Real Estate, Politics and Historic Houses

When we talk about researching the history of houses the focus is typically on the past. Yet recording the present is just as important. As historic house owners or historic house fans we are in a unique position to consciously preserve history as it happens.

Yard with political campaign signs
Yard with local political campaign signs

How many times have you found an old photo of your house and wondered when it was taken? If you are careful and pay attention to the details in the photo you may be able to narrow down the date by examining the clues. Wouldn’t it be great if all old photos had revealing clues?

You can do your part to help house historians of the future. Here are two types of photos that will make it easier to date photos that are left unidentified.

#1 Political signs are a gift to historians

Election season is upon us here in the United States. In my neighborhood I have seen signs sprouting up for State Representatives, Congress and the President. Let’s put a positive spin on this otherwise dreaded political season by using the campaign signs to capture history. What better clue to date a photo than one that has a political sign in the yard. If your yard is devoid of political signs then capture a street scene. Perhaps one of your neighbors is displaying their support for a politician. The politician’s name and the campaign slogan can forever be used to determine the year of the photo.

#2 Real Estate signs

Similar to campaign signs, real estate signs can be a great help to determine when a photo was taken. The combination of the real estate agency and the agent should help in future identification of house photos. While tracking sales electronically in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is a relatively new resource, this is a growing database that will continue to track information about sales and sales agents.

Real Estate For Sale Sign in Front of Historic House
Real Estate For Sale Sign in Front of Historic House

If your house isn’t for sale, take a street scene that shows your house and another on the street that is displaying a sign in front. While deeds don’t list information about real estate agents, you could narrow down the date based on when the house sold.

While you’re at it, ask a real estate friend to print out the MLS listings of all previous sales of your house (with photos) and include those as a part of your house history documentation. Keep in mind that sales prior to the 1990s might not have photos available.

Don’t miss an opportunity to further document the living history of your house while it happens. Go to the effort to photographically record your house while including the most historic clues possible. What a great contribution this will make toward preserving your house!

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