Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"D" for Dump

The White-Haired
Harbinger of Gratitude

Tim Hare
Copyright HARE 2009
All Rights Reserved

"Shining the Rainbow Light of Gratitude
from the historic West Ward neighborhood
of Easton, Pennsylvania"

"D" for Dump

I wondered what word starting with the letter “D” could I be grateful for this week in the West Ward?

Maybe I’d write about my fantastic gratitude-filled penthouse “Drawing Room” at our home Ravenwood?

Or perhaps my gratitude for the wide range of human “Diversity” that embodies the West Ward? Having been kidnapped to a white, and heterosexually-dominated, suburb at a very young age, I feel more comfortable in a neighborhood that better reflects the real world.

Given that this is the season of Halloween, I considered shining the light of gratitude on my neighbors who are “Dead” - those who are lucky to occupy the unspoiled national landmark Easton Cemetery.

I’m so grateful for these considerate dead folk! They, and their heirs and assigns, have had the good taste to not mummify their final resting place with vinyl siding! Pardon the pun, but the cemetery still 'remains' a Victorian time capsule, where I love to walk, unbothered visually or audibly.

However, this week my gratitude zeroed in on what a great big dump our house and block were twenty-five years ago.

I’m actually grateful that our now-beautiful West Ward home, which we call Ravenwood, because we’re painting it all Raven and it’s all wood, was possibly the worst dump in the City of Easton. That is, if you don’t include the unsightly, noisy, and smelly Williams Township landfill - actually, why not include it!

Most of our immediate surroundings were also derelict and vacant in 1984.

I was volunteering color consulting for Historic Easton inc., when a client rehabbing the properties next door asked if I knew anyone who’d be interested in buying the adjacent house. What a dump, I laughed, with cigarette flailing (I smoked then)!

The gigantic pile of rot seemed beyond redemption. It was enwrapped with hideous tar-paper “brick” shingles of multi-colors. The two-story porch at the back was collapsing.

The windows were missing glass. The front door had cardboard where stained glass once would have crowned the entry. The woodwork inside had been the target of much hatcheting (or chewing?).

Most of the original features, inside and out, were long gone. The plumbing was wrecked. There was no water, no heat, no room not heaped to the rafters with debris and filth. The huge garbage cans in the kitchen were full of lard and were covered solid with dancing roaches.

On the barren vacant lot next door, strewn with trash, sat a City of Easton construction trailer. The streets were lined with junk cars, rusting back into the environment, very 'green' in hindsight.

So, of course Earl and I immediately rose to the challenge and bought it. Who wouldn’t? We already owned several other places, and commuted daily to NYC, so what's another dump? We were "flippers who care!" We were also former Manhattanites who were suffering from space deprivation, now we had become Space Queens (and bridge-and-tunnel trash to the Manhattanites we left behind)!

Not only was the building vacant and literally condemned when we bought it, it was therefore uninsurable and not eligible for a mortgage. Hey, who could resist risking all-cash, not us! We were no fools! We knew a bargain when we saw one!

We later learned that we had spent more than ten-thousand times the sum that some neighbors had paid for their one-dollar-houses, what a rip off!

Whenever we watch the so-called comedy “The Money Pit,” we are overwhelmed with horrible flashbacks, trembling in fear and self-loathing to this very day! We have much more fun with that jolly "Psycho."

One day, a nice couple from out of town naively bought our 100-foot long chain link fence that was concreted into our yard. Our ad read: “$100, you remove,” which they tried to do over many scorching days.

After sweltering with their sledgehammers, they finally begged us for a glass of water. “Sorry,” we replied, “We don’t have any water here.” “Well, how about a Coke?” they sheepishly asked. “Sorry, we don’t have any refrigeration here either - that takes electricity!”

When our house where we were living downtown on Bushkill Street sold unexpectedly on the very last day of the listing, we had to get the dump fit for our occupancy really fast. Just like in the Money Pit, “Two weeks,” said the plumber; “Two weeks,” said the electrician. Months later, we could finally move in.

Rather than go on and on, and risk hospitalization from flashbacks, or, better yet, internment, I'll let these few pictures tell the "before" story of our magnificent former dump.

Suffice to say that had this place not been such a dump, we could not have afforded it! Nor could we have afforded to customize it into the place it is today, 25 years later.

