It’s not often that a home in the heart of the historic district of Old Town that was built before the United States was a country comes on the market. It’s even less often that a home in this category is held as an open house. Well, last weekend was our lucky open housing weekend as we were able to go through a home thought to have been built around 1760.
Yes, you read that correctly -- 1760. The home was built while our colonies were still under British rule, while taxes were being levied on those without representation (sort of like citizens of DC still experience today), before the Continental Army had formed, and while the founding fathers of the United States were brainstorming the ideas of government and constitution that would build the country where we now live.
The home, in the 200 block of Duke Street, sits across from the home of George Washington’s personal physician, so it probably has a few interesting stories to tell.
The outside of the home has been nicely maintained and retains much of the 18th century details that truly makes it unique. As you can see from the photo, the bright red door adds a warm welcome to the home's facade.
Walking into the entry hallway, you step into the original portion of the house and feel like you've stepped back in time. The period character and details of the home, from the wide plank flooring to the simple but substantial molding and staircase handrail, make the home feel warm and welcoming.
The home’s original structure seems to be limited to just the front two rooms of the house. Beyond the front rooms, a much later addition houses the kitchen and family room area.
The kitchen has been somewhat recently updated, but in our opinion, there is still room for improvement. Wendy thinks that just changing out the cabinet hardware alone would make be a substantial improvement.
One of the very neat features of the house is the back staircase that is attached to the kitchen. Wendy and I both love back staircases, even if they are newer like this one is.
The back staircase leads upstairs to the master bedroom suite in the rear addition. Towards the front of the house is the oldest bedroom with a cozy fireplace. The colors may not be for everyone, but the bones are there.
Walking back through the various rooms to the front of the house, you notice how the ages of the rooms slowly go back in time until you reach the front bedroom. It is neat to watch the progression. Just look at how interesting some of the floors are.
The bathrooms leave something to be desired and could stand a pretty significant renovation in each of them, but the size and potential exists.
One of my favorite features of the house is the main staircase. More specifically how the stairs reach a small landing near the top and split with the option to go forward or backward to either room.
This is sort of a quintessentially "Old Town" configuration of a home. Each room has a quirk as you enter. Whether it's a small step up or down, a split level landing, or a crooked doorway, each is unique and each has a story.
Right now the house is configured as essentially two bedrooms and a den, but it could easily be made into a three bedroom place by closing off on of the doors to the second bedroom.
The backyard is nice and large, but it is locked in on all sides, which means no reserved parking spaces. Where did people park their horses 250 years ago? I guess the block wasn't so full back then.
I did notice something interesting. Whoever did the renovation took the time and effort to source salvaged hardware for the door knobs and locks. Here’s a photo of one of them.
Take a close look, notice anything odd? The screws are silver Philips head. If these were original elements the screws would be slotted and a darker color, aged with the hardware. The rest of the hardware are mismatched rim locks with Eastlake brass knobs, some painted, some stripped, and no two are alike. I appreciate the effort, but I do notice these things. I think its because I’m obsessive about historically accurate hardware.
I do have to give some serious props on one thing. The glazing on the 6-over-6 original windows is actually painted black, but the window sash is all white. It’s a little detail that you really only see on very old homes, and it’s one that I particularly like.
And now for our game...
Would You Trade?
Alex: Yes. The age of the home is exactly what I really want in a house. The original details are intact and the home has a lot of renovation potential. I’d start over on this house, but starting over isn’t really the right term since the house is already completely livable. I’d sacrifice parking for this house.
Wendy: I'd have to give it a lot of thought, but ultimately yes, I'd trade. I prefer the location of this home to ours because it's in a quieter part of town. And as much as I'd hate to give up parking, I love the back staircase and the open flow of the kitchen and family room. But I'm sure Alex would get really sick of me complaining about parking challenges. :-)
As always, we'd love to hear your thoughts on this home. Is the age an enticing factor for you, or does it sound an alarm?
Interested in reading about other interesting homes for sale? Want to offer your take on "would you trade"? Check out the Open Housing section of Old Town Home.
Photo Credits: Carol Cleary, Listing Agent