a couple months before we moved out of that house. Meet my childhood friends Christy and Brian. Our house is in the background.
We sold the house to a family who lived in it for some number of years. They sold the family to someone who rented it out for the next 30 years.
Lots of the houses on Rabbit Hill became rentals during these years, and the neighborhood declined. I suppose it was inevitable.
In 2010, the elementary school I had attended held an open house after an extensive renovation. My brother, his childhood best friend, and I all met in front of our old house on Rabbit Hill and walked to the school from there, for old time’s sake. I photographed the walk and shared the images here.
I drove down our old street when I was in South Bend in March. The trees were all bare and the Zoysia grass was all characteristically brown, which didn’t cast the properties in the most attractive light. But it looked like some homeowners were once again working to make the most of their properties. Our old neighborhood might be seeing a bit of a renaissance!
Then I came upon our old house, and I was shaken by how bad it looked.
The windows are all new, at least, although replacing the plate-glass picture windows with two sash windows just looks tacky. I wondered if perhaps this meant that the previous longtime landlord had sold the house. So I went looking on Zillow and found that the property had indeed sold at the end of last year. See the listing here. The photos from inside are shocking to me. Next to nothing has been done inside since we moved out. The carpet has been replaced with vinyl flooring throughout, all of the closet doors have been removed, and everything has been painted white. But everything else, down to the handles on the kitchen cabinets, are exactly as we left it in 1976. I’m betting the wallpaper in the hallway is still there, under that white paint. Here’s a view from inside the house in 1971 showing that wallpaper, with a glimpse of the kitchen.
I know this is just a structure, and that times change, and that whoever owns this house is within their rights to care for it as they have. But I feel bad about what’s befallen our old house just the same. Rabbit Hill was truly a magical place to grow up, and I hate to see the magic lost.
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