When my kids were young, our family used to explore old, abandoned farmhouses in rural upstate New York. Technically, you could say we broke into them. We just happened to find a door open or a window that wasn’t locked, and we went inside.
Once inside, we looked at the floor plan, at the peeling wallpaper, the furniture left behind by some long ago owner, and we dreamed.
We were looking for a place to rescue.
Eventually, we found a place that wasn’t quite so far gone, and we loved it until it looked proud again.
Over the years, the houses I loved best but had to walk away from so long ago have found rescuers. I drive by those places now and am happy to see how beautiful they are again.
Today, I was invited to a place that would have won my heart all those years ago.
It’s in a hamlet outside Cooperstown. On offer is a rambling old farmhouse that was once an inn, several outbuildings, fields, and, across the street, a building that’s been a store, a post office, and a grange hall.
I haven’t seen anything like it since those abandoned places from so long ago.
The original sinks, tubs, stoves, even refrigerators, are still in the house. The vintage wallpaper holds tight on some walls, and hangs in sheets off others. The second-story ballroom, a feature common to old inns in the Catskills which hosted dances, concerts and dorm-style overnight accommodations for drovers, is still impressive. The big bell by the door still rings when you pull the cord, and it feels like if you listen carefully, you’ll hear the travelers arriving again.
The store’s big front windows and double doors are boarded over, but they’re still there. The original counters and shelving are intact. There’s a warren of other rooms downstairs, vintage wood and coal stoves, even a little closet with a toilet for the shopkeeper. Upstairs, there’s a large apartment where the seller said he used to stay when he was a young, single guy.
There is not a room that doesn’t need work. The foundations need some attention. I have no doubt it’s a money pit.
Someone, some dreamer, someone with a vision of a life in the country, is going to fall in love. But it’s strange to know it’s not me any more. I know my limits.
Read more installments of Village Voices by Susan Barnett.