Building her own home allowed Lynne Fenoff to finally afford the riverfront property of her dreams.Photo Credit : courtesy of Martha E. Diebold Real Estate
To be honest, we didn’t expect much when we accepted an invitation from a young (judging by the photos she sent us) woman to visit the Connecticut River property she’d recently placed on the market. Maybe it was the price, $398,500, that put us off a bit. Most properties on the Connecticut that we know about are worth millions. There must be something wrong with hers, we thought. But her letter describing the trials and tribulations of building on a steep bank above the river back in 2004 was intriguing, and, well, we decided to have a look.
Our attitude totally changed the minute we pulled off Route 10 in Orford and into a parking area in front of a charming-looking contemporary eight-room Cape. The woman waiting for us on the cement sidewalk leading to the house introduced herself as Lynne Fenoff, our correspondent. As expected, she was young, at least to us oldsters.
Lynne led us onto a spacious, brand-new deck overlooking the river and then into a spectacular living/dining/kitchen area with artistically constructed stairs curving up to a bedroom loft. On the ground floor below was the expansive master bedroom and bath, and everywhere, on all three levels, were windows with sweeping views of the river. From several of these windows we noted a substantial grassy road running down to a dock, to which a small motorboat was tethered. So, despite our initial worries about the low asking price, there was certainly nothing wrong with this property. On the contrary, we absolutely loved it.
For the next hour or so we relaxed on the deck while Lynne told us how she came to create her riverside home. Obviously, it wasn’t always easy…
Lynne: “Growing up in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, I always loved being on or near water. Then, in my twenties, single and working two jobs, I purchased my first home—in Littleton, New Hampshire. It wasn’t on the water, but I could walk to the Connecticut River, and I bought my first kayak. As the years went on, I decided I would love to own property actually on the river and attempted many times to purchase land or a fixer-upper. But everything on the Connecticut was way beyond anything I could manage.
“Then one day I came across this 1-acre lot in Orford, and as usual I made an offer, expecting nothing. But much to my surprise, it was accepted! Shortly afterward I designed this home simply from pictures of homes I admired, and soon my sketches were ready for a builder. It would have large windows facing the river and be completely wheelchair-accessible for my brother-in-law, Ed Clark, who is paralyzed from a long-ago car accident. I wanted him and his wife, Karen, to be able to enjoy my home too.
“My friend, Lee Foster, a retired contractor, offered to build it at a price I could afford—if he could park his huge motor home here so he and his wife could enjoy being on the river during the building process. All went well, but then came the difficult—and expensive—stuff. I needed to hire a plumber, a well contractor, an electrician, and so forth. The most challenging project was the building of a road down to the water suitable for my brother-in-law in a Jeep. We had to comply with a myriad of regulations of the state’s Connecticut River Shoreland Protection Act designed to avoid any erosion of the riverbanks.
“I somehow managed to persevere through it all and eventually sold my house in Littleton and made this my house. Almost every day after work [at various times, Lynne worked at Dartmouth College and nearby Rivendell Academy], I’d come home, take a paddle, and then relax on my dock or up here on the deck with perhaps a glass of wine, watching boaters cruise by. Occasionally I would see a deer swimming over to the opposite shore. It was heaven.”
After hearing Lynne’s story, we had one important question: Why in the world would she want to sell this house? Her answer: pure romance. “About two years ago, I happened to meet a special someone by the name of Ron Fenoff who owns and operates an excavation business. [Ron was away at work on the day of our visit with Lynne.] And guess what? We got married! I now work with him, doing his surveying and pretty much all his computer stuff. He doesn’t like computer stuff. And he persuaded me to live with him on the other side of the river, in Waterford, Vermont, in a mountaintop house he built that ‘looks like it fell out of the sky,’ as he says.”
Eventually, Lynne added, they’ll retire on land they’ve already purchased in Florida. Well, we said, when the Florida part of her story actually comes to pass, we’d love to mosey over to that mountaintop on the Vermont side of the river and write about a house that “looks like it fell out of the sky.”
Lynne promised she would stay in touch.
Contact Susanne Pacilio of Martha E. Diebold Real Estate at 802-356-3152 or email email@example.com.