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You know you're an old house owner in NJ if...

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You know you're an old house owner in NJ if...

Postby KristenS on Tue Jun 21, 2011 10:11 am

    you pull out all your wavy glass windows for vinyl, even your diamond panes and bullseyes
    you replace your front door with an Eye of Sauron (link courtesy of lisascenic's post)
    gut your entire house down to the studs and rebuild it with drywall, hollow doors, tile floors, and vinyl siding
    ...and then you list it for sale as having "old world charm"
    you landscape your ENTIRE yard with red mulch inside pink concrete retaining blocks (who needs grass?!)
    you chop down 80-year-old trees because they hide your curb appeal

Sorry...just had to vent. Sometimes I think I shouldn't walk around my neighborhood at all. Other times, I think I should take out full page ads in our (crappy) newspaper imploring people to just leave their houses alone.

Someone, please cheer me up with happy thoughts of how I'm going to set a great example in town and get this place back on track toward celebrating our history instead of "improving" it. Please!
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c. 1907 Shingle Victorian/Craftsman
House history still being researched!
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Re: You know you're an old house owner in NJ if...

Postby pqtex on Tue Jun 21, 2011 2:26 pm

I've often thought I would be happier if I had a George Jetson-like spacecraft so I could come and go directly to my property without having to look at the changes in town that aren't for the better!
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My great-grandparents' 1913 farmhouse

Too bad the spam got so bad. Some of us have been spending time at the new community for folks with a love of old houses at wavyglass.org
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Re: You know you're an old house owner in NJ if...

Postby KristenS on Tue Jun 21, 2011 5:58 pm

That would do it! And then I could fly low over Montclair, where people know the value of an old house.

The other day, my man and I were walking in our neighborhood. He noticed that someone had peeled back the aluminum siding on part of a 100+ year old house. He got a smile and said "See, Kristen, someone thinks like you. They're removing the aluminum siding to go back to the original house." I looked up, noticed it was only peeled back around an arched window in the attic, and sourly declared "They're probably just doing it to replace the gorgeous old window with vinyl."

My man scowled at me. But lo and behold, a week later we were walking down the same street, and that's just what they'd done.

Either I want to be rewarded with prize money every time I predict an ass-tastic move like that... or I want them to stop!
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c. 1907 Shingle Victorian/Craftsman
House history still being researched!
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Re: You know you're an old house owner in NJ if...

Postby westvillager on Wed Jun 22, 2011 10:51 am

It's not just New Jersey, unfortunately...it's almost everywhere. I live in a historic district that is supposed to keep people from replacing wood siding with vinyl, wood windows with vinyl, removing architectural elements, and putting totally awful non-historic color schemes on their houses. Yet despite this, a fairly high percentage houses have had various historically inaccurate modifications that have occurred at various points since the historic district ordinance became law in 1978. I've called the "architectural police" to report various vinyl window installations over the years, but in the end, the damage was done, and the vinyl windows stayed. I avoid walking around my neighborhood so I don't see these sorts of things. It just makes me angry.

Detroit, being a very poor city, does have a lot of houses that are pretty much completely original since their owners can't afford to "upgrade" them. Unfortunately, this also means that a lot of houses are quite literally falling down & falling apart, often times beyond the point where it's economically feasible to repair them. This is especially true these days, when you can get a decent house for $5 or $10k, and a nice house for $40k.
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Re: You know you're an old house owner in NJ if...

Postby JRC on Wed Jun 22, 2011 1:23 pm

I agree with westvillager that this isn't just a NJ thing. I'm changing neighborhoods because, in my current neighborhood, "fixing a house up" means that you replace the windows and put on vinyl siding. You might even consider tearing out the original porch floor and columns, and replace them with pressure treated lumber, so that it looks like you have a deck with a roof, instead of a traditional porch.

The neighborhood I'm moving to has many unmolested homes (except for being split into apartments... :cry: ) But again, it's like westvillager said, many remain original only because the owners don't have the money to "fix" them.
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Re: You know you're an old house owner in NJ if...

Postby pqtex on Wed Jun 22, 2011 2:48 pm

westvillager wrote:Detroit, being a very poor city, does have a lot of houses that are pretty much completely original since their owners can't afford to "upgrade" them. Unfortunately, this also means that a lot of houses are quite literally falling down & falling apart, often times beyond the point where it's economically feasible to repair them.


I have seen this in my city. There are several neighborhoods with many lovely old houses that were homes to the wealthy or newly prosperous when built between the turn of the century and the 1920's and 30's. These neighborhoods are now homes to the elderly and poor who can't fix them up, either because they are physically unable, or financially unable. Many of them have been converted to multi-family. But, as westvillager said, because they can't afford to fix them up, or remodel or remuddle, the old light fixtures remain, the old solid wood columns, the old bathroom sinks, tubs, and fixtures.

