10 Amazingly Affordable Old House Cities: Part 1

by Dana Schulz

Each CIRCA listing brings with it a new discovery — a style we hadn’t before appreciated, a decorative element we swoon over, or, if we’re lucky, a new and wonderful affordable old house city we hadn’t yet explored. CIRCA has introduced us to so many of these wonderful places that we’ve begun keeping lists of our favorites! With Part 1 of this series, we’re sharing our first ten great cities around the country that, based on our own experience, boast beautiful and affordable historic architecture.
 
This is not an exhaustive list — it’s only the beginning! We’ve got some ideas for Part 2, but are calling on our readers to add your own suggestions in the comments!
 

 

Cincinnati, OH

 
MusicHall-0734998

Cincinnati Music Hall. Image courtesy of the University of Cincinnati. 

 
An early 19th century boomtown that suffered from economic downturn in the mid-20th century, Cincinnati is today making a comeback thanks to the Year 2000 revitalization plan as well as new development and cultural projects. Job opportunities are another draw; Macy’s and Proctor & Gamble have headquarters in Cincinnati, and more and more big-name companies are moving in. The affordable historic architecture abounds in this city. In fact, the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood has one of the world’s largest collections of Italianate architecture and is one of the largest districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places!
 
 
 

229-Kearney-St-Cincinnati-OH-45216

229 KEARNEY STREET
$170,000
 

711-Delta-Ave-Cincinnati-OH-45226

711 DELTA AVENUE
$285,000
 

820-Suire-Ave-Cincinnati-OH-45205

820 SUIRE AVENUE
$174,900
 

4216-Red-Bud-Pl-Cincinnati-OH-45229

4216 RED BUD PLACE
$199,900
 

4916-Madison-Rd-Cincinnati-OH-45227

4916 MADISON ROAD
$139,900
 


 
 

Martinsburg, WV

 
517_S._Queen_St._Martinsburg_WV-1

517 South Queen Street in the Boydville Historic District. Photo by Acroterion. 

 
The largest city in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, Martinsburg was once part of Virginia and changed hands 50 times during the Civil War. The north was keen on taking control of its valuable railroad infrastructure, while the south hoped to destroy it. Today, Martinsburg is considered the fastest growing city in the state, thanks in part to its close proximity to Washington, DC and Baltimore. The city embraces its Civil War and railroad history, providing history-based walking tours through the Berkeley County Historical Society. Over 3,000 of Martinsburg’s properties are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, 281 of which are located in the Downtown Martinsburg Historic District. The properties are rich in 19th century architectural styles—Gothic Revival, Italianate, and Queen Anne.
 
 
 

112-Union-Ave-Martinsburg-WV-25404

112 UNION AVENUE
$34,000
 

1495-Williamsport-Pike-Martinsburg-WV-25404

1495 WILLIAMSPORT PIKE
$95,900 – FIXER-UPPER!
 


 
 

Baker City, OR

 
HistoricDistrict

Baker City Historic District. Image courtesy of Our Long Creek Home. 

 
CIRCA featured Baker City in its “You Should Move To…” series, and it’s no surprise why. “Nestled in a valley of snowcapped mountains in eastern Oregon,” Baker City is home to the state’s longest continuous historic district, which has over 130 properties and sits on 42 acres. The affordable house market is full of historic styles—folk gothic cottages, Queen Annes, and craftsman bungalows—perfectly priced for first-time-buyers. The quaint downtown includes architectural gems such as the art deco, terra cotta-clad Baker City Tower and the Victorian Geiser Grand Hotel.
 
 
 

2035-2nd-St-Baker-City-OR-97814

2035 2ND STREET
$159,900
 

2419-Main-St-Baker-City-OR-97814

2419 MAIN STREET
$222,000
 

2595-Main-St-Baker-City-OR-97814

2595 MAIN STREET
$285,000
 

2690-Court-Ave-Baker-City-OR-97814

2690 COURT AVENUE
$84,900
 

2436-Church-St-Baker-City-OR-97814

2436 CHURCH STREET
$350,000
 

2209-Cherry-St-Baker-City-OR-97814

2209 CHERRY STREET
$165,000
 


 
 

Buffalo, NY

 
demp1

Downtown Buffalo. Image courtesy of usnavyband.blogspot.com. 

