Hello Friends and Family,

Building My First House, 1973/74, Part 1

Link to this year's index by clicking here.

Shortly after returning from Hawai‘i, I began a new major project — building a house. Not that I was doing the construction but simply initiating the effort and pouring money into deep holes. I chose to build in a lovely community just north of St. Paul, MN called North Oaks. It has the atmosphere of living in the country but with all the amenities of suburban living.

All the lots were large — mine was 1.6 acres, most of the others were a bit smaller. It was quite affordable — only $6,300 at the time — partially because it was situated on the east side of the community perhaps a quarter-mile from a railroad track. I checked and only one train (a freight) passed by each day so I decided I could tolerate its noise.

Much closer than the train tracks was Gilfillan Lake — remember that Minnesota is the home of 10,000 lakes (there are actually more but it seems someone lost count at some point). Sometime after the house was completed, a friend and I built two redwood and fiberglass canoes — one for each of us. They were light and I could carry mine on my shoulders easily the short distance to the lake — enjoying paddling around after dinner until the mosquitoes appeared.

You can tell visually from this photo and the next that all the lots in this part of North Oaks were large — just by how far away my neighbors' homes were situated. (I was standing where my house was to be constructed when I took the photos.)

At the time, most of the households in North Oaks were probably more well off financially than I was, considering that I was only a few years out of college. Name drop time — in fact, former senator, vice president and unsuccessful presidential candidate, Walter Mondale, had a residence at North Oaks after he retired from politics. Other well-off business people and politicians also had homes in North Oaks. No, I never met any of them.

It seems that almost anyone who builds a home has a hassle with their contractor and my experience was the same. Since my work location was only a few miles from here, I would stop by every day to see how construction was going. When nothing had happened for a week or two, I would call the contractor and ask, "When are you going to excavate?" The next day, the workers were on the site doing the excavation. This pattern continued during the entire construction.

When they finally took that first step (excavation), I was so happy.

After the next idle period and my resulting phone call, workers poured the footings.

Then they delivered the concrete blocks...

...to construct the basement walls. Most homes in Minnesota have basements — the other places I have lived in my adult life, California, Maui, and Arizona — homes do not generally have basements. I like basements — but I guess you learn to live with what you got (or haven't got).

Last for today, the framing in the basement had begun. This divided the basement into subterranean rooms that can be used for storage or laundry or heating or ping pong or whatever. It also would support the floors when the first floor was constructed. Note that dip in the support wall near the enter of the photo? That was constructed that way to support the sunken floor in the living room — a cool feature that you either love or hate.

To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com