The original off-grid house soon to go off-grid again…
It was August of 2017 and Lia was driving along the River to our showroom in Lambertville, when she noticed an Auction sign in front of the old, empty farmhouse with the cows in the field. The rest, you could say, was meant to be. The original stone section of this house dates back to 1744, with a larger stone addition in 1811 and subsequent two-story wood frame additions in the late 1800’s.
This will be a family venture utilizing our individual unique skills. Mary Jane Augustine, Lia Nielsen and Jason Kliwinski took ownership of the historic Richard Holcombe Farmstead on October 17, 2018 after nearly a year of negotiations with the NJ Depatement of Environmental Protection, who has bought it as part of it a prior GreenAcres acquisition. Husband and wife, Jason and Lia, with Lia’s Mother, Mary Jane Augustine, bring the skills of a licensed architect (Jason), construction manager and materials specialist (Lia), and retired construction lawyer (Mary Jane) to bear on this complex historic renovation.
At heart, we’re a bunch of old house-farm lovers. Mary Jane, with Lia’s late father, Kris Nielsen, purchased the farm that is now Unionville Vineyards in East Amwell in 1980, when it was also a derelict and long before grapes were even a thought. For a southern belle from Atlanta, she handled it with aplomb. Jason grew up on his grandparents’ micro-farm in Pennington, pruning in the orchard and caring for the garden and rabbits. He always loved historic buildings, and following architecture school, went to work in a firm that specialized in historic preservation projects. He still loves working on vintage structures and capitalizing on their inherently “green” features. Having grown up in the 1850’s farmhouse at the Vineyard, and several subsequent Victorians, Lia is a hopeless historic house groupie, wanting nothing more than to hug every old neglected building she comes across and fix it up. Lia is also the consummate farm girl, with horses and big old pickup truck, never happier than mucking around in her boots.
We had been in the market for a farm and the auction of the Richard Holcombe Farmstead came along at just the right moment. It has a beautiful old stone house, barns and pasture for the animals, is out of the floodplain, and walkable into Lambertville just down the canal towpath. where our office and showrrom are located. The auction on the farm was closing just a week after we first visited it. A whirlwind of questions, planning and strategizing later, we clicked an online “bid” button and suddenly the farm was ours! Actually, no one bid against us. We guess the multiple historic, archaeological, and gas line easements, not to mention the absolutely enormous amount of work required to renovate, scared most people off. As it happens though, our family is uniquely suited to tackle this project, and we are looking forward to bringing this gem of a property back to life, in the most considerate, yet sustainable, way possible.
We look forward to sharing this project with you as it evolves. Stay tuned for more to come on our blog and social media.