Owners of Buffalo's oldest house: No, it's not for sale - The Buffalo News
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Owners of Buffalo's oldest house: No, it's not for sale

Sue-Jolie Rioux and Tim Boylan know the community is extremely interested in what happens to their home.

After all, with a more than 200-year history in Buffalo dating to 1815, the Federal-style Coit House on Virginia Street is the city's oldest existing house. And it has the tradition and lore that go along with that.

They're used to having visitors and tour groups come through occasionally. They enjoy hosting parties and gatherings. They're happy to engage with the public, even soliciting votes on color palettes.

But they didn't foresee the almost-instantaneous reaction a few days ago when they tried out a feature on Zillow.com called "Make Me Move." They set what they thought was an unrealistic price of $800,000. That's more than twice what they had paid less than three years ago.

They didn't intend to put the house up for sale.

"We just picked a number. It was arbitrary and obnoxious, and we didn't care," Rioux said. "We thought it would be very quiet and private."

Tim Boylan and his wife, Sue-Jolie Rioux, live in the historic Coit House, believed to be the oldest house in Buffalo, where they also run an interior design business, Tres Jolie Maison. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Rioux noted that the real estate market is "just blowing up" and thought the addition of a historic marker at the house in 2016 had probably added some value. So, on a whim while lying in bed at 11:30 at night, they decided to test their theory.

"We were literally just curious to see what kind of response we would get," she explained. "We were just putting out feelers. Nothing more, nothing less."

Instead, they were bombarded with phone calls as the news spread quickly around town.

[Gallery: Inside the Coit House, Buffalo's oldest home]

Rioux said they hadn't realized that their action would be viewed by some as a "live" for-sale-by-owner listing. Zillow describes such postings as intended to "alert potential buyers that you are interested in selling without officially putting your home on the market."

They've since pulled the posting from Zillow and sister site Trulia. The home was never listed with a real estate agent on the multiple listing service.

"We love our house. We love taking care of her as best as we can. We love Buffalo, unbelievably," Boylan said. "We don't want to leave Buffalo. We don't have any plans to leave Buffalo. We don't have any plans to put the Coit House up for sale."

Detail of decor in the second-floor den in the historic Coit House, built in 1815. It was relocated to its current location in the 1860s. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

The five-bedroom home in Allentown was originally built near the Inner Harbor by George Coit, whose family lived there for years. The house was later moved to its current site at 414 Virginia St. In the ensuing years, it's been used as apartments, a rooming house and offices, but it was later converted back to a single-family home. It was remodeled in 2009.

The three-story, 4,902-square-foot house has four bathrooms, gardens and has been updated with repairs and improvements, according to the remaining online description of the house at Zillow.com.

Rioux, 39, bought it from Gerhardt Yaskow in December 2014, paying $365,000. Since then, the couple said they have invested more than $100,000 on additional renovations, particularly the mechanicals, some cosmetic details and a lot of what Rioux characterized as "unseen work."

That includes rebuilding rotted windowsills, repairing holes in some walls, restoring wooden baseboards and fixing plasterwork. They also had the outside scraped, sanded and repainted in a dark teal color.

And they added insulation, after discovering original horsehair and 1800s newspapers lining the attic during their first winter after they bought the house. "The house was so cold," Rioux said.

In particular, though, they're continuing Yaskow's efforts to "correct" the changes that were made to the house in the past two centuries as it was used for different purposes. Rioux credited Yaskow with taking critical steps to restore the interior "footprint" as much as possible to the original design when the Coit family lived there.

"He did a lot of work on it, so we've literally just picked up from where he left off," Rioux said.

The work is a labor of love for the duo – a natural fit for their professions. Rioux, a native of Newfoundland, Canada, is an interior designer who owns Tres Jolie Maison Inc., a design firm with an office on Franklin Street. Her husband, originally from Chicago, works alongside her as an interior architectural detailer specializing in historic renovation.

Tim Boylan and his wife, Sue-Jolie Rioux, have continued to renove the historic Coit House. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

They moved to Buffalo in late 2014 from Naples, Fla., where they had spent 25 years, initially working for the same company before splitting off on their own 17 years ago.

They had finally tired of the Florida heat, and the market was so saturated with designers that they were already reaching out of state for business. So they decided to make a change and began searching for a small city with a big-city feel. A Forbes magazine article in 2013 cited Buffalo as one of the best cities for relocation, so the pair flew up to visit in the winter of 2014.

The couple fell in love with the city's character and its architecture, even though "we had no clue about the resurgence going on when we moved here," Rioux said.

"It was meant to be," she said. "We needed to be here."

The historic Coit House. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

That's the way they felt about the Coit House when they first saw it at an estate sale, only 30 minutes after they called their first real estate agent from their rental apartment to start looking for a house. "We are professionals. We do this for a living," Rioux said. "I felt responsible. We still do. We feel very responsible for doing the best job we can do with her, so that she makes Buffalo proud."

They've since become close to members of the Coit family and learned more about the home's history. There's even a deed restriction on the house mandating that the owner open it up to the public at least once a year.

Rioux said Coit "loved to entertain," so she and her husband are following that tradition, hosting garden parties and formal dinners with friends several times a month. They've also opened up the house for a baby shower or workshop, and they participated in this year's Garden Walk "so people could come around and check out the house without feeling weird about it," said Boylan, who is 49.

Rioux posts photos online of the couple working on the house and has even solicited community feedback on what color to paint the outside of the four-claw master tub: cream or black? Black won out in the Instagram vote, so black it is.

"This is our way of keeping our end of this bargain," Rioux said. "I like keeping the community involved. This is theirs. Yes, we own it and we're doing all the work, but this is Buffalo's pride."

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