People have been asking me for a while to start a blog. I’m really not sure that I’ll be all that entertaining, but if nothing else, it will be great to have a documentation of all the work my husband Doug and I are doing! We do the work together, but I’m the chatty one writing the blog.
Doug and I love old houses. To us, there is nothing appealing about living in a neighborhood where all of the houses look the same (and were built in 8 days). The history, charm, and mystique of old houses delights us.
“How did this start?”
It all began in New Philadelphia, Ohio. That is where I student taught, where I spent my first three years of teaching, and where we got married. If you’ve never been, New Phila (pronounced Philly) is a charming town, with an incredible collection of old homes. I taught at Welty Middle School and New Philadelphia High School, smack dab in the middle of a ton of historic homes. I lived on the second and third floors of a Victorian house that had been broken into 3 apartments. Just being immersed around the houses in the area gave me a fresh perspective on architecture. At first, I was mostly drawn to the houses that were perfectly done, and were immaculate. Then, I started seeing the beauty in the houses that were falling apart, and wishing someone – not me! – could come and fix them.
Fast forward to 2000. Doug and I got engaged, and bought a house. Looking back, it seems super boring compared to what we have now. But, it was our first house. Built in 1923, a Gable-Front 20th Century Vernacular. It had been completely renovated – all we did was paint some rooms and change the kitchen floor. Easy! But it was charming, and we loved it.
When we moved to Indianapolis in 2003, we had such a hard time getting our realtor to understand what the two of us wanted. “Pre-1940” I said. OVER AND OVER. The first couple of weekends out, she took us to “old” houses, you know, built in the 80’s. Once we got her to understand that we actually knew what we wanted, we found some gems. We ended up buying a 1930 Craftsman, in Speedway. The house was 2 blocks from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which was so much fun during Race times (really!). You’d never know until you heard the cars that we were that close – the neighborhood was so charming, even if some of our neighbors were horrid.
In this house, we did a bunch of work to the kitchen and the master bathroom. Lots of painting, exterior work, and a new roof as well. This is where we really started to take off. There was a bathroom downstairs that had HORRID wallpaper (my to-be nemesis). This bathroom used to be a closet – it was so small. There are no words for how tiny it was. When we removed the wallpaper, it had been installed incorrectly, so much of the wall came down with it. We got a quote to skim-coat it, and it was RIDICULOUS. Doug said, “You know, I bet I can do this. The materials will be about $50. If I screw up, we’re not worse off, really. I just can’t fathom spending a grand to do this.” It took forever (I think the toilet was sitting in the library for about 4 months), but it worked. We realized we could do things on our own. I had the vision, and he had the brain to research how to fix or create whatever my mind imagined.
Then, I decided to change jobs, and I went from an assistant band director to having my own program. We moved to Franklin, Indiana to be closer to my new school. Franklin is FILLED with Historic Homes, which was the appeal of moving to this lovely city. We fell in love with the first house we saw, but it was sold to someone else the day we saw it. Doug was so upset over losing the first house that he was pretty sour on seeing any others. When I said I wanted to see this house on Jackson Street, he humored me, but said no way. He HATED the pictures online. It looked ugly and run-down. But I had a gut feeling, and in we went. This house, the next one we loved was a Folk Victorian built in 1875. Most of it’s charm had been stripped, as it had been a rental – the Franklin College Baseball team lived there before us. Just let that soak in for a minute.
It was built as a boarding house, and most of the woodwork was intact. Doug and I re-did the kitchen, the three bathrooms (one of which ended up in “This Old House,”) and did so much painting and exterior work. We were flooded in the Midwest Floods of 2008, but luckily we didn’t lose too much. But it was a life-changing experience. We changed out the lighting to period appropriate pieces, and she began to shine. In 2012, Franklin Heritage awarded us the “Little Charmer” award for outstanding exterior renovation, and it was featured on the Franklin Heritage Home Tour in 2012.
Then, the house next door went into foreclosure. It was CHEAP. We went to look at it, honestly because we initially thought it was in bad enough shape to knock down, and we could have room for a garage. Once we went in, it was adorable. ADORABLE. In the following pictures, any color was added by us : Everything was white and dingy and dirty when we bought it. Powerwashing and painting added so much!
So, we decided to buy it and become landlords. Why not? There was no way I could knock it down. We aren’t done restoring it yet, but hopefully soon. We call it the Cottage. We did a small update to the exterior that made a big difference, and now we are restoring the inside. It’s a darling 2-Bedroom, 1-Bath.
We had owned the Cottage about a month, when a house that we had ALWAYS loved came on the market. There are about 5 houses in Franklin that we’ve said, “You know, not much will make us move from Jackson Street, but if one of these pops up, let’s check it out.” She is a gigantic Queen Anne Victorian. On a beautiful street, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. I looked at the price, and pretty much shouted down the stairs, “Seriously? This is so cheap. Let’s go see it!” My husband reminded me that we had already taken a real-estate gamble for the month. “Absolutely not,” he said.
But….. it looked like this. How on EARTH could we not go see it?!?!?!
There is a Balcony. AND A TURRET. Why would he not let me see it?
Because he’s smart. And he knew I would buy it if I stepped one foot inside it.
So, I waited for someone to buy it. And I was prepared to hate them for always. There was no way it would last long at that price. Then, we were coming home from my family’s beach place in Ocean City, Maryland. That’s a 13-hour drive. I was looking at Real Estate, because I am ridiculous. And the Victorian was even cheaper : The price dropped. I brought it up. CLEARLY, something was wrong with it. “Let’s just go see it, so we can say we’ve seen the inside, and we’ll know what’s wrong with it, and we can walk away.” That was the angle I went with. By hour 3, we were discussing it. By hour 5, we had a list of what we needed to do to Jackson Street to sell. By hour 7, we had set up an appointment with our realtor to see it. By hour 10, we were already buying it in our minds. I’ll go into more detail about what we found in a later post. But once we walked inside, we were done. It was love at first sight, and we needed to rescue her. So we put Jackson Street on the market, and started a new adventure. Bottom line : 13 hours in a car is WAY too much for us. We get into trouble.
So, that’s how we got here. Each house has in some way prepared us for the next. So when we walked into the mess of Martin Place, we were ready. Utterly, and completely ready.
But we don’t ever anticipate leaving Martin Place. It’s pretty spectacular.