The house wasn't much to look at, really. Abandoned for 20 years after a fire, the windows and doors were missing, charred, or boarded up. There were no floors downstairs, and the water-damaged plaster was crumbling. Squirrels ran in and out, and birds nested in the claw-foot tub. Yet there was a certain charm to the place. The old brick, dating from the 1850s, had wonderful color, the window lintels were solid granite, and the upstairs had heart-pine floors.