Friday, March 22, 2019

Story of a 1930s Woman and Her French Normandy-style Home

Today is our tenth wedding anniversary. You may think it odd that I've chosen to celebrate this milestone at home. I turned down John's offer to take me out for dinner and dancing in the city, and my best friend's insistence on a party in our honor at her house.

Tonight I want only to be with the three most important people in my life, John and our two children. At nine years old, Johnny is growing up so quickly and little Joyce won't be a baby much longer either. The years ahead will pass all too quickly.

As I set the table for dinner I can't help thinking about the years when the children were so young and John was always home from work to see them before they went to bed.

Now he works such long hours to see his company through a tough year.

Maybe we shouldn't have built the big house last year, but we both fell in love with the houses of Normandy when we honeymooned there, staying with a friend John met during the War. John says that when this Depression ends, the house will only rise in value.

But will it be too large for us once the children are grown and gone from home? We've not been able to have a third child yet. I've always wanted a house full of children and even grandchildren someday.

And John by my side, us growing old together.

I think back to our first anniversary when John and I celebrated at our favorite Italian restaurant.

We were so much in love and so happy talking about what we would do the next day. Our Sundays alone together were so important to us because we worked in the city six days a week.

As we ate our dinner, John told me his plan for our returning to France in five years. We were like children let out for recess in our happiness, discussing all that we would do and the places we would visit. 

Our plans changed once the children came along, only postponed, John insisted. 

I hear Joyce coming down the stairs and turn to see her pulling her dolly behind her and rubbing her eyes sleepily from her nap. I put the last plate down and hurry to her, forgetting about Paris.

Paris could wait. It always has.


You all know my love of the 1940s and 1950s. I have an armoire full of women's magazines from the late 1800s through the 1960s but have tended to ignore the many 1930s magazines produced during the Depression years.

But recently I began wondering about the homes and families of that time period because our house was built in 1935. I've been spending hours immersed in those 1930s magazines and have become fascinated by the women of those years. 

I kept coming back to one woman in an ad for laundry soap, wondering why it drew my eye.

 I love her green dress, her hairstyle, her pearls and her poise. And then I found the perfect home for her, in the same magazine, a French Normandy house. 

Aren't the clustered chimneys fabulous? And the slate roof and the green shutters? Look at the casement windows. I've always loved casement windows but can you see that the little awning window over the casement is open on the second story? I wonder if all of them open? Darling!

And the porch is quaint, don't you think? Hopefully, it will never be ripped off by an HGTV host, being that it is in a historical district.

This house is from a real neighborhood, the very desirable Forest Hill in Cleveland, Ohio. The entire neighborhood was planned to include only house designs of European Provincial architecture. 

It is on land from the John D. Rockefeller Estates. Four hundred French Normandy-style houses were planned but only 81 built. These houses still stand as they were built of masonry walls, concrete slabs and steel joists.

Here is a link to the historical society there.

The pictures of the Normandy-style houses are gorgeous! You are in for a treat if you watch the slide show of the houses. I even spotted the exact windows I talked about on many of the houses.

Have any of you ever heard of this neighborhood? 

One of my favorite books of old is Came A Cavalier by Frances Parkinson Keyes, set in Normandy. Have any of you who have had the good fortune to visit France ever been to the Normandy region?

Thank you for reading my story and for indulging my new passion for the 1930s!

[All of the above pictures were from the March 1932 issue of Ladies' Home Journal.]



  1. Dear Dewana, what a treat this was to read this morning. I so love old homes and our dear home was built in 1939. To us, it is a treasure. French style home, built during this time are to me so beautiful. Our little town is full of old beauties and unfortunately, many are not cared for or have had "remuddles."
    How I would love to be a little elf in your home and enjoy your old magazines. I know they are wonderful.

    Thank you for a lovely, lovely post and a beautiful story.

  2. Dewena, your story is delightful. I'm wondering what happens to the little family? I hope you tell us if you find out!

  3. This is one of my favorite eras. Our neighborhood was build in the late 20's early 30's. Plus, my mom and dad were born and growing up during this time. Their houses were decorated in period style and my grandmothers were actually in the 30's in the 1930's so it resonates with me. Thank you for the history and your story. More, more!!

  4. I love your passion. It seems you are in the wrong era. You would have been perfectly happy several decades ago. Loved the little story. Do you think they ever got to Paris? I think someday you should have a photo shoot wearing the clothes of the past. Wouldn't that be fun!

  5. Such a cute story, Dewena, and that house!! Isn't it funny how photos in ads resonate with us? I remember being a child reading a magazine in my bed and seeing a photo ad for an electric blanket....the woman was cozy under the blanket, and the window in her room had a pretty curtain and the snow was falling outside and piling up at the corners of the window panes. When I am having trouble sleeping I always try to conjure up that image in my mind.....her sleeping so cozy and warm while the snow fell softly outside. That's my happy place!

  6. Love the story Dewena. This was a great read. I love the older homes too and ours was built in 1940 and I love the character and history of this home. My neighborhood is all homes from the late 30's to early 40's. Not one is the same as the other. No cookie cutter homes here. They are true American style homes. When I go for a walk I love to look at the homes and think about all the families raised in each house. Love an older home over newer. The character and stories the houses could tell. Happy Friday and have a wonderful weekend.

  7. I clicked over and saw the slideshow and you know what each and every one of those houses had in common (besides interesting rooflines)? NO VISIBLE GARAGES! I don’t know who came up with the hideous idea of putting a garage front and center, but I’m sure it was a man lol. I don’t mean to insult anyone who has that because you and I both know I have it too, but boy, I wish I didn’t.

    Those houses were built when craftsmanship mattered and tradesman took pride in their work. They’re solid as they come and I dare say will be around longer than anyone we know.

