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Beginning an our-old-house journey

April 22, 2012
By JANICE R. KIASKI - Herald-Star community editor ( , The Herald-Star

I have begun a fascinating journey in 2012, something that's a priority on my list of things I want to do just for me this year.

And it all kind of started last summer when the Hout House on state Highway 152 in Richmond, the home in which I grew up, was painted, something I documented with before and after photos I put in one of those little picture books.

Whenever I looked at it from time to time, it occurred to me how much history there is in this house, not that I didn't already know that. It's just that - confession time here - I wasn't all that interested.

House history?

Ho-hum. Borrrr-ing.

But getting older has a way of elevating your sense of urgency about things you want to know more about or goals you want to achieve. Priorities change.

So one of my objectives now is learning all I can through pictures and personal accounts, through letters and listening, the history of this house that's familiar to me in some ways and yet mysteriously unknown in so many others.

At some point this year, I'll begin work on a scrapbook that incorporates all this information that may or may not be of interest to very many people, but it is to me.

The Hout House was built in 1881 by my paternal great-grandfather and lived in only by Houts with the exception of a four-year span from 1949 to 1952 when a newly married couple rented two rooms of the house while my paternal grandparents lived in the rest of the home.

That's a whole story in itself.

This is a house that by modern day standards sports no open floor plan, which in some ways makes it inconveniently charming if that makes sense, since it's not a cookie-cutter designed place.

This is a house where people were born, lived, got married and died, including my father. The bedroom in which he was born was the same one where he breathed his last breath.

This is the house where my parents lived on one side as newlyweds, left to live elsewhere and then returned to set up residency for the duration of their married life, moving in just one week before my birth in 1958.

Now that's a fact I find astonishing and without sensible explanation. Why, I have wondered, would a couple with four children and one on the way elect to physically move in the days before baby chick No. 5 arrives?

Chalk it up to one serious case of weird nesting by a mother-to-be who'd been down that road four times before, I suppose.

Oh, the photos I have come across since I started this adventure!

The house has changed as much as the people in it. I look at some pictures and remember how this and that was, while other photos are proof that this old house had life and love long before I ever listed it as my place of residence.

I think part of the reason I'm writing on this topic today is for conscience cleansing, because in my 30-plus years of newspaper reporting many have been the times when I have done stories of a genealogy-history nature and have given the effort lip praise.

Heed your history now.

It won't always wait for you to be interested in it.

(Kiaski, a resident of Steubenville, is a staff columnist and features writer for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and community editor for the Herald-Star. She can be contacted at

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