May 25, 2020
Elizabeth Finkelstein, Preservationist & Instagrammer, Makes Historic Real Estate Circa Awesome
Born in an 1850s Greek Revival home that was lovingly restored by her parents (and having attended more country auctions than she can count), Elizabeth Finkelstein’s love for crown molding and decorative ironwork runs in her gene pool.
After high school, she left the quiet of the countryside for the bright lights of the big city to entrench herself in New York’s great history and architecture. While there, she earned a Masters in Historic Preservation and spent years working in the field of professional preservation advocacy (and started a few geeky architecture blogs to boot!).
A licensed tour guide, professor and architectural historian, Elizabeth is also Country Living Magazine‘s official real estate columnist. Through @circahouses and @cheapoldhouses, Elizabeth is proud to maintain two of the most popular Instagram feeds devoted specifically to historical homes for sale. The wildly popular, viral feed @cheapoldhouses has been featured in New York Magazine, The Financial Times, Money Magazine, Buzzfeed, and numerous other influential publications.
Elizabeth and her husband Ethan fantasize simultaneously about owning a Brooklyn brownstone and buying a big, old farmhouse somewhere far, far away. In the meantime, CIRCA keeps them dreaming…
From the Preservation Maryland Studios, in the historic podcast district of Baltimore, this is PreserveCast.
Born in an 1850s Greek revival home that was lovingly restored by her parents, and having attended more country auctions than she can count, Elizabeth Finkelstein’s love for crown molding and decorative ironwork runs through her gene pool. After high school, she left the quiet of the countryside for the bright lights of the big city to entrench herself in New York’s great history in architecture. While there, she earned the master’s in historic preservation and spent years working in the field of professional preservation advocacy and started a few geeky architecture blogs to boot. A licensed tour guide, professor, and architectural historian, Elizabeth is also Country Living Magazine‘s official real estate columnist. Through @circahouses and @cheapoldhouses, Elizabeth is proud to maintain two of the most popular Instagram feeds devoted specifically to historical homes for sale. The wildly popular, viral feed @cheapoldhouses has been featured in New York Magazine, The Financial Times, Money Magazine, Buzzfeed, and numerous other influential publications. Elizabeth and her husband, Ethan, fantasize simultaneously about owning a Brookly brownstone and buying a big old farmhouse somewhere far, far away. In the meantime, CIRCA keeps them dreaming.
Hey, this is Nick Redding, the host of PreserveCast, and before today’s episode, I want to ask you to consider making a quick donation to support the program. PreserveCast is powered by Preservation Maryland, a nonprofit organization and during difficult times like these, every dollar helps. Your support keeps us on the air, making the case for the value, relevance, and importance of history in our lives, and we all greatly appreciate it. To make a donation, you can visit preservecast.org and hit the Donate button in the upper right-hand corner of the page. Thanks for your help and keep on preserving. Now, let’s get back to the episode.
This is Nick Redding, you’re listening to PreserveCast, and today we’re joined by Elizabeth Finkelstein who is the muse behind some pretty viral accounts on Instagram, CIRCA Old Houses, @cheapoldhouses. And we’re just so excited to be able to talk about this component of the preservation world and the work that you’re doing to promote the importance and beauty of these places. It’s such a pleasure to have you with us here today on PreserveCast.
Thank you so much for inviting me. It’s exciting.
So your bio really paints a picture of someone who just loves old homes. It seems like it’s deep in your marrow. Tell us a little bit more about growing up. So where was this Greek revival home that is mentioned in your bio?
