The "Labor of Love" Award

Who: Chris Bolinger
Where: Petersburg, Illinois

When Chris and his wife, Peggy, saw the 50 stained-glass windows, they knew they had to have the 14-room Queen Anne. "I wanted to fix the years of bad workmanship and neglect," he says. So the couple went to work repairing holes, removing wallpaper 10 layers thick, installing molding and chair rail, and painstakingly restoring the 1890s fireplace in the parlor. Chris dug up the overmantel in pieces from the basement and replaced broken tiles in the hearth with intact originals he plucked from beneath the coal bumpers. To rekindle the long-lost glow, he installed a vent-free fireplace.

And then the family was hit with some major setbacks. The economy crashed, Chris's horse-and-carriage business dried up, and Peggy was diagnosed with breast cancer. As the bills mounted, they lost their beloved home to foreclosure. But Chris says it's by no means a bitter ending. Peggy has since regained her health, and he says restoring the house was more important than owning it. "Not everyone gets to experience the satisfaction of walking away from a project you can be proud of," he says. "We feel lucky that we got to live there for 10 years and make it better for the next owners. We love our new place and have started over. Life is good!"
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