Last weekend Wendy and I stumbled on a real treat. While walking with Lulu on Saturday morning, hitting up our usual stops (the pier and farmer's market), we saw a sign stuck into the ground on a corner.

Could it be? Yes! An estate sale! I'm sure you can probably guess (or have previously read) about how we feel about estate sales, and this one was a little better than most others. This estate sale was being held in a house on the corner of Prince and Pitt streets and is a home that Wendy and I have both admired from the outside for many, many years.

The home was built around 1820, and though the front of the house is somewhat grand and impressive, the real allure for us is the view from the sidewalk next to the home.

The second and third floor windows that look east toward the Potomac are the perfect combination of impressive, unique, and charming. We've long imagined what a view over Old Town from these windows might look like, and lucky for us, we were finally getting the chance to see it.

Though this was an estate sale and not a true open house, in true Old Town Home fashion, we were far more concerned with the house itself than the deals we might find. What we saw inside was nothing short of amazing (in a "look at the potential this place has" sort of way). There were also quite a few interesting items for sale. Some excellent bargains, and some...not so much.

Oh how I wish we had a place in our house for foo dogs like these guys.

Though the home appears quite large from the outside, the interior floor plan was actually a bit small. It was only two large rooms deep with a small galley kitchen, but boasts a very large and impressive entry hall.

That being said, the home had high ceilings, great original and intact architectural details, and is seriously in need for some TLC from a future owner. Just look at one of the interior room's corners.

It was a little difficult to see the home due to all of the estate sale items that had been haphazardly placed all over each room, but the potential is definitely there.

A first floor half bath has been installed in the pass through from the first floor to the basement, so you have to walk trough the bathroom on the way to the basement, which is very odd. Here'e a look at the bathroom as you walk up from the basement stairs.

The basement itself is an interesting and unfinished space. A little bit cool with lots of potential...

...and a little creepy and scary with lots of old wiring mixed with new.

I particularly enjoyed the fine collection of toilet seats being offered at this estate sale. 

Honestly, who needs fine china and sterling silver serving bowls when you've got gems like these hidden in the basement?

As I mentioned, the galley kitchen is outdated and very, very tight, but it's honestly not the worst kitchen we've ever seen.

There were various dishes and old bottles of various alcohols in the cupboards. Many of the bottles of wine were 1980's bottles from Napa Valley. It was interesting to see labels that were 30 years old from some of the places we just seen in person a few weeks ago.

If I were renovating this house I'd actually take the kitchen out of the room it's currently in, split it in half and make half of it the first floor bathroom that you'd access from the hallway, and then the other half would be a nice sized pantry and china storage area. You could then move the kitchen into the much larger room next door and make an fairly open kitchen and living area without the need to tear down any walls to seriously reconfigure anything. At the same time, my plan has also solved the bathroom on the way to the basement issue. 

I would be willing to sacrifice a formal living and dining area for the functionality of the first floor and it's wonderful access to the large side yard area. Here's a photo of the side yard from an upstairs window.

This isn't the only wonderful view from an upstairs window, I assure you. 

The second floor was divided into two rooms and a hall that mimicked the layout of the first floor. Walking up the stairs I noticed some of the original and very intact details in the staircase. I love this sort of thing in old homes, it's just one of the many things that give an older home its soul.

There was a primary bedroom and then a second room that they sort of had a room arranged as a sitting/television area.

But the real star of this floor was the large and very cool double hung window that looked east onto the yard and street. 

The little room where the window was found could be accessed from two rooms. It was a completely unexpected layout as far as we were concerned.

Just look at the floors in the rooms. So quirky and interesting.

As neat and cool as I thought the window and second floor was, it was nothing compared to the complete and total potential of the third floor. The third floor was always intended to be a third floor, not just an attic space. As such, there is a true and full stair leading to the hallway and several rooms off of this hallway.

The rooms were a good size given the rather steep pitch of the roof. There were actually two very separate and completely functional rooms on this floor as well.

How creepy is that photo? Those windows are the windows that look out of the front of the house. If you look up in that window form the street at night you can see that dress hanging there. Very spooky.

There were also bathrooms tucked in corners on each floor, and each had fairly outdated decor.

But the true piece de resistance of this third floor is what I'm now referring to as "my future home office."

Why am I calling this "my future home office" when it's so obviously far from usable? Just look at the wonderful views from this window!

