Around the corner from where I was raised in Wheaton, Maryland, a house has been empty for decades. In fact, I can't I remember when this little house on Blueridge Avenue wasn't boarded up. My parents vaguely recall a family living there in the early 1960s when, soon after my parents moved into the neighborhood, my dad and several other men went fundraising for the parish church and knocked on the door; my dad remembers nothing about the family. Sometime soon after, the family disappeared, and the house has remained empty, securely rooted next to a four-story building that included my local barber school (still there, "The Academy of Professional Barber Stylists") and my pediatrician. For years I'd visit the doctor and steal glances at the strange, boarded up red-brick home next door, imagining who might've live there, but unable to conjure faces.
The house remains uninhabited despite noisy, rapid, decades-old gentrification of the area, including a nearby Metro subway stop, a population spike, and new pricey housing. On a website detailing to the value of area buildings the home is listed as "Nonclassifiable Establishment." What a perfect name for this tidy, enormous mystery, a two-story cipher I lived with, wondered after, and dreamed about, for decades—literally for as long as I can remember. It grew to possess a life of its own, silent but powerful, parallel to the moving lives around it, to the dramas small and large in the doctor's office next door, the row of stores across the street, complicating and darkening the baseball cards and Mad Magazine in my hands as I walked by, trying not to notice. My own bustling house was nearby but as if on another planet. My fascination with abandoned buildings no doubt has its roots in this suburban void, a modest riddle blocks from from childhood bedroom that has grown in my mind to mythic proportions.
Remarkably, the owners (Who are they? Someone mows the tiny yard, and the front door looks newish) never sold. But on a recent visit, I noticed that the home and a different office building to the west are fenced in, that side of the block now being razed for new housing. Finally, this home will be demolished. I don't know whether the owners sold, or whether the county took over the property via Eminent Domain. Either way, the next time I visit, it will finally be gone—following after a half century its previous, ghostly tenants who lived there when Kennedy was President, when the neighborhood was young, the tree out front just a sapling.