Everyone who knows Joan Pieper knows she loves old houses and antiques.
So when her husband, Tim, mentioned it might be fun to redo an old home when he retired, she pounced.
“I said, ‘Oh, I have the house for you.’ That’s been almost two years ago.”
The retired speech pathologist and her husband, a newly retired dentist, are now owners of a large Dutch colonial with a gambrel roof. They just had to move it a few miles to some farmland they own south of Mitchell, Nebraska.
It had sat abandoned on another property for years, and was scheduled to be torched when the Piepers bought it for the whopping price of $5. They’ve since spent more than $70,000 to prep it for moving, build a basement at its new home and purchase new windows.
“I thought what a pity to burn down a house that looks like that,” Tim said.
Joan says Dutch colonials aren’t seen often in that area of Nebraska, where Tim grew up on the farm that his son Jeff now runs. The couple live in Torrington, Wyoming, about 30 miles from Mitchell.
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It’s just close enough that they can make frequent visits to see the home’s progress. It’s been stripped to the studs after being bolted to its new foundation.
“It’s a big mess right now,” Joan says.
She’s hoping during the demolition to find some clues about its origin. Trips to Scottsbluff and Mitchell to learn more about who built and lived in the house have yielded little. Records focus more on the property itself than the home, she said.
She’s found enough information to estimate that the house was built around 1910 and has been abandoned since the 1970s.
Its journey to its new home has taken time and patience. The Piepers had to find a contractor and movers, and have the basement built to size.
It took Star House Moving from Grant, Nebraska, a few days to get it up on rollers and to coordinate the removal of electrical lines along the route to the new site. Once there, it took hours to make sure everything was level.
The trip itself was much quicker.
“It just took two to three hours from site to site,” Joan said. “They only moved it a mile as the crow flies. Almost two down a country road.”
Now is when the big money kicks in for what Joan is calling a money pit. Although the foundation is solid, they’re not sure if they’ll have to replace the siding, which is capped on each of the four corners. Painters say they’ll replicate what is there.
The new windows were $25,000 and they will have the woodwork sodium blasted after Joan tried to strip just one piece and found layers of paint.
They’re adding an en suite bathroom on the second floor, which will reduce the number of bedrooms from four to three. A butler’s pantry on the main floor will become part of a new kitchen. The basement has a bedroom, two bathrooms, a rec room, a utility room, a laundry room and a wine cellar.
“The HGTV people do it in two months and it costs $200,000,” Joan said. “I don’t think that’s going to happen here.”
Tim’s favorite HGTV show is “Restoring Galveston” and his dream would be to have Ashley and Michael Cordray transform this house. Until that happens, Brad Shaul of Shaul Construction is the contractor.
They plan to paint it white to match an old picture Joan was able to find, and she’s ready to scour salvage yards for doors and pieces of hardware that are missing.
She estimates it will take six months to finish the house in as historically correct way as possible. She’ll use her stash of antiques to fill it.
The couple doesn’t plan to live in it full time. It will be available for friends and for when they travel to Mitchell for granddaughter Kate’s athletic events.
“It’s just going to be my pet project,” Joan says, “and we’ll see what happens.”