CAN THIS HOUSE BE SAVED: 2539 Ballina Road, Cazenovia, NY
In 2013, I toured a huge 1894 house in desperate condition. The house was for sale and I was interested.
After three hours of inspection with the owner, Bob, we were standing in the dining room. He suddenly asked me: “Ross? Is there something wrong with you mentally?”
I gasped. “What?”
“Is there something wrong with you?”
“What are you talking about?”
Bob pointed to a long wall. “What do you see?”
I was totally confused.
“What do you see?”
I replied: “I see a profoundly damaged wall with missing plaster, rotted framing, settlement issues, burst pipes, and ancient, scary wiring.”
Bob look startled. “Oh. So, you DO see all that?”
“Bob, WHAT are you talking about?”
Bob thought for few moments. Then he said: “I’ve shown the house to dozens and dozens of people. They walk in all excited but with each passing minute I watch as they get ever-more depressed. After about twenty minutes the basically flee from house due to its condition. But you? You’ve gotten MORE excited as the minutes pass, and you’ve now spent three hours looking at everything.”
Ahhh. I got it now. “Bob, yes, I see all the damage. But I can fix all that. And, for the asking price, I expect issues. But these issues aren’t my primary concern. Rather, as we walk through each room, I’m counting to see if all the stained-glass windows are still there. Check! Is the mantel in situ? Check! And the overmantel? Check! The trim? Check! Doors? Check! And so on. I’m not concerned about issues which are easily fixable like bad framing, missing plaster, and scary wiring. Instead, I’m focused on the things which, if missing, cannot be replaced.”
Bob looked stunned. “But nobody else looks at the house like that. All they see is the damage.”
I purchased the Cross House in March, 2014.
For my whole life I have watched glorious houses and buildings be smashed to the ground. Often, they are in excellent condition. But, you know, a parking lot is more important.
Often, such structures are in poor condition. Or even very poor condition. And so people say: “It’s too far gone!”
It’s too far gone. How many times have I heard that over the decades?
Recently, the fabulous Kelly of Old House Dreams posted a house in upstate New York. It is a remarkable house. It is also a house in terrible condition. And many people have chimed in with: “It’s too far gone!”
I, too, see the damage. But I also see the glories of the house.
And the best part?
The house is but $27,500. Yep, the price of a car.
You get a little less than an acre. Sadly, the adjacent barn has been sold off. Could it be reacquired? [Update: the house owner thinks this might be possible.]
The listing states that the house in listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and would qualify for federal and state grants, or tax breaks, to help the restoration process.
The house does not need dozens and dozens of people clamoring to buy it. It just needs one person. The right person. This person does not even need to be rich. For, if they have the willingness, experience, and time, the house could be restored for way less than one might think.
Step One would be to jack up the sagging wall, reframe it, and install a new sill.
Step Two would be to fully restore the roof and eaves. Investing in scaffolding would be essential.
Step Three would be to restore the siding on the east facade.
With these three steps completed, the house would no longer be in perilous condition.
“It’s too far gone!”
Well, they said that about a beautiful country house in England which suffered a devastating fire in 1989: Uppark. The entire roof burned off. The chimneys collapsed. The top floor was incinerated. The ceilings on the main floor, all highly elaborate paster work, collapsed, and the remaining walls looked utterly devastated.
People across the land proclaimed: “It’s too far gone!”
Yet, the house has been gloriously resurrected, and all documented in one of my favorite books.
“It’s too far gone!”
And they said that in 1992 when a large portion of Windsor Castle, a portion including the most important State rooms, was destroyed by fire.
Yet, the castle was gloriously resurrected, and all documented by another of my favorite books.
“It’s too far gone!”
For decades, this is what people said about the Ransom Gillis house in Detroit, the most famous ruin in the city. But, it has now been reborn.
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