Sunday, November 28, 2010

Historic House for Sale, Collingswood New Jersey

Fall in the Collingswood Garden
Neighbors are often the people you least know. In spite of the fact that you live next to them, there are always aspects of them that elude you. I mention this because I returned to Collingswood to spend Thanksgiving with my extended family of friends. My family is near Tarpon Springs and scattered around Los Angeles, but I figured that they would not be disappointed in not spending another Thanksgiving with me as I have not in the past. So I went home to my friends and neighbors for one last round. In the future, I figured my house would be settled enough and with plenty of room to receive any of them and I would start celebrating once again with my family and hopefully with new friends I have made down in Florida.

Of course the trip to Collingswood continues to be about arranging for the sale of the house. I have held off selling and awaiting Spring because I applied and tested for a Federal position which I was told I was the highest score. However, this said, the federal government is stranger these days than in the past because of the change in political power. The position that I had in the pocket has vaporized until who knows when. It is a shame because I was relying on this bureaucratic post to provide excellent medical coverage. So life goes on.

Interiors article in the Philadelphia Inquirer some years ago

I continue to evaluate my possessions thinking if I will ever need this or that book or notes on a subject I could teach or hundreds of other items that attach me to a life that I no longer have and may never have again. Still, I am in the process of cleaning house to make it more palatable to potential purchasers. I am told by all my cable connected friends that in order to sell my house (according to the many, many shows on cable filling the airwaves and time) I must depersonalize it. Of course this is strange to me as my house has been featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer because of the way it is decorated and the garden has been on numerous newspaper and magazine articles.

I don't get it! Part of a house is who lives in it. We look at Architectural Digest or Country Life or any of the many other voyeuristic magazines that allow us to snoop at houses and properties around the country and the world. These magazines make their business on selling personality. Why must all the sudden my house be castrated of me?

Regardless, I am taking away the excess. I don't think I have much and most will agree with that but no one really wants to see pictures of me and my dead family and friends prominently displayed on my triple dresser in my bedroom. I don't have a grand piano or I would have them on one like I see all the time on Architectural Digest. I am packing boxes of nick knacks and personal items and getting them ready for my next trip to Tarpon Springs.

The house will be a little less me, but the color on the living and dining rooms walls will be the lavender that I painted years ago that everyone thought was strange, but they now realize was a good choice. My kitchen will still be filled with pots and pans and be Mandarin Yellow. It will still look like a chef lives here even though I haven't cooked any major meals lately; one more meal will hopefully unite us again. The paintings on the walls depict some of my own earliest efforts to gifts, inheritances and purchases that trace my life and could belong to no one else in this configuration.

Plumeria (tall) and other plants awaiting transport

Even the garden is loosing a few plants. For years I have made a habit of growing plants from other climates that required over wintering in the basement or front porch. A Mexican Blue agave that can get the size of VW beetle I have managed to root prune and keep from escaping my garden urn must be put in the basement each year. No more, I dug it up, as I will dig up some other plants that would rather be elsewhere and bring them along to the sun and warmth of Florida. One very special plant that I almost gave away last year is my Plumeria from the house in LA. It has managed to slowly fight off dying in this weather for the last 18 years. In the tropics it would be a three story tree. Here it still manages to blooms every odd year but in the future it will grow and bloom every year.

It is hard to say goodbye to a place or to friends. A friend acknowledged my feelings that some of my friends are still angry about me leaving. Oh well, they will get over it as I am less mad myself about some of the decisions I have needed to make hopeful of a nicer future.

A chop at the property line

I, however will not miss my rear neighbors. These are newcomers to the area. If they are any indication of who will be able to afford these houses in the future, well, then my departure is perfectly timed. For the last year they have taken and plasticized every inch of their house and garden. Vinyl siding has been plastered on top of vinyl siding. A new white vinyl fence went up on day one. It was such an abrupt change that it was shocking and disconnecting from what landscape existed inside the, now, Gulag. It contains three of four yappy dogs, so I guess they were doing me a favor. Over the year they took out all the plantings that existed and applied sod and little gnomes and other unique decorations. Upon my return from Florida I discovered that a long swooping branch from my willow was cut at the property line. I had contemplated removing it before they did, but they started hanging bird boxes on it and I thought I was making a contribution. Well, no more. Total sterility has set it. So be it.

So you if you want a wonderful three bedroom historic house in Collingswood, New Jersey with Chestnut interior woodwork and a fabulous garden, drop me an email. I am sure we can work something out. I am off to church so happy gardening!


  1. Rene, your house is so beautifully decorated please don't think you have to depersonalize it. Your unique touches are what makes it special and appealing.
    The first house we bought had art on the walls I especially liked and even though I knew, of course, that the art would leave with its owners, seeing it there made the house more appealing to both of us.
    Someone will come and see your home and want it immediately. Such a beautiful town and neighborhood. And you need to mention the excellent schools! So what if you get ice and snow in the winter. So what if tropical plants would freeze in the garden. So what. Some people actually prefer to live in this climate - ha!

  2. May I ask how old this historic house you have posted? Thanks.

    Paula M

  3. The house was built in 1924 and was the first house in this neighborhood after the Stokes Farm was sold into building parcels. The original farms in the area date to the 1780's.

    The house has a glassed in porch, foyer, Living Room, Formal Dining room, Kitchen, Reading room, 3 bedrooms, nursery, and one bathroom. It also has wonderful chestnut woodwork and staircase.

  4. I stumbled on your post as I was looking for a website mentioned on NPR...then I saw your reference to Tarpon Springs and I just had to drop a line. I grew up in Ozona, and have many fond memories of TS as well, and will be heading 'home' for the first time in two years for the holidays. It's the tropical abundance that I miss most about Florida, but I have to say, my home in Colorado of 10 years has forged new relationships with plants (and critters for that matter!). Anyways, love your blog and good luck selling!

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