- Associated Press - Sunday, September 21, 2014

FRANKLIN, Ind. (AP) - The nearly 120-year-old house seemed closer to being condemned than redeemed.

Water stains and mold marred the plaster walls. Cigarette smoke seemed to cling to every surface. Garbage was strewn throughout, and the floor canted due to rotting.

But as Glenn and Connie McAlpin looked under the surface, they found an architectural treasure worth saving.

More than 20 years have gone into restoring the house to its original Victorian splendor. Foundations and floor joists have been replaced. Woodwork has been stripped of paint and refinished.

The McAlpins essentially started over, gutting the house down to the wall studs. The result is a meticulously restored home that preserves their family legacy, as well as a piece of local architectural history.

“It’s given us a greater appreciation of what we’ve got here,” Glenn McAlpin told the Daily Journal (https://bit.ly/1BGiDLk ). “We saw what we started with, and what we did here. We did it all ourselves. It has been in the family all these years. We had to save it.”

The couple had been living in a house near the farm, where they had moved in the early 1980s. But Connie McAlpin was searching for a two-story home that was in the same location.

They found the home was built by Glenn McAlpin’s great-great-grandfather.

The Queen Anne-style Victorian home had been standing in rural Franklin since 1895. Glenn McAlpin’s family had settled the farm in the 1830, and a previous house was built in the 1850s.

A pair of Glenn McAlpin’s cousins owned the structure and had rented it out. But the tenant had neglected it, leaving the house in poor condition. Windows were broken, holes in the walls were left open to the elements, and mold stained the outdoor wood siding.

“There was no way in our minds that we could save it,” Connie McAlpin said. “It was beyond terrible - people thought we were crazy. We had finished our other house, and they couldn’t understand why we’d want to start over.”

But they were up to the challenge. The McAlpins purchased the home in 1990 and started the process of making it habitable.

The floor joists had rotted away and had to be replaced. Part of the foundation in the front of the house had to be repaired.

None of the walls had insulation, so the McAlpins added it before putting drywall over the studs. The electrical wiring was from the 1930s and was contained in metal casing. All of it had to be replaced.

“Electricity finally made it out here in 1937. My great-grandma had the house wired for electricity before that, but she died before it did get here, so she never got to see it,” Glenn McAlpin said.

One of the first things they did was install a geothermal system to heat the house.

When the couple moved into the house in 1992, they had one working outlet to get electricity. They ran an extension cord up to the second floor, where they had stacked mattresses on piles of drywall that would eventually need to be installed.

They slept under exposed ceiling joists and tried to cover up holes in the windows to keep wildlife out. Their efforts weren’t always successful.

“One night, our cat was sleeping on the end of the bed and started jumping up and playing,” Glenn McAlpin said. “We didn’t know what was going on, until we turned on a light, and a bat was flying around over us.”

The only things they were able to save was the woodwork around the doors. Though covered in white paint, the rosettes and design had survived.

Connie McAlpin used a heat gun, working in the middle of the winter, to take the heavy coats of paint off and reveal the original wood. The project took more than five years.

The project has moved slowly, when the McAlpins had time to do the work. The couple did nearly everything themselves, from the foundation replacement to the wood trim to restoring the exterior siding.

To hire professionals for such a massive project would have cost an astronomical amount, Connie McAlpin said.

“Your average people like us can’t afford to hire someone to get this done. You just can’t,” she said. “So that’s why we had to take 20 years to get it done.”

They retained the original layout of the rooms and saved money for some minor adjustments such as adding closets and updating the kitchen. When enough of the original home had been recreated, the McAlpins made additions to the structure.

They hired contractors to frame up a back room, utility room and office, but handled putting in windows, doors and walls themselves.

Glenn McAlpin, who had been a woodworker since he was in junior high school, did almost all of the trim around doors, fireplace mantles and window frames.

Using rough timber, he replicated the design and rosettes of the original woodworking so that the new additions matched the old versions.

To cover the walls and ceilings, they carefully chose wallpaper that was shipped from as far away as California to match the feel of a 19th-century home.

Specialty lamp shades added a nostalgic touch, and the lighting fixtures were re-created to match the Victorian time period.

“Everything is a mix of antiques, family or found treasures, mixed in with some simpler items,” Connie McAlpin said.

To restore the exterior of the house, they sanded and scraped paint, dirt and grime off the old wood siding. The work revealed the original poplar boards, which the McAlpins primed and painted.

But after a year, the paint started peeling off. Instead, they decided to take all of the siding off the house.

The project moved in sections. The couple would remove one portion of the house, replace it with redwood siding, prime it and paint it.

They attempted to redo the exterior trim work, but since the molding around the eaves had been taken down, they had to rely on old photographs to base their design on. Glenn McAlpin used an enlarged photograph as plans to fit the space at the apex of the roof.

He lathed posts out of mahogany and made a lattice for flowers. He crafted pergolas and welded his own steel arches for the garden.

“Wood is a challenge. There’s always something every year to do to keep it up,” Connie McAlpin said. “It’s not as fun to redo something as it is when you first do it.”

After two decades of work, the project is close to complete. Only a few minor projects remain, such as finishing the siding and making adjustments to the exterior.

The couple are proud of the work they’ve done, maintaining a piece of history while making the original design suitable for modern life.

“It’s like everything has been gone over. It looks new, but it feels old to me,” Connie McAlpin said

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Information from: Daily Journal, https://www.dailyjournal.net

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