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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

I Get Around

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Fine row of 19th century storefronts, Northern Liberties, Philadelphia

I’VE BEEN MOVING AROUND SO MUCH LATELY, my head is spinning. Hence the random assortment of images in this post.

A few days after moving into my new apartment in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, I took off for a week in Maui. I was back in New York all of two days before heading down to Philadelphia to meet a new tenant and a painter.

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Federal-era corner building in Northern Liberties, Philly, now a popular brewpub

Got to hang out in Brooklyn another couple of days…

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Flatbush Avenue’s own Flatiron building, near Bergen Street

where I did much of my Thanksgiving food shopping at Damascus Bakery on Atlantic Avenue it Brooklyn Heights. It has become a full-service Middle Eastern grocery in recent years. I went there primarily because Sahadi’s, the old standby, was mobbed, but I’ve since decided I much prefer the offerings (below) from Damascus anyway — all tops.

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Meanwhile, Sahadi’s opened a pop-up holiday gift store, below, on the same block, for those food gifts (pistachios, dried fruit, candies, sticky baklava…) everyone likes.

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Then I high-tailed it to Ancram, N.Y., in Columbia County, for a high-spirited Thanksgiving weekend with cousins.

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Impeccable three-story eyebrow colonial, Ancram

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Quintessential Hudson Valley dairy barn, late 18th c.

Hope you all spent a satisfying Thanksgiving with people you love.

Upstate Farmhouses, Acreage, 650K+

76959_12IF EVER THERE WAS A ‘BACK ROAD,’ it’s Starbarrack Road in Red Hook, N.Y., a little-traveled, winding two-laner with nothing on it but old houses and barns. In northern Dutchess County, heart of the Hudson Valley, Starbarrack Road is a hamlet unto itself; I’ve often driven it just for the pleasure of traveling back in time.

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Three old houses on Starbarrack Road have hit the market in recent weeks, including my favorite, #105, above and right. An 1820 Greek Revival on 4-3/4 acres, with Catskill views, a lovely pond, 3 fireplaces, wideboard floors, the “right” windows, and beamed ceilings on the lower floors, it’s been stylishly done up, and done up right (except for the vinyl siding, though some might argue that’s a good thing). Ask is 650K, which is rather a pretty penny for these parts, and taxes are high ($11,000/year). But it’s still wonderful. I would if I could. Go here for the listing and more pics.

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Then there’s #71, left, an 1850s Victorian farmhouse on 11 acres of former apple orchard. You got your wraparound porch, fireplace, yada yada, but the main attractions of this historic farm, “once owned by the Apple King of North America,” are several vintage outbuildings, including a stone summer kitchen/smoke house, and a couple of extraordinary barns, one English, one Dutch, both a faded aqua color. Because of those fabulous barns and the acreage, the ask is 895K, with taxes of $7,000 per year. Details and more pics are here.

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Registered Dutch barn, above; summer kitchen, below

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Finally, check out #30 Starbarrack, below, an 1890s Victorian on 10.7 acres with a serviceable 8-stall barn. Very attractive house, but nearer Rt. 9, not as secluded as the others — and within sight of several modern houses on bare plots. They’re asking 695K; taxes are $10,000. For the listing, click right here.

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Why the sudden exodus from Starbarrack Road, when it’s not even a good time to try and sell a big old house? Damned if I know, but it looks like a negotiating op there for those poised to take advantage.

Hope for the Dreaded Ranch

MANY OF THE HOUSES THAT SIT FORLORNLY ON THE MARKET for months around here are 1970s ranches. I generally look past them with a shudder. Sometimes, though, they’re well-located, and they’re usually priced at the bottom of the market (400s or thereabouts).

Now comes a feature on Rural Intelligence, the lifestyle blogazine of the Hudson Valley, that has me re-thinking my scorn for the ranch. There’s an interview with James Crisp, a Millbrook, N.Y.-based architect who is capable of taking dreary ranches from tacky to tasty. He’s the design force behind a new TV series called Blog Cabin, in which just such a Catskills house (see the “before,” top) is transformed over the course of a six-part series beginning tonight, Aug. 19, on the DIY network.

