East Hampton Farmhouse + Outbuildings 745K


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.




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Scouting Sag Harbor


One of many on Madison Street

LANDED A NEW ASSIGNMENT from Coastal Living magazine to write about Sag Harbor, mighty 19th century whaling port turned arty shopping village. To me, the town’s outstanding feature is its abundance of historic mid-19th century cottages, tiny capsules of charm and character. Don’t you just love them?


Could hardly be smaller – or cuter


I’ve shown this one before but that blue door bears repeating


Rather fancy, with that fabulous fanlight


Wellnest, a newish home furnishings/gift store/beauty spa, impeccably tasteful and frightfully expensive


Handcrafted skateboards in Wellnest


Signage at Ruby Beets, a longtime fixture for vintage and new home decor


Inside Ruby Beets


LT Burger on Main Street, new this year and instantly successful

Historic Rhinebeck under 400K

512113186(2)THE CHELSEA CLINTON WEDDING EFFECT on real estate prices in Rhinebeck, N.Y., if ever there was to be one, seems like a non-starter. As we head into the best time of year for house-hunting — the dead of winter, when only the most serious shoppers are on the case — the mid-Hudson Valley is still very good value, especially compared to eastern Long Island, where for $400,000 your choices are nil but for the dreaded ranch.
In the Rhinebeck area, venerable architecture is not too much to ask for 400K. Were I in the market for an upstate place at this moment — and gosh, maybe I should be — I’d look at these two, a rare brick Federal-style farmhouse for 379K, above, and an 1830s Carpenter Gothic, offered at 399K, right. The listing agent for both is Paul Hallenbeck.

Brick houses are fairly unusual in this part of New York State (most are frame). To find a stately 1849 farmhouse on River Road, very near the Hudson River and the Bard College campus, is a double-whammy (there are no ‘bad parts’ of River Road). The 1.1 acre lot is high and open; the house has 3BR, 2baths, and original details including woodwork, floors, doors, and built-ins, with updated mechanicals, baths, and windows (pics below). Period barn and wildflower meadow included.



Rhinebeck village has almost exclusively old houses, many with some pedigree. The 3BR, 2-1/2 bath on Montgomery Street (all pics below) is an 1830s Carpenter Gothic reminiscent of Washington Irving’s Sunnyside in Tarrytown. It’s on 1.4 acres, with mature trees and a fenced garden; the house has 9-foot ceilings and a large porch, and there’s a classic red barn. The taxes are high for the area at $8,306/year (twice that of the house above), which is a drag.


For more pics and info on both houses, go here.

Note: I am not a real estate broker, nor do I have any financial interest in the properties mentioned on this blog. I just like spreading the word about old houses on the market and what I feel are viable investment opportunities.

Heirloom Bulbs for Old Houses


THERE WERE GARDENERS here before us — way before us — and they cultivated a much wider assortment of plants than we can find today in most of our nurseries and garden catalogues. In 1886, the D.M.Ferry company offered 135 varieties of hyacinth. How many are there today in our common bulb catalogues? Just a few.


I’d never really given it much thought until I ran across the website of Old House Gardens, a small company that sells antique heirloom bulbs. It was founded by landscape historian Scott Hurst, who in 1983 bought a derelict Queen Anne house in Ann Arbor. Discovering forgotten peonies and tiger lilies in his backyard, he realized that many bulb varieties, growing in old gardens and graveyards across America, were in danger of becoming extinct.

‘Black Beauty’ lily, left


Unlike most of the bulbs we order from catalogues and plant at this time of year, 99% of which are from the Netherlands, many of the historic bulbs sold by Old House Gardens are native and regional, from small growers in 14 states and their own urban micro-farms in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Some date back hundreds of years, and there are many good reasons to grow them.


  • tough and vigorous — they’re survivors, after all
  • unusual, offering colors, forms, and special qualities unmatched by newer bulbs
  • bred for gardens, rather than in greenhouses for pot and cut-flower production like most modern bulbs 
  • graceful and wildflowery — many of them are once-wild plants (no longer wild-collected, of course) or just a generation removed
  • fragrant, adding another sensual dimension to your garden
  • regionally adapted, thriving in difficult climates where many modern bulbs fail
  • period appropriate to Colonial, Victorian, Arts and Crafts and other styles of old houses
  • rare, endangered, and in need of our help, since the only way to preserve these living artifacts and their genetic resources is to grow them

Beyond all that, they’re gorgeous. For lots more info, to order a print catalogue, or sign up for a free e-mail newsletter from Old House Gardens, go here.

‘Cloth of Gold’ crocus, above

Greening Up Old Houses (Without Ruining Them)

DO YOU KNOW the website Rural Intelligence? Even if you’re not in the Hudson Valley, a lot of its coverage is of interest to old-house lovers everywhere.

I subscribe to their weekly e-mail newsletter. This week, Rural Intelligence, which is spearheaded by two former New York Times editors, digs deep into questions that perplex old-house owners when it comes to greening up their historic structures without robbing them of all character.

Read on for more:

This Saturday, October 24, Herrington’s, the local hardware chain, is hosting Lean Toward Green, a showcase of environmentally responsible home building products and systems that promise to make our houses more energy efficient and comfortable.  There will be special seminars on window replacement and insulation, where the tax incentives for doing both will be explained.  There are the right things to do.  Absolutely.  In theory.

But in fact, those who own the antique houses that give our region so much of its special character face greater challenges when it comes to “going green.”  Everyone knows that modern windows are tighter, but those leaky old ones with their narrow mullions and ripple glass look so right. And yes, walls thickly padded with insulation obviously cut down on fuel waste.  But to get them that way may require the destruction of plaster interior walls that have held their own, and lent character to the building, for a couple of hundred years.

If it were just personal taste vs. energy efficiency, there would be no question of the right thing to do.  But these houses contribute mightily to the commonweal.  They are historic relics, symbols of all that is right with this region, and a big part of why the Hudson Valley and New England hold such a special place in the hearts of our countrymen nationwide. So this isn’t just about us.  And this isn’t just about now.  Once these houses have been “upgraded”—once their interiors and all moving parts have been sucked out and replaced with modern materials—the entire region is one step closer to being just another American suburb filled with fake “colonials.” No one wants that.  On the other hand, no one wants to live in a museum—unless, of course, it’s the Bryant Homestead, in Lenox, above, which would almost be worth freezing for.

Rural Intelligence Style

So, on the eve of their Lean Toward Green symposium this weekend and to get a taste of the kind of advice we are likely to get there, we threw a tough one at the wise men and women of Herrington’s: If we are weighing historic preservation against energy conservation, is there an acceptable choice?

As it happens there may well be.  In an e-mail response, Herrington’s recommended various ways of tightening an older house without ruining it. Replace old windows with new, insulated ones, using a company that can replicate historical details.  Add loose fill or batt insulation to attics without any disruption to the structure.  Insulate the basement, and use rigid insulation on the exterior.  This last, of course, would require the removal of exterior siding, something purists prefer to leave alone until it rots.  Herrington’s even sent a link to the Building Science website that has an excellent article from Fine Homebuilding magazine with three case studies of upgraded older homes, and a list of priorities—first of which is to get more modern mechanicals.  No sentimental value there.

Go here for a bit more.