This house isn't the most functional house, it's in pretty bad shape, there's evidence of leaks and unresolved damage, but it's just crying out for a little bit of help from the right owners! 

In case you're wondering if we walked away empty handed, we did actually pick up something from the estate sale. For a mere $20, we picked up a set of blue Asian bowls. We've already used them to serve nuts at a small informal get together. 

Unfortunately I wasn't able to bring home the thing I really wanted. $2,500 was a bit more than I usually have in my pocket for a Saturday morning walk with Lulu.

In all it was a great experience and we're quite glad we stumbled on the house and sale. Now I have a new house to covet and then curse when someone else buys it and starts working on it. Oh well, those are the breaks.

What do you think of the house? Great potential, or potential money pit that's not worth the effort? I know photos can only do so much, but what's your take?

And now for our game...

Would You Trade?

Alex: This is a really, really hard one for me. I love our house, and love how finished our house is, but I think I would actually trade our house for this house in its current state. Call me crazy, but this house has almost everything that I love in an Old Town house. Third floor, parking, age, quirky floorplan, tons of original detail (we didn't even talk about the original pocket doors), a great yard, and it's in need of a ton of work. I love it, I love what it could be, and I hope our current house has no hard feelings. 

Wendy: Nope. As much as I've longingly admired this home from the street, the space and floor plan just didn't work for me (even with configuration). I love the cool old windows, the amazing side yard, the gorgeous curb appeal, the unbelievable Christmas staircase, and the desirable location. But all things considered, I like the flow of our home better, and the amount of work this house needs scares me. If the renovation of our measly 15' wide row house is stretching into its second decade, I don't want to even think about how long this one would take two part time DIYers like us. 

Interested in reading about other interesting homes for sale? Want to offer your take on "would you trade"? Check out the Open Housing section of Old Town Home.

Comments 24


5/18/2012 at 2:19 PM
I don't think I've ever seen a double hung window that big before!
It's really striking in person too.
threadbndr (karla)
5/18/2012 at 3:41 PM
Man, this is a hard one. The obvious structural issues (especially with cracked plaster AND electric AND weird plumbing all in one fell swoop) scares me. But that yard, the view, the windows and parking are all "yes" votes.

Yes, with an adequate budget and a good contractor, I would tackle it.
Fair enough! It will be a real beauty if the right person buys it!
5/18/2012 at 6:32 PM
I LOVE that old house because of that amazing window and the hidden side yard, and always wondered about the inside! If only I had been around for that estate sale! I'm sure I'm out of luck, but I'm going to keep my fingers crossed that they didn't sell everything last weekend, and that they'll be forced to have another sale tomorrow.

That said, I would definitely trade for that house. It would be uncomfortable to live there for a few years while renovating because of the shape it seems to be in, but I'm sure that with enough TLC, it would turn into a home that was worth the discomfort. I'm now going to stalk real estate listings to see if it goes for sale anytime soon (not because I'll be able to afford it, I'm just so curious about the inside!).
We'll keep our eyes out for the listing too and will be sure to let you know if we see it. What do you estimate it will go on the market for? I'm thinking $1.6 - $1.8.
5/18/2012 at 10:50 PM
This is an amazing old home. The beauty of some of the molding and details is very inviting, but there are some major problems and for that reason I think your home is the best place.

Just today my husband and I went to an estate sale. When we walked out my husband made the comment that it just rips his heart out thinking about the years of memories made in that home and total strangers are roaming through it looking for things to buy.
We totally agree with your husband! Although estate sales can be interesting, it makes me sad to see droves of people rummaging through someone's life. We actually wrote a post on this after visiting our first one:
5/18/2012 at 10:59 PM
I hit this sale too, didn't buy. That 3rd floor view is great, but boy the place "needs work". I had the same thought about the kitchen set up. Did you check out the assessment on Alex website? 1.6
5/18/2012 at 11:12 PM
I hit this sale too, didn't buy. That 3rd floor view is great, but boy the place needs work. I had the same thought about the kitchen set up. Did you check out the price?
No, we haven't been able to find the price yet. My guess is that it's under $2.0 because of the condition, but when I voiced that estimate to people working the sale they looked at me like I was stupid...and was way underestimating. I guess we'll see!
5/18/2012 at 11:16 PM
OMG CLOCK PHOTO! I saw it in the first photo of the hallway, but I didn't expect to see a full photo of it farther down. This one is a Scottish longcase clock ca. ~1800. The price was fair assuming it's in working condition with all the parts.