    I enjoyed your post this evening my friend :).


  8. Notice the little windows beside the entrance doors. I wonder if they were in cloakrooms? Or at the bottom of stairs...what a fabulous tour! Thank you for something I'd never have seen otherwise. I love your story. When I think of the 30's it's to remember the stories of my parents' lives of deprivation.

  9. Your magazines are such good "material" for your imagination and your writing. And just plain happy-making. :-)

  10. My grandpa built a house for my grandma in 1930 when they got married. It's still standing and once my mother asked the present owners if she could visit. The life in the 1930's must have been so different. My grandpa stayed home to look after Mum because no one needed a carpenter and my grandma got a job with the telephone company. They never went to Europe or anywhere else in those days. The magazines provide lots of room for imagination. I've been to Bayeux in Normandy (beautiful) and to Juno Beach where the Canadians landed on D-Day.
    Canada has a link with Normandy in that many of our early settlers came from Normandy or Brittany. I'd love one of those houses.

  11. What a delightful read! I am not familiar with this neighborhood of Cleveland - I hadn't even heard of it! The houses are gorgeous. I have a good friend that's lived in Ohio for many years; I will have to ask her if she's familiar with this neighborhood.

    I have a feeling your house is an absolute delight, Dewena. An armoire full of old magazines? Wow! I would love to visit your home and have a showing me all your treasures and things that truly bring you joy.

  12. I would LOVE a 1930s Normandy-style house. Such character, and quaint touches. Your story perfectly fits the house and I think that young family is very happy there. Thanks for bringing a smile to my Saturday evening.

  13. Those were the days! A more sophisticated time, a more homey time.
    Thanks for helping me dream a bit!

  14. I love this time period also! My home in Alabama was a 1940 Tudor...I loved that house with the plaster walls, tiny bathrooms and hardwood floors. The porches were arched to match the steps...just so much character in the older homes. While they try to replicate it today, they just can't. I love the French Normandy style also..they look so happy and well-maintained...just like the people I envision living inside! Love and hugs!

  15. Hello,
    Oh this was fun to read. I am lucky to live in an old home. We called it our "This Old House Project" it has been a lot of work. But it is full of charm. Wood-floors, solid oak trim, built in shelves and more. The one hard part.. not many electrical outlets. LOL

  16. Hi Dewena,
    I'm doing some blog reading today and stopped by to say hello! I loved reading this this morning! I have missed your writing!! I love the era too and the homes built back then are so beautiful and full of charm! I hope all is well!

  17. Oh I love this post!! So pretty, so have a gift for storytelling my friend. I hope you continue this story...I want to know what happens! I love the pretty picture of "green dress lady" too....she just looks so classy and elegant. But then again, I just think all ladies of those by-gone eras did. We are just missing the "classiness" these days, I think. It's alot more trashy, than classy, that is for sure. LOL I love her outfit too, and her setting the table, getting ready for a nice dinner. Ive never heard of the neighborhood you wrote about but it sure is pretty. I adore old homes and just dislike new ones. No offense to anyone who loves or has a sparkling, spanking new home--those are very nice too--just not my love. Hope you had a lovely weekend and oh my goodness you have a armoire of old magazines?/!!??-- when can i come visit? ha ha LOL. That would keep me happily busy and occupied for hours.....

  18. How wonderful to be taken back to 1930's with you! Only you could take us in such a unique and entertaining way. I just love that home with its pretty porch. I haven't heard of the neighborhood in Ohia, nor have I been to Normandy in France.But, oh, how I would love to! There's nothing better then curling up with a pile of magazines, is there?

  19. A client, their garden in one of my books, lives in a French style home. Built by returning soldier after WW1, he had been injured in France and a local family took him in. He built that house, the one he recovered in from memory. Just wow. Gracious living, yet not extravagant.

    And he put that home on a double lot, making sure to have a potager !!

    My clients raised 2 daughters there and plan to live there to the end. I would too.

    Yes, those magazine pics....take us places. Yes?

    Garden & Be Well, XO T
    I'm still, always, looking for garden chairs. Isn't the hunt fun!!

  20. I clicked on the that stunning Forest Hill neighbourhood and immediately spotted MY dream home, namely the one with the sky blue shutters and honey tinted casement windows, although I do love those decked in complementary hued cedar shingles - so dreamy!

    I think that whatever the decade, you, my dear Dewena, have the ability to make it the most attractive time in which to exist, especially living in homes as beautiful as the ones featured on that site.

    Having said that, I know that you are equally grateful an happy to be living your own dreamy existence at Home Hill.

    Happy Thursday!

  21. Thank you, dear Dewena, for your prayers for my son. I appreciate that very much. He is home now healing and doing better. I am blessed with blog friends like you who always seem to be there when I need them the most.

    love, ~Sheri

  22. This is a lovely post. I love the story and the pictures.
    That picture of the "green dress lady" too is wonderful - doesn't she look so elegant.

    Have a lovely weekend and enjoy these last few days of March.

    All the best Jan

  23. This is so clever, dear Dewana, to give this lovely woman a voice and in keeping with her time. I'm always fascinated about the way women lived, especially the domestic details of daily life. But it seems one thing hasn't changed - the wish to get ahead and the price that comes with it.

  24. My mother told me about the 30's in Kansas City, Kansas, about wearing cardboard in their shoes, and shoes that were so small that her toes became misshapen. Her father was a driver for a bread company, and she told me that "whatever food they lacked, they always had bread". When she went to work, sometimes slices of bread were all that she had to take. I loved this blogpost, but it was such a sad time for so many.

  25. I can tell u would be SUCH an interesting woman to have a cup of coffee with (or a beer, lol)... Love your imagination, your stories.


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