Thursday, July 16, 2009

Buy Langston Hughes' house for less than $10,000!

Langston Hughes residence

Poet, playwright and celebrated author Langston Hughes lived alone in an attic apartment in this house, at 2266 East 86th Street, Cleveland, Ohio, from 1917-1919. (Arnold Rampersad The Life of Langston Hughes, p. 26). He was in high school at the time, and without much money, his time was spent reading. Some of his first published works were written while he resided here.

Of the five residences Hughes called home in Cleveland, this house, and the one below, on the other side of the two vacant lots are the only survivors.

Langston Hughes residence

Langston Hughes lived with his mother in this house at 2256 E 86th Street from early May 1936 - April 21, 1937. It is presently being run as a rental property, though between tenants right now, according to the resident of the house next door to it, who would like to see it demolished to increase the size of his yard.

Langston Hughes residence

The house at 2266 is bank-owned, as of April of this year.

Cleveland is at the center of the "foreclosure crisis", and, given some neighborhood comparables, there's no way that this house will sell for more than $10,000. Further, I think that there's a very good chance that if you offered the bank who owns this house $1,000 or $2,000, that they'd take it. No back taxes are owed, and the house, overall, is in decent shape. The street looks good - most of the houses are lived-in and maintained.

Further, there are two adjacent vacant lots, if you should want to have a bit of a yard. One is owned by the city, who will sell it (once you own the adjacent lot) for a mere $26. The other is owned by Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation, who would likely be willing to sell to someone interested in fixing up the house.

Langston Hughes residence

The house has good lines, underneath the vinyl siding. Everything that I could see underneath the vinyl looked solid.

Langston Hughes residence

It even retains most of the wood double-hung windows. The exceptions are in the kitchen and on the third floor.

The interior appears to be in good condition, with nice original woodwork and doors.

Langston Hughes residence

Even the front porch looks good, underneath the awning and siding.

Langston Hughes residence

Langston Hughes residence

There aren't any obvious signs of major damage.

Langston Hughes residence Langston Hughes residence

Langston Hughes residence

The kitchen leaves a bit to be desired, but these days, who doesn't want a new kitchen?

What problems do I see?

The roof. There are at least two, if not three layers of asphalt shingles over the original slate. The house will probably be due for a re-roof before too long. The chimney also needs attention.

The replacement windows in the kitchen look awful. The house could use a more historically sympathetic front door.

When was the last time you had a chance to buy a local landmark for less than you pay each year in property taxes? How can you possibly lose with this house? I'd find a way to buy it myself, if only I had the free time to fix it up.


Jayne said...

Wow. Langston Hughes' house. I love his work; to live in his house would be wonderful. Unfortunately, I live hundreds of miles away and don't have the money to buy it anyway. Sigh. Any chance that either of those homes might qualify for National Register consideration?

Christopher Busta-Peck said...

I don't know how the National Register of Historic Places feels with regard to places significant merely for their past inhabitants. I bet that you could swing a nomination on the basis of the architecture. The house is a good representative of the late Cleveland vernacular Victorian.

There are enough parties around here who could be counted on to raise the money to buy the house. The problem, I think, is finding someone who doesn't already have enough crazy projects to live in it.

Christopher Busta-Peck said...

The house at 2256, not so much. I don't think there's much original fabric left, although I can't be sure of that. Of course, it is a duplex, and I've seen plenty of surprisingly original duplexes in the area, simply because the landlords never bothered to update anything.

Perhaps one could pull off a joint nomination on the two properties.

Jennifer said...

I hope someone buys it. I would if I lived there!

Why S? said...

It's tempting. (I say that as if I had a spare $10k). But even with the work it needs, I don't see how one could go wrong.

I hope this has a happy ending.