I saved a house that had been hand-built, in the 1960s, by Teruo Hara, a famous Japanese potter from the Corcoran School of Fine Arts, and his students. When Mr Hara died in the 1980s, the grounds and buildings– house, studio, pottery and kilns–went through a long period of neglect, and then had been boarded up for many years. The property was targeted by developers for demolition and grading, to use as a site for clustered townhouses.
When the economic crash happened, and prices dropped, I was able to rescue the house. Vines were growing over everything, including the bamboo and trees. There was no water, heat or electricity; vandals had broken windows and spray painted the interior; vintage broken beer bottles and squatters’ sleeping bags littered the floors; the kiln roofs were collapsing, and a contractor fell part-way through one; the “trash-out” men had to remove the plumbing and appliances; the toxic and hazardous team had to remove the asbestos concrete panels… etc
When I was about to buy the place, I had my attorney, appraiser, and banker walk through it with me. They looked around at everything, looked at each other, then looked at me, as if I might need some more remedial consultation.
The attorney cleared his throat and asked, as politely as possible, “So Katherine, what exactly were you thinking of doing with this property?”
“I don’t really know,” I said. “But isn’t it beautiful?”
(Footnote: It reminded me of my Sausalito Tree House, where I wrote my first two books.)
The story of the rescue of the house was documented by the Washington Post and the ongoing quest appears below.