Welcome back to Period Dramas, a weekly column that alternates between rounding up historic homes on the market and answering questions we’ve always had about older structures.
Last week, we investigated why so many historic houses are situated right up against the road. While we believe that this common quirk of older houses (TL;DR: in an age before cars, it was infinitely more helpful to be close to the road) should be viewed as another part of their historic charm, we’re also aware that many modern buyers are not looking for a house whose front door opens directly onto a main thoroughfare.
While, yes, it’s very common for an older house to be close to a road, it’s not a hard-and-fast rule. Sometimes, you’ll get lucky and find an anomalous house that's been tucked away from modern traffic patterns. Or, you’ll run into properties with houses that have been purposefully moved from an original location to a more bucolic setting to directly appeal to a modern buyer—the best of both worlds, if you were to ask us.
Today, we’ll be looking at examples of both in a range of locations—from upstate New York to West Virginia. Even better? None of these were built before 1850.
Schodack Landing, New York (3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, $375,000)
Built in 1780, this adorable Cape-style house was moved from a neighboring county to its current location: set at the end of a 300-foot-long driveway on five acres of land. There’s even a creek that runs along one edge of the property, if the sound of a bubbling brook is more appealing to you than cars whizzing by.
This cute, 2,300-square-foot house is all ready to be moved into and has everything that we’d be looking for in a quaint, older property: wide floorboards, true divided-light windows, and three working, wood-burning fireplaces. The fireplace in the dining room even has traces of a bread oven.
And while the house has been moved from its original location, it was moved onto a brand-new foundation. In short: the house may be over 230 years old, but the foundation isn’t, which means that you may run into far fewer issues, structurally speaking, with this house than you would if it was on its original foundation. It’s a bit like getting all the benefits of an older house, with less of the hassle.
Martinsburg, West Virginia (3 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, $699,000)
If you haven’t already looked at the pictures of this house yet, we urge you: Stop reading and click through the gallery. This stone house—set at the end of a winding driveway on 46(!) acres—is stunning.
Built in 1805, the 3,400-square-foot home has been artfully restored from the run-down state in which it was originally acquired. That means that, among many other elements, all of its woodwork has been maintained and the fireplaces have been returned to working order. While this definitely isn’t a project for anybody to take on, it means that all of the most expensive renovation tasks have already been taken care of. Any changes that the next owner will do only need to really be cosmetic.
The recent renovations to the property also included a sensitive brand-new addition, which houses a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and a two-story porch. The porch is key, if you ask us. What better place to survey your sprawling estate—which includes three ponds—than a porch just off your bedroom?
Otis, Massachusetts (4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, $360,000)
This little red farmhouse in the Berkshires-area town of Otis has so much curb appeal but, alas, there are no interior photos. We’ve reached out to the realtor several times, and have been told that the interior photos are "on their way"—so hopefully they’ll materialize soon. There are apparently multiple fireplaces inside, but the house does need some work.
The reason we’re including this early-19th-century charmer in the mix, though, is because it cleverly addresses the issue of historic houses traditionally abutting a road: This 1820s house on 14 acres may be close to the road it’s on, but it’s also at the very end of a dead-end. There’s no reason for anybody to come close to your house unless they live close by or if they are your guests. You’re essentially guaranteed to have minimal traffic.
Aurora, New York (4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, $969,000)
We don’t mean to pick favorites, but how can anyone resist a historic house on a lake? Built in 1804, this brick Federal house is has over 300 feet of frontage on Lake Cayuga in the Finger Lake’s region of New York. Once we checked out its location on Google Maps and saw that the house is set back on a wooded lot, we were immediately sold.
The house has many features characteristic of early-19th-century construction: There’s a generous fanlight over the front door, delicate carvings on the staircase, and thickly carved mantles in many of the house’s reception rooms. Many of the windows still have their original glass.
And while the house has been well-maintained, some of its features—like the fireplaces that have been converted to gas—and the drop-ceiling in the dining room won’t please the old-house lovers at heart. But that just means is a perfect project for somebody looking to dip their toes in a restoration project...in between dipping their toes in a lake.
Old Chatham, New York (4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, $698,000)
We’re finishing our tour in upstate New York—not too far from where the first house is located. And much like that first house, this 1840-built one was moved further back on its lot to give its owners more privacy.
Set on over 20 acres, the white Federal farmhouse has been beautifully restored and expanded. The back portion of the house is almost entirely new. So while you can have the charm of a formal dining room and living room that both have wood-burning fireplaces, you also get an open kitchen and family room (that, also has a fireplace, since you can never have too many) that satisfy the desires of any modern family.
What we especially love is how, in the house’s restoration, the number of bathrooms in the house were brought up to match the number of bedrooms it has. Much like being close to the road, having a small number of bathrooms (or, small number from a 21st-century buyer’s point of view) is another less-than-convenient aspect of older properties. Thankfully, here, you don’t have to worry about that.