1886 Queen Anne – Saginaw, MI

Added to OHD on 9/2/14   -   Last OHD Update: 4/12/20   -   96 Comments
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523 S Jefferson Ave, Saginaw, MI 48607

Map: Street

  • $37,000
  • 5 Bed
  • 4 Bath
  • 5819 Sq Ft
  • 0.88 Ac.
This 5800 Sq. Ft.+ Queen Anne style home offers an incalculable amount of Saginaw History just waiting for the right person to restore it back to its former grandeur. Built in 1886, this home boasts over five bedrooms, four full baths, and a dining room filled with rich mahogany. A stately living room houses a glass mosaic fireplace facing with a wisteria blossom design by Orlando Giannini, all on just under one acre of land. Home to be sold with easement to protect fireplace and exterior of home.
Contact Information
Ryan Seifferlein, Keller Williams Realty
(989) 792-8200
Links, Photos & Additional Info

State: | Region: | Associated Styles or Type:
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96 Comments on 1886 Queen Anne – Saginaw, MI

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  1. Kelly, OHDKelly, OHD says: 11931 comments

    1901 Folk Victorian
    Chestatee, GA

    Thanks Susan for the submission.

    I honestly thought this home had been torn down about a year or longer ago. I’m so glad to see it’s up for sale, perhaps it has a chance to be restored now.

  2. Nikki Engel (gypsywolf) says: 10 comments

    they are having an open house of this place sometime in September – i’ll post the date when i figure it out.

    • RosewaterRosewater says: 6676 comments
      OHD Supporter

      1875 Italianate cottage
      Noblesville, IN

      Hope you get the chance to go Nikki. TAKE – LOTS – OF PICTURES – pleeeeease 😉 especially basement and attic, and all the details you see…

  3. RossRoss says: 2455 comments
    OHD Supporter

    1894 QueenAnneFreeClassic
    Emporia, KS

    I am INSANE for this place!

    No time now though; more later.


    The glass mosaic fireplace facing with a wisteria blossom design by Orlando Giannini? Giannini also worked for Frank Lloyd Wright:


  4. RossRoss says: 2455 comments
    OHD Supporter

    1894 QueenAnneFreeClassic
    Emporia, KS

    Oh, and Streetview is much nicer than I had anticipated!

  5. says: 15 comments

    This obviously was a fabulous house when it was in its prime. It’s exactly the style that I love, and so it’s very depressing to see it so shattered and disemboweled. Glad to see that efforts have been made to stabilize it and begin restoration. That said, I have been to Saginaw quite a few times and it is a gritty, bleak place. It would be hard for me to live there.

    • lynsey says: 26 comments

      I totally agree though my first word choice was “mutilated” but disemboweled works too. I just wonder how in the world a house that was probably once very beautiful was dare I say desecrated to such an extent. If I had been the owner of this house I would never have let that happen. They’re too rare to let them fall like that.

  6. Bethany says: 3511 comments

    This is one of the most intriguing fixer-uppers I have seen on this site! That fireplace alone is amazing. I don’t understand the “easement to protect fireplace and exterior.” Can anyone explain that?

    • RossRoss says: 2455 comments
      OHD Supporter

      1894 QueenAnneFreeClassic
      Emporia, KS

      Bethany, an easement is a legal way to protect a property. For example, in numerous Frank Lloyd Wright-designed homes, the stained-glass windows will have an easement. This means that a buyer cannot rip out the stained glass windows and sell them.

      This happened with the famous Blacker House by Greene & Greene. From Wikipedia:

      “In 1985, the Blacker House was purchased by Barton English, a Princeton graduate and rancher from Texas, and Michael Carey, a prominent dealer of Arts and Crafts era antiques from New york City. Shortly after close of escrow, Mr. English hired a well known local antique dealer to remove more than forty-eight original lighting fixtures for him. Later he also removed some of the leaded art glass doors, windows, and transom panels; only after commissioning a well known local studio to produce exact reproductions of the doors and windows that were to be removed. Many of the original pieces were sold on the art market. This incident has been referred to as the “Rape of the Blacker House”.”

      This now notorious incident created long-term repercussions, and many many historic homes now have protective easements as a result.

      I plan on creating an easement to protect all the stained-glass windows, and fireplace mantles, in my Cross House.

      • lynsey says: 26 comments

        Cool. Thanks for the history lesson. I didn’t know what an easement was and that’s a great way to protect houses of intrinsic value. I think I’ll look up that Blacker House thing to read more.

    • Jim says: 5157 comments

      Bethany, Ross has the gist of it, but most likely they’re referring to a Protective Covenant in the deed which prohibits subsequent owners from removing the fireplace or altering the exterior. Preservation Easements are a different animal that cost money to draft and file, someone is paid to manage them, and in Michigan only designated historic properties are eligible, which may not be the case here. Usually Preservation Easements (like Conservation Easements on land) are used to create tax deductions in addition to protecting the property, which isn’t really applicable on a $37,000 house.

  7. Sage says: 52 comments

    Wow, what a place! It must have been breathtaking in its heyday. I adore these Queen Anne/ Arts and Crafts hybrid houses. The staircase with the big windows and that mosaic fireplace are particularly fine.
    Bethany, easements are legal stipulations or contingencies that a new owner has to follow. The most common type of easements are right of ways, like when your driveway crosses a neighbor’s property, or shore access. But there are also conservation easements. I’ve only ever seen them used for land, to prevent subdivision and development, but this description makes it seem like you can use one to prevent changes to structures. I thought there was a different term for that but I’m no expert.
    It’s very cool that the current owners are hoping for restoration and preservation, at any rate, though that probably reduces the number of interested parties quite a bit.

  8. RossRoss says: 2455 comments
    OHD Supporter

    1894 QueenAnneFreeClassic
    Emporia, KS

    If I were a potential buyer, a big concern would not, so much, be the condition. No, I would be more concerned about the missing bits, such as all the stained-glass windows, and mantles.

    I am wondering if these bits are stored away, or might be available?

    One can always replace/repair old plaster, old pipes, and peeling paint. It is VERY hard replacing vital missing bits. And very expensive!

  9. John Shiflet says: 5450 comments

    Compare this house with the similar towered Queen Anne in Sioux City, Iowa, posted today. No doubt, they were similar in their heyday (but this one was arguably more ornate) but while the Iowa Queen Anne retained most of the lavish period details, the best features in this house are largely gone. They would be irreplaceable today assuming you could find archival photos to show what they once looked like. How such a grand home as this could be allowed to fall into such disrepair and extreme neglect could be the topic of a discussion about American cultural values. I blame this tendency for once grand Victorian era homes to be allowed to go to ruin on the harsh criticism leveled against Victorian architecture during the early decades of the 20th century. For 50 years, Victorian era architectural was lambasted by critics as a lapse of good taste. Other factors leading to such embarassing decline are rising costs of maintenance/service staff, as well as shifting demographic patterns. Last,and perhaps most importantly, changes in the local economy are surely to blame especially in the Industrial Midwest. A look at Woodworking trade magazines from the turn of the last century showed dozens of adds for woodworking machinery made in Michigan-that entire economic sector is now gone. I surely hope someone will step forward with the resources and vision to bring this one back to a reasonable facsimile of what it once looked like. Such a faded grand home deserves a second chance.

