Diana Hall -Mother Nature’s Child

Diana Hall has lived in the Delaware County village of Franklin for thirty two years. That makes her a newcomer, by some standards. But she has built a community, and a life, that helps to bind this small town together; one she hopes will welcome the influx of newcomers who have arrived in the past couple of years.

Hall is the owner of a small shop called Botanical Treasures. She is the founder of the Franklin Garden Club. She is an artist. Tucked into an old garage behind her historic home is a magical, tranquil space full of wonders. Hall has a collection of unusual, interesting and beautiful objects created by herself and other artists, all designed to either be displayed in a garden, or to bring the beauty of nature indoors.

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Trained in gold and silversmithing at SUNY New Paltz, the Westchester County native put art aside for years and worked in an office full time to, as she describes it, “survive.” When she and her husband discovered their current home in the village of Franklin it was, she says, “a ruin.” There had been a fire. But it had clearly once been lovely. When she found an old house with the symmetry and detail she loved, with a price tag of forty thousand dollars, a little charred lumber wasn’t going to put her off.

“We were very poor. And my husband is a contractor.” And she is a self-confessed old house fanatic.

The in-town property had some lilacs, mature maples, and a euonymous. It had been vacant. There were no gardens. Hall, working full time with people recovering from addiction to drugs and alcohol, discovered gardening was good therapy after a day at work.

“I wanted to be out in nature. I missed it. I love people, but my dream would be to work outside.”

There was no plan, no map for the new gardens.

“I bought plants and started sticking them places. For me, it’s all about movement in my artwork. I wanted movement in the garden borders. It just got bigger as I added more plants and kept obsessively reading about gardens.”

Today, Hall’s home boasts two stunning bordered gardens, each a mixture of formality and cottage English garden flamboyance. Overgrown asparagus create lovely, spindly height, while poppies, iris, hellebores, roses and other garden staples mingle with wildflowers and groundcover.

One garden is all straight lines and right angles, while the other swoops and turns, revealing surprises and color that cannot all be seen from one vantage point.

“My mother was an artist, and everything was about composition, even the way our dinner table was set. I’ve got that, too,” Hall admits. “I like things not too cluttered. Aesthetics are important But I find myself moving more toward a meadow-y feel, one that’s better for the earth.”

She smiles. “Nature is not about minimalism. If you plant something, it’s going to grow and spread.”

More than ten years ago, Hall and a few friends decided that they’d like to find other neighbors who were as interested in gardening as they were. The Franklin Garden Club became a community building exercise, growing and contracting as the town’s population changed, but taking on more responsibilities for making the village a place to be proud of. The club persuaded stone artist Robert Johnson, who lives in the village, and local mason Jack Simon to help create the outlines of a village park from the ruins of an old boarding house on Main Street. The garden club did the planting and maintains the park. The members also plant flowers in barrels along Main Street each year and hold an annual plant sale. This year there is a Blueberry Festival planned for August, an event Hall hopes will help connect the village with the wider town.

After twenty seven years working in an office job, Hall’s life took a sharp right turn.

“I had a heart attack,” she explains. “After that, I knew, clearly, that I wanted to pursue art. I wanted to get out of sitting in a a chair all day. So I quit my job.”

She had no Plan B at that point. She admits it was scary at the time. But she never looked back. “It was the best decision I ever made. You know how it is, you get on the treadmill….I have probably would have tried to stay there until retirement.”

Instead, she started studying sculpture at The Smithy in nearby Cooperstown.

“I loved working with clay there. It’s a very supportive atmosphere, not competitive. And I am still completely learning.”

She started throwing pots, then adding details. Then she began making flowers. She’s only been doing the human form, she says, for about a year. But in that year she has created beautiful, haunting elementals, magical creatures who incorporate nature into their form. Each has a personality, each feels incredibly alive.

“You can fall in love with a flower as you make it,” Hall said, “but as I make the people it feels like they have a soul. And clay feels a lot like working in the garden. It’s life. It’s nature.”

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She’s getting commissions for her work and people are responding positively.

“It’s so important to feel like your work is connecting to other people. It must be very hard to do experimental art, only to hear that no one ‘gets’ it. The battle of being human. I always say confidence is an illusion. It can be shattered in a moment.”

That gentle touch, that kindness, permeates the Franklin Garden Club. They meet monthly, sharing a potluck dinner and garden ideas.

“The thing is community,” Hall says. “Enjoying a shared love of something. We want to make people feel welcome.”

Her goal for the club’s future is to create even more connections in the community.

“It’s such a beautiful town, an architectural era captured in time that hasn’t changed. That’s what makes it a gem. I’m hoping the businesses thrive on Main Street, building energy for even more preservation.”

Her goal for her art is equally sunny.

