Italianate Investment in NoLibs 619K


I THINK WE’D CALL THIS PAIR OF TOWNHOUSES ITALIANATE, or maybe Second Empire, with their mansard roof and curving window lintels. Whichever, they’re 1850s through 1880s, so pay no attention to the listing, which says 1930.

The house for sale is half the pair in the picture, by the way — the left half, with the green door.

The location is prime Northern Liberties, Philadelphia, which is beyond hip these days, and very convenient.

Three or four years ago, I drove all the way down to Philly to look at something very similar one block over. By the time I got there, the house had been spoken for. I was heartsick for at least a day. It was priced around 400K, which says a lot about the direction in which things are moving in Philadelphia. Oddly, the city seems to have escaped the downturn in housing prices, probably because it also escaped the previous escalation in housing prices.

This house, 702 N. 5th Street, has been on the market less than a month. It has four rental units. There’s a garden behind and a deck on top.

Paul Sabia, the listing agent, says it’s in decent shape. Mechanicals have been updated within the last 10 years, though the apartments themselves have “older kitchens.” In his words, “You wouldn’t have to spend any money on it right away.” Each apartment is separately zoned for heating and has central air; tenants pay all utilities.

For more info (no more pictures, unfortunately), go here.

Who Knew? Deer Eat Acorns!

GREAT NEWS: deer eat acorns! It’s news to me, anyway, and it’s great because I have plenty.

It’s been raining acorns for two weeks now. They fall — a distance of perhaps 100 feet — from the towering white oaks that surround my house and hit the skylights with a noise that made me jump until I got used to it. Then they rolllllllllllll down the roof and drop on to the deck, where they bounce, bounce, bounce.

I don’t remember this at all from last year. It must have been a bad year for acorns. Surely I would remember… Each morning, the deck is covered with so many acorns, it’s like walking on ball bearings. They’ll need to be raked away from the paths at some point, and I was wondering what I would do with them all, when I stumbled on the Missouri Department of Conservation website and read that 54% of a white-tailed deer’s diet is acorns! Oh frabjous day!

I’m hoping, you see, that the deer will be so satiated from this bounty of acorns that they’ll leave my shrubs alone this winter. I just bought two “skip laurels” today (prunus laurocerasus ‘schipkaensis’ ), which the nursery man said the deer might sample but won’t devour. Since he was frank about that, and said he’d been in the business 25 years, and was nice, I also believed him when he said the tag that says they need full sun is wrong.

They just arrived on a truck from Oregon and are blooming, which they’re not supposed to do in September, sending up spikes of white flowers at the top. They’re evergreen, and they’re going in my front area as part of a screening hedge.

Meanwhile, the deer are feasting. I noticed one today with his face to the ground in an area of wood chips, where nothing grows, and wondered what he was finding there. Duh. They’ll be fat and contented this winter, and maybe leave my rhodies alone.

Saugerties Village Victorian 230K


A READER, MARSHA FULTON, WRITES: “I have a 1903 Victorian house for sale on Main Street in Saugerties, N.Y. I wonder if you would list this property on your blog? My husband’s job required us to move to Montana right at the worst time in real estate.”

Sure, Marsha. I love Saugerties, and the 3BR house, on a .11 acre [note the point] corner lot, looks draft_lens13572761module120843851photo_1285021545Dining_Room_2charming and in great shape. Saugerties, on the Catskills side of the Hudson River, is within a half hour’s drive of Rhinebeck, Hudson, Woodstock, and Kingston. Old-fashioned and relaxed, the town has funky antique stores and decent restaurants; I’ve enjoyed Miss Lucy’s Cafe and Cafe Tamayo.

Marsha and her husband used the house as a full-time residence for six years, renovating all the while. They stripped and stained the original staircase, fully remodeled 1-1/2 baths, and insulated and finished the attic. The kitchen got new appliances and other improvements, and they replaced the old oil furnace with a new, efficient gas furnace in 2006.

She also created a garden from scratch. “There wasn’t one plant of any kinddraft_lens13572761module120846531photo_1285019830HPIM1509 in the back yard when we bought the house,” she says (why is that so often the case?) Her brother-in-law, an artist and teacher from Manchester, England, visited one summer and hand-built a fence from a design the two of them created together.

I think Martha puts her finger on something important when she writes that the house “has such a warm feeling.” It served them especially well at the holidays, when extended family would visit, with plenty of room for all. “I would make a huge Thanksgiving meal and then we would walk around the corner to see the Christmas lights in Seamon Park. At night, I had everyone I loved safe and secure under one roof.”

There’s more information and pictures on this well-loved, well-priced home, plus lots of gushy copy and exclamation points, here.