$99,900, circa 1894
 
Another “You Should Move To…” feature is Buffalo, NY. This Rust Belt city is making a comeback, but before it completes its revolution the time is ripe to purchase an affordable historic home. As Lindsay asked in her post, “Would you prefer a massive, historically intact apartment on one of Olmstead’s parks for about $800 per month, or an entire, century old fixer upper for about $25k? If neither of those suits you a move-in-ready mansion awaits for under $300,000.” Still not sold? No problem. The vacancy rate in Buffalo is just over 15%, which has caused the city to push for demolition of countless historic homes, so they can be yours for just $1 at auction. You’ll have plenty of spending money leftover to enjoy Buffalo’s burgeoning arts-and-crafts scene or to sip on some vino at one of the many wineries in the nearby Niagara region.
 
 
 

699-Auburn-Ave-Buffalo-NY-14222

699 AUBURN AVENUE
$284,900
 

336-Villa-Ave-Buffalo-NY-14216

336 VILLA AVENUE
$79,900
 


 
 

Indianapolis, IN

 
Cottage_Home_Historic_District-1

The Cottage Home Historic District. Photo by Nyttend. 

 
This capital city has much more than its world-famous motor speedway. Its downtown has frequently been voted one of the best in the country, and the city was included in Forbes’ 2013 list of Best Places for Businesses and Careers. If culture is your thing, you’ve come to the right place—Indianapolis has six designated cultural districts that include history trails, monuments, museums, and theaters. And with historic Craftsman and Tudor homes selling for just above the $100,000 mark, you’ll be able to take advantage of all the city has to offer.
 
 
 

5921-Oak-Ave-Indianapolis-IN-46219

5921 OAK AVENUE
$199,900
 

5438-Lowell-Ave-Indianapolis-IN-46219

5438 LOWELL AVENUE
$139,900
 

1151-Reid-Pl-Indianapolis-IN-46203

1151 REID PLACE
$75,000
 

878-Woodruff-Place-East-Dr-Indianapolis-IN-46201

878 WOODRUFF PLACE
$309,900
 

362-S-Downey-Ave-Indianapolis-IN-46219

362 DOWNEY AVENUE
$145,000
 


 
 

Memphis, TN

 
handwerker-gingerbread-house

Handwerker Gingerbread House in the Victorian Village Historic District. Image courtesy of the Chicago Tribune. 

 
Memphis soul, Memphis blues, gospel, rock n’ roll—this city’s got rhythm! And in addition to being the home of so many musical pioneers, Memphis boasts a significant architectural history. The Victorian Village Historic District is located downtown and is chock full of Victorian mansions, many of which exist today as house museums. Really affordable historic homes lie in the Vollintine Hills Historic District, comprised of post-World War II traditional and ranch-style homes. With an average asking price of $150,000, you can even afford to add some old-timey personal touches!
 
 
 

1278-Agnes-Pl-Memphis-TN-38104

1278 AGNES PLACE
$139,000
 


 
 

Newburgh, NY

 
Credit_Matthew_Ziehnert

Andrew-Jackson Downing-designed house on Montgomery Street. Photo courtesy of Matthew Ziehnert.

 
Just 90 miles up the Hudson River from so-expensive-it-makes-me-nauseous New York City, New York’s “other” borough is on the verge of a major comeback. Here you’ll find scores of beautiful rowhouses to rival Brownstone Brooklyn, interspersed with Victorian-era mansions by the likes of Andrew Jackson Downing (architect of Central Park). There are still some crime issues to overcome, but if snagging a Second Empire-style mansion and whiling away the hours staring at majestic Hudson River views in between flea market jaunts sounds like your cup of tea, then Newburgh might just the place for you. If all this history gets to overwhelming (ha!), you can hop across the river to Beacon to check out the renowned Dia (modern) Art Foundation.
 
 
 

145-Gidney-Ave-Newburgh-NY-12550

145 GIDNEY AVENUE
$249,800
 

33-Townsend-Ave-Newburgh-NY-12550

33 TOWNSEND AVENUE
$179,500
 

127-3rd-St-Newburgh-NY-12550

127 3RD STREET
$219,900
 

28-Henry-Ave-Newburgh-NY-12550

28 HENRY AVENUE
$225,000
 

20-Park-Ave-Newburgh-NY-12550

20 PARK AVENUE
$145,001
 


 
 

Detroit, MI

 
East_Ferry_Avenue_Historic_District_Detroit_Michigan

East Ferry Avenue Historic District. Photo by Andrew Jameson. 

 
The Motor City may not be as successful as it once was, but its residents are passionate about its revitalization and preservation, which is not hard to believe since Detroit has one of the largest collections of historic buildings in the country. There are the Gilded Age skyscrapers, the Romanesque commercial buildings, the art deco hotels, and the list goes on. The residential architecture is not too shabby either. It’s a mix of smaller wood- and brick-frame houses along with huge, ornate mansions. The former can be had for as little as $10,000 and the latter start as low as $215,000.
 
