1720s Connecticut Colonial 160K


THIS IS THE GENUINE ARTICLE for old-house fanatics — a true Colonial from the 1720s, when Connecticut was an actual colony. It looks to my eye like Dutch-style architecture, with that gambrel roof shape.

4129862_44129862_6It’s on six-tenths of an acre in a National Register Historic District, in Rocky Hill, central Connecticut, with a bit of a river view. At 1,600 square feet plus basement and porch, with three bedrooms and two baths, it’s neither tiny nor overscaled. Just right.

I was alerted to the listing by an email from the National Trust for Historic Preservation site. Their listing says — and to judge by the photos, there’s no reason to doubt it — that the house has original flooring, paneling, plaster, doors, and fireplaces. It all looks startlingly original, like a historic house museum. It also looks like someone took renovations to a certain point, then gave up.


An exterior paint job (love the green) is evidently part of the completed work, along with other major items, including upgraded electrical, structural fixes, new heat, plumbing, an upstairs bathroom, and attic insulation. The work left to do perhaps explains what seems like an awfully low asking price.


The Coldwell Banker listing has 35 photos online.

Anyone besides me think this looks like a great project (for someone else)?

Spare Us the ‘Fancy Houses’

DSC_0002PROSPECT HEIGHTS in Brooklyn was designated a New York City Historic District  in 2009. Now any external changes to a house’s appearance are subject to the guidelines and regulations of the city’s  Landmarks Preservation Commission. No longer will it be possible for something like the crazy-quilt travesty, left, to occur.

This, er, unique facade is on St. Marks Avenue near Carlton. I pass it frequently and it never fails to shock me. It’s beyond “remuddling,” a  term coined by Clem Labine, the original publisher of Old House Journal. More like “radical bastardization.” Why oh why would anyone do such a thing to a 19th century brownstone? Seems impossible that someone could fail to appreciate the charms of, if not the individual house, at least the uniform row.

A little light was shed on the “How could they?” question by a friend in Cobble Hill many years ago. There was a house on Amity Street with a similar ‘permastone’ treatment — I believe that’s what it’s called. The house belonged to the mother-in-law of this friend, whose husband was of Middle Eastern origin. She told me that her mother-in-law had created this monstrosity in the 1950s, saying she wanted her house to look like one of the “fancy houses in Damascus.” So that explains something. I haven’t been to Damascus; perhaps the house wouldn’t look as out of context there.

Today, I drove down Amity to see whether that facade is still there. It isn’t. Then I drove down Pacific, to delgadobefore-300make sure I hadn’t mis-remembered the street. It wasn’t there either (does anyone else recall that house, or did I dream the whole thing?) Anyway, I surmise the building was restored when I wasn’t paying attention, and now blends perfectly with its Victorian neighbors.

Yes, the good news is that such a building is salvageable. At great cost, of course. A year-old post on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s blog tells the story of Joe Delgado, a Wall Street trader turned licensed contractor who bought the four-story building, right, in Clinton Hill in 2007.


The building was “a disaster,” the article reads. “A previous owner had covered the building’s facade with white Permastone, added pink awnings, installed an after-hours club and two bars in the basement, and rented the top floor to drug addicts.”

Hard as it may be to believe, the Landmarks Commission told Delgado the building had once been a carriage house.

waverly-front-300<— AFTER

Delgado located a photograph that showed “a little girl on the steps of a brick double townhouse built in the 1870s. Prompted by the photograph, Delgado removed a massive addition from the back (complete with the club’s tiny stage and shag carpeting). He restored the facade and the original window lintels and sills, which had been hidden behind the Permastone. He also rebuilt the cornice and back wall, and installed exterior doors custom-built from antique wood to replicate the doors in his photograph.”

The house now looks like this, left. It’s good to know that even a house as badly compromised as this one can be rescued. “Finding the photograph made things easier,” Delgado said, “but not less expensive.”


Ode to the Philadelphia Rowhouse


Fitzwater Street, Queen Village

THERE’S A HUGE, TELLING DIFFERENCE between New York City and Philadelphia in terms of how each values and regards its vernacular architecture.

It’s hard to imagine NYC’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development putting out something as enlightened as the Philadelphia Planning Commission’s well-designed and -written Philadelphia Rowhouse Manual: A Practical Guide for Homeowners, published in 2008 in conjunction with the city’s Office of Housing and Community Development and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

It’s available free by downloading as a PDF (links below) or in print for $10/copy from the Center for Architecture, 1216 Arch Street.

Philadelphia Rowhouse Manual: A Practical Guide for Homeowners
(Download Color: 4.4MB PDF File)
(Download B&W:  3.3MB PDF File)

Thanks to Townhouse Lady for alerting me to this fascinating and useful publication, intended to encourage the renovation and development of Philly’s sprawling rowhouse stock.

There are descriptions of the various kinds of rowhouses, from the diminutive, endemic-to-Philadelphia working-class trinity to the elegant, large-scale townhouses of Society Hill; a bit of history; a fair amount of how-to (e.g. fitting a sink and toilet into a a 5’x5′ space); floor plans; information on mechanicals, structure, and energy-efficiency; maintenance to-do lists; resources, and more.

There’s a detailed review here.

From the intro:

In 2003, the City of Philadelphia was selected to
participate in the National Trust for Historic
Preservation’s Preservation Development Initiative
(PDI). Funded by the John S. and James L. Knight
Foundation, PDI focused on demonstrating the
importance of preservation as a core component
of neighborhood revitalization.
A Comprehensive Preservation Assessment noted
that almost all of the neighborhoods in Philadelphia,
from Mount Airy to Pennsport, are defined by their
rowhouse streetscapes. As a building type, the rowhouse
offers many advantages, but when neglected or poorly
maintained, it deprives homeowners of value. It also
affects the homes nearby. This manual is one of
many projects aimed at celebrating the Philadelphia
rowhouse, helping people understand their value
(in terms of both history and livability), and aiding
rowhouse inhabitants in adapting and maintaining
them as a great model for 21st century urban living.
Philadelphia is a city of rowhouses. Their constant
revitalization and adaptation illustrates the viability
of the city. We don’t cook in basement fireplaces or
use backyard privies as the earliest rowhouse residents
did, but the houses have proven to be so adaptable
that we’ve been able to make them congenial to
the 21st century, even with vastly different family
structures, social ideals, and technology. The intent
of this manual is to help residents value the history
and legacy of the rowhouse and its future as a
comfortable, community-enhancing, energy-efficient
place in which to live.