Land Rush in the ‘Hood

Our herb garden (such as it is) is in the foreground

I am very excited to announce that we have purchased yet another contiguous property here in our little corner of the ‘hood. A 1,300 square foot three bedroom, one bath house built circa 1895 to the east of us.

Is that a missing section of brick wall? Why yes, yes it is.

In fact, I have been so excited, that I wrote this post way back at the beginning of June after reaching a verbal agreement with the seller.

BEFORE adding the red brick house to the repertoire (see it there to the right?)

We even got to work on the overgrown back yard in June. There are small trees sprouting, rampant weeds, and even a couple of daylilies that are thriving but need to be moved.


Now you are going to either laugh, cry or shake your head at me. And honestly, I can understand why. The Cottage (herein renamed Cottage West) is not finished and now I have bought yet another crumbling ruin.

I will NOT be purchasing the last lot on the right after all. More on this later.

Stick with me here, because I promise you, it will be worth it.

I Have a Dream…

It might not be as life-changing as MLK’s speech or vision of the future, but here is mine. The property at 3231 E. 10th is falling apart. It absolutely is. But I believe it can be fixed and I have a plan on how to do it.

This side is in worse shape than the other, but both sides of brick facade will need to be removed. We will replace it with a Tyvek wrap and vinyl siding.

What if I were to say to you that by the summer of 2018, Cottage West will be finished and open for business as an AirBnB? And what if I were to say to you that Cottage East will be ready 12-18 months after that?

Moving from left to right: Cottage West, purchased in July 2014, the last lot we didn’t own, two more empty lots, our house, another lot of ours, and finally Cottage East!

I’ve been crunching the numbers hard here and I have a plan for getting it all done. It’s a lot of work, and a lot of money, but it can be done. Let me say that again, IT CAN BE DONE.

View of bathroom through right-hand window and weird “walk in closet” on the left. I may very well make these into two bathrooms back to back, create a “master suite” out of the front bedroom, and this closet turned bathroom and then let the other two bedrooms share the already established bathroom.

I can’t help but imagine, and dream of, a time in the near future when both Cottage West and Cottage East will see a brisk Air BnB business and help bring visitors into our city and neighborhood. I’m really excited, folks!

A view of the back. Rotting fascia will need to be replaced and I would like to double the depth of the back porch. The floorboards seem to be in good shape, so I might try to save them to use on a ground level porch below. You can’t see it but there is a door access to the basement and a window. Possibly room for a small walkout apartment? We will see!

The Timing Was Less Than Optimal

Last year, when I originally approached Alec about selling, he was asking for $2,000. At that point, I had everything tied up in Cottage West, but I asked the contractor I had working for me to take a look at it. After she gave me a brief review of what was needed, Alec told me that he had someone willing to pay $4,000 for it.

See those crumbling bricks there? We watched a squirrel go inside the house. It seems that we have some rodent control in our future.

“If someone is willing to give you that much,” I said, “Take it, and run like hell.”

What is this odd little square here? It’s too high up for a coal bin.

But the deal fell through, and for some reason, Alec did not come back right away.

Entry hall

It wasn’t until the first weekend in June when he stopped by, saw my husband mowing the front yard of the house (yes, my husband not only mows our own property, but also tries to take care of the ones around us that are being neglected or are unoccupied) and stopped to talk to him.

Front parlor or living room

He thanked Dave, something the owner of that last lot we purchased never did – and we mowed that piece of land for THREE YEARS before the owner finally sold it to us!

Back bedroom

I saw them talking and came over to say hello. And as I came out, he mentioned that he really needed to sell the house.

This partial wall hides the entrance to the basement. Unfortunately, this has given ne’er do wells plenty of privacy and opportunity to take their time breaking into the property. We will remove the wall, reinforce the door and window, and assess the possible uses for the basement.

The city was breathing down his neck, the taxes were overdue, and he didn’t have the money to fix the issues.

The back door. I can’t wait to find some nice hardware, hang curtains, and more. This enters into the kitchen/eating area.

Now buying it now puts it squarely in our laps – and that means we need to fix the wall immediately. I can’t just pull down the brick and slap Tyvek over it, that won’t keep the critters out, nor the two-legged meth head variety either.

Possible future main floor master suite

So we will need to possibly consider installing vinyl siding this year, just to stabilize the structure long enough to get the other project done, earning money, and then move back to this one.

It’s hard to see but there is a brick retaining wall back there. Clear out the brush, put in a cute pathway through the yard and install a fountain and pool on that wall. It would look…FABULOUS!

Cottage West is well on its way, and we just have to:

  • Finish the last of the wiring
  • Run new Pex pipe for the plumbing
  • Install HVAC, gas water heater, and appliances
  • Stairs leading up to the bedrooms. That window with the blue curtain used to be a door!

  • Install insulation and drywall
  • Finish the bathroom floor in that penny floor design I’ve been talking about
  • Install a new exterior door
  • Finish the last of the exterior painting
  • Paint inside, decorate and furnish

Cottage West (formerly “The Old Lady House” or “The Cottage”) in its current state.

Jeez, when I say it that way it sounds like a lot!

Front bedroom – possible upstairs master suite?

