Sometimes smaller is better

I’m going through my old drafts. Some I rewrite, such as this one. Some I delete. And some I rewrite, still think they’re crap and delete them. This was written October 8, 2008.

1700 Blk Richardson Place NW, Dec 2005

I’ve just finished reading an article regarding the upsides of raising a family in a 1,200 sf house over that of a McMansion. The author writes:

Looking back on 18 years of living small, I see that our snug house has prevented us from easily avoiding one another by retreating into our own spaces. We’ve been able to eavesdrop on our kids as they played with friends and look over their shoulders as they did homework on the dining room table. It’s been good for our health too, forcing all of us, especially our sons, to spend more time out-of-doors. There simply isn’t room to get too rowdy inside, so often they have headed outside to a neighborhood park that’s conveniently located just across the street.I hope we’ve given our sons the message that wealth doesn’t come from our material possessions, but instead from the diversity of experiences we have and the richness of our community.

The author also mentions that with a smaller house she could pay off the mortgage quicker, heat it for less and have a better commute. I already have the great commute. It is my great luck to work for an agency whose DC metro branches are all along the Green Line. My current commute is a 30-45 minute walk, or 20 minutes by metro, and that is priceless. The house is small and there isn’t much to heat or cool, and I tend to be happy lounging in 1/6th of the space. And there is the possibility of actually paying off the mortgages in the next 15 years, but I owe that more to when I bought the house as opposed to the size of the house.

The article was in the conservative online magazine Culture 11 “Living Small”

1640 4th St NW- Blocked from Google Street View

So here’s a little break from Black Home Owners.

I noticed on Google Streetview this property on my old block is blocked. It’s just a blur. But here is what you’re missing.

1640 4th St NW

photo of property

Back when it was yellow.

It is probably blocked because the builders are throwing on a pop up and a bit of a pop back.

1640 4th St NW Construction

So when it is done. I wonder if it will be a fugly thing, of which there is a 50/50 chance. Or would it be an interesting addition.

The Darth Vader house, 1649 New Jersey Ave NW, is, interesting.

That little part that juts out at the front… that’s allowed now?

And yes, some of you are saying, ‘well that’s what you get for not being in an historic district.’ Remind me, Bloomingdale is a historic district and there are some monstrosities popping up and back on Quincy. And around the corner from Quincy on North Capitol, what’s all that going on? Also when the Wardman Flats (Sq. 519 4th, Florida Av, 3rd and R Sts) became historic the residents were not too thrilled about that.

Anyway,  we’ll see. Which reminds me, people of Bates St., you have a history, and I’m going to write about it once I’m done with the Black Home Owners of the 1920 census. Do your pop ups, pop backs, and vinyl window replacing now before I provide the world with enough evidence for a historic anything application.

The Roads Taken and the Houses Not Bought

This is also a personal blog so I’m going to step away from the neighborhood history and talk about houses.

Last year we sold our lovely home on 4th St in Truxton Circle with the plan to buy something in a certain corner of Prince George’s County Maryland. We moved a few doors down on 4th St and rented from former neighbors while we looked at houses. Today and yesterday, I had to run a few errands, and I passed by 4 houses we looked at but did not buy.

The House On the Busy Road- I had to pick up something the Help did not get from the store and on my way back, I passed by the first house we looked at. This was before we were actually serious. Before we got a realtor. Any realtor. As I walked by the house, I noticed a woman enjoying the side porch we did not buy. I wasn’t sure if it was the exact house. The wildly painted stairs had been repainted something more neutral and the house looked like neighboring homes. We agreed that being on a busy road was not right for us.

When we looked at it Destructo-kid was still solidly in diapers. I remember this because he had a blowout. And cut our viewing short so we could change him in the back of the car. We had parked the car near the home of people we knew, but they didn’t seem to be home at the time. Where we were looking had a lot of people we knew, which is why we picked the area we chose to buy. Destructo is mostly potty trained now.

The Divorce House- I’m calling this the divorce house because our Realtor was told the seller was getting or had gotten divorced. It was a wonderful house, with a nice screened in side porch, nice big backyard, finished basement, bathrooms on 3 of the 4 levels, almost everything we wanted…. except the price. We inquired if it would be worth putting an offer. Even before their open house, they already had a few all cash offers at their asking price.

