Our House is a Twin!
Our house is actually a twin! Which is terribly exciting because I always wanted twins! Just kidding, that sounds awful now that I’m middle-aged and go to bed at 7:45 pm. I’m watching Hallmark Christmas movies in bed as I type this…
So, the exact same house as ours is built right across the highway, less than a half mile from us. I can see it from our attic. Sorry for the crappy pictures in this post. I stole them from the real estate listing because they matched up so well!
It does seem rather odd that two houses with the exact same floor plan are built so close to each other in a very small town of 800 people. It isn't like there are tons of giant brick houses in rural Iowa. In our old neighborhood in Colorado, there were only three different models of homes so they just repeated over and over with different elevations. Just when you think you’ve escaped McMansion hell, an exact copy of your one-of-a-kind house appears!
The sister house is kind of a mystery. It was for sale at the same time (even weirder) as our house so we walked through both homes on the same day. It was like a very special edition of House Hunters.
We've heard several different theories about the matching homes but nobody seems to know exactly what happened. From what we can tell, it looks like the sister house was built first in 1875. Our home was built in 1883. Someone told us that they were built by brothers (so I have no idea why I keep calling them “sister houses”) but the dates and owners don't seem to add up.
My best guess is that the architect probably sold the plans to both people, or John Roome, the original owner of our house, just really liked the house across the highway and asked for the plans. He was the railway surgeon so he probably got whatever he wanted because he was fancy and could potentially kill you. He was all "Your house is so dope, can I please borrow your plans so I don't have to find a new architect?" and then the other person was all "Of course you can, John!" because everyone in Iowa is super nice!
On May 9, 1918, our house was hit by an F4 tornado. It was a rare occurrence of two tornadoes combining into a mile wide super tornado causing 50+ miles of destruction. J.D. and Josephine Becker lived in our house at the time with their six sons. Luckily, J.D. owned the lumberyard in town because the house received significant damage from the storm.
The top of our house was damaged in the tornado and the roofline was changed. Our dormers have been moved, and they no longer line up with the windows. They used to match the sister house. From what I can gather, the east side of our home received the most damage so they probably took the roof off and started over. If you go in our attic, you can still see the original framework and shake shingles. It’s really cool.
Our front entry and porch are also different. Both homes originally had a formal front entry with two sets of large, rounded doors. The sister house still had these doors when we went to see it. They were in need of quite a bit of restoration help but they are fabulous. You can tell that our front entry isn't original because the brick underneath our porch is a different size/color.
Both homes have the exact same staircase. At some point, the sister house became apartments and they added a wall between the entry and the formal dining room. It’s super weird and clunky. The people that bought it have been doing massive renovations so I need to go over and introduce myself so I can be nosey and see if they got rid of that wall. That would drive me nuts to walk into my house and see a wall. Unless it had this fabulous de Gournay beaded wallpaper on it!
The living rooms are still quite similar. Our living room was given a makeover right after the tornado. Apparently, a large tree crashed through the windows and destroyed the original marble fireplace. You can see the original matching fireplace in the sister house picture.
Our parlor still has the matching marble fireplace. After the tornado, they changed the ceiling in our living and dining rooms by adding beams and heavy trim because J.D. Becker owned the town lumberyard and seemed to be a bit of a show off. He also installed the very fancy inlaid flooring in our dining room. Because that is what you do when you have all the money and wood in town at your disposal.
The original brick exterior on our house had to be replaced after the tornado, which is why our house is dark green/brown brick. You can see the original blonde/reddish brick on our chimney! Our house has three different chimneys made out of three different types of brick.
Our house also has a sun porch and a sleeping porch that must have been added on after the tornado as the brick is all the "new" brick and not the original. Oddly enough, the extra brick from the renovation of our house (in 1918) is still sitting in the basement piled up under a lead sink. Just in case we need to patch anything! #blessed
The upstairs of both homes are pretty much exactly the same. The sister house has this really fabulous rounded dutch door still intact that separated the front of the house from the servants quarters. I should have gotten a picture! Our house has the rounded entries upstairs but the original door is gone. Just some sad little hinges…
It's a strange feeling to walk through two versions of the same 1800s house. It's like when you live in tract housing and you go to your neighbor's house and they have the same layout but with the upgraded cabinets that you should have sprung for. Ultimately, I think we got the better deal because I love our house and gardens!
And, of course, you always pick the house that was hit by the tornado if that’s an option!