For residents of the small town of Healdsburg, California, the old Marshall House at 227 North Street had been — until just a few years ago — an object of great curiosity. At least since the 1950s, the long-neglected home had been in a sad state, it’s foundation slowly sinking into the ground. Old-timers remember peeking into the house as children, believing it be haunted.
When Mark Goff & Phillip Engel were looking for a home in wine country, they had no intention of taking on a restoration project. But after falling in love with the 1870 home, they bit the bullet, began a multi-year adventure, and instantly became local heroes. I started following their restoration blog a couple years ago and feel, in a way, that I have lived through some of the ups and downs right along with them! So I was understandably thrilled that Mark agreed to take a break from pouring plaster and moving columns to answer some of my pressing questions.
The restoration is not 100% complete, but I’ve peppered into the interview some of my favorite photos (all courtesy of 227NorthStreet.com) showing the work at various stages.
Mark & Phillip standing in front of the formerly-sagging house as it was lifted to receive a new foundation.
MARK, YOU’VE CERTAINLY TAKEN ON AN AMAZING PROJECT! DID YOU ALWAYS KNOW YOU WANTED TO BUY AN OLD HOUSE?
Actually, we had no intention of buying an old house. We had been living bicoastal, in Los Angeles and Manhattan, for almost four years. We decided to simplify and headed for the wine country of northern California. It took quite a while to find a house to buy as Healdsburg is a very small town and there was not a lot on the market. Basically, we were looking for a home that was “inspired” in some manner.
227 North Street after Mark and Phillip purchased it.
WHAT SOLD YOU ON THIS PARTICULAR HOUSE?
That “inspired” quality is what turned our attention to this house; it was a mysterious monster sitting spitting distance to the downtown plaza and it had been vacant for 60 years. There had been occasional “caretakers” residing in a few rooms, but with virtually no electricity or plumbing it was basically uninhabitable.
In truth, the house was so bad that most potential buyers walked in and almost immediately backed out. Although the house was pretty stable, just looking at the huge gaping holes in the nine-foot-tall, brick foundation was simply frightening. But the potential was there hiding under all of the decay, and we bit.
Some interior shots of the house prior to restoration.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED SO FAR ABOUT THE HOUSE’S HISTORY?
The house has a simple history. It was built by a blacksmith named John Marshall in 1870, sold to the Provine sisters in 1903, and then purchased by George Frampton in 1950, who intended to turn it into apartments. When the city (in an attempt to maintain the neighborhood’s integrity) would not allow him to do so, Mr. Frampton simply locked the doors and let the house sit there. We are the fourth owners. We purchased the home from George Frampton’s grandson.
The Marshall House in 1873.
Another view of the house in 1873.
The Marshall’s on the balcony having discussions with the house keeper in 1873.
The house interior, most likely in the early 1890s.
The Marshall House in the early 1950s, when Ms. Provine lived alone in the house. Locals believed the house to be haunted.
The house in the mid-1970s.
YOU MUST HAVE A LOT OF CRAZY STORIES TO TELL ABOUT THE RESTORATION!
Believe it or not, this entire adventure has been totally crazy! I sometimes go back in time on my blog and am horrified at what we have been through and done. Essentially, it’s a million dollar wreck owned by two completely out-of-their-minds, insane gentlemen from somewhere south of here!
Prepping for paint.
More paint prepping…
I’m eagerly ancitipating photos of the final result!
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST SATISFYING PART OF YOUR WORK ON THE HOUSE?
The house is becoming really lovely to live in. The inside is very comforting and a little grand, kind of like the place we always wanted to live in. But the most satisfying thing is watching the outside of the house come back from the grave.
You will often find us sitting across the street on the little wall outside of Uncle Jack’s house, simply looking at our house… it’s pretty!
The bathroom, and stunning tilework in the hallway.
The kitchen. Note the beautiful vintage stove!
No Victorian house is complete without chandeliers.
If you add to that our love of entertaining, and having great spaces in which to do so, you really couldn’t ask for more.
Mark & Phillip even hosted a party – “Art in the Ruins” – while the house was being gutted!
I LOVE THE DRAWING ON THE TOP OF YOUR SITE. WHO IS THE ARTIST?
I do not know much about her. The drawing was done in the 1980’s and was used as the cover of a book of historic homes in Healdsburg. The book is sort of a walking tour and is still in print, however the cover was changed in the second printing. My understanding is that the drawing was also made into greeting cards, long ago sold by the Healdsburg museum. The original drawing is in storage at the museum, and I have requested it come and hang here in the house… we shall see!
FOLLOW MARK & PHILLIP:
227 NORTH STREET: http://www.227northstreet.com/
AUTHOR ELIZABETH FINKELSTEIN
Elizabeth is the founder of CIRCA and a practicing writer, architectural historian and preservation consultant living in Brooklyn, NY. Elizabeth has loved historic houses for as long as she can remember, having grown up in an 1850’s Greek Revival gem that was lovingly restored by her parents. Elizabeth, her husband Ethan and their beagle Banjo remain on a relentless hunt for their perfect “Thanksgiving house.”