The Old Neighborhood 15

When it comes to finding older homes in old neighborhoods, the fun part is that there are no shortages of them across the country. Last weekend, I was up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the copious amounts of well-preserved, older homes is unreal. Every time I am up there, I am blown away by how much character, craft, and authenticity still exists in both the residential and commercial areas.

I have it on strong authority that the reason Grand Rapids will be rebounding faster and stronger than other cities along the Rust Belt and Midwest is due, primarily to this. They aren’t trying to rebuild from scratch, they are concentrating on rejuvenating what is already there.

Below is one steller example of this. I found it while doing some distracted driving and looking at the great older homes of East Grand Rapids, an enclave of the city proper.

East Grand Rapids Farm House

Sometimes you just get lucky. While doing some digging, I found there was more than meets the eye to this home. You see, this home didn’t always look this way… and no, I’m not talking about the snow around it.

Here is what this home looked at when the Google Street View Eye came driving down the street a few years back:

East Grand Rapids - Before

It took me a minute to realize this was the same house, but structurally it all looks the same. The color pops better, the details shine better, and even the garage looks good.

East Grand Rapids Home East Grand Rapids House

EGR side EGR garage

The real story behind it is a story that I found quite fascinating. Yes, it is a gorgeous renovation and the added curb appeal is great, however, it is the preservation of a 1900’s farmhouse that really impressed me. According to the detail found on

In 2007, the property was purchased out of foreclosure, which began the long process of giving the home a new life — while preserving the historical character.  Additionally, in July 2009, the adjacent property  was purchased — its house and garage were razed in August 2009, and the lot was annexed. In September 2007, the farmhouse was gutted to the studs and rebuilt from the inside out.  Everything about this home — except for the foundation, about 60% of the framing, and one massive oak pocket door in the entry hall — is brand new.  Today, the historical character of the original farmhouse is preserved; yet the home is, in all other respects, a newly built custom home with multiple unique features.

The hard thing to swallow when it comes to certain historic preservation efforts is that original materials and details will be lost forever. To find a balance between keeping old and starting new in renovations is a fine line. Drawings, blueprints, ideas, and good intentions can only go so far. Sometimes you have to trust that the outcome will truly be satisfying.

In the case of this old farmhouse, I think that the finish product is evidence that something old can be something new again. Sustainability and preservation go hand-in-hand and must work together going forward. One less house built in the ‘burbs the better for the community. A new life has been given to this home, and an older home in an older neighborhood is just a little newer of a home with an older story to tell.

This home is a testament to the homeowners dedication to restore a historical piece of the community, and a broader statement about the movement taking place in and around Grand Rapids. The Old Neighborhood is where there are many new beginnings happening.


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