Yeah. So I grew up in a Greek revival in Upstate, New York, about an hour north of Albany, in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains. And that house was a fixer-upper in every sense of the word. My parents went to look at it with a realtor. He said no one else would actually get out of the car when he took them to see it. It was that bad. They turned on the utilities for the first time, and the ceiling fell in, and there were dead squirrels everywhere, and it was kind of just like your perfect sort of romantic vision of a big, fixer-upper in the country that my parents were kind of taking on, newly married. And that house was instrumental for me in kind of shaping my version of what a home should be. Because I watched them work on it, I watched them love it, I watched them hate it at times, but I think that translated into a great sense of love in the end. It’s some of those things where all the little crazy ups and downs of the project, in the end, turns into something that you would never have traded for the world. And I got to grow up in such a special environment in that sense. Half of the house was built in the late 1700s by the grandson of the founder of my town, and then he went out and– later kind of generations went out West, struck gold, came back and built a giant Greek Revival addition on the front. So the house was kind of– as all great old houses are, a hodgepodge of different styles and connected with a little tiny door and a corridor that we call the secret room. And as children, we spent so much time in that tiny little quirky space of the secret room, which was really like a little stairway. It was more of a corridor than a room, but it was sort of the most magical place. And I think when you’re a child growing up in an old house, there is no replacement for all of the kind of magic that those secret spaces can create for you. And there’s no toy in the world that can replace that. So I feel very fortunate in so many ways to grow up in an old house. And I think that in a way shapes– in a way probably completely spoiled me for life because I’m now searching for such a special home for myself.
Right. And I think it’s interesting. We’ve done a lot of these interviews and I feel like a cultural universal amongst preservationists is some type of childhood experience, whether it be parents dragging them to historic sites, or a book that sparked an interest or in the case like yours, an old home that you lived in. It seems like time and again, it is some type of parental exposure in a good way to something like this. And so you sort of caught that bug. I’m curious, is the home still in the family?
Well, funnily enough, my parents owned it for 35 years, sold it a few years ago and moved next door. They were so in love with the property. It’s a long story, but the house next door ended up coming on the market. They moved into that. So the house, yes, technically, my commute is like three seconds shorter to go home and visit my parents. But technically, it’s still in the family. They can watch over it every day.
They can watch over, okay. I mean, in addition to these accounts that you’ve put together, which have become extremely popular, you’ve actually have studied preservation. And so tell us a little bit about that. Where did you study? And do you feel like it prepared you for this career path that you’ve ended up on?
I do. Well, to answer your first question, I studied– I have a Master’s from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. And I learned so much there. I chose that program because it was heavily focused on kind of preservation as community development, which is something I strongly believe in. I always feel like preservationists should have a greater seat at the table when it comes to any sort of urban planning. And I really liked how Pratt’s program kind of used a lot of sort of local organizations as partners and really kind of worked with the local neighborhood. In terms of whether or not it prepared me, I certainly think it prepared me in a lot of ways. And I think that other aspects of my life that are unique and that maybe some people who study preservation don’t have kind of launched me into sort of an interesting way to kind of interpret all the preservation I’ve been taking it at school. My husband runs a digital design agency and is always thinking about new ways to communicate and new media, whereas I’m always living like 200 years in the past. And so I think sort of we put our heads together and thought, well, what’s the way that we can make a big difference in preservation in a way that no one else is really doing right now and to not continue to have the same conversation that’s had about preservation so much of the time in New York City, which is really where I kind of cultivated my real understanding of how, you know, landmarks laws work and kind of the sort of nuances and “ins and outs” of sort of the professional world of preservation.
So I’m curious though – I mean, I even said sort of the career path that you’re on now. Has this become a full-time – you’re a full-time – you hear about Instagram influencers, you’re like a full-time preservation influencer?
I guess you could say that. It’s so funny. I mean, I never went into historic preservation thinking that I’d be cool [laughter]. And I’ve never been cool –
You might be the – I was going to say you might the coolest preservationist now. I don’t know of anyone cooler, so. I mean, I think that you might have that title now.
