A house dating to the late 19th century is now one of the most modern and ecologically sound private residences in Andersonville. It’s had a soup-to-nuts green retrofitting and has emerged as the oldest house in the U.S. to rise to LEED-Silver building standards. It’s not official yet, because the home hasn’t been submitted for certification. But, according to the seller, get a blower door test and a home energy audit, once the three-car garage is finished, and it should have no trouble qualifying.
The house was built for Thomas Stevens, a cemetery gardener probably working in nearby Rosehill Cemetery, according to census records unearthed by the Edgewater Historical Society. Members of the Stevens clan remained in the house for almost a century, making the current seller just the third owner. It sits on a 60’ x 127’ corner lot, and, with its sharp roofline steroidal farmhouse bulk, would be awfully dominant on the streetscape if not for the enormous setback and high fencing.
There’s a bunch of fine tuning to be done inside the four-bedroom home, but, considering the seller addressed everything from the exterior walls to the foundation (where new piping and support beams have been installed), it has come a long way. The core eco-friendly enhancements are open-cell spray foam insulation that expands and contracts with temperature changes, creating a tight thermal envelope; top of the line Pella Impervia windows, with a cosmetic stainless steel trim; radiant floor heating with a tankless water heater; and efficient split-system air conditioning.
A focus on cross ventilation lessens the desire to blast the AC. Operable corner windows in every room with a corner work toward passive cooling and they also reduce heat loss in winter. It would all be a bust without the energy efficient standing seam metal roof, with a high reflectance value and a 50-year lifespan. And the metal can be recycled in the end. “Everything that’s been done to the shell of the building will benefit resale down the road, as more people look to buy green,” says listing agent Susan Dickman of KoenigRubloff.
Other buzzworthy aspects of the house include the interior finishes. While incomplete—there’s still a need for baseboards and molding in upstairs rooms, plus a little ceiling work—the seller still made some confident moves before listing: The kitchen features an island countertop of polished Atlantic Ocean floor and the living room’s grand fireplace is composed of recycled brick from the original structure and salvaged timbers from an unspecified Daniel Burnham-designed hotel. The kitchen was also bumped out into a new solarium and side entry with a deck. Salvage permeates the house in oak floors and the floating staircase, original doors, and in marble and bathroom tile.
Doing the minor touch-ups is a no-brainer, but real value will be added to the property by completing the build-out of the 600-square-foot attic as a master suite, which still needs drywall and a staircase extension, and making the basement into living space. It may not look worthy of attention, but the basement is dry, has higher-than-usual ceiling height, decent natural lighting, and its own door. This puts it in English garden apartment territory.
Price Points: The seller paid $648,575 for the house in 2009, and though she lived in it, work began shortly thereafter. I couldn’t get a ballpark on the money put into the project, but there were no shortcuts. The seller’s desire to see the retrofit through to its conclusion sometimes outweighed cost considerations.
It’s important to note that when the house hit the market in June for $1,699,900, it was being priced as a finished product. “The large price adjustment reflects a shift to wholesale pricing for the house as it stands today,” says Dickman. “[The seller] is busy with other home building around town and doesn’t want to put more energy into her place.” Considering the site and location, the buyer who completes the work, including extending living space into the attic and basement, will have a $2 million property on their hands.
Dickman will be hosting open houses every Saturday and Sunday until the place sells.