The Birchman House - Our 1st Home & Remodel!
The Birchman house was the house that started it all! This house gave us a lot of of firsts. It was not only our first home (we moved into right after we got married), but it was the first house we ever bought (we rented it for 2 years before buying it from our landlord), AND it was our first ever remodel. This was the house that started my love affair with remodeling old homes!
When we first got married we rented this cute 1940's 1350 sq/ft house from a nice 70 year old German lady named Helga. We were young, in love, and excited to be in our first house together. 2 years into marriage we began praying about what it would look like to buy our own home instead of renting. We started looking around, but could not find the right house within our budget. We approached our landlord Helga and asked if we could buy the house from her, and she quickly responded with a hard "No". But we kept praying that God would give us wisdom on making the right choice and provide a house for us. Two weeks later Helga came back and told us that she had changed her mind and that she wanted us to have the house. When she told us the price she wanted, we were thrilled! God provided us with the perfect house and it was exactly in our budget. The only problem was that the house had not been touched since 1985. It had yellow counters, yellow cabinets, yellow linoleum in the kitchen, brown shag carpet in the bedrooms, pea green tile in the bathroom, and cheesy wood panneling. To say it was outdated would be an understatement.
We had big dreams for the house, but had almost no budget. I called a few contractors out to the house to get bids and was blown away by how expensive their quotes were. Their prices were WAY out of our budget. Around that same time, Melissa and I felt called to start getting to know the homeless population in Fort Worth. We started going down to a park on East Lancaster called "Unity Park" where all the homeless would hang out every Saturday. We soon made a ton of friends and great relationships. One of the things we discovered was that most of the people we met did not have a pressing need or want for food, clothes, or shelter. They had several options for places to stay and had access to all the food and clothing they wanted from all the great non profits on Lancaster. What we found, was that most of the homeless people we met deep down really wanted friendships and good conversations. They wanted someone to share their stories with and for someone get to know them. These Saturday morning hangouts with our homeless friends would eventually be the inspiration for what would later become The Net.
It was on one of those Saturday's that I got to know my friend Carl. Carl was Vietnam vet, who had his own contracting business for many years. He later traded in his own business in for a more stable job as a maintenance man at an apartment complex. He worked at the apartment complex for 8 years, until it eventually got purchased by a new owner who had his own maintenance man. The new owner soon let Carl go and 2 weeks later Carl found out that he had lung cancer. Because of his cancer Carl could not work and wound up on the streets, which is where Melissa and I met him a few years later. He was in better shape after his battle with cancer, but could never get back on his feet after losing his job.
When I heard he used to be a contractor, I told him about our new "old" house we just purchased and how I one day wanted to remodel it. Carl looked at me and said, "Well Jamey, I can help you work on it. I can teach you how to remodel......lets start tomorrow." And teach me he did. For an entire summer, Carl would wake up at 5:30am, catch the 6:30am bus, and arrive at my house at 8:30 (if you have ever taken public transportation in Fort Worth, you know it takes FOREVER). At 8:30 each morning I would open my back door to see Carl hanging out on my picnic table having a cigarette, until I invited him in for a cup of black coffee (which he would drink 5-8 cups per day). Carl turned out to be one heck of a handyman! He came to my house 5 days a week at the same time every single day for an entire summer. He taught me how to hang sheetrock, redo hardwood floors, lay tile, paint, texture, install fixtures and a ton more! We remodeled my entire house in about 2 and a half months. Even when I would head out for shows, Carl would still show up everyday to help out.
I didn't have a ton of money, but was able to pay Carl a small daily wage. It was enough for him to save up and get his own apartment. I will never forget how excited he was to have his own place. After we finished my house, some of my neighbors started hiring Carl and he wound up with a nice little business. I am sad to say that a few months later the lung cancer caught back up with Carl and he passed away a few years ago.
I will never forget the lessons Carl taught me. He inspired in me a love for old houses. He also taught me the value in taking a chance on someone and to never judge a book by his cover. Carl's legacy played a huge role in my future house projects and also launching The Net.
At the Birchman house we did a ton of work. We knocked out walls and expanded the kitchen, we opened up the archway from the dining room to the kitchen, installed can lights, new cabinets, granite counters, new tile, we moved the master bedroom and added walk in closet, we pulled down the old wood panelling, and we repaired and redid the hardwoods (that were hidden by carpet and linoleum) throughout the entire house. It was a lot to say the least. We transformed the 80's yellow interior to something we loved living in. We felt like God gave us this house, because it helped launch my career in renovating and it paved the road for The Net.