Oh my gosh! Well, this might be the first time I’ve ever been called cool in my life [laughter]. So thank you very much for that. Yes, and just to clarify what I do. I do do it full time. I run a website called circaoldhouses.com, which is really a real estate listings database. We call it a curated historical house marketplace. And it basically features real estate listings for historical homes for sale all across the country. And the impetus for that was my parents trying to sell the house they grow up in and having a very difficult time finding a real estate agent who not only understood the history of the house, but knew that there are old-house people and you have to connect with the kind of buyer who would want it and who wouldn’t have to sort of sell the historical component too but who already got it. And so CIRCA was kind of born out of that challenge with them. And then I started Cheap Old Houses as a viral feed because I have a personal interest in fixer-uppers. And for a while, I’ve been writing a column on CIRCA that featured houses for sale for under $50,000. And after a while, people started sending me so many houses that I had this huge stockpile. And I felt that there needed to be a place to share them with the world because I felt this personal responsibility to get them out in front of eyes who would really understand them because in so many cases, the real estate agents selling them don’t. Often, they’re in neighborhoods that are in economic decline or have been forgotten about. And in many cases, this is why the houses are so amazing because nobody’s had the money to flip them, or rip out their original bathrooms, or that kind of thing. So you have these houses that are sort of time warps, completely frozen in time and fascinating in that regard, very vulnerable to neglect, and often being sold at such prices that the agents can’t afford a professional photographer, or aren’t really going to take the time to get them in front of the right eyes. And I felt like no one was doing that, and I needed to be that person. So I started Cheap Old Houses, and it’s gone totally viral. And it’s fascinating and amazing and I’m so grateful. I’m so grateful every day that I have a voice in this field that I feel so incredibly passionate about and that people will actually listen. It’s very cool. I hope I can inspire more preservationists to find a unique voice in this field because I think that it’s a field that really needs it.
Yeah. And I want to talk a little bit about that. I am curious, though, just – and you mentioned CIRCA and then Cheap Old Houses and the old house issue where these cheap houses there isn’t even the profit incentive there for a realtor to really try hard. I mean, not to put a bad look on realtors, but, I mean, if you’re making a percentage off of a $30,000 house and then you have one that’s on the market for $300,000, you’re going to really emphasize that $300,000 house. So which one came first though, did CIRCA come first or the Cheap Old Houses? And did one inform the other?
CIRCA came first. I’ve been doing CIRCA since, I think, 2013. And I started Cheap Old Houses in 2016. So, yes, CIRCA came first. And CIRCA is where I started to really learn about my audience and what kinds of things people are interested in seeing. That’s why when Cheap Old Houses took off. I knew that there was a kind of voracious appetite out there for fixer-uppers. I think that it’s a dream of so many people to restore an old house. And one of the things I’ve learned, but to piggyback on something you said earlier, which is that everybody has an old house in their life. When I was working in the world of preservation in New York City, I found it to be very small. There are people who divide themselves as preservationists, and there’s a lot of other people who were like, “What do you do?” And what I said preservation, they’re like, “You mean like art conservation?” And I had to kind of explain to them that there’s a world of people who work with these laws and try to make sure that people don’t yadda yadda, yadda all the things we know.
And when I started the seed, I started to realize that everyone, whether they consider themselves to be a preservationist or not, has a story to tell about a house. And when they learn what they do, they all come out with these stories and say, “Oh, well, there was my aunt who had this house, and I used to go visit it, and I never knew what happened to it, and it meant so much to me.” And I think that there’s something magical about old houses that you don’t have to be a preservationist to understand. And I often say that even when I was a very unsophisticated child growing up in an old house, I knew the magic that was around me. And I think if we could tap into that, there’s a lot of power to be had. And one of the things –
Yeah. And I mean, some preservationists – sorry to interrupt there. I think some preservationists, it’d be wise for them to remember the power and the powerful drug that is nostalgia. I mean, and not everyone is going to consider themselves or use that language to call themselves a preservationist, but an old home is oftentimes the backdrop for those sorts of stories and those feelings of the past. And even in moments like this when it’s sort of a scary world right now, we kind of retreat back to good memories. And so where do those memories happen? Oftentimes, they happen in older homes just because it happened in the past. So I do think that that’s an important piece, and sometimes we get caught up in, as you say, the mechanics, the laws and the architecture and the terms, and we forget that it really is about people and about their memories.
I think that’s so true. I think both have to happen simultaneously. I, by no means, mean to say that the preservation world, as it exists, sort of professionally from a kind of advocacy standpoint, shouldn’t be just what it is. It’s amazing. It’s where I was trained. I worked for the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation in New York City for five years as their director of preservation and research after I got out of college. And I learned so much about how these laws work and how to talk to people about them and how to tell stories of houses and how to research houses. And I’m so grateful for that education. And I think without these small preservation organizations out there on the front lines making sure that these things are preserved, so much would have been lost, and I am extremely grateful for the world of preservation and small advocacy groups for doing what they do.
