Our New Renovation Project

July 27, 2007



Our new renovation project is pictured here. We don’t know yet whether it will be our new home or a flipper, but here are the beginning stats:

About 1700 square feet on ground level with another 1700 square feet in the basement. Currently, three smallish bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths. This home was built in the 60’s and owned by the same couple for over 35 years which is pretty obvious from the jade shag carpet in the basement and the Michelob sconces in the den. However, this brick rancher has solid bones and palacial grounds.

My very wise father always told me that you make money in real estate when you purchase it not when you sell it. With this in mind, we negotiated on this property for over 6 months, walking away from it several times.

Since the market stinks, most buyers are skiddish right now, and the house needed renovating, we had little competion for the property. We just waited and the sellers finally accepted our offer. Original list price: $275,000 last year. It was re-priced to $219,900 this Spring. We picked it up for $172K in July.

Since most of the homes in this neighborhood are valued at $225 to $400K, we are pretty confident that we accomplished buying the worst house in the hood (also one of Dad’s lessons).

Anyway, the house has multiple personalities. We hope to return it to it’s mid-century modern self with clean unfussy lines and updated finishes. But now it has colonial touches like brass eagles, victorian wallpapers and light fixtures, lovely but inappropriate turn-of-the-century wooden fireplace mantles, an ornate but added-on fireplace gas stove, and traditional and abstract stained glass inserts closing off the kitchen.

The master bath came right out of Hollywood! The huge mirror is surrounded by a dozen bright, round, bare lightbulbs. One sink is a 40’s pedestal that I understand came out of an old school, while the other “modern” sink is beige with swirls of gold flakes. All fixtures are “gold”, even the frames around the mirrored closet doors.

The main defect to the property is definitely the spiral staircase which is the only interior access to the lower level. The lovely but totally impractical stairs came out of the Elizabethton Fire Station we were told. This history does not elliminate the fact that they are impossible to navigate with a basket of laundry on your hip. And since the lower level will house the laundry, a huge family room, and a new bedroom suite, we know this metal monster has to be replaced with traditional and comfortable steps.

We also know that the staircase is the main reason why this property had not sold. Young families with small children are not going to be happy with the spiral. Older folks or people with trouble getting around are not going to be happy with this only access to half of the house. We are going to remove the spiral and replace it with a traditional starcase in the original place in the home.

I love the gardens and Liza loves the big 2 car garage. We are both going to hate the wall paper removal process. But so far we have changed the locks, removed grease from garage floors, arranged for delivery of dumpster and helpers to start demo on Monday.

Did I mention the sixties bomb sheltor in the basement? Soon to be a stocked wine cellar! More about “Fairfield Manor” soon.

Warm wishes.


sunflowers, iphones and rehabbing

July 23, 2007



Here is a wrap up of my non-blogging past week or so. We can call them “Anita’s Top 10 Excuses for Being Bloggless in Bristol”. Here we go:

1. TOYS! I was playing with (being amazed by) Diane’s new iphone. I am usually the thoughtful consumer who is not too quick to own the newest technology. This is basically because I am usually playing catch up with the last bit of technology to come my way. Also, I always think…”let ’em get the bugs out first… the price will come down if I wait…” etc.

But this little cutie, the i-phone that is, is so amazing and user friendly that I am afraid I may have to have one sooner rather than later. My budget thanks you Diane! hehe.

The iphone, or is it i-phone, or is it I-phone? Anyway, it allows one to take a photo, e-mail it to your sweetie, all from wireless signal amazingly available in most areas of our small town. Get a call, text a message, check e-mail and never get lost with the onboard GPS! Well, I’m sure Apple doesn’t need little ole me to know they have a great product.

2. FAMILY. My Liza’s eldest brother came to town for a friendly 3 day visit to wrap up family matters relating to their mother’s passing. Jerry hosted a lovely evening at the lake. Below is the nice lake shot Liza snapped as our proof!



3. FRIEND. Dear Friend of 30+ years came to visit and was endless source of fun and encouragement. I think she appreciated the cool mountain air, a change of space, and the relaxed yet interesting mix of people and things to do and see.

So much catching up, old photo reviewing to do. So many new ideas and dreams to share, so little time!

4. MORE FRIENDS. In addition to eldest brother and Dear Friend, we also enjoyed a 2 day visit from C & C, good old friends from Key West, as they made their way back down south from their summer northern retreat. SO NICE to see them! Took them for a long drive around (lake, dam, speedway, mountains, childhood spots, new library, city parks, historic propperties, etc.) while Dear Friend entertained herself with walks and naps.

5. BUYING FLOWERS. Took the whole crowd to the bi-weekly Farmer’s Market in our town and scored a whole bag of home grown delights for just a few dollars! I bought small cucumbers and home-made oatmeal and coconut cookies. I also found a huge bunch of sunflowers (two dollars!), one of which was captured by Liza’s Cannon (shown above).

6.7.8.9. and 10. REHABBING! We closed on a house that will become our next rehabbing project! Our friends helped us initiate the new house with laughter and an afternoon of gardening as they expressed their hopes for our success in bringing this hip mid-century charmer back to a useful and modern life.

More about this project to come. Probably too much more… as rehabbing projects can become all consuming! But we are excited to begin again. Starting Over once more… this time with a project of our own choosing. So stay tuned for progress reports on the project that Dear Friend has named “Fairfield Manor”.

Those are my current excuses… and good ones they are!!! Warm wishes to all.


Down Town Rehabbing

May 29, 2007


We are rehabbers. My Dad taught us about real estate and helped me buy my first property… a triplex at auction purchased for $13,000. We rehabbed it, rented it, my mom help manage it and we later sold it for $30,000.

