Friday, January 24, 2014

Meet "The Manor"

About 9 months ago my husband and I purchased a 117 year old victorian home that has sat vacant for over 23 years in my hometown of Bevier, MO. There were 1,357,896 reasons not to buy it but after weeks of making lists of pro's & con's, sleepless mind racing nights & long conversations about the daunting task that would be ahead (most of the time over margaritas...the only fun part!), we decided to take the renovation plunge. I created this blog to document the ups, downs, victories, failures and to share the overall process of what we are doing with this historic home.

First of all a little bit about why I can toss logic to the wayside so easily. I love anything antique, ornate, big and unfortunately sometimes...broken. There are more times than I care to count where I lugged something home from an estate sale or auction that needed to be repaired (something Jeremy still tries to wrap his head around...but hey, if something can be fixed then it is not truly broken, right?). This is my logic anyway. If something is neglected but was once beautiful, I want to help it and bring it back to the way it was. After seeing this house literally fall apart over the years, I knew it needed someone to love it again. I mean...look at this window!

That's the only thing I needed to see. As Jeremy is looking at the foundation in the basement and the rafters in the attic and the falling brick and soffits that had long rotted away I'm saying, "Yeah, but did you see the stained glass windows and the woodwork!?". Where do we sign? :)

When renovating a home that you do not actually live in it is important to name it. That way you know which house you're talking about. Since I can remember I referred to it as "The LaSalle House" because in the 60's & 70's it was The LaSalle Boarding Home (insert Bates Motel theme song here)...creepy, I know. But some time after we purchased it my friend Amber would call me up & ask how things were going with the stuck. Meet "The Manor".

Not so bad, right?

Well let me also introduce you to the manors alter ego...lush summer manor.

She's bad & we don't like her.

These were actually taken a few summers before we purchased it but you can see just how neglected and sad this poor home was.

This is the house the day we bought it.

I have driven by this house a million times but pulling up to it as the owner was a pretty surreal moment that I will never forget. We stepped out of the truck & just stared at it & after a few minutes of complete shock I said, "Now what?". This was obviously a rhetorical question but we did what any other mentally insane couple who just bought a dilapidated old house would get your boots & gloves on & get dirty!

Now this is where my first lesson was learned. There is a huge difference between how long you THINK something will take & how long it will actually take. I knew the first step was to "de-jungle" the house so in my mind all we have to do is start clipping/pulling down vines, pull weeds & cut out the small trees that were growing out of the foundation. I thought, "We'll have power tools out & ready to repair wood rot by lunch!". WRONGO!!! I was only off by ohhh...several weeks. Trailer loads upon trailer loads upon trailer loads of brush, vines, weeds, thorns, etc...hauled away before we could even get to the rotten wood on the house. Nature had a firm grip on this house & it took forever to clear it away.

Second lesson learned: Trees can grow ANYWHERE. Three pictures up is the back of the house with an addition that was so rotten that it was literally pulling away from the house. See the tree that's in front of the window? It caught my eye a few times when we were battling the vines. I would look at it & think "Where the heck is that thing coming from?". Honestly, I thought it was growing up through the gap where the addition was pulling away from the house...I mean...trees have to come up through the ground, right? Well apparently, they don't. When we pulled the addition off (and I mean that quite literally...we pulled it off with a truck and some chains!), we discovered the tree was growing out of the house.

That little tree did a lot of damage but it has since been repaired & I was very happy to see the large hole in our house bricked up. I think the only thing that saved our butts is that the house is three brick deep so we had a layer to spare. Thank you builders of the past who constructed things to stand the test of time!

There is a silver lining to the jungle that we have inherited with the house...the gardens. I mentioned above that this house was a boarding home for many years. The woman who owned & operated the boarding home was named Marie LaSalle.

Marie loved her flowers & gardens & she kept them maintained perfectly. Here are some slides that I found in the home.

I'm sure the jungle that we waded through is attributed to the massive gardens that she had but the silver lining is that a lot of them are still there. Last Spring and Summer I would see tons of flowers mixed in with the brush all over the lot. The house is top priority right now but I am pretty excited to see what kind of gardens I can resurrect on the grounds when the time comes. That is the frame of mind you have to keep when working on this house. You have to see past the wood rot and see the ornate details. You have to see past the broken and see what it once looked like and what it still can be. You have to see past the weeds and see the hidden gardens.