Friday, October 9, 2009
If These Walls Could Talk
Here we have the outside and inside view of a century-old Plateau house I recently sold. The interior photo is of the front bedroom, which is to say the two upstairs windows seen in the exterior shot.
Yup, it is the fixer-upper of all fixer-uppers. Beautiful brick, though!
The buyers took possession of the property on September 17 at about 6 p.m. At 8 o'clock the next morning, the wrecking crew had already begun to tear the insides out. It looks like they'll be at it until Christmas, or, possibly mid-January.
Every house has a story, but this one has a capital "S" story.
The previous owners bought the solid brick cottage from a widow in 1984. That was back in the pre-sushi shop and soy latté days of the Plateau when streets like Laval, Henri-Julien and Hôtel-de-Ville were inhabited by shmata workers, bakers, plumbers and others from the labouring classes.
The vendors shared a bit of local folklore with me. The woman from whom their parents purchased the house was the widow of a well-known local gangster. As one of them put it, "He was a crook. His brother was a crook, his uncle was a crook. They were all professional crooks."
The man, Monsieur Galipeau, came to a sudden end in the early 1980s, not at home but on his way to his mistress's apartment.
The widow Galipeau sold the house for about what an indoor garage would cost in one of the Plateau's sleek converted loft buildings. We're talking $24,000. She was glad to be rid of the drafty old house.
Soon after they took possession in 1984, the new owners got a visit from Monsieur Galipeau's brother. He knew them from around the way and was stopping by to wish them well. Here's where it gets interesting.
"You should check carefully," he told the owners. "I'm sure there's money in that house. My brother didn't believe in banks."
For 25 years, the family kept an eye out but they never found any money.
When their parents died within a short span of each other, the three now adult children debated keeping the house, still convinced one day they would find hidden treasure. They made last-ditch attempts, punching holes in the walls here and there and ripping out ceiling panels in a couple of rooms. They even had a session with a Ouija board which led them to rent a jack hammer and break up a corner of the concrete basement floor. Nothing. No money. No guns. No gold. No dead bodies.
As they handed over the keys at the notary's office, the vendors looked a little wistful. "We're sure you're going to find something."
Nearly a month into the renovation job, the only secret my buyers have uncovered is generalized floor rot in the downstairs bathroom. Pretty much every room has been stripped from ceiling to floor. So far, no money, no guns, no gold. Happily, no dead bodies.
They bought the house because it is smack-dab in the epicenter of their preferred neighborhood. Their son attends kindergarten half a block up the street. For the same money, they probably could have gotten a three-bedroom condo in a triplex but it would most likely have been a second or third floor, less space, much less privacy.
Instead, they've purchased a three-bedroom, two-story house, with 2.000-square-feet of living space, 10-foot-ceilings, a back yard and a dry basement for storage. Sure, they'll be coughing up plaster dust for months to come, but the house is going to be spectacular. And, if they play it right, they'll dine out on the story of Monsieur Galipeau for years to come.