203 Fairfield Avenue, Hartford

Located in Hartford’s Southwest neighborhood, this historic Craftsman Bungalow features a great layout and many original architectural details. The oversized front porch has whimsical decorative elements, including scroll sawn woodwork and brackets.


203Fairfield

Inside, a formal foyer is flanked by a den and the formal living room. Natural woodwork, stained glass windows and period lighting remain. The living room has a wood burning fireplace and opens to the dining room which features two built-in hutches and French doors to a heated sun porch. The sizable kitchen has eat-in space, a picture window overlooking the backyard and access to the raised deck. The first floor also has a bedroom with an adjacent 3-season porch and full bathroom.

The upstairs level offers two spacious bedrooms, a full bathroom and plenty of storage space.

The backyard is fully fenced and features various fruit trees.

The home has a freshly painted exterior, gas utilities and a 1-car garage.

203 Fairfield Avenue is 3 bedrooms, 2 baths and 2,096 sqft on 0.25 acres. The listing price is $225,000. If you’d like to see this home, please have your agent arrange a showing or call me at 860-655-2125 to schedule a visit. More details and a photo tour are available.

Enjoying Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Recently we went on a 4 day vacation to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I really knew nothing about Portsmouth when I booked our hotel stay in May. Just that I was kind of going out of my mind with work and that I would probably want a few days off when things typically slow down for us at the beginning of August.

Lighthouse

My requirements were that our vacation destination couldn’t be more than 3 hours away, it should be near water and there should be stuff to do. “Stuff to do” for me is loosely defined as activities that keep me moving around and exploring, as I am not one to sit around and relax. That is not vacation for me. The running family joke is that I have to “squeeze the fun” from all of my downtime because I don’t get much of it. We zip from activity to activity yelling “squeeze the fun!” shaking our fists. I don’t know, maybe I have adult ADHD.

In any event, we were off to Portsmouth for a few days. I had done some preliminary research and it seemed lively enough with interesting architecture and history, walkable shopping, quality restaurants and in close proximity to beaches where we could go exploring later in the days. Our awesome hotel even let us bring Libby along for the trip.

I think Portsmouth might be my new favorite New England town ever. They are quite small, a population of approximately 21,000, and they seem to have their stuff together on so many levels. They have a very well developed downtown area of well more than a hundred small owner shops and restaurants. Just blocks and blocks of independently owned places. The only large retailers we saw were a Banana Republic and Stonewall Kitchen. Everything else was locally owned. Kitschy stores with all different items doing well. Restaurants of all different varieties serving great food, at a variety of price points.

They’ve condo-ized many of their older buildings and built new construction of condos and houses so they blend in with the older historic buildings. There are several large hotels near the water that cater to visitors and allow people to be involved right in the downtown area of shopping and eating.

They are proud of their history and do a great job explaining it to visitors and incorporating it into daily life and the structures that are in place. Their visitor center was really well run and gave us helpful ideas for our visit, incorporating our interests. On-street and garage parking was easy to find. It was a dollar an hour for parking pretty much wherever you parked. That seemed more than reasonable to us. They even had a few dog parks within various City parks.

We tried to compare it to something in Greater Hartford, but really couldn’t. It was kind of like the West Hartford Center area, but supercharged. There seemed to be such an entrepreneurial base of small owner places, while still catering to both locals and out-of-towners. We’re still trying to think through the things we learned from our very enjoyable visit, so more on that next week.

Downtown

Restoration

Townhouses

Shoreline

Beach

It’s a Brick. House.

I learned something interesting today during a home inspection, so I thought I would pass it along.

Take a look at the photo below. Is this house solely brick exterior construction or is it brick and stud construction (essentially the brick is only a veneer)? How can you tell?



This home, built in 1884 according to town records, is solely brick exterior construction. That means there are several layers of brick which make up the exterior/interior walls of the shell of the home. You can tell this because every few courses of brick there are bricks turned perpendicular to the other bricks. The brick is all structural in function and the method of laying the bricks provided stability and strength.

If the brick is all laid running the same direction, it’s a veneer and is only for aesthetics, the brick does not have a structural function.

Here’s an interesting website that talks more about older brick construction and how it works. There are also some helpful tips on how it should be properly maintained and repaired, if needed.

