4 Reasons Why Restoring Historical Homes is a Good Investment
Restored by Dallas architect Steve Chambers, AIA, the Daniels’ 1856 Dog Trot log home is in the piney woods near Tyler, Texas, where it functions as a guesthouse for a larger stone farmhouse nearby
Texas Architect Stephen B. Chambers, AIA, was recently featured in a story in the Wall Street Journal, “Living Like the Ancestors.” The link to the full article is at end of this blog. Writer Nancy Keates reported that more home renovations than ever before are focusing on historical restoration. In the 1970s, this niche in the remodeling market launched a robust industry of specialty magazines and retro products, but was hit hard by the 2008 recession. In 2014, restoration is regaining strength, as home buyers renew their attraction to preserving old homes.
Preserve Family History
Josiah Daniel IV says of his restored log home, “I can feel what it was like to live like my great-great-grandfather in the 1800s in the woods.” Chambers Architects’ clients Dallas attorney Josiah Daniel and his wife, Susan, were motivated by family history to restore the log house hand-built in 1856 by his Texas ancestor, also named Josiah Daniel. “We couldn’t let it go,” he says. They bought the home from his cousin and had the logs disassembled and reconstructed for what is now a guesthouse at their weekend farm in Smith County, Texas. The couple enthusiastically invested time and resources into the historically accurate restoration of the 900 square-foot log home that had been in Josiah’s family for over one hundred and fifty years. That meant taking off modifications added over the years, using the same hand-hewn method of his great-great-grandfather and employing early techniques for fashioning half-dovetail notches and mortise-and-tenon joinery.
Bedroom of Daniel’s log home, using the original 1856 Dog Trot pen, antique timbers and mortise and tenon joinery. The home won a Preservation Texas Award for Stewardship
Invest in Texas Built History
Amber and Walker Ross bought a Victorian home, built between 1908 and 1914, near the Square in Granbury, Texas. The “Granbury Courthouse Square” was the first town square in Texas to be listed in the National Register. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has modeled its Main Street Program after Granbury’s restoration efforts. The Texas Historical Commission designated the Bowden-Kinnon home as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark. When the couple decided to restore it, they realized they needed an architect. Steve Chambers encouraged the couple to reuse what they could and try to match what they couldn’t, such as the original pine, which has far fewer knots than pine today.
Sustain the Environment
Some owners don’t start out as preservationists. They admire the simple style of an early home, or its location in a historical area or preservation district. Often they become more interested in preservation after hiring an architect to restore their home and research its history. Sometimes the attraction is the thrill in finding a unique house with an unusual history. Whatever the reasons, retention of the ‘embodied energy’ already expended to construct an older home is a sustainable act. It enriches the community by re-using materials and increasing the appreciation and respect for the past.
For the Daniels, it was a desire to save a part of their family’s history. For the Rosses it was a respect for the past and an effort to preserve a prime example of their locale’s built history. But, sometimes it’s a just smart investment. While the cost of the restoration can be more than for a renovation using new materials, purchase prices of older homes are often significantly lower than what already-renovated houses cost in highly desirable neighborhoods.