Thursday, July 8, 2010

Good Demolition Makes GREAT Neighbors

I've been quite honest about the fact that one of my main priorities with my house was to improve the yard and exterior therefore making the neighborhood a little more appealing therefore attracting more people like myself who want to improve their house and make a positive impact on the area. Basically, I wanted to encourage more gentrification.

I believe I have achieved my goal.

This house is exactly 1 block from me on my same street. It's got a lot of potential but abandonment and abuse have left it ugly and trashed out and it turns out it hasn't been legitimately lived in since the owner went into a nursing home 8 years ago. I say "legitimately" because plenty of unsavory folk have used it over the years. A crappy old couch on the front porch often held creepy guys doing who knows what (being lazy? Selling drugs? Who knows) the interior was everything you would visualize if someone said the words "crack den."

A few months ago I was wonderfully surprised when a sweet upper middle class couple in a nice car pulled up in front of my house and chatted with me over the fence about the area. I tried to convey to them why I love my neighborhood and the potential in it but was pretty sure they'd buy in a more gentrified neighborhood nearby, like one of our gorgeous historic districts. I was delightfully shocked a month later when they told me they'd bought this abandoned house on my street!! Turns out they're real estate investors who were planning on flipping a lot of houses in the area but are going to make the house on my block their personal new home!

It took awhile to close on the house because of title searches and other difficulties that arise when a sale involves an elderly person and her relative with power of attorney, but they finally got the keys a week ago and immediate set to work gutting the place, and this house needed to be gutted if ever a house did!
I admit, I've been spying on the house very day to see when they would start work on it. I was that excited. I was lucky enough to get a tour of the house from the new owners a few weeks ago before work had officially started and before they had even gotten the keys. This was easy because the back door has no lock. I'm not sure the door even closed all the way. Honestly, being in an actual abandoned house that was obviously used for bad things was a little disturbing. I went yesterday to check in on the demolition and loved it! So much of the creepy old house is GONE

This is the view through the front door. Eventually a curving staircase will be the view here taking you to the new second story being put into the current attic.

Here's the living room to the right of the front entry. I love how with all the dry wall removed you can see the ship lap boards that old houses from the 1920s were built with. If you took all the dry wall out of a more modern house all you'd see is a line of posts 16-18" apart, no wall at all. This type of solid old school construction is part of the reason that the old houses have lasted so long and are so worth saving. You can't see it for all the dust but there are gorgeous old hardwood floors in there too that were covered in crappy crappy carpet before.

To the left of the front door I found a friend and coworker of the owners. A moment later I heard rustling in the ceiling and a brick flew down through a hole in the ceiling towards his head. He calmy caught it and added it to the stack. Turns out one if the owners was in the ceiling taking apart the old chimney brick by brick. The mortar had become so weak and brittle over 80+ years of smoke and heat that it was crumbling apart.

Did you notice the crazy high ceilings? Like, 12 ft?

You can see in this photo how, when they took down the dry wall from the ceiling, they found out that ceiling was floating a few feet below the real ceiling. Creating a lower false ceiling was probably an effort to save heating costs since heat rises and hot air 12 feet above the floor does nothing to keep a person warm. Modern AC systems and our knowledge of how to control air circulation make that less of a problem, so my new neighbors now have gorgeous high ceilings that I love. Imagine the chandeliers they can use!

The old kitchen, by the way, has the coolest old appliances still in it.

Check out this ancient stove

Vintage fridge
(see how filthy it is? The walls and ceiling looked like that. Ew.)

I call dibs on this huge old porcelain sink if it gets given or thrown away! More likely though my smart new friends will sell it for $$$. These old sinks are worth a LOT, which is the only reason I don't have one already.

My favorite thing about touring this house during demolition was seeing the layers upon layers of cool old wallpaper and linoleum.

But I think my very favorite thing about all of this is that money, loving attention, and general improvements are coming to my street, and it's not in the form of "tear it all down and build brand new" developers. Instead it's very cool people who love historic houses and know how the get things done right. I think they are so lucky to get to not only buy a cool house in a cool neighborhood that's blossoming, and not only to be able to bring an old building back to life (which is way fun!), but to be able to concurrently wipe out a black spot from a neighborhood and turn that void of potential darkness into a beacon of light and hope and growth. That must feel GREAT. It's already pretty great just watching it from down the block.

I can't wait to update you as things progress on my street!!!!

Written with BlogPress from my iPhone <---see this cool automatic note? Not only are all these great photos thanks to my NEW iPhone 4 but the blogging is on my phone too! So cool! It's all getting better from here on out!


  1. I love the Chambers Stove - those are megabucks fixed up. We had one at my old house,,,,,I think they will last forever. katrina

  2. These are the people that followed you home from Hunky's when I was coming over to watch Doctor Who, right? That's so cool that they're on your block!

    It's so funny when I tell people that I long for an old house like yours. They hear that the house is old, and figure that it must be a piece of crap. My response is always the same: "It's not the same as buying an old car... Houses back in the 20's and 30's were built to LAST... whereas now, they build them quickly and cheaply"

  3. Love love love it!!! Yeah, seeing all the old wallpaper & linolium layers is super cool. Thanks for all the great photos! (PS- I want an iPhone 4 more than anything now.) How exciting for your neighborhood, not to mention for your new neighbors! A person must really feel a strong understanding of their house after ripping it down to the guts like this. How cool!

  4. Ya, Kate, It's the same people! Cool, huh?!

    Most people have no idea about old houses; how well they are usually built, the cool historic details that modern houses don't have, the huge old plants in the yard and the general energy of lots of lives having already passed through. There's a magic there. Ignore the ignorant people. You'll get your own someday and it'll be GREAT. I'll bring a paint brush and scrubbing tools over and we'll get to work. :)

    Amanda, I'm SO loving my iPhone 4! Now I wish I could go back and re-do my old blog posts better! I'll leave them alone though. The blog's supposed to be a record of growth and change, so I'll let it grow and change. I heard on Facebook that Katrina got an iphone 4 too. You'll get yours soon Amanda!

  5. THis is Kim ---> I love how there are decades of fads present in all those layers! It's a walk through the past.

  6. That is so cool! I'm so glad that you've inspired others to take on historic home renewing projects!!! Congratulations on your cool new neighbors! :) Hopefully they'll be flipping houses in the area and really giving the neighborhood that gentrification boost you wanted! :D