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Can These Wild Homes with Backstories Survive Climate Change?

The week’s hottest real estate listings, ranked by climate risk.

A book with a house bookmark.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Glued to real estate posts and wondering how those gorgeous homes will hold up in the next decades? I have you covered.

Heatmap has partnered with my new climate risk platform, Habitable. Every Friday, we add a climate risk score to the real estate listings featured in the news this week and ask: Could you live here as the climate changes?

Using a model developed by a team of Berkeley data scientists at Climate Check, Habitable scores each property for heat, flood, drought, and fire risk on a scale of 1-10. One represents the lowest risk and 10 is the highest. Our rating for each hazard is based on climate change projections through 2050. (You can check your own home’s climate risk here.)

For today’s edition, I apply the Habitable Index to check the climate risk of houses that tell stories of the people, the past, and the place. While each house tells a unique and singular tale, climate risk plays a big role in the final chapters.

1. Fairytale house in Michigan.

Fairytale house.Zillow

Once upon a time in the resort town of Charlevoix, Michigan, two odd ducks from different centuries shared a vision for a magical house. Earl Young loved fairytales and in the 1920s brought his passion to life by building a house in the shape of a giant, magical mushroom. Almost 100 years later, an engineer reimagined the now dilapidated mushroom house and turned it into a thatched castle whose fairy godmother waved her wand and saved it from flood, drought, fire risk.

The Thatched House might just stay habitable for evermore and all the hobbits lived happily ever after. The End.

Featured in Mansion Global and listed for $5.2 million.

2. No big drama in this romantic vacation story

Hoover house.Zillow

Once the summer vacation spot of President Herbert Hoover and his wife Lou Henry, this historic cottage was built from local redwoods. The Hoovers met at Stanford and married in Monterey. They summered here with their family and dogs until the 1940s.

Hoover house.Zillow

The house and its memories will remain intact for generations to come as the spot has very low climate risk.

Featured in James Edition and listed for $2.4 million.

3. An outlaw of a house with a checkered past

Coldwell Banker.

A former bootleggers home in Spring Lake, Michigan, keeps a lot of secrets. Once a key stop on Al Capone’s boolegger circuit during Prohibition, the Tudor-style home still has a sealed underground tunnel where liquor was stored after being kept cool in the lake before Al and team picked it up. This home will live to tell the tale again and again since there is low climate risk for this scandalous home.

Featured in Crains Grand Rapids and listed for $1.8 million.

4. Soap Opera in the Wild West

Helena home.Engels and Volkers Western Frontier

The Hauser mansion in Helena, Montana, is on the open market for the first time and unveils a plot of epic historical non-fiction set over more than a century. This historic house was originally built in 1885 by Montana’s territorial Governer, Samuel T. Hauser, then sold to the Catholic Church in 1913 and then, in 1969, sold back to Governor Tim Babcock. Original details remain: Stained glass panels, built by artisans in Germany, China cupboards made with Belgium crystal and beveled glass mirrors and Tiffany stained glass windows that tell a story of opulent gold-rush style. The drama will continue for many seasons to come as the house will continue to be habitable with minimal overall climate risk.

Featured in Helena Independent Record and listed for $6 million.

5. An Inspiring house for Children of All Ages

Beverly Cleary house.Compass

Children's book author and living legend Beverly Cleary’s mid-century house is for sale in Berkeley. I can’t imagine who would not want to live in the birthplace of Ramona, Beezy, Henry Huggins, and Ralph S. Mouse? Hopefully their spirit will live on in this very habitable house which is at low risk for flood, heat, and drought and only moderate risk for fire.

Featured in Dwelland just sold for $2.5 million (over asking).

6. Lived to tell the tale of this House of Sky

Ivan Doig house.Photo: Swan Land Company

Ivan Doig’s memoir, This House of Sky documents his life on a cattle ranch in rural Montana. Landscape is the hero of this story and in the book, Doig describes how the foundational nature of the land literally shapes him after losing his mother at an early age. The pages are filled with cowboys, sheepherders, and saloons of the American West which still populate the landscape here. And for the first time in more than a century, the actual House of Sky — the 30,000 acre cattle ranch where Doig grew up — is for sale. Asking price is $58.75 million. This ranch is in a rapidly changing community that is at extreme risk of drought, so its long-term habitability will be challenging. It’s going to be a hard book to finish reading if you don’t like sad endings. .

Featured in WSJand listed for just under $59 million.

7. A terrific adventure with action, drama, suspense, romance, and horror loses the plot.

Vegas pirate house.Zillow

The interiors derail the plot of this Las Vegas home so get ready for a wild ride. The elevator pitch: “Las Vegas Pirate Ship Club With An Attached Indiana Jones Casita Edition.” Think: ‘someone scouring the high seas in search of legendary treasure’ in a place where ‘the spirit of piracy comes alive.’ With a DJ booth designed like a pirate ship, the house is as astonishing as is the drought and heat risk. This will not end well.

Featured in Zillow Gone Wild and listed for $349,000.


Ann Marie Gardner

Ann Marie Gardner is an award-winning editor and entrepreneur. She writes about design and climate and just launched Habitable, a newsletter and tool to assess your home's risk from climate change. You can read it here: Read More

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Boston’s Big Dig Was Secretly Great

A podcast by GBH News reporter Ian Coss gives this notorious project a long-overdue reappraisal. Bonus: The show comes with lessons for climate infrastructure projects of the future.

Boston being dug by a backhoe.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

If you’ve lived in Massachusetts at any point in the last 50 years, you’ve heard of the Big Dig. It’s infamous — a tunnel project that was supposed to bury an elevated highway in Boston to the tune of $2 billion that eventually ballooned in cost to $15 billion and took a quarter of a century to finish.

The Big Dig was more than just a highway project, though. It was a monumental effort that Ian Coss, a reporter at GBH News, calls a “renovation of downtown Boston.” The project built tunnels and bridges, yes, but it also created parks, public spaces, and mass transit options that transformed the city. In a nine-episode podcast series appropriately called The Big Dig, Coss dives into the long, complicated history of the project, making a case for why the Big Dig was so much more than the boondoggle people think it was.

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