  10. Robb says: 187 comments

    This house is not so bad actually. I have seen way too many houses where an ambitious home renovator or restorer comes in and tears up everything to later lose interest or run out of funds. The house later sits and pieces get sold off, stolen or lost and then the house is close to worthless.

    • Paul WPaul W says: 468 comments

      Based on sq footage and what I see this house needs: the first 500K gets it campable, the second 500K gets it livable and the last 500K turns it into a “Nice place” but it will never be what it once was.

      Short of some deep pocket person wanting to make “personal statement” I doubt this house had much of a chance. If you don’t have 1.5-2 Mil in your back pocket you shouldn’t even be dreaming of buying it.

      • AudreyAudrey says: 102 comments

        Overestimating restoration costs doesn’t do anyone any favors, & could potentially discourage potential buyers that visit this site. I’d safely say you could 1/2 all your es5imates & still come in under budget. Especially if you have any handy man skills whatsoever or act as your own general contractor.

        • Paul WPaul W says: 468 comments

          Audrey: as a historic preservation consultant and someone who writes bid specs for restoration I know what things cost. In fact I’m the guy that typically comes in 1-2 years into restoration and tell the owners just what their 10 percent finished project is really going to cost, and they already have blown their budget. The problem with a house like this is what the skilled tradespersons charge and if they are even willing to travel where you are to do the work.

          Jim : I understand why they would put a protective covenant on this house. Personally I’d have to see the scope of it to determine if its a “deal breaker”. Protective covenants serve a purpose. We put them in my neighborhood on our save not raze properties. Basically requiring exterior work be done to preservation standards (no vinyl) and the house be a single family). We don’t do interior covenants at all because that is a deal breaker, people want to do what they want on the inside. If you have to chose. the outside and single family is the way to go. If this neighborhood association has done their homework they may know what its going to cost to do the restoration (we do estimates on ours)and they are normal Victorian era homes not something like this. At least it looks like it has good roof because I would imagine it will sit for years until a buyer with the right kind of deep pockets comes along. We have people submit a restoration plan with their offer and its amazing how unrealistic their estimates are. If you are trying to really ‘save’ something, far better to wait until the right person comes along, than sell it to someone ‘dreaming’ with limited skills and no pocketbook.

          This is the kind of house that a corporate use or foundation might find useful because its simply beyond the typical old house person to bring back and they are not going to ever have to worry about getting their actual investment back.

          • Ross says: 2455 comments

            Hi Paul!

            Respectfully, I must strongly disagree!

            By your accounting, I should not have purchased the Cross House without $2.5M in my back pocket.

            Well, I had vastly vastly vastly less. But I did have many decades experience with restoring old houses. And I also work on the house myself, and with a small, carefully selected crew. The young, new guy costs me $10 an hour, and the main, experienced guy is $25 an hour.

            I do agree that this house COULD cost $2M to restore IF the new owners had no experience restoring old homes, and IF they had no skills, and IF they hired highly qualified but highly expensive artisans to restore the whole.

            But…I can also easily see a retired couple with many decades of restoration under their belts, and with many decades of acquired skills, dedicating their lives to slowly bringing the house back. And they might need around $250K in cash to do so.

            By your first figure ($500K to make the house campable) I assume you mean a gold-plated camp with a mink-lined tent? Because I could make such a house campable for a lot less. One would need a temporary kitchen ($2K), a temporary bathroom ($2K), new water and waste lines ($10K), one room made made nicer ($2K), temporary heating ($2K), and a window AC ($400). So, for around $18K one could move into the house, or $482,000 less than your estimate.

            Paul, I highly value all your fine work and experience. But I have to concur with Audrey on this one.

          • Jim says: 5157 comments

            Paul and Ross, I understand that covenants and easements can be useful tools in preserving old houses and neighborhoods, and something might be appropriate here. It does seem though that the horse has left the barn already to some degree, and I don’t see a need for the owners and their realtor to highlight restrictions when they should be promising support and assistance. (I hope there’s a backup plan for that fireplace which belongs in a museum.)

            • RossRoss says: 2455 comments
              OHD Supporter

              1894 QueenAnneFreeClassic
              Emporia, KS

              Hi Jim!

              The price of this house is SO low that I fully understand, and support, the easements. I would not, as a potential buyer, at all feel that the easements were restrictive.

              Jim, somebody could buy this house just to strip it. It seems crazy, I know, but you would be surprised at how often this happens.

              To the right person, those Giannini fireplace tiles are worth $$$$$. And, exterior trim/brackets/etc. can be sold.

              No, I am grateful that the current stewards of the house had the foresight to protect it. Bravo!!!!

              • Jim says: 5157 comments

                Ross, the house hasn’t been used as a family home since 1949 and Saginaw has gone way downhill since. The current owners have been trying to get it sold and restored for 10 years without success. It’s noble that they’ve stabilized and protected the property, but they’re holding on for an extreme long shot.

        • RosewaterRosewater says: 6676 comments
          OHD Supporter

          1875 Italianate cottage
          Noblesville, IN

          Audrey: you know, both Paul and Ross are right from their points of view. I would just add this; I’ve seen cases like this before where a young couple, (hippies ;-), have bought a house like this and taken 20 years to fix it. If you are the type of person/people who can, AND ENJOY, spending most of your free time, and money, doing this and that and every other thing, and spending the next decade or more living in sawdust, it can be done. Considering the location x3, it is going to have to be a labor of love with NO view to compensatory re-sale. This is just the type of house, at just the price, which may find such a savior. I hope so. I think it’s rad as heck! This would be one of those cases where I would support a multi unit conversion, concurrent with façade restoration, in order to preserve a great house and maintain the historic continuity of the neighborhood. It’s got a good roof and a great foundation, so from my mind, everything else is do-able. Would I want to attempt, not to mention HEAT this monster? No sir!

          • Ross says: 2455 comments

            Hi Rosewater!

            I do not recommend that anybody spend 20 years living in sawdust! Even hippies! Yikes!

            It seems that the only way to retain sanity while working on a Big Old House is the one room approach: finish one room, then move onto the next.

            So, I would initially make one room, as Paul suggests, campable.

            Then, I would focus all my initial energy on restoring the exterior. This will garner tremendous goodwill!

            After the exterior was complete (and gorgeous!), I would fully restore, say, the living room. This would allow the luxury of spending evenings in a gorgeous finished room.

            Then I might move onto a bedroom. And so on.

            I can spend many years occupying in a work-in-progress. But I need the rooms LIVED in to be finished.

          • Paul WPaul W says: 468 comments

            Rosewater, its always the things you can’t do yourself that kill ya. For example people may be able to reglaze a window, but do they know how to restore and custom mill a rotted base of window? 200-400 bucks is not uncommon, especially if you need to have custom knives to match profile and if you want you interior to match you probably are looking not at white pine but reclaimed old growth wood if you want the interior graining to match. You want old glass? Add for that. Of course if the window has been leaking for years, the wood that holds the window in, is rotted too. When you get on that second floor on this house and start scaping the siding? Most of that siding will fall off because its not nailed to anything anymore.

