Jen Gienapp: End Of An Era At 4901

Saturday, March 1, 2014 - by Jen Gienapp

Fourteen years ago, we bought this beloved house, which is over 100 years old, in St. Elmo when we had only three kids and a dog. In the last few days, we sold it, with mixed feelings. Owning a home 1,300 miles away gets tiresome, even though we had a bunch of guys who were great renters living there. After we moved, it was named Chateau Bro, aptly enough. But it’s time for a new and younger family to enjoy it.

Those 14 years at 4901 sure hold a lot of memories. 

In the early years, we renovated like nobody’s business. Every room’s walls were stripped of multiple layers of paneling, wallpaper and paint, down to the original plaster. We took out dropped ceilings to expose 11-foot ceilings. We filled several dumpsters with carpet, paneling, and junk left in the garage. All of the woodwork and floors were refinished or repainted. We added a bedroom and extra storage space downstairs, and built a staircase. That’s no small feat, when you have to figure out the measurements of treads and risers in a very short space. We took out five closets, added a couple more, renovated a bathroom, and moved another one, to enclose one of four (yes, four) porches. We opened up doorways, to make rooms more welcoming, and we closed off others for privacy. We updated plumbing and electric, and the kitchen got a makeover, although it's still a work in progress. We learned a lot about remodeling, and are about over it at this point in our lives.

We spent years, perched at the top of 10-foot ladders with a paint scraper, brush, hammer, screwdriver or pliers. We crawled on the basement dirt floors on our stomachs with only a flashlight to install electricity or plumbing. We operated sanders, heat guns, sawzalls, drills, and a jackhammer to get rid of needless sidewalks. My husband carted in hundreds of pounds of wet cement to a basement room to make a floor, which has the handprints and names of our five kiddos. But I now understand my aunt’s comment, when we were buying it, “Man, it has a lot of potential, but I’m glad it’s you, and not me.” We lived in a lot of drywall and coal dust and fumes, for sure. I like to credit that to my kids’ good immune systems. 

We survived two deployments at 4901. Within those walls, many tears were shed and fearful, sleepless nights and late-night video chats through them, but then so much excitement, joy and celebration was shared when they were over.

Our twins were babies in that house, and our big kids did a lot of growing up through those years. They had much-loved friends next door and across the street, and spent hundreds of hours outside in the yard, on the trampoline, in pools, and in each other’s homes. I wish I had a dime for every Popsicle or roasted marshmallow eaten in that back yard. 

We had holidays and birthday parties, sometimes by ourselves, and other times with big family gatherings. Whether it was pizza and coke, or Thanksgiving fare with wine, there were many good times.

We celebrated good grades, and helped with the bad ones. Many late nights were had, with teenagers staying up doing homework. 

We nursed a lot of sicknesses, injuries, and post-surgeries in those rooms. One of our sons even got stitches in his chin on a table, in the midst of a power outage with some of us shining flashlights.

We enjoyed the seasons at 4901. Whether it was piles of coats and boots in the winter inside our back door, or kids running around in bathing suits or shorts with no shirts in the sweltering summers, we loved them. Fall and spring brought amazing colors and new life to our back yard. 

We did so much gardening, yard up-keep, and planting. I hope the new owners will get as much joy out of my hydrangeas, crepe myrtle and irises that I did. Maybe they’ll pull the red bud out, because I planted it too close to the house. But those dogwoods and the walnut tree, damaged by the tornadoes, but still living in the back yard should provide joy for years, even with the dropped not-so-good walnuts, every other year.

We enjoyed late nights, on our back porch or in the back yard, around a fire pit with friends, laughing, commiserating about parenting, counseling each other during rough times or life changes, and intense political or theological discussions. 

Our wonderful dog Knox, who had welcomed all of our five babies as only a sweet mutt can, was put to sleep there. Our new puppies, Luther and Katie, started their lives at 4901. There are several hamsters, a lizard, a hermit crab, a fish, and Knox buried in the back yard.

Through those years there was cleaning, repairing, baking, playing, preparing for children’s performances, changing of diapers, singing, long phone calls on a land line, and dealing with finances and discipline. 

After we moved to Wyoming, our dining room at 4901 was turned into one of the first offices for Fancy Rhino. They’ve since moved out, to bigger and better offices, but I like to think (or pretend) their great success is partly because of where they started out.

If the 4901 walls could talk, they would tell of so much laughter, many tears, good conversations and debates, fights among siblings and even spouses, great love between everyone, raucous good times and many hard times. 

Yes, we will always have such fond memories of our 4901. But it’s time to end that era, and let someone else start a new one. Maybe they’ll find the time capsule we put inside the tile shelf of one of the bathrooms, years ago.


Cleveland Recycle Run To Be Held May 27

The City of Cleveland will be hosting its third annual Cleveland Recycles 5K Run and 1 Mile Walk on Saturday, May 27. "The goal of this event is to educate about the benefits of recycling and reducing litter in our community. This year, the selected course takes you downtown and offers a scenic route through the heart of our city," officials said. There is no cost to participate ... (click for more)

Drink And Discover At The Children's Museum Is April 20

Creative Discovery Museum invites adults to its first Drink & Discover: The World of CDM where being over 21 has never been so much fun.  The Museum will be closed to kids and adults 21 and up will be able to discover The World of CDM alongside friends with a drink in their hand on Thursday, April 20, from 7-10 p.m. Guests will experience hands-on science demonstrations ... (click for more)

Storm Costs EPB $2.5 Million; Smart Grid Helped Ease The Pain

Tuesday night's fierce storm cost EPB an estimated $2.5 million, President David Wade said Friday. He said the city utility will have to bear all the cost - unlike when it got federal aid after spending $18 million following tornadoes that raked the Chattanooga area in 2012. Mr. Wade said EPB's Smart Grid helped ease the pain, bringing back online about 27,000 affected customers ... (click for more)

1 Killed, 1 Injured In Brainerd Shooting

One person was killed and a second person injured in a shooting in Brainerd on Thursday night. The call was to 3301 Pinewood Ave. at 7:05 p.m. It was reported that a silver vehicle was seen leaving the scene. One of the persons shot, 23-year-old Antonio Baldwin, died during surgery. The injury to William Daniel, 21, is not life-threatening. Police said both of the ... (click for more)

Slaxxon Regret

Back in the seventies my three oldest brothers had a buddy named Steve Slack. “Slack” was a star soccer player at Baylor and he grew up on Lookout Mountain, which is where I grew up. He and Jimmy, Henry and Bill went to the University of Virginia where they were roommates in an old, beat up house that was painted pink. Naturally, the place became known as the “Pink Palace” but lest ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Scottsboro Boys

There is a good-sized train tunnel that runs under the northern tip of Lookout Mountain, right next to Cummings Highway. It was inside that tunnel on this very weekend 86 years ago, that the worst tragedy in the fabled history of the South was born. This was during the tight grip of the Depression and about two dozen hobos had jumped the train from the time it left Southern Railway's ... (click for more)