The plot thickens: Lexington tales make good reading

ADDRESS: 713 Lexington Avenue

ASKING: $470,000

BUILDING: 1,840 fin. sq. ft., 600 unfin.

LAND: 0.17 acres


NEIGHBORHOOD: North Downtown

CURB APPEAL: 7 out of 10

LISTED BY: Gigi Harold at Assist2Sell 979-1223

Every house has a history, some more intriguing than others. It's easy to imagine that narratives of lives lived in the houses along Lexington Avenue between Park Street and Locust Avenue could one day make a fascinating short-story collection.

Consider the "squirrel house"– a big yellow stucco place on the U-turn where Lexington becomes Evergreen. Not so long ago, a visionary owner paid a chainsaw artist to carve a tree stump into a giant squirrel to stand guard over a corner of the sloping front yard.

Everyone in the neighborhood has a theory about the stucco house a little farther up the street, the one with the pink door. What's that about? Or, how about the curious corner house with the rose-colored cement-block walls and the Japanese lanterns blowing in the wind?

Then there's the leprechaun– all part of the lore of Lexington.

This house fits right in. While a casual visitor might note the unusual sloped roof dormer over what appears to be almost a front-porch addition (in actuality, it's a sunroom), sharper eyes will fall upon the curious "gazebo" off the kitchen. Constructed of cinderblocks and lattice, with a cement floor and trellis roof (festooned with some sort of evergreen vine), it served in days gone by as the waiting room of a beauty shop domiciled in what is now a den/family room at the back of the house. One gets a little thrill thinking of the stories exchanged out there by ladies waiting their turn in front of the Aquanet nozzle. (Those can be part of the short-story collection.)

The inside of the house continues to spur the imagination. Where a wall once stood between the front sun-porch (with its own door adjacent to the front door on the entrance stoop) now there's merely a long gap in the unusual inch-wide oak flooring. The owners report, however, that an under-eaves attic wall of the same material can be the source of replacement boards. Lovely casement windows flank the brick fireplace in the living room (but they're the only casements in the house). A brick surround that the owners explain was once painted pink with snow-white mortar accents is now white.

There's a small kitchen – awkward at the end of the front hall– with a cut-out opening providing a view through to the dining room between the living room and the former beauty parlor space at the back. A fun little spice cabinet is tucked into the wall off the entrance hall, and a narrow staircase leads from the kitchen to the surprisingly spacious cellar with washer and dryer, which convey. Although– like every other house downtown– the basement gets wet when it rains, it's nevertheless useful storage space if you keep stuff up high.

On the second floor, three bedrooms circle a strangely configured central hall and the biggest drawback in the place, a claustrophobic antiquated bathroom. Figuring out how to remedy that problem will undoubtedly be a new owner's first task. (There's a modern, if tiny, half bath off the former beauty parlor downstairs.)

The full walk-up attic, while unheated and lacking electricity, has huge potential because it's bright, and– because the house sits higher than its neighbors– offers sweeping views of the neighborhood.

Out back, a typical city yard, fenced on all sides, provides space for a garden. There's a former garage that provides ample covered (but unlocked) storage. Another shed could present some problems, as it appears to encroach on an adjacent property. An interested buyer might want to clear up that issue before signing a contract.

One silver lining, however, is that any ensuing negotiations will undoubtedly provide grist for the "713" chapter of the Lexington Avenue story collection.