            Most people also wont have 3 stories of scaffold so they have to rent it…for months and years. You are not going to find somebody for 25 bucks an hr to rebuild those architectural paneled gables and the millwork costs for those missing pieces.

            And then there is staircase parts replacement. Just insulating the house could run more than acquisition and if you want storm windows add 30-40K for anything that will look correct. Period appropriate wood mantels? Good luck find one the right size and if you have one made? 5 grand a pop. Milling staircase parts (well beyond the average restorer). Probably looking at 20-30 grand in period light fixtures (again if you can find them) REALLY restoring this house will not be cheap if you do it right.

            I suppose if you have couple of decades (and your knees and back hold out), can afford a divorce lawyer (that’s inevitable) and have secret Swiss bank account, it makes sense.

            In many cities this would be 4-6 condos but Saginaw isn’t Chicago. I always hate it when ones like this come along because I know what’s hiding under it 99.9 percent of the people have no clue what they would be getting into.

            I had dinner with a friend of ours last week at his gorgeous home. He’s owned it for 15 years, I told him when he bought it what it would cost and he laughed that no they do a lot of the work themselves (they did) but his 200K rehab finished out at 850K, The property taxes now run 12K a year and its been on the market off and on for 4 years last time 1/2 what they started ( They started at 1.1 million). Its been on here too I might add. They hope to list at 425K but are not optimistic. The house is well insulated but with three zones they still were looking at 1500 a month to heat 7000 sq ft in last years Polar Vortex winter. Thank goodness he has high paying job.

            That’s the real world of restoring the big homes that need everything, someday you ‘need’ to sell.

            • RossRoss says: 2455 comments
              OHD Supporter

              1894 QueenAnneFreeClassic
              Emporia, KS

              Hi again Paul!

              While I fully appreciate that everything you state is possible, I must, again, respectfully, offer another perspective.

              You wrote: “people may be able to reglaze a window, but do they know how to restore and custom mill a rotted base of window? 200-400 bucks is not uncommon, especially if you need to have custom knives to match profile and if you want you interior to match you probably are looking not at white pine but reclaimed old growth wood if you want the interior graining to match. You want old glass? Add for that. Of course if the window has been leaking for years, the wood that holds the window in, is rotted too.”

              My Cross House has its original window sashes. They are 120 years old. They are SCARY looking, and most people would discard them without a second thought. However, under all the peeling paint and bad reglazing jobs is GORGEOUS old wood in near mint condition. The before/after images I have are astonishing!

              I have a guy working full time on them. I pay him $18 an hour. I taught him how to restore windows, and built a shop for him in the commodious basement. He has a super anal-compulsive quality so I recognized that he would IDEAL for the job!

              Occasionally, some of the bottom sash rails are just gone. One of my new neighbors has a full shop. He offered to remake the bases, and in old wood he has stored away. He refuses payment, and states that he is THRILLED to help on the Cross House (his house is by the same architect).

              We have found only a single rotted window sill.

              I go to salvage yards and pick up old sashes (for the old glass) at like $25 a sash.

              You wrote: “When you get on that second floor on this house and start scaping the siding? Most of that siding will fall off because its not nailed to anything anymore.”

              My siding looks great. Very little will be replaced, like 10 percent. Under it is solid old growth lumber.

              You wrote: “Most people also wont have 3 stories of scaffold so they have to rent it…for months and years.”

              I purchased two 3-story towers for $400 each from a local guy (found on Craig’s List). A neighbor loaned a third tower. He, too, is THRILLED to help.

              You wrote: “You are not going to find somebody for 25 bucks an hr to rebuild those architectural paneled gables and the millwork costs for those missing pieces.”

              I found just such a person. No, I could not find such a person in, say, the NYC area. But in Saginaw? Yes, likely.

              You wrote: “And then there is staircase parts replacement.”

              It stated that the missing stair parts were still in the house.

              You wrote: “Just insulating the house could run more than acquisition.”

              In this, I concur!

              You wrote: “and if you want storm windows add 30-40K for anything that will look correct.”

              Agreed, again, but I will not be using storm windows on my house. I will be using peel-away caulk on the windows. I have had very good luck with such caulk.

              You wrote: “Period appropriate wood mantels? Good luck find one the right size and if you have one made? 5 grand a pop.”

              Agree that finding the right mantles is not easy. However, I come across stunning mantles for less than $1,000. No, such prices would not be typical for the NYC area, but Saginaw?

              You wrote: “Probably looking at 20-30 grand in period light fixtures (again if you can find them).”

              Agree, but I will not be installing a single period lighting fixture in my house. Yet the house will be filled with stunning lighting and for less than $10K. Yes, it will help that I am in the business!

              You wrote: “REALLY restoring this house will not be cheap if you do it right.”

              Agreed. But we disagree on how much is how much!

            • RosewaterRosewater says: 6676 comments
              OHD Supporter

              1875 Italianate cottage
              Noblesville, IN

              Hehehe. Yeah, I get it. I’ll bet your talking about that house over by the Butler house on the Old North Side, with the great, untouched summer kitchen through a breezeway porch out the back. They’re just asking too much is all. If they’d price reasonably that house would have sold years ago.

              BTW – Have you ever seen inside this one: http://www.trulia.com/property/3011533649-BUTLERS-COLLEGE-CORNER-AD-1241-Broadway-St-Indianapolis-IN-46202 Always wondered what was up in there…

              Funny you mention rotten window sills. Check out the mess I had to fix last month, the previous owner had covered the rotten sill with a sheet of tin – hehehe: https://www.flickr.com/photos/regulusalpha/sets/72157646799492350/

  11. Amy L says: 2 comments

    More information on this home is available on the “Save This Old House” website.


  12. says: 29 comments

    *jaw drop* OMG what a gorgeous house. Can you believe that staircase???? Wow. I hope someone saves it.

  13. Betsy says: 157 comments

    I find a number of things surprising about this home, considering its location .
    1. How lovely it is , still
    2. Someone in Saginaw cares about it
    3. It looks like it has been cleaned up and stabilized
    4. How much is left

  14. says: 15 comments

    John Shiflet wrote: “How such a grand home as this could be allowed to fall into such disrepair and extreme neglect could be the topic of a discussion about American cultural values. I blame this tendency for once grand Victorian era homes to be allowed to go to ruin on the harsh criticism leveled against Victorian architecture during the early decades of the 20th century. For 50 years, Victorian era architectural was lambasted by critics as a lapse of good taste. Other factors leading to such embarassing decline are rising costs of maintenance/service staff, as well as shifting demographic patterns. Last,and perhaps most importantly, changes in the local economy are surely to blame especially in the Industrial Midwest.”

    You hit the nail on the head, John. Victorian architecture, especially the Queen Anne and Second Empire subsets, were considered monstrous and vulgar from the 1920s well into the 1970s. Such architecture was not only deemed not worth saving; in fact, there was outcry from public officials and “guardians of good taste” to tear it all down and as quickly as possible. Victorian architecture in the mid-20th century faced what finned 1950s American automobiles faced in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s: an embarrassment on the part of the public that the styling had gone too far, that it was excessive and ostentatious. The public — for decades — did not comprehend the value of that architecture (or those ’50s cars) in terms of pure art, aesthetics, engineering, or historical context.

