a hidden gem – for sale

l1f47b944-m5o

Posts are few and far between these days, but came across something so special I just had to mention it to whomever might still be checking in to this blog.  We recently were invited to tour an old home on the market in the Mystic, CT area.  The realtor sent me the link to the listing and when I saw the photo I couldn’t believe it, we had to see it in person.  The 2 story front vestibule, if original, is a rare feature and certainly a sign of 17th century provenance.  The homeowner has done the genealogy and traced it to 1664.  The Culver house, sitting on over 42 of its original acres, still maintains the features and atmosphere of the original owners.  The front entrance mimics its New London neighbor, the Hempsted house, and because the large cooking fireplace in the rear is so close to the back wall of the house it makes me wonder if, like the Hempsted house, it too had a lean-to at the back.

Either way, the large stone fireplace, the exposed beams throughout, the plaster walls, wide board floors, front staircase with stone chimney wall exposed – will tempt you to move to this hidden 17th century paradise!

Yes, it will need some work – but for $399K and 42 acres – goodness, it’s a deal!  It is liveable now, and lived in lovingly by its delightful and knowledgeable owner.  But for most folks, it will need a new kitchen.  There are other items we would address to bring it back to its true original look, but they are optional.   Apparently, it can be subdivided, but gosh, would hate to see that happen.   We did not walk the entire property, but there’s a little bridge and I’m told there are stone walled open meadows beyond.  It may not be in the most popular, and pricier, location close to downtown Mystic, but that can be a good thing!

If you know any purists looking for such a gem, please spread the word.  If anyone needs advice, consultation or restoration for the house – just call us, we know exactly what to do with it.  While we LOVE our own 17th century house, one like this sure was tempting.  It’s a pretty rare find.

http://www.seaportre.com/listing/m9147959-279-colonel-ledyard-hwy-groton-ct-06355/

history adventures

Finally, Spring.  Time to ready the garden, clean out the cobwebs and best of all go on an adventure.  A simple, New England style one, in search of country ambiance and colonial architecture.   A pleasant drive on a sunny day, at the ready to detour down forgotten roads – what could be better?  Roads with names like Old County, Horse Hill or, like one in my own town –   Beelzebub.  You’re bound to find a story there – a building, a church, a landscape, to stimulate the senses, tickle the imagination.

On a recent drive to Brooklyn, CT, a place we’ve been so often, we decided to take a road never traveled, and happened upon this.

Old Trinity Church How sweet the lines, how bittersweet the atmosphere.  Old Trinity Church.  Google has provided some history, (there’s way too much about hauntings), but I found there several good reasons to return:  Putnam Farm,  Putnam Elms, The Israel Putnam Monument (and grave) and of course a visit inside these gates.

Happy Spring!

http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WME0DV_Putnam_Farm_Brooklyn_CT

http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMDZDY_General_Israel_Putnam_Brooklyn_CT

http://www.putnamelms.org/

german engineering – circa 1778

My dad was a prisoner of war in WW II.  From his camp, he and fellow American soldiers watched as the Germans tested a new “jet engine” plane.  They laughed that a plane without a prop  would never get off the ground.

Had they seen the engineering in this chest, built circa 1778, with only hand tools and imagination, they might have thought otherwise.

Enjoy.

Roentgens' Berlin Secretary

https://www.youtube.com/embed/MKikHxKeodA?rel=0

old house fancy

Antiques and old house lovers like me always have their eye out for interesting architecture.  Going for a drive somewhere is elevated to a journey of discovery.  Whether it is the excitement of finding something unique in old house design or the satisfaction of coming across one that is well preserved and loved, there’s bound to be something interesting or new.

On a recent visit to Newport, driving around some of its tight streets where houses are knitted together within an inch of each other, I noted how clever the early colonists had to be in expanding their homes for growing families.  The juxtaposition of styles could be quite peculiar.  Considering the bit of land they had to work with, it’s no surprise that some expansions might look a bit odd – like this one:

Newport_charm

Whether old or new, odd as it is, it works for me.  There’s still a charm and fancy to it.  That collision of gable roof into gambrel, old materials and primitive odd chimney, the mix of clapboard and shingle, proud and sturdy window frames, crooked old door – this quirky little corner house, for me, just feels right.  It’s not just the materials – which are certainly key – but the proportion, balance, the weight of it.

Unlike some thoughtless additions done to old houses today, this one was thought out, each detail considered.  Down the street from me there is a late 19th century home that for the past year or so has undergone renovation (I use the term ‘undergone’ as in a patient who’s undergone a terrible surgery).  In original form, it was a simple, graceful, symmetrical little thing, but the new owner needed double the size.  Thankfully most of it went off the back.   All things considered, it could have been worse.  But then, out of the blue, out of necessity to house many vehicles, a garage the size of Mount Vernon arose.  Smack in line with the front of the house and dwarfing it, the three large bays face the road.  Really?  Wouldn’t you want to hide that?  Attach it behind the house if you must, or site it in the back forty, but don’t compete with the house.

