Thompson was soon joined by another seasoned builder, Dwight Stephan, and as the work unfolded, other old-house saviors joined in. The result was an every-man-on-deck group venture led by a homeowner with a curator's eye.
Framed with hand-hewn timbers, the cottage sat on locust posts and a stone foundation. To improve its posture, Thompson used a come-along winch like a whalebone corset. To make it more true, his crew jacked up the house to level the floors—or almost level them. "We did some shimmying and bolstering," he says, "but we still wanted it to feel old. We didn't want a four-inch dip, so we made it an inch and a half."
Shown: The back of the cottage before the renovation.