    • Joseph says: 415 comments

      While tastes change, many of the reasons for these going by the wayside are social,financial and demographic changes. Even if this house was in pristine condition, just how many people are out there who would choose to live a grand lifestyle suitable to that house, particularly if they had to do it in Saginaw.

      And not just the Victorian style – when the large number of 1920s style “bungalow” houses in our area were not in fashion, realtors would try just about any term to describe them – now that they are more popular, they are all “Craftsman” etc.

      If the loss of wonderful homes depresses you, by all means do not ever read “No Voice from the Hall” about the lost grand country houses of Britain.

  15. Paul WPaul W says: 468 comments

    The other challenge one has with tis house is simple logistics. The people who do restoration work have all left for cities where they can make some money. So you also are looking at the cost of bringing people in to do the work. I see this al the time, people don’t count the additional cost of bringing in skilled trades that do this kind of work.

  16. Kelly, OHDKelly, OHD says: 11931 comments

    1901 Folk Victorian
    Chestatee, GA

    Commas in hyperlinks confuse the editor, sorry. You can click here or copy and paste like Jim suggested.

  17. Jim says: 5157 comments

    I spent some time looking around the neighborhood and at some city info. There are worse places for sure, though this doesn’t look like the kind of place that a millionaire is going to invest the tremendous amount of money that a complete restoration would require. In a larger metro area, there are people with money that might be willing to take a chance on a borderline neighborhood, but in a isolated town like this those people are very rare. Maybe the best chance this house has to survive is if a local person with some money and skills, and lots of energy wants to commit the next few years of his life to keep it standing, making it look presentable, and livable inside. I see from Amy’s link that the house is owned by a neighborhood group, which explains the sign and the children’s garden in the yard. Since groups like that often have donated legal work perhaps they do intend to create a Preservation Easement, though sometimes the well-intended requirements can scare off potential buyers. Personally I would never get involved in something where I was taking all the risk but I had to answer to a committee with lots to say and nothing to lose.

  18. Ross says: 2455 comments

    Hi Jim!

    You wrote: “I would never get involved in something where I was taking all the risk but I had to answer to a committee with lots to say and nothing to lose.”

    I do not read anything about this house which indicates that such a situation exists.

    Yes, a preservation group owns the house. But they want to sell the house. I do not read that they intend to camp out in the living room after the sale and tell the new owner what to do.

    Yes, there will be a protective easement on the exterior (so, no vinyl siding, and no ripping off brackets) and one fireplace tile surround. But who would disagree with not rightly restoring these?

    I think this is a great opportunity for the right person. It is a great house, too! With a new $$$$$ roof!

  19. Ross says: 2455 comments

    Yes, Saginaw has many problems, as do so many once formerly industrial cities.

    But Saginaw has a great asset.

    It fronts the Saginaw River, which soon feeds into magnificent Lake Huron, which connects with all the Great Lakes.

    If I purchased this house I would also purchase a boat. And every non-winter weekend, baby, I would off!

  20. says: 94 comments

    As is typical, I’ll pipe in here in defense of restoring this property for an attainable sum. First off, new roof – doesn’t get better than that. Secondly, this house is so cheap for a reason – and many similar houses have already been lost in the area. What this means for the restorer is that appropriate and reasonably priced salvage can be found if you’re clever. Often times demolition contractors do pull out and keep things, it’s just a matter of tracking them down. I’ve come across several mansion grade mantels for less than 1000 where I am – and honestly, this house looks more intact that not. Things get pricey when you have to rebuild from scratch or preserve existing finishes, there’s not much of that that needs to happen with this house. As for trades work, 60 grand will probably get you new electrical, plumbing, repaired/used boiler and repaired plaster. After that diy (as long as you’re handy), even if you have to teach yourself, will get you through the rest as long as you don’t lose interest (or try and hold to the one room at a time mantra of those who haven’t done this work before lol).

    • Paul WPaul W says: 468 comments

      Meg, in Saginaw they require two sets of plans done by an Michigan registered architect (signed and stamped) on any house or commercial structure over 3500 sq feet, and you haven’t even begun the fees for individual alteration permits AND you will most likely have to pay for site fencing and liability insurance bond (to protect the public from wandering onto your job site). Also Saginaw (like many Midwestern cities) is very much a “union” town which means everyone on site has a union card. There will also be the on site inspection fees, final inspection fees and because you have no choice but to open up the can of worms of inspections when you are done your property taxes will take major hit. If you hire a painting contractor they have to use “lead safe” protocols meaning your yard has to be tarped while they bag the paint chips and usually lead testing fees as well. Heaven forbid if you have any linoleum or asbestos on the pipes because you have to hire the abatement folks for that because the union plumbers are not allowed to touch it.

      I’d be really surprised if between the architect fees, the permit review, the permit inspections you could even be allowed to start work for 60K on a house this size. Given its owned by a neighborhood association I doubt they will let you slide on permits.

      My neighbor across the street in Cincinnati just redid a cute little 1910 bungalow about 700 sq feet. She paid 10K for it and she did exactly what I told her to do she got 3 bids on everything, did all the bonding checks on the subs. The original windows were all rebuilt (its a brick house so not a lot of painting to do) She is almost done and she spend 60,000 on a 700 sq ft house. Less than 100 bucks a sq ft. Most rehabs in Cincinnati are running 150-200 sq ft. I might add she did a lot of work herself and I got her some day help guys who worked cheap.

      This is a almost 6000 sq ft house and its mansion grade not a little starter brick bungalow. The onslaught of regulations from EPA and OSHA have tied the hands of contractors. If you live in a decent sized city with a building and permitting department all that ‘over-regulation’ costs. That’s why big houses like this one are the way they are. No one can jump through all the government regulatory hoops and actually fix the house at an affordable price.

      • RossRoss says: 2455 comments
        OHD Supporter

        1894 QueenAnneFreeClassic
        Emporia, KS

        Well Paul, I must once again, respectfully, offer another perspective.

        I once had an architectural design firm in NYC. You talk about an expensive place to work? And union? Yikes!

        Yet in my twelve years creating luxurious places for the wealthy, only once was I forced to use union labor, and that was for an office in Rockefeller Center.

        At my house, I am allowed to do any work on the house (as it is my home) like painting, wiring, plumbing, etc.

        This includes scraping off any old exterior paint. However, if I hire anybody to scrape paint, that person has to take an eight hour course to get state-certified to deal with the lead issues. A friend of mine in San Francisco just encountered the same thing. But, it is not a big deal.

        Nor do I see why this house would need an architect. It already exists. Yes, a good architect can help guide an inexperienced new owner with a restoration. But, a new owner with a long experience restoring old houses would not need an architect.

        While I do not know the specifics of Saginaw, I find it hard to fathom $60K in fees before one even gets started.

        • Paul WPaul W says: 468 comments

          Ross , I had to change a window recently and I had to reduce the size (bathroom remodel), I actually used a historic frosted window which I got for 50 bucks on craigslist and re glazed and restored it. While the 50.00 for the window was great the 285.00 Cincinnati permit fee and the 3 trips before I could get a supervisor to agree that I didn’t need architectural drawing for reducing a window opening 6 inches in height was not fun. I might add this was my own house. Many states now require architect stamped drawings on major projects or remodels.

