The one in Woodbridge

While I was in Vegas covering CES for a week, Lincoln and Nicole went house hunting. From my perch out in the desert, I followed along with their adventures via text message and phone calls.

They kept mentioning “The one in Woodbridge”. From where I was sitting, nothing really got me excited, so I was a bit aloof. I looked at the MLS listing, and it said “one bathroom”. I looked at pictures and it looked like it was falling apart. I wasn’t excited, and I couldn’t understand why they kept talking about it.

This is the “one in Woodbridge”:

Detroit house in Woodbridge

It’s.. Well, it’s a mansion. It’s under $50,000. It needs a genuinely astonishing amount of work. As you can see, from my vantage point, it didn’t seem that compelling.

But Nicole said that “Lincoln seems kinda stuck on this one”, so I figured there must be a charm that I was missing from a distance.

When I got home, Lincoln and I talked about the increasing need to accelerate the housing search. We got into the car and decided to take a bit more systematic approach to our search. We identified neighborhoods we want to be in (Corktown, Woodbridge, Midtown), and decided to drive around street-by-street to get an even better feel for the neighborhoods on a more intimate level.

“Don’t get too excited about the Woodbridge house”, I sagely told Lincoln. “Getting excited about any house when you’re shopping is a bad idea.” I stroked my metaphorical beard, like an old wise man who has been there, done that.

We stopped at the Woodbridge house. My cynical eye-rolling stopped. Lincoln’s grin upon seeing my expression said it all. “Told you so,” he may as well have said.

Detroit house in Woodbridge II

The house is tremendous. It’s 107 years old, and it just oozes class.

We scheduled a viewing inside. The realtor was, well… you could tell he was tired. This is mostly likely a home that has been shown over and over again. He rattled off the speech in the freezing cold as we stood on the front porch: “This house is as-is, cash-only. What you see is what you get. I’m tired of freezing, so I’ll be in my car.”

We walked in.

Woodbridge House in Detroit interior

We started off in the basement, looking for foundational issues, broken concrete, flooding evidence, evidence of rodents or mold, cracked beams… things we called “dealbreakers”. While the basement was filthy (well, let’s face it, the whole house is filthy and filled with other peoples’ trash), it was foundationally solid. Dry, no evidence of flooding, only one area where there was a slight crack in the floor. The brickwork and core hardwood were all rock solid. Very well-built.Woodbridge House Basement

The basement showed some of the house’s heritage: There was an area with a small pile of coal near one wall. The wiring is straight out of the 1920s or 1930s and needs to be completely replaced. The house is just straight-up old.

Next we scoped out the two main floors. The house is enormous, with four bedrooms, a parlor, a dining room, a living room, and a giant kitchen with 12-foot ceilings. Of course, we were both looking at what it could be, not what it currently was:

Second bedroom of Woodbridge House

Attic of Woodbridge House

The attic is like a cathedral. 20 foot ceiling at the peak, giant windows, a rock-solid floor… it’s truly astonishing.

This is a house that could fulfill all of our needs: A bedroom for everybody, studio space for Nicole, office space for Icrontic, enough space to let all of our friends crash, a giant kitchen, a backyard for the dogs, and a huge (two story!) garage.

It’s a house that’s been waiting for exactly what we can do: bring a ton of love and pour our hearts and souls into making Detroit our home.


We left the house in a bit of a daze. Did we realize it was a longshot? Yes. Did we understand what a massive renovation we would have to undertake? Yes. Did we talk about the large amount of money it would take to make this happen? Yes.

We were hungry and a bit disoriented. We stopped by Woodbridge Pub to check it out. Lincoln had always said that one of the things he was dying for was a small neighborhood pub within walking distance of our house; a place we could be regulars at and that served top-shelf bourbon and scotch as well as microbrews on draft, and had a colorful cast of characters—our own “Cheers”.

The moment we walked into the Woodbridge Pub, I saw a light come over his face. I knew then and there that more than anything else, this pub had just sold the house for him.

I said, “You look like a rootbulb. You have these tendrils peeking sheepishly out of you and they’re saying, ‘I want to set down roots'”.

13 thoughts on “The one in Woodbridge

  1. Woodbridge pub is like foodie heaven. I love that place. I hope this works out, this house has amazing potential and I can't wait to be able to ride my bike to come see you guys.
  2. Holy crap. I bet this house even has a drawing room! Or was it an antechamber? I wasted a lot of time trying to figure out what fancy mansion room came up on twitter months ago and came up empty-handed.
  3. wow. It's beautiful! I'm not handy at all, but I'll try to help out if I can. Congratulations guys!
  4. Can only imagine the history of your future home. I have friends that live around the corner of Woodbridge Pub. Glad that you folks are going to be in the neighborhood. Looking forward to a future visit. Congrats.
  5. Gorgeous! Love that attic. Look forward to seeing this house grow over the years. No doubt you will have little time to be bored! :)
  6. so... guess I need to bring tools again... to do some electric... and fix stuff... again. AWESOME!!! :D
  7. Careful that you're not biting off more than you can chew. My girlfriend was looking at this with me, she mentioned that her parents did this exact thing at one point. They bought a house that was less run-down than this one is with the intention of fixing it up. From my understanding, even after over a decade of work, they still didn't have it in what they considered to be decent condition and they sunk a very significant amount of money into the house (even though they did most of the work themselves) which they did not recover. They vowed never to do that again as it is simply too costly if you don't have a lot of disposable income.

    That said, it definitely has potential to be a beautiful house... if you are able to sink a lot of time and money into it. I'll be rooting for you if you do end up buying it.
  8. I'm slowly discovering it's less run down than it appears.

    Q, I suspect the entire house needs to be rewired :-/ Might be more than you want to get yourself into but I'd welcome you to take a look.
  9. Assuming everything goes as planned for me attending EPIC, I'll bring my tools and, like the good old days, I'll be more than happy to put some elbow grease into ICHQv2!
  10. That house is so gorgeous it's insane. I've dreamt of a house like that for years and years! The porch and the turret room, the giant attic, all the wood detail. Sigh. Beautiful.
  11. That house is so gorgeous it's insane. I've dreamt of a house like that for years and years! The porch and the turret room, the giant attic, all the wood detail. Sigh. Beautiful.
    Ditto. I hope to have a house with the unique details and rich history such as this one when I'm ready to own a home. Very, very proud of these guys more than jealous, though. ;)
  12. I just started reading your blog. It's a cold day in Appleton WI, nice to read about your adventures. When I was a young high schooler, we lived out in Utica - early 1970's. We would still go into Detroit for shopping at Hudsons. Still had so much charm to the city. I've watched from afar, all these years, to the demise, death of Detroit. I have my fingers crossed that the City is still alive and breathing. Time will tell.

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