As a former social worker making home visits, I saw this many times. The tall ceilings, gorgeous woodwork, the huge old kitchen sinks, original windows, vintage medicine cabinets, door and cabinet hardware, light fixtures, etc. Original (or at least vintage) wallpaper, and heart pine floors. It was all I could do to keep my eyes from bugging out. But all they could think of was how cold it was in the winter, how hot in the summer, how were they going to pay their utility bills, afraid to run the heat or AC, often not even turning on lights to save on the bills. They didn't really view these things as assets. I could see the beauty, but could understand where they were coming from. If they didn't have money for bread or medicine or the electri bill, they couldn't afford to repair a leaky roof. Sadly, many of these homes are losing their original windows due to grants to the elderly and low income for so-called energy efficient windows.

If I won the 100 million dollar lottery, I would have so much fun buying up these places...whole neighborhoods at a time. I'd evict the drug dealers and gang members, and stop houses from being used as crack houses,,,and then I'd start working with the good folks. Fix up the homes for the elderly and charge reasonable rent or sell them back to folks who could prove themselves. Keep the homes maintained for them. Work with the low & middle income folks who lived there and provide incentives for them to keep up their homes, and incentives to restore windows, remove vinyl/aluminum siding, etc. It could be turned around. It would just take a whole boatload of money. Which I don't have.
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My great-grandparents' 1913 farmhouse

Too bad the spam got so bad. Some of us have been spending time at the new community for folks with a love of old houses at wavyglass.org
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Re: You know you're an old house owner in NJ if...

Postby westvillager on Wed Jun 22, 2011 7:36 pm

It's unfortunate that these people, no matter how poor, don't view some of the original/vintages features of their houses as being assets. This country has a total obsession with shiny and new. It doesn't matter that what is in their houses has been perfectly serviceable for 100 years and will last for 100 more. As a society, we have discarded entire neighborhoods (and entire cities) for new, cookie-cutter neighborhoods on the fringes. People want new everything, but yet some of these same people will travel to Europe to see buildings hundreds of years old, and then wonder upon returning why we don't have any old buildings here.

I question my sanity for living in Detroit sometimes, since it sometimes seems like I'm the only one left. Economically, it would make complete sense for me to move to some vinyl-clad suburb (I'd avoid high insurance rates & the city's 3% income tax), but I have yet to find a suburb that has the old houses, character, and personality of Detroit neighborhoods. You can't get more old house for your money anywhere else in the country. However, every day I witness people improving (and "improving") their beautiful old houses. Some fix them the historically correct way. Others don't. It's very hard for me to sit back & watch as these people remuddle their houses, but there's nothing I can do about it, so I try not to get upset. My attitude is that I will do the best I can to be a good steward to this house while I am here. I realize that future owners may undo everything that I have done here, or may even discard every historical feature. Regardless of what they do, I can at least rest in good conscience knowing that I've done my part to preserve a small slice of Detroit's history. I hope that others will appreciate the fact that it's an old house and embrace that charm, but there are certainly no guarantees.
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Re: You know you're an old house owner in NJ if...

Postby oldhouseluvr on Wed Jun 22, 2011 7:42 pm

Look at the bright side - at least they are still standing. We're not far from you and our town actually has a historic demolition ordinance, yet two old house have been torn down in recent years.
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Re: You know you're an old house owner in NJ if...

Postby airgrabber on Thu Jun 23, 2011 8:47 am

I know how the OP feels. NJ (especially the Southern part of the state) is very McMansion-oriented. And if you don't have a McMansion you better update what you've got to resemble one. Here, vintage houses are seen as outdated, old, ugly and nothing more than fodder for "renovations" of the vinyl kind. I live in the largest historic district in the state, yet down the street, a Craftsman bungalow is now sporting pukey neutral-tan vinyl siding and vinyl windows. My next door neighbor (a rental property) has replaced their porch railings with Home Depot specials, their classic 6-panel wood front door with one of those demi-lune window steel jobs and I just noticed that two of the upstairs windows were now bright white new vinyl-clad replacements. Whatever. NJ is one of the weakest states in terms of historic preservation and spirit. It's very discouraging.
Last edited by airgrabber on Thu Jun 23, 2011 12:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: You know you're an old house owner in NJ if...

Postby KristenS on Thu Jun 23, 2011 11:16 am

It's nice to hear that other people know what I'm feeling. But it's also horrible to hear!

I researched the town I'm in before I moved here. I wasn't exhaustive-- I didn't live here for six months before buying or anything. But I joined a message board about the town, and I read the local paper, and I Googled the heck out of the town's name.

We have a Historical Society, which runs a museum in town. We have a Preservation Society, which spurred on the preservation of a 1700s house that was in danger from an encroaching condo development. We have the quaintest little commission form of government (very old fashioned!). And we have dozens of street fairs, holiday events, parades and social events each year. All of them centered on the main street, right between the high school and junior high.

Doesn't that sound like the kind of town that would promote a knowledge of history? That would know and care about how the town came to be?

Yeah...it sounded like that to me too. What a farce!

I'm so frustrated!
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c. 1907 Shingle Victorian/Craftsman
House history still being researched!
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