How many times had we driven past and never noticed it? Hundreds? It was well hidden behind an overgrown WPA built granite wall and a newly forming forest of sassafras trees. It stood on the left most half of an acre of land. No one had lived there since the 40's when the owner's parents had spent a few summers. The house hadn't had a permanent resident since 1934. The snow was knee deep the first time we met the real estate agent at the house. It wasn't many weeks since the infamous Blizzard of 78 had shut down most of coastal New England for a week. Here we were, getting a first tour of our "house with possibilities".
We dragged ourselves through the snow to the front door, then around to the side. The front door had been boarded shut. At the side door, we cautiously climbed up the rickety wooden steps that creaked with age and cold under our feet. As we stepped inside we met the kitchen, a 1940's improvement to the original house that had been built in 1865. I'm sure it had been an improvement in the forties, but now...with it's baby blue cabinets and pink faux tile, it would need a lot of help. The house was being sold as is and with contents, and the kitchen boasted an enamel top, draw leaf table with four chairs and a gas powered lawn mower.
To the left as we entered the kitchen from outdoors was the entrance to the only bathroom in the house. A half bath. Later we discovered that the fixtures were lavender colored and obviously another 1940's improvement. At the time of our first visit the bath color was undetectable under the pile of blackened debris that had once been part of the upstairs hallway. Yes, the house had been on fire.
At about that time we heard voices at the side door. Another agent had arrived with two women clients. They stepped gingerly into the kitchen, said "no way", and abruptly left. Just when we were seeing the possibilities of our first home!
Straight through the kitchen brought us into the dining room with it's large, light blue enameled wood burning cook stove, and the refrigerator tucked in a corner past the blonde oak, Art Deco dining set. Vinyl drapes in a garish floral print adorned sooty windows. As we walked on the wide pine floors we heard brittle crunching. Broken into thousands of pieces and covering much of the floor were old 78 rpm records.
To the front of the dining room was the parlor. It, too, had crunchy floors and featured several of the old records firmly embedded in the plaster and lathe walls. A calendar, hanging on the door between the dining room and the parlor, had been lit ablaze and was a hanging charred remnant. The front hallway was next and was dark and piled high with debris. We made our way up the stairs to the second floor where the fire had been several years prior. Half the landing was missing, having collapsed to the bath below. There were three bedrooms upstairs. All were a mess of broken furniture, collapsing plaster, and blistered paint. By now we knew several things. This house had been broken into many times and used as a party house. This house needed an extraordinary amount of work with its peeling paint, leaking roof, collapsing plaster, overgrown yard, and fire damage. Not to mention damaged and inadequate electrical, no central heating, and lack of sewer or septic (the current drain to an abandoned well had collapsed). It was time to evict the party-ers and the field mice and the squirrels. This house was for us!
If we had known about the ordeal of buying it, would we have gone forward with an offer?
If we had known why the house had been abandoned for so long, or about the four children who had died there, would we have bought it?