Gustavson column: Love and hate for my old house

The Oysterponds Historical Society tells us it was built around 1830. And the Town of Southold tells us it is a legitimate historic landmark. Which means 595 King St., Orient, NY, ought to be considered venerable and deserving of the homage one would pay to a respected elder. 

And it does have its charms: random width pine floors, original hardware on many of the doors, four working fireplaces and a working wood stove, a small wine cellar and a water view — if you stretch your neck from the steps to the front porch and look down to the west end of King Street to Orient Harbor.

So why, then, have I recently considered moving to a no-muss, no-fuss condo at Peconic Landing or, if truth be told, wondered about the fire coverage limits on our homeowners insurance policy? Let me count the ways.

In the beginning, about two years ago, there was the leaky roof. Temporary patchwork failed to stem the tide and the problem was solved only through the efforts of the hard-working professionals from R.W. Mulligan in Riverhead, who installed a new (and quite lovely and quite expensive, if I do say so myself) cedar shake roof.

Then there was the matter of the peeling paint. How many years had it been since the cedar siding had been painted? Too many, according to painting contractor William Torres of Greenport, who rivaled the boys from Mulligan when it came to meticulousness and professionalism. My dad was a house painter, so I know a little about the profession, and when a painter spends three or four hours prepping the job for every hour he spends actually painting, you know you have the right guy. Still, ka-ching.

Deer-damaged landscaping was next. We took Anne Trimble’s advice and went mostly with deer-resistant plants. She and her crew made our tiny yard look like a mini English garden right out of “Downton Abbey.”

In just two years, repairs and general maintenance added up to more than we paid for the entire house in 1978. And still we haven’t added in the cost of the temporary deer fencing to protect that new landscaping, the permanent deer fencing to replace the inadequate temporary deer fencing, the gutter guards to relieve this olde householder from having to climb extension ladders in order to go leaf gathering four times a year, the repair bill after a spring storm downed a branch that knocked out the primary power line to the house, the defective solenoid that recently shut down the sprinkler system, etc. Et cetera!

But then I thought: Wait a darn minute, big boy. Here you are complaining about the high cost (which, all griping aside, you apparently can afford) of maintaining a historic home in one of the most beautiful villages on the East End, in one of the most beautiful regions in arguably one of the greatest nations in the history of mankind. What’s more, as the current owners of this historic home, we have a responsibility to pass it along to its next owners in as good shape as, or better than, it was in when it was passed along to us by its prior owners.

So then I thought to myself: Suck it up. You could be living in fire-ravaged Washington State or flood-ravaged Minnesota or war-torn Gaza or a mud hut in South Sudan or, gulp, Hackensack. So, what do you really have to complain about?

And then, after a moment of quiet reflection, I thought: nothing. Absolutely nothing.

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