Just because a house is old, doesn’t mean it’s historic. I know very little about the house. The real estate listing says it was built circa 1850. I do know that’s before the Civil War (1861-1865). Serendipitously I met a woman in the break room at work. In the course of conversation, I said we were in the process of buying an old house in Chester County. She knew the house well. Her husband had helped to care for the elderly woman that lived there and after her death, they sold the farm to a developer. The developer envisioned a sub-division with a new road and 12 or so houses on the 20+ acre property. The township had other plans and said no. The developer began “renovating” the farmhouse for a “flip,” did minimal improvements — or worse yet — put lipstick on a pig — and then lost their shirts. The property became bank owned. The bank subdivided the property into six lots, with the farmhouse being on the largest lot with the most useless property (picture a heavily wooded, steep cliff).
But while the house may not be historic, it has some unique features that should be preserved. There are the remnants of an old spring house, and remnants adjacent to the house that appear to be part of a summer kitchen. The beauty of the property is in preserving its character.
The 203K consultant warned us that the historical society was formidable. She said it would be difficult to get on their agenda, they would have very strict rules and we may not get their approval until August — or later!
We trudged forward, got on the agenda, and showed up — designs in hand. Mostly they wanted to tell us the history of the house, make sure we weren’t going to level it and build some objectionable “modern” structure and ask that we put corner stones where an old barn had been.
They said the farm had been known as the “Reason Farm,” after the people who had owned it. The Reasons, a black family, had inherited the farm from the white property owners generations before. It was unusual for blacks to own property outright during that time, and the house had become part of the underground railroad. But the farm has other history as well. Part of its original acreage was lost during prohibition when its bootlegging operation was uncovered. The development on Reason Lane now exists on that part of the old farm.
So, the Reason’s Farm has now become the “No Rhyme or Reason Farm.” There is no rhyme or reason for doing this — other than:
- reclaiming an old house from disrepair
- living closer to work
- being closer to my kids and granddaughter (that’s the best reason)
- having space for a garden, fruit trees and chickens
- designing a shell of a house to be what we want it to be
- and dreaming of actually living here … some day … when the permits are issued, the well is drilled, the construction is completed, and the moving vans are gone.