When we bought our retirement home in late summer 2017, we knew we were sort of getting a two-fer in the deal. The original listing cited there was an apartment in the backyard of the main house. While the property wasn’t everything we had in mind when we put together our “dream list” of wants, needs, and desires for the retirement home, it did hold a great deal of promise and quite a few perks. The home shown in the listing was of brick construction, there was a sunroom (yeah!), there were mature trees, and there was a pretty huge yard. It had three bedrooms, two baths, and a fireplace. It was a bit dated, but in our mind that meant a blank slate, of sorts, for us to do with as we pleased. All this was within no more than five miles of amenities and city services. While we weren’t going to get five or more acres of land, it was a fair trade in our mind to get all else we could with this property. We did an initial drive-by before booking a walk-through with our realtor, and that was when I had my first glimpse of what wasn’t actually an apartment, or a MIL quarters, or a FROG. All fancy words for extra space. It was none of those things, but instead a circa 1940s carriage house.
During our initial scoping out of the property, we discovered a renter currently lived in what would become our little carriage house, and she wasn’t willing to let us have a peek, but it was in those initial moments of looking around that I became quite intrigued of the “apartment.” I knew that space had just as much potential as the main house did in becoming ours in every way we could make it so. We called our realtor and the next day we were allowed inside the home, but still not the carriage house, and sixty days later, we were the proud owners of “the old *redacted name* place.”
Boy, howdy! It was a struggle the entire way. There were issues hunting down the executor of the property who was on vacation, so we weren’t even able to place an offer for two weeks. There were issues with the initial paperwork. There were issues with the VA. Then the last straw presented itself by way of an oversight in whether the property was or was not on city sewage and how to rectify the findings without having to begin the process all over again. We were anxious to buy as our window of opportunity was closing and the executor was anxious to sell as the property had been on the market for over 18 months at that point. We crossed all those hurdles, and wouldn’t you know, one more presented itself less than a week from closing. We had agreed to purchase a renter-free property as the woman who’d been living in the carriage house was due to vacate three weeks prior to our closing by way of her lease running out, as we wanted. However, the executor thought she’d be doing us a favor by hunting up a new renter. We declined and the new renter was informed we would not be hosting them.
Folks, I could do days’ worth of posts on buying a house and all the pitfalls and weird things that can happen, but I digress. I want to share with you what we discovered after all was said and done and the house was finally ours. Well, it will be in another twenty-nine years or so.
It wasn’t until a few months after we moved in and had the main house in fairly decent running order that we got the full scoop on what we’d been referring to as the cottage since we’d moved in. In casual conversation one day, a neighbor informed us we were in possession of a piece of history.
In the mid to late-1940s, the county and a few generous residents got together and decided to honor the returning World War II veterans to our area by building them small homes on gifted plots of property. (At least this is local lore. I’m in the process of confirming this account.) Our carriage house happens to be one of those small homes. In fact, it’s one of the few surviving carriage houses in the area. According to what we’ve learned, the hillside behind us was once filled with them. Now, as far as we can tell, three remain. (A fourth one is in question. We believe it’s been built around and the lower level of a neighboring house is the bones of what was a carriage house from the architectural nuances.) These confirmed three which remain have had such good care taken of them, one would never know just be looking at them they’re pushing upward of seventy years old. Ours is the only one, however, with the original “foundation” showing and is the most original, from what we’ve been told, inside. You can still see the cinder blocks which make-up the work-shop/garage beneath the living quarters. Inside the carriage house are the original wormy chestnut bead-board walls which shine as if they’re brand new.
Since figuring out the significance of the carriage house, we’ve tossed around a few ideas for its use, but we really want to honor the history which came with the structure. My husband being a history buff and a retired veteran, we want to make sure we preserve the integrity of the meaning of the cottage while still making it functional and useful for years to come. After tossing around a few ideas, we’ve decided to do a few upgrades and create a studio space for me and all my crafty/quilty things by way of Bee Darned, as well as give me a place to write when I need a bit quieter space than the main house affords.
We’re set to begin the renovation and upgrade process early this summer with the first project being a new electrical box. The original, complete with its glass screw in fuses, is still in the kitchen. Obviously with a free-standing quilter going in the living room, electricity is foremost on the list of things to do. Other projects will include new steps and a porch facelift, ripping out some ancient carpet and refurbishing the hard-wood floors beneath, and figuring out a reasonably priced heating and air conditioning solution. I’m really excited to be undertaking the preservation of a piece of history, one we had no idea we were going to be in possession of until after the fact, and can’t wait to share this journey with y’all through posts and pictures.
If you haven’t been by yet, be sure to stop by the Etsy shop for all the latest offerings I’ve listed.
Have a crafty day!