The Big Brown House

The Big Brown House
The Big Brown House

In the  Avenues, my favorite neighborhood in SLC, exists a house a house so loved by its family that it almost glows. It is filled with crafts, chickens, cats, children, music and delicious home-cooked food. The kitchen is original and perfect.  I love to visit it so much that we thought we’d take you there for this month’s architectural feature. The home belongs to our friends Carrie and Bruce, their kids Christian, Bea and Clara, their cat, Clementine and too many chickens to list by name. It is also the inspiration behind Carrie’s craft label, which you can enjoy by visiting www.etsy.com/shop/bigbrownhouse. Here’s my interview with Carrie about this awesome house.

What year was the Big Brown House built? 
1911. It’s one hundred years old and yes, there will be a party!

How long have you lived there?
Since 2002. Right after the Olympics.

Sewing Machine

Sewing Machine

What can you tell us about the history of the house?
The house was built as an up and down duplex – two almost identical single family houses stacked on top of each other. I affectionately refer to its exterior style as Lowbrow Neoclassical. I love how it captures the archetypal “house” shape – something a child would draw – a triangle on top of a square. It stands out in this neighborhood of Victorian homes and bungalows.

Between 1911 and 1938 it changed hands 3 or 4 times, and in 1938 it was purchased by the Creer Family. Leland Creer was a professor of history and political science at the University of Utah, and Verona Creer had been a milliner for many years (she moved in at age 36 with three children. So did I. That little bit of information makes me smile). The family moved into the main floor with their three children and rented out the upstairs apartment. Dr. Creer died in the late 60s, and Mrs. Creer lived here until her death at age 99 in January, 2002. At that time, I was living in an apartment building around the corner and although I never met Mrs. Creer, I always knew this was “Verona’s house.”  We bought the house from her children, and were able to talk to them about growing up in this neighborhood during the 1940s.

Is it haunted?
Soon after we purchased the house, but before we moved in, a worker claimed that he turned around in the empty room he was painting (Mr. and Mrs. Creer’s bedroom) and saw an elderly man wearing a suit standing in the doorway. I like to think Mr. Creer was just checking in. But it’s also possible there were drugs involved.

I don’t have strong feelings about whether or not houses can be haunted by individuals, but I feel like there’s very much a connection, a mutually beneficial relationship, between us and the house. I felt at home from the very first visit. The space seemed both comforting and challenging. In a good way. Like a friend.

Insulating Tribune

Insulating Tribune

Did you ever find any interesting things in the attic or closets when you moved in? (editor’s note, I found photography equipment and a pair of black and white polka dotted size five women’s shoes in my attic when I bought my house, so I always ask this.)
Yes! The house was full of things. After Mrs. Creer died, the family removed out what they wanted, and we all agreed that they could leave everything else. We’d keep some things and sell the rest.  I have a 1940s globe, a Singer sewing machine from the 1930s, several hats, linen handkerchiefs, and a small oil painting. We also have a photo of Mrs. Creer that we keep on the refrigerator. She’s dressed in a Scottish tartan outfit. I smile every time I see it.

Orignal Wallpaper

Orignal Wallpaper

Beyond that…let’s see…I found a 1901 penny stuck under a baseboard.  We remodeled one of the bathrooms and found 1935 newspapers stuffed in the walls for insulation. Some of my favorite “finds” though, are glimpses of original wallpaper, or someone’s handwriting on the back of a piece of moulding that hasn’t seen the light since 1911.

How did it get its name (ha, kidding)
You’re funny Anna! There’s really no better way to describe it. Which house? That big brown house.

5 Comments

  1. Love this house…although I don’t know a whole lot about it I love that it has a story…and is whole-heartedly loved by it’s owners 🙂 There are NOT enough of these homes today. Great interview 🙂

    Reply

  2. Wonderful to see and read about the house I grew up in. Next time I am in SLC would you mind if I came calling to meet the loving caretakers of this old house?

    Leland Creer, Naples Florida.

    Reply

  3. Amanda Creer Peterson. I grew up in this house and found it and the neighborhood fun, stimulating and absolutely close to everything. Being a professor’s daughter, I felt the University of Utah was my playground. I went to Stewart School on campus. The most fun of all was the giant cherry tree in the back yard. I climbed to the top and ate warm cherries from the tree almost daily during season. I hope someone has done something with the basement. It scared me to death- probably because my brother took delight in telling me scary stories about what might me down there. The musty smell, the spider webs and the light switch that shocked you if you didn’t switch it just right, are still fresh in my mind. My mother bottled fruit and put them in the cupboards at the bottom of the stairs. The trick was to decide if the basement ghost was worth a bottle of cherries that needed to be retrieved from that musty cool cupboard. The cherries always won.

    Reply

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