“I just want to keep doing what I’m doing. I’m so happy. I have no idea what I might do next. My brain could go anywhere.”

Botanical Treasures

11 Maple St Franklin NY 13775

607-434-3076

https://www.botanical-treasures.com

https://www.instagram.com/botanicaltreasures01/ Instagram is her preferred site.

Want to find out more about Franklin and surrounding communities? Visit my real estate website, https://upstatecountryrealty.com

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Susan’s Caffeine Tour June 2019 – Franklin

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Bea’s in Franklin

Could there possibly be better news than when a great new coffee shop opens in your own home town?

No. There really couldn’t.

Bea’s opened its doors in Franklin right after Memorial Day and it’s already hard to imagine how we got along with it until now.

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Bea’s has another location in Bovina, but the opening of two new shops in Franklin also brought along a Franklin version of that well-loved cafe, and Franklin has become even more wonderful because of it.

No longer need we drive to Delhi for a great cup of coffee and a scone. We’ve got ’em right here at Bea’s. I’d have taken a picture of the scone when it was all pretty and stuff, but it looked too good. I ate it.  Scones are irresistible.

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Scones….ahhhhh.

KB, who likes scones but not to the level of addiction, had an egg sandwich. Freshly baked ciabatta bread, a buttery egg, your choice of add-ons. He was very, very happy.

Who else is new in town? Sean Scherer’s Kabinett & Kammer  for one. It’s a very hip, very cool curiosity shop – vintage items displayed in unexpected combinations. Think antique meets artistic sensibility. This isn’t your mom’s antique shop.

And right beside them all at 422 Main is Gary Graham at 422, a place you have to explore and investigate to really begin to understand. Graham is a fashion designer, I suppose, but in reality he tells stories with clothes. And they’re my kind of stories. A bit macabre, a little melancholy. He combines historical fact with fictional characters, uses vintage fabric patterns  and fabrics, or newly woven copies of vintage fabrics, to create clothes that evoke an event or a mood. That sheer overdress made out of what looked, to my untrained eye, like organza, had a price tag on it that seemed out of place away from Graham’s former Tribeca location. But then I read what inspired it….a double suicide in the Delaware River known as the Ophelia drownings…two young men persuaded to dress up in diaphanous gowns and drown themselves by a charismatic madman. Graham has another collection inspired by the Bedheads…a group of young locals who terrorized their neighbors and may have committed a murder.

I admit it — I have a macabre streak. So I’m loving this stuff.

If you have a macabre streak, too, come visit Franklin. Check out Gary Graham at 422.

And after you grab coffee at Bea’s go next door to Franklin Durable Goods at 438 Main Street. Neil and Tom currently have a truly disturbing collection of wax death masks for sale. Disturbing in the best way possible. Or perhaps you’d like a collection of porcelain baby doll faces. I have twelve, and I have not yet decided what to do with them. They creep me out in a very good way.

And then you can explore racks and racks of vintage clothes to create your own slightly dark fashion statement.

When you’re done, it’s a short walk back down Main St. to Blue Farm Antiques and Letterpress Printing. Whatever you find there won’t be there long. Phil has an amazing eye and things fly out of his shop.

And if it’s time for a serious meal, never forget The Tulip & The Rose, Franklin’s creative and welcoming food hub. The menu is varied and delicious and if you want to meet this town’s artists, here’s where you’ll find them at meal time.

Franklin – come for the New England-y charm, stay for the weirdness.

 

Don’t Sell Until You’re Ready

Preparation is everything. If you want to sell your home and you want top dollar, you have to do some work first.

I have a story to tell you.

What you see below are pictures of a very sweet old farmhouse in Davenport that went on the market in very early spring. It was listed with another agent for a year and it didn’t sell. It didn’t show much, either.

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When I met the owner and toured the house, I saw a ton of potential, but it was buried under stuff. One main room, the one pictured on the right below, was full of furniture but clearly was used for storage. The downstairs bath had no door, just a curtain.

I went through, room by room, and suggested rearranging furniture, removing excess items. He promised he’d do it.

This seller was as good as his word. He rearranged even that extra room to look open, bright and livable. He hung a bathroom door. He spruced up the outside and the pictures we got looked warm and inviting. It’s not fancy, certainly, but it looks about as good as it can look in its current reality. It’s charming.

We got a lot of showings, fast. We got an offer, too. It’s still in negotiation, so we shall see if we get to closing. But I’m not worried. This is a sweet place, a perfect little Catskills homestead with outbuildings and lots of land. It shows well. It’ll sell.

I didn’t train as an interior designer, but I’ve shown and sold enough houses to know what looks good and what photographs well. It’s an added value an experienced Realtor brings to a seller…a lot of us have picked up that skill.

But some places need even a bit more of an expert eye. This place, for example.

