and I found our house in Clinton after looking for a home near
my new place of work as Director of the FDR Presidential Library.
We spent 6 months looking and looking -- at 39 other houses.
We had lived for many years near Princeton, New Jersey in an
old house with a stream running through the backyard. We found
we loved living near water. And we also loved old houses. What
we didn't love was traffic. And suburbia. Both of which we had
had too much of in New Jersey. We wanted rural with water, and
Clinton seemed promising on both counts.
home of Cynthia Koch and Eliot Werner
we first looked at our house, we were not excited. Yet, it had our
main criteria -- water in the form of a pond across the road and,
built circa 1800, it was surely old. Yet when our offer was not
accepted, we moved on without regret. We then undertook our smartest
negotiating tactic ever -- seeming indifference. A few weeks passed
and the owners called and accepted our offer!
In the weeks that passed, as contracts were getting settled, the
owners let us “visit” the house using a key they had
cleverly hidden. Living in an apartment over a horse barn in Amenia,
I would stop by every morning on my way to work, wondering how in
the world we could ever live in this house. It was so old! There
were tree trunks for support posts in the basement! Light switches
that didn't work. Creaky saggy floors. A dilapidated kitchen and
bathrooms. Maybe it was too old to live in everyday. Maybe it really
was a perfect place to “rough it” on weekends, as the
previous owners obviously had. It even seemed to be returning to
nature. Every time I came in the door, I heard mice and squirrels
and other critters scurrying away. One morning there were birds
flying around in the living room. But somehow, for some ineffable
reason this house just seemed right. And so it became ours.
A few days after we closed (and before we moved in), we returned
to our apartment to find a voice mail message that the fire department
had been dispatched to our “new” home. We dashed over
to find the house still standing -- and no evidence that our second
worst fear had occurred: that firefighters had broken down the 18th
century doors and windows to gain access. Instead we found a note
scrawled on a brown paper bag. It was from Ray Oberly, then head
of the West Clinton Fire Department. He said they had turned off
the water because a broken radiator valve leaking into the basement
had triggered the alarm. We called to find out how the firemen had
gotten in. “Oh,” he said, “everybody knows where
to find the key.”
And that was our introduction to small town life in a community
and a home that we have grown to love more than we, refugees from
New Jersey, could ever have imagined.
by Cynthia Koch