For sale: An old vacant house that hard work made a family home once again

610 Upshur Street as it looks now.

610 Upshur Street as it looks now.

A Petworth house that was renovated through the hard work of the homeowners now finds itself for sale, waiting for new owners to continue its history as a family home.

When Jed and Scott bought in Petworth in 2009, the house they chose on Upshur Street needed a lot of work. It hadn’t been well-maintained, hadn’t been updated in decades and was sitting vacant with holes in the walls and ceilings. In a lot of ways, the house was representative of many other Petworth homes — built for a family, cycled through numerous hands over the years, left vacant and in disrepair, and now restored to a family home through hard work.

The house in 2009

When they bought it, they saw the potential in the house’s structure and spent years working nights and weekends to renovate it. Not the “let’s paint the walls” or “let’s hire a contractor to do the work” renovation… Scott, Jed and their friends did it themselves, and used their hard work and sweat to turn this early 20th century house into a modern 21st century home. 

The house has a rich history. Scott researched the house at the MLK Library, and found out that the developer responsible for building many of the area’s houses built this one in 1913 for his son, who was the first owner. 

According to Dottie Blackwell, a neighbor whose family has lived next door since the ‘50s, the house has been a family home for most of its existence. Several families lived in the house over the years, including two “spinster” sisters who lived in the home in the 1960s. Dottie said she remembers one of the sisters used to work at a bakery, and at the end of the week would bring home a small white cardboard box, wrapped with a little string, filled with cookies for the neighborhood kids.

The sisters moved to the apartments along Upshur and Arkansas, and the house was purchased by the Washington Archdiocese and used as short-term housing for priests. Dottie’s parents used to get postcards from the priests, talking about their missions around the world. 

The house was sold to Catholic Charities and became a group home sometime in the 90s or thereabouts. (I remember it was also home to an older gentleman who lived at the group home and used to enjoy sitting on the porch in his bathrobe… and then opening his robe to flash people as they walked by. Good times, good times.)

The house remained a group home until the mid 2000s when it became vacant — and Scott purchased it in 2009. “Light bulbs dangled from the ceilings and maroon carpeting covered the floors,” said Scott. “The hallways were lit by glowing exit signs.” 

“We found a freezer in the basement full of 10-year-old food. It took a lot of lifting muscle and maneuvering to remove,” Scott said, telling me about some of the oddities they found. “Plastic animals and calendar pictures were glued to the walls as decoration in some of the upstairs bedrooms.”

Animal posters glued to the walls.

They started renovating the house in 2009, and according to Scott, “We have been renovating the house for the entire time we have lived here to create a home where we could raise our family."

Years of work, room by room, they tore the house down to the studs, replacing and insulating every interior wall. They replaced all the windows in the house and updated the electrical system. They opened up the main level by taking down several large walls, creating an open concept and a new kitchen.

They finished the basement and installed a new deck and refurbished the two balconies. They installed a new HVAC system and updated the plumbing, they landscaped the front yard and had the exterior brick redone. 

"Whenever possible, we salvaged and repurposed original features and details such as the beautiful feature wall in the living room.” 

Walking through the house, it’s easy to see both the hard work and the dedication to maintaining the history of the house. The exposed fireplace that they found hidden behind the walls now adds so much charm to the living room, balancing nicely with the modern, gourmet style kitchen they put in. It's really impressive and looks like a house you'd see in an architecture magazine. And they did it all to live in and enjoy.

“We love how well built the house is,” Jed said. “One of the things that attracted us to it in the first place was its great bones. We love all the outdoor areas like the back deck and balconies. The front porch becomes another room in nice weather; we have met so many amazing neighbors as we sat there.”

After seven years of hard work and love for a house more than 100 years old, Scott and Jed had to put it up for sale. A second baby on the way and jobs outside of the city made commuting back and forth difficult.

“Leaving is bittersweet,” Jed said. “We love Petworth, our house and our great neighbors, but we recently found out that we will be welcoming a new baby into the family in July, so we are moving across the river to Virginia to be closer to our work and childcare. The commute was getting harder and harder and we were spending too much time in the car.”

“We love the sense of community in Petworth," Scott said. "People are proud to live here and you get to know your neighbors well. We will miss walking down the street and seeing so many people we have gotten to know over the years. It has also been exciting to see existing businesses thrive and all the new shops and restaurants open and find their own success.”

The house, 610 Upshur Street, went onto the market today for $725,000. It’s a four bedroom, three-and-a-half bathroom single-family home that’s gorgeous, and not a developer-flip.

If you’re interested in being the next part of this home’s history, you can see its listing on Petworth News Real Estate, and contact their agent Cathrine Czuba. Do it quick though… I doubt this house will be available for long.