Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Search for the Next Gothic Mansion

In addition to the downsizing and packing, the past two months have also been spent madly searching the real estate listings for our next Gothic Mansion. Back in February, the insomniac  inadvisedly “signed up” to receive emails of new listings in towns we were interested in relocating to. Evidently, “signing up” doesn't mean one will receive computer generated emails with new listings, but rather that one will be contacted by a real live realtor who will personally send emails of such listings. And contacted one was. Almost immediately. The insomniac  gave the realtor a list of towns, said we were looking for a Character Home, and that we weren't opposed to purchasing a fixer-upper.

The realtor promptly emailed us details of properties she thought we'd like ...

It may have been built in 1904,
but what happened to the character? 

After having sent a number of emails for houses practically identical to the above, and having received in return a number of replies saying they weren't exactly what one had envisioned when specifying a Character Home, the realtor has likely placed our file in the Tire Kicker Folder, as we haven't heard from her since.

The listing for the above house has lately been updated to include the following: “The house is now being listed for the value of the lot only. The kitchen water pipes have burst which caused damage to the main floor and partial basement. You can either fix the damage or bulldoze and build new. Seller motivated, so call for details today!”

Bulldoze appears to be the wisest choice ...

Having reached the point where one was beginning to despair of ever finding anything suitable, last week the insomniac  stumbled across a very exciting property. An old church and manse located in a small town 45 minutes northwest of Calgary, it was zoned commercial/residential. Visions of renovating the church as our home and creating a retail space in the manse for Insomniac's Attic were dancing through one's head, and arrangements were made to view the property the following day. 

That night, anticipation made sleep even more elusive than usual. Ever the joker, the spouse kept nudging the insomniac  and saying things like “ Have you figured out the floor plan yet?” “Oh, without question it should be an open concept, and we can get some Gothic arches from an architectural salvage place and separate the living areas with those!” Silence for a few minutes, another nudge and, “Have you got the tapestries hung yet?” “Oh yes, the Morris Woodpecker tapestry can go just below those Gothic niches carved in the north wall!” A few minutes later, “What about the loft?” “Well, obviously that will become the sewing and crafting area, and maybe we can add a spiral staircase up to the belfry so a certain someone can sit up there when she can't sleep. Maybe the computer could go up there, too.” This went on for at least an hour, until the insomniac  finally gave up and spent the remainder of the night searching Google for ideas on renovating church interiors. 

Christ the King Church, Eric Viklund
Little Gothic Church

Needs a little work, but what incredible potential ...

When the insomniac  says the town is small, she isn't kidding. Our neighbours would have been the General Store ...

General Store in Water Valley by Tony Sterl - Hunting Season 2012
Fireworks, Cold Drinks, Ice Cream and Coffee. Perfect.

... and The Saloon. Which, at the time of this writing, is also for sale.

Saloon in Water Valley by Tony Sterl - Hunting Season 2012
Wings on Wednesday. It doesn't get much better ...

Although the church was listed as the commercial property and the manse as the residential, the realtor thought it would be acceptable to reverse their usage. On the drive home we decided to put in an offer, but before calling the realtor back, the insomniac  thought she should check with the county Planning and Development department to confirm whether renovating the church as a residence was permissable. Unfortunately, they advised it was not.

And so the search continues. Although having just finished watching The Hobbit tonight, the insomniac  has now decided how awesome it would be to live in a hobbit-hole. But that would probably be even harder to find than another Little Gothic Church. Or a Character Home ... 

Until next time, the insomniac  wishes you nights of blissful sleep filled with pleasant dreams. Goodnight, my pretties.

IA

47 comments:

  1. good luck on your continued quest!

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    1. Thank you, Jessica! If nothing else, it's an adventure! :o)

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  2. Oh wow, what a beautiful place! What a shame they won't relist it the other way around! I would love to live in an old church! One of my friends recently found an old post office for sale, but doesn't have the money to buy it, and neither do I! Too bad, it was awesome! I hope you find a lovely place to live soon!

