In June of 2004 my husband David and I bought our first house together. It's an 1887 brownstone and brick rowhome, located in a historic district of Hudson County, NJ - just a stone's throw across the Hudson river from Manhattan. We are in love with this house, and after years of watching episode after episode of This Old House, we finally have our own old house to play with.
The house itself is steeped in history, as it was once the residence of a former mayor. An infamous bookie (and friend of the mayor) lived two doors down, making for some interesting politics, not to mention illegal activities. So, here's a rundown of house basics and layout:
The house is only 16.67 feet wide and 35 feet deep. There are four floors, and we occupy the top three. The garden level is a one-bedroom rental unit with a tenant. Out of his privacy, no photos will be shown or details discussed with respect to his part of the home. Since we live in and are embarking on a restoration of the top three floors, I will refer to our first floor as the first floor. The garden unit will be called just that - the garden level/unit.
The first floor has an entryway and parlor in the front part of the house, and a kitchen in the back. There are two chimneys that run the full height of the house, but the chimney in the back (where the kitchen is) has been sealed off. The chimney in the front room gives access to a fireplace in the parlor that was converted to gas in 1981.
The second floor has a large master bedroom (with another gas fireplace) and an adjacent small bedroom, accessible by an open pass-through. This room has been used for the past 30 years as a dressing room, and eventually we hope to use it as a nursery. This floor also has a bathroom with a stall shower. This bathroom was redone by the former mayor in the 1940s and the tile on the walls was actuallly tile used in the new Maternity Hospital that was being built in the area at the time as part of President Roosevelt's New Deal post-war program. Somehow the tile "fell off the back of a truck" and landed in our bathroom.
The third (and top) floor is a more modern open floor plan. There is a guest bedroom toward the back of the house, and a large open area at the front of the house. We plan to use this as an office/family room. There is also a large bathroom on this floor with a huge jacuzzi tub that fits two adults comfortably. Installed in 1981, it looks as though it came right out of a retro bathroom that one might find in a SoHo loft. Although we love it for its funkiness, it is not exactly family friendly in terms of bathing babies and we plan to redo this bathroom in the next couple years. A beautiful old clawfoot tub is definitely in the plans.
This blog will document the restoration (and renovation, in certain cases) of the house over what I'm sure will be the next several years, if not the lifetime of our tenure here. There are links on the left hand side of the page to "before" photos - and hopefully soon we will have a list of some "after" photos. Work has already begun on the facade and front stoop, as the masonry and brownstone is repaired, and the ironwork is repainted.
We decided to name this blog done in six months... as an ackowledgement to the silly notion that any major project can be completed in six months. Instead, we look at this house as the beginning of a relationship that will last many years. Right now, three months after getting the deed, we are still in the honeymoon phase with the home. I'm sure that our first fight with her is right around the corner, but let's not think about that just yet...