Meet Your Neighborhood
Neighbors Paul Spencer and Caroline Rubitsky
By Lyra O’Brien
Four imposing gothic griffins are regally perched outside a stately brick Colonial on Washington Boulevard. To the homeowners, musician Paul Spencer and jazz club owner Caroline Rubitsky, the mythical creatures are a whimsical addition to their home, however that sentiment isn’t shared by all.
“It was during Spooktacular, so the house was decorated with lights and we had a fog machine. Kids were coming up saying ‘it’s the witch’s house, it’s the witch’s house’. Some of them were crying on the sidewalk, and didn’t want to come up the stairs to get the candy,” said Spencer.
The house first cast a spell on Rubitsky back in 1991. Unfamiliar with the area and intrigued by the architecture, she decide to drive down Washington Boulevard.
“Every house in this neighborhood has some feature in it that’s just awesome, unique and special,” stated Rubitsky.
The home they bought was built in 1921, and Rubitsky has records stating it was built for a single woman.
“You can see very feminine touches. It’s a combination of a British Colonial and an Arts and Crafts home, especially if you look at the entry way and see how it was built,” said Rubitsky.
Some of those feminine touches include the lavender stained glass windows on the second floor. It’s those windows that Rubitsky said made her first fall in love with the home. Within its nearly 3,700 square feet there are; tall ceilings, decorative crown moulding, large windows and stunning hardwood floors. The grand staircase was stripped of white paint and brought back spindle-by-spindle to its original splendor.
Many of the rooms have been re-configured, like the servant’s quarters being turned into bedrooms, and a sleeping porch transformed into a sunroom. While the upstairs ballroom may not be used for dancing anymore, it definitely welcomes some new foot traffic.
“It had been empty for so long and unheated, so the plaster was cracking. What we did is repair the plaster, painted, and had the floors sanded. We added new light fixtures that look like they are original to the home. They have that art deco style and are incredible,” said Rubitsky.
The couple said it’s important to leave behind a beautiful space for the next generation to appreciate and enjoy. In the almost 30 years they’ve lived here, the changes they stress have not been renovations, but instead, are restorations to their home.
Q. How has the neighborhood changed?
Rubitsky: It was quieter back then and a lot of large trees. I feel like when we first moved here the neighborhood could have gone either way, but the people who came here, fixed it. They uplifted it, restored it, and brought it back to the level it should have been.
Q. What is your favorite room in the house?
Spencer: One of my favorite rooms is the ballroom and sometimes it will be a whole year before I get in there. The bedroom and the kitchen are really where we spend our time. Also the drum practice room in the basement. I also teach and give drum lessons there.
Q. What work have you done to the home?
Rubitsky: We got a new roof last year, and we’ve done lot of painting both inside and out. All the light fixtures have been replaced. I learned how to do the electrical work, so I made and installed some new light fixtures for the home.
Q. Tell me about your neighbors.
Rubitsky: We’ve had a lot of friends up the block who’s children have grown, so they’ve moved away. Now there are a whole new group of people and it evolves. We are looking forward to rebuilding that camaraderie with them now.
Q. What do you love best about living in Washington Heights?
Spencer: It’s the perfect blend of urban landscape and nature. I like sitting on the front porch, just looking at the grass and the Boulevard and watching the cars go by. It’s very peaceful.
If you are interested in featuring your home in the Highlighter, please contact Lyra O’Brien or (414) 861-0387.