I have very little patience for the forced enthusiasm, frenetic pace, and overall dumbness of the home-improvement shows and probably won’t watch it. Nor am I totally sold on the “after” pic, above. But I am intrigued by the questions Rural Intelligence posed, and Crisp’s answers. Here’s an excerpt:

RI: How do you fix what’s fundamentally wrong with a house like this?

JC:  The problem with ranches is they tend to look like doublewides. We needed something to break up that long, low roofline. So we raised the roof of the center portion, which allowed us to gain some ceiling height in the living room. We then raised the ceiling up to the underside of the rafters. We changed the entrance, relocated the fireplace to an interior wall. Originally, it had been on an exterior wall, where it blocked the view.

RIHow might you might typically upgrade the interior of a house of this sort?

JC: With ranches, you tend to get an overabundance of sheetrock inside. What’s lacking is detail. So on another project unrelated to the show (“before,” above), we made some very simple changes that made a huge difference in the living room: we added some very simple paneling, an applied grid, to the fireplace wall, and put in some built-in shelving. But the biggest difference was even less expensive: we painted the wood ceiling white. We also upgraded the fire surround with slate and changed the lighting. And that’s it: we made no architectural changes at all, yet it looks completely different. (See the “after,” below.)

To read the entire interview, go here. And count on me posting more ranches for sale in future, if they’ve got location to recommend them and the price is right.

The Waiting Game

Backyard Community Garden, Red Hook

Soon: Backyard Community Garden, Red Hook, Brooklyn

SNOW IS STILL BLANKETING THE GROUND — another few inches yesterday — but it’s getting nearer the day we can start gardening in earnest. I intended to do a whole planning thing with graph paper and templates this winter, as I did two years ago in Nigel Rollings‘ garden-design class at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, but frankly, I can’t be bothered. I’ve got in my head what I want to do – must do – and when the time comes (next month, God willing) I’ll just get out there and do it.

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Soon: Sissinghurst, Kent, England

There are so many steps to accomplish before I can put new plants in. The soil must be improved, first of all – it’s just sandy dirt at the moment, with a layer of oak leaves – and that will involve much purchasing of compost and manure and back-straining labor  – and then I have to move about 300 square feet’s worth of old ferns and astilbes, along with daffodil bulbs I put in rather thoughtlessly last fall (after they bloom and fade, in early May probably) to make room for a new deck.

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Soon: Sissinghurst, Kent, England

Right now, I’m reading a lot. Garden books, naturally. I continue to mine the library and occasionally order something from half.com. My latest discovery is The Country Garden by Josephine Nuese, published in 1970. Sydney Eddison, another wonderful garden writer, put me on to her. Nuese wrote from Zone 5 in northwestern Connecticut, near where I used to garden, so the plants she speaks of all feel very familiar. Some of what she says is dated; painting tree wounds (cuts) after pruning is now discredited, for example.  What I wouldn’t have expected from either of these ladies is the conversational, chuckle-out-loud quality of their writing.

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Soon: GRDN, Brooklyn

Nuese’s book is divided into chapters by month. February is all about seed-starting, for which I have neither the room nor the patience — not this year, anyway. So I’ve moved onto March, with its long list of “Don’ts.” In March, Nuese writes, “After months of mostly sitting, punctuated by purposeless walks, you have the figure of a woodchuck and the mentality of a stuffed owl; you can’t wait to get out into the spring and employ your mind and muscles in some meaningful work.” See how she understands me? It’s as if she’s been reading my blog…

Don’t whip off winter protection (mulches, burlap) too early, she warns; don’t attempt to work wet earth that still has frost on it. Do rake the lawn of twigs and branches; prune shrubs and small trees of storm-damaged wood; spread wood ash to add alkalinity to soil, which most perennials enjoy.

Meanwhile, tantalizing catalogues and e-mails continue to arrive from nurseries and gardening websites, the best of all being Margaret Roach’s A Way to Garden. She’s got an ambitious calendar of events planned for 2010, some in conjunction with Loomis Creek Nursery, all making me wish I lived a little closer to the Hudson Valley.