He Who Loves an Old House Never Loves in Vain
July 24, 2014 9:38 PM   Subscribe

CIRCA's "You Should Move to ..." series is a charming exploration of "beautiful, under-the-radar old house towns where big charm can be had for little cost."

CIRCA is a magazine-style site that primarily features older homes for sale, with fun niche features like "CIRCA School" (learn about old-timey architectural features), "Free Houses!" (just a couple of entries, but the details are both nifty and tempting), and "Before & After" (makeovers of old houses).

Many more thoughtfully designed rabbit holes can be found by hovering over The Magazine in the top navigation.

[title is a quote from Isabel La Howe Conant]
posted by batmonkey (19 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Some lovely houses but I'm not sure I would qualify anything built in the last 100 years as old.
posted by biffa at 11:03 PM on July 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

For the US, with our many natural disasters and tendency to knock things down, they definitely qualify.

But, yes, they don't quite reach the mark set by other points on the globe.
posted by batmonkey at 11:31 PM on July 24, 2014

I'm not surprised to see Buffalo on the list, but

Of all the Rust Belters, Buffalo has made, in my humble opinion, the most compelling comeback.

That has to be Pittsburgh.

I'm not sure I would qualify anything built in the last 100 years as old.

In the US, we mistakenly think a hundred years is a long time. In the UK, you mistakenly think a hundred miles is a long distance.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:46 PM on July 24, 2014 [16 favorites]

biffa: "Some lovely houses but I'm not sure I would qualify anything built in the last 100 years as old."

I had a conversation recently with a co-worker who'd moved here (Pittsburgh) from somewhere in the midwest recently and he was complaining about the fact that he had to buy and "old" house because there were no new ones on the market. After a bit of back-and-forth, it turned out that this house was from the mid-1980s and he considered anything over 10 years old to be an old house.
posted by octothorpe at 3:53 AM on July 25, 2014

Arg. I live in Canada and don't want to move. We need something like this for up here!

Fave so far: Where the cheery Addams family lives
posted by Mogur at 4:33 AM on July 25, 2014

Some lovely houses but I'm not sure I would qualify anything built in the last 100 years as old.

Surviving and well-maintained Mid-century modern probably counts as a "quaint old home" at this point - they're as old as Victorian/Turn of the Century homes were in the '50s and 60's.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:26 AM on July 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Noooooo don't move to Louisville!!! We have nothing to offer you, seriously! Our Victorian houses are incredibly overpriced heaps of rubble! Our Craftsmens suck--they're drafty and cold! Shotgun houses are stupid and pointless and not at all cute!

We're an incredibly boring town! Our music scene consists of nothing but bootlegged MP3s! Our restaurants are all fast food! Our artists all studied under Thomas Kincaide! the PGA Tour only comes through here because we took hostages! The horses at the Derby are all dilapidated nags headed for the glue factory! We even water down our bourbon!

We have nothing to offer gentrifiers! Ignore this article, it's full of lies! Stay away, please!
posted by magstheaxe at 5:31 AM on July 25, 2014 [11 favorites]

Places in Canada I can think of offhand where housing is both affordable and pretty nice: Sherbrooke, QC; Hamilton, ON (though I think that is rapidly changing), and where I live: Kingston, ON. If anyone in any other provinces can chime in, that would be awesome.

There are still some bits of intown Atlanta that are affordable. AFAIK, the Mechanicsville n'hood on the other side of I-85 never got the breathless gentrification it wanted so a lot of nice old houses for fixing up and moving in over there.
posted by Kitteh at 5:53 AM on July 25, 2014

Forget the stuff on this website. Move to Toledo's Old West End! And bring your friends who like to fix houses up and flip them. Please. I'm an old, fat and out of shape IT guy who can barely maintain his own 108 year old Arts and Crafts home so it's up to someone else to fix up the neighborhood. You can buy a 14 room mansion for under $300,000!
posted by charred husk at 6:09 AM on July 25, 2014

Any website that has an entry that says "You should move to Buffalo" is automatically suspect in my mind. Admittedly the buildings are cheap, but I don't think I've ever been colder anywhere.

I found the entry for Baker City interesting because I was there just a few days ago; like most of the places they list the real estate is cheap but that's because there are no jobs. These are great places to live if you have a trust fund or some kind of internet business where you earn your money sitting at your laptop in your living room; they are not so great if you hope to collect a paycheck from a locally based employer.

