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  • Danielle Armbruster

Starting our Historic Home Renovation in Tennessee

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

What Have We Done...

Well, the Armbruster family did it again. We are in over our heads with a huge, historic project--but we couldn't be more excited about it.

The facade of the historic post office building in Shelbyville, TN built in 1914.

Let's start from the beginning. Our family's first adventure into owning these project buildings began in 2016 when we purchased the historic post office just off the square in Shelbyville, TN. (Pictured to the right.) Built in 1914, our building served as the post office for nearly 50 years, then became the public library. Being the first private owners of the building has certainly had its challenges. We spent years slowly fixing up the post office and turning it into our antique store, The Shops at Main & McGrew. So, I guess you can say we have a little bit of experience in this realm. We know how to handle a lot of the weird things that old buildings can throw at you--leaky roofs, broken toilets, rotting floors... ghosts. (That last one is a story for another day.)

When the opportunity to purchase another, even older, historic building came around, we were very intrigued. Being in Shelbyville for a few years now, we had become aware of a few magnificent historic homes around town. One such home had been on the market for a little while when it first caught our attention. This home (pictured below) needed quite a bit of work, and it was absolutely huge--way bigger than anything we thought Dave and Carolyn needed for their own residence. We dismissed it as nothing but a crazy dream. And then the price dropped...

Now, Dave had spent hours at this point pouring our every single photo in the listings, reading every detail of the house, trying to research the property, and examining the floor plans. At one point, while Dave and Carolyn were still in Ohio they decided to call the realtor and just have Mike walk through the house. "It'll just be fun to look around--it doesn't mean we are going to buy it," everyone kept saying.

We sent Mike to meet with Ben and Lana Craig from Craig and Wheeler at the house to do a thorough walkthrough. He took videos, found what damage he could, checked the structural integrity of the house, and got us a full report. After that initial look, a few visits from Dave and Carolyn, and even a walkthrough with Alex while he was in town, we sat down as a family in order to compile a full list of what projects needed to be done. We drafted a budget for the initial renovations, had a few panic attacks, and Dave decided to put in an offer on the house.

Day One

On Tuesday, August 15th, after driving from Cleveland, OH the day before, Carolyn and Danielle headed into Shelbyville to close on the new house. We got the keys, drove up the driveway, and opened the door to our new, crazy project. It wasn't even lunch time on day one and we were getting to work. Danielle and Carolyn spent the day chipping away at the "week one" checklist to see how much progress we could make. We grabbed bins, boxes and garbage bags to start emptying the items that remained in the house--and there was a lot of stuff. We even used Facebook Marketplace to have some of the larger items picked up and moved for us.

Our "week one" checklist:

[ ] Remove all remaining items from the house.

[ ] Take a ton of "before" pictures and videos so we can track our progress.

[ ] Have window companies come out and give us quotes for fixing up the windows

[ ] Remove all old carpet from the house.

[ ] Bring in a cleaning crew to do a deep clean of the whole house.

[ ] Get wifi installed.

[ ] Set up Facebook and Instagram pages for the project. (Go follow us!)

Of course, this list is just the TIP of the iceberg when it comes to the massive amount of projects we have coming up in this house. At some point we will need to address updating the kitchen, making repairs to woodwork, and figuring out where to add a laundry room. We will need to make the cosmetic changes--like paint and wallpaper. There is a ton of research to do to ensure that we are honoring the history of this home along the way. We are just getting started.

Views of the dining room, foyer, and formal living room.

Views of the sun room, kitchen, and den.

Views of the downstairs bedroom, staircase, and pool area.

Views of the master bedroom, bonus room, and third bedroom (upstairs). Taken from the listing.

Views of the front, back, and top of the house. Taken from the listing.

Written by Danielle Armbruster. Photos by Danielle Armbruster.

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