So let’s talk a little bit about day-to-day because I think some of this might inform some small preservation groups that listen to this and folks who are interested in saving things in their community. How do you make these accounts work? I mean, this is more of the nuts and bolts of social media, but what kind of research goes into generating this amount of content?
I find content for Cheap Old Houses in many ways. First of all, I’m a complete real estate junkie, so I am constantly looking at houses. My husband and I are dreamers, and we’ve been looking for a cheap old house for as long as we’ve known each other and probably even before then. So we’re always just dreaming about it anyway, and we’re looking. I’m also the real estate columnist for Country Living Magazine, which they came to me and asked if I would write after I started CIRCA. So I’m constantly looking at listings for that. I do CIRCA, so I have people submitting listings all the time. And now with cheap old houses, I have my eye tapped into listings. I scour all the major listing sites online every day. And I have a hugely-excited community with people that send me this stuff every single day. So I honestly don’t have to do that much searching on my own anymore, and a lot of it is user-submitted. But going back to your question about what is sort of the magic formula for social media, I think there’s a few things. I think at the end of the day, content is king. And I think this is content that people really love and want. And I think that social media demands so much content that finding something that is formulaic, that is easy to find and easy to produce and easy to put up is very important. And I think that’s something a lot of organizations struggle with because they sometimes feel it has to be more than that. My posts are pretty simple. They are pictures of houses and one line about them. And I can do many every single day. I think it’s also working with the specific platform that you’re on. So for instance, I don’t try and put something on Instagram and repeat it on Twitter and then repeat it on– make a video about it and put it on TikTok. I stick with Instagram because that works for me. Twitter has never worked for me. So I think it’s just kind of finding the platform that makes sense for your voice and finding something that’s easy for you to do and that fits into your lifestyle. I can talk a lot about this because my husband does this professionally, and I’ve learned a lot about it through him. But really again, listening to your audience and just understanding what they’re responding to and what they want to see more of is really important.
Yeah, I think it’s important, though, for the preservation community and groups that are involved in preservation advocacy, and just people in general who want to save old homes to hear about that and to think about what’s the right platform. Not every platform is going to be right for every kind of message and every kind of voice. And it’s interesting that you mentioned TikTok. You are not on TikTok yet, are you? You’re not TikToking about homes.
I have an account, but I have not yet started doing it. One of the things I will say, I think social media is a full-time job. And I think for a long time, it’s been seen as like, “Oh, well, let’s just have the college intern come in for free and they’ll do that for us.” This is how people communicate now. This is not just something that some kid can do for you. It should be thought out, and you should put a lot of time and effort into it because it’s how people communicate now. So I think that it should be a much bigger part of how organizations communicate. And I think people are waking up to that a little bit, but it’s very important.
You’re preaching to the choir of the guy – host of the podcast. So let’s take a quick break here, and then when we come back let’s talk about whether or not this might be a strategy for preservation groups to follow and how there might be some success stories in here in saving old homes, and we’ll do that right here on PreserveCast.
BALLOT & BEYOND
100 years ago in 1920, the 19th amendment to the Constitution of the United States was signed into law, and officially granted 20 million American women the right to vote. This mass expansion of voting rights was the result of generations of intense activism known as the Woman Suffrage Movement that has had a lasting legacy on the continued fight for equality in America. In recognition of the struggles and achievements of a once disenfranchised majority, PreserveCast is honored to share remarkable stories of suffrages within each episode this year. Beyond The Ballot is supported by Preservation Maryland, Gallagher Evelius & Jones Attorneys at Law, and the Maryland Historical Trust. To learn more about influential women, past and present, or to donate, please visit ballotandbeyond.org.
This week on Ballot & Beyond we’ll learn about Victorine Q. Adams, founder of political campaigns to support African American candidates and social justice organizations instrumental in the desegregation of Baltimore hotels. Read by Kimberly Golden Brandt, director of Smart Growth Maryland at Preservation Maryland.
Victorine Q. Adams
In 1946, faced with yet another candidate for the city council who had no intention of serving the interest of Black Baltimore citizens, Victorine Q. Adams went to work. The obstacles she faced were formidable. Many Black residents rightfully feared the dangers coming from those who wanted to stop the Black vote. Polling places where Black Baltimoreans went to vote were often closely monitored by white men who threatened physical violence. Black voters could also be fired from their jobs or evicted from their homes for exercising their constitutional right.