I love these kinds of architectural "bring a trailer" sites -- they always make me want to buy, even in places I have never heard of. I'm not particularly acquisitive otherwise, but I could easily become a hoarder of buildings if I had the budget.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:34 AM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Almost all of the old houses on that sight seem to be already restored. That seems like cheating.
posted by octothorpe at 6:46 AM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Almost all of the old houses on that sight seem to be already restored. That seems like cheating.
At first I was seeing all these six digit numbers and was thinking the same thing. You need to look in the "fixer-upper" section or the "10 under $50,000" section.
posted by charred husk at 7:05 AM on July 25, 2014

There's an online group I'm a part of that happens to be full of people from Ohio, and good lord, the houses there. So beautiful, for so very very very little money. We should all move to Ohio.
posted by gerstle at 7:31 AM on July 25, 2014

My partner and I recently purchased an Italianate style home built in 1866 in Kalamazoo's Vine neighborhood for around $60k. The restoration will probably cost roughly the same. It's a four-bedroom home with a neat little cupola on top. We are hiring most of the work out and handling the simple stuff on our own. It's been a delight and wonderful learning experience.

The city has been incredibly helpful. The director of the historic preservation commission did several walk-throughs with us before we even bought the home and the zoning board was especially awesome in helping us secure the proper certifications for the work.

I think there is a certain segment of the population for whom living in a university town is a per-requisite. The culture of public education and plucky civic ingenuity in our neighborhood is palpable. Everyone pulls together - there is a rust-belt mentality that amounts to a charming "we're-all-in-this-togetherness" - everyone around town keeps asking us how the project is progressing. I can't imagine living anywhere else. (The Kalamazoo Promise - i.e. free college tuition for our kids - certainly doesn't hurt).

I'm surprised our city wasn't on this list - but it's a great destination for academic-types who adore old houses.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 7:35 AM on July 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

Baby_balrog, that picture of the cupola is your house? Awesome! I love Italianates; We have a brick italianate townhouse that was pretty much unlivable when we bought it and is almost habitable now after seven years of work.
posted by octothorpe at 7:44 AM on July 25, 2014

Yah, that's our house. (I feel a little weird posting a picture of my house on the internet but for some reason I trust you weirdos.)
posted by Baby_Balrog at 7:45 AM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Any website that has an entry that says "You should move to Buffalo" is automatically suspect in my mind. Admittedly the buildings are cheap, but I don't think I've ever been colder anywhere.

Buffalo isn't super-cold. It just gets a fuckton of snow. The right reason not to move to Buffalo is that finding work is hard.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:58 AM on July 25, 2014

Some lovely houses but I'm not sure I would qualify anything built in the last 100 years as old.

In my town, quite a lot of, well, everything was knocked down by a rather notable earthquake and fire a little over a hundred years ago. For many of the city's plats, 100 years is pushing the upper limit of a building's possible age.

Our house was built shortly after that quake, on a rocky hill whose structures people noticed didn't collapse in the shaking. We're repairing the 1910 foundation and some of the worn-out shingles on the facade as I write, since it probably won't be long before freestanding houses from that era are a thing of the past, replaced by more sensible density. In the meantime, we're keen on celebrating the quaint charm of a home that is as far from modern as possible in a place that's regularly rattled down to rubble.

(We keep finding glass bottles and ceramics from that era as we're digging out for the new foundation. We suspect that everything downslope from the long-established commercial street in our neighborhood was where all the rubbish was tossed for who knows how many decades. My favorite discovery so far is this cut glass goblet, which is still in pretty good shape despite its missing stem. I like that there's even charm in the garbage buried under old houses.)
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 10:40 AM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm going to nominate my hometown, Janesville -- we have some really nice Victorians in historic districts, although alas, yes, "the real estate is cheap but that's because there are no jobs". We're not impoverished by any means and we even seem to be surviving the loss of our GM plant (yes, the one Paul Ryan was fibbing about), but the job market is still pretty limited and there's not much of a cultural life here (it's marginally better than when I was growing up, but if your tastes are at all refined you find yourself going out of town a lot).

Mainly I wish I could do something for our forlorn downtown and get a little more of a forward-thinking, planning-ahead, and encouraging attitude from the city itself, which just tore down a 100-year-old factory and plans to rip out still more buildings from our parking-lot-bombed-out business district, not to mention a gas station that they long ago decided was more important as a site into which they could expand the police station than any sort of symbolic icon of our history as an automotive town. *sigh*

Anyway, this is the one I want -- the interior is actually less modernized than the exterior, so it wouldn't take a lot to make it look really sweet. It's a FSBO right now and I just hope nobody gets to it -- one way or another -- before I get my shot (long story, but it will be a few years before financial stars align). A neighbor did a fantastic job with this baby, and a friend has made great progress with this one -- but meanwhile this cute little Mansard-roofed place is going to have to be moved to be saved. Mainly, though, I wish more people would find the beauty in the less spectacular, the ordinary folk Victorians and so forth that are strewn across so man cities, but suffer badly if their features are obscured by "modern" siding or their detailed porches or trim get ripped off. The so-lovely little "inexpensive" Queen Anne cottage that had been hidden all my life behind an ugly three-season porch got a new owner, who ripped off that porch -- and promptly replaced all the 19th century windows with ugly off-the-shelf home center jobs, and now that he's ripped out the soul of the fa├žade's character, is building a new three-season porch around it. Just as well because it puts me in a jag every time I see it now.
posted by dhartung at 6:22 PM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

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