Also, did the second floor window have louvered shutters with stained glass? It almost looks like it in the second photo. Or is that a set of french doors farther away?
If I remember correctly JC, the stained glass is a set of French doors you pass through to get into the little sun porch area with the beautiful windows. Although it needs a TON of work, this home has some amazing features like these!

(I loved the clock too. Gorgeous!)
5/19/2012 at 7:40 AM
Alex and JC say "OMG Clock" and I say "OMG cloisonne foo dog"! Cloisonne and foo dogs are my #1 and #2 favorite items to collect. Any idea what the price was on that baby (or the pair)?

Gotta agree with Alex that this house is worth a trade. Yes, it would be a long-term and intense project but wow is it intriguing! The second and third floor windows/views and the entry hall are hard to beat. Admittedly the wiring is pretty scary but it appears Alex has the know-how to begin sorting that out. Hope you will feature this house again if it goes on the market and you can view it absent the crowd of shoppers.
I think...don't quote me on this...that the pair of foo dogs were $1200 for the pair. We both remember being taken aback by the price. (Then again, we know nothing about this sort of antique collecting, and what a "fair" price would be.)

We'll definitely keep our eyes out to see if it goes on the market and will report back. :-)
5/20/2012 at 9:30 AM
Thanks for that info on the foo dogs, Wendy! It wouldn't shock me if they'd been priced at $12,000; I'm by no means well-to-do nor an antique collector but if I'd come across that pair at an estate sale for $1200 I'd have been all over that! (Now bear in mind I'm saying that as a cloisonne AND foo dog fanatic, not that I think a normal person who found them interesting or attractive should or would make such a substantial purchase. For one thing, big pieces of cloisonne like that are a challenge to find a place for unless one lives in a palace -- which I don't.)
Really? That's good to know (and shows our total lack of knowledge on the subject). Alex and I have a strange obsession with foo dogs. We don't own any, but every time we see them we have to point them out and stop to admire them. These were particularly beautiful and I hope they found a good home. Too bad it wasn't yours. :-)
5/20/2012 at 10:31 AM
I may be wrong, but this one looks like an 1820s Federal that underwent some renovations in the 1870s or early 1880s from looking at the tower and the slate pattern on the roof. A very nice house - I just hope it finds the right buyer. I would hate to see that double hung window replaced with an aluminum one. Such things happen daily in Maryland unfortunately.

Estate sales can be depressing, especially if there is something like an underlying family dispute driving it. We went to an auction a few years ago and ended up discovering the family was at war with each other and the person who passed away didn't have a will. Items were getting bid into the stratosphere and it was the family who was doing it. Needless to say, we didn't stay long.
We were guessing the same thing actually on the architecture. When I read "aluminum" I got a little sick to my stomach. Hopefully that would never happen, and our Board of Architectural Review would likely see to it that the original window is preserved. Our feeling is that if you don't have the time, money, or interest to preserve a historic property, then don't buy it! There's nothing worse then seeing history thrown out in the trash by careless, clueless, or undeserving homeowners. (Whoa, soapbox, sorry!)
5/20/2012 at 10:43 AM
Thanks for posting this! I was so sad that I couldn't make it to the estate sale (adoption event for our foster dog in Georgetown). Very interesting home!
Maybe it will go on the market and you could tour it via open house?

Any luck placing your foster dog? Fingers crossed! :-)
5/20/2012 at 1:17 PM
Well. Even after the comment my husband made on Friday about ripping his heart out at estate sales, obviously, we weren't too sad. WE WENT BACK! We stopped on the way home from church today to see if a set of Baldwin Brass candlesticks were still there. Gone. However, Hubby asked one of the guys running the sale about the people that lived there, did they die? Oh no! They are moving to Florida and wanted to sell everything and buy new stuff. We didn't feel bad at all after that. I did buy today a Complete Guide to Sewing for $1.00. Is this kind of like not trying to look at a horrible wreck? Actually, I really love yard sales, the owners are right there selling their stuff and you can negotiate with them.
5/21/2012 at 9:32 AM
I would have loved this sale and the house! Wish I could have seen it! I am visiting from Thee Blog Hop and I am a new follower! I hope you will stop by and do the same.

Thanks Robin and welcome! I'll be sure to check it out. :-)
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