There’s so much we can do to wreck the ambiance of a lovely home, to wake you from that dream glimpse into the past – but a major one that is hard to change is to build a garage (a giant one) with many bays of overhead doors and plop it right up front and next to your house.

How quickly this “acceptable” renovation went awry.  The builder/homeowner made a decision for convenience rather than aesthetic.  When a lovely old home lies outside of historic districts, there’s not much we can do.  There are no architectural police.  The old house doesn’t come with directions.

In the old days, their hands were tied, designs were few and fairly typical.  Carpenters tools were limited, their knowledge came from a few books, and there were rules.  They did their best to observe them, and when they stretched them the results were still “quaint.”

Now we have new tools, books and ideas – but no rules.  For old houses, that can only work in the right hands – the hands of those who have studied those old rules and are passionate about them.  Thankfully there are many.  There are experts to consult – for free!  Historians, historic district commissions and preservation groups – local, statewide, nationwide – all want to help.  Even museums to visit.  For any area outside of our own bailiwick, we need to put egos aside, and just ask.  Go on a journey of discovery – and may you find many surprises, fashioned by the “right hands.”

 

 

presents

Happy Holidays Everyone!  In the spirit of the season – I have a few presents to share.  First, a book suggestion, from my all time favorite old house photographer, artist and writer, Samuel Chamberlain.  He did a series of books for Hastings House – all photographic documents of how these homes and rooms looked in earlier days, before we truly began modernizing them.  The black and white/sepia photos have a wonderful atmosphere.  I can just imagine him knocking on doors of strangers with his camera, hoping for a peek inside.   His books are beautiful, and an invaluable resource for the homeowner as well as the restorer.  You’re sure to find one in an antique book shop somewhere.  I found this one on Amazon.

Chamberlain Book

And here’s a link to an article about very early Christmases in New England by one of my favorite editors – New England Antiques Journal’s John Fiske.  It’s an interesting and fun read.

https://www.antiquesjournal.com/flipbooks/neajdec13/files/62.html

Lastly, you must try this pumpkin pie recipe!  It’s the best I’ve ever tasted.  It’s from an old cookbook I bought at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston many years ago,”The Fine Arts Cookbook I.”   I hope they don’t mind, and I thank Mrs. Curt Gowdy, of the Ladies Committee, for entering the recipe.

Enjoy!

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

1 baked pie shell

1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin (not pumpkin filling)

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup sugar

3 egg yolks

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ginger

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 package plain gelatin

1/4 cup ice water

3 egg whites*

1/2 cup sugar

1 pint heavy cream

sugar and flavoring to taste

In a saucepan, mix pumpkin, salt, 1/2 cup sugar, egg yolks and spices, and cook over moderately low heat for 6-7 minutes. /Dissolve gelatin in water. /Stir into hot pumpkin mixture. / Set aside to cool. / Beat egg whites until stiff. / Gradually add remaining 1/2 cup sugar and beat until stiff. / Fold into cooled pumpkin mixture and spoon into baked pie shell. / Chill until firm. / To serve, whip cream, adding sugar and flavoring to taste, and pile this on top of pie.

*I first made it years ago with real egg whites and it was delicious.  And obviously – I lived to tell about it.  But because of concerns with raw egg white,  you can substitute meringue or egg white powder.

when bad things happen…cont’d

I couldn’t resist continuing this conversation after coming across a house that has been castrated, bastardized, sterilized, and all but ripped from its roots.  Sorry about the language folks, but just when I think sometimes I’ve had enough, said enough, this happens.  Of course it’s not the only one, but ohmygosh, all I can ask is why???

http://www.findnewenglandhomes.com/property_information.asp?mls=71518725

Why would anyone turn a house built in 1720 into a sterile cookie cutter concoction?  Why make antique walls flat and straight, clean and new, or sand color, character and wear from floors that took two hundred years to achieve?!  Why expose brick where it was never meant to show, and put ugly wood over fireplaces where surely lovely paneling had been?  What is the mindset here?

Are there really not enough buyers out there looking to live in the real thing?  Is the only way to sell an old house these days to open it up, sand the hell out of it and paint it a sterile white?

I call it Nantucket contemporary.  I’ve seen a lot of them, new and old, in magazines, and in person.  Not quite as bad as this one, but definitely made to look like half asylum, half home.

The bright side? At least it’s still standing.  At least the outside covering is still those wonderful weathered shingles, and the proportions of the house are great.  The chimney seems good – but too bad about that metal flue sticking up.  The walkway, the paving, the garage doors, ugh.

Just had to vent.  If nothing else, this is an example of what not to do to an old house.

Maybe someday, some kind soul will save it, again, the right way.