The more you know…

A New Home for Steve Jobs

Will the Bulldozers Roll onto Steve Jobs' Property?Steve Jobs, Apple CEO and technology visionary, has a gift for designing things. People have been going bananas over Apple’s various portable devices for the past decade, and he is credited with many of their important design principles.

Although gadgets are fun, we’re more about the real estate on this site. And this news piece definitely caught our attention – Steve Jobs is going to be building a new home! And the site plans are available on the internet!

The story of this property is too long and complicated for us to fully understand the details, but there seems to be two interesting themes – historic preservation and design.

Jobs bought the estate in 1984, lived in it for a while, rented it for a while, and let it sit vacant for a while. The existing structure is a 30 room Spanish Colonial Revival mansion with 14 bedrooms and 13.5 baths over multiple structures on 6 acres. Although Jobs has wanted to demolish the home for years, local preservationists have successfully intervened on the property’s behalf, working to either save the structure or move the home to a different site. In 2006 someone made their way onto the vacant property and took these pictures, which show significant neglect. There seems to have been rulings in favor of each side, with the most recent victory being for Jobs when the preservationists dropped their lawsuit seeking to prevent demolition. At this point, the demolition is on.

The other interesting subplot is about what the new home will look like. Jobs has the resources to build anything he wants, so what will it be? Conceptual plans for the new home were submitted to the Woodside Town Council, and they have reached the interwebs. I haven’t found images that I can zoom in on (please post a link in the comments if you find some), but these small images and the accompanying commentary give a good flavor for the space. The basic conclusions of those who have studied the plans in detail are that Jobs is sticking with the clean, simplified aesthetic popularized by Apple products. Also, that he won’t be throwing large parties at his house, it’s designed more as a peaceful retreat than a showpiece property.

Jobs has won the most recent battle with the preservationists, but will it be the end of the war? And if he actually follows through with his plan, will the final product truly be as restrained as the current plans? Only time will tell.

Demolition in Detroit

This local property has been restored since the photo was takenFriday’s Wall Street Journal article about the demolition of historic homes in Detroit came at an interesting time. The previous evening we had attended the Hartford Preservation Alliance awards event, a gathering to celebrate the architectural history of our city and the efforts of community members to restore and reuse buildings rather than knock them down.

Detroit has a rich architectural history, as can be seen on sites like Forgotten Detroit and Detroit1701.org. Some of the historical homes are currently in use, and in good condition, while others appear to be abandoned. The city has lost a substantial number of residents over the past 50 years and there are apparently blocks with few inhabited houses. A piece on the Land+Living site from 2006 shows some images of Detroit’s residential landscape.

The WSJ article raises an important question that we face here in Hartford too … how much should we preserve? Is preserving the exterior sufficient? Is bulldozing ever the right thing to do?

Houses are large, and they’re expensive to maintain. This makes preserving them much more difficult than paintings, sculptures, or other works of art. However, like a work of art, each house is often unique since it reflects the site on which it was built and may have been customized for the owner. Therefore homes are different from cars, stamps, or guns, where having one example of each “model” could be considered sufficient.

I like to think of myself as a practical, if not pragmatic, person. Houses need to be functional; otherwise they’re not going to survive. I think that older homes should evolve over time to meet the needs of modern society. They need regular maintenance, and the best way to achieve that is by continuing to serve their primary role as a shelter and an oasis from the outside world. However, in making the updates property owners have a responsibility to make changes within the spirit and character of their home. They should make historically appropriate choices as often as possible.

The larger challenge is when neighborhoods and regions evolve. This is the primary issue that Detroit faces, and is also a relevant topic in the City of Hartford. What happens when it no longer makes economic sense for homeowners to maintain and restore their property? Or a block of properties? Or an entire neighborhood?

Detroit has chosen to sacrifice some of their history in an effort to move their city forward. Without living in the area and experiencing their problems first-hand, it’s difficult to fully understand that decision. I can only imagine the intense debate that led up to the final demolition orders. Mayor Bing’s State of the City address on March 23, 2010 outlines Detroit’s major challenges and initiatives, of which the demolition program is just a small piece.

It’s always sad to see grand old homes in disrepair – you can still see their beauty shining through the years of neglect. At some point taking them down may be the only option. Hopefully here in Hartford we can continue working to protect our historic properties as we confront many of the same challenges as Detroit, just on a smaller scale.