          I worked on getting a project through historic commission review recently as a consultant for client in a “Midwestern” city. Their architect had been ‘fighting’ with the city for 6 months between plan reviews, plan changes, architectural illustrations/drawings and permits, and still had not been approved and they had spent 22K. I basically figured out what the commission wanted to hear, and gave them that, and their problem was solved.

          Its not at all unusual to get mired down in permits and plan reviews these days , especially since cities have realized that permits mean more money for them.

          • RossRoss says: 2455 comments
            OHD Supporter

            1894 QueenAnneFreeClassic
            Emporia, KS

            Paul, I would never mean to suggest that a home owner does not sometimes have to deal with nonsense, and nonsense which can eat up $$$.

            My concern, rather, is the idea that such nonsense is universal regarding an old house restoration.

            When I had a house in Newport, I applied for a waiver to build a deck. A friend warned me that I would NEVER get a waiver, and he told me the TERRIBLE tale he went through trying to obtain a waiver to build a tiny rear extension. All his neighbors arrived at city hall en masse to protest. He never got his tiny extension.

            “Golly”, I replied. Then wrote all my neighbors a note explaining the waiver. When I went to the city council meeting where my fate would be determined, the mayor asked if there were any neighbors to object.

            None rose. The Mayor said: “Well, that is a first,” banged his gavel, and said: “Approved!”

      • says: 94 comments

        I too am in the rustbelt, and am restoring a mansion grade house. We’ve paid to have the electrical and plumbing done from scratch, as well as the 5 chimneys and slate roofs. We’ve paid less than 1000 in inspections and permits – our architectural drawings and permits/inspections to rebuild the cantilevered stair bay was were another 800. Thus my difficulty in seeing where 60,000 in fees comes in. The house is built and complete – why would you have to involve an architect in any way unless you were interested in doing a bastardized open plan “update” or needed to rebuild the foundation? Other than mechanicals, everything the house needs is doable by its new owner – even exterior painting (for instance we have 6 levels of scaffolding we bought for 300 – and we’re doing the bulk to the scraping and painting ourselves to avoid the new lead laws). Beyond that, unless there is asbestos to abate I just don’t see the problems you suggest are endemic to all restorations – just lots of sawdust in the lungs and spiders in the hair for the next 10 years…

        This house has the added benefit of belonging to a preservation society, the members of which will likely be invaluable to connecting the new owner to tradespeople in the surrounding area, and whose members may be willing to participate in helping the new owners for free or discounted depending on their specialties or professions.

  21. Robb says: 187 comments

    We just redid a 5200 sq ft 1893 Victorian in an area with Unions, etc but we avoided many of the pitfalls that Paul discusses. We may or may not have had lead paint in and/or on the house but we did not have to tent/contain things. We did some of the mass restoration ourselves and used work of mouth trade people. No unions! Our house was a restaurant, nursing home, B&B and more during its life so there was a lot of funky things doen to the place including a lined/padded sprinkler system. The house was a mess when we bought it. Not as bad as this one but close. We reinsulated it, new mechanicals, plumbing, exterior and interior painting, removal of ceilings and a ton more including restoration of wood that was missing and adding vintage light fixtures. We came in at less than $75K including permits from contractors that needed them (mechanicals). It can be done anyplace like Saginaw. If you are Union you may suggest using Union but we are not. We are just two people in the banking world who restore homes. You just need to be smart when you do houses like this and not be the people sipping their drinks while outside contractors do the work.

  22. Paul WPaul W says: 468 comments

    I am like you I try to get the best price, fortunately an owner is still allowed to scrape and paint their own house , but some municipalities are now requiring lead safe protocol even for owners. I do know, if you hire a contractor, and they don’t have someone who is EPA certified, they can issue a “stop work’ your project and fine you. I had some friends of mine who found them selves in this situation and its been a nightmare. Lead safe protocols are adding 30 percent or more to the cost of paint job because of the extra labor in tarping, bagging and inspection costs.

    I’ve been telling people ever since the new lead safe regs came out that if they have outside stuff to do, and they can do it themselves regarding painting, they should do it as I strongly suspect that the feds will eventually not permit owners to do this work in the future.

  23. RossRoss says: 2455 comments
    OHD Supporter

    1894 QueenAnneFreeClassic
    Emporia, KS

    Hi again Paul!

    Your numerous comments above would suggest that nobody should take on a Big Old House needing work unless they are millionaires.

    As I mentioned above, by your standards, I should not have purchased my house because I did not have $2.5M on hand to pour into the house.

    This debate reminds of of two heroes of mine, Joe Johnson and Ron Markwell. In 1984, the couple, both school teachers, purchased a Big Old House needing a ton of work, the Allyn Mansion in Delavan, Wisconsion. Such work included the miracle of rebuilding a lost tower, and a lost two-story porch, among other $$$$ miracles.

    Fast forward several decades and the house was restored, magnificent, and a wonder. All this was accomplished on school teacher salaries.

    Did the owners spend a ton of money in the end? Yes. But, and this is my point, they restored the house on paltry incomes.

    This is their miracle:


    Bravo. Bravo!

  24. Paul WPaul W says: 468 comments

    There is always an exception or two to the rule. I’ve done it myself, however, working with people struggling everyday to try to fix their ‘dreamhouse’ that they figured “somehow” they be able to do, I see the more usual outcome and it often isn’t pretty. Either for the homeowner or the house. How many half done houses pop up here under foreclosure a month, because the people ran out of money, ran out of patience and, for their own sanity, walked away, often at a huge financial loss?

    I encourage people to restore but I also encourage them, they need be realistic about how much they can take on, understand how much it can potentially cost and not kid themselves into believing they are going to somehow master skills that take many years to learn to do and hope they find some “ninja, guru, handyman” who is the Michelangelo of all things restoration and will work cheap. It doesn’t happen for the vast majority of people who take on an old house restoration.

    And Ross, when you finish your house restoration, we can talk at length about what it cost, but as I understand it you are not done yet. Lots can happen along the way.

    • RossRoss says: 2455 comments
      OHD Supporter

      1894 QueenAnneFreeClassic
      Emporia, KS


      I agree that it is not uncommon for people to buy a Big Old House needing a ton of work with no true understanding regarding the enormity of what they have undertaken. Often the results are quite tragic.

      Also, you wrote: “Lots can happen along the way.” Yes, I agree with this 100 percent! I am still in the honeymoon stage! But, I am old enough (sigh) to know that whatever I think will happen, will not. Life has a funny way of….

  25. Robb says: 187 comments

    I agree, it can be done as we are one who did it! Bought this big old house and had to replace a lot. Got estimates and bids prior to purchase. Had many surprises along the way but we anticipated them. Yes, we anticipated surprises 🙂 Things did take longer than expected. We lived in one bedroom the whole time. Ceilings and walls were to take 1 week and ended up taking almost 3 months. 2 adults and 7 cats in one room. We figured it would cost about $100K and we came in at about $75K. It can be done. As I say, you need to think and be smart. We ended up with the best house in town.