To see the “after” story, see the pics, or simply stroll by Ferry Street at Walnut Avenue!

I’m very grateful, and surprised, that it was in this former dump’s “Drawing Room” that I created my third book, Easton Inkscapes, commissioned by the City of Easton in 1989, to capture the personalities of Easton’s antique architecture and streetscapes.

Little did I imagine that, twenty years later, not only would this dump transform into one of the finest homes in Easton, but also, that Easton Inkscapes would be republished next month in a newly gorgeous way!

The architectural fine art monographs will be curated by Ken Jones Jr., and will be created and marketed exculsively by Mercantile Home in Easton!
The signed and numbered limited edition book volume(s), in rich sepia, will be presented with luxurious special binding and covers. They will be stunning and collectable!
The signed and numbered limited edition individual archival prints, in full color, will be available framed or unframed. They capture the historic architecture featured in the book originals.
The new editions will be launched by Mercantile Home as part of the "Favorite Things" exhibition, curated by Ken Jones Jr., from November 5th, 2009 to January 31st, 2010.
You are cordially invited to the opening reception on Saturday November 7th, from 4 pm to 7 pm, at Mercantile Home, 526 Northampton Street, Easton, PA 18042, Tel. 610-258-4046
Hours will be Thurs-Sun. from 11am to 6pm
For more information, please contact Ken Jones Jr.:
T. 718-594-6119
F. 866-708-3018
Mercantile Home:
T. 610-258-4046


Anonymous said...

Sal Panto says "Bravo!" on the beautifully restored home (yes, I certainly remember it well) and the republishing of your Easton Inkscapes which we commissioned in my first term in office. Of course, individuals like you and me can truly appreciate where we have come from -- and yet so much farther to go.

You and Earl no longer have a Dump you have a DESIRABLE home with the beautiful edifice built in 1861 across the street - the courthouse not the unsavory prison.

I look forward to the opening reception and still have the picture you gave me of the book signing at Easton Books.

Good luck.

noel jones said...


What you and Earl have done with that house is amazing and an inspiring example to the rest of us. If everyone with the means did as much to keep up their houses, the West Ward would be even more beautiful than it already is. David and I will do our best to keep up!

There is some good news on the horizon for Ferry Street. The City is planning to rehab and "green" up 3-5 houses on Ferry between 7th and 14th Streets, so that should have a very positive effect on the first impression of home buyers considering the WW.

Easton Heights Blogger said...

there are SO many jewels in the rough in the WW. it's unfortunate that so many are purchased as investment properties instead of 'live in' properties. in my half block of 12 homes, only 5 are owner occupied (the other half of the block I can't be sure).
the best we can do is lead by example and show what can be done. I've had so many people in my home over the years who are amazed at what they see; they never knew such wonderful homes can be in this neighborhood.
btw, my wife encouraged me to feature 'nice' stuff on my blog from time to time, so I'll be doing that too!

noel jones said...

Sounds good, EHB!

Timothy George Hare said...

Thanks all! It's great to see so many present and planned exciting projects happening 'round the WW.

Sal, we love the prison building...I think of it as a luxury-cost gated community, which it certainly is. :-) When I lived in Australia, one of the nicest Art Museums was in Fremantle, a former stone prison building. We can dream, can't we though?

Yes, it takes a financial commitment to make things nice, but that also provided the incentive to commute to well-paying jobs when there was such a thing.

Merely ten more years to go on that 30-year mortage - by then I'll be more high-maintenance than the house is, but it's all fun while it lasts.

Anonymous said...

Ravenwood, our home for all seasons since September 1984

Easton Eccentric news article: http://www.eastoneccentric.blogspot.com/2012/09/ravenwood-west-ward-tale-of-love-and.html

Musical Videos of Ravenwood in 1984:

Part 1 of 2: http://youtu.be/BqRC7ljZ8yI?list=UUeEBFeAZNZ5H_b547Xgbgng
Part 2 of 2: http://youtu.be/XU1QnjJF_k4?list=UUeEBFeAZNZ5H_b547Xgbgng

Photo Album: https://www.facebook.com/TimothyGeorgeEaston/media_set?set=a.10202721575296492.1073741829.1112541332&type=3

Blog Post: http://neighborsofeaston.blogspot.com/2009/10/shining-light-of-gratitude-on-west-ward_26.html