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212 N 5th Street is a glorious structure built in 1887. The original owners of the home were wealthy mid-westerners with political aspirations. The foyer was grand. An expanse of nearly 400 square feet. 3 inch slats of walnut flooring beneath a crystal chandelier. A winding staircase, banister of walnut, perfect width for sliding, stair steps, perfect width for debuting.  During those glory years, 212 N. 5th stood tall- a gracious hostess of the prairie. A home  offering fine social gatherings to the educated and the privileged and faultless service by the full time staff, who shared the cottage at the rear of the city lot and the extra staff hired as needed through the University school year who live in the basement with the furnace they called the Octopus.  

In the 80’s, when the greenbacks were flowing like milk and honey, an investor (read molester) of real estate, purchased the property and reduced our gracious hostess of the prairie to Madam of the rental property investors.  

What once had been a grand place for celebrations, philosophical conversations, and sliding two by two down the banister was now 3 efficiency apartments on the main floor, another three on the second floor, and two in the basement with the Octopus, which was still operating. But the basement was leaking.  

In the 90’s, due to the unfortunate aspirations of my husband, we became the proud new owners of the (previously grand) Madam. I was appointed the property manager because I held the unfortunate designation of Realtor.  It only made sense.

On the morning of the first day of my responsibility to look after my husband’s future fortune, I made a trip to the property to meet the tenants and examine the condition of my husband’s golden goose myself.

And that was the day that it was my dubious pleasure to make the acquaintance of one Mr. Ralph Hill.


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