  26. Paul W says: 468 comments

    Ross , I always advise one to prepare the two cost estimates. The “if everything works ok,and I can do the work” estimate, and the “what will it cost if something happens to me estimate”. Those estimate vary a lot more than the 15-20 percent most people budget for.

    I know someone (John S knows these people too), a nice couple who restored old houses and both passionate about preservation. He was remarkable in the quality and scope of the work he could do. In fact he was so good at it he became a restoration contractor. One day working on one of his own homes, he fell. It was bad, as bad as it could be short of death, and he wound up paralyzed. Everything stopped and they had a few properties they were restoring at the time. She had to quit her own career to take care of him. They had to sell off historic properties (for pennies) that they felt passionately about to cover expenses. Life for them changed forever, unfortunately, not in a good way.

    Everyone enters restoration with the best of intentions and plans. Things happen. That “dream 20 buck worker” quits one day because the guy down the street offered him more than you were paying. You discover your sewer line is broken and its 8K to fix it. Injury during home restoration happens. You can sprain a leg and your house isn’t ‘campable’ yet. You planned on moving in in 60 days and now you have to hire somebody to do that stuff, because you can’t. Or you run into a permitting problem that stops work for an extended period of time. You come over to work on the house and someone has broken in and stolen your stained glass windows and mantels. You find a serious structural problem when you open up a wall that you could not have for-seen.

    The difference between my everything works OK estimate on our house vs. the I have to hire it is a difference of over 500K.

    I tell people when they are planning they consider buying house for restore is to estimate best case/worse case. If you can possibly afford the worst case, you have to consider if its a restoration you should attempt.

    • RossRoss says: 2455 comments
      OHD Supporter

      1894 QueenAnneFreeClassic
      Emporia, KS

      Morning Paul!

      I fully understand what you saying. Where we disagree is a classic Glass Half Full or Half Empty debate.

      You wrote: “Everyone enters restoration with the best of intentions and plans. Things happen.”

      I would amend this to: Everyone enters life with the best of intentions and plans. Things happen.

      People are SO excited when they get married. Later, they want to KILL their once-significant other during the divorce.

      People are SO excited when they have a baby. But maybe the baby later dies, and the couple is devastated.

      A person starts a new business. It is wildly successful. Then a new competitor undercuts them and the company goes bankrupt.

      In short, shit happens to all us us. One day, maybe, I might get hit by a meteor in my front yard. So, should I never leave my house?

      The previous owner of the Cross House had BIG DREAMS for the house and his envisioned life in it. None of this came to pass. And he lost every penny he put into the house. Yet, without his intervention, the house would certainly have been lost. So, were his efforts a waste because his dreams were not met?

      In short, should a person go through life making decisions based on the WORST POSSIBLE OUTCOME? If so, who would ever get married? Have a baby? Start a business? Drive a car? Get on a plane?

      Or, should a person be willing to take a chance? Yes, MAYBE they might fail. But MAYBE they might succeed.

      In the 1970s, EVERYBODY told two young guys making something in a garage that they were NUTS. That they would FAIL. That they would lose EVERYTHING. The guys were wildly underfunded and COULD NOT POSSIBLY SUCCEED.

      Thank God the guys did not listen, and today I type these words on my gorgeous iMac, a direct successor of their creation.

      • Alexis says: 2 comments


        I loved your post and I realize I am late commenting. It is now November. 🙂
        I just found this sit yesterday and have been pouring over all the houses listed.

        As an avid old house lover and handy with tools woman, I have taken on remodels that I started out very excited and after a couple years into it, got depressed. I learned that when that happens I have to hire help to move things along and get motivated again. Plus the older one gets, the harder it is to get up in morning and swing a skill saw! Ha! Seriously…….but I never let reality get in the way of taking on a project, because if I would have sat down with a sharp pencil and actually figured out the time, effort, energy, work, and money to fix a house, I would have never bought the first one.

        It is all a lbor of love to be sure. There is a saying about life – things always cost more, take more time, and don’t turn out like you thought. This is especially true of old houses. But so what? People should do what they love.

  27. John Shiflet says: 5450 comments

    If I may timidly offer another perspective, those folks who go out and buy an old house needing significant work are almost universally optimistic (at least when they make the purchase) as well as perhaps a little on the romantic-dreamy side. Otherwise, if they think rationally, they would never take the plunge. Applying cold hard logic, few old house fixer uppers would make good sense to go in and tackle. Yet, the success stories are there and, as illustrated, such successful outcomes sometimes seem quite improbable. For those who cannot afford to hire a large crew of contractors and sub-contractors a decidedly frugal approach is necessary. More than an ample supply of determination to see the project through and not give up when the cards appear to be stacked against you may be more critical to success than the amount of money you have available. Behind every limited budget old house restoration success story is a tale of ingenuity and resourcefulness. The restorer must be able to improvise as well as be aware that its takes time to reach challenging goals. If a stubborn municipal bureaucracy stands in the way, soothe the officials- don’t confront or argue just the same as you would if pulled over on the road by law enforcement. Find allies, such as preservation organizations, or key individuals who can bolster your efforts to work through bureaucratic red tape to help find a path to navigate around those obstacles. Be willing to compromise and always demonstrate a friendly spirit of cooperation. It may sound a bit Machiavellian, but it amounts to understanding human psychology and how to negotiate successfully to reach your goals.

    I will concede there are some largely clueless individuals equally endowed with inadequate resources or unrealistic expectations who should never buy an old house. They are the ones who rush in, gut an entire house to the studs in a frenzy, and then belatedly realize they cannot live in a gutted shell. It takes careful planning and a methodical one-room-at-a-time approach to bring that vision of a perfectly restored old house to fruition. Hard work is part of the success equation as well-that broken item today will still be broken tomorrow if you don’t get off the couch and go fix it. Last, a sense of humor and not taking yourself too seriously will yield better results than a taking a grim, life or death approach towards your old house restoration. If you are very impatient or demand perfection in everything, old houses are probably not for you. Sometimes a year or longer elapsed for the construction of an old house by hand-sawing one board at a time; don’t expect a miraculous transformation working by yourself in a couple of months. (as is often suggested in some of the TV renovation shows) Its crucial to remember that in old house projects progress is often measured in small steps rather than in giant leaps.
    Of course, if your budget is of the carte blanche type and you plan to pay for everything, this advice will have little value. I think an intelligent individual with a moderate budget, steady income, and realistic expectations need not fear taking on the restoration of this house. If a complete restoration is not feasible, at least the goal of leaving it in better shape than when you bought it is an honorable alternative.

    The restoration of old houses is part of our personal legacy; no matter how carefully we restore an old house back to period perfection, someday it will need to be done again. By that time it may be up to someone else to take on the task but you can take great satisfaction in knowing your efforts took the old house forward in time to the next generation. Consider it an honor that you made a difference in your lifetime when the default approach is to let the old house deteriorate until it leads to demolition and oblivion. There are few of us, but without our efforts, our built past would be lost. We are custodians of that past and it is through our efforts that the custodians of the future can learn and be trained to take over when we are gone. To me, that is always a comforting thought.

