Nicely-boned large fixers from the Victorian through Craftsman eras have always attracted me. In the first place, their exterior designs are often beautiful, and almost always handsome. Clearly, that was the goal of their first owners who wanted to live in a home suitable to their station in life. Building plans by mail and in book form were widely available, so everyone had access to elaborate plans. The best builders in each town were putting up grand homes outfitted from huge catalogs of trim and fittings. In the case of the grandest homes, only the best materials and workers were used. Today’s fixer might have been a Sonoma County luxury home of the times.
A typical house built in that 1875-1925 time frame represents thousands of man hours of labor. From the laborers who dug foundations and hauled materials to the masons who built strong and true stone and brick walls and fireplaces, often with great artistry. From the plumbers and electricians who were just learning the right ways of applying their trades to a modern residence. Above all, from the master carpenters whose work included amazing technical sophistication in such features as framing a cupola, creating wondrous round porches, crafting bow-fronted turrets, hanging massive pocket doors, melding eyebrow dormers into roofs and so many other beautiful examples of wood artistry.
To see a former classic now experiencing diminished glory can be a sad experience. On the other hand, my focus is all about finding new owners with the energy and vision to undertake a major projecdt. I’m looking for people who share the sense of value in historic places. Who can pause in front of an old window with wavy glass and appreciate that five or six generations of people have looked at that same view. Who can visualize families gathering around the piano to sing art songs which would have been the entertainment of the day. Who can imagine summer evenings on an ample porch serving as the social gathering spot for a neighborhood. Who can understand that the best way to serve their town is to salvage a piece of it.
Of course, fixers don’t have to be brought back to full glory every time. I’m happy enough just to see people begin to keep a house from deteriorating. That can be as simple as repairing the roof and adding a coat of paint or two. Sure, it’s great to replace the old brick foundation, rip off the 1950’s tacky remodel, and try to get the worst problems repaired, but just stopping the aging process is the most important first step.
There are always fixers available. They may not be cheap. They may not be grand, but if the idea of saving and living in a piece of Sonoma County history appeals to you, get in touch or click on any of the images below to get more details.