House Redux: Yankee Magazine's Original House for Sale
The property eventually sold–then sold again–and then a few more times. By the time Chris and his wife, Ellen Allen, owners of a successful printer repair and service company, decided to buy it in 2000, the value of the place had jumped to $350,000.
It had also fallen into severe disrepair. Old carpeting plagued the house. A decrepit roof was blanketed with 16 layers of tarpaper. The heating system was wheezing toward its finish. And a major support beam that ran between a couple of upstairs bedrooms had been cut in half for purely aesthetic reasons. Adding to it all was the general old-house feel of the place: small rooms, low ceilings, little light. “It was a knockdown,” Chris says.
And, in other hands, it might have been. For the next seven years, the Allens lived with a constant stream of construction crews. While the couple took up residence on the first floor, the upstairs was completely rehabbed. New support beams were installed. Two narrow bedrooms were opened up and turned into one large master bedroom. A new bath was added. And the roof was not only redone but raised 16 inches.
Downstairs, the rehab work was even more intense. Structural issues had resulted in the house’s running 9 inches out of plumb between living room and kitchen: a diagonal path for a good 40 feet. To secure the place, workers jacked up the house, constructed a new road into the property to bring in heavy equipment, and then dug out a new basement, where I-beams and new sills were installed. “At one point we had our washing machine outside,” Ellen says, recalling some of the more disruptive periods of the work.
Today, though, a walk through this home reveals just what drew the Allens to the property. Rooms meander from one to the next, and the large porch off the back, sitting high above the yard, can, on a summer day with the dogwood, magnolias, oaks, and maples in full foliage, give the impression that you’ve sneaked away to some secluded tree hut.
There are the little details, too, which the couple chose to complement and enhance, rather than override. Trim style and archways that existed during Robert Sturtevant’s residence have been replicated in other parts of the house. French roll-out windows in the dining room have been redone. Small cabinetry, including an old telephone booth and a milk cupboard, have been restored. Even that bay window, which started everything off, has been straightened out.
All of which raises the question: Would the Allens have taken on the house if they’d known of the time and money involved? “Never,” Chris says. “I would have been scared off.” Then a smile percolates, and it’s easy to tell he’s not being entirely truthful. “This is the house I’ll die in,” he adds. “I love it. I love its uniqueness.”