PW reviews Year's Best Fantasy 8
Elizabeth at her school's Eric Carle Celebration

The Torn-Down House Tour

Within the past week or so, three houses within a two block range of our Pleasantville, NY house have been torn down. I took the kids on a tour of them this evening. Driving by, I remarked, "Look: there's nothing left but the shrubbery!" Elizabeth asked what shrubbery was and I explained that shrubbery was bushes.

I presume they were bought by the same builder who previously bought three houses in this area as tear-downs and replaced them with two-million dollar McMansions.

Magnificent Stone & Clapboard Center Hall Colonial in construction NOW in the prestigious Byram Hills School District. Offering "State of the Art" granite Kitchen and Baths, High-Tech wiring for computers and cable. stereo and TV., central vacuum, alarm, landscaping, fireplaces, etc. 1-acre of park-like property. All the amenities an upscale home should offer.

Interestingly, the real estate advertisement for the house on Cecilia Lane claims that it is "near schools" when in fact the Byram Hills schools are in Armonk and the school where they house the Kindergarten is seven miles away. (Our property is on the district line between Byram Hills and Chappaqua and that very issue is why our kids attend the Chappaqua schools which are much closer.)

Two of the houses just torn down were, like ours, built in the 1950s as part of the Old Farm Hill development. This real estate listing appears to be what will become of one of the new holes in the ground.

This Magnificent 4,500 sf brand new home is in one of Westchester's most sought after neighborhoods boasting Armonk schools. Beautiful, One-of-a-Kind luxury colonial on a level 1 acre of lush property. This exquisite home is currently under construction, so you can customize your selections to your personal taste. The home will feature 4 bedrooms, 3 ½ baths, 3-car garage, custom detailed woodwork, and much more including the top-rated Byram Hills school system. This home will feature all the amenities imaginable. Gourment Kitchen, luxurious baths, custom woodwork, granite tops, professional appliances, professionally landscaped grounds, automatic sprinkler system, central vacuum system, 3-car garage, Walk-Out Basement, Alarm System, Grand 2-story Entry, 10' Ceililngs, and so much more...This is an absolute TREASURE of a home!!!!

Asking price: $2,150,000. There seems to be an issue with verb tenses, since as I write there is no house on that lot at all. Presumably "lush" refers to the shrubbery. Or perhaps the listing refers to the yellow house they built, but I'd heard that had been sold. It doesn't have a lawn yet, as I recall, so how would that be "lush"? [5/30/08 UPDATE: The yellow house is the one in the ad and is next door to the new hole in the ground at the beginning of Old Farm S. where they just tore down a house. The yellow house does indeed have a lawn, but the sod was recently rolled out since I remember very recently the front yard had no grass. there are some small shrubs recently planted along the front of t he yellow house.]

One of the houses torn down was a proto-McMansion built in the 1980s as part of the Heritage Court development. Though I've never been in the houses in question, I doubt they were torn down because of defects but rather because of the commercial potential for a big new house on that spot. I wonder how this makes the immediate neighbors feel. None of the vanished houses were in any way eyesores, and the new ones -- probably 5,000 square feet replacing a house that was 3,000 square feet -- will probably be much closer to the property lines and occupy a much larger footprint on the one acre lots.

As I have remarked previously, the area where I live is one of the places the suburbs were invented. The Old Farm Hill development is a decade older than nearby Usonia, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and friends. When I give a neighborhood tour, I point out the elements in our neighborhood imitated from Usonia: what the builders of Old Farm Hill emulated; and also what they didn't. Usonia is a community of individually designed houses carefully set into large lots. In Old Farm Hill, there are about 6 house plans, endlessly repeated, but the houses are carefully placed on the lot, as with Usonia. When I give my tour for visiting friends I present Usonia as "what the suburbs were supposed to be like" and I end with a nearby area of excessively large houses built in the 80s smacked down in the middle of lots which have been leveled with all the big old oaks felled, presenting that as "what the suburbs are actually like."

But now a 1980s McMansion has been razed for a 21st century McMansion. I do wonder what this place will look like when most of the houses are like that, offering "all the amenities an upscale home should offer," but I doubt we'll stick around long enough to find out.

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