Mill Village Revival Pt. 1: The Strope Home

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Why did you decide to buy a house that needed to be renovated?

John: We wanted to downsize, and we wanted an older house. We looked for two years in other neighborhoods before we found something that suited us.

Lori: Meredith Martin, our realtor, asked what it was I didn’t like about the other houses. When I told her I wanted more character, she suggested we look in Mill Village. John actually noticed this house first.

What made this house “home?”

Lori: I walked in the front door, and the feeling came over me that this was my house.

John: I had been in this house in 1972 or 1973 at a party. We found out who the owner was, and because Lori used to work at justice court, she knew him. We met with him the next day. Lori just smiled and tried not to act too anxious. I’m an engineer, so I thought, “What will I have to do to live in this place?” I bounced on the floors and checked out the walls. I didn’t see anything that would stop us.

What has been your favorite part of the process?

John: Seeing results. Like the floors, for instance. We had to rebuild them, replace boards. When you grind them, sand them, and then put finish on, you stand back and think, “Wow, this is fantastic.”

What has been the most challenging aspect?

Lori: The roof was bad, and the ceilings were bowed. John got on a scaffold and pounded the ceiling. I shoveled it into a wheelbarrow, and then we buried it in the backyard. We work all day, every day, even on weekends.

How did you begin?

Lori: The side was enclosed. It was so dark. The first day, I told John those walls had to come down. That was week one.

Is this your final home project?

John: Yes!

Lori: I love the neighborhood, and the house, of course.

Why do you think Mill Village is becoming such a popular spot for renovating homes?

John: The old houses have such character. What the city has done to protect them helps, too.

Lori: If people knew what we know, they’d be flocking to live here. We already know our neighbors better here than we did in our home of more than 20 years. Since we are all in the same boat, living in old houses, we have a lot to talk about. We are also big walkers and are excited about being able to walk downtown and pop in Crave for a cup of coffee or Simply Sweet for bread.

How do you plan to preserve the history of the home?

John: We’re keeping as much of the house as we can—the plaster, mouldings, sink, a couple lighting fixtures. With the city’s historic restrictions, there’s a lot we can’t do, and I’m okay with that.

Lori: In the summer, we would keep the doors open. People would stop and ask if they could come inside. We got a lot of comments from people that were glad we were keeping much of the home the same.

What would you say to someone who wants to renovate an old home?

John: Two things I told Lori when we got into this—it’s going to cost more than we planned and take longer than we planned.

Lori: We had planned to be in the first of the year, but here we are. Anyone who wants to do it on their own will need help from someone with a basic knowledge of renovation. I couldn’t have done it without John.

Stay tuned for part two–a full feature on the finished home!

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