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Sep 20, 2019

(September 14, 2019) "Sometimes an old lady deserves a few wrinkles," Billy VantWoud says, referring to historic houses. 

Billy is an Indianapolis-based general contractor who has restored older homes in Woodruff PlaceCottage HomeFountain SquareSt Clair Place and other Indy neighborhoods dating back to the late nineteenth century. "If you can't tolerate a few imperfections, maybe a historic home is not for you."

Billy joins Tim Harmon, co-owner of Tim and Julie's Another Fine Mess architectural salvage and vintage wares shop, as Nelson's studio guests to share advice for potential buyers of historic homes as well as tips for maintaining and restoring them.

Beginning in the early 1970s, when many historic neighborhoods in Indy were in decline, Tim Harmon began working as a contractor, specializing in restoring houses that he calls "ultimate survivors."

During the 1990s, Billy and Tim were partners in a restoration services business. Both of them have done restoration or renovation work on houses built before the Civil War

The craftsmanship and character of such houses entices potential buyers. "But most people, even with a historic house, want a modern kitchen and modern bathroom," Tim notes.

Our guests urge potential buyers to research how much of a historic home is the original structure as well as the type of renovations and the extent of repair work that have been undertaken in subsequent decades.

Some tidbits about our topic and guests:

  • Billy, who grew up in the town of Culver in northern Indiana, lives in a Woodruff Place house built in 1901. He restored the historic house, which had been carved up to create 10 rental units.
  • Tim was the Roadtripper correspondent on our Aug. 31 show, reporting on an offbeat storefront museum he operates next to his architectural salvage shop. Indy's Teeny Statue of Liberty Museum has more than 500 pieces of memorabilia depicting Lady Liberty.
  • Tim offers this tip for potential home buyers who want to assess the extent that a floor has settled in a historic home: "Take a marble or ball bearing with you when you visit. Don't roll it. Just set it down on the floor, and see where it goes."

Located on Dorman Street in the Cottage Home neighborhood of Indianapolis, this Vernacular Cottage style house has an Italianate front parlor which was added after the original construction. It was the longtime home of late jazz pianist Claude Sifferlen. Courtesy Billy VantWoud.