Oh Won't You Please Take Me Home: A-Frame Renovation Begins at Rockstar Estates
If you're searching for an affordable dream home in the Catskills, this is a story of hope. Our friend Tommy Rockstar (that isn't his given name, but he's been using it since his teenage years on Long Island) has spent the last 10 years searching to replace his childhood summer home. In August 2016, in a swirl of Catskills magic and tireless persistence, he found it. His gutted-yet-glorious A-frame cabin sits atop a ski mountain, just west of Phoenecia.
The short version of this story is that he found a bank-owned, 6-acre property listed at $10K, and he bought it in a blind auction for just under $50K. The long version starts in the hills of the Czech Republic, long before Tommy was born.
"My parents are Czech immigrants, and right before they got married my father had a calling for a mountain home, like where he was from in the hills of Moravia," Tommy begins. (That's his dad pictured above.) "He ended up upstate and bought two acres in Ellenville. My parents weren't married yet, but my mom was so enamored with the idea that after he bought the land, she snuck up there and bought the adjacent acre to surprise him. She was like, 'Hey, you're stuck with me, we're neighbors!' She stalked him out, you know? So together they had 3 acres. They built a Little House on the Prairie-style shack that they all lived in. And with the help of their parents and some neighbor-builders, they lived in this one-room shack and built a Swiss chalet-style house, almost like an A-frame. We'd spend all our summers there at that summer house, and that's where all my earliest memories are from. Those were the best times. It was just beautiful."
Tommy's parents owned their chalet through the '70s and '80s and woefully sold it when they needed some extra cash. Fast forward to August 2016, when Tommy takes possession of his fixer-upper A-frame, which he affectionately refers to as Rockstar Estates. When his father first visited the place, he said, "I wish I wasn't so old. I wish I was younger so I could help you build this."
The cathedral-like cabin had been uninhabited for 6 years, and before its auction, its bank-appointed real estate broker tried to convince Tommy that it wasn't worth saving. Even after Tommy made his winning bid in the blind auction, the broker decided to take the house off the market, on account of all the potentially hazardous junk on the property, including a grounded speedboat. Tommy, one of the most persuasive people I know, made a direct call to Auction.com and won back what was rightfully his.
"The A-frame is easier to build, sturdy, and creates a primitive, early settlement-style feel," Tommy explains. It's hard to get a sense of the triangular space through photos, but the first floor is about 1,500 square feet, with a kitchen, bathroom, guest bedroom, and staircase to the second floor sleeping loft. Tommy estimates that the sun-drenched second-floor windows on the front side of the house are each about 6 feet tall and 2 feet wide.
Tommy is doing most of the renovation himself, with some help from his family, friends, and girlfriend, Leah, who also crafts rock 'n' roll matroyshkas in her spare time. He's also apprecaiting the support of his neighbors, who include a bike messenger from Red Hook, Brooklyn, and two gentlemen named Bob, both of whom share Tommy's birthday -- just another one of many serendipitous details in the story behind this house.
There's a separate barn on the property, which Tommy plans to transform into "a full functioning '70s-style game room." He calls it the Barnáge, and hopes it will serve as the Catskill Mountain outpost of the Queens-based online radio show Live from the Barrage, which airs Friday nights on Radio Nope. Tommy is part of the show's ensemble cast, led by host John Houlihan.
For now the space is stripped bare. Tommy has a lot of work to do, and we can't wait to visit this summer and share a renovation update.