exterior shot of this old house reader remodel grand prize winning house and family
Photo: Laura Moss

It Was a Sign

I'd been jogging by this old Tudor every day for years. Call me a stalker, but I was looking for a sign. Then one day, I got one: A small mulberry tree had sprouted from the roof. It was like a hand waving and saying, Come check this out, there's something going on here.

That something was neglect. And in it I saw an opportunity to have a bigger house for my growing family in a neighborhood I'd always loved—the historic Overbrook Farms section of Philadelphia.

I started leaving notes for the owner on the front door, which was jammed open with dated mail and flyers. After months with no reply, I got up the courage to enter the house. I pushed the door all the way open, and all I could see was garbage. It covered every surface. There was no power, no water, no one around—just flies circling and stray cats scurrying.

The stench nearly turned me back, but I stood my ground. As an ICU nurse, I have a strong stomach. More important, I knew the 1895 house was designed by one of my favorite architects, William L. Price, and I couldn't help but think this might be my only chance to get my hands on one of his great buildings.

Shown: New stucco, paint, and an asphalt-shingle roof transformed the exterior from the eyesore on the block to a showpiece.
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