Foreskin House for Sale: Burlington Landmark Hits the Market | Off Message

Foreskin House for Sale: Burlington Landmark Hits the Market


The house at 276 Colchester Avenue in Burlington - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • The house at 276 Colchester Avenue in Burlington
The real estate ad calls it a "colorful" and "iconic" Burlington home. For the uninitiated, the picture of the house for sale at 276 Colchester Avenue tells all.

"Cut consumption, not foreskin!" is painted in big letters across the front of the house. Fat pink polka dots against a purple background float from foundation to roofline.

The colors, and the exhortation, have faded since they went up a dozen years ago and turned the house on the busy corridor into a local conversation piece. Home owner and polka dot maestro Jerri Kohl couldn't bring himself to paint over the unique façade before he put the house up for sale earlier this week.

"I don’t really want to see it go," he said about the façade — but not the house, which is priced at $325,000.

The home has become something of a landmark, sitting across the street from the entrance to the University of Vermont's Centennial Field, home of the Vermont Lake Monsters baseball team.

"People definitely know of the polka-dotted house," said Luke Beard, general manager of the Kampus Kitchen deli across the street at 273 Colchester Avenue. And while some have complained about the appearance of the house over the years, Beard is not among them.

"It's not hurting anybody, and I don't know how seriously people take it," he said.
"It's a unique statement," added Lilly Foster. She and her husband bought a home next door earlier this year and the unique signage "really didn't" deter them during the process. "The neighborhood's been great," the special education teacher said.

So far, the one-of-a-kind exterior is not discouraging buyers, Kohl said. At least one prospect has already made "a decent offer" on the house and more showings are scheduled this weekend.

"Maybe there will be a bidding war," he said.

The software developer, environmentalist and founder of the Church Street Streaking Club now lives in the Northeast Kingdom town of Barnet. He's been renting the house and isn't planning to move back to Burlington.

Kohl said he painted the polka dots himself around 2006 and had a graffiti artist friend paint the foreskin message a year or two later because he doesn't like heights and didn't want to go up on scaffolding again.

The slogan reflects his opposition to consumerism and circumcision, which he views as male genital mutilation. The polka dot background is intended to add some whimsy, he explained. "I wanted to have something that wasn’t just polemical," Kohl said. "I wanted it to be fun.”

Before the listing went up, he and his real estate agent, David Parsons, co-owner of RE/MAX North Professionals, talked about whether the polka-dot paint job should stay on. It's not exactly typical real estate staging.

“It’s a conversation that we had," Parsons admitted. But "it’s something he opted not to do.”

Kohl said he understands the façade could change once a new owner moves in. But, he explained, "I'd rather someone buy it who liked that the message was rare or at least got a chuckle out of it."

Over the years, some people complained about the slogan, Kohl said. He also faced criticism for not mowing his lawn. It wasn't out of laziness, though. 

"My thing was not to kill plants," he explained. "I'm a devout vegan.”

As for the Church Street Streaking Club? That was an idea hatched at a dull party that turned into a ritual at every full moon, Kohl said. He and friends would dash around downtown Burlington naked, in summer and winter, even in frigid temperatures. "That caused some serious pain," Kohl said.

But he's not a nudist: "I didn't do it because I want to be naked in public. I definitely don’t. I don’t. I wanted more weirdness, more fun.’’

He's hoping the legacy of weirdness continues one way or another at the polka-dotted house.

"You never know — somebody buys the house and is either inspired to keep the message," Kohl said, "or maybe they’ll have their own."