Civil War Era Historic Homes: The Reality

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Education & Training with Glasswork Media Arts

Civil War Era Historic Homes: The Reality

It is no surprise that there is an abundance of historic homes here in the Gettysburg, Adams county Pa, area. As a Realtor that specializes in these homes I get numerous inquiries from people from out of the area that are looking for a nice old farmhouse, or something from the Civil War era in the Gettysburg Borough. More often than not the buyers are coming in from out of town, and want to cram as many showings into one day as possible. I set up the showings and off we go, only to have the clients frustrated by the fourth home we view. They come ready for the joy, but are not prepared for the challenge.

Often times people fall in love with the concept of owning and living in a Civil War era home, but do not understand that doing so calls for some sacrificing. There are certain challenges that come with owning and living in Civil War era homes, especially if you are looking for something in the Gettysburg borough limits. During the 1800's, many of the affluent property owners of the area often purchased lots in town to build duplex's or single family homes specifically for rental income. The homes were not fancy, basic and different times called for different living requirements. In fact I own a Civil War Era duplex that has never been occupied by the owner of the property.  Below I will discuss some of the things that buyers looking for a Civil War Era home should expect along the way.

            Closet Space; during the 1800's families had pretty basic clothing needs. Most often there were two sets of clothes for each family member. One for everyday and work, and one for "go to meeting". The Civil War era housewife did not have a closet full of Jimmy Chew shoes. Clothes were set on hooks on the wall. Pretty simple. As time progressed closets were in demand so many people just retro fitted a closet into the room somewhere. More often than not they were small cramped, barely enough room closets. Unless ample renovation has been completed you are not going to find spacious walk in closets.

            Stairways; I know some of you are thinking that Scarlett had a beautiful large staircase with which to make a grand entrance. The reality, this ain't Tara. Probably the thing I hear most often when showing Civil War era homesis when client is heading up the steps. "How small were these people"? is most often what comes out there mouths. The stairways in the vast majority of these homes are small and narrow, usually two steps to a landing and then on up. Which makes for tough maneuvering just going up and down, the real challenge is getting your gigantic 21st century furniture into the upstairs bedrooms. Think Ikea

            Fireplaces; this is a big one. Many times people see a fireplace in the listing and are disappointed when they view the home and fireplace looks nice, but is inoperable. The reality for the majority of the Civil War Era historic homes in Gettysburg borough is that they don't work. There are a number reasons for this, first the age alone prevents the fireplace from being used safely, second the poor quality of "Gettysburg brick". The material used in bricks manufactured in the Gettysburg Adams County Paarea is of poor quality, the final product is porous and does not hold up well to the elements or fireplace conditions. Many times in the area you will see the bricks painted over, that was done to seal the bricks and  help the brick hold up over time.

            Electrical; Obviously electricity was not available during the 1800's. The invention and improvements of home electricity is apparent in the Civil War Era historic home. As innovations occurred they were "wired" into the home. Many Civil War Era historic homesstill have some old "knob & tube" wiring in the home. Most times that wiring needs to be dealt with as many homeowner policies do not allow it in the structure, connected or not. You will also notice that outlets will be inadvertently placed throughout the room. 4 outlets on one side of the room and 1 (in the floor no less) on the other side. Even after an upgrade to your service you will still have outlets willy nilly throughout the home.

These are just a few of the issues that a buyer of a Civil War Era historic home comes into contact with. I will continue this series explaining other issues that one can come across. Owning a Civil War Era historic home can be wonderful, but if you are prepared for some of the realities it will make it less of a challenge.

If you are interested in purchasing a Civil War Era historic home in the Gettysburg Adams County Pa area, please feel free to contact GettysburgGerry for assistance, his knowledge of historic homes is right on target.

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Rainmaker
607,479
Liz Wallace
Broker C21 Sherlock Homes, Rockville Centre, LI, N
Century 21 Sherlock Homes

You have a hard job explaining reality to magical thinkers.  You have it harder than I.  I just have to cope with buyers who want an authentic Victorian with central air, walk in closets and master baths. 

December 15, 2010 04:03 PM
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536,748
Gerry Michaels
GettysburgGerry Social Meida
Glasswork Media Arts

Liz funny you should mention central air, that is a topic for another blog. what this 150 year old house doesn't have 400 amp service? Thanks for stopping by

December 15, 2010 04:14 PM
Rainmaker
261,086
Nina Rogoff
Your Hometown Realtor in Sharon MA
RE/MAX Executive Realty -

Gerry, you do a great job of helping buyers understand up front what comes along with the charm of an Civil War era home. We live in a home from before that time period and love every inch of the house. There are options these days to add central air, but we haven't done it...yet. Buyers are lucky to work with you as you will help them really consider what they need to know before "falling for" the charm.

December 15, 2010 04:33 PM
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2,030,419
Todd Clark
Broker - Beaverton, Oregon Real Estate Expert - (503) 524-9494
Keller Williams Realty

You are right these are never things that I would have thought of when looking at a home that old. I love the idea, but that idea may not be reality. I want Scarlet's home with electricity and AC, can you make that work?

December 16, 2010 02:39 AM
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1,434,664
Ed Silva
CDPE, GRI, ABR, Real Estate Agent
RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754

Gerry, you don't have to go back to the Civil War era homes to find those issues. Many of the homes built at the turn of the 20th century fail a clients expectations. They love the old woodwork and intricate carvings, builyin dining toom hutches, but where's the family room, and the extra bath, and the central air?

December 16, 2010 11:09 AM
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