I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the “early days” of this project. Between meeting a lot of new people and being asked the inevitable, “How did this all start?” or, “What caused you to buy this/do this?” question, and talking to a friend who is hoping to move home and buy an old house, it’s been on my mind. And one thing became clear to be me. Even though we’ve told the story of Mom running in to the office and telling Eric and I that we were going to be buying a house, it doesn’t really tell the full story of how this project got off the ground.
After Mom first came in and I saw that the Horner House was for sale, I called Chad Lethig and asked him a few general questions about the property and got a bit more information than what was on the Indiana Landmarks webpage. We spoke for less than five minutes and while the information was intriguing, it was still more of a fantasy than anything else at that point. But it stayed with me over the next few days and the fantasy grew into a “what if”, and then a “why not”, and then it blended into the old dream of rehabbing an old house until the really hard question popped up.
How? How do we make this possible?
And when I began to answer that question is when the real trouble started. Because that was the moment we began walking down this road in earnest. The first thing we did was spend several hours crawling all over the property and inspecting every inch of the outside of the house that we could see from ground. We also began researching grants, loans, and other sources of funding, doing what digging we could into preservation as well as making further calls to Landmarks and making an appointment to see the inside of the house.
Picture taken inside the house on our first trip. This is the upstairs hall looking at the stairs. Notice the pile of plaster on the floor in the corner.
This picture was also taken on our first trip through the house. This is looking out the door of the upstairs bedroom into the West Wing. Notice the radiator and the refrigerator. Both are now gone. The refrigerator was stolen by scrappers and the radiator was moved to the garage for safekeeping, where it still was when the garage was burned down.
During one of our calls with Chad he mentioned a set of documents that are created and updated by the National Park Service called the Preservation Briefs. http://www.nps.gov/tps/how-to-preserve/briefs.htm There are 47 different documents, all but five having information that was pertinent to the Horner House. (For example The Preservation and Reuse of Historic Gas Stations was not something that we felt would be very helpful to us.) I printed and hole punched all forty-two documents filling three separate three ring binders, which we all passed among us and immediately read through. While these documents don’t tell you how to do the work, they do give a good overview of a lot of the pitfalls that those who are not knowledgeable in preservation will make.
After all of the trips to the site, conference calls, meetings between Eric, me, and my parents, hours of reading and research, we began work on our proposal for Indiana Landmarks. They asked for a comprehensive plan as to how we were going to restore the house and to what condition to be submitted for review before they would intervene with the city. So, we created a 21 page document with a 68 page addendum that included 77 pictures and a copy of a brochure on one of the proposed roofing systems. The almost funny part of this is that this proposal is only a very general one. J
But we did put a lot of thought and man hours into this plan, and while we have already run into quite a few unexpected problems and the timeline has been blown totally out of the water, we are still going to be working toward the same final goal of returning the Horner House to a solid and beautiful addition to the community.
I will be uploading the project plan to its own page, but it might take a couple of days to get the addendum with the pictures added as the formatting on it is not going to translate to this format easily.