While our last two Open Housing posts dealt with two very large and expensive homes in the Rosemont area, you don't have to worry about us, we're not straying too far from our roots. We're still venturing through the homes available in the friendly and familiar confines of Old Town. One house, in particular, really stood out to use as a true Open Housing candidate, and I think you'll agree, it's far more "us" than the Rosemont behemoths we talked about last week.

The home we toured is located in a very unique block in Old Town. Situated along Wilkes Street in south east Old Town, this home sits overlooking the historic O&A railroad tunnel.

The house is a classic wood frame clapboard sided mid 19th century row house -- the sort of place you imagine when you think of an early to mid 1800's modest townhouse. Since the home was built around 1840, it actually predates the railroad tunnel it overlooks, which was built around 1850. Given the view from the front windows of the house, this massive construction project must have been a sight to see back in the day.

The home has two bedrooms, one bathroom, and is just over 1,100 square feet. Entering the home you are welcomed right into the main living area. I immediately noticed the wide plank random width and old growth pine floors, which are just spectacular in all of their depth and beauty.

The whole first floor seems very open, and given the evidence on the floors, I'd have to imagine a dividing wall was removed from the rooms at some point.

Also at some point in the more recent history the original bannister was removed from the stairs, but the treads and risers are still the same lengths of timber that have carried the home's occupants up and down for over 170 years.

It's obvious the current owner has gone to great lengths to outfit the home with a more modern design aesthetic, while staying true to the home's original character. At the same time, the owner has efficiently maximized the space available through various storage cubbies and compartments.

The dining room, just beyond the staircase, features the homes fireplace, as well as access to the home's basement.

At the rear of the first floor, the galley kitchen has been outfitted with granite counters, small footprint appliances, and ample cabinet space storage. Given the small room available, this is an extremely efficient use of space for the kitchen.

The second floor landing at the top of the stairs has something that I absolutely love in old houses. You don't see it often, but it gives a tremendous amount of character to the house when it exists. The charming split at the landing with two small steps to each room.

Since the home was originally a four room house with central stair, there were just two bedrooms upstairs, a front and back. There's no need for long hallways with wasted space. Instead, the stairs take you directly to the room. It definitely makes adding onto the house a little tricky, but this is one of those things you'll pretty much never see in a modern house.

The bedroom in the front of the house is more than adequate size and offers quite a bit of light with two windows on the front wall and one on the side.

This is the room where you get the good views of the train tunnel, and I can only imagine the frustration the early owners felt at the whistle and chugging of the steam engine as it entered or left the tunnel. Today's owners are probably rather glad it's only a walking and bike path, no more early morning train whistles to wake them.

The back room of the second floor has been turned into a sitting/family room of sorts, rather than a bedroom.

Off this sitting room is the homes lone bathroom, which serves all three floors.

Yep, that's right, this small house has made use of every level, and the attic has been finished into a nice sleeping area. There's a small staircase along the wall of the sitting room...

...that takes you to the second bedroom.

They've done a nice job in there with keeping ceiling height by recessing the wall into the rafter cavities, rather than just screwing it directly to the rafters' undersides. This also gives a significant amount of visual interest to the room's architecture.

The unfinished basement of the home offers a good but of additional storage that is absolutely necessary in a home of this size.

And the backyard area is also more than adequate for entertaining and offers you a rather private setting for relaxing, even though your neighbors are only a few feet away.

In all, the home is not large, but feels much bigger than it is due to its efficient space utilization. The charm of its mid 19th century origins show through in many ways, but there is still significant room for restoration that can transform the structure into a shining example of historic city living.

And now for our game...

Would You Trade?

Alex: This is a somewhat easy "no" for me, but that's only because there would be so many sacrifices in giving up our home for this home. The age of this home is more in my sweet spot for the type of house I really want, but the additional maintenance of a wood framed house that's touching the neighbor would worry me. Also, the lack of common back alley area, lack of parking, and lack of real room to conduct projects, makes this home less appealing than our current place. 

I do have to say, when we went through the house my mind was popping with ideas. Everything from how we could make the kitchen look more appropriate for the age of the home, to restoring all of the hardware and lost moldings back to something that would be more fitting to the 1840s. All that being said, this is a great house in a great location that is perfect for a person or couple looking to get into Old Town's south east quadrant. But I have to say that I am envious of the train tunnel view. I'd much prefer that to the somewhat busy street we live on.

Wendy: I'm with Alex on this one. We have substantially more space in our current home, and although I prefer the location of this house and find it quite charming, I wouldn't give up the extra room or parking that we have now. It sure was cute though, and could be a perfect place for a small family.

If you'd like to see additional details, they are available on the home's official listing page.

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.

Photo Credits: Weichert Realtors and listing agent, Bob Bazzle, where "2013 MRIS" is noted in watermark.

Comments 8


4/5/2013 at 2:37 PM
My house's first floor is set up very closely to this one, with the staircase down the middle and "railroad" style with rooms in succession -- living room, dining room, kitchen all in a row.

I also have that sunken split landing on my second story staircase. It is PURE TERROR. I will never get used to it and am afraid of tripping all the time, it is so dangerous.

My third story staircase is split too, but not sunken. We cannot figure out why one landing is and the other is not. do you have any clue historically? I read somewhere that older homes often had a "trick" step of a different height built in to trip up thieves, but ours is the whole landing.
I know, at least in the house we looked at, and many other houses, the sunken nature of the stair is due largely to the sizing of the stair, height of the ceiling, and available room for the stair. I've also seen them where an addition on the rear of the house needed an additional door at a split landing, giving another little step up. No doubt, in either case, it's probably a bit treacherous when trying to navigate it normally.
4/5/2013 at 3:27 PM
This is my favorite column you guys do! I live in Old Town too (in a tiny rented studio), but I love getting to peek in other houses! Despite the small size of this house, it looks like they did a great job maximizing what space they do have. I'd move-in in a heartbeat!
Thanks, Danielle. We'll be sure to keep our Open Housing posts coming.
4/5/2013 at 4:42 PM

Overall a nice little house, but it does look a tad small (I like tall ceilings and large windows).

Also, I giggled at "the doing room". :D
JC, every house needs a doing room! So much more practical than a seldom used dining room. It's where you work on projects and do stuff. All great homes are relatively incomplete without one. :-)
Kelly 2
9/8/2013 at 8:29 PM
Great posting about this house. My husband and I bought it and are moving in this month! If you have any additional information on this house/street, I would really appreciate it. So excited to own a piece of history!
Kelly, that's so wonderful! Congrats on the purchase and on a great house!

We don't have any additional information on the history of the home, but you should absolutely take a trip over to the Queen Street library for an afternoon or evening of research. They have a ton of great material in the archives and I'm willing to bet you can find some history on your home there. Perhaps even a photo? Also, be sure to look at the historical Sanborn fire maps for that area of town.
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