09 July 2012

Grandma Annie's Kitchen Door


On warm summer days, Grandma Annie's kitchen was breezy and cool, thanks to a complex but purely accidental system of cross breezes from east and and west. The new exterior door that opened into the remodeled pantry and the adjacent "back bedroom" windows allowed the easterly breezes to enter the room while the lone kitchen window and the window and exterior door off the back hallway provided access for westerly winds.

Annie's house, which probably has it roots in 1863 when the neighborhood was developed, grew  higgledy-piggledy over the last decades of the 19th century, serving once as a general store with an owner's flat above and later, when Annie's father (known to longtime readers as Pépere) renovated the structure in 1930, a stately, two-flat house with little setback from Dunlap Avenue and Bellevue Street where they intersect in the heart of Frenchtown. Annie lived most of her adult life in the downstairs flat, but spent her childhood living upstairs.

The hallway that ran along one side of the downstairs flat included an exterior door that allowed us to enter and exit on Bellevue Street. The egg man and the man who sold peas and beans used this door. The hallway was cold and mostly unused in winter, except for vegetable storage. It connected Annie's heart-of-the-house kitchen with the back room, a sort of keeping room where my grandmother stored extra pots and pans in a large red bead-and-board cabinet, surely built by Pépere, as well as her sewing machine, her cheese box full of old recipes and her herb-drying rack.

The door between the kitchen and hallway was a heavy, 19th century model with two windows, painted a dark brown on one side and creamy white on the other. When the family who bought the house from my aunt nine years ago gutted the interior - bringing the structure into its third century and creating a comfortable one-family home - they gave the door to my sister. She uses it as garden art.

I think it looks charming in her garden, don't you? It's like having Grandma Annie with us.

Annie's sewing machine is now in my sister's living room, while Pépere's garden cabinet is part of mine. Once I've cleaned it out, I promise it will make its way into a post here.

In the upstairs flat, where my grandparents reared Annie and her siblings, Pépere built an early version of kitchen cabinet, with a flour or vegetable bin, utensil drawers and other conveniences that rival today's fashionable and efficient kitchens. I wish I had taken a photo of this kitchen before the house was sold.

No matter, for that kitchen lives on in my memories, too.


11 comments:

Christine said...

I'm glad that you and your sister have such wonderful memories of grandma Annie's house and life - and real mementos to boot. Love that door! Would really love to see your cabinet someday.

M Johns said...

Someday I will tidy it up, and shoot a photo. I think that will probably be October. It's filled with candles and bits and pieces of seasonal trinkets. I'm going to do a yard sale in the early fall.

Having the door in Patty's garden made us feel Annie was with us. How she would have loved our little gathering!

Fiona said...

That's a beautiful photograph and I love reading about your neighborhood, your extended family and the sweet memories. Look forward to seeing Pepere's garden cabinet.

M Johns said...

Ah, the pressure is on to get the cabinet straightened out!

Jann said...

The perfect spot for the door~it looks lovely there!

Penny said...

I love to hear stories about your Grandma Annie. Anxious to see your cabinet. I am envious of your sister's garden.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

A wonderful story that is gorgeous with the photo of the old door. That is simply the very best outdoor art there can be and perfect for bringing grandma Annie back into your life.

M Johns said...

I think so, too, Jann. Even as a little girl, I was intrigued by old-fashioned things used in gardens.

Terry at Blue Kitchen said...

A beautiful photo, Mimi. I'm glad the door lives on with your family!

MJ Strategic Communications said...

Thank you, Terry. Good to hear from you.

Mimi said...

Just experimenting with the way I post.