LIVINGATHOME: Ties to the Past - THE THOMPSON HOUSE
A family home can connect generations. Debbie Thompson grew up around the block from her grandmother, Thorborg Hendricks, in North End Superior. As a little girl, Debbie would walk to Thorborg's house for Norwegian cookies and coffee and look out the windows of that house watching for her mother to return home from work at the Superior Public Library.
When her grandmother died, Debbie's parents, James and Emily Powers, kept the house in the family and rented it out after her Mr. Fixit father did some remodeling work on the small house situated on a large corner lot.
When Debbie married Richard Thompson, her parents encouraged them to rent the house while they searched for a home of their own. Turns out, Thorborg's house was just the home they were looking for and they have made it their own over the past 30 years.
The house, now more than 100 years old, is a cozy mix of old and modern, with accents and gardens created by Debbie, an art teacher who brings a creative eye to remodeling, decorating and gardening. Her living room is full of antiques saved and refurbished from family, as well as from Superior landmarks.
"I was green way ahead of my time," she says as she shows off an heirloom table from the old Superior library and a stunning fireplace mantle from Superior's old Social Security building. She bought the mantle years ago, refinished it and added rails and intricate fireguards from antique stores to bring striking details to her living room filled with antiques.
"My mother was actually born right here in this room," she says. "My grandmother had a coal stove in the corner and I can still see her rocking chair."
Over the years, the Thompsons moved the house off its foundation and put in a basement. They added an angled dining room on the side of the house, and then tore out a wall so Debbie could have her art studio below it.
In contrast to the antiques in the living room, they built a very modern kitchen, but a stately Hoosier cabinet sits in the corner. "I like the combination of the old and the new," she explains. And in a nod to convenience, they put vinyl siding on their 100-year-old home.
"I like to garden and I like to do a lot of things, and I just don't have time to scrape and paint my house every few years," she says.
But the siding works, giving a fresh look to an updated Victorian-style home. And in the spring and summer, hanging baskets and the heirloom plants fill the yard to complete a finished look that is testament to Debbie's skill as an artist, and a gardener.
Many of the plants came from her mother.
"I share a love of nature with my mother," Debbie says. "She (Emily Powers) was a great gardener and her plants are geared to our cool climate, and she would share them with other gardeners. And they do not die. I still see them blooming in gardens around town. I call them power flowers."
Debbie considers gardening "her summer job." She is not afraid to dig up plants and move them around to find the perfect spot, and she loves to place rocks and pieces of her students' artwork in strategic places. She is not shy about tackling major projects either.
A few months before her only child, Courtney, finished high school, she decided a backyard pond would be the perfect spot for grad photos. So her husband dug out the pond and Debbie created a water sculpture with local rocks. She used an artist's touch and added plants to create hiding places for a healthy school of goldfish and Koi.
In addition to being the perfect backdrop for grad pictures, the pond has become Debbie's favorite part of the garden. She loves to spend time reading and listening to the water, enjoying the fruits of her labor. "Everybody should have a pond," she adds. "It is so relaxing."
With her mother's flowers gracing the gardens of her grandmother's house, Debbie and Richard Thompson have created a modern sanctuary with strong ties to the past.
Inside and out, through three generations, this home is a vibrant connection to and reflection of family. It is functional and has respect for days gone by.
Thorborg Hendricks and Emily Powers would be proud.