Your Old House.....


First, we all need to salute "This Old House", Bob Villa, PBS and all the rest who have made fixing up an old home so cool.

Secondly, forget a "Building Evaluation", of course it needs work.  What you need a feasibility study - an idea if, and how your dreams can be realized through Your Old House.


Taking on older or historic property, often in distress, is all about the possibilities. 


I've worked on restoring, repairing and maintainence of our historic fabric, however and seen old buildings used for everything and anything.  It just takes matching the vision with the right building.


People looking at old builidngs aren't naive to the issues you'd expect, that there wasn't likely to be a building system that wouldn't warrant replacement under a typical due diligence engineers report one should get before purchasing. 


What is needed is some Imagineering to see if:

Are we crazy,

    Are we missing anything,

       Are we biting off more than we can chew,

           Are we going to end up with the home we dream of?


Following are three efforts to provide see if the buyers vision can be satisfied by the property.


A Sliver Site In the Country -

It's not just a tiny sliver to build tight to the road to build on, with vision you can use all 20 vertical acres.

An immaculatly refurbished cottage, a couple dozen acres of hillside with a 20% slope, which I'll warn you, is too much for fire engines, so you might find yourself without fire insurance.


The highlights:

Your neighbors, a Zen retreat

On a secondary road, so no access problems in winter.

On a secondary road, so at least during the summer, a bit of road traffic.  Luckily there is a main road within a mile the bulk of traffic uses.

Good solar exposure behind the house and going up the hill, so additions there can be passively heated - quieter than main house, and provide ample space for activiities on a rainy weekend, so never again will you loose a precious weekend away to some rain.

A great guest house / care taker cottage is you're adventerous enough to build a main house up the hill.

Interesting possibilities if you're doing a condo complex, rentals, B and B - march the buildings up the hill, with 400 feet of elevation gain, the views will be stellar, connect via enclosed walkway wrapped around them (buffering 1/2 the elevations from the weather), and yes, you'll get lots of exercise walking up to your apt / room, but, can't we all use that.  Think of it as a Medaterian Village in the Catskills - and you know how healthy Medatarian peoples are.

Spring on site.

New well and septic system that might be usable for the early stages of the main home.


As the cost of the cottage and land, as well as access road to a builidng site, and building was beyond the budget, the report is the field notes, along with a sketch.

Ye Old Toll House - really

All I know about his property is it's still there, next to the Esopus, after the worst flood in over 100 years and it's cute as the dickens.  Still it's close to the water, and I'm a cautious guy, I'd want to throw in a couple of barriers to flooding, give myself an extra edge.  Here's one drawn up just for this property - a stream bank stone or wood plank fence anchored to a rock blanket - that will also prevent wash out of the lawn if the wall is over topped.  I'd also add the porch seat / flood barrier illustrated in the Flood Recovery section of r exposure behind the house and going up the hill, so additions there can be passively. 


If you're interested in the property, Google Toll House Phoenicia NY Ricciardella Realty or contact:

Ricciardella Realty

On the Boardwalk, on Main Street

Phoenicia, New York  12464

845 - 688 - 7233                       

Stellar Site - Springs Field Stream - House Nds TLC - and an addition

Location, location, location. 

It's got all 3.

End of a not too twisty country lane off a good main road and not too far from the Hudson Valley and it's ammenities.

South West exposure.

Theres a huge grassy field.

Theres a gurgling brook.

The brook and field, which obviously much have been subject to much flooding, and still subject to some, are mostly seperated by a new megalithic stone wall that should stand the test of time. 


What dosen't it have, a great building to go with it.


Half the charm is of course the history, the story behind the property, the building.  Gee, just got here, but as it's well off the main road, and further along the main road are pillars flanking an old lane, so, that was the main house of the estate, and this was the "service road", for the working part of the estate, the farm.  Reasonable given the area.