I was passing by the Divorce House to deliver some misdirected mail. The new owners made some similar exterior adjustments that we made with the house we eventually bought. I also noticed some backyard kid stuff. That side porch, which was actually a sunroom, would have been nice. There were a few things I did not like about the house, but that’s a non-issue.

The House on the Corner- Another errand had me on my bike passing the House on the Corner (HotC) that I liked. I really liked the house…. the yard… what yard? The problem I noticed with a lot of houses on corners were that most of the yard was in the front. The point of leaving our lovely townhome on 4th St was to get a yard. With grass. This was scraggly grass, weeds and tree roots in the front and a path from the garage to the house in the back.

I really liked that house. It had a side porch, we really wanted a porch. The second floor had connected rooms. When we looked at the house, without Destructo. I had fun running in a complete circle from one connected room to the next. The converted attic space had reading nooks in front of the Amity windows. The Divorced House had a similar set up, but the connection was closed off and the attic stairs were poorly placed.

Lastly, the Slopey House- We looked. We decided it was too small and we could not to a dang thing about the super sloped back yard. The backyard of this home was the big no that had us passing on it.

Back from another errand, I biked by slowly. Slowly because I was going uphill, being lazy, and using the electronic assist. I could still see the yard remained sloped with a big dip in the center. I could also see the new owners removed a lot of the greenery the previous owner seemed proud of. How sloped you’re wondering? In parts 45 degrees.

I’m enjoying my perch from my upstairs office in the house we are calling home. The house has a number of old house quirks that probably would have been avoided with the Divorce House. We are working on reclaiming more of the yard from the previous owner’s projects.

When I pass the houses we looked at and failed to win the bid on, I think about what could have been. But I also realize we could have missed out on what we have. We didn’t get radiators but we did get the porch we wanted. There are things we didn’t get but in time, I can turn this house into another project.

Richardson House for sale

It appears that some old neighbors have decided to get out of the long distance landlording biz and put their house up for sale. The couple who owns 407 Richardson Pl, moved from DC for a job opportunity in the west (Go west young man, go west!) a few years ago and didn’t have a problem renting out their home on their way out. Then I didn’t hear anything for a while and noticed the house listed on Redfin for $380K.

The Richardson houses are skinny. About 11-12 feet wide if memory serves me right, but that isn’t a odd thing around here as older homes are narrower. But Richardson, now with a shiny new red brick road, is kinda cute. Hopefully that new road won’t suffer from the city’s odd habit of paving a road, coming back months later, digging it up, and then repaving it again.

This page contains a single entry by Mari published on July 21, 2010 10:20 AM.

A coupla house & garden things

I’m a little late mentioning this but have you heard of the partial house collapse on Morgan St? A street that is both in Mt. Vernon Square and the TC.

As a reminder, these houses aren’t as strong as you think they are, unless someone in the 100 or so years they’ve been standing did more than slap band-aids on them. A neighbor is gutting his house and the stories he’s told about what dangerous defects they found once they’ve peeled away the plaster is frigging frightening. Walls with nothing but sandy mortar keeping them up. Walls that were leaning and bowing and not really locked in place that possibly could have taken the neighboring house with it. Well that’s just our block. I’m sure your house was built by guys who wanted the place to stand for a hundred years. Oh wait, your hundred years is up.

Well now that I’ve depressed and unnecessarily scared some of you (really, unless you’re renovating don’t worry. If you are renovating factor structural fix-ups into the costs), here’s something nice. I was in the 5th St Hardware store to get some zip ties. Spent $75 in gardening stuff and forgot the zip ties. Anyway I saw a non-motorized lawn mower for sale. If I still had a tiny lawn I would really consider one of these. It is one of those really old fashioned push reel mowers and since the only power it uses is people power, it is green. I have heard it is greener not to have a lawn at all. But I didn’t ditch my tiny lawn to be green. It was ditched it because I wanted to grow food and I can’t eat grass.

Not so nice. They are almost out of tomato plants. There were 1 or 2 left. I bought 2. Hit the farmers markets. Thursday in Penn Quarter, there is a vendor who sells patio tomato plants, great for small spaces. Patio tomatoes don’t vine all over the place. They are kinda bushy.

Ok this post is rambling.