The Last Time I Saw Brooklyn


….was on Sunday, when I began my search for a pied-a-terre (I think I’ve already found something, but it’s not a done deal so I’m not going to jinx it by blabbing). It had been many months since I really looked and walked around the old nabe, and in my whirlwind half-day visit, I found that much has changed. Some things for the better. Some for the worse.

As I strolled around Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, and Brooklyn Heights with my friend Nancy, I was reminded of how my daughter would return from summer camp and run around the house to make sure everything was as she remembered it and take note of anything new.

First, the bad news. On the corner of Smith and Pacific, there once was a funky restaurant that went through a rapid series of playful name and menu changes, including Trout Shack, Gravy, and many more. (Prior to all that, it was a produce market that sold gigantic, unfamiliar root vegetables.) Whatever the restaurant’s incarnation, there was always a lively bar and a cheering fireplace in winter. Now the original, diner-like structure has been torn down, and there’s an ugly brick shoebox on that corner, as if someone asked, What’s the cheapest thing we can possibly build here? It’s soon to become a chain store selling stationery, wrapping papers, and the like. Vital addition to the neighborhood NOT, especially since there’s at least one independently-owned such business nearby.


On the plus side, there’s the newly opened Pier 6 at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Finally, access to the waterfront, 20 years in the making. There are several acres of state-of-the-art playgrounds, above, billowing grasses, and happy children, where once all was bleak and industrial — a vast improvement over the days when you had to crawl through a hole in a chain-link fence if you wanted to get near the water. And Pier 1, near the Brooklyn Bridge, is now spectacular rolling lawn, though I didn’t make it that far on Sunday.


Instead, we walked along Columbia Place, which used to be isolated and deserted. Now — a direct result of the new park — there’s a cute cafe called Iris, above, packed with young people (to me, the whole world seems packed with young people these days).


I wanted to check out Willow Place and an extraordinary row of Greek Revival houses, above and top, joined by a colonnade of columns, unlike any in Brooklyn. The row had been dilapidated, but now all is uniformly spit and polish, with fresh paint on columns and porches, and gleaming front doors.


We stepped into a year-old shop called Holler & Squall on lower Atlantic, above, where taxidermied bulls’ heads, rusted metal objects, and trendily distressed wares of the early industrial age are artfully arrayed. It’s on the last block before the water, next to the famously old-school bar Montero’s, no doubt soon to be joined by other upscale shops as work on the park continues.

This part of Brooklyn thrived in the 19th century when there was a ferry landing at the foot of Atlantic Avenue, then sat moribund for decades, with many empty storefronts (blame it on Robert Moses, who cut off the waterfront in the 1950s with the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway). New signs of life are all to the good.

ISO Brooklyn Pied-a-Terre

EMBRACE CHANGE, DON’T BATTLE IT. A fortune cookie said it, so it must be good advice. I like that action verb “embrace.” Not “welcome” change, receptively — no, no, go out and give it a big hug. Reach for it, move toward it, make it happen. That’s what I read this morning, on a little slip of paper I stashed in my wallet long ago, and that’s what I’m doing. With some trepidation.

I’m starting my search for a pied-a-terre — a 1BR rental apartment — in Brooklyn. The Wikipedia definition pleases me: A pied-à-terre (French, “foot on the ground”) is a small living unit usually located in a large city some distance away from an individual’s primary residence. The term pied-à-terre implies usage as a temporary second residence, either for part of the year or part of the work week, by a person of some means.

It’s not that I don’t love living in the woods way the hell out on the tip of Long Island. I do. But I have unfinished business back in Brooklyn. A storage space full of furniture, art, photos, rugs, clothes, mirrors, books, collections. City-dwelling friends and relatives I haven’t been seeing enough of. And I want a base there, a place where I can meet up with my grown children when they visit, from which I can take plane trips without having to drive 3 hours to and from JFK. Friends’ spare rooms have been fine for the short-term, but the vagabonding thing gets old.


Brooklyn was my home town for over 30 years. True, I haven’t missed city life in the year-and-a-half I’ve been away. Haven’t yearned for it in the least. And yet, something compels me to take this step. See how it feels to go back and forth, “split my time,” have a country place and a city place. I need more on my plate. A new challenge, project, change of scenery.

My city stuff, above, presently in deep storage

I never intended to live here in Springs full-time. It happened by accident. It’s almost fall, and the Hamptons have never been so beautiful. Leaving, even for a day, seems crazy. I’ve never been skilled at anticipating how I’ll feel months or weeks hence (I’m not sure that’s something a person can really know, anyway.) I’m trying to project, with difficulty, how I’ll feel on a gray day in January, when it’s quiet here with a capital Q; I think I’ll be happy to have the Brooklyn alternative.

Prospect Heights is my neighborhood of choice. I’ve never lived within easy striking distance of the Brooklyn Museum, Prospect Park, and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and I’d like to.

My search begins tomorrow. I’ll let you know how it goes.