919 Carr Street has been sold for the first time since it was built 58 years ago. After letting it sit empty since the last tenants moved out several months ago, the owner finally seems to have given up, rather abruptly, on the home she and husband built for their small family so long ago. It wasn’t listed for sale. She probably just had her rental agent of 50-plus years find a buyer for her, accepting a low-ball offer of $72,000.
The house is distinctive in its way. It catches people’s eye, a squat little bunker with an unusual second-floor balcony on a street of Queen Annes and modest cottages. The house was built in 1961; the next-newest houses on the block were built in 1935. It has been making people ask, “What’s that doing there?” for decades.
It’s not that the house is ugly, though many people don’t care for the way it looks. It’s not that it has been run down for so long, although now that it has been sold, the place has to be totally gutted and renovated to make it fit to live in again. It’s mostly a matter of it simply being so out-of-place, even among the other run-down little rentals on that side of the street. And it’s partly the enigmatic look of the house, so free of distinguishing features that would suggest any recognizable architectural style.
The family that built the house, the Deals, didn’t actually live there very long, perhaps only four or five years, but the owner held onto it, sentimentally, long after her children grew up and her husband died and her somnolent rental agent stopped caring about what kind lowlifes he put in there. The last tenants were fine, a very nice family that managed to tolerate the place for two or three years. But for 20 years or so, the house had seen more short-term tenants than you could keep track of, each seemingly worse than the last. A remarkable number had to be evicted. There were the two college boys who never took their garbage to the curb. For months they just dumped it beside the house in an ever-growing pile that they covered with a tarp until neighbors called the city. They were evicted.
And the hoarder who crammed the house full of what mostly appeared to be garbage. On the infrequent occasions when she would throw something out, she did so quite literally, tossing stuff off the balcony onto the front yard. She was evicted, and it took weeks to clean the place out.
And the woman who moved in but didn’t actually live there. She would show up during the day about once a month, and each time someone would visit her, driving up in a car with state-government license plates. After a few months, a notice was posted on the door, notifying the tenant that she had violated her probation. I think she went to jail before she could be evicted.
Now the house has been bought by an LLC that owns a number of rental properties. No one is jumping for joy over another absentee landlord being represented on the street, but perhaps this one will be more responsible than the last leasing agent. They appear to be serious about renovating the place, at least. The deed is dated November 6, and a crew began working before 9 a.m. that morning. The collapsing ceiling has been ripped out and the walls with black mold, too, and more, all piled in the front yard for now.
Over the past year, two of the ragged-looking rentals on the 900 block of Carr have been impressively renovated (925 and 927). One is even owner-occupied now. 919 could be on its way to a better future, too. Two others remain vacant and, like others on Carr Street with absentee owners, they’re looking increasingly derelict. But it’s still big news that there are two and now maybe three that won’t blight the neighborhood any longer.