What Happens When Three Friends Buy Homes on the Same Street
I’ve never borrowed a cup of sugar from any of my neighbors, but we have shared a few other things: a compost pile, a pressure washer, pizza flour, babysitting duties, and more than one late night around a bottle of wine. Allow me to explain.
Specifically, I live upstairs in a house owned by my good friend Cresson Haugland. Two doors down live our buddies Casey and Rob Clayton and a few houses down from them live Jenilee and Steven Anthony.
We were all good friends long before we were neighbors—great friends in fact—the level of friendship where you take group vacations together and are in each other’s weddings.
I would love to delve into the chronology and specifics of our friendships, but suffice it to say that we’re all pals from way back—high school in Texas, college in Nashville, work in San Francisco, etc. So the fact that we are all practically next-door neighbors now makes for a pretty unique dynamic on our little street.
How Three Friends Ended up on the Same Street
Our situation makes for a unique dynamic in the context of modern life.
In a world where friendships seem to exist entirely on social media—especially as people change cities or settle into different relationships—the friend neighborhood we have created is our own little millennial, urban spin on the back-to-the-land movement of the 1970s.
We are on the ground together everyday in big and small ways. We cook and share meals, work on building and landscaping projects together, and we watch the kids on our street grow in real time, which in modern terms might as well be slow motion. This slowing down is a gift we don’t take for granted.
The phenomenon of three separate households comprised of old friends doesn’t materialize out of thin air. In our case, Jenilee Anthony is the primary connector. She is a Realtor for The Milam Group at Fridrich and Clark and has helped many of our friends navigate the sometimes rough and often intimidating waters of homebuying over the last few years.
When it came to Rob and Cresson purchasing their respective homes, Jenilee had an ear to the ground in terms of new listings on her street, and when houses appeared that met the pre-existing criteria, things just fell into place.
Each individual on our street had his or her own reasons for deciding to purchase a home in general and deciding to settle in Nashville in particular. Most of them had been renting in big cities like Los Angeles or San Francisco, and with the significant decrease in cost of living that comes with a move to Nashville, came the rationale to purchase a home there.
“One of the things that I missed so much when living in San Francisco was that the living space wasn’t conducive to having people over,” says Jenilee Anthony. In this sense, homeownership in Nashville brings with it the interior and exterior space that many transplants from more densely populated urban areas miss out on.
Why Being a Good Neighbor Matters
When asked about the benefits of having such good friends nearby, Jenilee says that there are two main perks.
“I think there is a relational aspect of being in each other's lives for small and big moments, and the close proximity gives you an easy availability,” she said. “The other thing is the resource base. The old saying about borrowing a cup of sugar from your neighbor is so true.”
I think there is a relational aspect of being in each other's lives for small and big moments, and the close proximity gives you an easy availability.
Indeed, it is true, as Jenilee reminded me in our conversation, that among the three households, there is one ladder, and everyone knows where to find it in her backyard. We all have keys to each other’s houses, and when someone is out of town and needs his or her mail picked up or dog walked, any one of us can pick up the slack.
In addition to the practical advantages of having trusted friends nearby, there is also the social benefit.
“I like the accessibility to be around people you love so quickly and spontaneously. It’s nice, and it’s communal,” says Steven Anthony. “It’s something I really enjoy—those quick moments.”
Why We Love Our Street
Luckily, our street abuts some of East Nashville’s best eateries and coffee shops to facilitate such gatherings. Often Sunday mornings will see a chance encounter at Slow Hand Coffee and Bakeshop, or a particularly brutal Monday will conclude with neighborhood happy hour at Pelican and Pig.
The whole situation is somewhere between a classic, completely normal neighborhood feel and an endless summer camp with an ever-expanding cast of characters.
“It feels like having family a few doors down,” says Cresson Haugland. “Almost all of us are Nashville transplants, so we don’t have family nearby, but our street provides that sense of community.”
When the hot water heater recently broke at my house, I ran down the street with a bar of soap and towel over my shoulder to shower at the Anthony’s house before heading off to a meeting.
A few months prior, when our street lost power, a small contingent of us congregated at the bar on the end of the block to wait out the storm until the lights came back on. It’s not uncommon to uncork a bottle of wine on a weekday and send an impromptu bat signal to everyone on the street for a last-minute hang.
Steven is well known for sending out smoke signals from his backyard pizza oven. Who wouldn’t want to answer that call?
In a culture where our attention is so divided by our phones and social media, it’s nice to walk down the street and see a familiar face, completely spontaneously, and share a kind interaction.
“Whether someone has made too much food and wants to share it, has that one ingredient you need to finish what you’re baking, had a long day at work and needs to commiserate, or just wants to go for a walk around the neighborhood,” says Haugland, “It’s these small moments, consistently, that have created the trust to know we’ll be there in the big moments of our lives as well.”
From my home office upstairs, I often see friends walking dogs, pushing strollers, or out for a run, and on more than one occasion I have opened the window and shouted salutations. It’s little stuff, but it adds up, and everyone contributes their unique thing.
Steven is beloved for his handcrafted Neapolitan pizza, Casey is famous for her Israeli cooking skills and the garden she and Rob have cultivated in their backyard. Jenilee is the resident “Bachelor” franchise expert, and Cresson always clinches the trivia night with her extensive knowledge of Harry Potter and other literary legends.
Some of us work from home or are stay-at-home parents. Some have straightforward 9-5 careers, and others have intense, yet surprisingly flexible schedules, but the important thing is that we all make time for this community. The unspoken reason this proximity seems to work is the individualized boundary of each person.
We don’t hang out every day, and with rigorous travel schedules someone is always out of town (in which case another friend dog-sits or picks up the mail), but we make space for common courtesy and the moments of connection that make life bright. Sometimes that’s as simple as a wave or a car honk. Other times, it’s an emergency wine night or childcare moment.
At the end of the day, this small, tight-knit community serves as a net for all of us, and it’s the collective reliability that makes it work.
“I feel like people used to know their neighbors, and that required getting out there to know the people on your street better—I feel like we kind of cheated the system,” Jenilee Anthony remarks jokingly. Indeed, it is a running joke every time a house comes up for sale on the street—who do we want to join the club?
“I’ve always really loved that way of life,” Anthony continues.
After all, when your best friends are your neighbors, what’s not to love?