Where we live
Rachel: We live in a very old, eclectic house. I call it a colonial ranch house. It just rambles on and on. It wasn't built by a wealthy person.It was owned by Nathaniel Rochester. It's not known if he built the house, but it is called the Nathaniel Rochester House. Nathaniel Rochester was active in the Revolutionary War. He was a colonel. Rochester, N.Y., was named after him.It's estimated that the front two rooms were built in 1785. The dining room was added on in 1902. The kitchen and the back two rooms were added on in the mid-'80s. The fireplace in the kitchen was part of a summer kitchen. This was an outside patio. In the 1990s, the prior owners to us made additional renovations. They added this room that we call the sunroom. They renovated the bathrooms, and they built the garage. They changed the roofline so a room could be added upstairs. It was more like a low attic space. I use it as an office.We're getting ready to make some renovations, too. We want to add another bedroom and bathroom and porch and modernize the kitchen. One of the renovations took off the porch.Matthew: What I like about it is it is open and sunny. And I like the wood floors everywhere. I think that offers a lot of warmth and character.I think it's compelling when you're in a house that feels like so much has happened. We're not real history buffs, but we feel like this house has been well lived in.This room [one of the two original rooms] always makes people go, "Wow." It's heart of pine all over [ceilings, walls, floor]. The beams that are under this house are trees with bark on them.Rachel: When we got this house inspected, the inspector that went under the house came out in awe at the original log beams holding up the house.Matthew: He came out with a strange look on his face. It was like he had a religious experience. He said, "I can't imagine doing work that someone would come back to 200 years later and the work is still intact."
Why We Chose Our Home
Rachel: We wanted to live in a house that has some character in a community that's walkable.Matthew: We were looking in the country as well. Some of the land was special, but the houses weren't to our liking.Rachel: Our property goes to Margaret Lane. And on the other side of those houses is the Eno River, which is one of the things about the house that we really love. It's wonderful to be by the river. We keep our canoe at our neighbor's house. My son especially likes to go down to the river and catch fish and see what they're like and put them back and to catch crayfish and play in the mud and build dams and float boats.
Rachel: We can walk to the library, and pretty soon we can walk to the grocery store. We really enjoy going to Last Fridays (monthly arts event in downtown Hillsborough).Matthew: I often tell people, especially if they have kids, that it's kind of like living in [Richard Scarry's] Busytown. We have most of what we need within walking distance. We can walk to the hardware store and bait shop. The downtown has everything -- a fire department, a post office, a coffee shop. Everybody knows Caleb. It's just fun being in a town that's small enough that everybody can get to know each other. When towns get too big, they may have more conveniences, but you feel less connected to people in the town.
Matthew: We have a growing but not the biggest selection of restaurants compared to a Chapel Hill/Carrboro. If you can't find things here, then you do have to drive to Chapel Hill or Durham. But that's only a minor disadvantage.I guess one disadvantage for us is that this neighborhood is spread out. And because it's pretty diverse in terms of age, for us, you don't have a big cluster of kids. You have a lot of different families who live here at different stages of their lives.It was only after we had been in the house a few years that we found what's not good about historic houses. They didn't have closets back then. So our house is in a constant state of disorder.
Matthew: I like that it's so eclectic. These days, a lot of times you go to neighborhoods and it's all very uniform. We have the older historic homes, smaller millhouses down the road -- just a whole range of properties and houses. I've always felt that adds to the character of the neighborhood.Rachel: We have the kind of neighborhood where neighbors don't mind if we traipse through their back yards. We used to have hens, and our hens would wander all over the neighborhood.We like living in a diverse community, and Hillsborough really is diverse. It's not gentrified like other communities yet. We're really keeping our fingers crossed.The town is accessible. My husband likes being on the planning board. He feels like he's making a contribution.
Making Our House a Home
Matthew: (laughs) Did you see the front room yet? One of the two oldest rooms in the house is a playroom.We haven't had to do much to make it feel like it's us. I think mainly what we've worked on is outside -- Rachel mainly gardening.The one thing we did do was we put in a bathtub. It only had a shower before. That was our one major effort to make our house a home because you can't have a kid without a bathtub.