Frost Valley

It’s a stunner, no doubt about it. It sets on a hillside, looking a bit like a luxury liner. Designed by a prominent architect for an equally prominent writer, the interior was intended to be reminiscent of a Swedish farmhouse. A really big Swedish farmhouse.

That meant long, long expanses of natural wood wainscotting. A palette of browns and tans.

It was on the market for years. When I got the listing, I knew we needed color. But this one needed my expert – Kate Burnell Interiors and Design. Kate came in and proposed a soft palette of blues and greens in a couple of rooms that softened everything, made it more welcoming and warm.

She also swapped out some blah overhead lighting for something updated and interesting.

It sold.

If you want to sell your home, look at it critically. Look for the flaws. Look for the assets. And ask yourself how to minimize the first and maximize the second. Shortcuts here are shortchanging only you. Call in an expert if you just aren’t sure. But do it.

Remember that buyers walk in a property hoping to fall in love. But they’re not easy. You’ve got to win them over. Wow them and you’ve got a sale.

Do the work. Make your home irresistible.

 

Want to see what’s for sale in the western Catskills and beyond? Come visit my website at upstatecountryrealty.com. Sign up for our monthly newsletter and don’t miss a thing!

 

Good Advice (and not from me)

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You just never know when you’ll find some excellent real estate advice. Check out this article in the Washington Post.

I don’t see anything I disagree with here, and let me add one more. Be open-minded. And be realistic.

You may expect to get back everything you’ve invested in your home, but if the market doesn’t support it, you’re not going to. What you’re going to get is the very best offer you get. Ignore it and you can wait for a very long time…maybe months…to finally settle for what you could have sold it for a whole lot sooner.

 

 

 

Susan’s Upstate Caffeine Tour – Stop Three – Schenevus

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It’s pronounced skin-EE-vuhs. It’s nobody’s idea of a hot spot…a town laid out like many small upstate towns – a few businesses on one street, and not much else. And like many similar towns, the highway which passed it by is just a mile away.  It’s between Cobleskill and Oneonta on I-88 and there’s a whole lot of not much around it. But with a gas station and the Chief Schenevus diner, Schenevus is still alive and kicking.

It’s handy to the highway (as I mentioned), it’s not far from Cooperstown, and there are some beautiful places hidden in the hills off the main street.

I stopped by the Chief Schenevus on a cold, wet early spring day when I was chilled to the bone. I got a warm welcome, a hot cup of soup, and a thrilling surprise – a homemade scone.

I really like scones. They give me a sense that maybe we’re not all as different as we sometimes seem to be. I’ve had scones in Scotland (the best ones, I’ll admit), scones in England, scones in Canada, scones in New York and scones in random spots all over the US. If scones can be everywhere, we must all have at least a little in common, right?

But I was a bit worried when the door shut behind me. There was a TV. And it was set to Fox News.

Here’s the thing about this part of New York: it’s Fox News country. Not exclusively so, of course. But there are a lot of viewers here. If you don’t like Fox News, it can also make you feel a bit worried about your welcome. After all, you’re not a local.  And you tend to have more confidence in what Fox calls “fake news.”

But here’s the other thing about rural New York: people are really, sincerely nice. So I’ve had a lot of experiences with Fox News people that demonstrated that they may watch the nonsense they see there, they may even believe some of it, but they take their people on an individual basis, at face value. If you’re nice, they’ll give that back to you tenfold. If you’re not, whatever you get is on you.

That seems fair to me.

So when I walked in the Chief Schenevus and saw scones, I immediately began to relax. A good homemade scone, for me, is a sign that there’s still hope for this country.

The Chief Schenevus had three people working on the day I was there. There was a fellow cooking in the back, and two women behind the counter in the front. There was hot potato soup, good solid ceramic mugs and plenty of coffee.

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The women were friendly but not nosy. The food was delicious and they seemed to get a kick out of how excited the stranger was about the scones.

As I was leaving, a young couple came in with their new baby and both women lit up like a sunny day. They clearly knew the parents and were thrilled to see the new neighbor.

It felt friendly. Even with Fox News on behind them.

Four stars, Chief Schenevus. Five if you turn off the TV.

 

Want to see what’s for sale in the western Catskills and beyond? Come visit my website at upstatecountryrealty.com. Sign up for our monthly newsletter and don’t miss a thing!

A General Store Story

UPDATE: I am delighted to report that this wonderful old store is under contract and the new sellers intend to keep it as a market in some revised form.

Want to see what’s for sale in the western Catskills and beyond? Come visit my website at upstatecountryrealty.com. Sign up for our monthly newsletter and don’t miss a thing!

The QUINTESSENTIAL GENERAL STORE

That’s the official ad. It’s a general store. It’s in Cherry Valley. It’s for sale. But of course that’s just the beginning of the story. Let me tell you about Rury’s Food Store.