Liza’s favorite rehab was an old victorian in a somewhat questionable neighborhood that was our residence for 18 months. That turn-of-the-century, friendly spirit inhabited, cottage netted us enough profit to make our big relocation to Key West where even in the late 80’s it was difficult to find any kind of little cottage in the historic district for less than $100,000. But after 2 years of looking, we found one and purchased it for $95,000. Three thousand of our own money and a second of $17,000 held by the desparate sellers. Within two years we were able to refinance at better rates and pay off the seller. Fifteen years later we sold this property for over 6 times what we paid for it.  Dad, you were right. The harder you work the luckier you get!

Because property had gotten so expensive in Key West, we went on the week-ends to Ft. Lauderdale (where we have dear friends) and purchased another triplex, fixed it up, rented it, and sold it less than 2 years later for a significant profit. I love real estate. 

Now we are back to my hometown. For several years we have been watching our downtown area deteriorate as the mall, strip shopping centers and the suburbs developed. But as many small towns across America, our little town’s city center is enjoying somewhat of a renaissance. The wonderful old historic buildings are catching the eye of young investors, the train station is being renovated, local musicians play in open air gathering spots and new shops are opening.

When we decided to come back to East Tennessee (at least part-time), we decided we wanted to be a part of the refurbishing of our downtown. So we purchased the commercial building pictured above. It was built in 1905. Local historians report that it was first utilized as doctors offices.

In the fifties, a group of attorney’s occupied the upper floor while various retail businesses occupied the two small storefronts downstairs. When we first saw the upstairs with the huge skylights, and a room with 60 bookshelves built-in (law library) we knew we had found a new project and home. 

In the eighties, the upstairs was rented by a local radio station. Evidence of this still exists as one bedroom door is labled “studio A, Control room”. We purchased this building last year and have renovated the building with new heating/cooling systems, new wiring, new wood floors, new paint, and new plumbing. We made “studio B, Production” into a roomy and modern kitchen.

We like our downtown loft even with the 25 step walk-up and the parking challenges. We miss a yard and a garage, but are proud of our work and our contribution to preserving something historic and worthy. With the interior almost complete we are now working on the exterior… well, actually, Dave the painter guy is. In Liza’s photo above, Dave is pressure washing in preparation for paint.

Love the idea of taking something old or somewhat forgotten and giving it new life cycle. Our building will be starting over. Starting over as our new home in the city.

Warm wishes.


Great Radio = Helen Leight

May 5, 2007

Mid-day Host Helen LeichtThis is Helen, my Liza’s famous DJ cousin from Philadelphia. Check her out at xpn.org

Each weekday at 1pm, mid-day host Helen Leicht puts the spotlight on one song from an up and coming local artist. Philly Local picks have included Amos Lee, Mutlu, Melody Gardot, Jim Boggia, Hoots & Hellmouth, Phil Roy, Sharon Little, Scot Sax, The Swimmers, John Flynn, the A Sides, Hail Social, Dan May, The Brakes, and many more!

Tune in to Philly Local every Tuesday Night at 9pm when Helen presents a full hour of Philly Local music. Tune in to hear a variety of of important music from the Philadelphia area.

Having been in the biz for nearly 30 years, Helen knows EVERYTHING about the Beatles and rock music. We love you Helen. Adding you permanently to our blogroll! Check her out Monday thru Friday 10am to 2pm and Tuesday evenings from 9-10pm.

Helen Leicht in the on-air booth


USA Made Jeans???

April 28, 2007





As part of her Starting Over, and to take her mind off the recent family loss, Liza was back on the streets of our small town yesterday and snapped the shot above of this stately old brick building. This building houses the Pointer Brand company and does today what it has done for almost 100 years…. produce good quality, durable jeans. Pointer Brand (see my blogroll) is a family business that has never closed and never laid anyone off. Here is a clip from their website:

“The L. C. King Manufacturing Company

Around the turn of the century, Landon Clayton King was raising championship birddogs. Seeing a need for tough and durable work clothing, in 1913, he founded The L. C. King Manufacturing Company.

L. C. King believed that if he could raise championship birddogs, he could produce overalls and jeans of the same distinction. Carrying on the family tradition four generations later, Pointer Brand is recognized worldwide.

The L. C. King Manufacturing Company is proud to make everything in the U.S.A. Having survived two floods and a fire, it still operates out of the original location in East Tennessee. The employees make bib overalls, coveralls, carpenter jeans, hunting apparel and denim chore coats. Several employees have retired after 50 years of service.

Bill was L.C. King’s favorite birddog. Born June 20, 1922, he soon became part of the Pointer Brand logo. He won most of the local field trials during his reign. His pups sold for $50 in the mid-1920’s. They also were given as prizes at trap shoots in Bristol. On point he was described as very intense and showed excellent style and character.”

This explains their birddog logo… but there is more to the story. The first picture in this post is of my GREAT GRANDPA, Papa Smithson (1879 to 1958), taken somewhere in the 40’s or 50’s, wearing Mr. King’s Pointer Brand jeans!

My own sweet granddaddy (a proud farmer and lumberman) wore Pointer Brand overalls everyday of his life as I recall (except for a few hours on Sunday, or the occasional wedding or funeral). And now Liza has re-discovered this American treasure and will only wear Pointer Brand jeans.

Makes me wonder why anyone would buy off shore produced jeans when we have such important, historic and hard working businesses right here in our own country to support. Since Pointer Brand is very popular in other countries, but not being worn by our own pop culture icons, it makes me think of something my Dad often told me about creativity…. “don’t be discouraged… very often the closest people around you are the least supportive and understanding of your new ideas.”

Thanks Liza for reminding us to look for, and appreciate, the USA-made jeans being produced by hard working Americans right in our own backyard.

Warm wishes. anitamorrell.wordpress.com