Last week we wrote about a great house in the prime Halloween location of Lee Street. That particular home is a really nice place that truth be told (our house needs to cover its ears) we really sort of love. The problem is, we're just not keen on the $1.3 million price tag.

Well it just so happens there's a house one block further down the same street that is also on the market. The style is similar to last week's house, though it is a bit older and the price is far friendlier (well, by ridiculous Old Town standards anyway). In the name of comparison window shopping, Wendy and I decided to drop by and check it out, you know, for comparison purposes. We're quite glad we did.

Nestled among the other historic homes on the picturesque block of Lee Street, the home at 433 South Lee is a four bedroom, three and a half bath house that was built in 1795. The exterior of the home is interesting and somewhat uncommon. While the front is a wood structure covered in clapboard siding, the rest of the house is all brick. You really don't see this configuration very often. Here's a look at it in the photo below.

According to the listing, the home was built on land purchased in 1792 for only $41 in silver dollars. Prices sure were more reasonable back then. The age of the home and the property lends itself to the surprise I stumbled on, but I'll cover that later.

Wendy and I have run and walked by this home countless times over the years, and we've always wondered what the interior is like. From the unassuming exterior we really couldn't be quite sure, but we were anxious to see for ourselves.

Walking through the front door you are met with a very quaint entry hall and staircase. The historic elements are fully intact, which is rare in a home of this age. It's obvious from the modest appointments that this home was never meant to be a grand example of architecture, but the charm and history of the more than 200 year old elements are impressive just the same.

As with many 18th century homes, the original structure is just a few rooms deep and on two floors. The living room at the front of the home retains many original elements, including random width pine flooring, a working fireplace, and built-in bookcases.

Beyond the living room, the dining room denotes the back wall of the original home and extends towards the rear into the kitchen addition. It also has a nice fireplace that is still functional, although in our opinion, the chandelier leaves something to be desired. That's an easy change though.

There is an interesting trait common to many old homes that have undergone additions. In many cases these added on spaces seem to grow from the house as individual elements, rather than as integrated living spaces. Personally, I think this organic approach to adding on is far more interesting (although perhaps not as functional), especially when the additions are more than 100 years old.

There is a nook between the two areas of the house that creates a pass through from the old part of the house to the newer section. 

To the right and to the the rear of the home is a nice yard and patio area. You're closed in by all of the neighbors though, so unfortunately there isn't parking at this house. Can't win 'em all.

The kitchen is decent, but nothing too fancy. It's workable but gives plenty of room for an upgrade.

There is a first floor full bathroom off of the kitchen...

...and a back staircase that leads to an isolated second floor bedroom area.

This bedroom is very interesting. We expected to be able to get to the front of the house from this room, but once upstairs, that was all that was there. The addition was configured as almost an entirely different building with the only connection to the main house via the small pass-through between the dining room and kitchen, which ultimately leads to the staircase up to the bedroom.

I think it would be super cool if you were a kid and wanted your owns space, but I'm not sure how parents might feel about that. We actually thought it could make a great guest space, as it would allow guests to have their own area entirely.

We headed back downstairs to venture back to the original portion of the house and up the front stairs.

One thing that really struck me about the stairs is just how wide they are. Given the tiny narrow staircase in our home, and others we've seen around town, I was quite surprised at the very generous width given that it is an original element to the home.

The second floor has a large main hallway with two nice sized bedrooms that are directly accessible.

The master bedroom is fairly large, has a working fireplace, and a nice view to old homes and a wooded area. A few large trees that once sat directly across from this house have fallen in our recent strong storms, so I bet there's a very nice winter river view when all of the other trees lose their leaves.

But the highlight for me was actually the third floor. The attic space has been nicely converted to a living space. Though it is currently just a storage area, it has some excellent potential as an office space. And best of all, the window has a pretty good "if you stand here and turn your head this way just a little bit and tilt you head" river view. 

I'm telling you, river views are coveted. I guess that's why I tend to go on and on about them in these open housing posts. Remember Wendy's fave, the cute picket fence house across from the park with soaring river views? But I digress.

