A short story about Tenney Park and the Tenney-Lapham neighborhood, told by Gigi Holland.
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INTERVIEWER: This is Carol Griskavich at the Tenney Park Century Celebration on May 19, 2019. We are joined today by—
NARRATOR: Gigi Holland, H-O-L-L-A-N-D.
INTERVIEWER: Gigi, what is your connection to Tenney Park and the surrounding neighborhood?
NARRATOR: I moved into this neighborhood—I live on Sherman Avenue and I moved, I bought the house—in 1977. And moved in, in 1980. So I'm actually almost 40 years in the neighborhood. And for years I've gardened at public places in the neighborhood and so an area [here, at] Tenney Park, is one of the places I gardened.
INTERVIEWER: And how did you come to, to garden in public gardening spaces?
NARRATOR: Um, mainly, the situation where around two historic buildings, the landscaping wasn't being taken care of. It just seemed natural, as a person in the neighborhood, to get involved. And it's been very rewarding. I'd like to just briefly say something about my house, because I lived there for all these years, and I fixed it up. And it was a real fixer-upper. I just recently sold it. But I'm going to be able to live, at least for two years on the, on the first floor where I lived as part of the deal. And the new buyers are a wonderful young family and they will live on the second and third floor of my house. The house is a three flat. So, it's a very good arrangement and I'm very grateful.
But, I wanted to tell about those years so long ago when I bought the house. I didn't know a thing about real estate, and I was [a] newly single person; newly divorced. And my attorney said cheerfully, "Why don't you buy income property?". Well I didn't know a thing about income property and I lived on a farm down near New Glarus. I didn't even live in Madison although I was teaching school in Madison. Well, there weren't very many houses for sale, and they were really dismal. And this was the least dismal of all. And it was stucco, and no two sides of the house matched. They were different colors on all the sides, and the shutters were different colors, and the trim was different colors. And, so it was indeed a challenge. So, partly, I, I came by in the car with my twins who were 13 years old. And I paused in front of the house and I said, "I bought that house". And of course, they said to me, "Oh no! It looks like it's covered in cottage cheese." (laughs) So, the years—about the first thing I did was get rid of the white. And, it took about a year to at least turn the visuals around. And a little bit longer to deal with the inside. But it's been a good forty years.
INTERVIEWER: And so, did you learn a lot about—did you become your own contractor?
NARRATOR: Yes, yes, I had been involved with rehabbing the farmhouse where we lived and I loved old houses. But, I ended up going into property management and getting a brokers license. It's really kind of changed my life.
INTERVIEWER: That's fantastic. And so, do your children still live in the area? Or have your children bought income properties?
NARRATOR: No, no. One of my kids’, um, family, they own a cottage. And I think, um, owning, owning a house in Chicago and owning a cottage is all they can manage, yeah.
INTERVIEWER: And, so, having lived in this area for over four decades. What changes in the neighborhood or changes in the park have you seen? Or, do you feel like it's stayed the same?
NARRATOR: I think the park had a lot of trees and bushes and foliage that had grown up all around the lagoon. And four or five years ago, they really neatened it up to bring it back to what the plan was that O.C. Simonds visualized for the park. Uh, and that was wonderful. And people, initially, were worried that it would look too bare, but it didn't. Obviously after the flood of last fall, it did, it has looked bare. But it'll come back. Up and down the street I would say that the biggest change is children. It's wonderful. There's been a whole, whole influx of children. And, and more coming, yeah. More little ones. And that includes the big houses on the lake across the street from me. Younger families are springing to buy these bigger houses. So there's lots more dogs and lots more children.
INTERVIEWER: Haha, well is there anything else you'd like to add Gigi?
NARRATOR: No, I don't believe so, it's been a wonderful neighborhood. It's been absolutely perfect.
INTERVIEWER: That's wonderful, thank you very much.
NARRATOR: Thank you.
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