The Colored Women’s Democratic Campaign Committee of Maryland met in the basement of her home to interest Black women in politics and increase their participation in the social, civic, and economic development of the city. The basement of the Adams home became the headquarters for many voter registration and get-out-the-vote campaigns. She and her female volunteers conducted a relentless door to door, block-by-block, voter-registration drive for African Americans. They signed up approximately 9,000 new voters. In 1954, she helped to elect the very first African American to the Maryland state senate, a young lawyer named Harry Cole, who would go on to become the first Black person to serve on Maryland’s highest court.
Then Victorine Q. Adams assembled another group of women, this one called Woman Power, to bring about social change. In its first year of operation, Woman Power helped to successfully desegregate Baltimore’s downtown hotels. She decided to run for elected office herself. After an unsuccessful bid for the state senate in 1962, she won her race for the House of Delegates four years later. And a year after that, she sought election to the Baltimore City Council, a position no Black woman had ever won before.
During her 17 years on the Council, Adams worked to help and empower the poor and marginalized. The devoted life-long member of the Catholic Church, she also served on the archdiocese’s urban commission. She and her husband, business William “Little Willie” Adams, provided financing for many of Baltimore’s Black-owned businesses. In 1996, at the 50th anniversary of the Colored Women’s Democratic Campaign Committee, Victorine Q. Adams was honored with a ceremony at City Hall and the gratitude of elected officials who followed the path she had blazed for them years before.
…NOW BACK TO THE CONVERSATION
This is Nick Redding. You’re listening to PreserveCast. We’re joined today with Elizabeth Finkelstein, and we’re talking about all things old homes and at Cheap Old Homes and at CIRCA Houses. We’ve been talking about how these social media accounts got started and the work that goes on behind them. And we talked a lot, Elizabeth, about how the preservation world can pick up on some of this and that there’s something here. Do you think this is potentially a strategy? I mean, there’s revolving funds and there’s different ways that we save old homes and that are sort of standard ways in which the preservation community does this. Do you think that this could be a model, that this should be something preservation groups are investing in their communities? And, I guess, as a follow on to that, are there success stories that you’re aware of, thanks to the accounts that you run that have saved buildings that, otherwise, might be lost?
Okay, yes. To answer the second part of your question first because that’s easier, I have a hashtag, #KeepOldHousesSaved, and whenever people write to me and say that they bought a house they found on the feed I post about it. New York Magazine actually wrote an article a couple of years ago featuring six people who had upended their lives because they found houses on Cheap Old Houses and moved across the country to buy them. So that was so fun to read because– I didn’t honestly know when I started this that people would actually do it. I think a lot of people look at this feed and dream a lot. But to find out that there have been people who have done it, it has been mind-blowing and amazing and makes it as a level that I can’t even explain a sort of satisfaction with this and validates the amount of time I put into it because I put ton of time into it. In terms of preservation groups using this as a way to communicate, I absolutely think that you should find a social platform to communicate to your audience. This made a lot of sense for me for cheaper houses because I think the medium worked very well for what I’m doing. I think it’s –
Well, I mean, basically, what I’m getting at here, do you think preservation groups try and market cheap, old houses in their communities? I mean, is there a way to – should they be sending that stuff to you? Should they do it on their own? Is this a way for them to save old buildings?
Absolutely. I am 100% willing to work with any preservation group that wants to send me a building. Preservation North Carolina, Indiana Landmarks, there’s a preservation group in Danville, Virginia called Friends of the Old West End that has been working with me for years and through that partnership, we’ve gotten many houses sold in their small historic district. I started CIRCA because I knew that realtors knew how to explain the history of houses, but they didn’t have a mailing list at their disposal, of people who specifically wanted these old houses. And I have one now I’ve created and it’s huge. So it takes a very specific buyer to want these homes. And I have an audience of people who really want them. So I am always grateful to work with preservation organizations that want to send them to me and a number have, but I welcome everybody else to do the same thing.
