A couple of years ago, I started shotgun hunting.
By that, I mean I started hunting for a teeny tiny shotgun house in need of some serious TLC. We had just moved into our house downtown, and each day I drove past an empty lot down the street from us. It had a little brick house on the back part of it, and I started dreaming about owning both the little brick house and the empty lot in front of it.
This little dream turned into a bigger one (because one big neglected historic home is just never enough!), and we ended up purchasing the house and double lot. Originally, the Nesbit home sat upon the empty lot in front, and their children built a home on the lot behind the parents’ house in the 1940s. The front walk leading up to the Nesbit’s steps still remains, although the home is long-gone. I’m told the home burned, but if anyone has any information about it, I sure would love to know! In the 1909 Sanborn Fire Map (the earliest that goes that far down our street), I can see the footprint of it – a one-story, wood dwelling.
Once we purchased the property, my hunt for a shotgun began in earnest. I think Wheat thought it was a nice idea and that I’d give it up, eventually. (You’d think he knew me better than that by now!) For some reason, this daydream really stuck, and after a year or so of constantly driving around in search of shotgun houses, then hunting down owners to see if they could be for sale, then getting quotes to move several of them, I finally found the one. My darling little dollhouse (as my friend Banks dubbed it):
There she sat, all along, having been condemned twice, having no front door, and partially demo’ed (and full of insulation).
After working to get a city ordinance to allow short term rentals (aka airbnb/vrbo/vacation rentals) allowed in the city limits, then obtaining a conditional use permit to move the little house AND operate a short term rental in the historic district, I got to work getting her moved!
Once in place, I got to work removing all the original windows and one door, which were surprisingly well intact, to restore from my basement. My contractor, his crew, and I have worked hard to salvage every item that was salvageable from the home. We vaulted the ceiling to make the space feel bigger, and saved and used all the wood from taking the ceilings down and one wall down to build the bathroom off the back of the home. The house was built with a hodgepodge of items, the drop ceiling was attached to pieces of tongue and groove flooring, which we saved and used to patch the existing hardwood floors. The original wood clapboard siding was saved and patched, repaired, and new matching siding extended around the addition. We’ve used all the true 2×4’s from the walls we saved to extend the new roof out over the new bathroom so that the ceilings could be vaulted in there, as well. Once I’m done restoring all the windows and the “new” antique Victorian front door, those will all be set again, along with a couple salvaged interior doors. Even the crummy old mailbox on the side of the house is getting a facelift! All this is not only to save money and valuable materials (because it does!), but so many people have asked me since I started this journey why I would move this condemned little house across town instead of building something new.
In short, I LOVE HISTORIC HOMES. I believe that all shapes and sizes of historic homes have a story worthy of listening to, and re-sharing. I believe that even little bitty, very un-fancy historic homes are worthy of saving. And I believe in our Historic District and making it a better place to live, work and play. New construction wouldn’t be made of old growth heart pine, it wouldn’t have gorgeous tongue and groove heart pine floors, and it wouldn’t have such a story to tell. I hope that everyone who stays in this home for years to come not only appreciates a comfy place to stay where they can walk and bike around our beautiful downtown, but also enjoys the history of this little home. I’m so grateful it was never torn down and for the opportunity to save it and give it a new story (and wild ride!) downtown.
There’s still a long way to go before the #GMBdollhouse is ready for guests… but stay tuned! I’ll post periodic updates here, but follow along with daily progress on my Instagram stories @goodmorningbainbridge and at the hashtag #GMBdollhouse!