Thursday, September 26, 2013

Rah Rah Rah College Hill Old House Magazine online has designated my little neighborhood in Topeka, Kansas, adjacent to Washburn University, one of the "Best Old House Neighborhoods 2013" for the midwest region. 

Quite an honor for this humble place in a humble city in a state that is often misunderstood.

The magazine's write-up mentions that the standard joke about Topeka is "how boring is it"?

Well that's just silly. How boring is any midwestern city? Topeka ranks right in the middle, I'd say. We have live theater, a good university with a wonderful art museum and amazing classical music festival, a state capitol with all sorts of interesting protests and events, a large farmers market, rainbow-colored Equality House across the street from Fred Phelps' anti-gay compound, and, in the heart of the city, an Expo Center that hosts dog shows, horse shows, garden shows, and a fabulous annual library book sale. We have our random violence and our random wonderfulness. We have amazing architecture, Topeka High School or the State Capitol, for example.

In all, it turns out to be a pretty interesting place. If you live here you should definitely subscribe to the print version of the Topeka Capital Journal. It isn't comprehensive but it does open up views into the city. And the carriers throw the paper near the sidewalk, so you (or your dog) get some exercise retrieving it each morning. The paper highlights what a "small town" Topeka really is. Four days ago a family with special needs lost their house in a fire. For the past three days the paper has highlighted things that they need to help get their life back together. The community seems to be pitching in.

As for the the College Hill neighborhood, the article mentions that professors, law students, and young families taking advantage of the affordable housing prices, populate the neighborhood. True. But many other people live here. 

I live next door to a retired widower who lives alone with his cute little dog. On the other side is a grandmother who balances taking care of her grandchildren with her job as remedial education teacher. Across the street is a family with lots of active children. Next door to them a retired couple. Across the street from them is a woman who is caring for an extended family.

Down the street, a law student who has stayed and is now a lawyer. Across the street from him, a family who attended the university and had children in the meantime. They are moving out and the house (a rental) will soon be up for sale. Next door to them a similar house, an American Four Square, was recently purchased by a young family. 

People in this neighborhood love dogs. I estimate that one dog lives in College Hill for about every two people.

At Boswell Park, across the street from my house, dogs rule. They love its big open field. "Frisbee Dog" comes every afternoon and amazes the children on the adjacent swings with his acrobatic catches. 

Throughout the day, many dogs, small and large, get to run in the big field, which unfortunately is not completely fenced in. The well-mannered dog owners generally heed the signs to "pick up after your dog" and never interfere with baseball or soccer practice or a karate dojo. 

I estimate that for every five or six well-maintained College Hill properties, a blighted house exists. I define a blighted house as one with seriously overgrown weeds or trees (such as trees of heaven or mulberry seedlings sprouting up in the yard and next to the foundation), inoperable, unlicensed vehicles sinking into the ground on the property, or trash and other inappropriate items, such as an old sink or deteriorated upholstered furniture in the yard or on the porch.

Kansas is not quite the boring place that postcards and cliches might lead you to believe.

If you like to observe migrating birds and butterflies Kansas lies right in a major avenue.  Also, many wonderful birds make Kansas their year-round home.

The University of Kansas, Kansas State University, and Washburn University all make their home here, and their influence reverberates far beyond the state's boundaries.

Just as Kansas is more interesting than most people realize, the architecture of College Hill is also more diverse than the This Old House write-up mentions. Yes, we have our share of lovely bungalows and airplane bungalows, but stately American Four Squares are numerous, as are Georgians, cottages, and other structures of quite unique character. For more information about the architecture of College Hill, visit the College Hill Topeka Historical Site.