So sort of along those lines and kind of going back to that conversation about social media and finding your voice and just because you’ve done such a great job of this, we want to ask you some of these questions. For a group that’s maybe either trying to pivot their social media or improve it or even just getting involved, a couple of sort of rapid-fire questions here, mistakes or pitfalls to avoid, are there things that you’ve done that you’re like, oh, you kind of cringe at now and you realize, “Don’t do that again. Don’t follow where I went?” And then we’ll go to the more positive side. But I’m curious if there were things that you’ve done that are like, “Here’s something to avoid?”
Well, I think a lot of the – I think I may have mentioned that a lot of organizations will sort of – they’ll write a blog post and then they’ll put it on Instagram. And then, they’ll put it on Facebook. And then, they’ll put it on all their feed, then they’ll pin a picture of it and Pinterest. And they don’t really craft a message that’s specific to each platform, and I would rather you just pick one platform and do it right than try to just put something watered down on every single one. I’m not trying to make Cheap Old Houses more than it is. It’s a very simple feed, and I am all for creating niche viral feeds that are spinoffs of what you do. So if you have a preservation organization that has a very specific type of building in this neighborhood or a unique thing about your history, maybe you have sort of a spinoff feed about that one thing. All it is is about that one little thing. And it’s niche, and people know what they’re getting, and they can understand it. I think people try to make too much of their social media accounts and have it try to be everything, and I don’t think that you have to do that. I think the more of a niche and the simpler it is for you to execute, the more likely you are to sustain it and do it well.
Yeah. I think that’s really interesting advice because I think a lot of people, like you say, they think it has to be everything and they have to reach every audience and they have to blanket them with everything. And the comment about niche and simple and reaching that audience is – I think that’s important to hear.
So I’m curious. Tools worth investing in, do you just go on Instagram and post? Do you use Hootsuite? How do you manage the back end or any recommendations there?
So I teach Cheap Old Houses, and Christiana, who is a colleague of mine and also from the preservation world, and she manages CIRCA Houses Instagram account. And she uses Hootsuite, and she enjoys it because she has a couple of other clients that she works for. If you’re only doing one feed, I don’t personally think it’s necessary and I find that it sometimes limits some of the things I can do within it. So I do it the old-fashioned way. I just go on Instagram and I upload the post and I press post. I think you have to look at what your time looks like. If you only have an hour in the day to spend on this and you need to schedule things, then by all means, there are a lot of platforms out there that will allow you to do that.
What about advertising? Sort of the follow-on to that. Do you do it or is it all just viral?
One of the things I’ve learned about social media is that if your content is good, you don’t really need to boost your posts and fight for viewers. You will get them. Having said that, I do do some advertising on both Facebook and Instagram. One of the ways I’ve monetized this feed is I have a Patreon account in which people can subscribe to a newsletter that’s cheap-ish old houses so its houses I find that are over the $100,000 mark, which is everything on Cheap Old Houses is under $100,000. But I found that there were parts of the country that simply had no houses in that realm. Oftentimes, on the West Coast, around New York City where I live, there are just pockets of this country where cheap is still $500,000. And so this goes up to 250 to try to cover some of these areas. So these are still houses that are fixer-uppers and that kind of need work done. I do advertise my Patreon on Facebook and I advertise it on Instagram, and I found that to be effective.
Yeah. And that’s an important thing for people to think about, how they’re going to monetize things. For those listeners of PreserveCast, you know that we ask for a donation. We haven’t exactly figured out how to monetize the podcast yet and our thousands of listeners, but we’re working on that. But I mean, that is something to think about too, or is there a way to – at the very least, if you can’t monetize it, at least get their names and their contacts so that you communicate with them, and the email list that you mentioned, it’s critically important. And a lot of times, we sort of overlooked that in the zeal to get likes. We don’t realize, “Woah, we’re missing out, because we don’t know how to stay in touch with those people beyond that first like,” maybe. You’ve branched out into your own branded store as well with some really great preservation-related clothing, accessories. So how do you manage this on top of everything else? Because I don’t think it’s print-on-demand stuff, but I’m curious. So tell us a little bit about that decision and what people might find there, where they can find it too.
