Owner of historic Montgomery mansion seeks buyer

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Craig Drescher envisioned a grand revival for Winter Place when he discovered the decaying Southern mansion nearly a decade ago. Its two large antebellum structures on a pretty, wooded lot in the Cottage Hill neighborhood captivated Drescher, who saw future beauty through the damage done by time and the elements.

Single at the time, he had a dream of restoring the faded structures, living with a future family in one house and perhaps running a business in the other. Maybe turning one into a venue for receptions, with an urban winery in the basement. The thought of being able to walk downtown to a baseball game was alluring.

So he began the long process of buying the home, and closed on it in 2006. Its status as a historic property (it is now listed on the National Register), and its location in a locally designated historic district would require working with various groups to ensure adherence to preservation guidelines. And there were agreements about the future of the home he made with the Thorington family; Winter Thorington, who owned the estate, continued to live in part of the home for several years.

Then, the repairs began, but not before numerous meetings with potential contractors and city inspectors. The first order of business was clearing overgrown vegetation that obscured the home and made repairs difficult. Next up: making sure all the structures had a roof over them, and addressing infrastructure needs, such as electrical service.

“It’s not a project for the faint of heart,” Drescher, a squadron commander with the 908th Airlift Wing, said last week.

He continued the work for the next few years, addressing the crucial roof, foundation, drainage and vegetation issues, as well as the restoration of the porch of one of the structures.

But then, in a twist to which most of us can relate, life happened.

Drescher had several life-changing events - positive ones - starting in the fall of 2009, both at work and in his personal life, that drastically changed his availability to dedicate time and resources to the project.

He has yet to live in the home.

Now, he is trying to sell the property, which he readily admits will be a challenge.

In 2004, the complex was named to the “Places in Peril” list, an annual compilation by the Alabama Historical Commission and the Alabama Trust for Historic Preservation that highlights endangered historic structures that face an uncertain future.

Now, in 2014, it is on the list again.

He still goes by the home almost daily.

“It saddens me that this is going to be a dream I had that it doesn’t look like I’m going to be able to fulfill,” Drescher said.

Bob Gamble, senior architectural historian with the Alabama Historical Commission, has worked with Drescher for several years on the restoration of the home. Gamble also was a visitor to the home before the real damage started.

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