Death, taxes and a building that’s gonna fall

Originally uploaded by In Shaw

This is the alley side of 1607 New Jersey Avenue, NW. I’ve been told by one citizen living on this block that he’s fearful when walking by this building because it looks like it is going to topple over at any moment. It’s got missing bricks at the base on the alley. It bows out. Its got some pretty wicked looking cracks and I think that upper window is broken.
Well I took a look on the property tax database and 1607 is owned by Arvid W Broadus who is receiving the Senior Citizen Homestead Deduction. Mr. Broadus is dead. According to the Social Security Death Index he died last year 16 Jan 2009 (born 30 Sep 1919) and unfortunately he didn’t make it to his 90 birthday. Unfortunately for us, and anyone walking by this structure, it hasn’t turned over to the living.

ADDITION- Apparently people still read this blog, even journalists. It appears Channel 7 did a story on this house.

Going down and taking everyone with it

A neighbor on my block must really love this neighborhood. Mainly because his (and his wife’s) house is under construction for the 2nd… 3rd time? I lost count, but they’ve must have put in more money than the house is worth. The previous fixes have been mainly minor and one major thing. There was something dealing with poor drainage that plagued them for the longest. Well the current venture has them gutting the house. They didn’t intend to gut the house, but when you start to pull up floors and knock away old plaster you discover fresh heart sinking, bank busting horrors, like I did when I had my house renovated.
One of the horrors discovered was a combo pack of a poor electrical, mixed with bad brick, which under the right conditions could take out 1/3 of the block in a house fire collapse situation. Okay maybe 1/8th of the block trusting that at least one connecting house was renovated well enough to block disaster. Yes. There are supposed to be fire blocks between these old row houses, but ‘supposed to be’ and ‘actually is’ aren’t the same thing. Pulling away the drywall and plaster revealed failing brick load bearing walls, party and exterior walls with failed (questionable if brick was there in the 1st place) portions. Add these failed portions to an electrical system that came in contact with a leak and lint filled jerry rigged dryer vent, and we have the higher risk for fire. If the fire didn’t come then the failing brick wall, if it fell, would definitely have taken the neighboring house with it.
A former TC resident once told me that you never really know what you have until you get down to the brick and the joists.

Quick Sale

This weekend a house near me got under contract, despite the price. Honestly, I thought $599K was too much, considering a house on the same block with a similar layout, but with a basement and a somewhat functional gas fireplace sold for about $150K less. Others who’d seen the interior of the higher priced home had said it was in move in condition and done very nicely. I saw the inside and admittedly couldn’t play the IKEA/Home Depot game, but I swear one of the interior paint colors was the same as my dining room’s. Ralph Lauren, Stony Mountain, NA15.
Well I gather the Real Estate market in the circle of Truxton, is healthy. That or someone really wants to live on our street. Maybe I’ll go with the second theory as Sunday was nice out, which meant the cute 5 and under set were out riding their bikes and razors. “Hey look, if you had kids they’d be playing with these kids by now.” And the people with dogs chatting with the neighbors doing things in their yards. For a while it was the best advertisement. A living brochure. A clean block (cleaned earlier that day by a neighbor) with happy children, a diverse (age & race) set of friendly looking adults being all frigging neighborly, smiling, laughing. That’s worth about $150K right there.
So putting your house on the market anytime soon? Somehow pick the nicest day for an open house and during the open house, convince your neighbors to make your block look like it’s fricking Sesame Street. Guaranteed sale.

So far, so good

After chatting with neighbors on the phone and passing by with the old snow shovel (but we’re running out of places to shovel it) I found out I’m okay comparatively.
1- I haven’t torn anything in my leg and thusly I’m not crippled like one poor soul.
2- My roof, so far is holding. The folks down the block suffered a partial roof collapse.
3- And the furnace still works. Last I spoke with another set of neighbor’s whose heat went out. Hopefully they can get it back up and running again.
4- Luckily no one expects me to be at work as the Federal gov’mit is closed. Unfortunately, a good friend of mine who is a contractor, (lowly paid, not the big money type), can’t work when we’re closed and will have to find a way to eat the week of non-work he’s not getting paid for.

I cleaned off the roof of my first floor kitchen and knocked off some of the ice icicles from the safety of a window. There is a big hunk of ice weighing down one section of the gutter that I couldn’t reach safely. Sigh. I’ll try to deal with that tomorrow. I’ve been checking some of the old cracks in the kitchen ceiling and so far no change. My next door neighbor is very worried about his roof and shoveled it. I’m just trusting that the equally spread out weight and some fixes after the gut job renovation helped.
Here’s to praying for sun and above freezing temps.