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Thursday, May 02, 2013


Can This House Be Saved?
This house is free to a good home - but it must be moved.

by The Trailing Spouse

It has been 9 years since we moved to Tallahassee when Lulu became a professor at Florida State. We bought a home on Seminole Drive in the Myers Park/Woodland Drives section of town because it was an easy two mile commute to campus. We also wanted to live near friends there. 

Floor plan of house to be torn down.

We bought the first house that came along - at that time houses were at a premium in the housing boom. We bought a house way too soon like 9 months before we needed it. Then we proceeded to spend way too much money renovating it. We always wanted a brand new home - but there were none in this old neighborhood. 

Three years ago we bought a very nice brick rancher down the street. We really did not want the house - we wanted its 210 feet by 250 feet landscaped level lot. Our plan was to level the house and build our new one. Then when the housing crunch came - it was foolish to tear down a home and build a new one - with housing prices collapsing. 

This is the original 1957 green tile bathroom.

For three years we tried everything to make some financial sense out of it all. The real estate experts tell us that the smartest thing to do was to sell both of our homes - take the money and find a bargain home in Southwood - a place we like to walk.

The stupidest thing we could do was tear down a perfectly nice home - waste all that money - and build a new one at today's construction prices.

We were open to other suggestions and boy did we get them. 

- The first one was to keep the brick house and build the new house next to it. The city said we had 1.4 acres - enough to build 8 homes on our metes and bounds lot - without violating zoning - as long as we stayed 10 feet off the boundary lines. 

- Next we had builders come in and they said it would be a shame to tear down the cute little 50 year old brick rancher. They all said for $250,000 they could turn it into a Taj Mahal. We already tried that route down the street - we wanted to start with a clean sheet of paper. I am 65 now - and Lulu is not getting younger - we wanted our dream home. We planned to design one Americans with Disabilities Act style - wide doors - drive-in showers - real wood floors. 

- Then several movers came and made bids. Since the house is 35 feet by 50 feet - it cannot go down the 26 foot wide street without cutting it up. Most of the movers wanted $40,000 to move it anywhere. 

- My friend Mario came up with the idea of moving it to the front corner of the lot and making it a gate house that could be rented. 

- Due to a fire across the street - an empty lot opened up. We offered the owner $40,000 for it but they did not want to sell. We would have put the brick house there and sold it - saving money and materials. We could have even rented it out. 

- I advertised the house on the Internet and many people were interested. But they got the same story from movers - $40,000 and cut the house in two pieces. 

- One last ditch effort had us moving the house to the rear corner - cutting off a flag lot - fencing it in - and running a driveway back to it. 

- This all brought us to the reality - the cute little brick rancher - build on a slab raised up on a crawl space would have to be torn down.

Notice how the tile counters slant into the sink.

The house was built in 1957. Ray Prim - owner of Prim's Trim - the upholstery shop on Railroad Street lived there alone for 40 years. He was a war hero Marine at Iwo Jima - and was famous in the area for being a Amateur Radio Operator. When Ray died - the house sat vacant for several months. One day when we were on our walk - Lulu said that we might be able to buy Ray's place. After checking on line - we found the executor of Ray's will - emailed him. He stated a price needed to settle the estate. We bought it the next day. We now owned two houses on Seminole Drive - sandwiching our friends' homes. 

For three years I have been primping the house and yard. I put up a steel garage - bought a tractor - and enjoy the puttering. But now it is time to act. We made a list of our ideas - drew some sketches - took them to an architect - and he made some plans. We have shopped the plans and have come up with a builder we think we can trust. 

I am making one last effort to save this home. It is so hard for me to tear it down. The first six years of my life were spent on a farm with no plumbing in Appalachia. A neighbor down the Valley had a brick rancher like this with a beautiful green tiled bathroom. They did not have to fill the tub with buckets of hot water from the coal stove like we did. At that time I said - if I ever had a brick rancher like this - I would be set for life. Now - 60 years later - I am throwing one away - just like some people drop pennies and are too lazy to pick them up.

If anyone wants this house - it is free to a good home. You must take it away - all of it away - no cherry picking the good stuff and leaving the rest behind. The house is 35 feet by 50 feet - not counting the attached brick carport. It has 2 bedrooms - 3 - if you want to count the big mudroom in the back. It has a virgin green tile bathroom - and a white painted pine wood kitchen with slanting tile counters. It has all new windows. It was recently painted inside and out. It will cost about $40,000 to move and set it up on a new foundation. There are four movers in the area that said they could do it - quickly and easily - for cash. 

It is a tough decision - but it is time for it to go. 

The Catherine Murat House at the Tallahassee Museum - Belleview - our new home may be a larger replica of this home. 

We are planning to build a home based on the Catherine Murat Plantation House - Belleview - at the Junior Museum. After her husband Achilles died - Catherine moved to Tallahassee and ran a plantation. Her history is well-document and we think her home is beautiful. Ours will be a little larger but have the same same simple motif. We have the lot - the plan - maybe the builder - and the cash. 

To paraphrase Ronald Reagan - "Mr. Trailing Spouse - Tear Down This House."

October 29, 2013 - We tore down the house. Our new home is 50% done.

Gary Shiver Construction is building it. We are very happy we tore down the old house - the new house is amazing. Catherine Murat would be proud and so would Ray Prim.

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