  28. John Shiflet says: 5450 comments

    Thanks, Ross. That is my basic philosophy towards old houses and it has served me well for many years. I know that one size does not fit all and every old house restoration project is unique. But the universal belief of historic preservationists is that our architectural heritage has relevance and value in the present and will continue to be so into the future. Otherwise we too would accept the concept that everything has a built in obsolescence and when it is reached, its time to discard or destroy and buy something new. Regrettably, most people subscribe to that philosophy. If everyone did that, there would be no antiques, classic cars, or very old houses surviving. That difference in philosophy defines our value to society. I don’t recall the exact quote, but it is that society at large frequently questions (or is sometimes hostile towards) our motives but inevitably validates our efforts made for historic preservation in hindsight.

  29. says: 369 comments

    Oh my goodness! What a beautiful, beautiful home this once was! I absolutely love the fireplace and of course, the copper dome!

    I have learned so much by reading all your comments on restoration. The article below states the estimated restoration at $1.5 million.


    Friends of Hill House estimated $1 million for restoration in the article below:


    For a low estimate … “Along with the demolition request, Scott D. Crofoot. the city’s dangerous buildings inspector, submitted a $388,276.64 rehabilitation estimate for the Hill House.”


    Castle Museum of Saginaw bought the house for $1 three years ago and started a $700,000 fund raising campaign for restoration. I guess that didn’t go well.


  30. Jim says: 5157 comments

    Good old photo from paper, thanks Lottie:

    And this good example of CityHallSpeak:
    “As you look at these properties in that area, there has to be a plan to either do something with them or a plan to demolish them.” Odail Thorns, Saginaw Development Director, who routinely submits demolition funding requests to the State for vacant, dilapidated homes — even if they are not city-owned.

  31. Paul W says: 468 comments

    Lottie: you note that the ‘restoration numbers’ are all over the place. They are, but I think the strongest indicator of how high these numbers are, and that the actual restore cost will be, is NO ONE is suggesting you are going to throw this together for 100-200K which some people here think is possible. It isn’t, and it isn’t because you can’t ignore several factors; High hard costs, High Labor and “High profile”.

    What do I mean by ‘High profile’? Whomever buys this house is going to instantly be a ‘high profile’ person. There will be articles written in the paper about so and so bought the house. The neighborhood group who doesn’t want to be embarrassed by selling this property to someone with no chance of restoring it will carefully “vet” whomever buys it. I don’t think this will be sold to first time restorer. Nor do I think that restorer will be ‘allowed’ to do their own wiring, plumbing and such. The city will be all over whomever buys this because its high profile and the last thing the city wants is the embarrassment of having a house burn done because the homeowner thought they could do their own wiring.

    You buy a ‘high profile’ house guess what? The costs are higher. Why? Because the contractors will charge you more because they figure you can afford it, you have people looking over your shoulder…constantly, and that will include city inspections.

    I am reminded of the Sorg Mansion in Middleton Ohio. This house in FAR better condition that this one came up for sale at a price FAR higher than this. There was a lot of media attention about it. I looked at myself and I saw what it was REALLY going to cost, and while I might have been able to afford it, and the actual cost of restoration. I’d never sell it for that much and I was not ready to commit to my last home I will ever own until I die.

    In the meantime someone stepped forward to say he would buy it. This guy (20 something) had no money, never restored a house and was a literally delusional individual and it didn’t take long for the preservation community to vet this guy and he slinked away. He bought a ‘shell’ of a dump for few thousand in OTR, announcing lots of grand plans for it) in Cincinnati (which he apparently no longer owns) and I think lives in a small apartment

    Fortunately a couple from Baltimore have since bought the Sorg mansion and plan on making it a B&B. They completed the Historic tax credit application and in a rare move in Ohio (those credits almost always go to big developers) received the 215K in tax credits. The actual estimates for restoration of that house are currently 1.3 Million , which is about what I thought it would cost and I expect it to be more like 1.5.


    I would hope this home has a similar outcome , that someone buys it who understands what it really is gong to cost, can navigate the inevitable bureaucracy, that will come with it, and has a business plan that makes this work.

    Unfortunately I don’t think a B&B in Saginaw would work in this house at that location, so someone is going have to be far more creative, but I hope someone can find a way to make this work.

    Restoration isn’t cheap, and sweat equity can only go so far, But I hope this one gets restored but it wont surprise me at all if it takes 5 years for the right buyer to come along. Glad it has a new roof!

    • RossRoss says: 2455 comments
      OHD Supporter

      1894 QueenAnneFreeClassic
      Emporia, KS


      Once again, I must, respectfully, offer a different viewpoint.

      I purchased THE most high-profile house in Emporia. And have encountered NONE of the issues you raise. To the contrary, people have offered discounts, or refuse payment, just because they want to participate in bringing a great house back.

      The city has been EXTREMELY gracious about everything. “We are so happy you are restoring the house!”

      Moreover, as I stated above, a couple with numerous restorations under their belt, with a great deal of pluck, the ability to do most of the work on their own, and about $250K in cash, could do a first-class restoration of this home.

    • RossRoss says: 2455 comments
      OHD Supporter

      1894 QueenAnneFreeClassic
      Emporia, KS

      Hi Paul!

      You mentioned the Sorg Mansion. It is here, and it be incredible:


  32. Robb H says: 187 comments

    Once again to comment, we own one of the most high profile houses in our city and we even have a founder of city memorial fountain in our front yard and we have NEVER had anyone from the city hall nor residents be nothing but supportive. We have never been hounded to obtain permits, prove asbestos nor lead paint testing, etc. Our house has been a nursing home, restaurant, a B&B and now once again a private residence. Most of the city knows what the inside of our house looks like as they have either had relatives live here, worked here, stayed here or ate here.

    Also, we had a high profile in St Paul, MN and never had problems with the city.

    I must add, all the homes we have owned have been in historic districts with many covenents and restrictions but we are restorers and not remodelers. I have no clue where you live Paul but it must be in some country which is union and restrictive as no one I have heard of has had problems if they know the rules before buying a place.

    • Paul W says: 468 comments

      Well Robb, I’ll be the first to admit Cincinnati is the most unfriendly preservation city government until most recently, but working with people all across the country as I do, not all cities are as friendly as St Paul. The other side of the coin I am finding these days with clients, is that when you don’t pull permits, you didn’t have inspections, you often have a very hard time reselling your house or you have to spend thousands to have inspections and make repairs not done to code.

      I know someone who recently has to spend 3 grand having a certified abatement contractor dig a 3 foot hole to remove an old oil pipe left over when they removed an old Oil tank in a basement and just cut the filler off in the basement and cut
      the up off at ground level and put concrete in it. In addition to the city fine EPA fined them to. Total cost of “doing it themselves on the cheap” was 6500.00.

      I know another couple who added a bathroom and didn’t pull permits and when they went to sell the buyers banks appraiser caught it only way they could sell it was to remove the ceiling below that room, have the plumbing inspector approve it, Pay what would have been the original permit fee and a fine, and put the new ceiling in. While the city was there “nosing around” they found a deck built without a permit and fined them for that (they had to have structural inspection and permit/fee/fine there and they would up 15 grand out of pocket just to be able to sell their house, not to mention they owed additional property taxes caused when the city factored in the deck and new bathroom.

