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Two More Homesteaders Begin Rehabbing Their House in Hamlin Park

There’s more good news from the east side, specifically my Hamlin Park neighborhood. Another vacant, city-owned home has been successfully purchased through the Homestead program also known as the dollar house program.

My new neighbors and fellow homesteaders, Tom and Zoe agreed to let me interview them both about their purchase and their future plans for the little cottage they will soon call home. The pair is in their mid-twenties and will be a fine addition to the street. Check out what they have to say below

Here's a good before image for comparison when the place is done
Here’s a good before image for comparison when the place is done

MikeWhat was the deciding factor to buy this house, in this neighborhood?

Tom: I first read about the homestead program sitting at my café of employment out west. I was pretty sick of work and ready to move so home we went.  After reading about the homestead program, I scoured the City’s properties for months.  We were just looking for a good middle ground between the neighborhood quality and the home’s structural quality.  I was interested in Hamlin Park because it was the nicest neighborhood I looked in.  The tax credits were a bonus.  We also wanted something small so we jumped all over our little cottage.  We kind of dove into it pretty quickly and totally lucked out.  We moved back to Buffalo in October and closed on a house in June. Oh, also the train is nearby.  That was a big factor since I hate driving.

Zoe: When we first heard of the homestead program, we actually left it as only a joke for the longest time. In times of frustration, we would often refrain: “Let’s just quit our jobs and buy a house for a dollar back home.” But the more we learned of this bizarre system of financing your life away with homes, cars, school, etc., it really began to change my perspective of what a modern day miracle of a program homesteading is. As intimidating as the great amount of work there is to be done on the house is, this was a much more realistic option and fate I was interested in. We went through a lot of heartbreak learning of other houses we were interested were actually already taken, but in the end it was a true blessing because we were considering some ginormous houses that would have been way too much too chew for two folks on our salary. When we found Florida Street I couldn’t believe our luck in finding the only cottage size home among full two story homes.

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MikeWhat are your immediate plans for the house?

Tom: Gut it! Then run electric and plumbing.  I think we’re going to set up a bedroom, a bathroom and a kitchen area so we can move in and finish the rest.  It really changes the picture of how the house was built, which has led to little being decided.

Zoe: Definitely gutting it and figuring out how to work with the old bones of the structure. I’d also love to get a nice coat of fresh paint on the outside for cosmetics and liven up our parcel. Replace the front porch roof so we know our friends and family will enter safely.

MikeHow many surprises have you found so far and what were they?

Tom: Oooooh a number of them. And they just keep coming!  I guess still having a heater was surprising. I was surprised whoever stole my tub got it out of there.  The amount of motivation the break-in and scrap guys have is just amazing. I still don’t know if our water line is severed or just shut off at the main. It’s like gambling with money you don’t have. There’s been a bunch of stuff we’ve found during demolition that I won’t mention here, but you can hear about it on my upcoming album, “Dead Things I’ve Found”.

Zoe: It’s going to be a really good album. My imagination could run wild wondering what has taken place in this home and it certainly did on our first tour of the grounds. I found it fun to piece together oddities of the home like a window within the house and the narrow, winding stairs within a closet that we couldn’t find for quite some time and mail with Eisenhower stamps. Walking through a home built in 1890 can fuel your curiosity on all the changes that have taken place with the past owners.

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MikeHow have you felt in your short time during Hamlin Park?

Tom: I dig it.  It’s a nice little community we’ve all seemed to stumble upon here.  There are lots of families and homesteaders on the block. Sometimes I feel I do more beer drinking than housework, but that’s important too. There’s even a little seriousness to that statement.  It’s great we have a network of people just to keep an eye out on our places, and it’s proved to make the whole project more fun.  Last night it took me four hours to mow the lawn because I was just hanging out with the neighbors.  Mike, you were there.

Zoe: Is this a trap, Mike? Just another area that we completely lucked out on. I hope the homesteading program continues to draw in buyers and they are all fortunate enough to create these beautiful, collaborative relationships with their neighbors.

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Check out the newly planted hostas thanks to the great guys next door

MikeWhat do you envision for improvements on the street?

Tom: More trees would always be nice. Just fixing the sidewalk where it’s busted and picking up the trash. It’s the little things that make a difference, like broken windows theory. A lot of the places on our block look great. There’s a few not so great, but I think the neighborhood will fill in…Maybe someone will even start a garden on those lots next to my house… As for right now, I’m happy to have a home, a nearby the subway, and some eateries/stores nearby. I do envision some investment on Jefferson and Delavan. I think we all agree it’d be awesome to have some restaurants and shops nearby, so here’s hoping.

Zoe: It is just the little stuff. I find myself wanting to work on my house and everyone else’s all at the same time. I grew up in a neighborhood where there was a collection of helpful neighbors all assisting with each other, so I would like to continue that and I am very excited to be connected with a neighborhood and tax-payer association that is so involved in caring for this area. I think trees and gardens make a huge difference in environment and of course a variety of healthy and positive restaurants and shops would be a tremendous perk.

MikeAre we ditching the siding for that wonderful clapboard below? What about that porch too?

Tom: Ha, ha, ha.  Actually Mike, I will give you some credit.  It’s gone from a hell no to a maybe. I’m not a huge fan of the siding, but it will have to do for now. It is a good insulator after all.  As for the porch, well, it obviously needs a lot of work.  We’re probably going to just start over. Zoe just suggested we do a wraparound country porch all the way around the side. That would be awesome, but far into the future.

Zoe: I’d love to see an old photo! I’m a little afraid to see what is under that siding and also afraid to remove it, but I’m open to ideas and am excited to play around with the porch and railings. I love a good porch.

This post originally appeared on Views of Buffalo

Written by Mike Puma

Mike Puma

Writing for Buffalo Rising since 2009 covering development news, historic preservation, and Buffalo history. Works professionally in historic preservation.

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