Establishing ‘Trust’

We loving seeing the story of our house popping up everywhere: from major publications; and websites; to blogs across the globe. With each share we get to learn something new. This particular blog, it was the comments that grabbed our attention. Ross who is into restoring things, including an incredible home – Cross House. He shared our Curbed story with his readers, and one reader in turn shared some incredibly thoughtful food for thought:

“I have never found mid-century modern to be a personally appealing style, as my preference would be something built before 1900 out of wood., yet this house is exceptional. It is the epitome of preservation.”

Although we personally like mid-century modern we can also appreciate all styles of well persevered craftsmanship that represent a point-in-time, enabling the experience of life in another period in history.

It appears to me from reading the article that the reason that everything goes so perfectly is because the house and furnishings appear to have been chosen by a single designer or team of designers who not only designed the house, but were among those who created the very concept of mid-century modern. The fact that it was all put together as a model home means that the concept has never been tainted by the whims of its owners.

A great observation – we will have to quote you in our presentations for that thought.

The Frost family’s lifestyle lent itself to maintaining the house and its contents so beautifully, makes it a true example of a movement that has been little understood, nor, when I was young, even seriously taught in courses in the appreciation of the history of art.

The kids when they moved in were young teenagers, and we know that they did have a dog in the house, they knew how to respect what your hard earned money had purchased.

For its new owners, Bob Coscarelli and Karen Valentine, to walk in and recognize the value of these details and want to preserve them, is crucial to its continued preservation. It will limit them in their choices in the future, but is a trust that they seem ready to carry.

It is so true, although we love the house, we were hoping that we could have had a small project to update the kitchen and bathrooms, but because everything was so well maintained, it would have been wrong of us to change anything too significantly. These homes in this state are ‘needles in a haystack’.

Speaking of trusts, this house should be on the national register. I would hope for this house the same thing that I would like to do to for mine if I am able to complete its restoration, and that I would like to see Ross do for the Cross House.

Yes, we need to get moving on this listing, we really want to make sure it gets some recognition it deserves, at the every least with a listing on the National Register.

Now this next part is really interesting…. total food for thought when thinking about the future of ‘The Frost House’ – what next – could we consider a ‘preservation trust’:

  • Coscarelli and Valentine could set up a private preservation trust, foundation, or other tax-exempt entity for the property funding this trust with contributions.
  • (Although I don’t have the knowledge to determine the best entity within current laws. I will hereafter refer to the entity chosen as a trust.) Those contributions could come from multiple sources.
  • Those who would have a serious interest in having a tour of the home could be charged a significant fee, at least one hundred dollars per person. Such tours could be held on a regular basis, at the owner’s discretion. High fees would ensure that they would be limited to those with a serious interest, and of course the owners would have the right to show the house to anyone they liked at any time they like.
  • The current owners should not have any limits on their comfortable enjoyment of the property that don’t already exist.
  • The fees and other contributions could be invested in such a way that the capital would increase with every tour.
    • Only the income from the investments could be used for any purpose with hopes that the capital would continue to grow.
    • Income that was not spent in a calendar year would be used to increase the capital.
    • The board of trustees should be the owners, and others that the owners would select from the legal and financial community with a serious interest in the continued preservation of the house. I would say that it be specified that trustees would not be allowed to receive any remuneration for their work as trustees either financial or in any other form. It is my belief that too many such trusts have been gutted by trustees who “volunteer” in order to line their own pockets or steer work or patronage to people who would create some other benefit for that trustee.
  • The house could be owned by the trust, giving it tax free status and having the trust pay for upkeep in such a way that the owners could recoup their original investment plus any appreciation or minus any loss in value if we have deflation. This could be implemented by requiring one of two things.
    1. It could made into a house museum.
    2. The rights to its use as their home could be sold to people who would be committed to its preservation within the parameters set up by the current owners when the trust is formed.
  • For example, if the Frost family had set up such a trust, they could have left the house to the trust to preserve it. If they had had such a trust and wanted the value to go to their heirs, I am sure that their heirs and the trustees would have gladly approved Coscarelli and Valentine as the new owners and the Frosts would likely have been delighted to know that the new owners have a sense of commitment to its preservation.
    • The trustees could have approved and paid for the replacement of the carpet with terrazzo, as a solution to the worn carpet. After all, carpet can be put down at any time to return it to the exact original design, while the terrazzo will wear very well and serve the owner’s needs better.
    • They could also find specialists who can repair and maintain the vintage appliances, systems, and decor. Examples of such would be to go so far as to have fabrics custom made to match the original coverings etc. if necessary.
    • Covenants could be added to the deed that would assure the preservation of the house.
  • The trustees’ job would be to assure that the house is properly maintained, the capital is managed so that the income is only spent on quality maintenance with a diverse portfolio (to prevent huge losses such as those funds that invested so heavily in mortgage backed securities or companies such as Enron), and that no one could push for the alteration or demolition of the house for any reason.
    • They would manage the various efforts to raise additional funds, other than income from tours, for the trust. They would also have regular reserve studies done to assure that there is sufficient funding to prevent its decline.
    • A separate reserve fund could be maintained for expenses anticipated by the reserve studies.
    • The trustees could also create and raise money for a fund for the purchase of the rights that the owner(s) enjoy if they choose to sell.
  • I admit, I have written this in such detail to solidify ideas I have for the future of my own house and other historic properties that I have had buzzing around in my head. I find the lack of foresight that seems to result in the loss of properties whose owners or others were intent on preserving to be alarming.
  • The idea of turning a property over to municipalities for preservation seems to result in demolition due to budget cuts and disinterest from government officials.
    • There are so many examples that I hear about when someone posts an article, written in outrage when it is too late to do anything.
    • I usually prefer not to express my political views because I consider the to be private. I don’t really think that this statement is political, but others may. I feel that elected officials main interest is in being reelected, and the interests of preservation are not necessarily a thing that will help them with that. The bureaucrats who implement programs such as property preservation are required to do what they are told to within the law.

Such an incredibly thoughtful comment and discussion. We have reached out to Ross to see if he can connect us with Mr. McLean, he seems like a very interesting person.