      I deal with stuff like this al the time, just because you got lucky doesn’t mean all people do.

  33. Betsy says: 157 comments

    I would have to agree with Ross.We had to fix up a 1930’s stone house which was empty inside, not even interior walls. We had to do it cheap. Yeah, if you walk around and ask for quotes from various trades and suppliers, you will get high numbers. BUT it is interesting what happens when you are somewhat limited in funds. You get creative. You talk to people and they talk to people. They have stuff you need, you have stuff they need. They know someone who has this or that. You look for cheaper and often get better. You trade work. We’ll weather strip your doors if you lay the tile in the bathroom.It is amazing how prices drop ( a LOT) when a tradesman is given the opportunity to work on a weekend or evening and for cash. Of course it takes longer. But I think it is more fun. The only thing we could not get done cheaper were the permits.

  34. JIm says: 5157 comments

    Nothing good will happen with this property until the leaders of the community step up and make the fundamental decision that the house is a valuable cultural asset that is worthy of public and/or institutional investment. The scale of this project and the scope of work required puts it in a different class than a normal large house restoration. It can’t be done on a “family budget” even for a millionaire, and Saginaw doesn’t have any resident billionaires that can just write a big check. It’s obvious that it’s not worth it for any individual, business or interest group in sight to invest $1MM to restore this house – 10 years of it sitting there has proven that. Waiting around for that special somebody to come along with a fairy wand (and a chest full of gold) doesn’t work. The current group had part of the right idea, which was to market the project and try to raise funds with a community benefit approach, but their concept was limited and didn’t catch on, and they gave up after only 2 years.
    The house is either worth it to the entire community as a symbol to save and restore collectively – or it’s not. It seems the city isn’t helping by threatening demolition, but possibly that’s exactly the galvanizing event needed to spark a new effort.

    • Paul W says: 468 comments

      Jim you are right, this is a ‘big picture’ historic restoration, needing community involvement. In my view, this house has best an highest use as museum space on Saginaw history and Victorian decorative arts.

      You need deep pocket corporate and grass roots fundraising to really do what needs to be done here. In my view as Saginaw is trying to come back from hard economic times , an infusion of money into this property could be leveraged as an economic development tool for the larger area.

      • Jim says: 5157 comments

        Paul, I agree and the current group was talking about some kind of community education space (museum turns a lot of people off :). I’m sure they heard a lot of “we don’t need that” and “we already have this” and gave up before the idea took hold. I think to focus on the use of the real estate just invites the naysayers to dismiss it, and somewhat misses the bigger goal which is to save a local landmark for its own sake, and in the process build a sense of community heritage and common purpose. It almost doesn’t matter what it’s going to be used for as long as people can buy in to the concept and feel like they are part of it.

  35. rebecca says: 7 comments

    Oh this breaks my heart. What a lovely home this must have been.

  36. dragonflyspirit14dragonflyspirit14 says: 244 comments
    1913 farmhouse
    Dillon, SC

    Wow! gorgeous home! Looks like it would be a great house for Nicole Curtis (Rehab Addict) to take on. I would love to see her restore it and watch the process. Think I will send the link to her website. Never know and I would hate to see this house demolished.

  37. Todd Wyman says: 3 comments

    Restoration challenge accepted

  38. Todd Wyman says: 3 comments

    Logistics completed, my wife and I are thinking about making an offer for the Hill House.I think with our past experiences in restoring a historic home I am confident that this one will turn out as good or better than the last. It will be nice to be back in Saginaw after 28 years. will post more once things are finalized.

  39. dragonflyspirit14dragonflyspirit14 says: 244 comments
    1913 farmhouse
    Dillon, SC

    Great Todd! So glad to read this! Good luck to you and your wife. I hope it works out for you and for this beautiful house!

  40. says: 108 comments

    I think you should get it for $1. After all, you’re going to work on it too, so you should get the same chance the last people did for a buck! Hope you get it; this is cool!

  41. Nikki Engel (Gypsywolf) says: 10 comments

    There is to be an open house here, this Sunday the 28th from 1-3 pm in the afternoon. I unfortunately cannot attend like I wanted. Hope if anyone can go they can take lots of photos! Info on the open house was found on the listing Realtors website. Please verify before you go.. just in case.

  42. Kelly, OHDKelly, OHD says: 11931 comments

    1901 Folk Victorian
    Chestatee, GA

    Zillow and Realtor is showing the listing as pending. Todd, did you make an offer? Or someone else?

  43. says: 3 comments

    Thanks Todd. You (and Ross) deserve a special platinum Old House Dreams badge. 🙂

  44. says: 3 comments


    This article on Hill House Mansion gave me hope, but the comments that followed were disheartening. Online, anonymity (hence, accountability) is usually guaranteed, so unless I’m reading the New York Times, I try to manage my expectations. But even I was amazed how many responses to the mansion’s sale were pessimistic.

    I wonder if a restoration project of this magnitude would be met with such cynicism if it was located in my city. (D.C. metro area) Living next to a large historic district (Old Town Alexandria), I can’t imagine why a reaction would be anything but encouraging. Do some people prefer blight over preservation and vibrancy?

    What contributes to a community’s attitude regarding historical preservation? Physical location? Socioeconomic level?

    Best of luck to the new owners!

    • Joseph says: 415 comments

      I think the comments may reflect a lot of frustration in the area due to the employment/economic situation. It is a difficult place to turn around, since it is unlikely that its future will be built on the manufacturing sector the way it was in the past.

    • RossRoss says: 2455 comments
      OHD Supporter

      1894 QueenAnneFreeClassic
      Emporia, KS

      Traci, I also read the article you linked to, and also read the many comments after the article.

      I was not surprised by so many negative, nasty comments. This is typical in this day and age. I find it disheartening.

      Such comments are mostly from people known as trolls, who LOVE posting really nasty things on the internet. They get off on this, although I cannot understand why.

      CurbedDetroit got highjacked by a handful of trolls. Because the site made no effort to protect itself from this virus it lost me (and many others) as readers and commenters.

      Luckily, here on OHD, I suspect that Kelly would smack to the moon any troll that dared to make an appearance here!

  45. Kelly, OHDKelly, OHD says: 11931 comments

    1901 Folk Victorian
    Chestatee, GA

    I’ve learned never to read the comments on non-old house sites. There’s not liking old houses and then there’s down right hate where the only solution for any thing over 30 years of age is to demolish it. Luckily I’ve only had one or two trolls (recently the woman who hated Georgia and everyone in it.) And one guy whose solution for every other house posted was to gut the entire thing, even for silly things like only one plug for a bathroom…(this is where I roll my eyes.) I guess I don’t understand why some people think that because they couldn’t live a certain way then such and such should be done because no one else would either.

    I wish the best of luck to the new owners and hope it all goes well. Maybe in a few years we’ll see an update on the progress.

  46. SaraBeth says: 3 comments

    I did some research and it seems the new owner is named Todd, so I am guess he and his family did end up buying and saving the old Hill House. I hope that he updates us or better yet… keep a blog!

    Best of Luck Todd and family!

  47. New Owners says: 3 comments

    Yes my family and I bought this house and have made a lot of progress over the last year, looking forward to posting some pics on the fb page, check it out.

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