The first time I saw my house was May 19th, 2016. I was working in a building at Broadway and Ellicott Street and needed a break from my desk. This day I decided to take a stroll down Broadway. As I approached Minor Street, the long brick wall of St. Mary’s Gymnasium caught my eye. I followed it down the empty, rough road and saw this cottage. I stopped in front, smitten, and snapped a shot of the front door.
In August, Dan and I reached out to a real estate agent friend who specializes in historic buildings. I told him we were casually looking for a fixer-upper and to let me know if he heard of anything that fit the bill. A few opportunities came and went, but nothing serious. Then, in September, he told me that a couple – friends of friends – were considering selling their house. It was not officially on the market. He had done a walk-through and thought I might be interested. We went to check it out. It was my house crush from last spring.
I wanted this house. It was a wreck, a huge and likely expensive project, and still I wanted it. There was no heat, no hot water, no kitchen, no staircase, and a million other things that needed attention, but I was sold. Dan wasn’t as confident (he’s the realist of the two of us), but was willing to give it a shot. Three banks turned us down (the first because the purchase price was too low, the second because it did not have heat, and the third because the appraisal came back at a whopping $13,000). We worked things out privately with the sellers and in March 2017, almost a full year after it caught my eye, Little Red was ours.
The house is 20’x30′ on a deep, narrow lot in downtown Buffalo, with a smaller 11’x17′ addition on the back. The front door leads into a long wide hall with 11′ ceilings. All of the walls are covered in OSB board (a thicker load-bearing type of particle board), the personal aesthetic of the previous owners, who were operating a paper mill out of the house for a while and liked the industrial look. The floors and the windows are the only original features left in the house.
*For shots of the house layout in 2010 – including photos of the pocket doors and fireplace mantles – check out David Torke’s Flickr album).
The first room to right of the front door was designed as a loft bedroom and later used for the paper mill. It was built with a sleeping area over a kitchenette space. It is one of two rooms with wired electric.
Past the front bedroom is a room with a large opening that was designed to be the kitchen. The room has not been wired and is generally just an empty box at this point.
At the back of the main block, there is a very large bathroom with a new working toilet and sink, but nothing else. The house has new plumbing and hot and cold water hookups, just no water heater at the moment.
Through a narrow door at the back of the main block, there is a second bedroom. This one is drywalled, and not only has outlets, but also electric baseboard heaters. The room is partitioned by a low wall into a platform for the bed and an office area with two closets. This room has new vinyl windows and exits out to the back of the house through the door with the square of paint removed.
I don’t have any great shots of the attic yet. We intend to make the space usable, but since it doesn’t have a stair and is pretty dark most of the day, I haven’t spent much time up there yet.
Out the back door of the second bedroom are the remains of another addition that needed to be torn down a few years ago. The back bedroom was originally used as a kitchen, and you can see an accumulation of soot above the former location of a stovepipe. The entrance to the basement is a low brick arch located in the back wall, diagonal from the door. There are five rooms downstairs, including a laundry room and a wood shop area, but we’ll have to enclose the entrance eventually to make the basement truly usable in the winter.
The back of the house extends another 130′ and is wooded with big old trees. There are large piles of debris and vegetation that need to be addressed, but overall, it’s very serene.
A lot of these shots were taken during our first walk-through in September, while the previous owners were still working and living there. We have since given the interior a good scrub to provide us a clean canvas to work with as we re-design the layout and figure out what we’d like to do.
Well, that’s it for the first look at the house. Saturday the first walls start coming down!