Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Ten Years Here

(I never pubished this post and now it's been 16 years since I moved in. Unbelievable.)

I can't believe it. I was thinking about what the previous owner would say about the changes if he saw the place. He died almost three years later, at 54.

It was a Tuesday, unbearably hot and humid. My sister was off from school and my brother was unemployed so they helped me move. My mother came by later; my father was terminally ill. He died six days later. In fact I think the reason I got it in my head to look for a house was to distract myself from his suffering.

It was nearly the height of the last housing bubble, a definite seller's market. I didn't want to buy a house at the top of my price range, so eligible houses were few and far between. As soon as a house became available, it was gone. This was the era of flipping houses, and I was looking for a pre-1960, preferably 18th or 19th century, fixer upper. There was the 1700's house on a busy street where I, a petite person, could touch the ceiling on the first floor with my index finger, and on the second floor with my palm. My favorite niece would not fit in there! 

And the cute Carpenter Gothic house in a former mill town on a quiet street, kitty-corner from a church. It needed a new furnace and was snatched up before it even hit the MLS. Then a roomy Victorian farmhouse with a good-sized yard and garage, plus a kitchen even more dysfunctional than my current one. That one also went quickly. There also was a bungalow on a quiet street next to a farm. It was nice but I didn't know how I would get my furniture up the stairs. Then there was a house made of concrete blocks, pretty much gutted inside. It was a beautiful area with a stream out back, amidst cottages near a big lake, but it had a very long driveway and was at least 45 minutes away from my work.

Then I got discouraged and gave up. Somehow I heard about isoldmyhouse.com and saw this house. It was rather plain, and on a street with a BIG hill. But as soon as I looked around inside I just knew, you know? It felt like home. I really liked the kitchen, which turned out to be very difficult to cook in. It seemed big (1568 square feet) compared to the 625 square foot condo I had lived in for 16 1/2 years. The yard was manageable. It came with a shed, washer, gas dryer, dishwasher, gas cooktop, gas oven, and a fairly new roof.

I love furniture and it's telling that I could almost furnish the whole house with what I had. Yes, my condo was jammed with stuff! I had a plan for my vernacular Gothic Revival workingman's cottage. It would be cottage style.

The first year I just cleaned the whole place, except closets and the ceilings. It smelled of smoke so bad I couldn't stand it anymore. My sister had cleaned the carpets before I had settled in, but I finally ripped them up (the living room, dining room and two bedrooms). The smell improved. I remember trying to get the nicotine stains off of the double arch in the parlor. I used so many different cleaning products; I would see streaks of yellowish brown until the end of summer. The other problem was the windows. The previous owner had put a block of wood in the frame of one of the living room windows so it could only be raised a couple of inches or so. In the kitchen one of the windows had been caulked shut and the other one I couldn't open very high. It took all summer for me to work on the kitchen windows so they would open. Opening all the windows all summer long helped remove the stink. Thankfully that summer I think we only got a couple days of rain.

The first year I entertained a lot. It was fun to have a separate dining room and plenty of room. The PO told me he had removed many doors. Apparently there was a door to the living room, to the dining room, from the dining room to the kitchen, and from the dining room to the office. I found one of these doors in the shed. It's like all the other interior doors. I'm planning on using it for the second floor bathroom (if I ever get the funds to do that). A doorway had been cut into the parlor from the office. So my little nephew said he liked my house because you could walk all around in a circle downstairs, through all these openings.

That September we got storm after storm, causing my basement to become wet. Not a lot of puddles, but it got wet after every storm and during the winter during thaws. It came in mainly through the coal bin, and I could never figure out what to do because above it is the front porch. My contractor immediately figured out that I needed fill. He put down several inches and it hasn't been wet there since.

That first winter, after a January thaw, raw sewage started backing up into my basement utility sink. I didn't know what to do, other than bail and throw it out the back (the basement is a walk-out). My brother-in-law suggested I call the Town. Someone came out and told me there was blockage on my end,  not theirs. I asked him what am I supposed to do, just keep bailing all night? He took pity on me being alone, and flushed out the street valve, which helped enough for me to stop bailing. That March I had a company remove the old-fashioned elbow connector for a straight one, which has helped somewhat. I believe it cost over $2000, but they told me I have to have the street torn up due to tree roots around the y-connector. That'll be several more thousand so I keep stalling it off. I still get a little backup but it's manageable, while still being disgusting. With the previous overflow I dragged the rug that was done there and cleaned it on the deck.

So after ten years I have removed the asbestos siding and painted the clapboards and obtained a new kitchen. I continue to work on each room as I change all the paint colors that are reminiscent of a cottage in New Orleans or Florida but totally inappropriate for a Victorian workingman's cottage in a mill town in northeast Connecticut. As I do I paint the ceilings, closets and trim.

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