Monday, October 13, 2008
In 2004, after much searching, we purchased a cottage on Cayuga Lake about 18 miles north of Ithaca, New York. To say that it was in disrepair would be a vast understatement, but the location was great and there were some very charming aspects to it. That charm did not extend to the baby-poop brown T111 siding, the second floor "sliding-glass-doors-to-nowhere", or any of the other insensitive modifications and remuddlings that had been afflicted on this poor little late-Victorian stick/vernacular cottage over the years. We set about restoring it. My plan was simple: make it look vintage, but act new. The execution: not simple. The restoration took two years, but the results were worth it.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
After much research, many visits to the house (maybe a dozen...bless my real estate agent, Chris Vann for his patience) often with various experts in tow, and an offer on another property (what were we thinking?) we decided to buy this house. It is known in the area as the Abel-Tunison Farm, named for the original owner of the farm, John W. Abel who established the farm in 1818, and for the family who owned the house and farm for many generations, the Tunisons, who are related by marriage to the Abels.
John W. Abel, a carpenter by trade, moved from New Jersey and purchased a tract of 356 acres in the town of Ulysses, New York. He paid $11.86 per acre ($4224.40), an enormous price in those days. It is not known why he paid over twice the average price per acre, but it is surmised that he chose it for the springs that would furnish an excellent water supply, and because of the creek that flows through the property. The land was part of a (Revolutionary War) military land grant made to Lieutenant Henry A. Williams in 1790.
Abel commenced to clearing the heavily wooded land and built a log cabin on the site of the present house and married Betty Letts the next year. They had 9 children over the next 20 years, grew grain and tobacco, raised cattle and made butter on the farm.
The original part of the house (the east wing) was built in 1830, and the larger (main) part of the house was started several years later. The difference in building styles (and perhaps Mr. Abel's financial situation) is evident in the two structures. The east wing has lower ceilings, exposed support beams, smaller windows, and very basic woodwork. The "newer" portion on the house has high ceilings (for the time) both downstairs and up, servants doors and quarters, massive and ornate (also for the time) woodwork and large six over six paned windows.
I'll write more about the history of the house later. Suffice it to say that this is a fairly massive restoration project that I have embarked on, and I hope to bring you along for the (sure to be wild) ride. So join me as I roll up my sleeves and get to work.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Anyone who knows me at all knows that I have a passion for old things: houses, cars, objects, people. There is something about things with a history that appeals to me. Perhaps it is that the patina of age, the nicks, scars, and worn edges, that set my mind wandering back in time, imagining the myriad stories of loves and losses, hard work and lives lived within the walls of these sturdy, sometimes quirky houses.My latest project is a wonderful Greek/Federal farmhouse in Trumansburg, New York. I saw a photo of it over a year and a half ago, when I was not even looking, but on some level I knew that this would someday be my home.