There is a small two story barn offset a story above a two story additon about twice it's size.  Unbelievably, there is a timber wood truss at the second floor of the barn, over where the doors would have been.  I'm guessing the other side of the barn was a door into space with a hoist above.  The building probably sat atop a tall stone wall overlooking the huge grassy field.  Being so well watered, but prone to flooding, the field would been great for haying.  The barn safe above flood waters, perfect for storing the hay.  Over the years, someone shallow glass fronted building across the front of the barn and extending out to either side along the old stone wall.  I'd have to guess it started as a workshop with lots of light.  Later a cute classical vestibule lobby was added front and center.  How it was heated, no idea, there is evidence of one wood stove taking up 1/3 of one side of the extension.  How it wasn't washed away by the many springs flowing down and through the hill and stone wall I've not a clue, but someone's done yeomans work installing drains to rediret them.


So, what to do with this property.


Much work needed to fix up the buildings, of course, but this time, from the shoring, it's obvious unless a "construction motif" is your idea of interior design, structural work is needed right off.  The kitchen is there, just not installed.  Small rooms in the added extension building, and these are the immediately usable one.  Heating, new boiler, no distribution yet, so that to do before winter.  Insulation, none, and with endless leaky old windows, quaint, but tons of work there to get into shape.  Interior walls - warped beaded wood "paneling" quickly white washed for the sale.  Probably a good summer "cottage", but so not ready for prime time for winter, which is a requirement of the buyer.



but the potential...........

Extend the added bar further along the stone walls, yeah!!!!!

Add a great room to the front ... convert the rest to bedrooms... yeah!!!!

    (slight septic system issue with this, but addressable)

Put a new builidng on the hill above, connect it with a cute glassed in bridge to the old barn, creating a nice protected pick up / drop off for the car.

Then that field, a driving range, gardens, water gardens, ice rink in season, playing fields for the little 'uns,  annual company picnic..............


The big question is..... can you take it as is for the time, the years, it'll take to make it into something truly usable year round, can accomodate guests,  much rather be the home of your dreams.  Is the special use you can get from the property. 

Ye 'ole Farmstead, what's left of it.

It's down to the main home and a dozen acres.  Everything else was sold off over a few dozen years creating a few miles of and few dozen country homes along the main road.




This was the first of the Reality Checks.

Many of the issues in an old home and country property are alike.

Hence, the length of this report, and it's two appendixes.


The highlights on this one included:


Some interesting, no, fascinating, property line issues

A pond that had silted up to the extreme

Lots of water on the property, and there is always potential with water

BIG old house - lots of room for family

BIG old house - lots of everything to fix

Sound roof

A new well

A mystery septic system

Spring fed pond, in the basement

Steam heat, and little of it, and leaky

Old subdivision into rentals, by antique office partitions

Deadend on a country lane, not far from a main road, yet still near the Hudson Valley

2 Nearby neighbors, with horses, are your a cup half full person?


Main Report 

A dozen pages of commentary on issues, potentials, liabilities, and how to turn them into potentials.  Prioritized on the fly using bold, underlined and italized text

Lifestyle Report 

Nothing to do with the building or property.  It's all about country living.  I'm a little bit country, a little bit city.....

To Do List


Phased Restoration and Improvements 


Prioritized listing of what  to do the first days, weeks, month and year and a reminder to make time to enjoy the dream.

Document Library

DocumentStellar Site - Field and StreamVision and money needed for the rest
DocumentCottage With Hillside House SiteGreat potential hillside building site, bring money
DocumentYe 'Ole FarmsteadBuilding and Property Report
DocumentYe 'Ole FarmsteadLife In The Country
DocumentYe 'Ole FarmsteadFirst Yr To Do and Later Phasing



General Portfolio

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What's in Your Attic?

(What the GC left our)

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Historic Houses - Feasibility and Imagineering

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Catskills House

My own real life test bed for  sustainability and green building 

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Evolution DD-CD

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Sketches - Details

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1 - NYC Townhouse 

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2 - Alumni Facility

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3 - PA Offices

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4 - NYC SCA Elementrary

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5 - NYC SCA High School

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6 - Scenic Overlook

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