Monday, February 7, 2011

A Side Note: The Story of Fox Ridge

How did two twenty-six year olds end up with a country house called Fox Ridge? Now that's a long story. And I'm not one for concise story telling, so I don't blame you if you skip to the next post... but if you're in it for the long haul, read on!

(At left, this past weekend. Very snow-y!)

It started with a crumbling two story S-R-O in Bushwick, Brooklyn, that John and I fell in love with. Okay, let's be honest. I fell in love with it, and John was like "Really? You want to move out of our perfectly fine apartment in Williamsburg into this derelict #%@!-hole in Bushwick, because of why exactly?" But then he remembered that he loved me and that it is almost impossible to get me to let go of an idea (I am like the Pit-Bull of interior design) so he conceded and "we" fell in love with the house.

But then we had an inspector come in and he said that the whole house was leaning left and down, and would only continue to lean more left and more down, and this S-R-O had more outstanding violations than an over-achieving convict and so I was thwarted and down went the dream... To be honest, none of this really would have persuaded me except there was a 0% chance of getting a mortgage for this palace because of its condition, violations, and the fact that this story begins in Spring of 2008, just as things were starting to look a tad shaky in the real estate world.  

 So somewhat heart-broken (John breathing a sigh of relief!) we continued looking for places in Brooklyn and it quickly became apparent that the only places we could afford to buy were broken down places without Certificates of Occupancy, and without that you can't get a mortgage, so then we actually couldn't even afford to buy those derelict wastelands either. And somehow, I ended up looking on Craig's List and we saw this incredible place two hours outside of the city that was for sale... As it turns out, it wasn't that incredible in person, but it opened up this entire other can of worms, what if we bought something outside of the city, built up our equity paying off that place, and that would then enable us to afford something in the city down the road...? Hmmm...

And so the hunt was on. And we looked and looked, and then one sunny humid day in July we were out for a drive up near Port Jervis, New York, and we spied a little ragged "For Sale" sign on the side of the road. We turned off, and just kept driving down and down this road, thinking it was a wild goose chase, and when we finally got to the end, there it was-- just what we'd been searching for! Although John did not realize this at the time... He gives me a particular face when he thinks I am in the throws of a bad idea and I saw that face with astonishing frequency during 2008. Like a couple of times a day.

What I saw when we drove up.... (Insert ethereal hymns!)
When we pulled up, the house was completely overgrown, and surrounded by a fortress of debris that is native to rural areas like Upstate New York. Pieces of cars, abandoned appliances, and small village of collapsing dog houses, big metal trash cans filled with the remnants of past fires, it was truly a sight to behold. Inside, it was just as lovely... All of the kitchen appliances had been removed and in their place, a fleet of grease and mold had taken over. It was kind of funny actually. You could tell exactly where each appliance had been because there was a sticky silhouette of a stove on one wall and a moldy outline of a refrigerator on another wall. On the floor, rusty "footprints" were left over from a metal cabinet that had once stood there (I know this because I later found the cabinet in the garage!) Eventually, we found out from neighbors that after the house had been abandoned, an assortment of "unexpected" tenants took over. At first, a group of people moved in (there was an allusion to meth, though nothing has been confirmed...) and when it eventually got too grotty for that sort, they moved out and the animals moved in. What can I say? Just like that, I was in love. It is weird how you just get a feeling- or I do- and it's just like "Done. This is it." We went home and looked it up online-- 8.5 acres for $90,000.00!*

* (Apparently I was the only person who thought the little cottage was a prize, which is why it was being sold so cheaply. Whoever bought it would have the added expense of tearing down the existing house and building a new one... The horror!!!) 

And so after more struggle and strife, we managed to get financing for this little house, and then it was ours.

I'm sure most people are still wondering how we afford a whole extra house in addition to living in the city, and all I can say is that $90,000.00 divided by 30 years actually isn't much of a monthly payment, and we get a sweet deal in the city because of building is full of crazies and it was totally uninhabitable when we rented it 7 years ago... Right place/right time sort of situation. In the photo above, you can see just a small, minute portion of the trash and horror that came out of our house and off of the property surrounding it. In the barn, we found a veritable human-sized nest that had to be bagged up and thrown away. That I still have a husband or any friends/family after all of this is remarkable.
**Oh! And not to be forgotten-- How did the name Fox Ridge come to be? I know it sounds pretentious, but in actual fact, it is decidedly not. When we bought the house, the old owner gave us all of her original keys, which were surprisingly plentiful considering the state of affairs at the house. Each one said, in tiny wobbly old lady hand-writing "Fox Ridge Front Door" "Fox Ridge Gate" "Fox Ridge Barn" all squiggly and sideways. So of course we ask her what "Fox Ridge" was and it turned out that was the name of the house because it was once a hunting cabin along a road called Fox Ridge Road. And we thought it was funny and lovely that a house full of deer poop and methamphetamines could also have such a grand sounding name, and that it was doubly funny that two (now very) broke kids from Brooklyn could think of themselves as landed gentry, since we clearly were not. So that's how the name came about and that's how it stuck.

The dog is very unimpressed with the snow. He is skulking back inside...

I told you it was a long story! Until Tomorrow...

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