Sunday, February 26, 2012

Old House Voyeurism: In Albia

We've played this game before here, but without a title. The goal is to mine Realtor listings for photos of and information regarding admirable old houses now on the market in southern Iowa, which I define as our two southernmost tiers of counties --- God's country --- although anything south of Des Moines could quality.

Listings describe this house in southeast Albia as: "... your opportunity to own one of Albia's most historic homes sitting on almost an entire city block. The home has been well maintained with lots of upgrades. Many of the original features have been preserved including original woodwork and grand staircase, 3 marble fireplaces and pocket doors. Ths home has been decorated with many pieces of Victorian furniture which are optional with the purchase of this home."

The address is 926 4th Avenue East and the asking price, an optimistic (although not impossible if someone with deep enough pockets comes along) $265,000. The style is Italianate and the Realtor build date, 1880, which seems about right.

I'd bet that, in Albia, it's known as the "old (insert surname here) place," but without that information I can't poke around for the name of its builder or history.

Albia is a town with a strong preservation ethic thanks in large part to the late Bob Bates and friends, who started work 50 or more years ago. Its beautifully restored, conserved and maintained city square is a National Register Historic District. There are a number of fine old homes, too, and this certainly is one of them.

I've driven by it many times, wondering what it was like inside --- but homeowners sometimes react badly when a guy walks up the door and asks, "how much for a tour?"

And I know a couple who considered purchasing it at one point. She wanted it. He didn't. Eventually, they didn't --- perhaps one reason why they're still married.

The house faces north in the middle of a block-sized lot in a neighborhood of more modest homes, most with plenty of elbow room. It presides over the area, several blocks east and slightly south of the square.

Obviously well maintained, it has been extensively decorated in a classic aspirational southern Iowa style, including plenty of "outdoors" prints and a mounted deer head over one of the original marble chimneypieces. The only piece of the scheme that makes me really nervous, beyond the glassy eyes of the dead deer (there are dead fish on the chimneypiece, too) is wallpaper of great gloom in the dining room.

There are five bedrooms, two and a half baths and 3,592 square feet of living space. The home's Trulia listing, which is here, offers access to 60 photos of the house --- including many of extensively decorated bedrooms upstairs --- in case you want to investigate further.

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