For so many years, the story about Detroit and its neighborhoods has been on of decay and despair. But that has changed with neighborhoods organizing, lots of hard work and great projects like the one “This Old House” announced recently.
The whole television crew is in town for this beloved series, and senior producer John Tomlin said they’re working on a renovation project in Detroit’s Russell Woods neighborhood. They’re excited about the work, the family that bought the house and everything happening in Detroit.
“You drive around the neighborhoods and they have some of the most beautiful houses in America. You hate to see them empty and abandoned the way they’ve been,” Tomlin said, doing a round of media interviews shortly after This Old House announced its Detroit project on Tuesday.
“When you meet the people who want to put them together again, you want to be a part of it. That’s what got us interested in being here,” Tomlin said via telephone. “These are the kinds of positive stories that are worth telling.”
Expected work includes a new roof, kitchen and baths, plus new mechanicals to replace vandalized equipment in the basement. The team will look to preserve historic details such as leaded stained glass windows and archways as the homeowners blend their modern aesthetics with the home’s historic details.
To look at the windows, Tomlin said they met this morning with Amy Nicole Swift of the marvelous Building Hugger. “The house has some beautiful casement windows with some stained glass in them, and that’s her expertise. We asked her to come out, and she took a look at them to give us her read on it,” he added.
The house, which is a stunner even in its troubled state, is a mix of challenges and opportunities, Tomlin said.
“The main thing is these houses have been empty for a long time and that causes several problems for any structure – the outside wants to come in,” Tomlin explained. “That means everything from the elements to the criminal element. Yes, they took the furnace, they took the water heater. The good news is this particular house has a ceiling in the basement; that made it hard for thieves to rip out pipes.
“So we will deal with furnace, hot water heater, the pipes that are usable. The roof also was in disrepair; that probably happened before it was abandoned, so there is great deal of water damage,” Tomlin said. “But we have best experts in the world, Tommy Silva (a general contractor) out there accessing what needs to be done here and how we can bring that part of it back.
“There was a lot of damage in the bathrooms, so (heating expert) Richard Trethewey, our heating, A/C and plumbing expert has come through and accessed everything and tell us how to bring that back. We’re going to bring a mason out to help with some of the brickwork that needs doing,” Tomlin said.
Everything will take time to fix, and those 10 episodes will reflect that. The shows will likely air in 2017, and we’ll all be eager to see the results. But the most important thing to happen to date, Tomlin said, was the warm welcome the whole This Old House crew has received.
“What’s encouraging is the people in the neighborhood. As soon as they see a house is being renovated, they’re all very happy,” Tomlin said. “They’ve thanked us and thanked the homeowners. The neighborhoods are what it’s all about really.”
You can follow the project via Twitter at #TOHDetroit or on its website.