We had only been living back in Essex County for a short time in 1972, perhaps only a few weeks, when my husband heard about a circa 1750 house that could be bought for $8,000. It was a legal four family house that was tenanted by one family with children. It had been condemned twice in the past and condemnation was looming again.
|Old House circa 1940. This house has suffered. The picture says it all..|
The front door opened and the beauty of the hall and staircase made me weak in the knees. The staircase was Georgian and approached through a beautiful arch. Even the cold and the snow didn't diminish my enthusiasm for this house.
|Old house in 1972|
The new house was terrible. It did have a lovely Georgian hall and staircase and two fireplaces. The second chimney had been replaced by a single flue chimney for wood stoves. There was no central heat.
We first ripped out whatever there was for kitchens and bathrooms which wasn't much. The exterior was covered with asphalt siding; not asbestos, but asphalt such as you would put on a roof. The top of the house was maroon and the bottom was gray. Much of that was stripped off in short order. As I drove down the street approaching the house my young son remarked, "It looks like it burned down already." It did look that bad.
|Rear of overgrown house|
|The Work Begins|
|The work continues|
By this time I was a Realtor and one day a prospective buyer, president of a prestigious out of state college, called to ask if I knew or could find out anything about this old house or its history. I sure could talk about its past but had no idea what was going on. I almost hated to admit that I had owned it! The house was not for sale anyway so that conversation ended quickly.
In 1996 a Realtor called to tell me that she had just listed the house and saw my name on the deed as the previous owner. It was now twenty four years since we had sold the house. She asked what I knew about the history of the house. She also asked if I would like to see it. Yes! I would love to see it again even knowing it would be grim.
So I went for a look around. At the top of the stairs I noticed a very fancy deco bathroom done in black and white. Hardly what I would chosen for an ancient Georgian house. Totally out of place. But that was all. Nothing else had changed since I had last walked out the door. NOTHING! The parlor ceiling was just as I had left it. The scrapes on the woodwork where I looked for colors; still there. The paint my kids smeared in the cellar...all the same and untouched. The kitchen had a free standing stove and a makeshift sink propped up on 2 X 4s. Nothing else was in the kitchen since we had discarded what had previously been there.
For the moment, deja vous. I was a young mother again with kids playing in an empty house while I worked. In this house, time had stood still. In reality my kids were now in their thirties, married and with families of their own. It was very strange considering that the owner had lived here. The house had not been vacant that I know of.
|The ceiling I was scraping before the house was sold.|
Very recently I heard a surprising but happy footnote to this story. At the closing the seller handed the buyer an envelope. The buyer didn't open it until some time later. Inside was a large check with a note hoping it would help with the restoration of the house.
I guess it did help because the house is now restored and beautifully landscaped. I have not seen the interior or ever met the owner but I would like to.
|The same house as it looks today completely restored, the once shabby street now quaint|
And, by the way, the house we didn't buy was also restored and I have been inside since restoration but not recently. It is beautiful! The stair hall still makes me weak in the knees!
The one we bought is now assessed for $420,000 and the one we didn't buy sold seven years ago for $564,000!
|$12,000 in 1972 (actually it sold years later for more)|
And that is the rest of the story.
PS Several bloggers have had their posts attacked by a troubled reader (see below) who has nothing good to say to anyone. Her negative responses are completely unwarrented. Please overlook her poisoned pen and disregard.