 
 

2624-Cadillac-Blvd-Detroit-MI-48214

2624 CADILLAC BOULEVARD
2624-Cadillac-Blvd-Detroit-MI-48214
 

506-Parkview-Dr-Detroit-MI-48214

506 PARKVIEW DRIVE
$215,000
 


 
 

Topeka, KS

 
burt_house_leavenworth-1

The Nathaniel H. Burt House. Image courtesy of the Kansas Historical Society. 

 
An old prairie town, Topeka played a huge role in the Civil Rights movement, as the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court Case that eliminated segregation in schools took place here in 1954. The city’s many cultural resources educate about its history, including that of its neighborhoods and architecture, each of which have their own stylistic identity. Modest two bedroom homes are for sale for around $60,000 and larger, stately properties hover around $240,000.
 
 
 

435-SW-Lane-St-Topeka-KS-66606

435 SW LANE STREET
$124,900
 


 
 

Chattanooga, TN

 
Tivoli_Theatre_Chattanooga

Chattanooga’s historical Tivoli Theatre. Image courtesy of Chattanooga Now. 

 
Chattanooga is known as the Scenic City for its location on the Tennessee River and between the mountains of Southeast Tennessee, as well as its many parks. I think, though, that this name also pertains to its lovely collection of affordable historic houses, scattered across ten historic districts. In recent years, the Chattanooga economy has seen a resurgence thanks to the redevelopment of the downtown/riverfront and the opening of the Tennessee Aquarium (the largest freshwater aquarium in the country). In addition, the North Shore, which was formerly a deserted industrial area, and Hamilton Place, an area that used to be mainly farmland, have also been revitalized in recent years. It’s a great time to invest in the city and get your own piece of the scenic view.
 
 
 

125-Shawnee-Trl-Chattanooga-TN-37411

125 SHAWNEE TRAIL
$200,000
 

1411-W-53rd-St-Chattanooga-TN-37409

1411 W 53RD STREET
$189,500
 

1906-Vine-St-Chattanooga-TN-37404

1906 VINE STREET
$109,000
 


 

Let’s grow this list!

 
Know of a great affordable, historical city or town that we should include in Part 2? Tell us all about it in the comments below!
 
 
 
Dana

AUTHOR DANA SCHULZ

Dana Schulz is a writer and lover of urban exploration, culinary history, and, most of all, old houses. Her dream home would have a wrap-around porch to host dinner parties featuring tasty treats prepared in her vintage kitchen, complete with a farmhouse sink, retro refrigerator, and collection of milk glass containers.

 
 



  • julieg

    Pittsburgh, PA must be added to your list! I paid well under $200k for this beauty in Dec 2012.

  • CIRCAhouses

    Julie, I just love your house! Pittsburgh will definitely be on the next list 🙂

  • Robert Searcy

    Galveston, Texas. The beach, the shops along the strand, cruise ships and great old houses. http://harlistings.marketlinx.com/SearchDetail/Scripts/PrtBuy4/PrtBuy4.asp?emailGUID=3b834f43-351b-4b29-9061-3c388976e2e7&AgentId=trucks

  • ej

    Lakewood, Ohio has a lot going for it. Cute houses, moderate prices and it’s right on the shore of Lake Erie. I love how the Great Lakes are like small oceans, with lovely views and opportunities for sailing, but without hurricanes.

    • CIRCAhouses

      Thanks ej! We’ll take a look! Lake Erie is so beautiful.

  • Lisa L

    Hamilton, Montana is in the heart of the beautiful Bitterroot Valley of Western Montana. This city was originally laid out and built by Marcus Daly, one of the Copper Kings of the late 19th century. There are many beautiful victorian style homes, some bungalows, and some of eclectic origin most of which are on the city’s west side. The home of Marcus Daly himself graces the city’s east side, and remains open for tours and many community events. Many of these historic homes were designed by Marcus Daly and live on today as private residences and monuments to a glorious bygone era in the settling of the wild west. Sadly, I have seen several beautiful historic homes and enormous old barns here in the valley just left to bleach and rot away in the hot Montana sun. Apparently the owners just don’t have the resources or desire to maintain them so they just let them go. Too many people here would just as soon tear it down (or ignore it) and put up a modern (and boring) earth-tone ranch style home. 🙁 It makes me sad when I see these old abandoned homes. Even in their silent and decaying state, they are beautiful and full of grace.

  • Amanda

    Philadelphia!?

  • Margon49

    1906 Vine Street in Chattanooga is my favorite!

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