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    1. It really is, isn't it Laura? There seems to be a number of churches being listed for sale lately - due to declining attendance, one supposes. Although none have been as as pretty as this one.

      An old post office would be a great place to live! Many people over here have also purchased old train stations and converted them into living spaces. So many possibilities, provided one has deep pockets to pay for all the issues such old buildings often have. ;o)

      The comment you made about a little Victorian cottage has stuck in one's head, so we're still on the hunt for one of those, too! :D

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  3. Oh, I would love to live in a small converted church or chapel! Too bad you couldn't make it work. I browse such listings now and again, since the church in Sweden started selling off their property a few years ago. That saloon is amazing too, a blast from the past!

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    1. A lot of the small country churches in Alberta don't have a lot of charm - this one was definitely a beauty. One imagines Sweden's churches are very beautiful! When they do go up for sale over there, are they quite expensive to purchase?

      It's probably good this deal didn't work out, Ms. Misantropia. A saloon two doors down from one's residence may not have been the best move! ;o)

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  4. That church space would have been fantastic. The big open floor is sort of like a barn with nice wood which we have always thought would be great for us. My youngest daughter has read about a neighborhood in Washington state that is designed like the hobbit village. Don't know if the houses are built into the side of a hill though. Good luck on your search, I know it can be an ordeal.

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    1. There's something about that church that tugs at the insomniac's  heartstrings, Gracie. So even though we've decided not to make an offer, one has been unable to completely give up on it. Not so the spouse - he's already moved on! ;o)

      A whole neighbourhood of hobbit houses? Definitely going to have to Google that - it must be amazing! :D

      Something's bound to show up eventually, but probably without the help of a realtor! LOL

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  5. The first house was "Eww"! The church would have been perfect for you!! What a pity you weren't able to use it for a house. In sweden there are lots of buildings like your church that has been renovated to house to live in. The town nearby seemed cute. Oh I do hope you'll find something similar with gothic windows ;)
    I would not call my house a character at all and I have dealing with thoughts/dreams of something else. Then this week my youngest mentioned several times that he didn't want to move from this house and telling me that he always wanted to live here. So that gave me the descision to en those fantasies about another house.

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    1. We've seen quite a few of the “ewww” type houses, unfortunately! The Gothic windows and the adorable little belfry really are wonderful, aren't they? It's a quaint little town and the countryside is very beautiful in that area, too.

      So you've also had thoughts of moving, Linnea-Maria? It seems like such a beautiful house from your photos, and such lovely country where you are. Your youngest must have sensed your desire to move and that's why he keeps pointing out he'd like to always live there! You can always revisit those fantasies after the offspring have left home. A time which seems to have arrived a lot sooner than one had imagined! :o)

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  6. Too bad about the church it was sooooo pretty! Me and my family lived in a church for a while when I was younger, it was sort of spooky though, it was always cold and sort..of windy in the air inside.

    What a cozy little town was the first thought that crossed my mind seeing the saloon! :'D

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    1. Never even thought about the “windy” atmosphere in a high ceilinged church, Lesthi - that's something to keep in mind! Maybe lots of tapestries hanging from the ceiling would help. Although it did occur to the insomniac  it would be awfully hard to dust all those ceiling lights. You know, if one ever dusted. ;o)

      Yes, a saloon right next door is a definite selling point, isn't it? :D

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  7. The town is so small you think they would not care if you lived in it. There is no way to change their minds? Such a waste of a pretty building.

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    1. Rhonda, probably somebody's going to buy it one day and fix it up for commercial use, even if it doesn't look as though it's going to be us. It's just too pretty to tear down or let deteriorate! :o)

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  8. Buying a lot and bulldozing can a first seem quite drastic, as you will still need somewhere to live during the new-build, but (In the UK at least) that can and often does work out less expense as there is no VAT (Value Added Tax) on new-builds a saving of 20% compared to just altering a property. Having said that I loved the Church. A client of mine would live in the Church, but not tell the planners. (Sorry I first missed out `Not`)

