There are so many spectacular homes and structures in our fine city. I find that most times when walking about, taking in the architectural particulars, I spy yet another detail that I may not have seen before! How do you see Holyoke? Meet Tyler and Aly! Their story is one of respectful devotion as they have a unique perspective of what Holyoke is to them, what Holyoke represents for them and their future as well as the reasons why they fell hard for the Paper City. Have you ever wondered what it’s like to restore an old Victorian home from the 1800s? They can confidently tell you first hand, that it’s a dirty job but also that it’s a labor of love, a renovation like this is not for the faint of heart! It takes guts and vision and most all determination. Let’s dig into what it’s like for an Architect and Pastry Chef to make this house a home, rejuvenating a piece of history, here in the Paper City.
Check out their Instagram to see how things are progressing! @chasingpapercity
What would you say would be your running “Music Soundtrack”:-With a Little Help from My Friends by The Beatles
-Our House by Crosby, Still & Nash
-Hazy Shade of Winter: Simon & Garfunkel
How did you both get involved in this renovation work?:
Several years ago, we were headed up to Lake Champlain to visit some friends for the Fourth of July weekend. We took the Vermonter from New York City for the long trip North. Halfway through the journey we rolled through Holyoke station and got a spectacular view of the canals, mill buildings, the old Hamilton Hotel, and the Hotel Jess. Immediately we got online and started researching the history of the city. It was a natural fit. Our New England roots were calling us back and we knew Holyoke was the perfect blend of history, industry, and community we were looking for. As an architect, the mill buildings and Victorian housing landscape of the city spoke to Tyler, and as a pastry chef, the charm of downtown and the walkability of the city was perfect for Aly’s dream bakery. It was only a matter of time before we knew we’d be setting down roots in Holyoke and we’d need a place to live. Fortunately, we found the solution in our small Victorian fixer-upper that we are fully restoring to its former glory.
Have you always been renovators?:
The minute we passed through Holyoke on the train, we knew we wanted to be a part of this city. Architecture and sustainable urban redevelopment has been Tyler’s passion and focus for his entire professional career and Aly has always wanted to open and run a small business in a city with huge potential for social impact. Holyoke is absolutely the best landscape for both of these endeavors. We knew that the only way we could participate with this city and take advantage of all it has to offer is to live here and be a true member of the tight-knit and hopeful Holyoke community. This house is an amazing stepping stone for both Aly and Tyler to pursue their dreams of helping rehabilitate an urban community with such huge potential.
Anyone or local business that you consider yourselves “partnered up”?:
Actually, even as we dip into the dredges of demolition, local businesses have already been a huge help with a very warm reception. No matter how much design and planning we can incorporate, our progress still depends on the contributions of local contractors and artisans. Home inspections, foundation repointing, asbestos removal and soon-to-come solar thermal hot water all come from small local companies.One of our favorites has been Harry’s Highland Hardware. Having a great local hardware store only three blocks away would be fantastic and convenient on its own. Having one run by someone as nice as Harry would be a bonus. But when Harry stopped by our new house less than 24 hours after we met him, just to say hi and see how our project was going—we knew this was a local business we’d be working with for a while.
Do you feel that you are having a “Positive Impact” on the neighborhood?:
One of the key assets that Holyoke has is an impressive built environment built on a rich history. The same age that has helped foster generations of culture also levels a toll on buildings. In many cases, years of deferred maintenance or lack of use can be one of the things keeping cities like Holyoke from the image of its best self. Our new house is a great example.We believe that this project is starting in time to save the bones of a great home that have stood in Holyoke for over a century, while updating the rest to last another century. With all hope, every step that the project continues to take will help the house become the latest piece of Holyoke restored and be a property worth of the community around it.
What makes what you’re doing unique?:
It seems as though the topic of home renovations has never been more in vogue. Whether it’s flipping a house, DIY projects, the fixer-upper kingdom of HGTV or the COVID-induced distance learning on platforms like YouTube, people are making moves on homes everywhere. Nonetheless, our project is a little different.Instead of starting with the goal of the quick flip, our project grew out of the goal of finding a way into Holyoke. We also come into the process as a chef and an architect, a creative couple bringing years of experience in design and construction to our first project here in Holyoke. This has driven our project to be more than repairing a property, but a restoration anchored in constructing a sustainable home.It’s not every day you can dig into a house renovation like this. The effort we are putting into bringing this beautiful 1900s Victorian home back to its former glory is why we are so excited to be doing this work. We’ve been told by dozens of neighbors and visitors that they thought this would be a tear down home project, and it’s always great to see the look of surprise on their faces when we tell them we’re keeping the bones of this great house and getting it back to pristine condition without demolishing the entire thing.We know the historical landscape of Holyoke is a huge part of its charm, and we want to contribute to that. It feels great to be a husband-and-wife team doing their own general contracting on this build out. Getting to know local subcontractors and really using the resources in the area makes us feel not only like we are contributing to the economy of the city, but truly connecting with the locals.
What would Friends and Family say about what your doing?:
Each of our friends and family members view this project differently, so it’s a fun mix of answers. Some would say we are merely rebuilding a house so we can move out of New York City and back to New England. Some would tell the whole story from start to finish about how we fell in love with Holyoke and couldn’t wait to move there, explain some of our past endeavors with the city, and how we are so excited to dive into the community. Some would come from a more architectural standpoint, citing the unique structural changes we are making to the house and how we are incorporating lots of new technology to make an old house more sustainable and stand up to the demands of the future. Our passion for this project and our dedication to the future of this city is certainly an aspect everyone would explain to any curious party.
Would you like to share an experience where you felt like this could only happen in Holyoke?:
As soon as we started work on the house we immediately felt welcomed and appreciated by neighbors, city council members, and business owners. It was amazing to see the interest people had in our project, and how many happy stories everyone had about the family who lived in the house before it was ours.Neighbors sharing secret hiking routes on Mt Tom and letting us know where to get the best pizza instantly made us feel at home. This is an incredible community and we can’t wait to see what the future holds. In the meantime, we are happy to hear silly stories and tales of Holyoke back in the day. People really hold out hope for the future of the city they love. Meeting other young, small business owners has also been encouraging because we can see others recognizing the potential of this unique city.
What would you say to an out of towner who was considering starting a business or buying in Holyoke?:
Although we may now technically be Holyoke homeowners, we would say we’re still “out-of-towners” so we certainly know why we see Holyoke as a great place to write the next chapter of our story. The historic heritage of Holyoke represents the authenticity that newer developments in larger cities are trying to replicate. It retains regional and national connectivity through multi-modal transit. It offers a high degree of affordability for space and opportunity in comparison to its larger brethren. And in an age where the health of the planet is demanding significant changes to how we live, especially in cities, the metropolises could continue to experience resistance to change due to the very size and girth that defines them. Smaller cities like Holyoke (not to mention one that harvests so much of its own green energy, to begin with) could end up as more nimble and agile examples of older cities that can be the best cities of tomorrow.
What do you Love about Holyoke?:
The community. Our neighborhood is filled with friendly, curious people who want to get to know us and understand our plans for the house. It’s great being able to see people return week after week to check on our progress instead of shooing us away like we are making changes to a town that doesn’t need any strangers coming to mix things up. The springtime will be perfect for taking more walks around town, meeting more small business owners, and really diving into the real soul of the city. We are so excited to be a part of a place that is truly unique.