by Shannon Lee. Photos by Jane Daniels Photography.
Joshua Targownik is ready to get out of town. Los Angeles, that is. His desire to restore a home to its original beauty has been eating at him for years, and his girlfriend has been itching to get back to Indiana. The result was the purchase of the Kirby-McMillion House, a home with stunning potential for these two do-it-yourselfers. Here’s how they intend to start bringing this 1861 beauty back to her original glory!
Here’s what the original listing said of the home:
Known as the Kirby-McMillion home, and estimated to be constructed in 1861, this is truly a piece of Monroe County history. The home sits back from the road on over 6 acres. A few different stories surround this home. The one known by many is that the three Bunger brothers came from Virginia to Indiana before the Civil war and built similar homes. The two other homes have been renovated and are located on Airport Road and Hwy 45 West. Other stories bring the Bunger family in as an owner after the construction. The home construction is a variation of an I-House, with a depth of three rooms on one side. This brick home at one point had a working fireplace in every room and over 9 entrances to the home. Some of the original windows have been bricked over. The home needs extensive work to make it habitable and will most likely not qualify for conventional financing. Currently listed as a 4 bedroom, 1 bath, there was at one point a second bathroom upstairs (over the dining room). This property is sold “as is”.
Joshua, what was it about this particular house that made you fall in love?
It’s old! It’s also brick, beautiful, in need of repair, on six partially wooded acres, set back from the road, and in Bloomington, IN, a great town.
I’m sure your head is spinning with ideas! Tell us about what you’re going to tackle first.
Fencing! We have two dogs (so far), a Greyhound and a half-size doberman, and they need room to run and explore and chase squirrels, but we’ll need to keep them contained from day 1 as we build. So I may head out early to cut the overgrowth, install the fence, and do a few more things before we arrive later on to begin the real work.
As far as the real work, there are some definite firsts: Build/buy a workshop and storage space, and get an RV or camper to live in. As far as the house, we will have to take down and rebuild a few of the walls, but to do that, we’ll need to brace the floors and roof. The bracing will start in the crawlspace which is filthy and full of junk, so step one will be some heavy cleaning.
Next, we may deconstruct the floors, trim, doors, and windows and set them aside for safe keeping. They’ll be restored and re-installed later. Then we can finally install the structural bracing, take down the brick walls, and re-build them. We’ll be using wood for additional support, and will be able to waterproof and insulate them as well. In the end, all of the modern construction will be hidden in the walls.
We’ll be taking down the wood porch as well and rebuilding it as a pantry/mudroom/bathroom. I’ll be digging and installing a new septic system, all new plumbing, new wiring, outlets, switches, bath and kitchen fixtures, heating and air conditioning, ductwork, etc.
All of it will take time, but if we can get the house structurally sound, waterproof, plumbed, wired, and heated in a year, we can work on interior things through the winter.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face with the home?
The house has 10′ ceilings, 8′ doors, 6′ windows, four fireplaces, three chimneys, and is solid brick. The solid brick part makes energy retrofitting particularly difficult. Old brick houses have lasted so long because they are uninsulated. During the winter, massive amounts of heat is pumped into the building, and into and through the walls. It was very inefficient, you lost a lot of heat, but the walls stayed warm and dry. They never soaked up water, and they never froze and cracked.
If you install insulation, vapor barriers, or any of the many other layers improperly, you can end up causing a lot of damage to the brick. So I have been researching a lot about modern building science. I have an engineering background and am trying to devise a way to insulate the house, but keep the brick visible and intact. It’s not an easy or common thing to do, so information is scarce. If anyone wants to start learning about it themselves, look for videos by Joe Lstiburek at the Building Science Corporation or Joe Nagan out of Wisconsin.
Did I mention that my girlfriend and I are attempting to do all of the design and construction on our own? We’ll call in architects, contractors and specialists to consult on some things, but we’ll be doing as much as possible, from deconstruction to bricklaying to window restoration, plumbing, electrical, tiling, and more. Wish us luck, or even better, come by and lend a hand!
Thank you Joshua! And thank you Jane Daniels Photography for the amazing photos!
Have an amazing old house story to share with us? Send it our way! letters (at) circaoldhouses (dot) com
AUTHOR SHANNON LEE
Shannon Lee has a soft spot for fixer-uppers that need a helping hand. Over the past two decades she has written about home improvement challenges and victories in blogs, articles, books and more. Though she has loved her share of old houses, today she and her family are finally settled into their dream home deep in the Pennsylvania woods, a place they call Marvel Hill.