Chapter 1: It Was Meant to Be
Since 1960 we had lived in the same older, 1930’s stone and frame house. That was nearly 30 ago. It was there that we raised a son and two daughters. It seemed like they were grown and gone in mere moments. It was also there that we raised a pair of baby Robins to adulthood. They had been abandoned in their nest in one of the smaller trees in our tiny yard. That experience was an unexpected mountain of work, yet it was very rewarding and not without fun moments to be shared along the way.
We ran a small business from our home, using a converted detached 2-car garage as our workshop, with office space in the house. With the kids gone and more house than we needed, it was time to look for new housing. We had been talking to my parents about perhaps moving them in with us when we found appropriate housing. They were, after all, advancing in years, and though we didn’t know it at the time, Mom was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. We needed something that would allow 2 families and a small business, perhaps a farmhouse with a bit of land, yet close enough to town for easy access to health care.
We searched for 5 or 6 months and we just couldn’t find anything that felt like home and fulfilled all our other requirements. I think our realtor was ready to give up. One day she just blurted out something to the effect “why don’t we drive around, and you show me something that looks like what you want?” That was all I needed. I had just the house in mind, but I knew that it surely wasn’t for sale, and even if it were it would most certainly be out of our price range. I took her by another old 1930’s stone house that was just a few blocks away. It was a beautiful old English Tudor, looking out over the entire valley and the Flatirons as well, with a nice southern exposure. She made a few notes and we concluded the search for that day. We didn’t have any more showings that day, but the very next day we had made appointments to look at 2 or 3 more. Our realtor, whose name was Hope, also informed us that we had another house to look at that day, and much to our surprise, it was the old stone Tudor that we had driven by the day before. She said it might already have a contract on it, but we should look anyway, especially since I had been by the house so many times, wishing I could see inside. I was both excited and yet reserved, knowing that any chance of getting that house would be slim, and additionally, it probably wouldn’t fit all of our criteria anyway.
Our first showing was the old stone house that we felt compelled to see, if for no other reason than we had always wanted to see it. We met the realtor early that August morning and we took a slow tour of the half-acre grounds. It quickly became apparent that the place had been unattended for some time, but yet the grounds surrounding the house held a certain inviting charm, if not suffering lack of care. What a gorgeous view this place had and there were several mature trees and shrubs strategically placed to avoid blocking too much of the view. Some 60 years earlier the builder had selected this spot for obvious reasons. Sitting on the north side of town and overlooking the entire valley below, one could see almost forever, and even though this was well inside the city limits, it felt and looked more like “in the country.” This visual fairytale somehow didn’t seem real but it oozed of warmth and love and peacefulness and serenity. The sort of thing only found in older homes as far as we were concerned. We were told that the place had been empty for at least 6 months, with a few broken windows adding to our concerns about the condition of the inside. There wasn’t a crack in the thick old stone walls, however, and that was encouraging. Ivy clung to much of the Northern walls adding even more character.
Going inside we felt like we were in a spooky adventure. Dust and cobwebs greeted us in every room.There were obvious signs that animals and birds had been the most recent occupants.
The roof had been leaking for some time and it didn’t appear that any interior work had been done since the early 60’s or maybe even the late 50’s. Someone had removed all the fixtures and we wondered what they might have been like. What a shame, such a beautiful old place and no one was taking proper care of it. The first floor was spacious and bright and had a charm all its own in spite of the unkempt condition. Then we discovered that the second floor had been converted into an apartment, probably in the late 60’s or early 70’s. The views from the second floor were even better, and the sloped ceilings added to the old English charm. This is getting better all the time, now we have three of the four criteria, view, multi-family capable, close to town. Would there be enough room for the business too?
We finished touring the basement, also charming but needing work, took some measurements, and took in a bit more of the outside ambiance before leaving for our next showing.
All the rest of the day, everything we looked at just wasn’t right for us. We couldn’t get the old stone house out of our minds. It was love at first site, but we had just spent nearly 30 years working on another fixer-upper and we didn’t know if we had the energy to tackle another one this late in life. Besides, it was likely already taken, and we really couldn’t afford it without some help.
It was out of our affordability range and it needed so much work that others felt it was a “plow under.” Yet our hearts had been captured by the warm, inviting feeling we had experienced when we were there. We didn’t want to leave and we couldn’t wait to go back for another look, at least to justify reasons for not taking it or not getting it and to verify whether it indeed had enough room for the business too.
There was one another place that we would have taken had it not already had a contract on it. In fact we tried offering more to see if the contract could be broken, but it wasn’t meant to be. Disappointed, we decided that there must be something better waiting for us.
We were badly smitten and there wasn’t much hope. We took my parents to look at it, just to see if it would have been something that they would feel comfortable living in. Dad, in his usual Swedish way, pointed out all the negatives. Yet at the same time he could see the potential. Both Dad and Mom seemed to like the feel of the place, so he offered what financial help he could. Would that be enough? Would it matter anyway? Our realtor had a feeling that we should write the owner a letter, telling something about ourselves and why we wanted the place to be ours. Boy did we pour out our hearts in that letter.
It seems like we waited weeks after writing that letter and we filled the actual few days with dreams of what we could do to fix up the old house. We also made several more visits to do a little “just in case” renovation reconnaissance, and because we had fallen hopelessly in love with the place. The more we looked, the more smitten we became, and the more we discovered that this place fit all of our criteria better than we could have hoped. Interesting too, was the fact that it had been in the same family from the beginning, and that we might become only the second family to own it.
Hope called us one day to tell us that we had a meeting with the owner because the deal in front of ours was faltering. We found out later that the first contract individual had intentions of doing things tantamount to plowing the place under.
Apparently the meeting went well, because within a few days we had a deal, and the owner agreed to carry the note until we could get our financing in order. We were in simultaneous ecstasy and disbelief. Our dream was coming true and with all the obstacles that we had faced earlier we were feeling very much like “this was meant to be.” Things like this don’t happen to people like us,” and we still pinch ourselves now and then just to make sure we aren’t in a dream state.
We felt such a strong welcoming energy as this place wrapped its inviting arms around us and held us so close we didn’t want to leave. Many visitors have felt the same thing. They would typically say things like “I can only stay a minute,” and 2 hours later they are wondering what happened. Even the wildlife seems to feel that safety and peacefulness.
Next » Chapter 2: Meeting the Deer