A MUFFLED BEAUTY: 16 Clinton Ave, Fort Plain, NY

On the fabulous Old House Dreams, commentator Holly linked to a house in upstate New York.

The house is a muffled beauty. An exceptional beauty.

Yet 99.9% of buyers will not see the beauty. They will only see the work required to restore the house. Or the work to — shudder — update the house.

With every passing decade, houses like this become ever-more vulnerable, and ever-rarer. Such houses are part of America’s national heritage yet this mighty country offers zero assistance. In the UK, extraordinary houses and buildings were once routinely demolished during most of the 20th-century until people woke to the fact that something vital was being discarded. Today, buildings in the UK are listed according to their importance. So, for example, if you buy a house with a Grade I listing, the house is highly protected. And no listed building can be “demolished, extended, or altered without special permission from the local planning authority”.

It is high time America have such a system.

Also in the UK, financial help is normally available to help with listed buildings, something rare in America.

Kansas is one of the few states, perhaps the only state, offering direct help with historic structures. I would not have purchased the Cross House had the Kansas Heritage Trust Fund not existed. While I had no guarantee, I took a gamble, purchased the house, and was awarded a $90K grant in 2015. And another full grant in 2017! While this is a lot of money, the house will soak up a great deal more before it is finished.

The house in upstate New York is, again, exceptional. But it will take a discerning eye to see its beauty, and an even more discerning mind to realize that the house does not require “updating” as commonly seen on HGTV.


The exterior will not turn any heads. The porch has lost a lot of its detailing and the upper floors have later cheap siding. WHAT treasures, I cannot help but wonder, are hidden under? If the exterior were to be restored, I have no doubts that heads would be…spinning.


There’s a charming entrance porch.


The house fronts a beautiful park




OMG! The Cross House, while rich with stained-glass windows, has nothing to compare to this.


Stunning. And the extraordinary gas/electric chandelier is likely original. I assume the new owner will remove it without a second thought.


This room makes me smile as somebody tried hard to transform it into a mobile home. Yet all the trim appears to be intact and the FABULOUS gas/electric chandelier, miraculously, survives.


A ghastly bathroom but look at the lovely intact window and trim.


Yumminess abounding.


It seems that most of the flooring is rich with inlay patterns.


A beautiful mantel, yes, but it is also unusual.


This is highly curious. What is the why of it?


A delicious oval window, and with…


..an owl! Squee!!!!!!!! This must be a knock-out in person. I wish I had a better image.


Upstairs hall rich with never-painted doors/trim. And look at all that lovely door hardware.


One of the bedrooms. I love a wide bay.


This bathroom is highly vulnerable as 99.9% of buyers will tear all this out without hesitation. And this would be criminal as this bath is exceptional. Save the later flooring, this is a highly rare example of an intact 1880s bathroom. And it gets better…


…for this is the ceiling. OMG!!!!!!!! Stamped tin? Lincrusta?


A house such as this should be protected and should also have funds available to gently restore it while installing all new systems  (wiring, plumbing, HVAC).

Not a week passes without somebody in Emporia telling me that they are so incredulity happy at seeing the Cross House transform from a wreak into a thing of beauty. All my neighbors are THRILLED. And there is no question that the fully restored house will enhance the immediate neighborhood, and add to the distinction of the city. The Kansas Heritage Trust was created exactly for these reasons. And this is also why the UK, a bit belatedly, created protections for its architectural heritage, which has generated a huge boost in tourism.

No country can consider itself advanced when it treats the rare, the beautiful, and the irreplaceable with distain.




  1. Devyn on January 6, 2018 at 10:05 am

    First… I am totally stealing your line about somebody trying to transform the room into a mobile home. A very eloquent description.

    This house is superb in so many ways. Aside from the mobile home style room, there is so much original goodness that it makes my heart palpitate looking at the 2004 era flip-phone photos (a realtor without a smart phone is certainly not a successful realtor). I do hope somebody has the desire and vision to save this gem. I also hope that savior has enough savings to manage the nearly 10k per year in property taxes.

  2. Sandra Lee on January 6, 2018 at 10:10 am

    Beyond beautiful! The 1880’s rare bathroom, unique artisanal wood details & OMG stained glass door panels, a most remarkable house. My hope & prayer is someone will be compelled to buy this gem with the unwavering eye & drive of restoring Ross restore, restore & restore.

  3. Annette on January 6, 2018 at 10:19 am

    Sigh, it would be miraculous if this house found a saviour like you Ross. And yes I think Kansas is inspired with it’s grants to help people rescue special old homes. And whilst I think it’s wonderful that the UK has their scheduling of old homes without funding some of them have still fallen into disrepair because of the huge costs associated with repairing them. Funding has to be a part of the solution.

  4. Kelly P. on January 6, 2018 at 12:11 pm

    I saw this home OHD. This is the kind of home that stirs my heart. But alas I’m in Oregon not New York. Sigh!

