If you had the cash in 1962 to splurge out on a new home, what would you be looking for? A perusal through the 1962 issue of Previews, “a picture book of fine properties for sale,” shows plenty of options, from colonial to contemporary.
We’re looking at three historic houses priced at under $60,000 — that’s around $500,000 in 2018 dollars, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator. Which one would you choose?
First up, and the least expensive of the bunch, is a house in North Hadley, Mass. Around four hours from Brooklyn, North Hadley was settled as a farming community in the late 17th century. The town is particularly rich in 19th century architecture, including this fine example of Greek Revival.
According to the North Hadley National Register Historic District, the house pictured for sale is 224 River Drive, the Nathan Clark House. While the ad dates it conservatively as built in 1840, the current historic information points to a construction date circa 1836. It’s a three-bay-wide house with an imposing Doric-columned porch, an oculus in the pediment and a front door flanked by sidelights. At the time of the ad there were two original fireplaces, five bedrooms and “a country kitchen.” The house sat on 3.5 acres of land which also included a barn and shed. You could have picked it up for $15,500 in 1962 — that’s about $129,000 in today’s funds.
Here’s an even grander Greek Revival quite a bit north — it’s in Brandon, Vt., which is an hour or so south of Burlington. According to the listing, it was known as the Marsh House and was used as a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Was this a case of broker embellishment? The red brick house at 11 Pearl Street is still known as the Marsh House and research shows that it was built in 1852 for lawyer Rodney V. Marsh, who was an abolitionist and a member of the Vermont State legislature. There doesn’t seem to be firm consensus among historians as to whether the house truly was a stop, but certainly there was abolitionist activity in the town.
In 1962, the house had 21 rooms and a “magnificent Queen Anne ballroom.” The house and its 14.5 acres of land would have cost you $44,450 — about $367,000 in 2018 dollars.
Finally, the most expensive house, and the oldest. Located just a couple of hours from Brooklyn in Northford, Conn., is a “fascinating old Colonial.” According to the listing, the 17th century house was “authenticated by the Antiquarian & Landmarks Society of Connecticut” — now known as Connecticut Landmarks. The house boasted working fireplaces, paneling, six bedrooms and, a plus, modern bathrooms.
Northford has a National Register District with several saltbox-style houses — wood-frame houses with a pitched roof sloping down to the back. The identity of this one remains a mystery as no address or even road is included in the listing. If you were interested in the property in 1962, you would use the property number included at the end of the listing to inquire for more information.
Purchasing a bit of early Americana in 1962 would set you back $58,000 — that’s about $480,000 in the present.
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