That pretty much covers the main part of the house. There isn't a real basement to the house, only a cellar with dirt floor that is only externally accessible, so I really didn't expect much from this area, but I ventured down anyhow, and that leads us to the surprise I mentioned earlier. I love looking in the dark and creepy parts of old houses, mostly because you can learn so much about a house from these area with exposed framing and structure. In this case I found something I didn't expect. 

Beneath the entryway of the house, under the oldest portion of the building, there was a large sunken pit in the floor that was partially filled with dirt. Here's a photo I snapped while down there (ignore random thing hanging in the way, it was totally dark until the camera flash when off).

Can you see what it is? If you said "it's a filled in well" you're 100% correct. Someone at some point filled the well with dirt to close it up. Perhaps it went dry, perhaps it started to smell, perhaps it was just a safety issue, perhaps a zombie had wandered into it, who knows, but the well that was probably responsible for supplying water to the block is no more. 

You can still see the brick wall of the well, which means it was carefully excavated and expertly conceived. It's a shame it's closed up. At the very least you know there has to be some really cool stuff buried in the bottom of that thing. Anyone up for a shovel brigade?

The basement also had several doors and other old house parts just waiting for someone to come along and help put them back in their original locations. 

All in all, we were both surprised by several aspects of the house. From the unexpected amount of space, to how intact the historical elements of the house still are, and even the surprise find of the outline of an old well.

If you're interested in more information, check out the home's listing.

And now for our game...

Would You Trade?

Alex: This one is really, really, really tough. The age of the home is perfect, exactly what I've always wanted. The location of the home is wonderful, prime Lee Street area, view of the water (from the right window). And the home's interior is intact the way I would absolutely want it to me. There are only two items that make me hesitate. First, there's no parking. While this isn't a gigantic deal, it is a step down a bit, but perhaps worth it given the location and other criteria. But a bigger deal is the fact the house shares a wall with the neighbor house, and the front of the house is very bowed out on the foundation below the sill where the two houses touch. This may have been like this for a very long time, but it makes me nervous for structural issues that you need to deal with in conjunction with a neighbor. That scares me enough to say, "no, I wouldn't trade." But my "no" vote also makes me sad, because I want to say yes.

Wendy: This one isn't as tough for me as it is for Alex. My answer is a simple "no." As much as I love the location, the curb appeal, and the breathtaking sight as you walk in the front door (hey, it has a "Christmas staircase" after all), I just wouldnt' do it. After you pass through the living/dining/entry hall space, things just get a little weird. I guess that's to Alex's point that old additions sometimes feel like an after thought. The kitchen is too isolated and cramped, especially with the current peninsula configuration, and even though our basement is a cluttered hell hole, it's still important that we can access it from the inside of the house...and that it doesn't have a dirt floor and 4' ceilings. I do like the idea of a separate guest space and the outdoor space is pretty incredible, but then again, I can't imagine circling the block looking for parking as my groceries (read: ice cream desserts) melt in the trunk on a hot summer day. It's a really special property, but our current home functions much better for us. Therefore, I give it a resounding "no."

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: Listing agent, Long & Foster where "2011 MRIS" is noted.

Comments 4


11/11/2011 at 9:33 AM
Oh how I love the interior of this house! I actually love the seperation of the addition from the rest of the house.

That being said, unless it could be magically moved to the country and be a fully detached house, I'm going to have to say no, too!
11/11/2011 at 10:07 AM
The well is crazy. Three words: Stir of Echoes.
Creeeepy. Haven't seen that one, and if I ever want to sleep again, probably shouldn't add it to our Netflix rotation any time soon. :-)
11/17/2011 at 2:57 PM
I'm a "no" on this one, too. The narrow pass through between the main house and the addition plus the potential structural issues make this one a non-starter.

BUT - love the arched bookcases and the staircase - I've always wanted a front "formal" stair instead of the central enclosed stair that I've had in both of my houses.
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