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    1. We ran through a number of scenarios Alastair, including bulldozing the manse and living in the church temporarily while we built a small cottage on the property. But at the end of it all, there were so many unknowns - like whether the church basement needs replacing, does the well produce enough water, is the septic system okay, etc. it just seemed more sensible to let it go. Well, the spouse has let it go - the insomniac  is still dreaming about it. ;o)

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  9. I think the church has unlimited posibilities! I can prefectly imagine myself covering the walls with Rossetti and Morris pictures...
    Oh, I need a property like that. You are extremely lucky over there, here we don´t have anything similar, so we are condemned to boring-to-death flats and apartments. Yes, I know I can customize them but... it´s not the same! :)

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    1. You and the insomniac  are definitely on the same page as far the decorating goes, Violette!

      One imagines you don't have many churches for sale over there because they all still have regular attendees? But you're right - even though you can decorate the inside however you'd like, it's nice to have an outside that matches the inside, isn't it? :o)

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  10. It's not hard to imagine how well that church would have suited you. I just don't understand why the planning department won't let you convert it into a living space. If it can be used commercially then why not as a residence? It's not like it's not safe to be in or anything.

    A few years back a church closed its doors here and the diocese put it up for sale. It and the adjoining properties have been converted into condos. Anyway, I'm sorry that didn't work out for you. I would have been awesome.

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    1. Yeah, you know how sometimes you want something really, really badly, even though you know deep down inside actually getting it probably wouldn't be the best thing? That's sort of how it felt with this church. So even though the insomniac  can't seem to get it out of her head, everything happens for a reason. We're going with that theory, Nightwind. ;o)

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    2. Well hopefully, something even more fitting will come along. Your realtor friend clearly doesn't understand the meaning of the words, "with character;" especially when those words come from a Gothic creative type such as your self. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.

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  11. I have always loved the architecture of old churches and would love to live in one.

    Have you considered maybe building a house? That way you can get in exactly the aspects of the church that you like, and skip the ones that you don't.

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    1. It would be very cool to live in a church wouldn't it, Pixel Pixie? One has always felt a sense of peace inside old churches - it would be nice to live with that feeling on a daily basis!

      Actually, we're having such a difficult time finding anything we like, we met with someone last week to see if we can even afford to entertain the idea of building. We're waiting to see how that goes! :D

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  12. I wouldn't feel comfortable living in a church anyway ... how about the saloon??? YES!

    What a gorgeous little town too!

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    1. Hey, never even thought about living in the saloon! Unfortunately, it's about five times as expensive as the church, so that's definitely out of the question! Good thing, too. ;o)

      Seriously, other than a hardware store, those are the only buildings in town. It really does have an Old West feel, doesn't it? :D

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  13. I love the idea of living in an old church. If I had the opportunity, I'd do so myself. Maybe there's something you could work out with the zoning...

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    1. One imagines the county's reasoning behind zoning it commercial is that they're trying to bring in tourists (and business) for the town. And being such a small town, the last thing we'd want to do is to be the Big City Folk trying to come in and change everything, because that probably wouldn't make us terribly popular with the locals! Maybe one day the price will drop so low that we'd be able to buy it anyway and make it into a little store, because that would be awesome, too! :D

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  14. Water Valley; I looked it up on Wikipedia. It says it has a small but thriving commercial sector. Are they taking the mick? Sounds to me like the chances of the church ever being used for that purpose ever again are slim to none. But City Hall would rather see it rot (and not paying any taxes) than consider rezoning it? By golly, they sound like the halfwits the English civil service is plagued with. I feel your frustration with the house hunt. We're having no luck finding a rental, partly, like your experiencing, the realtors or "letting agent" as they are called here (I have another name for them, but we won't go there today)are about as much help as tits on a bull. So we're waiting it out until the end of August when we can get a mortgage and just buy a newly built place. Of which there's plenty and you deal directly with the builder and the bank. Bueno!

    Good hunting my dear.