  5. Lynn E. on January 6, 2018 at 5:20 pm

    I so completely agree with you Ross. These old houses are literally works of art. They were crafted by real craftsmen, not thrown up in 60 days looking the same as the one next door. Each old home is unique and special. There is no other house just like this one anywhere! I just love love love all the stained glass in this house. There are some things alright with this country, but soooo many things wrong with it and you have pointed out one of them. A couple of years ago I tried to buy a beautiful towered Queen Anne, my fave, but the town was determined to demolish it which they did all in the name of progress! I literally cried when I found out they tore it down. When will people stand up in this country and say enough! These treasures are our history. They are our art. And every city I have been to that has worked to retain these treasures thrives with tourism.

    • darla on January 9, 2018 at 5:57 pm

      Lynn, it is tragic, isn’t it?
      I am very upset when even the old commercial structures are imploded. Surely at least the solidity of the structure should be worth something. Then they put up these gawd-awful monstrosities that I would be embarrased to call home. I’ve seen more attractive penal colonies.

      • Lynn E. on January 10, 2018 at 10:36 am

        Amen to that! Penal colonies, lol. That’s funny but so true. I live in a cookie cutter house and can’t stand it. I’ve added character over the 20 years I’ve lived here, but it’s not the same. I would love an old beauty. My husband isn’t on the same page though. He wants new and no problems even though I’m the handywoman of the house. Ross has been a big inspiration to me with the Cross House. I remember when it was listed for sale I thought OMG I would love this house! But I’m so grateful Ross got it. They are truly soul mates.

        • darla on January 11, 2018 at 10:55 pm

          I had an 1891 house in Denver, tiny and simple but adorable. It was needing things I didn’t know how to handle at the time. 14 yrs ago I decided to sell, and — as you — bought a cookie cutter (or as I say, white bread) house. I too have strived to bring character to it, mainly via landscaping.

          While I actually like it more each year (for reasons other than the house itself), I fervently yearn to get into another historic home.

          The tiny house I sold 14 yrs ago for $215,000 is now valued at $516,000 — probably with a maximum of $15,000 put into it by new owners. And to rub salt in the wound, I am having to do more to this new one than the old one needed.

          MAJOR BUMMER!

  6. Bethany Otto on January 7, 2018 at 10:23 am

    Thank you for expressing what we all are thinking, but more eloquently, knowledgeably, and humorously!

  7. Gabi on January 8, 2018 at 7:43 am

    The owl window won me over!

  8. barbara b.picon on January 9, 2018 at 7:25 am

    let’s not overlook the large mature tree ( maybe an oak ) the stories it could tell…..

  9. Bonnie on January 9, 2018 at 7:55 am

    Thanks for the review, especially liked the mobile home transformation. Lol.
    And that owl window.

    This home is a knockout!!

  10. Deborah Chester on January 9, 2018 at 1:02 pm

    I confess that I took one look at the exterior photo and thought, “Nope.” But the description made me take a second look because you never know. Wow, oh wow, oh wow, oh wow. The front doors alone … the stained glass windows–how many?–and they are extraordinary stained glass windows made by an artist … the floors … the trim … the doors …

    Yep, this is a treasure. Anyone in HGTV mode should not be allowed near it. Fingers crossed that it will find someone to love it, appreciate its quality, and restore it.

  11. darla on January 11, 2018 at 11:08 pm

    Ross, I’ve been viewing Old House Dreams (and reading your comments) for a couple months now, including the property you highlighted here.

    I was wondering if you could point me in the direction of how to research areas that provide grants, as you mentioned regarding your Kansas project. Also, any suggestions as to how to find qualified restorers within any given area would be helpful.

    I am not having much luck with general online searches. I am a senior with limited resources, and would almost have to have some kind of assistance. It really is my heart’s desire to find a property to restore and live in (versus flipping.

    I know you are exceedingly busy, but if you could offer some thoughts, I’d be infinitely appreciative.

  12. Mike on January 12, 2018 at 12:40 pm

    Ross, I could have written this post myself. I agree with you 110%, the US needs to institute measures to protect our architectural heritage. Like you, I live in a small city in the Midwest, but unlike Kansas, Illinois has no financial incentive to restore historic houses and commercial structures. I have heard of a few municipal incentives, but those are pretty much all in the wealthy cities that make up Chicagoland. In the late 60s, my town began a push for modernization that continues to this day; if it is 50+ years old and needs work, tear it down and build new. In those decades since, we have lost our courthouse on the square, all of our older schools, most of our older churches, and countless commercial and residential structures. In the past year alone, a large brick church from 1913 was demolished to provide parking for the new sheet-metal church; thank God they at least saved the stained glass windows. Just a few weeks ago, the vacant 1880s Queen Anne two doors north of me was demolished for no other reason than that the person who owned it wanted to keep the lot but was tired of paying taxes and insurance on the house. We have hired a contractor who specializes in old house restoration to build an addition to our house, and also assist me in the restoration of the exterior; the only interest we have received from local government was from the tax assessor. If Great Britain was like my town, Parliament would be meeting in a pole barn, and the Queen would be living in a brown brick duplex, next door to the Prince of Wales. BTW, does anyone know where I can find 4X8 sheets of real antique ivory? It would look great in our dining room…

Leave a Comment

Your email address will NEVER be made public or shared, and you may use a screen name if you wish.