Sure. The products were a long time in the making. It’s something we’ve been wanting to do for years but fell on the back burner, because a lot of this stuff takes a lot of time. And we have a five-year-old, and my husband and I both run our own businesses, so we’re always kind of planning and seeing what sticks, and seeing what works, but we also have very limited time. So the preservations flag or whatever, was a long time in the making, but it’s one of my favorite things to do, because everything I do is digital, and this is very tactile. And it’s very satisfying when I see people sending pictures of them wearing the T-shirt, or them putting the pennant in their house, or what have you. It’s not print-on-demand, we work with a screen printer here in the Hudson Valley in New York where I live, and we have a warehouse in our basement of all the items. And we work with a wonderful company in Buffalo, New York, which is one of my favorite cities, called Oxford Pennant, and they’re a great small business, you may have heard of them. And they’re motto is, “Celebrate Everything.” And Cheap Old Houses has always been 100% celebratory of about these houses, and so I just kind of loved their motto. And they screen print pennant banners for us. So they say all sorts of things from, “The Greatest House in the World,” to “Save All the Old Houses.” I have one that says, “Grandma House,” and just kind of cheeky things that people might want to hang in their house. And they’ve done very well, I don’t think there are many preservation groups out there doing kind of tongue-in-cheek or ironic preservation gear, so we might be one of the few, and I think for that reason, people have responded to it.
Yeah, you definitely cornered the market on that, and I didn’t realize that it was Oxford Pennant. In the interest of full disclosure, I have an Oxford Pennant item hanging in our front window right now that says, it’s their pandemic pennant basically, “Together, we will get through this,” and I’m also from Buffalo, New York. So how about that? So I get a…there.
Well, no wonder you’re so into good old buildings, because I feel like you can’t escape it if you live there.
Yeah, you sort of trip over them. So any surprises on the biggest seller? Maybe that tells us something about language we should be using, what’s the phrase that pays at the shop?
Well, it’s kind of silly, because at the last minute I threw together t-shirt that says, “Save All the Animals and All the Old houses,” and I’m like, “Well, see I’ve noticed there are a lot of animal people who follow me.” That’s our best seller. People love that t-shirt, which is funny. I have one that just says simply, “Save all the old houses,” and people buy that a lot. And then our “Save All the Old Houses” pennant is sold quite often.
All right. Well, good language to think about. And so where can people – not that it’s hard to find you, but want to make sure that as they’re listening to this conversation, that people will look you up, give you a follow, maybe jump on the shop. So give us all of the different accounts and where people can reach you at.
My website is circaoldhouses.com, and the Instagram for that and Facebook is @circahouses, and then on Cheap Old Houses it’s just Instagram @cheapoldhouses.
And that’s the easiest way to find you, and the shop is located at CIRCA as well, is that right?
You can find the CIRCA or you can go to iloveoldhouses.com, which is also a shop page.
Good URL use there [laughter]. So before we part ways here, and this has been a lot of fun and really interesting. Most difficult question we ask of anyone, what is your favorite historic place or site?
I knew I’d get asked this question and it’s hard, because I love really American buildings like old salt boxes, very kind of rustic, earthy type things. But I’m also am a New Yorker, and so I have a real fondness for art deco. And I think I say this on CIRCA, but my favorite room in the world is the women’s bathroom at Radio City Music Hall, because it’s filled with the most amazing art deco black tile and jadeite green sinks lining the entire room, and it’s something that not everybody gets to see, so it feels like a special little place. And I don’t know if that makes me weird or what, but that’s one of my favorite rooms in the world.
No, no. That might be one of the more fantastic answers. I mean, normally it’s, “Oh, I love the Statehouse here,” or “The capital this or that,” and this is the first bathroom we’ve gotten. So that is the –
Well, my second favorite would be the Chrysler Building, but that’s a little boring, so.
Yeah. That’s too boring. Let’s cut that out. No, I’m kidding. But no, in all seriousness, that’s a fantastic answer and maybe we’ll try and put a link in the show notes to a picture of that space if we can find it. So Elizabeth, this has been such a pleasure to talk with you. Thank you for sharing some of your time with us, and we will continue to follow you as I know many others will, and look forward to hearing more from you in the near future.
Thank you so much. This has been so much fun and I really appreciate you having me.
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