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