    Ali

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    1. The spouse says that in the summer Harley-riding months, Water Valley actually does get quite busy, especially the saloon! However, when we were there it was definitely quiet. The high traffic would have been perfect for a seasonal business, but then having everything zoned commercial around the property, it seemed rather silly to spend money building a little cottage to live in, only to find Joe's Auto Wreckers setting up shop next door one day. ;o)

      The rental availability over here is tight lately, too. Both the offspring are having difficulties finding a place. The thought of having to move twice in such a short space of time would be enough to send me over the edge, Ali! Maybe you're wise to stay where you are until you can get into your BRAND NEW HOME! :D

      Thanks Ali - something's bound to turn up shortly. Still relatively optimistic. Sort of. :o)

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    2. I think half both our problems is we formulate a plan, we want action. Now, damnit! Unfortunately the World doesn't see it the same way. Back to mending the hole in my bag of patience, as the old Japanese saying goes.

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    3. Yes, the best laid plans, etc. etc. There's probably some sort of Life Lesson in this that the insomniac  keeps missing, which is why the universe keeps repeating it! Always have been a slow learner! ;o)

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  15. Hobbit Holes are not terribly difficult to build... Look up "earth bag homes."

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    1. Wow, some of those are pretty cool, Tante!

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  16. I watched The Hobbit on Sunday night, too, and had the same though! Though that rowdy group of dwarves would NOT be invited...

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    1. Oh absolutely, Guin - one felt just awful for poor Bilbo when they were ruining his house! Although maybe an exception could be made for those two cute dwarf brothers ... maybe just those two could be invited. ;o)

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  17. Good evening!
    So, I was like "what the h*ll?" when I first saw that ...boring looking house that almost fell apart on its own. And the "OMG! YAY!" when I saw the church, that whould be SO COOL to renovate into a house to live in! :D But ugh, sorry it didnt work out that way. That small town was perfect tho, I would love to live like that. :)
    Im sure you will find an old house (or church!) that will fit perfectly for your plans. Dont worry! :)

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    1. Good evening! LOL - that's sort of what the insomniac  thought when the realtor sent her the listing for the first house! Like, you've got to be kidding, right? Apparently, we all define “character” a little differently! :D

      Trying very hard not to worry, Sandra! More things have been showing up for sale in the last few weeks - probably because spring seems like it might be arriving soon and everybody is not so worried about selling and moving in -20C weather! ;o)

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  18. I so could have imagined you in that church. Good luck in your quest and keep us posted!

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    1. Keep you posted, Marie?! It's like the only thing the insomniac  can think about these days. You guys are gonna be so sick of being kept posted it won't even be funny! How you feelin' these days?

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  19. Reading this entry, my mind kept flipping to the movie "Alice's Restaurant." You know? The Arlo Guthrie movie where Alice & Ray buy a church to live in. Every time I watch the movie or hear the song I think to myself that I too would love to live in a converted church -- something real dark and gothic looking, with lots of stained glass windows and maybe even an original pipe organ! Keep your head up, my web friend, as you continue with your search. So excited to see what the final abode will be as I know it will be quite covet-worthy when you get done with it!

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    1. Wow, what a memory - one had totally forgotten about that part in the movie! Wouldn't stained glass windows and a pipe organ be fantastic? The insomniac  could wake up the neighbourhood at 2:00 a.m. with her terrible playing! LOL

      Thanks for the encouraging words, Danielle! :D

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  20. Such a shame with the church! It looks just gorgeous!!

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    1. It is a pretty little church for sure, Anita! We looked at another one in a different town, but there wasn't too much about it that was particularly charming! We also looked at a fantastic old bank building - amazing price, but it was right next door to a scuzzy motel! Explaining the amazing price, one supposes. LOL

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  21. Aw it's so sad you couldn't get the church. Good luck on finding a new gothic mansion!

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    1. Thanks, Caitlin! Hope you're having an awesome Easter weekend - and please don't spend it in the ER! ;o)

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  22. That church was really pretty :3 I'd love to live in a church, it can definitely have a lot of character ^^ So sad you couldn't get it.

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    1. Hopefully one day someone will purchase that little church and give it a new lease on life as a retail space! It definitely deserves it! :o)

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