Thursday, July 09, 2015

Lusting after old (Federal-style) houses

I'm a sucker for an old house --- to admire only. Some combination of talent, time and money is required to deal properly with a vintage structure and I'm lacking that combination.

So I read almost daily Kelly's Old House Dreams Web site --- just to look, I've written about the site before. Kelly works Realtor listings, surely almost a full-time job, looking for interesting houses in a wide range of styles to post. It's absolutely the best site of its type out there for lookers.

I especially like Federal houses, which technically should have been built between 1785 and 1830 --- but in places like Iowa and elsewhere on the then-frontier, affluent settlers continued to build similar structures into the 1850s.

Now and then a Federal house turns up on Old House Dreams that stops me cold --- I can waste a heck of a lot of time just looking at the photographs, trying to figure out the layout, speculating about what has and hasn't been done as the building was conserved and/or restored.

This is one of those, an 1805 Federal at Trumansburg, New York. As someone wrote in a comment to the post, the stair hall alone is worth the price of admission.

It meets all my criteria for a great house, including the exterior siding that has been stained rather than painted. Obviously, there's been a side porch at some point with second-floor access onto its roof --- doors of this type come in very handy when moving large pieces of furniture in and out and for stepping outside to shake a dustmop. I'm not sure I'd put it back --- but you'd have to be a little careful if you didn't.

The detail, interior and exterior, is restrained but of the highest quality. The rooms look as good, if not better, unfurnished and minimally "decorated."

There are more photos of the house one its Old House Dreams page, which is located here.

If you're looking for something similar in Iowa, here's Plum Grove --- the 1844 retirement home of Iowa's first territorial governor, Robert Lucas, after whom Lucas County was named. It's brick rather than frame, but the idea is the same.

Plum Grove, extensively altered after the Lucas family moved out, was acquired by the state in 1943 and restored. It currently is maintained by the State Historical Society of Iowa.

If you're in the Iowa City vicinity, Plum Grove is open 1-5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday Memorial Day through Labor Day and during the same hours on Saturdays and Sundays from Labor Day into mid-October.

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