But that is why it will take us another 6-8 months of work starting in April of next year.

I would love to rebuild this back porch at twice the current depth, allowing for a table and chairs as well as backyard access to the house and the ability for visitors to park on a gravel or concrete driveway (picture to follow).

After it is complete, we are looking at the works for Cottage East:

  • Demo interior walls to make room for all new up-to-code electrical and plumbing
  • New roof and guttering
  • Vinyl siding to replace the crumbling brick facade (look lots of BRICKS for PATHWAYS!!!!!)
  • New windows

Bathroom upstairs

Behind our house, the alley dead-ends. I would love to put a paved parking spot back here so that we could advertise it as off-street parking. (To the left is the backyard of Cottage East)

  • New Electrical (from box on through the rest of the house)
  • New Plumbing (PEX throughout)
  • HVAC, Water Heater (possibly on demand)
  • Drywall, paint
  • Potentially two full bathrooms upstairs and one downstairs
  • And a ton of other pocketbook draining activities

Cottage East has this fascinating brick retaining wall in the back. Visions of ponds and fountains fill my eyes.

Or this close up…

And since the alley dead-ends behind our house and right next to Cottage East, we could offer off-street parking and access through the backyard for our AirB’nB clients.

Some cool details remain

It is a stunning amount of work, time and money. But in the end, we will have a beautiful little gem of a house. It is our way of making our mark on our street, our neighborhood, and our community at large.

The east wall of the property. It may look intact from this angle, but this brick facade is also buckling and threatening to collapse. We will need to pull down the bricks and install Tyvek and siding ASAP.

It is a worthwhile effort – Historic Northeast has captured our hearts and we are so very happy we live here and share it with so many awesome folks!

Meanwhile down in the kitchen we have a solid wall of cabinetry. They need cleaning, repair, and new drawer pulls, but here is one thing I won’t have to fix!


  • February 2013 – we purchased our house and three lots to the west
  • August 2013 – we purchased the side lot to the east of our house (which borders our newest purchase)
  • July 2014 – we purchased Cottage West a.k.a. Old Lady House a.k.a. The Cottage for $25 from Land Bank
  • November 2016 – we purchased the last lot between our 3 western lots and Cottage West for $500
  • June 2017 – we purchased Cottage East for $2,000

From front bedroom looking down hall to back bedroom. On the right is the bathroom, on the left is the middle bedroom. See the bulls-eye crown moulding on the door? I LOVE that!

It Nearly Went South

This past Saturday, we returned from errands with lunch and noticed that the current owner was there and had it open. We said hello to him, asked if we could take some photos of the inside, and he nodded.

When I came back outside, the neighbors who had sold us the house we live in were standing there, purchase paperwork in hand, ready to make an offer.

Here is a schematic of the main floor

To say that this past weekend was a roller coaster of emotions does not begin to cover it.

I choose to see the good in everyone, so I will sum it up like this:

  • Our neighbors wanted the property and were rather determined to get it.
  • The owner wanted to sell it and preferred to get as much money as possible.
  • I had made an agreement with him back on June 3rd to buy it and was caught in the middle.

It took all of the negotiating skills that I had, along with several impassioned pleas for us to please work this out without courts and lawyers becoming involved. I asked the seller to do the right thing and honor the agreement he had made to sell the property to me.

In the end, I agreed to pay $2,000, double what we had originally agreed on. However, this was half of the price my neighbors had counter-offered. The seller apologized to me for the situation and we signed on the dotted line today.

East side of front porch (our house is in the distance). See why I wanted line of sight? I can really keep an eye on these two properties and that makes all the difference in the world for me.

We have all experienced a great deal of stress and consternation over the past few days and I hope that, despite the acrimony that arose, we can all move past it. In the end, my neighbor and I are very alike, we want to love these old homes, save them for future generations to enjoy, and make our neighborhood a better place to live.

That we were at odds over this property was incredibly distressing for me personally, and I am sure for her as well.

Crawl space off of the front bedroom

With the doubled cost of the house, I was in no position to purchase the last contiguous lot to the east of it. I will leave it to our neighbors to take it on if they so choose at the tax sale in August.

Further Thoughts

I’ve mentioned that the walls are all brick facade. I had originally thought of making pathways with the brick, but after looking at the little backyard over several days, I’ve decided I would like to see it mainly paved throughout with urns full of plants, a fountain/pond along the wall as I described earlier, and little maintenance needed.

This room opposite the kitchen can be turned into a breakfast room and half bath.

I had considered using flagstone pavers for the back yard, but for a 30×20 foot space, the price was rather steep.

Looking from front parlor/living room into the dining room and stairs up. The doorway on right leads to the kitchen.

Instead, I’ll use all of those bricks from the wall facade to create the “floor” of our backyard!

Sort of like this…

Close your eyes and imagine it. Shaded, cool, with water running through a lion’s head mounted on the wall. Plants and seating, even a patio and chairs and a barbecue. Who wouldn’t want to stay with us?!

The floor between the kitchen and what will be the breakfast room and half bath

In the end, we hope to have a romantic English country cottage to offer as an Airbnb. I know it will take plenty of work but we can do it. One step at a time.

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