#homeetc · history · window

What Might Have Been Seen?

I often wonder about the history of my salvaged pieces and whether anything significant has happened around them in their lifetime – who sat on those chairs before I adopted them, what child rocked on that rocking horse I’m renovating, for whom was the play shop I picked up at a flea market made? It is all so intriguing, but I will never know their stories.

For one of my recent aquisitions, however, things are a little different. I can speculate with a bit more certainty. The cellar window I picked up from a house in our village that was being gutted and renovated must have many tales to tell. The house, although one wouldn’t know it to look at it now, must be somewhere between 70 and 100 years old. The window looks as if it was an original, with its woodworm-ridden frame, cracked filler and thin glass. 

I loved the look of the window when I spotted it left out for the binmen a while back. But the brown paint that had been applied in a very slapdash fashion to the frame and metal handle was very ugly. At home, I took a wire brush to it and brushed the flaking paint off the frame and freed up the metal fittings and glass panes as best I could with paint remover. Finally I washed the panes with soapy water to remove the grime and last remnants of paint. 

Cleaning the window, it suddenly dawned on me that I was looking through the window, a window. A window that in its original position had been a cellar window facing onto the main street of our village, just a few inches above the footpath.  On either side of the glass I held in my hand, life had gone on for decades and decades. I got goosebumps as I thought of all that had occurred during the lifetime of this simple window.

As you may know, I live in Germany, not far from the border to Alsace and on the banks of the Rhein. The second world war had a huge impact in this area. 

Perhaps through this window the the feet of the local Catholic priest may have been seen passing by in the period before his internment in the concentration camp in Dachau. Or possibly afterwards, when he returned to the village in 1945 and, incredibly, resumed his job. Was this cellar left empty during the evacuations of villagers in 1939 and 1944? Did the panes rattle in their frames when the nearby bridge over the Rhein was blown up in March 1945? What was observed through it during the occupation of the village through French forces in the post-war period? 

Anyone looking through this window in the late 1940s would have witnessed the rebuilding of the village, the industrial development and the influx of refugees from the eastern parts of Germany. 

Does this cellar window feature in the film that was shot in the village in 1957? Or did it, ten years later, witness the celebrations of the twinning with a town in Normandy brought about by a French soldier who was stationed in the village after the war? Did it see people take to the streets in celebration after the Wonder of Bern, Germany’s surprise World Cup win in 1954? Or the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989?

Now, so many years after this window was first installed, I couldn’t let it go to the dump just because the house it was part of was being renovated. I felt it had to stay in the village, just with a new home. It is no longer a window to the activity on the main street. It is spending its retirement looking out on our garden, watching as a new generation of village children grown, a silent observer as we make our own history.
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21 thoughts on “What Might Have Been Seen?

  1. Such a beautifully written post, I would love to know what this window has witnessed too! I'm a firm believer that houses have souls and whenever I go past a boarded up house I always wonder what's gone on and feel sad that at some point people were once happy there. My neighbours on both sides bought their houses some 20 years ago, from the original 1930s owners. Such history x #HomeEtc

  2. Oh Lins I am just the same. It is so sad to see.
    There are a few beautiful old houses in our village and I would just love to know their stories. The house I grew up in in Ireland is over 400 years old and since I was a child I have wondered about everyone who ever lived there before my parents bought it.
    Thanks for popping by.

  3. How fascinating! I'm just like you and get very sentimental about the history of an object. I can't bring myself to change lots of things in our house as it would break that continuity with the past. I'm glad you've given it a new home. #HomeEtc

  4. Aaah another gorgeous post Fi — I love this. And the window too!! Although I was thinking it would make a cute side table if you added some legs 😉 Just think of how many people — and how many pairs of eyes — have started out of that window! I always used to think the same about the steps up to our first house. Over 100 years old and worn away, in places, with the shoes of so many people over the decades. Such a lovely thought!

    Thanks so much for linking up with #HomeEtc — hope to see you again next week! x

    Caro | http://www.thetwinklediaries.co.uk

  5. I also feel an attachment to items and love their history and stories. How amazing to think of this piece! What a lovely item 🙂 Thanks again for sharing. Much appreciated. Jess x


  6. I love this story and how you saved the window from the dump! Everything has a history, it really is fascinating finding old furniture. I'm always imagining stories! #HomeEtc
    Sabrina xx

  7. That's such a lovely post. I've really enjoyed reading it. You gave me goosebumps, too. It's not just an old window; it's part of your village, part of History, and it's so much more than old wood and thin glass. Well done for reclaiming it, for keeping it and for finding its soul. x

  8. Also a good idea. Another friend suggested a coffee table with the window as a lid to a display box. Could be gorgeous, but the glass might not survive for long in this household of small boys. I think I'll wait five years 🙂
    All the comings and going at your old house…what stories might have gone on there!
    Thanks for hosting. Love this blog hope (you might have noticed!)

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