Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Before and After

Sometimes, events are only important in retrospective.

In 2006 or 2007, the house at 2301 Catharine St. was bought, gutted, and covered up. This raised no eyebrows; it was and is a common occurrence in G-Ho. It was what happened next that surprised. Nothing. No buzz and noise of construction, no gleaming new rehab to sell at a tidy profit. Only a small notice of foreclosure that was eventually stapled to the door gave a clue to what had just happened. Then, for almost 3 years, the shell decayed (remembered, for now, by Google Maps), while around it, the entire world got a lesson in foreclosures and subprime mortgages.

Around the time I took these pictures, I listened to Malcolm Gladwell read his essay on US intelligence called "Connecting the Dots." In it, he references "creeping determinism", which is, in his words,

"the sense that grows on us, in retrospect, that what has happened was actually inevitable--and the chief effect of creeping determinism, he points out, is that it turns unexpected events into expected events. As he writes, "The occurrence of an event increases its reconstructed probability and makes it less surprising than it would have been had the original probability been remembered."

Should this house been a tip-off to what was coming? Should people who bought at the market peak have known better? Maybe, although Gladwell might not be so sure.

Fortunately, the story of this house, unlike the country as a whole, has a happy ending. Earlier this year, work finally started, and a few weeks ago, a very, very large banner appeared on the side of the house. 'Hood house prices are down slightly, but nowadays that's actually a major positive, and they will probably start to rise again soon. In the meantime, there is one less shell on Catharine Street, and at least a few more neighbors. In the end, 2301 may end up serving as a canary twice- once, to signal the start of the crash, and hopefully again, as the beginning of the way out.

Edit: Thanks to LB and Jayfar, here is how the house looked in 2007, and back in 1960. And yes, the fake brick window thing is horribly ugly, but for this particular house I can't get too mad about it.

in 2007

In 1960


  1. I'm not sure that picture window is an improvement on the oriel.

  2. I have to agree that the picture window is most certainly a step down from the old bay. Given the brouhaha over the bays going up on new construction in the neighborhood, I'm surprised that the rehabbers didn't keep the old, by-right bay.

    The rest of the house looks good though, and it's nice to see another place back from the dead.

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  4. And here it is for sale again in 1960: