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THE ROLLER COASTER RIDE IS OVER. I’m officially in contract to sell my East Hampton, N.Y. cottage, after a long winter of offers, negotiations, anticipation and disappointments. Closing will be on or before May 15 — five years to the day since I bought the house in 2009. My real estate agent and my neighbors think I’m crazy, but I’m still gardening just as I would if I were staying — raking leaves off the perennial beds, top dressing with compost and mulch, pruning winter storm and deer damage.
Sign on David’s Lane, East Hampton
I want to leave the garden in tip-top shape (with no expectations that the new owner will be as OCD as I am). The house and garden have always been primarily a labor of love for me, though I admit to hoping I might be compensated for those labors in dollars someday. That’s not to be the case (no, I didn’t get my twice-reduced asking price), but I’m not changing the sub-title of this blog. I still believe in old-house real estate as an investment. But sellers have to be prepared to wait for the market to cycle round to a favorable position, and I wasn’t able to wait any longer, with House #2, a 1940s modernist ranch in the same community, bought last year, awaiting further renovation.
I’m no longer in need of furnishings for two summer rentals (in fact, I now have four sofas), but I’m still attending yard sales on Fridays and Saturdays just for the fun of it. See below for a photo of my latest acquisition, a set of six vintage wrought iron and wood chairs that are surprisingly comfortable. Do I need them? No, not at all. Do they work with the style of my new/old house? No, they don’t. Was I going to pass them up at $40 for the whole set? Of course not.
I’m also busy sketching ideas for a new deck and new configuration of rooms at House #2. Its renovation will be incremental and low-budget, once again, and will provide abundant blog fodder in months to come. In late winter, I took a five-session “Design Your Own Garden” class at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, taught by Jim Russell, who was terrific — he had us all thinking about our gardens in new ways. The T-squares and HB pencils brought me back to my year at architecture school, and I was very happy drawing and erasing away, though I never got as far as spec-ing actual plants, like some of my classmates. I spent almost the entire course on a general landscape concept: organization around three courtyards; as well as possible designs for a new deck and a system of paths.
Though I’ll be there another few weeks, things have now taken on a wistful “last time” feeling over at House #1. Easter Sunday, a friend came for a late lunch on the back deck. We opened a bottle of Prosecco, as we have done many times before, and lay on the chaise longues looking into the woods, talking and laughing, as we have done many times before. Though I’ve been known to profess non-attachment to any house or apartment (having moved four times in the past eight years), this one is hitting me hard. At least it’s well-documented.
NEW YEARS BARGAINS ABOUND on the East End of Long Island, though how much of a bargain this 1/4-acre property in Springs (East Hampton, N.Y.) really is remains to be seen. The house may well be a teardown; the “barn-like accessory structure” looks sound, though, and no smaller than the house itself.
The main selling point here is waterfront proximity (though not water view) — it’s just a couple hundred yards to an unspoiled channel off Three Mile Harbor, top, and there’s a small beach at the foot of Folkstone Drive.
The house is on a gravel road, pitted and puddled after recent rains, but you can’t complain about traffic.
Above, the c. 1945 house at right and the newer garage/barn at left.
The door to the house was open, and I walked in. Definite smell of damp. There’s almost certainly been water damage.
It’s a project for the right person/people. I like the idea that you could live in the (unheated) barn while fixing up the house or building a new one. (The barn was locked, so i didn’t see inside, but there are photos of its interior in the linked-to Halstead listing below.) I also like that it’s cheap — down to 300K, and will probably end up selling for even less.
For photos of the house in summer and more shots of the barn (and a startling demonstration of what a sunny day and a wide-angle lens will do for a place), go here for the official listing.
FROM TIME TO TIME, people ask me where to invest in Philadelphia real estate. (Sometimes they ask me where to invest in Brooklyn, and I say: “Philadelphia!”)
But within Philly, I say Kensington, particularly the southern section sometimes known as South Kensington, Old Kensington, or even Olde Kensington, a neighborhood just above played-out Northern Liberties (that was the place to invest 10 years ago) and west of hipper-than-ever Fishtown, recent darling of New York Times reporters. I own a two-unit building in South Kensington — two back-to-back trinity houses, left, built in the 1840s as housing for workers in the area’s massive carpet and textile mills. (My house is the one on the right in the photo, with the peeling cornice; there’s a three-story unit in front and another in the rear, reachable via the alley between my building and the one next door.)
Many of the weavers and textile workers immigrated from England in the mid-19th century, when the area was known as “Little England.” When I bought the house in 2007 for $137,000, the surrounding blocks were really dilapidated — some of the houses, like the ones in the group below, were literally sagging. They’ve since been renovated, and their rooflines are more or less parallel to the horizon.
