I'm not going to use this site to document the renovation. There will be a new spot for that, insulated from here, as I imagine it will receive more traffic, and from a wider audience, than I care to have coming here.
But I'll give a taste of the launch, and the timing. After 4 months of dealing with the probate court and the IRS, the daughter of the recently deceased owner was able to sell me the last 5 buildings on Main Street in desperate need of renovation. The property includes a cinderblock warehouse out back, a metal building currently occupied with a rent-paying mechanic shop, and a sizable open area reaching back to Railroad Street. To expedite the sale, I also purchased all the contents, which includes 100 tons of junk, and a few treasures.
We closed on Tuesday, the 12th of November, at 2 pm. I spent most of the afternoon and evening with a structural engineer. He answered all my questions based on his 50+ years of saving old buildings like these, and I came away with a much better report than I was expecting.
Wed. morning at 8:30 we had a little blessing ceremony on the sidewalk led by Binnie Turnage, praying for the safety of everyone involved. Minutes later the first dumpster arrived, and we got started.
(The we is me and three young guys I have working for me during this demo phase. As we progress and various sections are ready for building back, I will have crews working on various projects. I have a year to get 4 apartments, 4 efficiencies, and 5 storefronts built out, not to mention the warehouse and parking and porches and courtyard to finish out.) Daunting? Yes. Is my mind buzzing and making it difficult to sleep? Yes. Am I having a blast? Yup.
We started on 428 Main Street, the worst case.
Veeeery carefully, because the cave-in left hanging joists and rafters just waiting to fall and crush someone, we cleared out enough floor space to set up the scaffolding, and I cut out the dangerous hangers. From that safety zone we repeated the process, expanding the safety zone until, after 1.5 of these:
And 9 of these, (all the wood we're taking to a friend's burn pile to save on dumpster space,)
We had the collapse entirely cleaned out, the brick walls stripped of dangerous hanging wood all the way to the roof line, and the roof and second floor cut back to strong wood. The new storefront and second story apartment front wall will be built up at this recessed point, with the shell of original brick walls stabilized and protecting the courtyard below.
20 years ago the previous owner started framing in apartments on several of the second floors. Unfortunately, they were poorly laid out, with dropped ceilings, and no windows for any of the bedrooms. In most cases this all needs to come out before I can build in what I want.
For any of this demo work, a safely applied chainsaw makes it fly. We took a break from the courtyard work on a rainy morning to make a dent up here. (Second floor of 426 Main Street.)
I am very pleased with the level of progress after 3 days. We're ahead of schedule, and with the help of some scroungers who have cleared out the piles of scrap metal we had set aside, (they haul it, we split the scrap yard take,) the clutter is starting to give way.
A sample treasure: (First $250 takes it.)
This baby, with a dump bed, was included in the purchase. I had no idea, until the title was slid across the table to me at the closing. The mechanic thinks he can get it running again without much trouble. It was parked 10 years ago, in running condition.
So this is my new day job, and until I settle down, my early morning and late evening obsession. This is what she looks like each night after I button her up and head home. The first store front on the left is 428, and we're headed all the way down to 420 barely visible on the right.
Meantime, the farm is settling into the cool weather nicely. The cows take themselves to pasture each morning, the pigs eat endless tubs of brewery grain, the sole surviving chicken hangs out with the cows for company, and the dogs inspire periodic e-mails from our neighbors when they roam too far from home.
Yesterday, Alexe bought six new hens, and picked up a free rooster from a friend. On this rainy Sunday I wandered down to the barn to see what was keeping her, and saw this through the window.
They were chicken watching.