The Remains of My Neighbour’s House

My house. It’s L-shaped; of its six walls, only these two lack windows.

In January, a house near ours caught fire in the middle of the night and was pretty much burned out. A malfunctioning electrical blanket on a couch in the living room was the cause. Nobody got hurt. But it was scary, because Boat Hill is all kedjehus, “chain houses”, separate nearly identical brick buildings with narrow roofed spaces between them, forming contiguous blocks. The house that burned was in the block next to ours, a stone’s throw away.

An identical house seen from the same perspective.

This morning they started to tear the ruin down, using a back-hoe with a huge clawed pincer. A lot of the furnishings were still inside. No attempt was made to separate materials. Me & Jrette saw a blackened dressing gown still hanging on its hook on the bathroom’s remaining wall. We saw the claw grab two wardrobes and crunch them up like an empty milk carton. Char-edged pages from a spy novel were strewn across the street. And I felt a little queasy, because as I said, the houses here are identical. That ruin is what my own house would look like if it caught fire and had to be demolished.

Here’s what the site of the burned house looked like on 8 July after the demolition and clean-up was done.

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11 thoughts on “The Remains of My Neighbour’s House

  1. I agree to the medium nice feeling of seing this house demolished. From my kitchen window we had a clear view of the fire. It took about 10 min from a tiny fire in the absolute back of the living room to have engulfed all of the livingroom and kitchen. A scary sight to witness.

    Still, it will be nice to not have to smell burned out wood every day when I come home to my house (oposite of the demilished building in the picture). I am also looking forward to see what a brand new boat hights chain house will look like 🙂 Will they build it identical as the rest of the houses or will they improve some of the points that has been identified over the years as being medium good?



  2. You guys really had a nasty night there. I didn’t find out about the whole thing until next day’s afternoon!

    When my daughter and I visited the site this morning she said, “It smells just like in China”. Coal smoke…


  3. Out of idle curiosity, how often do you find evidence of housefires, demolition, and re-building in your archaeological digs? I was under the impression that building-destroying fires were not at all uncommon prior to the advent of electricity, and that the frequency is less now than in the past (though, obviously, still not zero).


  4. Evidence for houses or entire town neighbourhoods burning down is common. So common in some rural areas, in fact, that it has been suggested that there was a custom where a house would be torched when its owner died. Reconstruction is also common, but people rarely build exact replicas of the previous house. Architectural fashions change.


  5. I think I finally figured out why you call it Boat Hill. I’ll say that’s better than Boot Hill!
    There is a similar flatroofed “chain” settlement not far from where I am, dating to the early seventies, with the streets named after people who opposed Nazi rule during WWII.


  6. It’s BÃ¥thöjden in Swedish. You’ve got the date right: 1972.

    In East Berlin many streets are named for radical left activists who fought the Nazis in the streets during the 30s. I have a feeling that many of them were actually just red versions of Horst Wessel…


  7. Here in the West, these guys didn’t get many streets named after them for some reason. Of course, street fighting or even left-wing publishing was out of the question after ’33 anyway.


  8. That’s a thought – how do flat rooves go with snow loading? Evidently OK, but it doesn’t seem like an obvious way to design them.

    I knew something was bothering me about that photo, apart from the lack of windows on those two walls, which I presume is for privacy. It’s the flat roof. I realize Sweden is actually pretty dry, comparatively, and high latitude, so I guess you don’t have high rainfall intensities to design for.

    “It took about 10 min from a tiny fire in the absolute back of the living room to have engulfed all of the livingroom and kitchen.” This event is a cautionary tale against highly flammable furnishings.


  9. They’re not flat, just not very steep. It works well. But a neighbour just told me about one winter when a northerly blizzard blew fine snow into the attics of several houses here whose vents had lost their original mesh covers. When that snow melted, the 70s fire-hazardous plastic ceilings suddenly became pregnant with melt water…


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