There were — and still are — vacant lots and hulking mill buildings all over the nabe, like the two below, both within a block of my building. It all looked ripe for adaptive reuse, especially large-scale residential conversion, but not much was happening.
The building above, on 2nd Street and Cecil B. Moore, still looks undeveloped.
At Palethorp and Cecil B. Moore, above, this old industrial building appears inhabited.
That was only six years ago, and now it’s happening in a big, big way. Around the corner from my building, Oxford Mills, below, is well on its way to becoming 141 rental lofts, with an innovative program of reduced rents for public-school teachers, and amenities such as gym, lounge, etc.; and a mixed-use mega-development called Soko Lofts is on its way. There are many other projects of the same ilk: you can find posts about some of the activity here on Curbed Philly.
Across the street from my little building, where once was a vacant lot, a new residential building, below, is going up. It’s of a type often seen in Philadelphia but never in New York. It’s too low-density, I suppose — only four stories high, with box windows and terraces and modernistic use of color. I don’t love the look — these buildings seem insubstantial to me, used to brick and brownstone as I am — but I do find it exciting that the neighborhood is roaring with development.
That’s the 1840s St. Michael’s church in the background, above, the view of which, along with some sunlight, we are sadly about to lose.
The building above, on Second Street, is typical of new Philly architectural design.
South Kensington’s main artery is Frankford Avenue, shared with Fishtown and quickly becoming lined with bars and restaurants, including a couple of high-profile ones owned by celebrity restauranteur Steve Starr (Fette Sau, an upscale BBQ place, and Frankford Hall, a beer garden) and the new Philadelphia-based La Colombe coffee roasting complex, distillery and cafe. Each time I visit, there’s more.
It’s spreading, it’s growing, it’s crazy affordable compared to New York City. And it’s a short bike ride to Center City, whose skyline is visible from most parts of the neighborhood.
Priced out of Bushwick, Brooklynites? Think Kensington.
THE AD IN THE EAST HAMPTON STAR says “capacity for 7,500 sq. ft. house, tennis, horses.” Phooey on that. I see a good old-fashioned Long Island truck farm on the cleared, sunny acre+ behind this 1880s farmhouse. Organic, of course. Or maybe a field of flowers.
There’s good news and bad news. The farmhouse is close to Springs Fireplace Road, where traffic is incessant. That’s true of historic houses in general. In the old days, when only horse carts passed by on unpaved roads, traffic noise wasn’t a problem. Anyway, that’s reflected in the reasonable price. Also, it’s conceivable that the house could be moved back on the lot, away from the road. And it’s not bad news if you want to have a farmstand to sell your produce and flowers!
The good news is behind the house: the huge, open property, surrounded by trees and very private, with a rural feeling that’s hard to come by these days. There’s a 1,200 square foot barn plus a 400 square foot workshop, all of which offer rental possibilities.
The house itself, with 4 bedrooms, 2-1/2 baths is presently rented out. I didn’t see the inside, but it’s said (by a friend who knows the place) to be attractive and in good condition.
It’s for sale by owner. For more info: 631-987-8366.
NOTE: This house is also available for rent through Labor Day 2014. Contact email@example.com for info.
A PERSON CAN ONLY LIVE in so many houses, and I find myself with one house too many.
My Springs (East Hampton, N.Y.) cottage, above and below, will be familiar to followers of this blog. I’ve owned it for four-plus years and have put an enormous amount of work, time, love, and money into both the house and the 4/10-acre property surrounding it. I’ve moved on to another project nearby, and need to cash in my chips on this one.
Here are the details, and if you can think of better adjectives than charming, sweet or adorable, please let me know.
BRIGHT AND BEACHY 2BR VINTAGE COTTAGE IN MOVE-IN CONDITION ON LANDSCAPED .41 ACRE.
SECLUDED BACKYARD BORDERED BY WOODS.
NEW PARKING COURT WITH JAPANESE-STYLE WOODEN GATE.
LIVING ROOM WITH VAULTED CEILING, SKYLIGHTS; OPEN KITCHEN/DINING WITH NEW APPLIANCES.
FRENCH DOORS LEAD TO SCREENED PORCH, HUGE DECK.
NEW COTTAGE-STYLE BATH OPENS TO SECOND DECK WITH ENORMOUS OUTDOOR SHOWER.
FULL BASEMENT WITH WASHER/DRYER.
NEW ROOF, EFFICIENT OIL FURNACE, NEW HOT WATER HEATER.
WALK, BIKE TO MAIDSTONE BEACH.
Please forward to anyone you think may be interested. For more photos and info, email caramia447[at]gmail[dot]com
Come be my neighbor!