Tuesday, August 31, 2010

This Old Heritage House 101


One of the most gratifying things I see as a Realtor(TM) is when a old residence is purchased and transformed back into something glorious.  It's then I think "the right buyers bought this property". Such a property is the home of Greg and Lorna Mills.  This week I took a trip there to see what they had done to the old place they bought in June 2000 and to learn what lessons they might be willing to share.

Back in 1909, this two-storey house was built for the newly married Evan and Alice Probert.  Evan was helping run the nearby Bella Vista Hotel in Agassiz and Alice was teaching in the Harrison Mills, Agassiz and Rosedale communities.  An upper middle class dwelling just a little shy of 2100 square feet over two finished floors with a basement beneath it provided a comfortable home reminiscent of the Montreal and Victoria communities they had grown up in.  They would call the house "Hochalaga" a word meaning "Montreal" in the language of the Mohawk.  A stained glass window above the main entry area with this word "Hochalaga" still greets visitors to its doorstep.

Hochalaga 1909
Successive generations of Proberts would live here until 2000 trying to modernize the structure.  The house would be lifted onto a new foundation at some point, low maintenance vinyl siding would be installed, the upper balcony on the front of the house would be eliminated and the front veranda enclosed.  Still this was a house with many problems: aging heating, electrical and plumbing systems, no insulation and an ancient kitchen and mildewy bathroom.  A lot of work.  Back in 2000 I wrote this ad "Built in 1909 to celebrate a new marriage and move to Agassiz, this house is called "Hochalaga". This fine lady features 9' ceilings, original door casings, 8" baseboards, a pantry. Looking for someone to restore her".  Happily Greg and Lorna Mills responded were they wanting to be renovators?

Hochalaga 2000

When I asked Greg and Lorna why they purchased this house.  Their response was "it was the only house we could afford". You have to love their honesty.

Problems began for the Mills almost immediately the plumbing froze and then flooded the main floor from the bathroom above.  When the front porch foundation was inspected carpenter ants were discovered busy at work.  Infestations of flies dive bombed the place.  The lack of insulation meant you cooked in summer and fought drafts all winter. 

The first order of business for the Mills was to fix the plumbing and get an operational bathroom. Next the carpenter ants were dealt with. To do this the vinyl siding was removed, and, much to the delight of the new owners, the original wood shingles were revealed to be in good shape just needed a paint job.  Since that time a new heavy shingle asphalt roof has been installed, the front balcony restored, exterior trim accents added, a modern kitchen installed and room by room the house has been thoughtfully improved.  Here are the stunning results:

Hochalaga 2010

Front Room

Dining Room

Dining Room Interior positioned fireplace


Upstairs Bedroom

Upper Floor Bathroom

Upper Floor Bedroom

You may be wondering about the caption for this post "This Old Heritage House 101" well as it turned out the dwelling is 101 years of age and looking good for the next century.

A follow up article will talk about the lessons learned by Greg and Lorna Mills and perhaps they will help you with your old house.  It will also feature before and after pictures.

All pictures except original photograph of dwelling (cc) copyright Stephen Mullock.

Stephen Mullock RI is an award winning full-time real estate agent with 29 years of experience and hundreds of sales. Thinking of buying or selling real estate in the Fraser Cheam communities of Chilliwack, Agassiz or Harrison Hot Springs? Contact Steve (click here) for experience, local knowledge, friendly service that is usually on time; you’ll be happy you did.

1 comment:

  1. Steve - this is a great example of preserving a link to our heritage and creating a great space for people to live in. It's a beautifual transformation. Congratulations to the Mills.