Saturday, June 15, 2013

Old Houses

In the sequel to The World Undone, someone is going to buy an old house and renovate it, and that's all I will say about why I have a sudden interest in old houses.

My interest was sparked by the house you see above. In real life, this place is in Port Austin, MI. The property was bought by Charles Learned in the mid-1800s with money he made as a contractor involved with the Erie Canal. After making more money as a lumber baron and dairy farmer, he and his wife bought the house, enlarging and updating it in the 2nd Empire style. In recent times, it was a lovely restaurant/bed & breakfast, and on my first visit to the Thumb, Jerry and I had dinner there.

Sadly, something went wrong. Last summer I was dismayed to see the place had been deserted. The woodwork is deteriorating, the awing is torn, the garden is overrun with weeds. I wish I could buy the place and fix it up, but reasonably priced as it is, that's not going to happen. So I'm doing the next best thing: I'll have one of my characters do it.

Now comes the fun part. I've spent an inordinate amount of time in the past few weeks learning about 2nd Empire construction, the order of events for renovating a house, how to refinish a bathtub, and what sort of treasures might lie beneath someone's unfortunate ideas for modernizing an old home. Many thanks to my friends, Noni & Bill, for their advice and generosity in sharing the stories of their own experiences.

All I can say is if I'm this invested in the fantasy of renovating a house I will never actually own, I can only imagine how obsessed I would be if I were actually putting money into it and planning to live in it. Then again, given the intensity of writing a novel, I guess I will be living in it for the next year or two.

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