Bad remodels


There are renovations that are beautiful but they can also be what I like to call home wreckers. For example take a small historic home, rip out a few walls and put in a gourmet kitchen with granite counter tops and of course those ubiquitous stainless steel appliances. The kitchen now takes up 1/3 of the first floor and is done in one style while the rest of the house is another style.

The kitchen looks nice and so does the rest of the home but they don’t go together at all and I have seen a few remodels where the rest of the living space was reduced or moved to a lower level to make room for a larger kitchen. Yes it is true that the kitchen often sells the home but having fewer bedrooms and baths will hurt the salability of the large kitchen.

I think it is alright to do most anything to our homes to accommodate our lifestyles and our tastes but expecting to make money or even recoup the cost of a some of the strange renovations I see isn’t realistic and sometimes what one owner thinks of as an improvement keeps a potential buyer from making an offer.

There are two homes in my area that have been strangely and expensively upgraded. One took almost a year to sell and sold for 40K less than comparable homes and the other has been on and off the market for the last 18 months. They will need to drop the price another 20K if they want to sell it. The owners are trying to get the money they put into the upgrade back.


Types of porches

I love homes with porches. I have two of them and neither is enclosed. It is like having a couple of extra rooms during the warmer months.

What is a porch? I like to say it is just like the decks in suburbia but with a roof over it. There are a few flavors of porch and sometimes they can even be included as part of the total square footage of a home.

4-Season Porch/Sunroom
A 4-season porch is a room that functions as an interior room, but allows you to take in the views of the outdoors year-round. It has permanent heat and is included in the finished square footage of the home.

3-Season Porch
A 3-season porch has windows with integrated screen systems and can be used for long periods throughout the year. They can shield you from outdoor elements such as rain, wind, sun and insects, but 3-season porches are not heated. Therefore, it is not a part of finished square footage, but is considered an enclosed space.

3 season proch
3 season porch

Screen Porch
Screened porches are a covered porch that has screened openings instead of windows. A screened porch may be less sheltered from the outdoor elements, but still offers protection from the sun and bothersome insects in the summer. Screen porches should not be included in the finished square footage.

Open Porch

Just a deck with railings and a roof over it. A great place for plants and chairs or a porch swing. Not really even a one season porch here in Minnesota. More like a two month porch. These porches are very common in the oldest parts of St. Paul and no they can not be included in the finished square footage.

What is “Pullman style”?

They were built in the early 1900’s as apartments and today some are apartments and others have been turned into condos.  They can be found mainly in mainly in the Crocus Hill and Summit University areas, which are older neighborhoods closer to downtown.  There are several wonderful examples along Grand Avenue.  The buildings look square from the front with balconies and can be made of brick or wood.

42 St. Albans

The Pullman style is named after the style of sleeping car trains designed by the Pullman company in the early 1900’s.  The space is long and narrow.

The Pullman style units in St. Paul usually open up into a long hallway, and most of the rooms are on one side.  The first room is the living room with big windows and then a formal dinning room. In some building the balcony is assessable through one of the living room windows. The bathrooms and bedrooms are along a long hall that starts by the front door and goes to the kitchen which is in the back of the unit and takes up the entire width. There is usually a backdoor off the kitchen.

They range in size from small to large 😉 . . They will set you back at least 180K . If you own a condo and would like to sell, let me know. They are selling and I have buyers who are looking.

Architectural styles in St. Paul

greek revival
Greek Revival

There are Greek Revival style homes in the oldest parts of St. Paul which are the neighborhoods closest to downtown. Most were built in the mid 1800’s. I live in a Greek revival house but it isn’t nearly as fancy as the house in the photo. These homes are pre-victorian, and were built during a time when everything had to be handmade.

There are many resources on the internet for learning about home styles. One resource is this guide from Realtor magazine. Once the basic style has been identified I like to do a Google search to learn more.

Historic building slated for demolition

The Hope Engine Company No. 3 building was designed and built in 1871­-72, and occupied for the first time in 1872. It is the oldest existing municipal building of any kind in the entire city of St. Paul and the station served the community until 1956, or 85 years of service. The building is structurally sound, and is considered a landmark in the neighborhood. It is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, and is also eligible for local historic designation by the Heritage Preservation Commission. The building is in a high state of preservation, with much of its original fabric intact.

Local developer David Brooks has aims to take down the city’s oldest standing public building, the former St. Paul fire station located at the corner of Leech Street and Grand Avenue in St. Paul and replace it with a 109-unit Marriot, according to information provided by the city and Brooks, Friday, March 18, 2016. (Pioneer Press: Jean Pieri)

Many in the neighborhood strongly oppose the pending demolition of the Hope Engine Company No. 3 firehouse at 1 Leech Street (a.k.a. 200 Grand Avenue).  The demolition and development of the site are both  inconsistent with the mission, values, and wishes of the neighborhood. The firehouse belongs to all of us and it can never be build again. It is one of a kind.

I sent an email to our city council person as soon as I found out and will stand with my neighbors who want to fight this. The building should not be demolished. We just found out about this a few days ago. Opposition will need to organize quickly.

Fire house
Antique St. Paul Fire House
Leech Street

Please join neighbors at the firehouse at 3:00 PM on Sunday March 20th. To learn more about the building and maybe help save it.



Vacant and condemned

I took a drive through the Dayton’s bluff neighborhood the other day. There are still many homes that are boarded up and vacant and there are vacant lots where there used to be empty boarded up houses. The area was hit hard by the great recession and the crash of the housing market. There are so many fine old houses in the Dayton’s bluff neighborhood. I grew up on the east side (not east St. Paul) on Wakefield Street.

Some homes have been fixed up and sold to new owners but there are still too many like the apartment building in the picture. Home prices and rents are rising and there are not enough homes available for those who want to buy them.

There was a fine old Italianate style house on the corner of Wilson and Maria that is now gone and part of the vacant lot looks like it is used for vehicle storage.  There are vacant lots all over town. Many are now owned by adjacent property owners.

I don’t think this is how St. Paul should look.