Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Purple House had this purple house in Wisconsin featured the other day. It has a story behind it, which can be found at this link here. It's a funny story and a bit sad, too.

It's probably sold at foreclosure now, and is likely to be torn down by any buyers but the story behind it is interesting and can make you think about liberty and property rights and all that. Seems as if the man who bought it had a little trouble with the city codes enforcers, who rode him for not having his house painted properly. So he painted it this lovely purple color, except for one wall, because he ran out of purple paint. That wall is red. He and his wife painted flowers on the house. Apparently there was no Home Owner's Association, because no one came running about the color. The city couldn't do anything; their directive was just to paint the house. The city told him his wooden privacy fence was too high. He took a chain saw and cut off the offending footage. The city b**ched about his lawn, his yard, and his cars. He probably did just enough to keep from being fined to the end of his paycheck, just enough to keep from being on first name basis with the judges in the city's Housing Court.

According to the man's son, whose interview is in the link, the man was a Vietnam vet who had some struggles with what we now call PSTD. Yet he was able to raise a family--his son seems very balanced--and have a good stable long term relationship. He and his girlfriend both passed within just a year or two of each other, and in that time period, mortgage payments were not being made and the house reverted to the VA. I just had a look at the area using google map and the google street thing. When looking from the street, all you can see is the trees and the purple privacy fence--you can barely make out the house. The satellite view reveals a not very tidy back yard, with large objects in the yard. I noted a particularly tidy house and lawn just to the south; I imaged this person going bonkers looking at the purple house with the messy yard.

It can be a difficult balance between the desires of the community to have everything "just so", and the right to self expression and the use of one's own private property. This house was so well known that it was used as a directional land mark by those living in the neighborhood. It was tolerated, barely, by the neighbors and city. (If there had been a HOA, it would have been a different deal--just read some of the comments on the lovely listing site.) The funny thing is that in a way, people like a little quirky in their life. I'm sure that some of the neighbors were amused and not at all put out, while some others were just fit to be tied.

I myself would not mind a purple house in my neighborhood. My across the street neighbor has dark purple trim on her white house; a few snickered and made negative remarks, but I love it, a nice change from the browns that often dominate. Just keep it neat and reasonably tidy, and I'm happy. Besides it will be a cold day in Hell before I rat someone out about a house problem. I think I'd be more likely to snitch on a murderer then to tattletale to the city about something related to the condition of a neighbor's house. It just seems so minor in the scheme of things. Meth houses and dope dens not tolerated; a car in the driveway under repair, a trailer parked next to the driveway, a bush overgrown, toys in the yard, trash put out early (but no trash left out in a pile, that's a different ballgame because of vermin), maybe an extra cat or dog--odds are, if someone's complaining, it ain't me.


Capt. Schmoe said...

The paradox of individual rights vs. the right of the populace to have a good "quality of life". I deliberately chose to live in a neighborhood that does not have a HOA because I have authority issues. However, the town where I live does have some quality of life ordinances.

The neighbor lady painted her house a rather loud green which upset many in the neighborhood. I was mildly annoyed until she told me that the color was her deceased husband's favorite.

Suddenly, It didn't bother me anymore. She recently passed and her kids painted it a more neutral color. I kinda miss the green.

Maybe we would all be more tolerant if we knew our neighbors better.

Great post Mr. Observer.

the observer said...

Capt. Schmoe--

Thanks for reading. The purple caught my eye and the story caught my attention. I live in a HOA area, but it seems the city regs have more pull. The HOA just encourages tattling to the Action Line.

The Observer

Ann T. said...

Dear The observer,
I love this crazy house and the obstreperous man who owned it.

In Rivertown, which was full of victorian houses and eccentric people, houses and interiors were painted many different colors. People would garden to match. I loved a purple house, loathed a toothpaste colored house, and admired a blue house with red and yellow tulips along the front walk.

Lovely. And I agree that if we took time to know people, these little things would assume their proper importance.

Ann T.

the observer said...

Ann T.

Continuing in the same vein, with you and the captain, if we get to know our neighbors, and they are having a struggle, we can maybe help them out? Help with painting, lawn mowing or whatever?

At one time, a lady was renting the house one house down from me. It turned out she didn't have a lawn mower. Another neighbor mowed her lawn for her. I don't know if Tom charged her, or just took an occasional fiver for gas, but her lawn was taken care of.

The Observer