The Cross House
Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans — John Lennon
In my very first blog post, I used the above well-known quote.
And now, a year later, while I have been busy making plans, life has come along, again, and shoved me in an unexpected direction.
I need to start wearing a seat-belt at all times.
THWARTED! GRAND PLAN #1
When I purchased the Cross House on March 1, 2014, my only timeline was to have the library finished by fall.
My zillion books were in an unheated storage building (a temporary measure), and they desperately needed to be in a conditioned space. Indeed, a compelling reason to buy the Cross House was that it had a room designated as LIBRARY. How cool is that? A whole room just for books! A lifelong fantasy come true!
Although I am experienced enough to know that with a full-throttle house restoration having ANY timeline is simply foolish, it seemed, well, reasonable to think that just a single room could be finished about eight months hence. Just one room. One room out of so many. Just one.
You will not be surprised that the Restoration Gods laughed at my temerity. Because, as is the norm with renovating old houses, no timeline goes unpunished.
The fall schedule came, and went, and my zillion books endured a winter in the unheated storage building. I would go into the building, caress the many bindings, and apologize.
For, I had become an abusive bibliophile.
Oh, the shame.
THWARTED! GRAND PLAN #2
Last year, I finished painting the west side of the Cross House (the main facade). As the house sits on a highly visible corner, it really has two fronts, the west and north. So, finishing the north facade this year would make a dramatic difference, and I was eagerly anticipating climbing once again all over tall scaffolding to paint paint paint the north side.
Scaffolding was erected, my new full Tyvek suit arrived (to protect me from residual lead-based paint particles), and I was Ready To Go!
THWARTED! GRAND PLAN #3
My great excitement was tempered by the quiet wailing of my books.
Help us! Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelp us!
With each passing month, my zillion books were being, very slightly, damaged by their unconditioned space.
I struggled with conflicting desires.
A part of me protested. Forget the books! You can now paint the Great North Wall!!!!!!! THE GREAT NORTH WALL!
My books however had lost patience. Forget painting! You need to get us into the Cross House! STAT!
One day I would think: Library! The next day I would think: Painting!
In the end my love for books, quite considerable, won out. My babies needed to be protected.
So, rather than take advantage of the fabulous spring weather and begin the transformation of the Great North Wall, I instead finished the library of the Cross House. The room is now painted (whoee!), almost all the shelving is installed (whoee!) and all my countless books have been moved into the room (triple whoee!). The wailing has been replaced by a zillion sighs of relief and gratitude.
During this process, I knew that if I started painting by the end of July I could still, fingers crossed, get the north facade painted by the end of the year.
But life, yep, you guessed it, had other plans.
AND THE POINT IS?
Adjacent to the Cross House is its 1894 carriage house. I did a post on the latter, which was separated from the former in, I believe, 1921, when the carriage house was converted into a proper house (524 Union). The previous owner of the Cross House, Bob Rodak, was able to reacquire 524 Union, and I purchased the two properties from Bob.
Bob had renovated 524 for resale, and this work was about 90% completed.
I could have simply finished the work, and rented 524. This was a highly sensible option.
However, as has been proved many times, over many decades, I have a strange sorta aversion, an allergy if you will, to sensible thinking.
So rather then finish the last 10%, I, well, ah, kinda, ummmm…tore apart 524.
In my defense, 524 had been treated quite badly over the last 120-years. Most of the floors had wall-to-wall carpeting (oh, the horror!), the living room had a popcorn ceiling (the horror!), lovely trim had been painted (the horror!), a bathroom had been shoved into a corner of the dining room, making a gracious rectangle into an ungracious L-shape (triple horror!), the kitchen was all new, and all Home Depot (eeeeeeeeek!), the living room ceiling sagged ominously (yikes!), water pipes had burst, and on and on. And on.
While 524 was WAY better than it was when Bob purchased it (as a later post will reveal), it was still far from what it could, and should IMO, be.
Whenever I would walk through 524 I would see two things:
1) The original, way cool beauty.
2) The original beauty trashed.
In addition to having an allergy to common sense, I have an overpowering, painful reaction to architectural beauty trashed. I have no idea why, but do know that my life would be a whole lot easier if this malady could be cured.
Without any known cure however, and without a reasonable affection for common sense — a double whammy — what choice did I have?
Yep, I tore 524 apart.
TEMPTING THE GODS: GRAND PLAN #4
After tearing apart 524 last year (and having great fun doing so), I mothballed it, and basically turned it into a storage shed for the Cross House. This way, instead of the Cross House being filled with construction materials and salvaged materials and other goodies, I could keep the Cross House immaculate because everything was stored in 524. And fewer things be finer than an immaculate construction site.
Thus, life went on.
Until last week…
…when a couple I know said they wanted to rent 524. “We love it!”
My reply? “OK!”
The result? Poof, all my plans, in an instant, were thwarted.
As these words are written, I have given up on painting the Great North Wall of the Cross House (a painful admission), and will instead spend the next two months, at least, working like a fiend to make 524 habitable for my new tenants.
This wildly unexpected new direction has two dividends:
1) Rent! Buying the Cross House has been a massive cash drain, as it will be for a very long time to come. So, having some income generated from the property will be…nice.
2) Vastly more important is that by renting 524 there will be eyes on the adjacent Cross House. I cannot express enough how much this thrills me. My single biggest worry about the Cross House is its vulnerably in being vacant. With eyes next door, the Cross House will feel vastly safer, and I will worry a ton less. This will be a great gift.
I will be doing a slew of posts on this adventure, and am crossing my fingers that I can scale the Great North Wall…in October.
At least that is the plan.