At the time, the pair was running a business in New York City, but after 17 years of apartment life they longed for the chance to sit outside on summer evenings and watch the blink of lightning bugs, not traffic lights. They found their house 100 miles north, in tiny Accord, New York, after a year of looking. They were so charmed by its history—mud-mortared-log interior walls and a bluestone-lined basement date the earliest portion to the 1830s—that they moved right in. "Then we sat for a year, listening to the house," as Sean puts it.
Once they were ready to dig in, the first order of business was to divert that runoff. "There was a lot of engineering the land," says Gregory. "We were lucky to find a surgeon with a backhoe." A landscape crew dug a French drain to send water away from the house to the side yard and topped the regraded area with a bluestone patio. Then another crew had to lift up the back of the house long enough to get under it and repair the foundation. "We had to work from the outside in so that the house could live another 100 years," says Gregory.
Shown: Once the sloping front yard was regraded, there was no buffer between the road and the asbestos-sided house's sagging front porch.