Search This Blog

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Very Big Project

Contributed by Stephanie Bearce

Everybody knows I collect antiques. My house is full of them. There’s the icebox in the family room, the Bradley lamp on the desk, candy tins in my office, and the wardrobe in my dining room. You’d think I’d have enough antiques, but no. A true collector just can’t stop. So what am I working on now?
How about an antique house!

Oh, yes. We did it. We bought an antique house in the Frenchtown area of St. Charles. And not just any old house, this one is a house built before the Civil War, complete with coal chute, and a very scary cellar. Of course this house needs to be completely gutted. I mean what’s the fun of an antique if you can’t refinish it or rebuild it?
I’m still digging into the history of our old home. I know that it was built as a single family home sometime around 1860 or 1861. It was used as a boarding house in the early 1900’s and then in the midst of the housing shortage after WWI, the home was turned into four VERY small apartments. 

It was four very small, very ugly, apartments when Darrell and I purchased it last year. Sadly there were no vestiges of the grandeur of the old home. It had long ago been stripped of any nice woodwork. And when we bought it, there was no electricity and no running water. 

I know what you are thinking… and yes, we are a little bit crazy. But underneath the purple painted rooms and the dangling ceiling fan, we could see a sturdy solid brick house that had survived a civil war, two world wars, and 28 presidents. We had to save it.

It has a taken a year and a lot of muscle and sweat, but the house is almost gutted now. My darling handyman husband tore out most of it himself. He did get some help tearing stuff up from Josh.
Beth, and Greg, and Beth’s friend, Drew, came and pulled THOUSANDS of tiny nails out of the wood. And Nichole, in her usual managerial style, rounded up a bunch of college guy friends who shoveled out over 15 TONS of lath and plaster into three dumpsters. We think we have about one more dumpster to go.

Next week we get the plans back from the architect. I’m excited to see what he has drawn up. Of course we have our own definite plans of what we want. We are putting a fully modern home inside the shell of an antique. I love those modern conveniences of indoor plumbing and nice safe electrical wiring. 

And I’m totally excited about moving back to old town!

We will be three blocks from the Katy trail. We can zip down the hill with the bikes at a moment’s notice. We are three blocks from Main Street and all those nice restaurants and charming shops. Plus I just love walking in the area. Not to mention, I can see the Fourth of July fireworks from my roof! I can ride my bike to the library. I can walk to the post office. I’ll even be able to walk to church and my work!

In the mean time Darrell and I are enjoying the process of refinishing our antique home. We have met the neighbors. Two doors down we have a Celtic harpist who plays concerts on the front porch when the weather is nice.

Behind us we have a sweet elderly couple who have two Banty hens as pets. We are praying Lucy, the vicious Yorkshire terrier, doesn’t kill them.

Next door we have an eight year old who wants to know if he can still use our back yard to play army. Of course he can!

This house is truly a labor of love and not just for the building. It has been so much fun for Darrell and I to dream and plan about this house together. We both love history, antiques and Old Town. It will be a great place for us to build our empty nest.

Of course it won’t be without adventures. We have already appeared before the board of appraisals to assure them that we are indeed planning to inhabit the home and no, there is no plumbing yet, but there will be. Someday. Soon. I hope.

We also found out we have to pay $25 to the historical board to have them tell us that we need to put on round gutters instead of square. Looking around at some of the houses in the neighborhood, I think they might be happy that we intend to put up any gutters… But that’s part of the adventure.

So, Dear Readers, stay tuned!
I will give you updates on the progress of 1001 North Third Street in St. Charles, MO. And feel free to stop by the house and peer in the windows to view our progress. Listen for the Celtic harp music on Saturdays, wave to the Banty hens next door, and when the neighborhood boys yell “bang, bang” remember to fall in a dramatic heap on the porch!


  1. I'm so excited for you! I might just have to try to scare up a few school visits around the St. Louis area before or after the next retreat so I have time to check out your new place!

  2. this is so cool! i love reading your blog! i'm glad Nichole shows it to us girls at school! :)