When I was a kid, my family had a cabin on 100 acres outside of Cherry Valley. We spent every summer there. I adored it and I loved the town of Cherry Valley. It was sleepy and friendly and quiet, and I was way too young to know or understand that Alan Ginsberg and a horde of wild-eyed artists had a place above town where they had a much more adventurous life than I did. But there was always something a bit more interesting in the air than you’d expect from a seemingly-forgotten small upstate New York town.

I brought my own kids to that cabin and we all have happy memories of their times there. To them,  this was the town where they could walk down the middle of the main street and only have to keep an eye out for a tractor or a dog. It’s where the library was the size of their house back home, and where they could find hilarious old comic books for sale in the back of the market down the road. And it’s where they could walk into Rury’s and enjoy the satisfying slam of a giant screen door and be welcomed by the same guy who used to greet their mom – Jake Rury.

My kids are grown now. And I’ve moved back to this area, drawn by a sense that I had to, finally, live here. I started talking to Jake, who was ready to sell his market. I really really wanted to run a general store. He let me run all over the building, and I learned there was a former lawyer’s office on the other side, two apartments on the second floor, and an absolutely incredible top floor space that was once used by the Mason’s.

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It didn’t work out; my partner will do almost anything for me, but moving his music studio into an aging building in the middle of a town he hadn’t quite warmed to yet (though it won him over eventually) was a step too far. We found a happy compromise in Franklin – a town about an hour away but equally artsy and charming and beautiful. Rury’s closed.

And then Jake died.

His sons own the building and they’ve got no interest in running the store. I got in touch and asked if I could help. They said yes.

And so I find myself representing a property that I still wish I could have bought myself. I can envision the market that could become the new Rury’s (and I will hope the name stays). I picture an owner who loves small communities, who wants to come in and become a part of what’s here, who appreciates its quirky history, its summer tourism and its winter quiet. I picture a coffee pot that’s on in the winter for the plow guys if the local diner isn’t open yet, a place with a table or two where the elderly folks know they’re welcome to sit down and visit and the local kids know they’ll be greeted by name. And I can picture so many things on that amazing third floor that I simply cannot list them all.

I know this town, and it needs a market. It needs an anchor. Right now, folks have to drive twenty minutes for groceries that aren’t stocked at the town’s convenience store.

The new owner may have other plans. But I’m rooting for a market.

Jake Rury’s dad worked in that market, then Jake bought it and raised his family in the apartment upstairs. The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (A&P, remember) was once a competitor, but it’s gone. It’s a health care center now. There was a newer supermarket. It’s gone; now an insurance agency. This is one of Jake’s boys. He’s looking for someone to take over a live/work opportunity that kept his dad and his mom comfortable for their whole lives.

 

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This is what’s on offer. It seems to be a good, solid old building. It’s a town that sees tourists from nearby Cooperstown and Sharon Springs in the summer. There’s a lot of updating to do, particularly the electric, so it requires clear heads. But there’s business in town, and there’s potential for this to be something very rewarding — and not just financially.

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Delhi

Let me tell you about Delhi. It’s probably somewhere you’ve visited, if you’ve come to the Catskills. It’s worth the trip. And it’s the gateway to so much of what I’m telling you about in this blog – it’s just the first stop.

Anyway, today I went to the closing of a listing I had in Delhi – a truly sweet old Victorian that very much deserves some love. It’s been a good shelter for a series of the sellers’ kids as they attended neighboring SUNY Delhi, but now it’s time for a new chapter.

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I was early, so I did a little exploring. And I found some treasures.

First, there’s one I already knew about…the Blue Bee. The latest stop on Susan’s Upstate Caffeine Tour, and one you must visit. It’s not just the coffee. It’s the place. It’s the food. It’s about the most perfect cafe I’ve ever been to. And they make crepes on the weekends.

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Scones. They have really good scones. For me, there’s nothing more to be said. But I’ve been there a few times, had breakfast and lunch, and it’s never been anything short of amazing. So there’s that.

Five out of five, Blue Bee.

But it’s not just about food. Let’s talk about a good old fashioned general store, and not one that’s all about food. Let’s talk about Stewart’s Department Store.

Do you like clothes with a bit of a country chic vibe? Needs some adorable clothes for the kids? Toys? Men’s clothes? How about yarn? Fabric? Or some great country decor? This place has it all in a gorgeous vintage building.

And then there’s Stone and Sawyer. It’s a very special kind of shop. They make lamps. Really cool ones. The kind that make visitors stop and say, “Wow – where’d you get that great lamp?”

There’s more, but these were my highlights today. And then there’s the angel…

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Upstate, right?

Want to see what’s for sale in the western Catskills and beyond? Come visit my website at upstatecountryrealty.com. Sign up for our monthly newsletter and don’t miss a thing!