Save the Neighborhood!? Don’t Tear it Down!?

Filed in Heights News & Events by on October 19, 2009

Don’t Tear it Down?

January 2014 Note: I wrote this post back in 2009. It still applies today. The multiple historic districts make preservation even more imperative. The Heights has gone through several periods of intense renovations. We are in one again. However, renovating a Heights home today is not for the faint of heart, and is not for those without deep pockets. Land prices are high, remodel costs are high, standards are high. It is worth it, but go carefully into the project.

Tear it down

Tear It Down? Probably.

I love old houses!  To walk through an old house that hasn’t been touched since Grandma left it decades ago is a treat! But to save them all?  I don’t think so! Let’s use some sense. Let’s preserve what’s truly worth keeping and let the rest go.

Worth saving: A house with architecturally redeeming features. The bungalow with tall ceilings, wavy glass in the old double-hung windows, oak or red pine floors, the big porches…. all wonderful. Spend a ton of money fixing it up, but have a delightful house afterward.

Historical areas? Save them too. The shotgun houses of Freedman Town and the First and Sixth Wards are great too;  if it’s lasted since the late 1800’s let’s keep it around longer..

Generations of people have handled those glass doorknobs, ironed clothes on the drop-down ironing board, and answered the phone from the funky little telephone niches. These homes can be absolute gems, though they are getting harder to find.

BUT, save the ratty little nondescript house with no architecturally redeeming features? No porch, botched modernizations? Nope, make room for something newer, nicer, and livable.

All those cool things on the inside should be saved (I just bought a couple of old windows for my house from Restoration Houston), but shaking floors, sagging 2×4 rafters, and tiny little rooms, ugly additions? That’s tough to deal with.

Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s worth saving. The houses “modernized” with T11 siding, aluminum windows, new hollow-core doors, skinny moldings…forget it. Tear’em down.

Unless it has great redeeming architectural features, it’s not worth spending $80-100,000 to make that silk purse.

I’ve mentioned before; my old Woodland Heights house was falling down when I bought it. The wrap around porch and the big Craftsman columns though were enough for me. That alone made the remodeling effort worthwhile. My two sons also learned a lot with that project. My oldest, Richie, has been working on his own house now.

I see lots of people shouting “Save the Houses,” but I  don’t see them buying them. I don’t see their checkbooks out.

Anyway, that’s my opinion.

A closing note: Do you want to find and restore an old home? Call me; let’s hunt one together. It will be fun poking through old empty homes. I’ll tell you which ones are not worth the investment. However, there are a lot of people hunting them in 2014, so it won’t be easy.

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